Saturday, June 18, 2016

Publishing Then and Now: New Options

While presenting at a writer’s conference today the Intrigue Publishing crew talked about the publishing options available to writers today. At one time self-publishing carried a huge stigma, and the bigger your publisher the better. This is no longer necessarily true. What changed? Well, if you will allow me to wax nostalgic for a bit, let’s compare today’s publishing landscape to the situation 20 years ago.

THEN – books were hard cover and paperback.
NOW – ebooks are the choice of many readers.

THEN – books were sold in bookstores. .
NOW – books are sold in Walmart, Target, drug stores, Costco, and on line. is the world’s biggest book seller. Plus there are ibooks and ebooks for several platforms.

THEN – Printing was an expensive process
NOW – Printing is inexpensive and the print on demand process means you can make books one at a time if you want. Plus, e-books cost practically nothing to create..

THEN – Authors sold books to agents, who sold to publisher, who sold to bookstores, who sold to readers.
NOW – Thanks to the internet, authors have the option to sell directly to readers

THEN – There were many large publishers to submit to.
NOW – There are few big publishers, but lots of small publishers, vanity publishers and Print on Demand publishers.

THEN – big publishers maintained mid-list authors who could build a readership over time.
NOW – big publishers only want blockbuster writers.

THEN – It was very hard to get published, but there were lots of book buyers
NOW – It’s never been easier to be published, but never harder to sell books.

So how does a writer decide if he wants to be published by a major imprint, place his or her book with a small press, or self-publish? There are a lot of factors to consider. For example, there's the question of submissions.

To get your manuscript considered by a major publisher you must have an agent. Random House and Simon & Schuster only accept manuscripts submitted by agents. Once your agent submits to them months could pass before there is a response. In contrast, small presses do accept and in fact generally prefer un-agented submissions and will respond in weeks. Of course, if you choose to self-publish, you don’t have to submit anything to anyone. When you think your book is ready, you can put it out there.

But there are several other factors to consider before making the choice. I’ll get into many of them next week.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

More Great Web Sites for Authors

Last week I shared some of my favorite sites that I think are helpful to writers. Here are several more. Check them out and decide which ones you want to bookmark.

Writer Beware was the first author-focused web site I got turned on to. This is the place to check out every publisher, Print on Demand company, agent or publicist you might be planning to do business with. They are effectively the Better Business Bureau for writers. And if anyone in this business takes advantage of you or fails to live up to what they promised, this is where you report it. 

If you want to tell your stories and get them into the social media workd, WattPad is a good place to start. It just might be the world’s largest community of writers and readers. Members can post - and read - original stories. You can get a conversation going and network in order to build buzz and extend your platform.

As its name implies, the Alliance of Independent Authors is an organization dedicated to indie authors. It’s a good place to find realistic marketing advice, its blog is very active, and it hosts events from time to time.

Another good place to find useful blogs is Digital Book World. Genuine experts in both publishing and marketing post here. Once you sign up you get a daily email sign up and every day you’ll get a daily email full of publishing news and useful links, especially for indie authors.

BookLife is a rather formal source of indie news and education. It has a broad view, as you might expect for a sight sponsored by Publisher’s Weekly.  

Galley Cat is a somewhat less formal source for publishing news, but nonetheless a very valuable site.  

Probably the most thorough newsletter tracking publishing changes, significant sales and the latest news of the business is put out by Publisher’sLunch. This one comes in two forms. You might want to stick with the free version, but for $20/month you also get access to an extensive database of valuable info.  

Writing is as much a business as a craft. Staying informed about that business is vital if commercial success is among your goals. And that can start with any of the links I’ve shared in the last two blogs. 

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Best of the Web for Writers

The internet is filled with resources for writers that are even more informative than my blog. Most of these websites are most valuable to the independent author or the writer working with a small press. If you’re a writer, you will want to check these sites regularly, and some you should bookmark.

