Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Author First

As the title of this blog attests, I often describe myself as a writing publisher. It’s an easy phrase, kind of rolls of the tongue. But only now, three weeks after leaving my full time federal position and picking up the label “retiree” do I realize the false implication of that phrase.

“Writing publisher” sounds like someone who is a publisher who also writes. The problem here is that in my own head, I am a writer who also helps run a publishing company. The challenge for me is that things I do as a publisher are responsibilities. Other authors are counting on me to do those things that help their books be the best they can be, and then help their books get found by readers. The only drive to write is an internal pressure. It is far too easy to write “when there’s time” after everything else is done.

But this all started back in 1999 when a tiny company called Nitelinks published Blood and Bone not only in paper but this new idea – an electronic book. When they folded I published that book and Collateral Damage with Infinity Publishing using another new idea – Print On Demand. Yes, it was self-publishing, but it allowed me to prove that someone would pay to read my books. (Their classy URL was BuyBooksOnTheWeb.com)

Today with six novels in the Hannibal Jones series and five Stark & O’Brien thrillers there are people out there who actually ask for and anticipate the next novel. Beyond those series I wrote a well-received thriller called Beyond Blue which deserves a sequel. And I have ideas for three other novels that could be stand-alones or series depending on how they feel after I write them.

Which means I have to write them. I find publishing very rewarding but, to be honest, I write for the same reason I breathe. Because if I didn’t I would die (I’d love to take credit, but Isaac Asimov said it first,)

So, no matter what, I will carve an hour out of every day to write. Yes, I’m home now all day so I have lots of time: to work out, clean the house, check what’s on TV, wash the car, mow the lawn, feed the birds, and do actual writer stuff like my social media and writing this blog. BUT…

I’m digging in. And for those of you who are counting, I’m 52,107 words into the next untitled Hannibal Jones mystery.  Based on my typical length that’s about 65% of a novel. I’ll be fishing for beta-readers soon and looking for help with the title.

So, when you see me posting here about publishing, marketing and conferences, don’t lose sight of the fact that first and foremost I’m a writer. Because I never do.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Why Am I Here... Again?

Welcome back, strangers!

Yes, I know. I haven’t posted a blog in so long you may have forgotten I ever did. Seriously, it’s been like a year and a half. But now that I’ve retired from the day job I’m back. This will continue to be where I give you all a peek into the life of a writing publisher and wearing those two hats will more than fill my days.

So, as an author, and more, as a publisher, why do I think blogging is worth doing? Well…  it’s business.

It’s very different than when blogging started before the turn of the century. Blogs used to be a platform to share your thoughts, feelings, opinions or experiences – an online journal or diary, usually with a small following of friends. Now it’s there are millions of blogs. Because it’s easy to start one anybody can declare themselves an expert or become an entertainer. For me and a lot of other writers, it’s an important way to contact readers and others in the writing industry.

Used correctly, a blog can increase traffic to your website. As a publisher, it’s also a way to reinforce my brand. Google’s algorithms focus on a website’s content and frequency of posts. Through my blog I can increase the number of inbound links that get people to our web site, and our popular Facebook page.

As a representative of Intrigue Publishing I need to establish myself as a publishing expert. The content I post on my blog will hopefully give readers the confidence to trust in our brand and trust my expertise. 

So, blogging has moved from an individual hobby to an influential business tool. It helps a small publisher to compete with the big guys. Likewise, it helps new authors to build an audience and complete with the big names.

More personally, I have a lot of hard earned experience in this business. knowledge comes from experience, and experience comes from making dumb mistakes. YOU don't need to make all the same stupid moves I made in the past. So I’ll share what life is like for a writer trying to produce more and better prose, and for a publisher trying to get more and better novels into print, and a lot about what I've learned along the way.

I’ll be back next week to discuss my goals as an author. Then I’ll share my objectives as a small publisher. What it’s like doing business with a spouse. Then, I’ll get back into useful tips for writing short stories, writing novels, and marketing!

Stay tuned and let me know what YOU’D like me to talk about.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Between Motion and Rest

Christmas has slipped past, and many of my friends are lighting their second or third candle. So it’s officially vacation down time, after the gift exchange energy high and into the warm thoughtful days. But we are also rushing toward New Year’s Day, an annual time of introspection and planning which energizes us thinking of the future. So, what do you call that space between motion and rest?

This is the time we at Intrigue Publishing re-evaluate our business plan. Does our mission statement still clearly define our actual objective? Does our slogan (Writing that CAN’T be ignored) say the right thing? And have we clearly defined our genres so that authors know what to submit, and so that readers know what to expect when they pick up a book from Intrigue Publishing     

How aggressively will we move more deeply into audio books, foreign rights, mass market paperbacks and other alternative income streams? Seeking out additional forms of publishing is expensive but can be the best way to serve our authors.

