by LinDee Rochelle
Advocate, according to my trusty Webster’s New College Dictionary, is “1. One who supports or defends a cause,” and “2. One who pleads in another’s behalf.” We take this dual role very seriously. Even if an author request is outside our standard policies purview, but is logically stated and has some validity, we often take the query to management for consideration.
As Advocates we try to make ourselves knowledgeable in a variety of publishing subjects in addition to our own company services, and provide well-rounded information. What we cannot comment on though, is your book’s content.
When making inquiries to publishing professionals, the author should consider their role and present themselves professionally as well, in order to establish their own credibility as a serious author. Of course, you have questions as a first-time author; or perhaps you’re an established author inquiring of a new publishing route.
You should ask questions! We encourage it. Your book will benefit and better books sell better.
Although your Advocate likely has a publisher affiliation (like Infinity Publishing), as a professional, they should be somewhat impartial to the “who” of publishing. Their focus best serves the author by determining their needs and assisting the author on the “how” of publishing, to establish the most advantageous avenue.
Often though, an author turns to me and also asks my opinion on the “what” – and that’s where I must draw an imaginary line. Since the “what” or content of your book is so subjective, not only in its version of a topic, but how it’s presented, you must be the deciding factor in the development and content of your book.
We encourage you to welcome critiques from author friends and to network with writing professionals; if you feel indecisive about your book’s focus or structure, consult a Content Editor. But when you come to an Advocate or other representative of the publishing field, know the difference between a writing question and a publishing question. You will benefit so much more.
L’s Seven Suggestions for asking publishing questions of your Advocate:
- DO ask if you keep your rights; and ask why you should care, if you don’t know (and clarify all offered services)
- DO inquire as to the breakeven point of publishing your book
- DO clarify a publisher’s submission requirements (follow their guidelines to quicker publishing and they should be able to answer basic technical questions)
- DO ask general writing and publishing questions, like what are the 3 major elements of a successfully selling book (great title; superb back cover copy; outstanding cover design)
- DON’T ask an Advocate’s suggestion for a title; who will you blame if your book doesn’t meet expectations?!
- DON’T ask your Advocate to review or help write your bio, synopsis, or other book promotion materials – better idea – query your editor
- DON’T hesitate to ask for references to outsourced assistance not available with your publisher; who better to know?
And extraneous No. 8 – a DO and DON’T combo – do ask the publisher if there are any new services not yet noted in their literature. But don’t ask which publisher is best – them or Miscellaneous Publisher – that is your decision based on your due diligence. And if you’ve asked the right questions you’ll know which publisher is right for you and your book. Trust your instincts. Happy writing.
by Brittany Lavin
Nowadays, there are so many resources open to writers to better their craft. You can take writing courses, read books on the subject, have daily writing tips sent via email, and even subscribe to blogs! A person’s writing style changes and grows with them and there are various forums open to them as they develop. However, there is one simple forum that I always found to be very effective.
Namely- learn from the best.
When I first started writing, my greatest influences were always my favorite authors. They were the ones I grew up reading and who, ultimately, inspired me to write. At first, with imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, I tried to mimic their style in my own work. This is good for someone just starting out, but it is important to find your own style as your writing develops.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- reading is probably the best way to develop your writing. And don’t just read the genres you are interested in. Read EVERYTHING. Styles vary. The way a mystery author writes will be vastly different than the way a romance or sci-fi author writes. Open up to these different styles and you may find your perspective changed for the better.
As a writer who is still growing and developing, my greatest influences are William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and Meg Cabot. Who are your greatest writing influences?
Photo by: Markus Rödder
by John F. Harnish
The first three rules of real estate are location, location, and location. The first three rules for successfully promoting your book are exposure, more exposure, and even more exposure. The more exposure authors can generate for their books, the more successfully the books will sell. It’s very difficult to sell a book that no one knows a thing about.
The most effective way to get exposure for your book is by word-of-mouth. Getting folks talking about your book is often the most cost-effective way to stimulate grass-root interest in your book. Sometimes, all it takes is one person telling a friend about your book and then they tell another, and another, and so on. This is your attainable goal – creating this buzz ultimately gets exposure for your book.
Exposure is best when spread at a slow but steady pace. Trying to chase a passing fad has you positioned behind the rest of the pack. The leaders of the pack get their prolonged 15-minutes of fame in the media spotlight. Some milk fame for all the fickle lady is worth and double dip for more exposure. For others, there’s the fleeting fame of a has-been being a one-book, one-song wonder forever resting in the tattered nest of long-gone yesteryears. Passing time has left them voiceless.
When the focus of the spotlight is ever-changing, it is the creative outrider, riding beyond the pack, who benefits from the fringes of the illumination. The glare is less bright, but the light is continuous. Steady exposure produces the benefit of extended exposure – better than a once-and-done buzz. The key to sustaining an effective buzz is in the benefits.
It’s often said that there’s no such thing as bad publicity because it adds to the buzz of exposure and exposure is a good thing. Bad publicity frequently causes a need for prompt damage control to try to spin negative press into a positive plus of some sorts. That can be difficult because we are a society that thrives on negative news complete with all the yucky gore. The somebody-donesomebody-wrong song plays higher in the ratings than reporting that somebody is doing good. Bad publicity can be made good when it provides a platform for the object of the bad PR to truthfully correct the misperceptions. Sadly, this is easier said than done.
What’s easier is taking advantage of exposure opportunities available at no cost to you. I once talked with an author who didn’t want her book available through Amazon.com. I’m accustomed to authors wanting their just-released book posted to Amazon.com as soon as possible. So I asked why???!!! Simple, she explained, the impact of the deep-discount will cut her royalty and her highest royalty is earned on books sold through our on-line bookstore www.BuyBooksOnTheWeb.com and that’s where she wanted her book to be available for sale. I can’t fault her logic for going for the higher royalty, but there is the value of credibility and wider exposure that comes with an Amazon listing.
There’s also positive exposure that comes from those websites with the search-inside-the-book features. This allows potential customers the browsing opportunity like they’d have in a brick-and-mortar store. This is free exposure that provides a customer benefit – it’s foolish to think that this type of exposure cuts into sales.
