Saturday, June 28, 2008

Working with an author

Today we have a guest blogger of whom I am very proud - my good friend Cyndi, who is responsible for my busy signing schedule and other promotional successes.

I had never written a blog, but Austin asked if I’d be willing to give it a shot. Me, being somewhat adventurous, agreed even though writing is not something I’ve ever considered as a personal strength. Maybe that will change. My name is Cyndi, and I’ve been working with Austin for a while now as his publicist / branding manager, calling bookstores to schedule signings, contacting blog managers to have him as a guest blogger, and doing some proofreading when he finishes a new book.

If you are new at working with an author, like I am, it can be very enlightening. During the past year and a half or so that I’ve been making calls, sending emails and scheduling book signings, I’ve learned a lot about the writing & publishing business. (I had no idea what an ISBN was, or that POD wasn’t a “nu metal” band) Even though it can be very interesting and intriguing, it can also be stressful. There are deadlines, uncooperative and inexperienced bookstore managers, and downright rude people to deal with occasionally. I admit there have been several times when the frustration level caused a few thin spots in my hair.

There are several things that I’ve learned are very important skills to have (and have surprised myself on many occasions). Number one is organization. If you’re not organized with the contacts and schedule, it is next to impossible to avoid confusion and double bookings. It also makes the writer seem disorganized as well, especially if a bookstore sees scheduling a signing as a big hassle.

The second thing is having an approachable and friendly attitude, and developing good professional relationships with the managers of the stores. It’s nice to know that I am remembered by various managers who are always willing and anxious to be included in the events when they get a call or email from me. It’s especially nice when a manager contacts me, out of the blue, to say they’d like to schedule an event. Remembering even small details about them, such as a recent birth, makes them feel special and not just like another name on the list. That’s where keeping good notes comes into play.

Finally, it is extremely important to follow through with the contacts you’ve made along the way. If you tell someone that you’ll call them back on a certain day, be sure to do that, or be ready to apologize that you weren’t able to touch base with them because something came up. In my experience, most of them will understand.

I’ve often teased Austin that he’ll never have a summer weekend away at the beach with his wife if he keeps wanting me to schedule signings for him. Sometimes I’m sure it seems that it is my personal challenge to see how busy I can keep him. So far so good.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Another blog on how to blog

A while back I shared some valuable tips from my friend and fellow blogger CM Mayo on how to create a good blog. Since it’s a big subject, I thought I’d share more of her valuable advice here, because if a writer is going to have a blog, it needs to be a good one! Here are some more great ideas and suggestions.

#1. Offer Beefy Blogrolls.Writes Tom Christensen, "Your ‘link neighborhood,' the constellation of sites you link to and that link to you, says a lot— both to your readers and to the search engines— about the nature of your blog. It's karmic— if you are generous with credit, praise, and links, I promise you will be repaid."

#2. Offer RSS feed.RSS means "Really Simple Syndication" and, basically, it is a way for readers to subscribe to your blog's updates (or "feed") without their having to actually go into your website and without your having to take their e-mail address.

#3. "Bookmark" and/or "tag" your posts.If you have time, bookmark your posts to bring in more traffic. For more about this and how it works, see Blogging for Dummies.#4. Don't use the free blogging programs and hosting--- get your own.Otherwise, you don't control your own blog. (As you can see, I need to take this advice more seriously.)


#1. Blogging that's nothing but floggingLeslie Pietrzyk, guest-blogging on "Madam Mayo" wrote: "I'm happy you have a book out; I really am. But if it's all there is to your blog— YOUR book, YOUR readings, YOUR conferences, YOUR mother loving the book— I am going to move on. Please learn to promote yourself shamelessly in a discreet way." Writes Tom Christensen, again on "Madam Mayo," "Try to look at the blog as the product, not as a vehicle for promoting the product: that is how your readers will look at it."

#2. Endless self-referential navel-gazingTom Christensen, guest-blogging on "Madam Mayo" wrote, "being too self-referential is a common, and deadly mistake."

#3. Opening a blog post with an apology"Sorry not to have been posting as I should"— oh, yecch. Just blog.

#4. Long strings of ginormous jpegsI'm talking about pictures here. I love to find them, and I love to include them— but when a blog post has several of them, and I'm on dial-up, and they take eleven cen-tu-rie-sssss to doooooooown-n-n-n-n-load, I've surfed away, click.#5. Black or dark backgroundsThese may look lovely, but they are a strain to read. Be kind to your readers, use a white or very (and I mean very), pale background.

#6. As a header, using the generic forms provided by the hosting service Try to get something original in there that presents you and your blog in the way that best serves your purposes.


Blogging for Dummies, by Susanna Gardner and Shane Birley, Wiley Publishing, 2007
See also "Madam Mayo" on which has an extensive archive of posts on blogging and writers's blogs.


Blogger, WordPress, Typepad

For more about choosing blogging software and services, see Blogging for Dummies.

SELECTED WRITERS'S BLOGS (All Very Different From One Another)

#1. Design expert and author Edward Tufte's Ask E.T.He calls it a moderated forum. Yeah, I'm calling the page a blog because I want to.

#2. Novelist and journalist James Howard Kunstler's Clusterfuck NationOnce a week, a zippy op-ed style essay.

#3. Novelist and creative writing teacher Leslie Pietrzyk's Work-in-ProgressHighly focused and meaty with helpful information. Frequently updated and features many guest-bloggers.