Is it wise to contract for series books as opposed to stand-alones? Can we build enough of an audience for one novel that they are eager to come back for more?

Do we want to attract a greater number of submissions? And if so, how long before we get swamped? Each manuscripts deserves due consideration. We never want to risk short changing a great book.

How much energy do we want to devote to hand sales events and conferences. These can be costly gambles but they do promote our brand and thus, our authors.

And speaking of our authors, to what extend do we want to tie them in to our marketing efforts?  How can we best help them to make connections with book clubs around the country? Which social media efforts, giveaways, or contests will pay off for us all?

And there are purely administrative considerations. Can we refine our processes for calculating royalties, acquiring copyrights, maintaining the necessary tax records, capturing expenses and tracking sales (paper and the multiple ebook outlets)?

So in this ethereal space in between motion and rest, we here at Intrigue Publishing are putting a magnifying glass on our business plan and everything we do to try to find the best way to support our authors while bring the best possible novels to market.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Eternal Question: What to Read Next

If you’re an avid reader, eventually you will come to a point when you become so aware of the broad ocean of published books in the universe that you may find yourself paralyzed by indecision. You want to read them all but can really only work on one at a time. From this vast collection of literature, how do you decide what to read next? I know that feeling. Let me suggest that the selection process should be based on some simple questions.

What do I want to read? – What genres appeal to you? Maybe you’re a big-time mystery reader but you’ve wondered about sci-fi. This might be the time to give the new genre a spin.

Who do I want to read? – What authors have you enjoyed before? Maybe they have more books out there and a writer you’ve already liked is always a good bet.

Is there an unfinished series in your past? – Just about every fiction genre has notable series If you’ve read one or two and liked them, it might be fun to get the whole list and read thru the series. (If you choose the Hannibal Jones Mysteries or Stark & O’Brien thrillers message me and I’ll give you the list in order.)

What do you like to do? – many books may feature characters who share your hobbies or interests. Take a walk through your local library’s catalog using your hobby as a keyword and you may turn up some books you’ll enjoy.

What do you already have? – When I can’t decide on my next read I always review my own stacks. Sometimes I find a book I’d completely forgotten I had. That’s always a happy discovery, since I’ve already paid for that one.

What are others reading? – If your friends are readers you can usually get great recommendations from them. (If your friends are NOT readers, you need to find new friends.) Reading a book after a friend, sibling or parent read it has the hidden advantage of creating a great conversation starter and possibly greater bonding. (“What? You liked that one too? Who was your favorite character?)

What’s selling? – Stuck for the next good read I may check the USA Today or New York Times bestseller list. Sometimes I want to read the books that are making headlines just so I’m in the know. At the very least it helps you know what’s hot in popular culture.

Answering these questions should lead you to some great reads.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Best Gifts for Book Lovers

This is the time of year when most of us begin the search for the perfect present. Today I’ll try to make it easier, at least for the avid readers on your list.

Naturally, I think the best gift for anyone is one of my novels. But what if your friend has already read all my books? The next step is a web site called Heavy.com. They’ve listed what they believe are the Top 10 Best Christmas Gifts for Book Lovers - starting with a cool shirt that proudly proclaims: “If I Can’t Take My Book I’m Not Going.”

But what if you have eleven friends?  Buzzfeed is there for you with a list of 24 Insanely Clever Gifts for Book Lovers. I don’t know how insane they are, but I’m crazy about those floating bookshelves.

Amongst all these ideas don’t forget that books themselves are idea for under the tree or in a big stocking. They’re easy to wrap, inexpensive to mail (use media mail) and never go out of style. Plus there are no wires, no batteries are needed and there are no small pieces to pose a threat to small children.

The only time books might NOT be perfect is if your friends are authors themselves. That big stack of great ideas previously listed are mostly good for writers too, but if all else fails you can always turn to Amazon.  You can search just about anything and they’ll gather the right things for you. I searched for “Gifts for Writers” and got several pages of cool options including a Writer’s Emergency Pack and a coffee mug that says, “Please Do Not Annoy the Writer, she may put you in a book and kill you.”

Finally, remember that you don’t need to spend a dime to give your published writer friends a wonderful gift. There’s nothing they’ll appreciate more than a nice review of their work, posted on Amazon or Goodreads. They’ll feel the love from that gesture as much as from anything you can wrap and put under their tree.

Monday, November 21, 2016

6 Things This Small Press is Thankful For

As we slow things down for Thanksgiving week I want to express my appreciation for some of the people that keep our business moving forward and growing. This is what we at Intrigue Publishing are truly thankful for.