Your book gets worldwide exposure when it’s listed in Books-In-Print. Once listed, it’s fair game for any online vendor to list your book as part of their virtual inventory. They might even show a fictitious number of copies they claim to have on hand. The truth is they don’t have a single copy of your book because their inventory is totally virtual – until a customer orders your book. At that time, the virtual vendor orders a single copy so they can fill the just-received order. Shameless exposure is acceptable. However, don’t become a pest like the proverbial insurance salesman!!!
When there’s an opportunity in the normal flow of conversation, make mention of your book – better yet, if someone else engaged in the dialogue brings to light the fact that your book has just been published, go for it, but know that you’ll have only about 30 seconds to hook them with your pitch!!!
Think about what makes your book unique and seek out those places for exposure where your book will provide a real benefit to the readers. Build upon the small successes you have achieved with the firm belief that slow but steady exposure really does sell more books than a brief splash in the media. Consistent efforts will generate the exposure that successfully sells books.
Photo courtesy of Mateusz Stachowski.
by John F. Harnish
There’s no such thing as bad publicity, but there are poor book reviews. Bad publicity is common in today’s media because negative news stories improve ratings that increase the bottom line. Everybody seems to be more interested in bad news than in good news, unless of course, the good news is about them or someone they know. Poor book reviews that are professionally written and based on an objective evaluation by a knowledgeable reviewer, who actually read the book, could be experienced as bad news for the author.
The good news is that many of the professional review services give the author the option of not publishing the unfavorable review to various websites that feature book reviews. This provides the author with control over if or when the review will be released for publication. However, reviews that truly reflect the shortcomings of the book benefit the serious author by objectively showing what needs to be fixed so the author can make their book into a good read. It might come as a bit of a shock for the author to learn from a professional that their book isn’t all that great – especially after hearing from family and friends just how wonderful the book is. Hearing how great their book is, is exactly what every author wants to hear!!!
Beware of subjective comments about your book that are based only on personal opinions. It’s amazing how everyone will suddenly have an opinion about your expressive efforts. One person might say your opening to Chapter 3 seems weak, another might say they like your lead into Chapter 3 and how you built upon it, and another might not even comment about Chapter 3. Don’t put yourself in a position of doing a hasty knee-jerk rewrite by changing this and that and something else in response to subjective remarks. Trying to rewrite to please everybody will drive you crazy!
An objective review points out grammatical faults that, when corrected, improves the readability of the book. It will also focus on what you have written that works well to convey your thoughts to the reader. Now this isn’t a line-by-line edit of your book, but is instead an overview about how your wordsmithing efforts will most likely be perceived. This insight becomes valuable to the author when working with a professional editor to improve the quality of your book.
Don’t allow a bad book review to keep your book from being all that it can be! Think positive by using this objective overview as a springboard to make your book into a really good read. Let go of that ego stuff about your wonderfully self-expressive writing style being uniquely you – there’s nothing wonderful about your readers having a difficult time understanding the story you’re telling. Remember, the first essential quality of a good book is that it be readable.
Image courtesy of Simon Howden.
by John F. Harnish
Some authors write under a penname for a variety of good reasons. Once upon a time, authors who were under contract with one publishing house for a series of books in a particular genre would assume an alias in order to write in an entirely different genre for publication by another publishing house. A common belief was that an author would use a pseudonym for work they weren’t all that eager to have associated with their major body of serious writing.
Ben Franklin made creative use of several nom de plumes. Under the guise of “a concerned reader”, he would write letters to various editors, commenting on the very editorials that he had written in order to present another point-of-view. One of his more frequent pen-names was Silence Dogood. He assumed the convincing writing persona of a respectable widow to express her concerns on various issues of the day. Anne Rice used a penname to write some explicit erotica that was in a different style than her popular vampire stories.
Authors may use a penname for the anonymous platform it provides for their writing. I wrote Enjoy Often!!! and Everything You Always Wanted to Know About POD But Didn’t Know Who to Ask under my legal name, John F. Harnish. Enjoy Often!!! is a collection of odes, essays, ramblings and short stories; and Everything…About POD… enhances my professional stature as an acknowledged expert on this evolving method of author-originated book publishing. It was in my best interest to have my legal name shown as the author of these books to capitalize on my name recognition and reputation in the publishing industry.
However, when I wrote my political satire about the 2000 presidential election as an adult fairytale, Blue Moon Over Miami, I cloaked myself as John Franklin, my legal first and middle names, to show my family’s direct connection to Ben Franklin. The rawness of my style and depicting the rank foulness in politics needed a wee bit of assumed protection that the association with my famous ancestor might provide for me.
You can publish your book under a penname, but it’s important for you to keep a consistency with the name you use on your books and its promotional material. Branding your written work with your name is vital in creating your writing persona. I always use my full name on non-fiction efforts written for publication. My “John Franklin” pseudonym is reserved for my frankly-fun-fiction stuff that’s not necessarily written for publication at this time.
Pennames provide no protection from being sued for libel. The author is responsible for what they have written, regardless of what name it was published under.
Photo courtesy of shho.
by John F. Harnish
A book is a book, just as a rose is a rose. Some roses are more beautiful than other roses, and some books are a better read than others. The beauty and colors of roses have been enhanced by the creation of hybrid varieties. Published books can be enhanced with author innovations that expand the book’s content, thereby creating greater value to the reader.
Infinity-published authors have several advantages over other self-published authors and authors published by mainstream houses. One of these advantages is the ease of releasing a second edition of a book – without waiting for the first edition offset press-run to sell out. Infinity’s authors have the ability to take a good book and make it into a potentially great second edition.
Why a second edition??? Some authors might have quickly pulled their book together to rush it into publication. Upon reading the finished product, they may discover a few glaring goofs that were overlooked during the approving and acceptance process. Maybe the author has unearthed new information that relates to their book. Or maybe the author’s peers have suggested additional material that should be considered for the next edition. Whatever the reason, our authors have the opportunity to update their book and make it sparkle.
Frequently, an author will increase the price of a nonfiction book because the additional material makes the book more valuable to the reader. Readers will recognize this added value when the author hires a professional book designer to improve the quality of the layout and design of the second edition. A skillful book designer can provide the necessary expertise to enhance the overall appearance of a book by selecting a typeface that will help the words sing off the pages. They know how to make the best use of white space and how to modify margins to remove that amateur look of trying to jam as much as possible into the fewest pages. They have a variety of design techniques that will vastly improve the formatting quality of your book.
