The Book Business

Present word count in WIP:  47,161

(That doesn’t count the fact that I did write today…I wrote a 999-word personal essay to be posted on Danyelle Fergusen’s blog some time in April–Autism Awareness Month. I’ll let you know when it’s up and link to it. She asked for those who’ve dealt with autistic spectrum disorders up close and personal to share some positive, uplifting stories, so I complied.)

And now for Seth Godin’s last three pieces of Advice for Authors:

17. Publishing a book is not the same as printing a book. Publishing is about marketing and sales and distribution and risk. If you don’t want to be in that business, don’t! Printing a book is trivially easy. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not. You’ll find plenty of printers who can match the look and feel of the bestselling book of your choice for just a few dollars a copy. That’s not the hard part.

18. Bookstores, in general, are run by absolutely terrific people. Bookstores, in general, are really lousy businesses. They are often where books go to die. While some readers will discover your book in a store, it’s way more likely they will discover the book before they get to the store, and the store is just there hoping to have the right book for the right person at the time she wants it. If the match isn’t made, no sale.

19. Writing a book is a tremendous experience. It pays off intellectually. It clarifies your thinking. It builds credibility. It is a living engine of marketing and idea spreading, working every day to deliver your message with authority. You should write one.

I love how he covers all three aspects of the business in these last three tips–publishing, marketing, and writing.

Publishing isn’t easy and that’s why it’s so difficult for writers to break into it. They have to build up their writing muscles over time so that the content they offer is worth the publishers’ risk. They have to build up their fan base over time so that, again, the publisher will be tempted to take a chance on them. And then, once they’re in, from all I can observe it becomes like a long-distance race. Either they’re in it for the long haul–all the signings, appearances, marketing, and, most importantly, more writing–or they get left by the wayside.

Bookstores are becoming more and more obsolete because now the reader can go directly to their chosen writer via Amazon.com or another online bookstore. And with the advent of the ebook, who needs shelves? Of course, this is not news. But more and more, I foresee bookstores using their personal touch to compete online with the big elephant. Check out Just the Right Book, for example. Here is a bookseller who got smart, moved her bookstore online and is offering the kind of service Amazon is too big and impersonal to give. If you doubt me, check out the Just the Right Book Facebook page. This is one bookstore, in my opinion, that is not a lousy business. They have vision.

As for his last tip, I readily agree. I always learn more about a topic (and myself) when I have to write about it. Once I can encapsulate my thoughts or the pictures in my head in a well-described scene, complete with realistic dialogue (both inner and outer), I am enriched…and, if I’ve done my job right as a writer, my words will likewise enrich the reader. The most fascinating thing about the writing process, besides the splashes of insight and inspiration, is that no two readers will read the same words with exactly the same result. Why? Because the reader brings his/her own life experience to meld with the author’s. That’s why the author-reader relationship is so valuable.

If you’ve ever been tempted to write your own book, do it!

 

 

Originally posted 2012-03-12 21:22:00.

Consider Organizations, Not Just Individuals

Present word count of WIP:  47,161

Okay, I slowed down on my output the last two days. First, I was bummed yesterday at receiving another rejection. It was so nicely worded, however, and included enough good feedback that I almost felt guilty about feeling depressed. (At least, I know the agent judges me to be talented and would definitely consider future proposals.) Then today, things really began to look up and I simply couldn’t concentrate on writing all morning. I may have an important announcement to make next week, so stay tuned!

For now, Seth Godin’s next bit of Advice for Authors:

16. Most books that sell by the truckload sell by the caseload. In other words, sell to organizations that buy on behalf of their members/employees.

This got me thinking about another way to market my second novel, LAPS, once it gets published. Since a couple of key characters in the novel have Asperger’s syndrome, I could contact local chapters of Autistic Support groups and donate cases of books or, at least, provide them at deep discounts simply to help spread word of the book.

Autism Society of America

Since my son has AS, we have been participating in a study put on by the University of Washington. In fact, we recently gave them permission to share all our data with the National Instititute for Health. They might also appreciate copies of the novel. It’s something to keep in mind, for certain.

Asperger's Under the Umbrella of Autism Spectrum Disorders

How about you? Can you think of organizations that might have a natural tie-in to your most recent or upcoming book?

