Friday, February 27, 2009
I write quite a bit about marketing, promotion, and publicity. I work with a couple of small independent publishing companies to promote their authors and increase sales. I am also a writer. So learning about the publishing field is a must. As I learn about it, I write about it. I get comments, sometimes emails from aspiring authors who want to be published and want to be a success. I’ve had questions from published authors on suggestions I might have on marketing.
One unpublished author wrote to me: “I am an aspiring writer. However, I am having a bit of a time getting published. I know it is nearly impossible to connect with a large publishing company. So I am trying to decide if I want to do self-publishing or use a print on demand service. Any suggestions?”
I hear things like this frequently. Everyone wants a shortcut. I have no magic wand. I share what I learn. This is actually a two-part question. The first part is how to get published and the best route to accomplish that. The second part is how to be successful as an author once you are published. I thought about it and answered.
As an aspiring author trying to get published, the main thing is belief in yourself and in your ability to tell a story. The second thing is polishing your craft. That means learning and applying—what works and what doesn't. If you receive critiques or suggested changes from editors, agents, or your writing group, don’t get on your high horse and think your words are sacred and descended from God. Be willing to look at the critiques and suggestions and see if they’re valid. Third, keep an eye on what’s selling out there. What do you see on the bookshelf—especially in your genre? How does your writing compare in premise, character development, and presentation? Fourth, as a published author, building a reader base by marketing yourself and your book.
POD (Print On Demand) isn’t a shortcut, although many think it is. A shortcut denotes a quicker way to get from point A to point B and going POD isn’t going to give you that, other than you have a book out there with your name on it. POD can be a good place for some to start. You can build a readership base, see what works with plots and story lines and what doesn't. An author has more control over their books and any profits generated, which is why some choose that route. Many POD publishers also make the books available as an E-book on places like Amazon. POD has changed considerably over the years and it's not at all like the old Vanity press of years gone by when a person could self-publish anything—most of it poorly written. They went the route of self-publishing because they couldn’t get a contract from a larger publishing house and part of the reason was the story was not saleable due to the way it was written. What came first? The chicken or the egg?
Unfortunately, some POD books out there are still poorly written and there is a reason for that. If you choose to go the route of Print on Demand, be careful which POD publisher you go with. If you have to pay them to publish your book, this is not the one for you. If you find a reputable POD publisher your work is still cut out for you. This is where an author discovers that POD isn’t a shortcut. There are very few POD publishers with an editing staff to filter your writing. That’s up to you as the author. They’ll print your book at no cost to you, they will also offer you a contract—be sure to look it over carefully—and they will offer a percentage of the profits on each book sold and send those royalties to you either monthly or quarterly. Once you receive the proof book back from the printer, be sure you really proof your story well before it goes to final print. Presentation is everything and in this case, it’s up to you to make sure it looks professional and error free.
The thing to keep in mind with POD is it will require an enormous amount of work on your part to promote yourself and your writing. You don't get an advance to work with and funding for publicity and promotion is very important. You don’t have the avenues available to you in promotion and publicity that a traditional publisher can offer. You are writer, agent, and business manager, all wrapped in one person. Getting your name known is daunting but necessary. This actually needs to be started before you have your book in print. Build an interest in you as an author, and create expectation for your book. Creating that interest can seem overwhelming to a debuting author, regardless of whether you are published traditionally or POD. But, it can be done through the Internet, via blogging and social networks such as Facebook, Gather, Twitter, MySpace, and a host of others. Keep in mind; you still have to allow for time to continue writing. Producing a product to sell. That isn’t an easy juggling act as most authors also have a day job and families.
If you don’t want to go POD, and there are many who don’t, make it a point to look into some of the smaller Independent publishing companies. There are a few good opportunities to get on with one if you write genres they publish. Still, even with a small publisher or even a major publishing house, you will be required to promote yourself and generate publicity for your book—unless you’re a debuting Dan Brown—there isn’t much in the way of dollars for marketing/promotion available for debuting authors.
Regardless of the route you take to being published, caution is necessary. Make it a point to check out the company or agent you’re considering with Editors and Preditors. Consider them the Better Business Bureau for writers. There are a lot of scams out there, predators with basically a storefront, whose sole purpose is to make money off your dream and give little or nothing back. The horror stories I’ve heard would curl your hair.
Agent Query has a good list of agents and their submission requirements and they also have a good list of small independent publishers as well the big boys. It’s worth looking at and then doing some research on them. Writing isn’t just a creative endeavor. It’s a business. You are the proprietor of that business.
So, as an aspiring author, you need a strong believe in your ability to tell a good story, spend time perfecting your craft as a writer, and keep abreast with what’s currently selling in your genre on the market. Be willing to invest time in building name recognition long before you’ve been published.
But what if you’ve already sold your book? What can you do to help sell your books? I will discuss this in part two, Being a Successful Author–Magic or Work?
Sia McKye has spent over twenty years in marketing and promotion. She's written and published various articles on writing, marketing, and promotion. She's a Marketing Rep by profession and also writes fiction.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
It all started when I saw a commercial for Hershey’s Bliss chocolates in their individually wrapped foil packages. I saw the word BLISS on the TV and thought, “Wow, that would make a really neat girl’s name.” Almost instantly a picture came to mind of a teenaged girl with scraggly dirty-blond hair and torn jeans. Foster child, street child, pickpocket, and unwanted, unloved-the complete opposite of the word “bliss”. And Finding Bliss was born.