Not to sound like a message repeating over and over again on an endless loop, but the better your book is designed and edited, the better it will sell – that’s a proven fact you can bank on. So now is the perfect time to consult with a content editor for suggestions about how to tighten up parts and perhaps expand other sections. At the very least, be sure the editor has a working knowledge of your niche topic.
Releasing a second edition is also an excellent time to include references to additional material you’ve incorporated by adding a CD to the inside back cover of your book. Yes, this costs a bit more to do, but stop for a moment and think about the increased value of a mixed-media book. Charts and tables come alive when you add them onto a CD that accompanies your newly revised edition. Photos that could only be printed in glorious black-and-white can now be viewed in spectacular color when the reader accesses them from a CD.
Photo courtesy of Svilen Milev.
by Brittany Lavin
When I was in college I dreaded “peer review day,” when we would hand our work over to the person next to us for review and advice. As writers, we tend to get attached to our work and can be loath to accept help. I was no different.
But what is it that makes writers so afraid to hand over their work? Well, as the saying goes: “Everybody’s a critic.”
Criticism comes with the territory when writing. Someone is either going to love your work or hate it. Others may be completely indifferent. Whichever the case, all of them will offer their point-of-view of how you can make your work “better.”
This is where constructive criticism comes into play.
Constructive criticism is defined as criticism or advice that is useful and intended to help or improve something, often with an offer of possible solutions.
But how do you handle constructive criticism?
1. Don’t get defensive. Yes, you like your story the way it is but try to be open to new angles and plot points.
2. Think about it. Take time to really think about it and don’t respond right away. Let what the person is saying sink in.
3. Learn from it. Don’t think of the criticism as negative. Instead, turn it into a positive learning experience.
When dealing with constructive criticism, perhaps the most important thing to remember is to not take it personally. In the end, it’s your story and you can change it as you see fit. Just remember to be open to all possibilities.
Photo courtesy of Dominik Gwarek.
by John F. Harnish
Absolutely the most essential part of your book is its abstract or synopsis—the 100-word explanation intended to hook readers’ interest in buying yourbook. Most likely you dashed off a quick description when you submitted your book file for publication.
Since its release for sale and reading your first-blush posting at BuyBooksOnTheWeb.com, have you even thought about your book’sdescription? Now is the time to rewrite the 100-word description of your book to make each word clearly present the benefits your book will provide.
Invest time in logging onto Amazon and study the style and pitch of a dozen blurbs posted about books similar to yours—make notes about what aspects worked effectively and what phrases could have been left out. Now apply your same objective evaluation of what works and what doesn’t in your 100-word pitch. Visit Netflix and read movie blurbs on similar topics, or in your genre, to harvestcurrent keywords or phrases you can adapt to your book. These are your first steps in rewriting your 100 words—actually, rewriting 300 words.
Yes, write 3 different descriptions for distribution to your family and friends, and solicit their feedback about the one description they think would best attract readers—along with why they believe it works. This new and vastly improved abstract becomes your ever-ready answer when you’re asked, “What’s your book about???”
In the interest of putting your best words forward, invest time in updating your 100-word bio, too. Make every word sing with your accomplishments—spare miscellaneous details; instead, stress interesting key points. Purge negative references and non-essential information from your bio—the most important element it needs to clearly convey is that you have the experience and background to write a non-fiction book on the topic; and for novelists, you have the ability to write a great story.
Review your potential review sources—email folks who have read your book. By all means, contact Uncle Johnny who took the time to buy and read your book; and he also took a few minutes to drop you a note that your book was a good read. Now is the time to ask him to post his certain-to-be glowing review of your book on BBOTW and on Amazon.
Please don’t write a review of your book as if you’re someone else. This type of self-serving deception has a nasty way of coming back to bite you on the buns when you least expect it.
Photo courtesy of Jason Aaberg.
by Dave Giorgio
I am sure that everyone who listens to audio books has a favorite or two. I know that I do. I like audio books for different reasons at times. For example, I might really love a particular reader. Or the pure sound of the book might be what is appealing. Sometimes, the writing of the book is the clincher.
But if I were to write a book, and produced it as audio, that might change a few things. What would your book sound like if it were read by an actor? A really, really good actor? How would the characters sound? Would it be something that people would sit and listen to, just like they did in the days before television?
I’d have to really sit with this thought. I’d really have to take a quiet moment and picture it. Just sit quietly and hear it in my head. All of the nuance, playing back in my inner ear, not much different than normal, just inside my head.
What kind of experience would that be for you? What would the audio book be like?
These are not cerebral questions as part of a simulation. For many authors, these are questions that get answered by tangible sounds (or at least as tangible as sound gets). Think of some of the authors who have published books and have also released audio versions.
James Patterson, Debbie Macomber, Stieg Larsson, Dean Koontz, Suzanne Collins, Jonathan Franzen, Stephen King, Brandon Sanderson, Kathryn Stockett, Sara Gruen, Julia Glass, Stephen Haking, Jeff Lindsay, Terry MCMillian, and the list goes on…
For these authors, the sounds in their heads have been brought to life by their publishers and the readers who have performed on the titles.
Can you imagine what your book would be like? I’ll bet that if you can, it’s pretty darn cool. It might even be your favorite one.
Photo by: PlayfulLibrarian
by John F. Harnish
The concept of social networking has been spreading across the nation as more and more folks discover theconcept of connecting with family, friends, and associates on line.
One of the more popular websites for social networking is Twitter. Twitter is a free service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing??? The New York Times recently called Twitter “one of the fastest-growing phenomena on the Internet.” Membership is free and signing up takes only a few minutes. Also, when you join Twitter you’ll see a listing of your friends who are already members.
An equally popular online connection is Facebook. The company’s overview explains Facebook's mission: to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected. Many millions of people use Facebook every day to keep up and stay in touch with friends, upload an unlimited number of photos, share links and videos, and learn more about the people they meet. There is no membership fee and the sign-up procedures provide members with the means to create and customize their profile – this feature is common to all social networks.