Originally posted 2012-03-09 16:45:10.

Try the Unexpected or Unusual

Present word count of WIP:  45,249

I’m a day late with this post, but yesterday was so chock full of items on my “to do” list and then my son came home with a time-consuming piece of homework from his Creative Writing class. How could I say “no” to helping him on that? Besides, it made me more aware of my own writing.

The assignment: take a page from one of your favorite novels, photocopy it, and analyze it for sentence length and variation, paragraph length and variation, literary or figurative devices, any unusual punctuation or grammatical devices, and anything else that stood out as far as the writer’s style. I think it’s a good exercise for any of us who write. It keeps us from getting lazy. Sometimes our final version isn’t as “final” or “perfect” as we may like to think.

Buckbeak's response to Malfoy's rudeness

(By the way, the novel he chose was J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, with a page from the first scene with Buckbeak.)

Now, Seth Godin’s next bit of Advice for Authors:

15. If you want to reach people who don’t normally buy books, show up in places where people who don’t usually buy books are. Media places, virtual places and real places too.

First of all, you have to understand something about Mr. Godin. He’s more about spreading ideas (and he writes mostly non-fiction) than he is about making money. Of course, he can afford to be because he’s already made a name for himself and has a huge fan base. So, he’s always looking to expand that fan base. That’s something we should all be doing.

But this tip got me thinking. Where do non-book lovers gather in the real world and online? I know they’re out there, because I came across one several years ago–a woman in my church who, while helping in a service project to stock the shelves of a new school library, admitted that she never read. “Why?” I asked. “I just don’t like reading.” I know. It’s baffling to me and my kind, but they do exist.

So, where do they hang out? Movie theaters? (She didn’t care for movies, either, by the way.) I, personally, love movie theaters…but mainly when they’re not crowded and going when no one else is there kind of defeats the purpose of trying to gain new readers. Still, could I force myself to do a book event at a movie theater? Let’s say the protagonist of my novel has a significant scene involving a particular movie. If it’s a popular enough movie, would it be worthwhile to rent out a theater for my book launch and show that movie? Hmmm. Perhaps.

Where else in real life? My aforementioned non-book-and-non-movie-loving friend was all about the outdoors. I’ve got people gathering every morning at the base of the small mountain behind my home simply to hike up to the top. Granted, they’re probably the same people every day, but maybe I should set up a small table at the foot of the trail one day and offer discounted (or even free…since they might not be carrying cash) copies of my latest book. (Of course, it would help if my story involved hiking.)

The idea is to think outside the box both in everyday life and in virtual reality. Drop into a whole new Facebook group (say, for instance, Mothers Against Pedestrian Crosswalks…just made that up, but I haven’t checked…there could be such a group) or online forum and make some new friends then gradually reveal that you’re a writer. If they like you, they’ll probably ask about what you write. If they really like you and the kinds of comments you make, they may buy your book.

What has worked for you? Have you tried the unexpected or unusual and seen it work?

I’d love to hear about it.

Originally posted 2012-03-06 08:29:46.

Do Free PDFs Work?

Present word count of WIP:  43,781

I’m almost over my cold and hoping my chapped nose (I knew I was blowing my nose too much!) will have recovered by Sunday. Oh, and if anyone out there can tell me why, all of a sudden, I lost all my Google Followers, I would appreciate it greatly. I don’t think it was because they were afraid I was contagious. Seriously, what’s up with Google (besides that whole privacy issue)?

In the meantime, here’s Seth Godin’s next piece of Advice for Authors:

14. Consider the free PDF alternative. Some have gotten millions of downloads. No hassles, no time wasted, no trying to make a living on it. All the joy, in other words, without debating whether you should quit your day job (you shouldn’t!)

I don’t know about you, but offering free PDFs of my stories would be problematic for me. While I got on the Kindle bandwagon early, offering THE RECKONING on Kindle shortly after it came out as a paperback on Amazon, I didn’t do the actual formatting. I paid the people at BookSurge (now CreateSpace) to do it for me. As a result, I don’t have a PDF version of the final manuscript, formatted for print with all the chapter headings and fancy images.

