Category — On Publishing
I’m thrilled to have a story included in this new anthology from Press 53: Everywhere Stories: Short Fiction from a Small Planet, an anthology of 20 short stories by 20 authors set in 20 countries.
The collection, compiled and edited by award-winning author Clifford Garstang (What the Zhang Boys Know, In an Uncharted Country), has a a theme that goes beyond geography: It’s a Dangerous World. The stories take readers on journeys to all seven continents: to a portentous soccer game in the Congo, to a mysterious disappearance in Argentina, to post-Katrina New Orleans, to a murder in the Italian countryside, to a quarreling couple in Kazakhstan, to a visit with Chairman Mao in China, to a sketchy dentist in New Zealand…and in my story, “The Ecstatic Cry,” to a remote Antarctic island where a touring passenger overstays his welcome.
I was glad to have the chance to chat with Cliff about Everywhere Stories … as well as upcoming readings and events!
Q: What was the inspiration for Everywhere Stories?
A: I began traveling extensively right after college, when I joined the Peace Corps. I then went to law school, which led to an international career. When I began writing fiction, I was drawn to stories set abroad, and I like to read those stories, as well. It occurred to me that an anthology of short fiction set all over the world might have some appeal, so I approached my publisher, and he loved the idea.
Q: Tell us what’s in the book. Do you cover the whole world?
A: There are a lot of countries on our small planet, so we couldn’t include them all. We’ve hit each of the continents: four of the stories are set in Africa, five in Asia, five in the Americas, four in Europe, and one each in Antarctica and Oceania.
Q: Do you have any plans for a second edition, to include the many other countries on the planet?
A: I’m glad you asked! I’m in discussions with the publisher now about a second volume. My thinking is that we would again have about 20 stories, and the only country we would repeat would be the U.S. In fact, from the original submissions for the book, I’ve asked a number of writers if I could hold their stories for Volume 2, so I’m already well on the way. We’re looking at Fall 2016 for a release.
Q: The book opens with thought-provoking quotes on travel by T.S. Eliot, Aldous Huxley, and Albert Einstein — what do you hope readers come away with after reading this anthology?
A: My own international education began when I joined the Peace Corps. Since then I’ve worked and traveled extensively overseas, but when I return to the U.S. I can’t help feeling that we are primarily xenophobes. We know very little about the rest of the world, even those parts of the world we’ve visited as tourists. So this book—this series—is an attempt to dig below the surface of the world, to find what a casual observer isn’t going to see. So what do I want readers to come away with? I want them to realize that there is a big world out there, and we all have a lot to learn about it.
Q: As a writer yourself, how does creating your own stories affect the way you work/read as an editor?
A: The impact is more the other way around, I think. As an editor, I often see writers doing things that don’t work—falling into long flashbacks that totally stop a story’s forward momentum, for example—and it helps me understand what not to do in my own work. It’s almost like being in a fiction workshop, where the real benefit for a writer is not having his or her own work critiqued but in investing the time and energy to offer constructive feedback to others. In doing that, the writer invariably learns from someone else’s mistakes.
Q: Are there any upcoming events readers should know about?
A: First up is the official launch party, which takes place in Staunton, Virginia, where I live. Four of the 20 contributors will be coming to that. Press 53 will also be celebrating the launch at their annual Gathering of Writers in Winston-Salem NC on October 18. And then throughout the fall, we’ll be posting information about other events on the book’s Facebook page, at: https://www.facebook.com/everywherestories.
And check out this radio interview with Cliff on Rudy Maxa’s World; Cliff comes on at 33:45.
October 1, 2014 Comments Off
I’ve just returned from Port Townsend, where I taught an afternoon workshop on Everyday Book Marketing at the fabulous Writers’ Workshoppe, during which we spent quite a lot of time talking about the essentials of author websites. I’m glad to see this article in Publishers Weekly covering the same territory, and very happy to have been a contributor.
An author website is important for so many reasons — and yet so many essentials get overlooked quite easily. Alison Schiff does a great job here of covering all the basics.
