Sunday, July 24, 2016
We started with a focus on four genres and that hasn't changed, but received submissions have varied a lot. We've gotten a mountain of crime fiction manuscripts and published a few. Death and White Diamonds has won two conference awards so far. Likewise, we've seen a pretty good stack of Young Adult tales and put some fine ones out. I can't explain why Girl Z: My Life as a Teenage Zombie (our content editor's favorite Intrigue book to date) is not a best seller. it's a fabulous, well written tale. On the other hand the equally wonderful Y-A The Boy Who Knew Too Much won an award at the Love is Murder Writers Conference.
On the other hand, we have yet to receive a contemporary drama manuscript we like enough to put out there next to B. Swangin Webster's Let Me Just Say This and its sequel, Let Me Say This Again. And we had been in business for three years before we got a romance we loved enough to publish. This fall Center Courtship and The Inheritance will explode onto the scene (at least, I think they will.) In all the genres we cover, we are determined to publish Writing That Can't Be Ignored.
We went into this business thinking we'd move a ton of ebooks and that if we called enough bookstores we could get our books onto the shelves one store at a time. Ebook sales have not been what we expected but now we have an arrangement with Small Press United (a subsidiary of Independent Publishers Group) who have people who call bookstores to get books onto shelves. We've recently been able to pay someone to call bookstores to set up book signings, allowing us to put new authors on limited, local tours. Liza Brown, author of Center Courtship, already has three book events - two at Barnes and Nobles stores - for her book which will we will release September 15.
From the beginning we have sent books to all the major reviewers hoping they'd notice us. It has been a steep hill but we've made progress bit by bye. The aforementioned Center Courtship is our first title accepted for review at Publishers Weekly. BTW, Jacqueline Seewald, author of The Inheritance, has previously been reviewed by PW so we're optimistic about a repeat.
From the start we have endeavored to behave like the big guys: pay advances and royalties, promote our authors, work to sell other rights, publish award winning books, etc. So far, I think we've earned a reputation as a legitimate, professional and author-friendly house. I'm probably inordinately proud of that.
Saturday, July 16, 2016
As I write this I’m halfway through a great weekend at the Public Safety Writers Assoc. Conference. I’m here as both a writer AND publisher, so I have had the pleasure of taking pitches from other writers. Some of those pitches were excellent, but on a panel I was asked what makes a good pitch. Since it’s fresh in my mind, I’ll share that information here too.
First, please don’t bring a manuscript. Or a printed synopsis. Or anything else for me to read. You want me listening to you, not reading while you talk. In fact, there’s no need to hand me anything except a business card if you have one.
It’s good to start with your elevator pitch. That’s something you should already have in your arsenal – a 30-second response to the question, “What’s your book about?” It’s the plot of your novel, boiled down to its basic essence. And don’t read to me. You should know your own book well enough to lay it out for me. Do practice what you want to say. You should be able to do this in a relaxed manner without stumbling and stuttering.
Next, tell me the basics I want to know to eliminate the most obvious possible objections: the genre, the length, the fact that it is finished, Tell me who the intended audience is. If you can compare your story to another popular novel, or compare your protagonist to another fictional hero, do so. That tells me you’re familiar with your market.
Then, tell me a little about yourself. If there is a reason you’re uniquely qualified to write this book (A SWAT team member writing about a SWAT team, for example) let me know. If you have prior published works, tell me so. Have you won writing awards? Been blurbed by a big name? Share that stuff. And if you have any natural platform tell me what that is.
All that will take surprisingly little time but when you’ve gotten this far, it’s time to be quiet. I’ll have questions, and want more detail on some of these points. I might ask about your protagonist, or why you wrote this particular story or what you’re working on next. The point is, stop pitching when you’ve finished your pitch and let me ask what I want to know. With luck, our conversation will end with me asking you to send me a synopsis and some chapters.
Saturday, July 9, 2016
As the editorial director of a small press - Intrigue Publishing - I’ve learned that there are many misconceptions about who we are, what we do and most importantly, how to work with us. I’d like to try to clarify some of that confusion.
Our relationship with any author begins with a manuscript submission so let’s start with how that goes. We don’t have pre-readers – all the principals of the company will read your book before we make an offer. Our acquisition process considers three things: you, your story and your writing.
Because we’re a genre fiction house any manuscript we are attracted to must have a good (read interesting) story. Often a well written synopsis will reveal that. Like many small presses we specialize in specific genre: crime fiction, family drama, romance and young adult. If your story doesn’t fit into one of those categories it doesn’t matter how good it is, it’s not for us. And note our name – we are looking for stories with intrigue! It’s hard to define, but we know it when we see it. Generally our President, Denise, determines if the story is for us. If she says yes, the book comes to me.