If any of you know how I might get hold of such a PDF version, I might be interested. But then, you come to the question of the value of your work. How many readers value that which they get for free?

Personally, I’ve purchased some 200-300 books on my Kindle and I’m having a tough enough time getting them read, let alone any free books I may come across. Which books do you imagine I’m going to value more and read first? You got it. The ones that cost me money.

In my opinion, money earned from a book is a lot more meaningful, in terms of gauging your fan base, than the number of downloads. While the idea of no hassles and no time wasted is appealing, it’s not very realistic. True professional authors have to work hard to make a living at what they do…but the reason they continue to do it is because they love the writing.

I stopped myself today in the middle of writing a scene that ended up taking me in a whole new direction and thought, “This is just too fun! I am so glad I can do this!”

Sometimes, Godin thinks too much about the money/marketing end and not enough about the joy of writing.

Originally posted 2012-03-02 13:47:31.

The Effectiveness of Signings and Book Club Appearances

Present word count of WIP: 39,556

Okay, when I blogged yesterday about trying to begin today to make up for my lack of writing over the weekend, I didn’t count on waking up with a full-blown head cold. While I didn’t make any progress on SOG, I did get my full of “Laps” sent in to Jane Dystel (and received a prompt reply from her confirming she’d received it). I also helped edit a friend’s query letter, critiqued another friend’s chapter, and am now writing this post…so, while it doesn’t change the word count of my WIP, it certainly counts as writing!

Now, for Seth Godin’s next piece of Advice for Authors:

13. If you’ve got the patience, bookstore signings and talking to book clubs by phone are the two lowest-paid but most guaranteed to work methods you have for promoting a really really good book. If you do it 200 times a year, it will pay.

Is it just me, or was he being facetious when he wrote this one? Just kidding…I know he was because of his next piece of advice, which I’ll blog about on Friday.

I can’t imagine using almost two-thirds of every year for signings and book club appearances. When would you have time to write? And any good writer needs to be a good reader, so when would you have time to read?

Since my first book was self-published, I’ve only done a couple of bookstore signings (both local) and they accounted for maybe 10 sales total. I fared far better when it came to visiting book clubs (one here, one in Utah, and two in Southern California), but still only netted sales of perhaps 50-75 books total.

Whether you’re a reader or an author, which do you prefer? Bookstore signings or book club appearances (either by phone, Internet, or in person)?

Originally posted 2012-02-27 21:54:33.

What a Terrific Second Day!

Present word count of WIP: 39,556

Again, I didn’t have time to write and will definitely make up for it tomorrow. But yesterday was even more eventful for me than the first day was at the conference.

It started with next to no sleep the night before but, somehow, I dragged myself out of bed at 6:20 am for a 6:45 “All Star Breakfast” with the editors, agents, and faculty of the conference. The first 20 to register for the conference got this perk, even though I was feeling far from “perky” at that time of the morning. I certainly felt a lot perkier by the end, though!

You see, being the introvert I sometimes am, I headed for the unoccupied table in the back (forcing my roommate, Bonnie Harris, into my introverted ways, I’m afraid…but I think she was grateful in the end) then waited to see if anyone would join us. Susan Aylworth did and then, lo and behold, in came the top agent I’d pitched the day before–Jane Dystel of Dystel & Goderich–and she makes her way all the way back and sits down right next to me. She had asked to see the full of “Laps” the day before but I wasn’t sure if she was truly interested (after all, I’d submitted it to their agency two years earlier, though to a different agent) or simply being kind and encouraging…which she is. Then, five minutes later, we are joined by Linda Mulleneaux with Walnut Springs. In the course of conversation, Jane was describing her typical day at the office back in New York and I asked about her client list. She said she had approximately 50 active clients and perhaps 250 total, including the inactives.

Then she mentioned that she’d be having dinner that night with one of her clients there in Phoenix. Inside I’m thinking, “What a coincidence, since in my novel my reclusive protagonist is an author whose New York agent comes out to Phoenix to try and talk her into doing a book tour…so I was glad to hear that they really do make visits in this day of cell phones and email.” But I wasn’t about to mention that because we were having a great, relaxed conversation ranging from politics to publishing and I’d already done my pitch.