Check out the article here…and for those of you in Southern California, visit Adventures by the Book for information on an entire series of book marketing events (covering author websites and much more!) from the SoCal Author Academy, beginning with internationally bestselling author Lisa See in October.
September 23, 2014 Comments Off
I just sent out an e-newsletter with late summer and early autumn news and events …
…and there’s a lot more going on than I realized until I put it all together.
The fabulous Sheila Bender will be in Southern Oregon … I’m reading (with Janée Baugher) and teaching in Port Townsend in September … there’s an all-day writing conference coming up in Ashland in October … I found a very cool online resource for writers … and I’m teaching an online class for the amazing organization Kahini in the new year.
Hope to see you this fall!
August 5, 2014 Comments Off
I’ve written about this wonderful bookstore previously, and it’s as wonderful as ever — but now, the store is in a new location under a new awning: Owners Anna and Peter Quinn purchased Imprint Books and, this spring, combined the two stores in its new location at 820 Water Street.
The new Writers’ Workshoppe and Imprint Books has all the best of both places — a huge selection of books (still creatively organized), as well as fun writerly gifts and toys (from Writer’s Block chocolate to cleverly worded T-shirts and mugs).
The store is as bright and welcoming as it was in its previous location, and the Quinns continue to host visiting and local writing instructors in a lovely and inviting new workshop space.
You can check out the workshop offerings here — I’m delighted to be in the lineup to teach two workshops on September 17 (call 360-379-2617 for more information and to register), and I’m in great company with other fall instructors, including Bill Kenower, Erica Bauermeister, Sheila Bender, and many more.
And for those of you with little ones, Imprint Books has a fabulous, child-sized section for kids, a cozy little nook perfect for getting lost in a book or two.
If you haven’t stopped in already, be sure to visit The Writer’s Workshoppe and Imprint Books when you’re in Port Townsend…and be sure to give yourself plenty of time to explore this fabulous spot for readers and writers.
July 30, 2014 Comments Off
I look forward to seeing many of you at the AWP Conference & Bookfair — February 27 to March 1.
I’ll be hanging out at our booth for Ashland Creek Press, EcoLit Books, and Literary Provisions. Please join us (we’ll be in booth #1207 in the North Hall) to check out new books and fun stuff for writers.
And don’t miss these other events before, during, and after the conference …
Wednesday, February 26
I’ll be one of the readers at the fabulous AWP Festival of Language at the Rock Bottom Brewery (1333 5th Avenue, just a couple blocks from the conference center), along with dozens of other authors. I’ll be reading sometime between 5 and 6:30 p.m., and the literary festivities will go on until 10 p.m.
Thursday, February 27
Julian Hoffman, contributor to Among Animals and author of The Small Heart of Things: Being at Home in a Beckoning World, winner of the 2012 AWP Award Series for creative nonfiction, will be signing books from 11 a.m. to 12 noon. (ACP booth #1207)
Jean Ryan, author of the “captivating” (Publishers Weekly) short story collection Survival Skills and contributor to Among Animals, will be signing books at the booth from 1 to 2 p.m. (ACP booth #1207)
Friday, February 28
Mindy Mejia, author of the “beautiful” (Twin Cities Pioneer Press) novel The Dragon Keeper will be signing books from 9 to 11 a.m. (ACP booth #1207)
JoeAnn Hart, author of the eco-novel Float (“a stellar model of eco-literature”—Cape Ann Beacon) will be signing books from 4 to 5 p.m. (ACP booth #1207)
And at 4:30 p.m., I’ll be leading a panel on Book Marketing — From Finding Your Muse to Finding Your Readers: Book promotion in the twenty-first century, with Kelli Russell Agodon, Wendy Call, Janna Cawrse Esarey, and Susan Rich. Panelists from a variety of genres—poetry, fiction, narrative nonfiction, and memoir—will discuss the unique challenges and opportunities of transitioning from writer to published book author. Through specific experiences and using real-world examples, panelists will offer tips for finding one’s natural niche and audience, and how to reach out to readers authentically and generously. Topics include book promotion through conferences, book clubs, social media, awards, blogs, events, and salons. (Room 608, Washington State Convention Center, Level 6)
Saturday, March 1
On Saturday, the Bookfair will be free and open to the public!