LinkedIn is an interconnected network of experienced professionals from around the world, representing hundreds of industries and countries. You can find, be introduced to, and collaborate with qualified professionals who you may need to work with to accomplish your goals. This is an opportunity for non-fiction authors to connect with people interested in discussing similar areas of interest.
If you want to connect with other writers, authors, and poets, then Author Nation, produced and sponsored by Infinity Publishing, is the perfect social site for you. Visit www.authornation.com to join thousands of folks exchanging ideas and opinions that are of interest to authors. One of its unique features is you can post your writings on your profile page for readers to comment and perhaps make suggestions. Private Messages can be sent to members and there are lots of open forum topics to post your questions or comments.
Books of Excellence is a North American co-op for published authors. The website is a promotional showcase for the books their member authors have published. Members are encouraged to read and review books by other members. There is a nominal annual membership fee.
iReport.com is a free user generated site. That means the stories submitted by users are not edited, fact-checked or screened before they post. Only the stories marked On CNN have been vetted by CNN for use in CNN's global news coverage. Lots of people argue about what constitutes news. Really, it's just something that happens some place or to someone. Whether that something is newsworthy mostly depends on who it affects – and who's making the decision. On iReport.com that is you! So CNN built this site and equipped it with some nifty tools for posting, discovering, and talking about what you think makes the cut. If your book directly relates with a breaking news story, this is a good place to promote the relationship.
That said, be careful of how you promote your book on these social sites. Monitor several of the networks first, to get a feel for the posts and comments. Then don’t just post and go; come back and visit to read posted responses. Watch what you post on-line, because in several seconds it could be splattered all over the web.
Photo by: 10ch
IP Correspondent, LinDee Rochelle, September 16, 2010:
Washington Post writer falls for Twitter hoax
By Michael Calderone; Wed Sep 8, 11:18 am ET
Last week, a Washington Post columnist started a Twitter hoax. This week, a Washington Post columnist fell for one.
How embarrassing for the Post, and how indicative of our new digital world
This recent article poses an interesting quandary for book authors seeking information, too, especially in nonfiction genres. (Although fiction authors also seek real-world information for background and authenticity reasons.)
We want to present true and verified facts in our writings, but facing a deadline or beleaguered by long hours, our common sense can lose to the ticking clock.
The Washington Post missteps point to the foibles of Twitter, but I have long opposed the Wiki sites for the very reason that it’s composed and edited by “Joe Blow,” and subject to the same type of mischievous misinformation. As a longtime magazine journalist, I was initially disdainful and leery of its pages.
We are not privy to know who it is that instigates the articles, or contributes the primary content. Much of it is not verified and even with admonitions of “… does not cite any references or resources …” or other warning and cry for help, the text is left available for viewing until someone with enough knowledge on the subject takes the time and initiative to add, reject, or revise, at will.
How long will it be and how many viewings will an erroneous page experience before someone realizes mistakes have been made? How many times will the incorrect information be repeated and re-sent around the world before its errant content is discovered?
We live in amazing times. So much more information is now available than ever before possible, about the most obscure subjects. Our technology is incredible—and yet we seem to have only thawed the tip of the digital iceberg. So much more is yet to come. And what will we do with it? Will we use it responsibly?
Information is currently in a strange dichotomy. It’s infuriatingly indelible when you’re trying to erase an embarrassing photo from the Internet, and frustratingly transient when you’re looking for that document that simply “disappeared” from your computer. But it’s the repetition that will get us into trouble. Our grapevines now stretch around the world—multiplied by the number of people who view our writings.
A disconcerting byproduct of this misinformation issue is the growing “oh well” attitude. Oops! I made a mistake. Oh well. Oops! He didn’t really go to Princeton, but I didn’t have time to verify it, or review other sources. Oh well.
Misinformation can now be sent many times over, in less than the blink of an eye. I guarantee, if it is a negative report about you, you won’t be saying, “Oh well.”
An old adage, “If you’re not going to do it right, don’t do it at all,” is appropriate here. As authors we have a responsibility to our readers to “get it right.” They could be reading the information for the first time, and you’re doing them a disservice—or worse, your reader could be someone who knows the truth, and make no mistake, you will be called on it. Save yourself the embarrassment. Check your facts.
Though I’ve come to cautiously appreciate the information the Wikis provide and realize their value, I can’t urge you enough to verify the information you plan to redistribute. Of course, this applies not only to Wikis, but all information you receive from any ambiguous source.
Honestly, I’m surprised the big-name journalists/news outlets are being duped. In the wake of our economy, have their fact-checker jobs been totally eliminated from their respective companies?
I’m disappointed. Though news sources have long been chided for inserting incorrect ages, or misquoting a source, we’ve generally been able to rely on the validity of their basic facts. Until now.
L’s Seven Suggestions – fact-checking your work:
1)if at all possible, go directly to the source, or related resource
2)for famous people: start with Wikipedia and work through the links and sources to verify accuracy
3)for world events: check the History Channel’s website
4)for community events: review your local newspaper archives or look for a city historical society
5)don’t forget the library – yes, you may actually need to leave your house to find accurate information
6)every industry, field, major sport, and area of interest has a historian; search online, then go directly to an expert for an interview (oh, go ahead―contact them―most of them don’t bite)
7)colleges and universities are a wealth of information … go back to school, if only for an hour of research
And for you young’uns who don’t get the title phrase, “Just the facts, ma’am!” here’s your Wikipedia link.
Rock on! … LinDee
It’s a great time for Infinity authors on the review front.
This week, the Times Herald of Norristown and Montgomery County, PA reviewed author S.A. Williams’ World War II novel “Anna’s Secret Legacy.”
The novel was reviewed by Nicolette Milholin for the Journal Register News Service.
In her review, Milholin paints a portrait of the intricate story that Williams weaves. The novel tells the story of U.S.N.R. pilots Doug Conyers and Lenny Anderson, who are roving Europe on an information gathering mission when they meet Anna, a Russian research scientist with a secret that could change the world.
Though the novel is a fictional depiction of WWII, Williams integrated historical events into it and spent months on the research.
“I gave up my life,” says Williams in the article on timesherald.com. “It was so exciting, though, that it gave me energy!”
Williams is a resident of Blue Bell, PA and was educated in Europe. She is currently at work on a sequel.
Click here for the full review of S.A. Williams’ “Anna’s Secret Legacy” available for sale on Buy Books on the Web.