As the Editorial Director I focus on the writing. But before I evaluate the prose I evaluate the submission. Did the author read and follow our submission guidelines? Like many small presses we specify the font, size and margins we want. I look to see if the header is what I want, if the pages are numbered, if it’s double spaced. If your manuscript doesn’t look professional, and if you didn’t follow our submission guidelines, I may never read any of your prose. If I do, I’ll evaluate the strength of your writing. Have you mastered the basics of spelling, grammar and sentence construction? How well do you handle pacing, conflict, tension, suspense and character development? Does your story have a nice hook at the start and build to a big and satisfying finish? At the end I ask myself “Was it fun?”
If I love it, it goes to Sandra, our Marketing Director. She will read it with a different consideration – can we sell this story? Do we know how to market it and who to market it too? If her answer is yes (and she loves the read too) she’ll go to the internet looking for you. We need to know if you have a platform – a group of people already predisposed to want your book when it comes out. AND, do you know how to make friends and get them on your side? She’ll look for a web site, Facebook page, Twitter feed, and a blog. She’ll want to see if you’re engaging, and even more important, do you post frequently? A web site advertising events that happened a year ago is worse than no site at all. The same goes for a Facebook page that you haven’t posted on in a couple of weeks.
Saturday, July 2, 2016
We’ve been discussing publishing choices: do you submit to a major publisher, talk to a small press, or self-publish. Before you decide you need ask yourself what’s important to you.
Are you a control freak? If you are lucky enough to get a contract with a big publisher, know that you will surrender almost all control of the final product. I’ve had authors tell me that they hated the cover of their book when it came out, or the title the publisher chose, or that it was being labelled with the wrong genre. Small presses vary, but almost always you’ll get to at least discuss important choices. If you self-publish you will have control of every bit of your published book.
Are you in a hurry? With today’s technology you can self-publish a book in a matter of weeks. Major publishers can often take two years to get your book into stores. Small presses vary a lot in this regard, but I think one year is about the longest you’re likely to have to wait.
Do you understand the rights? Aside from hardcover and paperback, your story might work as excerpts, audio, ebook, or even a movie. All these options can be sold differently. Major publishers will want to own all those rights, plus foreign sales rights and probably a few more that I can’t think of right now. This is the real value of an agent – they will negotiate which rights you give up. On the other hand, a small press probably won’t ask for the rights they don’t know how to take advantage of. We at Intrigue Publishing don’t buy film rights because we don’t have the connections to market your book properly to that industry. Of course, if you self-publish you keep ALL the rights to your property, so if someone wants to make a movie from your novel they deal directly with you.
And how will people find your book? The big publishers have excellent distribution set up, to push their books into lots of bookstores across the country and many ebook outlets. Small presses don’t usually have the level of distribution the big guys have. And if you choose to self-publish you will find it very hard to get your book onto bookstore shelves outside your immediate area. Remember, not everyone buys their books from Amazon. So if you want to be widely known, this might be a consideration for you.
And finally, are awards important to you? Many major book awards are only available to books published by major publishers. Small presses can submit you to many but not all of them. And self-published authors are still blocked from some of the most coveted awards.
Sunday, June 26, 2016
As I said last week, When your manuscript is finished and polished, you might want to submit it to a major publisher, small presses are also an option, and for some self-publishing might be the right choice. What’s the difference? Here are some thought might help you choose.
Of course, one of the biggest differences between the publishing options has to do with the money. A publisher has to invest in the books they choose. In the case of major publishers, authors get a nice advance against projected royalties. Once the advance is earned the author gets a pre-determined percentage of the money on further book sales, usually around 8 percent, although some companies will give you a percentage of the net (their profit) instead of the gross (cover price.) Those royalties will be paid quarterly or semi-annually, with a certain amount held back against returns.
Some but not all small presses pay advances just as described above, but in every case they make the investment to get your book printed, shipped and sold. If you self-publish, you invest your money into the project and receive all the proceeds after the book store and distributor take their cut.
When you submit to a major press your book is one of thousands they see every year. That’s not to say yours can’t rise to the top. Naturally the quality of your writing could make your book the one they choose to publish, but that’s not the only factor. Their acquisition team will consider your story’s sales potential and how well it matches their style. Luck will play a part too. You could be pushed aside if they already have something on their schedule that is very similar to yours, if they’ve already filled the year’s schedule, or if the subject matter just isn’t what they think is hot right now. As you can see the timing can matter in ways you have no control over.
If you decide to aim at a small press, quality, sales potential and matching the publisher’s style will still be major factors. But in most cases your book will be considered on its own so luck is less of a factor and you, the author, are more important. The small staff will often reject even a great book if they sense that they won’t be able to work with the author. The more excited you are about your book, the more you ae willing to accept edits, and the more likely you are to be a strong partner in the marketing and promotion of your book, the more likely you are to be offered a contract
Naturally if you choose to self-publish, the only person you have to convince is you. If YOU think your book is good enough, and will sell enough, you can publish it.
Saturday, June 18, 2016
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. Amazon.com 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
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.