At 12 noon, join John Yunker for a panel on The Greening of Literature: Eco-Fiction and Poetry to Enlighten and Inspire, with authors JoeAnn Hart, Mindy Mejia, Ann Pancake, and Gretchen Primack. From mountaintop removal to ocean plastic to endangered species, ecological issues are increasingly on writers’ minds. Authors on this panel discuss how their ecologically themed fiction and poetry engages readers in powerful ways that nonfiction can’t. Panelists discuss writing in these emerging sub-genres as well as their readers’ responses and offer tips for writing about the environment in ways that are galvanizing and instructive without sacrificing creativity to polemics. (Aspen Room, Sheraton Seattle, 2nd Floor)
Sunday, March 2
I’m thrilled to be doing a post-conference reading with the amazing Gretchen Primack on Sunday, March 2, at 2 p.m. at the Central Library in downtown Portland. We’ll be reading eco-fiction (me) and eco-poetry (Gretchen), and we look forward to a lively discussion afterward about the environment and animal protection in the context of fiction and poetry. This event is free, and all are welcome; click here for complete details.
February 21, 2014 Comments Off
This is an excerpt of Jenna Blum’s Q&A in Everyday Book Marketing, in which she talks about how to stay energized and inspired. For more book promo information, and to read Jenna’s complete Q&A, check out Everyday Book Marketing.
Jenna Blum is the New York Times and international bestselling author of Those Who Save Us and The Stormchasers and is one of Oprah’s Top Thirty Women Writers. Her debut novel, Those Who Save Us—a New York Times bestseller, #1 Book of 2011 in Holland, and Boston Globe bestseller—received the 2005 Ribalow Prize, judged by Elie Wiesel. The Stormchasers is also a Dutch bestseller, a Boston Globe bestseller, and a Target Emerging Author Pick. Jenna lives with photographer Jim Reed and black Lab Woodrow in Wichita, Kansas, where she is writing the screenplay for Those Who Save Us.
Q: Tell us about the journey of Those Who Save Us from debut novel to international bestseller: How long did it take?
A: Those Who Save Us came out in 2004 in hardcover—a.k.a. the family and friends edition, because that’s who bought it. It was published in 2005 in paperback, and I knew that was its second and last lease on life. I figured at that point I’d throw everything I had at the wall and see what stuck, promotionally. What did I have to lose? I loved my book. I spent years of my life researching and writing it because I loved it, and if I could do anything I could to keep it from falling down the well without a sound, I’d do it.
I had incredible help from readers, and the way this happened was, I started going to book clubs. The mother of one of my novelists at Grub Street Writers in Boston invited me to her book club, and of course I went. A chance to talk about my baby for three hours with kind strangers and drink all their wine? What writer wouldn’t go? Mrs. Garabedian, my first book club hostess, was so kind to me. She and her group gave me an orchid, which I still have and which still blooms. They recommended me to another book club—which cooked German food featured in the book, I might add. And that book club recommended me to another. By the time Those Who Save Us jumped onto the New York Times bestseller list in 2008, three years after it had come out in paperback, I was speaking at three book clubs a day (!) in person, and talking to as many as I could by phone. I estimate I visited over 1,000 book clubs in the Boston area alone, and it was a great privilege. Now readers in Holland and European countries are kindly keeping the book aloft. Those Who Save Us is a reader-created book, which I think is just as it should be.
For more advice from Jenna, and to read Jenna’s complete Q&A, check out Everyday Book Marketing. Click here to visit Jenna’s website, and keep an eye out for her latest work, forthcoming in July in the anthology Grand Central: Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion.