That was when Linda spoke up and potentially did me the greatest favor. Pointing to me, she said something like, “You know, Tanya here has written a terrific book. I’m only a few chapters in, but I’m loving it. It’s got this great beginning with this woman finding one of her students dead in her pool and the poem he’s left her is so wonderful.”

Jane looked more intrigued and seemed to want to know more so I explained the setup to the novel in a bit more detail then added that I also had a NY agent visiting my protagonist in Phoenix in my story. Linda then said something about how excited she’ll be to finish it and see it published. At that point, I turned to Jane and said, “Maybe I shouldn’t bother sending it to you in that case” and she said, “Oh no, I’d like to see it!” She then turned to Linda in full agent mode (this is no doubt what makes her a great agent…she never lets an opportunity for a deal pass by, big or small) and asked what kind of advances they gave. She was surprised to hear they didn’t provide any, but she pressed on, asking about their royalty rate (10-12%).

Linda, recognizing Jane’s interest, told me I should definitely submit it to Jane. Let me tell you, I walked away from that breakfast more than satisfied!

Later that morning when I had my scheduled pitch with Linda (which now almost seemed unnecessary though it gave us a chance to talk about the book more), she was very kind and supportive about my possibilities for a bigger market. If it turns out to be a rejection from Jane, though, I will go ahead and contact Linda, for sure.

I also pitched School of Guardians to Anita Mumm with Nelson Literary that morning and she wants me to submit the first 30 pages when I’ve got it completed. So I headed for lunch, having batted a thousand over the course of the 2-day conference: 3 requested submissions (Jane, Anita, and Lisa Mangum of Shadow Mountain, an imprint of Deseret Book) and a potential deal for Laps with Walnut Springs should Jane turn it down.

Now, I’ve been to enough writers conferences to know that all four possibilities may well evaporate in the end, but at the very least, I know I’m getting closer to my goal. And, as Lisa said in her empowering keynote speech at the close of the conference, our dreams are closer than we may imagine.

At lunch, like icing on the cake, I was announced as the 3rd place winner in General/Women’s Fiction for my beginning of Laps…and the 2nd place winner in Youth Fiction for my beginning of School of Guardians. These announcements were made in front of those editors and agents to whom I’d pitched those works. I was even happier when Bonnie (who also got a request for her full mystery manuscript from Jane) was announced as the Grand Prize winner of ANWA’s first BOB (Beginning of Book) Contest!

The ANWA Conference is getting bigger and better and, needless to say, it was well worth my registration, flight, and a few sleep-deprived nights!

My only disappointment for the weekend: not enough of an opportunity to have a long, deep discussion about LDS fiction and our role as writers who are LDS with Bonnie and my other roommate, Heather Moore. Since Heather’s going to be the featured guest at this year’s Northwest Writers Retreat in November, however, I still hope to have that opportunity.

Originally posted 2012-02-26 11:32:35.

ANWA Writers Conference and Blogging

Present word count of WIP: 39,556

The one place it’s difficult to get any writing done is at (believe it or not) a writers conference. No matter. This has already been a success for me and it’s only been the first day! I sold all my books (of course, I only brought three since I was flying Allegiant and was trying to avoid any extra charges), had two successful pitches (Jane Dystel wants the full of Laps and Lisa Mangum wants me to send her the full of School of Guardians when it’s finished), and…most exciting…Linda Mulleneaux stopped by my book signing to tell me she had started reading “Laps” the other night and LOVED it! I’ve got an appointment tomorrow with her, so I think I may have some more news to share soon (hopefully). I also have a pitch appointment tomorrow with April Mumm for SOG. Wish me more luck!

Now on to Seth Godin’s next piece of Advice for Authors:

12. Blog mentions, on the other hand, matter a lot.

That’s certainly been attested to at this conference. An author’s online presence is very important to agents and publishers on everything from social media to blogs. If you can luck out and get a great review or even a mention from a blog that gets a lot of traffic, your name (and your work) becomes that much better known.

So, I’m on Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, LinkedIn, and I have another blog along with this one on my website. The trick is learning to manage it all without cutting too much into your writing time.