I’ve talked about Goodreads before but it has to be high on this list. To readers it’s a social network, but for writers it’s a valuable tool for building your platform. If you don’t have a profile there you need to create one. You’ll find it easy to network with authors, reviewers, and most importantly, with readers.

Another web site worth visiting belongs to The Independent Book Publishers Association. The IBPA is a wonderful organization that, despite its name, is very valuable for writers. There is a registration fee, like any other association, but I think it is well worth it to get the great magazine, sit in on the informative webinars, and have the chance to attend the annual conference.

Have you seen Write On by Kindle?  What’s cool is that you can both give feedback to others and get support yourself every step of the way through your creative process. As part of a virtual critique group you can read the writing of other authors and offer helpful feedback. Then you can post your own writing and hear from others about it.

Another bustling online community called SheWrites is only of interest to half of us. More than 27,000 authors have joined, and they range from seasoned pros to eager beginners. This is another opportunity to build a profile, then build a network, share your writing and wait for valuable advice. And you’ll find wide ranging discussions in the forum.

Christina Katz’s’ Writing and Publishing School blog is called Prosperous Writer. Her focus is generally on helping writers stay on track and follow through when they are tempted to give up. There are other cool features, like the “Writer Mamas” section aimed at mothers who want to give both their children and their writing enough time.

Kindle Boards / is a site hosting a series of conversation strings. There is really a ton of valuable information here about ebooks, promotion and publishing in general. Just be sure to spend your time on the most current and active conversations.

Next week I’ll point out some more valuable websites for writers to check.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Low Budget Marketing 5: Get Attention

I hope this series of blogs has broadened your perception of what activities can help your marketing efforts. This week I will share some simple and inexpensive things you can do to get the right people to notice your book.

Pursuing reviews should be a part of your marketing plan. So why not decide, right now, to send your book to ten book reviewers this week? Keep your pitch simple, but personal (at least learn the reviewer’s name so you can address your note directly to them.)

You want blogger attention too. Find the ones that fit your book and pitch them. A guest blog is a great way to present your book to a new audience. You just need to convince them that news of your book will be of interest to their readers.

Don’t overlook local retailers. Why not just go around to them in person to see if they’ll carry your book? If you are independent you can offer a consignment deal. Look beyond book stores to gift shops, restaurants or coffee houses. You might be surprised at the extent to which neighborhood businesses will support local authors.

You can also get the attention of distant businesses. Go through catalogs you think your book would be appropriate for, and send them a packet about your book. Getting your book presented to buyers surrounded by non-book items can kick off a lot of sales, so look closely for items in catalogs that are natural tie-ins for you.

You want the attention of book clubs. To get it, develop a set of discussion topics or questions such clubs could use. Post them on your web site or some other place so they’re easy to download. Book club love these discussion-starters and are more likely to select your book if they know you’ve given them a place to start their discussion. Also, make sure you mention, on your list, that you’re happy to attend their meeting in person or thru a chat engine like Skype.

To maintain the attention of your current readers start an email newsletter. It is a great way to keep them updated and informed about your success (ditto friends and family.)

And finally, when a member of any of the above groups is helpful to you, send them a thank you note. Because they are so rare these days, an actual handwritten note says a lot about you, all good.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Low Budget Marketing #4 - Research & Planning

I realized belatedly that marketing begins with planning, so I should add some tips that cost nothing or nearly nothing that will get you started:

Step one should probably be putting together marketing plan. Select the tactics that you’re comfortable with and create a timetable. If the idea of a “plan” scares you, just keep it simple. Choose ten things you want to do this month to promote your book and figure out just how you’ll follow through. There, that’s a plan.

While you’re at it, why not plan a free ebook promotion? If they’re on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) it’s easy to drop your book’s price to zero for a day or two. You’ll want to plan this at least a week in advance. Then list your freebie where a lot of people will find it. I can suggest and there are lots of others.