February 6, 2014 Comments Off
This is an excerpt of Serena M. Agusto-Cox’s Q&A in Everyday Book Marketing, in which she talks about how she handles book reviews for her blog, Savvy Verse & Wit. For more book promo information, and to read Serena’s complete Q&A, check out Everyday Book Marketing.
Serena M. Agusto-Cox is a poet and amateur photographer who lives outside Washington, D.C. She has published poetry in Beginnings, LYNX, Muse Apprentice Guild, The Harrow, Poems Niederngasse, Avocet, and Pedestal, as well as an essay in Made Priceless by H.L. Hix. Her blog, Savvy Verse & Wit (www. savvyverseandwit.com), features writing critiques; book reviews of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction; and conference/ book event news.
Q: How many book review pitches do you receive each week?
A: I did not receive many pitches at all in the beginning, but now, after five years, I receive about ten to fifteen pitches per day from a variety of publishers, authors, and publicists. Some of these pitches are well within the types of books I read, which isn’t really hard since I’m an eclectic reader. I love poetry above all else, but that’s closely followed by literary and historical fiction. I read a bit of nonfiction/biography/ memoir, but I am pickier about my nonfiction reading. The other pitches I receive are far outside and are usually turned down quickly.
I have a standard response that I crafted to send to everyone who requests a review. It’s very simple, but I make sure to change the name so that it addresses each person individually. This standard response is for books I’m not interested in at all, but I will make more personal responses for books I’m interested in but may not have a certain opening they are looking for in terms of reviews. I will often suggest a different time frame, a guest spot/interview, or a giveaway. There are certain things that get deleted without a response because they are automatic lists that are sent out to everyone, it seems, and don’t require a response, and there are several publicists who have said I don’t need to respond unless it’s a go.
Q: How do you decide which books to review? Do you have any guidelines regarding self-published versus traditionally published books?
A: I generally do not accept self-published books unless they have gotten good reviews previously, are highly recommended (by a friend or an author I trust), or are on subjects that highly interest me. One self-published book that I took right away because of the subject was Across the Mekong River by Elaine Russell. This novel was about Vietnam and was recommended by a friend. I also rarely accept e-books for review unless the author has no time frame for the review or any expectations time-wise because I’m a slower reader on Kindle than I am in traditional book form. I tend to get more distracted with electronic books, finding that my mind wanders to the television or other pursuits.
January 22, 2014 2 Comments
This is an excerpt of Elizabeth Austen’s Q&A in Everyday Book Marketing, in which she talks about radio interviews. For more book promo information, and to read Elizabeth’s complete Q&A, check out Everyday Book Marketing.
Elizabeth Austen is the author of Every Dress a Decision, a finalist for the Washington State Book Award, and two chapbooks, The Girl Who Goes Alone and Where Currents Meet. Her poems have appeared online (The Writer’s Almanac, Verse Daily), and in journals including Willow Springs, Bellingham Review, the Los Angeles Review, and the Seattle Review, and anthologies including Poets Against the War, A Face to Meet the Faces, and What to Read in the Rain. Elizabeth produces literary programming for KUOW 94.9, a Seattle NPR affiliate.
Q: What are some of the best ways an author can prepare for a live interview?
A: The most important thing is to spend some time beforehand thinking about what you want to say about your work. Imagine the interview is already over: What do you want to have said? What would you regret not saying?
Often, the person interviewing you will not have had time to read your book. So you need to be prepared with a short description of it. What’s your book about? Why did you write it—what drew you to this subject matter? Is it a departure from your previous work, and if so, in what ways? Is there an interesting story about how it got published? Also think about what you want to say about how you got started writing and why you continue to do it.
You’re essentially interviewer-proofing yourself. Hopefully you’ll get an interviewer who is genuinely interested in you and your book, and will talk with you briefly before the interview starts about what he/she wants to discuss, but you can’t depend on that.
Also, choose a couple of short excerpts or a few short poems that you might read aloud. What would provide a good introduction to the book? Practice reading aloud, and practice giving a concise introduction to what you’re going to read.