Click here for more information on sending your book to a reviewer.
by John F. Harnish
I recently exchanged email with a publisher who had just completed an anthology for a Canadian writers group celebrating their 30th anniversary. This is a remarkable accomplishment because many writer groups have a tendency to self-destruct from within. When they first band together, perhaps meeting in the back of a bookstore, in various members’ homes or in space at a library, it is often with the worthy goal to collectively help to improve their individual wordsmithing skills. As they say, however, the best laid plans often go astray.
Usually there are a few members who have publishing credits. They tend to be the focal point of the group – folks want to know what they did to make the grade to be published. After all, their work has appeared somewhere in print so they must know what’s what. Overall these groups are comprised of aspiring writers eager to learn from their peers how to improve their expressive craft and have their labors of love discovered and eventually published. Problems occur when opinions on their written efforts are rendered that bruise delicate egos or their egos are over inflated with false praise.
Writers have a unique kind of courage to bare their souls and offer up work-in-progress for a collective critique by the group. Often rather mediocre work is applauded as being sooo wonderful and just too, too well expressed for words, to properly convey how good it is – when in fact it isn’t well written but is marred by a host of amateurish writing errors. Then there are the slice and dice judgments that totally shred the writer’s efforts – well, the best that can be said is the page numbers are in the proper sequence. False readings of their written words as being just too, too good or sooo very bad; leaving writers adrift in a sea of conflicting opinions that do little to provide an objective path for the aspiring writer to pursue. Bashed and shattered egos naturally cause members to leave a group – over inflated egos eventually burst.
Then writers have the problem of dealing with an onslaught of overwhelming thoughts from fellow writers as to what the woeful writer must do when they rewrite their manuscript again to make it a more compelling read, to make it more interesting, to make it easier to follow, to twist the plot in a more creative style, etc. When everyone is rendering an opinion on how to write a book it’s like a committee designing a horse – that produces an animal with the hump of a camel, the trunk of an elephant, the legs of a hippo, and the tail of a monkey. Trying to incorporate everyone’s opinion and often opposing viewpoints fails to accomplish anything except to product a horrific mess.
One of the group activities writers engage in is comparing rejection slips or not-right-for-us letters that have the dull tone of displeasing sameness. Of course in recent times the not-interested-notes arrive as impersonal emails. Thankfully in this dawning digital age of book publishing rejection is rapidly becoming a thing of the past – the opinion of the worthiness of the author’s book is determined by a mass of engaged readers and not by the biased objections of an entrenched few.
I’ve been honored to be a guest speaker at various writers’ groups scattered across the country. From what I’ve seen, the successful groups that survive the test of time are the ones with a few dynamic leaders attuned to the nuances of collective interactions, and skilled at looking for the positive points in the expressive efforts of even the newest members, perhaps just venturing into exploring the awesome art of writing a book. Sensitive leaders have the ability to quickly intervene to halt the slashing and trashing of a member’s efforts. Members of the group have developed the knack of gently pointing out the negatives but doing so in a positive and constructive manner. It becomes second nature to be considerate and respectful of the offering of others – indeed this kindness extends far beyond the circles of successful writers’ groups.
Photo courtesy of Laura Shreck.
by John F. Harnish
Where’s the worst place to sell your book? Take your pick.
A. In an elevator
B. In a pro shop
C. In a restaurant
D. In a seminar setting
E. In an independent bookstore
F. In a national chain bookstore
Not so fast- the answer isn’t as easy as you think. Let’s take a closer look at each option.
A. The elevator- Every author should have a 60-second elevator pitch. Why? Well, imagine you are in an elevator on your way to an authors’ conference. Who should be on the elevator with you but a well-known editor, literary agent, or wonder of wonders- a famous movie producer? AND they just asked you what your book is about. Here’s your chance! There’s less than a minute before the elevator reaches his floor. Remember to remain calm and don’t get tongue-tied. Shoot for brevity. Think about the three most important aspects of your book that make it one of a kind. Write out your pitch and practice reciting it in a minute or less. Sometimes it only takes a moment to change your life.
B. The pro shop- That’s right, sports clubs, health spas, and other places that focus on exercise or sporting activities are excellent places to do a book signing if your book will help to improve their game or enhance their daily exercise program. You’ll have a captive audience who will hopefully be interested in the topic and will want to buy your book. Dan Poynter doesn’t go to bookstores to promote his new book about skydiving. He goes wherever skydivers are gathering to talk about their rushes from jumping out of a perfectly good aircraft. He’s presenting to his primary target audience, he’s prepared with handouts, and he has an ample supply of books to provide instant gratification for eager buyers.
C. The restaurant- The retail price of most books sold today is about the same as dinner at a decent restaurant. People eat out more often than they go to a bookstore. Most restaurants have a slow evening when they’d appreciate a few more patrons. One of these nights is the perfect time to have you come in to do a reading while the patrons enjoy dining. This is like a dinner theater, expect the author is the star and the lines are read from the author’s book. The restaurant can do a mailing to their patrons promoting Dinner-with-the-Author night. Naturally, you’ll promote it to family, friends and co-workers. Maybe a couple dozen will make reservations and actually show up. Whatever the number, it will be more than they usually have on a slow night. The author will benefit by having potential customers who will learn more about the book while they enjoy a good meal.
D. The Seminar- Seminars are sensational settings for selling topic books. Seek out local and national associations devoted to your book’s topic. Bring your book to the attention of the organizers by letting them know you would be delighted to do a presentation about your book—available for purchase after your talk. Back-of-the-room sales are profitable.
E. The independent bookstore- Bookstores are perhaps the worst place to do a book signing, because your book is competing with thousands and thousands of other books. All you have going for you is what you say about your book—so talk clearly with a proud passion. Many independents have an active calendar of in-store events featuring local authors. They’ll usually order the featured book when they schedule a promotional event. You need to contact independent bookstores in your area to be considered for these events.
F. The national chain bookstore- A national chain bookstore is the worst place to do a signing. They’ll order your book through Ingram and your Infinity title will be produced by Lightning Source for Ingram’s distribution. The deep discount of 55% cuts deeply into the author’s earned royalty. And in addition to the ever-present tables of discounted books, you have even the most recent bestsellers on sale at a 40% discount!!! Some of the chain store managers are more flexible and will schedule local self-published authors for in-store events. However, be careful they don’t charge you a fee for promoting your appearance. Accept the fact that you’ll have the prestige of doing a bookstore event without much in the way of profit. Yes, the greater profits for the author are often found far beyond the bookstores—no fooling!!!