If you’re blogging or posting on social media regularly, you should create a content calendar. This is how you avoid that day when you’re not sure what to write. Think through what you want to post on holidays or the dates of events that tie in to your book. Look up some obscure holidays and brainstorm how you’ll tie your book into them. List all your cool ideas in one place so you can refer to this collection whenever you don’t feel inspired to write anything.

Networking can also lead to valuable marketing action, so you should look up other writers in your genre on line. You can find them on Google, or check out the authors shelved in a bookstore where your book should be. Once you find them, you can examine what they do for marketing. And of course you can track them down at conferences. Then you can share good ideas and tell each other what didn’t work too well.

One thing you can expect to help is to upgrade your Amazon Author page. This can be a good nexus for your online presence. Link your blog to the page, and your twitter feed. Post a video there (even a selfie with you talking about your book helps people connect with you.) And do some research on the best key words and categories to list there.

Next week I’ll share some ideas for specific actions you can take to get people’s attention and get them to notice your book. 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Low Budget Marketing – 3: Being There

I’m back from vacation and back to listing good ways to promote your books without spending a ton of money.

One plan we haven’t discussed is setting up events at nearby bookstores. Book signing events are a great way to promote your writing. Offer readings, informative presentations, or a party whose theme reflects your book. And if local bookstores are not open to events consider doing them in other places. Local restaurants, clubs and coffee houses can be good choices. I recently set up a costume party and presentation at a nearby library for our young adult anthology YOUNG ADVENTURERS. I’m sure it will be great fun and gather some media coverage too.

You should also consider asking friends to host a book party in their own homes. The attendees will already be interested, so when you talk about your book you have a positive, captive audience. This will be great fun with nearby friends, and thanks to Skype and Google Hangout you can do the same thing at a distance. In those cases you can promote the event on social media and build an even bigger audience.

You should also try to appear at writers’ conferences and book festivals. A quick internet search will reveal a surprising number of them. This weekend I’ll be at the Gaithersburg Book Festival, hosted by local bookstore Novel Books. And of course I help to run the Creatures, Crimes & Creativity Con every year. When attending an event, you should have specific goals. Identify who you want to get to know so you can get a head start on networking. Make appointments early, and stay organized. Make sure you have mastered your elevator pitch and never eat alone – connecting with others in the business is priceless for your marketing efforts.

As important as they are I’ll list getting business cards as a separate marketing action. You’ll hand out a lot of them at those book festivals and writers conferences. Cards are inexpensive and if you use VistaPrint they’re actually free. Yu should leave them everywhere you go.

Sometimes you can be there live without travelling at all. How about pitching yourself to radio stations as a speaker? In this way you can discuss your book across the country without ever leaving your living room.

I hope these short, low (or no) cost thoughts fire your imagination. Next time I’ll share some ideas of how planning and research can help your marketing.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

I Shouldn't Be Writing This...

So we load ourselves onto the Grandeur of the Seas for a five-day ride to Bermuda and I'm told, leave the writing life behind. You're on vacation. I guess "vacation" is the Swahili word for "Stop doing the stuff you love to do" but I love my loved ones, so I comply.

Day 1 - I notice that the ship has a little library and I pick up a book at random. Reading qualifies as relaxing, right? Only I can't get into it. No, more accurately I can't let it go. The writing is awful. How in the world did anything I've done get rejected when garbage like THIS gets published by a major publisher?



Day 2 - Floating weightless in the hot tub. This is the life! What a beautiful day! I love the feel of the sun on my skin. Of course, I didn't think about sun tan lotion to block the harmful rays. Say... skin cancer. That's it! That minor villain needs a motivation to finish his scheme early. I can give him skin cancer! Then...



Day 3 - I think I'm finally into it. A nice long walk in Bermuda. Visiting shops with my favorite people in the world. a leisurely ferry ride. A couple of take-home gifts. dancing! goofy games. See? they were so wrong. Writers CAN relax.

Can't wait to blog about this!