If you have time, I recommend listening online to an example or two of your interviewer’s program, so that you’ll have a sense of what to expect in terms of tone and approach. Does this interviewer tend to ask more about craft and process, or about the backstory of the book or individual poems? Is the interviewer looking for anecdotes and stories? Does it seem like the interviewer has actually read the book?
I’m a great believer in preparing for anything, and then letting go of the preparation during the interview so you can respond to what’s actually happening in the conversation. The most important thing is to be present. In the moment, approach it like you would any conversation with someone you care about—by listening and responding as honestly and generously as you can.
January 16, 2014 1 Comment
This is an excerpt of Kathryn Trueblood’s Q&A in Everyday Book Marketing, in which she talks about virtual book tours, a.k.a. blog tours. For more book promo information, and to read Kate’s complete Q&A, check out Everyday Book Marketing.
Kathryn Trueblood’s most recent novel is The Baby Lottery, a Book Sense Pick in 2007. Other awards include the Goldenberg Prize for Fiction, judged by Jane Smiley, and the Red Hen Press Short Story Award. Her stories and articles have been published in Poets & Writers, The Bellevue Literary Review, The Los Angeles Review, The Seattle Review, Glimmer Train, and Zyzzyva, among others. She is an associate professor of English at Western Washington University.
Q: How do you get ready for a blog tour?
A: The first thing you want to do is find the constellation or neighborhood you belong to on the Internet. This is a form of market research. In the words of the great poet Robert Frost in “The Road Not Taken,” “way leads on to way,” and nowhere is that more true than the Internet. So if it means you start at Powells.com or Amazon.com looking for titles similar to yours or writers you especially like, that’s fine. The next step is visiting the websites of these other titles and authors. I’d also advise going to the New York Times archive and putting in your subject + blogs because the top blogs often get written up.
What you’re looking for is what I call “a matrix blog”—in other words, a site that links to a large collection of blogs. When my book came out in 2007, Joan Blades, the co-founder of MoveOn.org, was publicizing a book and documentary film titled The Motherhood Manifesto that became the catalyst for a political movement called MomsRising.org, which is dedicated to lobbying for the rights of working women and families on Capitol Hill. Since I believed my novel, The Baby Lottery, would appeal to politically conscious working women, this was an ideal matrix site. It contained a huge list of blogs I could link to from the site. This was what I needed to get going.
After that, I got obsessed. As far as I can tell, that’s what research on the Internet means: getting obsessed! I spent some very absorbing hours visiting the blogs and websites listed on the MomsRising.org page, and from those blogs, I found other blogrolls, and I could also see which blogs came up repeatedly, i.e., had high visibility. I started making lists, and I found that tiered lists were helpful: my first choices, my second choices, etc.
Another thing you’ll want to be sure you have on your website is a downloadable press kit. This means that any blog writer reviewing your book or interviewing you has immediate access to the publicity materials they might need—they don’t have to e-mail and request them, and you don’t have to e-mail back and send them. My downloadable press kit included a press release, a background to the book article, an author’s bio in several lengths (long, short, and shortest), and most importantly, PDF files for my book cover plus an author photo. Having a downloadable press kit on your website shows that you’re professional and ready to go. Blog writers were able to grab what they needed, and it meant that my book cover appeared every time someone reviewed the book on their blog, sometimes even the cover for my first book as well.
Q: What is the best way for an author to approach a blogger who might be a good fit for a tour stop?
A: Send a short query letter, accompanied by your web release. Whether your book is fiction or nonfiction, you need to figure out the angle of social relevance that your book offers and articulate it. Why is this a topic that needs to be part of the cultural conversation or that enlarges a conversation already taking place? That’s your pitch, and it belongs in your query letter. If the book serves a niche audience, you need to make a strong case about what your book offers that others do not.
To read Kate’s complete Q&A, check out Everyday Book Marketing.
January 7, 2014 Comments Off
For many of us writers, doing a cross-country, in-person book tour isn’t affordable (in terms of time or dollars). But there are other options…like a Virtual Book Tour.