#4. Poet and literary magazine editor Deborah Ager's 32 PoemsWide-ranging, quirky, frequently updated. Big on Web 2.0 tools.

#5. Childrens writer Erica Perl's PajamazonChildrens' book recommendations (and a bit more). Part of Offsprung news.

#6. Travel writer Rolf Potts' VagabondingFun, daily updates, multiple bloggers working for him.

#7. Professor of History, Middle East expert and author Juan Cole's Informed CommentOne of the go-to places for news about Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. Updated daily with multiple links and commentary. (Boy howdy does he sell ads!)
#8. Novelist Laila Lailami's Moorish GirlShe's been around almost from the time blogging began.

#9. Editor, graphic designer, translator and writer Tom Christensen's Right-reading Eclectic quality links, and he encourages both mail and comments.

#10. A cabal of crime novelists's Naked AuthorsRegular posting by Paul Levin, Patricia Smiley, James O. Born, Jacqueline Winspear, and Cornelia Read.

#11. Fiction writer and editor Maud Newton News, opinion, a charming miscellanea--- hers is one of the longest-standing and most respected lit-blogs.

#12. Novelist and essayist Jane Smiley (on the Huffington Post)One of our finest novelists. Her blogging, however, is focused on politics.

#13. Fiction writer and journalist David Lida's Mostly Mexico CityInteresting photos of Mexico City with brief commentary.

#14. Novelist M.J. Rose's Buzz, Balls & HypeShe's the author of some steamy best-sellers; the blog supports her "AuthorBuzz" advertising business.

#15. C. Monks's Utter WonderQuirky, elegant design.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Publishing’s Inconvenient Truth?

Regular visitors to this site know that I am a supporter of self-publishers, small publishers and even Print On Demand authors. After all, I am or have been all of the above. I always believed that having my book out there would be a plus, and that a track record of sales would make me more attractive to publishers. Besides, with a book published I can demonstrate how hard I’m willing to work to sell books.

The truth may be someone different. I’ve spoken with several agents lately and been told some things that, if true, I wish someone had told me a lot sooner. Some things that POD Publishers and small presses would NOT want you to know.

For example, I’ve been told that some agents automatically reject any manuscript from an author who wants to step up to a bigger house, or wants a chance at a wider readership once he or she is already published. They say that publishers prefer the unknown risk of debut authors to the known potential of established authors who have shown they’ll promote their work, unless those authors have sold more than 50,000 copies.

For years I’d heard that large publishers would pick up books that had been successful at a small house or POD, but until now no one every defined “successful” for me. (This particular agent, Janet Reid, was speaking in the Sisters-in-Crime newsletter.)

Agents also report that most publishers aren’t interested in taking on a series that is already started. They might look at a new series by an author with a series already published, but only if they see the new series as potentially a big breakout hit.

So the advice from these agents is, keep submitting everywhere because if you self-publish, publish POD or go with a small press it could spike your chances at a career as an author for one of the big houses. Ms Reid says that until you’ve queried 50 agents with three separate books, it’s too soon to consider the other options.

It’s hard to say to what extent this is just information that small presses and POD companies just don’t want you to hear, since their livelihood is based on getting writers to publish with them. There is also quite an industry that has sprung up around selling products and services to self-publishers and POD authors. They don’t want you to think it’s pointless, or worse, counter-productive to try.

But it’s also hard to say to what extent this information is self-serving for the agents, whose livelihood depends on selling manuscripts to companies that pay an advance big enough to make 15% worth having.

As there are no disinterested parties in this business, we must all still use our best judgment: publish now and risk never being considered by the big guys, or keep submitting, knowing that you may never be considered by the big guys.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Mainstream VS Self-Publishing by Denise Camacho

I want to talk this time about the pros and cons of self-publishing.

Let’s begin with the pros. There are a lot of reasons why you might want to self-publish. Key among these is the ability to control your product and not give it over to a publisher that might change particular aspects of it that you hold near and dear.

There are other reasons such as being able to revise it at will. This is possible if you go with a printing company such as Lightning Source. With Lightning Source you can upload new revisions to your product whenever you like for a small fee. In addition, with a number of companies you can print short runs of 25 at a time. This keeps you from having to buy 100s or 1000s of copies of the books and the possibility of never getting your money back.

And one of the best reasons to self-publish is because you can make a lot more money from it. A mainstream publisher will take the bulk of the profits leaving you with a mere 7% or so. However if you self-publish you will garner the bulk of the profit. A typical book priced at $14.95 might cost you around $3.79 to make, a fee to ship and if you are hand-selling it that gives you a profit of about $10. Quite a difference from the $1.45 or so you would make from a mainstream publisher.

Also if you compare it to POD, the POD company will make you pay them to put your product into print, and then they make you pay on average about 60% of the cover price to purchase them. Not a money making prospect from where I stand.

Ok, so now let’s discuss the cons of self-publishing. You won’t get your books into the major bookstores across the country because you won’t have the backing and marketing engine that a mainstream publisher can provide. And because most self-published authors think it is an unnecessary expense to get their product professionally edited it is a real benefit that a mainstream publisher will put forth the expense to have the product edited. This is very valuable and something that more self-published authors should do.

So there are pros and cons for self-publishing, but with the new technology and the fact that better and better novels are being self-published, it would appear that the industry is finally starting to see that they are not the only game in town anymore.