I didn’t want to lose any of my ideas for this novel, but I also didn’t want to stop watching the TV show that was on, so I grabbed my new iPhone 3G. There is a Notes application and this was the first time I used it. What was really great was that I was able to type in my notes on this new novel idea during the commercials and then email them to myself. Later, I went upstairs to my office, opened the email on my PC, copied and pasted the notes into a Word document and-voila! —I had started a new novel.
About 2 years ago, a writing craze swept across Japan; cell phone novels took the publishing world by storm in this small country. In the first six months of 2007, Goma Books and Maho i-Land published more cell phone novels than the major Japanese publishers did print books. And now, North America has its first English language cell phone novel platform through Textnovel.
I am very familiar with Textnovel. CEO Stan Soper heard about my iPhone novel Finding Bliss and he personally invited me to check out Textnovel. Since I always like to try new things, I submitted three short stories, serializing them over a period of time. You can find my novelette Remote Control there. Stan has shown great interest in Finding Bliss, and there is a possibility that my iPhone novel might show up on Textnovel in the future.
Recently, I was a guest blogger on Book Marketing Floozy and I talked about how authors have to “think outside the book”. Sometimes a book can be marketed even before it has been published, and once in a while even before it has been written. That’s what I’ve done with my iPhone novel Finding Bliss, a novel that has only 2 chapters written yet has already received much media attention.
To date, I have appeared on a number of television and radio interviews, and in newspapers, because I have chosen to write a novel in a completely different way. Another major company contacted me about Finding Bliss a month or so ago, and they too would like to be the first company to “release” this novel to the public. Let the bidding wars begin!
‘Finding Bliss’ will be an emotional, heartwarming story of a damaged teenage girl who must fight to survive in a world of abuse, lies and loss. As she struggles to find herself, Bliss will discover exactly where she belongs and she’ll learn that she is worthy of love after all.” [You can read the first chapter of this novel of Cheryl Kaye Tardif on her website.]
There is no publish date on this book as I have not finished writing it. Once I am done, it will be handed to my wonderful agent Jack Scovil to pitch to publishers.
Cheryl Kaye Tardif is the bestselling author of Whale Song, The River, and Divine Intervention. She is currently working with a well respected producer interested taking the inspiring message in her novel Whale Song and making it into a movie. Her books are available on Amazon.com, canada.ca, and your favorite book store.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Today my guest is Pat Bertram, debuting author of A Spark of Heavenly Fire. Some of you may know her better as the author of the popular Book Marketing Floozy, and Bertram's Blog . Today she talks about a subject that all Print On Demand authors have to deal with in putting out a high quality and professional book.
I’m afraid that I’m going to be stuck in copy-editing hell for the rest of my life.
When I received my latest proof copy of A Spark of Heavenly Fire and found additional mistakes in the final proof copy, I screamed. Well, it was more of a bleat.
I’ve now decided that perfection at this point really is impossible.
I had the idea that single-handedly I needed to eradicate the POD publishers’ reputation for releasing less than stellar books, but there is a limit to what one (untrained) person can do. I am learning how to copyedit, though, and I do know one thing: however much copy-editors get paid, it is not enough.
The thing with mistakes is that they proliferate when you are not looking. You correct one, and in the process, create another. When I finished my novel, the manuscript was almost perfect — I’d read the thing out loud, so I would be sure to look at every single word, every single punctuation mark. Then . . . I did one final polish, took out all the extra justs and onlys, the particularlys and practicallys, the barelys and hardlys, the began tos, and the wases. The problem is, other words got deleted along the way (don’t ask me how, because I don’t know) and I didn’t catch them. Yikes.
And then there are the choices to be made. Is it ill-prepared or ill prepared? I originally had ill-prepared, but MS word said that was wrong, so I deleted the hyphen. And now I want it back for the simple reason that the hyphen is how it is commonly used. And what about brand new? My dictionary says it’s brand-new, but common usage has it as brand new. So which do I use? I think I’ll leave out the hyphen; that way there will be one less change to make.
Some of the changes that need to be made entail rewriting a sentence. In the proof copy, smelled is on two lines: smell-ed. Smelled can’t be hyphenated, so now I have to decide how to rewrite the sentence so smelled can fit on one line. I had “He fell silent for a moment, savoring the feel of her tee shirt- and jeans-clad body next to his. She smelled clean and fresh, like cucumber, or melon, or pear.” So how do I change the sentence, so that smelled can fit on one line? “savoring the feel of her thinly clad body”? savoring the feel of her tee shirt-clad body”? Neither of those do it for me. But now, writing this, I see what I can change. I can take out “for a moment”. (Yes, I know that the period belongs inside the quotation marks, but this is proofing, and perhaps whoever is making the changes to the print copy will think the period needs to be taken out.) See what I mean?
Copy-editors are not paid enough.
Well, now it’s put up and shut up time. Make the important changes, and try not to sweat the small stuff. I can guarantee, though, that whoever came up with that particular phrase is not a copy-editor. With copy-editing, it’s all about the small stuff.
Pat Bertram is a native of Colorado and is the author of A Spark of Heavenly More Deaths and Than One Fire. Bertram's books are now available for pre-order from Second Wind Publishing LLC.