Photo courtesy of Dolf Bakker.
by Dave Giorgio
I plan on spending a lot of time in this audio book publishing blog writing about all of the many components that go into a great audio book. But today, one element will stand alone.
Just as with any other book publishing medium or genre, be it ebook, hard back, fiction, poetry, non-fiction, children's, etc. it always starts with one essential element: The quality of the writing.
Believe it or not, the quality of writing, within the context of an audio book, might even be more important than with other kinds of books.
Imagine two professional narrators: each with a book; one well-written and fun to read, the other with a poorly written book. Picture these two professionals as they read aloud from their books. Word by word, every single line is read aloud. They are each doing everything they can to bring the book to life and to capture every nuance on the page.
With the first reader, you can literally hear them becoming one with the script. The whole experience becomes complete through his or her bonding with the text. By the time it gets to the listener, who will also bond with the program, the program really works. It's a real hit and that listener is going to love it.
That is the magic of good writing. It’s a force that can’t help but be enjoyed; it can’t help but be great. This will translate to sales, too, as people talk about it and spread the word.
Of course, there are a lot of other elements that can sabotage an audio book if not attended to correctly such as: the recording environment, the microphone, signal chain, audio editing, final production, etc. But these shall be a topic for another day.
And perhaps, during your process, it will not only be fun, but productive to imagine your book being read out loud- one word at a time. It will not only give you some perspective regarding what it would be like when your book is published in audio format, but also give you a chance to test your words in a new medium; one that is off the page and in the air.
If it works there, then chances are you are on the right track.
Photo courtesy of Acuzio.
IP Correspondent, LinDee Rochelle, September 9, 2010:
Last week I barely whispered about the popular controversy of perceived zero costs to produce e-books. Notice the word “perceived.” Instead, we discussed e-book pricing as it relates to the author and our valuable content. I still want you to keep that in mind, as we delve into some wild accusations about e-book publishing costs.
At the risk of irritating our buying-public readers, I’m beginning to believe that many well-meaning folks (at least, those I encountered while reviewing forums) have no idea what business costs are involved in writing and publishing a book, let alone, bringing any product to market. And yet they feel qualified to vilify a publisher or author for not giving away their e-books.
A forum ranter discussing the e-books pricing issue calls publishers greedy because they “want their cut for marketing the book as well as editing.” Gee, imagine that. And one common thread seems to be the inability to “sell, lend, or give away an e-book when I’m done with it.”
In response to the latter, in most cases, you’re paying less retail than for a print book and until digital rights management (DRM) is perfected, the publishing industry is not inclined to end up like the crippled music industry, with the works’ creators losing millions in royalties. So we’re battling the same mentality as the music pirate. Some people just think they’re entitled to a financially free world. Ah, if only!
But the comments that disturbed me most came from authors; one self-described as a “micro-publisher” who gives away Vol. I of her book as an e-book enticement to readers, so they’ll become familiar with her work. And another literally said, “It’s not about selling books.”
I guess if you like working for free, that’s OK; personally, I prefer to be paid for my hours of toiling at the computer. Praise (or not) only goes so far to pay the rent. Even avocations should bring in revenue for your time.
You might think their strategies represent good marketing—if you’re a retailer and your price is not your cost, a “2 for 1” sale is great! But you won’t see the manufacturer selling it that way to the retailer. Why would an author devalue their own work directly to their readers?
Hmmmm, before my friends, family and colleagues who’ve known me for twenty-plus years unkindly remind me—yes, I have given my writing away—magazine articles—in the beginning when I didn’t have the oh-so-necessary “clips” to send an editor, proving my writing worth. Fortunately, it took only a few issues in a newsrag before I made $25 per article. Whoohoo! But—controversy still rages in writing circles about whether even that type of give-away is necessary. It worked for me. But unless it was a charitable cause, I haven’t given it away since.
I’m wondering why it is that authors are expected to—and some believe they should—distribute freely their sweat-stained virtual pages? Never mind the work that went into creating the book—don’t they want even a tiny piece of the capitalism and profiteering that abounds in other product industries?
Let me ask you a question or two: Do you know how much the markup is on your clothing? How about your bread? Do you know there’s up to a 300% markup on that bling you’re flaunting? Ever wonder why you pay so much for a name-brand laptop, but a reasonable copy that provides the same functions is a fraction of its cost?
Capitalism. And hate or love it, this country was built on it. Today, however, a popular attitude is gaining credence that capitalism is a rude, crude, bad dude. Why is it that we’re encouraged to build our businesses, but don’t you dare make a profit with it?! Gee, I thought that was the purpose of all the toil and trouble.
Millionaires are maligned in the press for hoarding so much money—while I might envy them for the briefest of moments, I don’t begrudge those who made their dollars honestly, with ingenuity, integrity, and know-how. (But don’t get me started on their spoiled rich brats.)
Granted, some companies and their executives go to the extreme as we humans are known to do, and greed for the almighty dollar often corrupts them. But there is also a growing population of businesses that are learning to make a reasonable profit without gouging their customers, while consciously operating and sharing in an honest and earth-friendly way.
So again, how do e-books fit into the business world and why are their prices “so high”? Let’s get something straight. Even virtual products have costs. We can debate the issue ‘til we’re virtually exhausted. But that won’t change the facts.
For publishing companies, tangible expenses like paper, ink, binding glue, yada, yada, have now been replaced with conversion technology software, distribution contract negotiations, and virtually infinite file management costs. I don’t know about your company, but last I heard employees don’t work for free, software companies don’t give their products away (large business systems cost thousands, btw), and computer storage systems don’t build themselves.
Before you begin groaning that those are one-time costs and once paid for, e-books are virtually free, just like a paper book, every e-book has to be accounted for and royalties attributed. And while the publisher might want to swallow those additional administrative costs, the distribution outlets don’t. They charge the publisher. That’s in addition to normal overhead. And business “ain’t what it used to be.” Profit margins are down, as raw materials escalate in cost. Why do you think we’re in this global economic mess??