For a few tips on how to get on the road, virtually, check out this excerpt (along with many other resources for writers!) at Author Magazine.
November 21, 2013 Comments Off
This is an excerpt of Janna Cawrse Esarey’s Q&A in Everyday Book Marketing, in which she talks about book clubs. For more book promo information, and to read Janna’s complete Q&A, check out Everyday Book Marketing.
Janna Cawrse Esarey is the author of The Motion of the Ocean: 1 Small Boat, 2 Average Lovers & a Woman’s Search for the Meaning of Wife (Simon & Schuster). A Publisher’s Weekly Summer Fave, Today Show rec, and Parade Pick, it’s the true story of a woman who sails across the Pacific on her honeymoon, only to find her relationship heading for the rocks. Watch Janna’s book trailer at www.byjanna.com.
Q: How did you get your first book club gig, and what can a writer do to get on the radar of book clubs?
A: My very first gig was actually before The Motion of the Ocean came out. A local college class was assigned to create promotional materials for several new books, mine included. (Pays to have friends who teach!) These amazing students convinced the campus bookstore’s book club to read ARCs (advance reader copies) and recorded the group’s discussion. They also made a book trailer—a short video—to promote my book. (I know, lucky! You might see if students in your area could do the same.)
My next gig, also pre-publication, was with Simon & Schuster’s in-house book club—a huge honor—but it made me understand why my editor had gone to bat for photos, a map, and a book club kit in the back (discussion questions, activities, and an interview). We had to fight hard for all these extras. With no budget for a map, I drew it myself, and I also helped write the discussion questions since I knew I didn’t want any dry, English-teachery reading comprehension questions. (Hint: Questions that make readers interpret the text or reflect on their own lives work best.) These extras— whether in traditional publishing or self-publishing—can be a lot of work, but they definitely attract book clubs.
To prepare for other book group gigs, I set up a section for readers on my website that included an expanded version of the book club kit as well as recipes, my personal backstory, and, of course, the book trailer. You could also include a blog, inspirational quotes, behind-the-scenes info, or photos of where you write. Visit your favorite authors’ websites to get ideas. I also ran a promotion: Choose MOTO for your book group and receive one free, signed copy. My publisher gave me a box of books to give away in this manner—very effective!
Speaking of social media, Facebook is an author’s best friend. Why? Because you can reach out to your number-one fans—your friends! Set up both a personal Facebook profile and an author or book page. Here you can post author events, links related to your book topic, the inside scoop about writing and publishing, tidbits from your personal life, and, of course, photos and anecdotes from your book club chats. Connecting with one book club via Facebook—and posting about it—will often lead to connecting with another book club. You can also try a Facebook ad that will post only to your friends’ friends, or friends of those who have already “liked” your book page. You can set your budget and your bid so it doesn’t break the bank.
Twitter also provides a quick, easy way to mention upcoming book club chats, post group photos, or share possible discussion questions. Reflect afterwards with favorite quotes or questions from the evening. Use a hashtag (#bookclub) to get as many views as possible, and create a hashtag for your own book, too (#MOTO).
For more of Janna’s book club advice, and to read her complete Q&A, check out Everyday Book Marketing. And visit Janna online at http://www.byjanna.com.
November 20, 2013 Comments Off
This is an excerpt of Kelli Russell Agodon’s Q&A in Everyday Book Marketing, in which she talks about unique book promo ideas and offers advice for new authors. For more book promo information, and to read Kelli’s complete Q&A, check out Everyday Book Marketing.
Kelli Russell Agodon is the author of Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room, Small Knots, and Geography. She co-edited Fire On Her Tongue: An eBook Anthology of Contemporary Women’s Poetry. Kelli is the editor of Crab Creek Review and the co-founder of Two Sylvias Press. Her third book of poems, Hourglass Museum, will be published in 2014.
Q: What was the single most successful thing you’ve done to promote your books?