I blog Mondays and Fridays, post to FB maybe 3-4 times a week, tweet a few times a week, and try to update on Goodreads once a week. I’m honestly not doing much with LinkedIn…yet.

How do you manage balancing online presence with your writing?

Originally posted 2012-02-24 21:09:12.

The Buzz About Blurbs

Present word count of WIP:  39,288

Seth Godin’s Advice for Authors:

10. In case you skipped it, please check #2 again. That’s the most important one, by far.

Rather than point you back to my blog posting about that one, I’ll just reiterate it was about the necessity to build a reputation, a blog, a following and connections about three years BEFORE you come out with your masterpiece. Nice, if you have the gift of prophecy as to which of your manuscripts will be the true masterpiece…but, in any case, developing a following and connections is, indeed, a must.

That is one of the big reasons why I go to writers conferences like the one this weekend down in Mesa, AZ — the ANWA “TIME OUT FOR WRITERS” Conference. Many of these fellow authors I’ve only dealt with online and it is definitely time for some face to face interaction.

11. Blurbs are overrated, imho.

I’m not sure what to think about this. I can be swayed by a good blurb. What do you all think?

Originally posted 2012-02-20 22:05:18.

Worthy Investments

Present word count of WIP:  36,232

Seth Godin’s Advice for Authors:

9. If you have a ‘real’ publisher (see #7), it’s worth investing in a few things to help them do a better job for you. Like pre-editing the book before you submit it. Like putting the right to work on the cover with them in the contract. And most of all, getting the ability to buy hundreds of books at cost that you can use as samples and promotional pieces.

I couldn’t agree with this more, particularly the pre-edit suggestion. Editors at publishing houses these days do not have the luxury of time they once had to spend on their authors’ manuscripts, trying to get them polished just so. For a while now, that job has fallen to agents (many of whom are former editors). Perhaps even agents don’t have the time or willingness to do it all that much anymore, because I’ve come across a number of published books that could have used a good edit! It’s far easier for an agent to drop your manuscript for the one that’s already polished to a sheen.

Some writers are funny about editing. It’s as if this masterpiece they have created will no longer be theirs if they allow someone to read it, make suggestions, and point out things that don’t work. To these writers, I simply say: There is no such thing as a perfect novel. Even if all (or at least some of) the edits are incorporated, it won’t be perfect…but it will generally be better.

That’s why I have no fear about submitting my finished manuscript to an editor, such as someone from the Precision Editing Group, which is headed up by a friend of mine. I want my manuscript to be the best it can be before submitting it to a publisher. And, no, someone with a Master’s degree in English will not necessarily do. I want someone who reads a lot of books for a living, someone who knows what sells and what doesn’t, someone who understands the pace and thrust of story and plot.

As for Godin’s other two suggestions (getting the right to provide input on the cover and obtaining an option to buy lots of copies of your book at cost), both are answered best by getting a good agent. And getting a good agent doesn’t cost money, only time.

So, hold out for what you really want and be patient while you keep writing.

Originally posted 2012-02-17 17:14:13.

Stars Who Burn Too Bright

Present word count of WIP:  32,767

I am so sad over Whitney Houston’s passing…yes, we will never hear that magnificent voice again except in recordings. But it isn’t so much the fact that she is gone as it is the sad, sad decline that led to her departure. The waste of a beautiful soul in the grip of addiction.

So many bright, talented stars in this world (and I’m not speaking of Hollywood or the Music Industry here, but artists of all kinds) burn out all too soon before any of us would wish them to depart the scene. Most tragic of all are those who lose all control over their lives, almost giving life away as if it were too much to bear. I hope her daughter can heal from the loss.

I can’t segue from these thoughts to something so practical as steps you can take to make certain your book gets the kind of launch it needs. I’ll continue Godin’s advice on Friday.

For now, I can only be grateful for the life I have…away from the glare of lights and cameras and media, where my artistic struggles are performed in private, my poor attempts to capture truth on the page not spread out for the world to trample on…until I am ready. And even then, a very slight portion of the world takes notice. That’s a good thing. I am thus ensured years, during which I can perfect my art. Years that every now and then (like yesterday and today) I do not take for granted.

Originally posted 2012-02-13 17:48:09.