Our talented authors: Let’s face it, nothing happens until someone writes a great book. We read a lot of manuscripts and we never publish a book we just like or think is good. We have to be excited about that story, those characters and the prose style that brings it all together. Not every book we’ve published has become a big seller, but that hasn’t stopped us from loving every one. We have been privileged to read so many great books created by so many hugely talented writers.

A spectacular editor: Almost every book we’ve published has been touched by Melanie Rigney, a fine writer herself who brings a lot more than a finely honed sense of what makes a good and commercial novel. Melanie has a way of making a writer understand that she loves their book almost as much as they do, even as she explains in clear plain language how to make that good book into a great one. Several authors have thanked us for having Melanie help them refine both their book and their ability to write.

An amazing proofreader: commas go inside the quotation marks, a character’s hair should stay the same color throughout the book, and the Marine Corps emblem has a fouled anchor, not a fowled anchor (yep, that one was me.) Cynthia Lauth has one of the sharpest eyes in the business and she has saved us from uncounted moments of embarrassment. If you see a mistake in one of our books it is sure because for some reason we chose to ignore her input.

Phenomenal cover artists: No matter how great a book is, no one is going to pick it up to look inside unless the cover grabs them. Like any publisher we’ve made the occasional false start but in the end we’ve ended up with some incredibly good book covers – the kind other authors compliment us on. In particular Paul at Iconix has helped to create our thriller brand (check the new covers of the Stark & Obrien series) and Ryan Anderson (Look at the replacement cover of our new romance title THE INHERITANCE) knows how to make readers want to check a story out. Both these talents are able to create commercial work that doesn’t look like everyone else’s. We are so grateful to have found them.

A fabulous distributor:  It took us three years to establish ourselves well enough to be accepted by a national book distributor and how lucky we are that we found Small Press United (SPU) This  subsidiary of the Independent Publishers Group (IPG) does more than push our books into bookstores across the continent. We have learned so much from their connections with the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), the publishing industry's leading educational organization. And their sales force has offered valuable feedback about how titles, cover art and other factors impact their ability to place our books in stores. They are in large part the reason three of our titles are on IPG's bestseller lists this week. Like the people listed above, SPU is a valued partner that helps us move from success to success.
READERS: Despite the horror stories we all read at the turn of the century, people do still read books! And we are very thankful for every person who has ever purchased one of our novels. We are even MORE thankful for all those who have emailed or tweeted feedback to us, and those who have taken the time to post a review on Amazon or Goodreads. YOU are the people we do it all for, and if we give you a couple of hours of joy, of thrills, of intrigue, then we can feel that we did your job! So THANK YOU for reading. You are also our partners in this grand enterprise and we are eternally thankful for all the people we are connected to through the act of publishing what we hope are some of the most enjoyable novels you’ve ever read.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

What's next for Ebooks?

At one time a lot of people I knew thought that ebooks would replace paper books completely. While I still see no sign of that ever happening, it is true that ebook have the potential to evolve in ways that our beloved dead tree editions can’t, and can offer new marketing options as well. In so doing they may find new audiences.
For example, a company called Neoglyphic Entertainment has created a platform that lets publishers create enhanced multimedia ebooks. The idea is to enhance the book’s storytelling capacity. Will motion graphics and a musical score improve the reading experience?  Could be. At the very least I think a lot of people will want to give it a try. 
It’s true that enhanced e-books and apps with sound and video have not been well received by readers in the past, but Neoglyphic has assembled focus groups to help direct their efforts to create new experiences around traditional storytelling. The company plans to offer its multimedia platform as a for-pay service to publishers. As a demonstration they published Sunborn Rising: Beneath the Fall, an illustrated middle grade fantasy series. The series (in Kindle but also hardcover and trade paperback) follows an elf-like civilization facing environmental doom. 

In other news, Indie authors who use Smashwords to distribute their ebooks may want to check their new service – Smashwords Alerts. This service automatically lets readers know about new releases from their favorite authors. To track an author, readers just go to the author profile page at Smashwords and click the button labeled, "Subscribe to Author Alerts."  When the author releases a new book, readers will receive an alert. If a book is on preorder, readers will receive the alert the day the book goes on sale. And Smashwords says they maintain a strict email privacy policy, so readers’ email addresses remains private and are never shared with anyone. 
To get the most out of the new feature, writers would encourage their readers to subscribe to alerts so they never miss another new release.  Authors can track the number of subscribers and "favorites" in real time from the Smashwords Dashboard. 
Ebooks may or may not be the future of reading, but they do offer more options in presentation and marketing than any other publishing choice.