A: Oddly, I’m not sure I’d have any idea what one thing it is, but probably a coming together of many. Having my poem on Poetry Daily (www.poems.com) was a huge boost because poetry readers visit there daily, so I connected with a lot of people outside my area.
Another thing I did was send my book to ten random people. These can go to anyone, like a reader who sends me an e-mail saying they liked a poem of mine, or I may mail a copy off to Garrison Keillor for his “Writer’s Almanac” radio show. I just like sending my book out into the world and seeing what happens—sometimes nothing, sometimes a lot.
From my ten-random-people experiment, my poem went on to be recited by Garrison Keillor on his radio show and then ended up in his Good Poems for Hard Times anthology. You never know what doors your book will push open, and it’s a fun way to connect with others and send your work into the world.
Q: What advice do you have to offer new authors?
A: 1) If you’re trying to publish your book, be persistent.
2) If you have a book published and are trying to market it, be polite and professional.
3) Use your newly acquired fame to help promote other writers you like. It’s wonderful to support others, and having a book will give you the platform to help raise others up and share their work as well. Remember, we are a writing community full of readers and writers. Share the wealth with others, and let that good karma come back to you twofold.
4) Remember there is no one way to be a writer in the world. Try new things (make a book trailer, start a Facebook page) and find ways to promote your book that make you feel good. If you like working with people, see if you can volunteer somewhere. Or visit someone’s book group. Find ways to share your book with others that you enjoy.
5) Don’t judge your success by your royalty check. We are artists first, and we can’t judge our work by a dollar sign.
To read Kelli’s complete Q&A, check out Everyday Book Marketing. And visit Kelli online at www.agodon.com.
November 14, 2013 Comments Off
This is an excerpt of L.J. Sellers’s Q&A in Everyday Book Marketing, in which she talks about self-publishing and her path to an Amazon book deal. For more book promo information, and to read L.J.’s complete Q&A, check out Everyday Book Marketing.
L.J. Sellers is an award-winning journalist and author of the bestselling Detective Jackson mystery/thriller series as well as standalone thrillers. A Readers’ Favorite winner, L.J.’s novels have been praised by Publishers Weekly, Mystery Scene, and Suspense Magazine, and her Jackson books are the highest- rated crime fiction series on Amazon.
Q: Tell us about how your first book came into the world, and how this led you onto the path of being (and remaining) an independent author.
A: I self-published my first Detective Jackson novel in 2007 after receiving rave rejections from major publishers. That was before the Kindle was released and print-on-demand publishing became available to individuals, so I spent a small fortune on a print run of 3,500 mass-market paperbacks. Then I worked like a madwoman to find a distributor and reach out to bookstores. I got lucky, and the novel was well received and reviewed. So I wrote two more books in the series, which were picked up and published by a small press. I spent ten times as much money promoting the books as I made in royalties. Despite the wonderful reviews from readers, I strongly considered giving up the series and even wondered if I should continue writing fiction. Then I was laid off my newspaper job, and the year 2010 looked very bleak for me.
But during those years, e-books had emerged as a growing market, and POD became a viable option for print books. So I started looking at my options and decided to upload my unpublished stand-alone thrillers to Kindle to see if I could generate some income. I quickly realized I needed to leave my publisher, get the rights back to my Jackson series, and self-publish every story I had—both as an e-book and as a POD print offering. Which I spent a good chunk of the year doing. After I uploaded the fourth Jackson novel in late October, I turned down freelance work for nearly a month and spent eight hours a day promoting my novels. I wrote blogs and articles, posted in forums, bought a few newsletter ads, and gave away hundreds of e-books on Goodreads and LibraryThing.
The results were astounding. By the end of the year, my series was a Kindle bestseller, and I was making a living selling e-books. Since then I’ve published another five books, and I’m living my dream of being a full-time novelist. But that term is a little misleading. Because I was self-published with ten books on the market, I spent as much time running my business as I did writing the next novel.