Other hidden e-book costs for publishers include several conversion programs, not just one. Each distribution channel has its own publishing requirements and quality publishers ensure their authors’ books display to its best advantage on every e-reader. And each e-book must be converted individually, and inspected manually.
I’m not going to avoid it—at some point for publishers, and a little earlier for independent, one-distribution point authors, the work is finished, except for minor ongoing maintenance. But don’t chastise us for wanting to get closer to our own million, and if we don’t go down to the bottom of the barrel, we have wiggle room to offer sales, discounts, and other enticing incentives. We can’t do that if the return on the dollar is zero.
And I still maintain there is no shame in making an honest buck for a lot of hard work. Virtual or not.
L’s tips for authors faced with the free e-book dilemma:
- NEVER give your book-length writing away (see how I skirted my early magazine freebie indiscretions?!)
- up to 20% of your work offered in no-cost excerpts is considered a fair enticement
- ensure your e-book is displaying properly, so your readers will value their purchase
- put your “freebies” into your marketing program; Infinity author, Devin O’Branagan uses awesome marketing and branding strategies for her vampire novel, Glory, “giving” her readers much more than a book
- remind them there are no free lunches … and no free e-books … just a free smile when they like your work
Rock on! … LinDee
by Brittany Lavin
Let me tell you what I know about writer’s block. It’s REAL. In fact, for me (and other writers I’m sure…I think…it can’t just be me, can it?) it’s so real it’s practically tangible. Like a dam obstructing a river, it stops the flow. All those brilliant plots and red herrings-- gone just like that. What’s worse is you never know how long it will last. It could be over in a day or it could take months, even years. So if you’re like me and find yourself blocked for any period of time, here are some tips to get the creative juices flowing again.
1. Stop what you’re doing. Don’t stare at blank piece of notebook paper or at a blinking cursor. Trust me, it doesn’t help.
2. Take a walk. Stretch your legs and get some fresh air, it might give you a new perspective.
3. Take a nap. You could dream up a best-selling plot!
4. Talk it out. Grab a friend and go over the part where you keep getting stuck. Another opinion may provide you with new insight into your story.
5. Write somewhere else. Perhaps the room you’re in is stifling you. Perhaps there are too many distractions. Try moving to another spot in the house.
6. Subscribe to daily writing prompts. A prompt can be one word or a few sentences. Basically, it gives you the start and you take it where you will.
7. Make a schedule. Set aside time everyday to write. If you haven’t written anything by a certain time, call it a day and try again tomorrow.
8. Try making an outline of where you want the story to go and write each part one at a time.
9. If all else fails, move on. Start writing something new and don’t let it get you down!
10. Don’t give up! Don’t be discouraged and remember- all writers go through it.
Some say that writer’s block doesn’t really exist, that it’s a deep-rooted issue pertaining to the writer. Well, I say it depends on the writer. Insecurity and fear of failure may indeed bring about writer’s block. However, it’s important to remember to stay positive and do what you love. Don’t let the block finish your story- write through it!
For more ways to battle writer’s block:
Overcome Writer’s Block
Photo courtesy of Miguel Ugalde.
by John F. Harnish
Nothing is more frustrating when you’re reading along and you have an imposed Say What??? moment. You pause to ponder what the author is trying to say. Sometimes this can be attributed to following the twists of a turning plot, or understanding the explanation of complex instructions; but at times it reads as if the author doesn’t know the correct usage of the words.
When I was writing The Nose Saga: Cancer Stinks!!! my overwhelming concern was to be as correct as possible describing medical terms and procedures. I translated doctor-talk into hopefully more understandable laymen’s terms as seen from the patient’s viewpoint – at least while I was awake. I dare say the saga reflects on one of the times when I used a common medical nomenclature and the briefly befuddled nurse heard the word in a shockingly different way.
Incorrectly used words chip away at the author’s credibility, causing readers to wonder if the author knows what they are writing about. There ain’t no way that common usage makes it right – that just ain’t so!!! Ain’t is an exception that continues to cause English teachers to cringe.
I also wince when I hear authors say, “My book is entitled…” UGH!!! The author writes the title of the book, and once graced with a title the book is titled with the title bestowed by the author, and that’s what the title is – at least until an agent or mainstream house changes the title supposedly to earn more sales appeal. Entitled is a legal term that’s become a bastardized publishing term. A court ruling might determine the plaintiff is entitled to damages, but the only legal entitlements your book is entitled to are the royalties established in the publishing agreement.
Sure, authors hooked on using entitled – perhaps because entitled has an air of royalty – are quick to point out that the talking heads on TV always say their guest is the author of the bestselling book entitled… UGH!!! The more knowledgeable heads get the use of titled uncommonly right.
Unknowingly wrong are those authors who want you to know they’ve written a fictional novel. A make-believe UGH!!! The definition of a novel is that it is a work of fiction – of course there are various genres of novels, but it’s all fiction. The author is the novelist telling the story, the better the storytelling the better the novel reflecting the tale – some tales are taller than others. Size matters not, what matters are the creative wordsmithing skills of the writer.
Then there’s the writer who has written an original book. Good Grief!!! I’m glad it’s not one of those original duplicated books like the monk-scribes did many, many centuries ago. Hello, in the here and now, ‘tis the creative writing of the authoring mind that flows into creating the book. Any way you slice it, creative brain play funneled into a book damn well better be conjured from your original thoughts – otherwise, ‘tis true, they do walk among us!!!
Perhaps the term stems from US Copyright protection for original work – setting original work apart from illegal plagiarized work!!! Publisher and the Public have an expectation that the author’s work is indeed original. Authors file for copyright protection through the Library of Congress; the LOC does not engage in copywriting. The copywriting of advertising pitches and crass commercial messages is very different than protecting the rights of your content by filing for Copyright protection. Copyediting enhances your content – Copyright protects your content.
Your creativity, your content, your book are all rightful applications of your denoting ownership, but what boils my blood is the use of self – most specifically when authors are misled into believing their book has been self-published when truth in fact the book has NOT been self-published. The only way the book was self-published is if the author owns the publishing company and the ISBN identifies the author-owned publisher as the publisher of record for the author’s book. Self-published authors don’t earn royalties, they pay themselves from the eventual profit of the proceeds from books sold.