But all that has changed. Last year I signed an eleven-book contract with Amazon Publishing—nine backlist titles and two new novels. For the record, it’s the only publisher I even considered selling to. Amazon’s contracts are writer-friendly and generous compared to other publishers. And now that the new versions are on the market, Amazon is heavily promoting them, and my sales have doubled. I’m finally free to write full- time. My lifelong dream.
Q: What has been your biggest marketing challenge?
A: The biggest challenge in marketing is to keep finding new opportunities. Because what worked in 2010 quit working in 2011 when every other author started doing the same thing. And what worked six months ago is no longer as effective now. The market is constantly changing, and the competition is fierce. So I continuously have to find and try new marketing ideas, and it’s time consuming.
Q: What advice do you have to offer authors who plan to self-publish?
A: The first thing is to have your work evaluated by objective professionals in the industry to determine if it has commercial potential. If your novel is marketable, then you have a green light to make the investment you need to be competitive. At that point, you need to decide what your goals are. Do you simply want to publish your book to see it in print for family and friends? Will fiction be a sideline, or do you want to make a living from it? Determining what you want out of the self- publishing experience will help you decide how much time and money to spend. Because if you want to sell well and earn a living, the next step is to invest real money in editing, cover design, professional formatting, and promotional spots. You also should commit to spending a couple hours a day on promotion—social networking, blogging, posting in forums, and querying book reviewers. If professionals don’t consider your work to be marketable or you don’t have the time and money to invest at an appropriate level, then you may need to accept that writing novels is a hobby and whatever you invest may never be recovered. That may sound harsh, but it’s the reality of a very competitive market.
October 29, 2013 Comments Off
The Creative Compass: Writing Your Way from Inspiration to Publication, by Dan Millman and Sierra Prasada, is a helpful guide for beginning writers that focuses on five stages of creativity.
Dan Millman, well known for his book Way of the Peaceful Warrior, has teamed up with his daughter, journalist Sierra Prasada, for this new book on writing, creativity, and publication. They include their personal journeys as well as tips and guidelines for authors beginning their own journeys.
The first stage, Dream, is about defining one’s story — finding ideas that stick and going from there to defining character, finding plots, considering setting. I especially like the concept of “dreaming in dialogue,” which encourages the writer and his/her alter ego to have a role-play type conversation that helps in discovering characters’ motives, plot twists, etc.
The Draft section is about telling one’s story, from beginning to end, and this section covers topics from using the senses to doing research. In the Develop section, the authors raise the question of hard work versus talent, revision (and reinvention), and the importance of never giving up.
The Refine stage covers sentence-level editing, from trimming to punctuation, and the Share section addresses how to publish and market your work, as well as how to handle rejection (there are some wonderfully inspiring rejection stories here!). One thing I think will be particularly helpful to new writers is the authors’ notion of Nine Sales — that is, the myriad ways in which all writers must sell their books, from selling it to themselves, to their literary agents, and to their editors, all the way to their sales reps and their readers.
Throughout the book, Millman and Prasada remind us to go back to story whenever we’re stuck — to ask the important questions, such as “What’s the story about?” and “Who’s our audience?” For those writers who are new to workshopping or seeking/giving feedback, the book includes what questions to ask your prospective readers in order to get the most constructive feedback possible.
The Creative Compass features a helpful FAQ index near the beginning of the book, referencing such immediate questions as how to find one’s voice as an author, when to ask for feedback, and how journaling may be useful. Inspiring quotes by authors pepper all pages of the book, and a section at the end devotes five pages to quotations. The Creative Compass is an inspiring guide for anyone just beginning to explore their creative selves through writing, as well as those who are just beginning to get a sense of the stories they want to tell.
October 24, 2013 Comments Off
I was delighted to chat with Pamme Boutselis at The Penmen Review about the joys and challenges of writing, book marketing, being an editor, and more.
A million thanks to Pamme for this Q&A!
And writers: Check out The Penmen Review, which includes not only articles and resources for writers but is an online magazine featuring poetry, fiction, and essays, and more (check out the submission guidelines here).
October 18, 2013 Comments Off