Authors who enter into a publishing agreement with a publisher or publishing service are authorizing said publisher to publish and distribute their books in exchange for royalties paid on books sold. There is an author in authorizing, but there is not a self. The only self that is essential in publishing is self-promoting your book – getting exposure for your book is an absolute must, regardless of how it came to be published, because the how matters not a bit to the public.
Photo courtesy of Zsuzsanna Kilian.
by Dave Giorgio
Over the past 15 years, self publishing ushered in many changes to the book publishing industry as a whole. It was through self publishing that print on demand publishing developed, and into the industry came new kinds of publishers such as Infinity Publishing. It was through self publishing that eBook publishing caught on.
In years past, the writer’s intent was perhaps to write a book. But in this new era, on the premise that “you could publish your own book,” things got a little more serious for authors. Suddenly there was a life after the publishing of their book. Book marketing and blogging were now things to consider, and book promotion became something tangible; setting up book signings, selling books at seminars and conferences, etc. A decade or so later, the self publishing industry is a thriving pool of authors and publishers working on content.
So how does this affect audio book publishing? Well, if the past is any indication, audio books will become more and more influenced by self publishing authors. While most authors might not have the golden voice their book deserves, or happen to have on hand a three thousand dollar microphone and a sound proof studio to record in, they do have books that would serve them well by being published in audio format. The sales potential is just too good to pass up.
For instance, while the rest of the economy hung on like a ship wreck victim to a piece of flotsam, the sales of audio books increased by 6%. So while other industries were at -30, audio book publishing was +6. Stock analysts would tell you that’s one heck of a healthy industry.
The audio book industry is currently driven by large publishers who tend to have a good feel for where to place their chips. It’s quite possible that more and more self publishing authors will join the fray in the same manner as the big publishers: arrange with an audio book specialist to have the book recorded, and go about publishing their audio book themselves.
The motivation is there. Audio books, being accepted as a higher priced product than printed books, earn higher revenues per sale. Furthermore, the consumer that purchases the audio version of a title, might not have purchased, or even known about the print version. So with the audio book segment’s higher royalties and ability to expand an author’s audience, I see authors taking the lead on this, and once again driving the book publishing industry forward.
Photo courtesy of Jim Larranaga.
by LinDee Rochelle
Every industry has its nitpickers. They’re the critics who peer at the infrastructure of new products from every possible angle—and rip them to shreds—all in the name of providing a service to the GP.
Publishing is no different. From the printing press to ebooks, every ground-breaking product “hot off the press” is poked and prodded, analyzed and evaluated until the consumer is so confused they often buy it, just because it’s new and controversial.
Dissecting anything, however, requires a detached and aloof approach, which often results in missing the whole point o
f the innovation. Such is the case with ebooks.
Now that the dust has settled on the first round of formats and distribution outlets, and we have a nice array of digital readers, the critics have turned their attention to the great pricing debate.
There’s no doubt about it—ebook pricing is all over the place. Most consumers—and some authors—want ebooks priced MUCH lower than print books. “Non-existent production costs” is often cited as the primary reason.
Brett Arends wrote for the WSJ, “There is no paper, no printing, no trucking and no retail space. So they should cost a lot less to buy, but the deal often isn't anywhere near as good as it should be.” (“Are E-Books Worth the Money?”)
Two thoughts bother me about the e-book pricing circus:
- Authors don’t seem to be voicing an opinion, or in the case of independent authors, many are siding with consumers and setting low prices, which creates a low standard for all.
- More importantly, NO ONE seems to be considering the books’ CONTENTS.
I’ve seen publishing experts, who command thousands of dollars in fees for a conference presentation, charge $2.99 for their ebooks, and $15.99 for the same content in a print book. Granted, the production costs are close to nil for the hard copy, but those costs don’t represent $13.00. Why is the ebook content unevenly devalued?
Even if an author publishes in the ebook format only, and eschews print publishing, is the value of their novel, business book, or textbook, any less?
An author spends just as many eye-glazing, mind-numbing hours researching, creating, writing, editing, and marketing an e-book as they do a print book. Why should they give it away? Ebooks were created as a convenience for busy consumers; not as a bargain-basement by-product of a perfectly good book.
I can often empathize with both sides of a debate, but in this instance, I side with the publishers. Not because I think they should make a bundle off of ebooks, but because authors need an ally to help them remember that they put a LOT of work into that book and should be compensated for it, just like any other craftsman.
Four Tips to pricing your ebook:
- First and foremost, just as with your print book, consider the content; and perform due diligence to research other books’ print-to-digital ratio in your genre
- A stand-alone e-book, again, deserves content consideration; don’t sell it for pennies on the dollar just because it’s digital
- Consider the royalty amount—averages run 50% to 75%
- A give-or-take average price is about 30% lower than the equivalent hard copy book, to adjust for print costs
Remember, you’ve put a lot of sweat-equity into your e-book. Ask a fair price for it.
Photo courtesy of Amazon.com
Author Advocate, Brittany Lavin, September 1, 2010:
Self published authors CAN get reviews!
David Hunter, a freelance writer for Knoxville News, posted a glowing review for Infinity author G.S. Needham’s satanic murder thriller “Double Whammy.”
In his review, Hunter makes a point of stating that while he does read the books that are sent to him (an author must put in a request beforehand) he makes it clear that there is little chance that he will mention it.
Suffice it to say, he was pleasantly surprised when he read Needham’s work. “Double Whammy” delves into the mind of fictional character Ida Mae Potts, the youngest woman on death row in Kentucky. According to Hunter, Needham, a retired criminal court reporter, decided to self publish because “she didn’t want to play games with agents, etc.”
“Regardless of how she arrived, Needham got it right - from the stench of jail disinfectants to the ranting of mentally ill prisoners. Furthermore, she did the near impossible by making the reader grasp how a monster comes to be,” Hunter said in his article on knoxnews.com.
Click here for David Hunter’s full review of “Double Whammy” available for sale on Buy Books on the Web.
Self published authors can break through traditional barriers and not only be successful, but get noticed too! Let this be an example for all self published authors- don’t give up and keep promoting your book!
For information on sending your book to a reviewer refer to Spread the word! Send your self published book to a reviewer.