8 Unexpected Lessons From Working with a Literary Agent by Brian Klems


With self-publishing becoming more widely accepted and Amazon waging wars with publishers, more and more I get the sense from aspiring authors that they don’t think landing an agent means as much as it used to.

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Writers’ Digest Guest post by Bethany Neal, who writes young-adult novels with a little dark side and a lot of kissing from her Ann Arbor, Michigan home. She graduated from Bowling Green State University and is obsessed with (but not limited to): nail polish, ginormous rings, pigs, pickles, and dessert.

“My Last Kiss” is her first novel. You can connect with her online at http://www.bethanyneal.com.
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They believe “traditional” publishing is going the way of VCRs and none of the old rites of passage apply anymore. That’s fine if you think that, but, in my experience, it simply isn’t true.

I signed on with my agent, Stacey Glick of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management, in September of 2010 for my first (unpublished) young adult, suspense novel and it has solidified some valuable lessons.

Guest post by Bethany Neal, who writes young-adult novels with a little dark side and a lot of kissing from her Ann Arbor, Michigan home. She graduated from Bowling Green State University and is obsessed with (but not limited to): nail polish, ginormous rings, pigs, pickles, and dessert.

My Last Kiss is her first novel. You can connect with her online at http://www.bethanyneal.com.
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    Searching for an Agent

The beginning of this journey started with little more than a polished draft of my manuscript. I started simply by researching agents through Literary Marketplace, which is a massive tome that sits behind the reference counter at most public libraries.

Some of this research was review because I had previously queried a paranormal YA trilogy that ended in 32 rejections.

Having revived my search, I made a shortlist of reputable agencies looking for YA. I browsed their sites and found agents within each agency looking for my specific flavor of YA. I write a little on the dark side—somebody is almost always dead—and I write a lot of kissing. Not everyone wants to represent that, and that’s fine.

I think the most important part in the agent search is reading every agent’s bio and only querying those you feel a connection with and who are interested in not just your genre but also your style. My agent, for instance, at the time was looking for darker YA projects with a strong voice. That’s my writing in a nutshell.

Landing an Agent

I had two full manuscripts and one partial out with various interested agents when I got the email.

The email that said Stacey read my manuscript and wanted to set up a time to discuss it. I’d been rejected by 14 other agents already, so I wasn’t even sure what that meant. Then I got the call.

Thus began a string of very important lessons for my writing career.

1. Look before you leap.

My agent told me what she liked about my writing and the story and answered every single one of my questions.

I was so out of my mind excited that she wanted to represent me. So I told her I didn’t need to wait to hear back from the other two agents interested and I wanted—needed her as my agent.

This is my one regret in my agent search. I should have given myself a day to regain sanity and speak with the other two agents. I don’t regret signing with my agent because she’s been an enormous support throughout the years, but it’s something I know I should’ve done for peace of mind.

Take that day to pause before you jump on the first agent who smiles at your manuscript.

2. Prepare to move.

Almost immediately, my agent was requesting more information.

Stacey asked me to send her an author bio and a synopsis for the other novel I’d written, then emailed me an agency agreement that stated DGLM exclusively had the right to sell my novel for one year.

Right out of the gate there were deadlines. This one at least was a soft deadline, but it stoked a sense of urgency.

We went back and forth on revisions for a few months and ended up pushing back the submittal date so she could feature my novel in DGLM’s Upcoming Projects newsletter to generate interest with editors.

[Understanding Book Contracts: Learn what’s negotiable and what’s not.]

3. Anticipate nice, bad news.

After about a month being out on submittal, she sent me an email chocked full of the most positive, helpful, optimistic rejections I’ve ever gotten in my life. It was the best of a worst-case scenario I could have hope for.

I made revisions based on feedback and we made a round two submittal, but the basic consensus was to move on.

Luckily, I’d been writing away during all this waiting and close to finishing a draft of my new project that editors were eager to read because they remembered liking my first novel. That new project is titled MY LAST KISS and was published by FSG/Macmillan on June 10, 2014.

I didn’t expect to feel encouraged by rejections, but aligning with an agent allowed me to receive bad news in a way that turned out positive.

4. You’ll idolize your agent a bit.

It’s strange waiting with bated breath for someone’s email while also kind of loving and worshipping them even though you’ve never physically met them. I don’t think I could ever do online dating because it was weird. I’ve since met (and loved even more) Stacey in person.

I wasn’t anticipating, though, how many emotions I would wrap up in whether or not I heard from her.

5. You will hurry up and wait.

There is a lot going on, but the process from signing with an agent to publishing is a pretty drawn out experience.

I had no idea how long every step would take. It took us five months to get my first novel revised and ready to get out on submittal. It took another couple months worth of waiting to hear back from editors. And there’s more waiting once you get published. You can make good use of the time spent waiting though. For me it became an opportunity for uninterrupted writing time, which is invaluable.

[Learn important writing lessons from these first-time novelists.]

6. Expectations will drive you mad.

The biggest, dirtiest little secret about getting an agent (and being published) that no one tells you: Expectations, albeit mostly self-imposed, will drive you mad.

You start worrying about what will sell. Don’t. It will lead you down a dark, dark path—like Van Gogh, cut-your-ear-off dark.

Do yourself a favor and don’t go there because it’s extremely difficult to climb out of that pit of author-ly sorrow. You can’t predict the market and what will or won’t sell. The sooner you accept that, the saner you will be.

7. Agents breathe fresh life into your work.

An incredibly positive, unexpected bonus to finding my agent is how insightful and willing she is to collaborate on revisions.

Stacey will send me an email with literally one sentence asking something about my manuscript and it will enlighten me to the exact issue I’d been trying to fix for eight months. Having access to an expert with a keen eye is invaluable.

8. An agent is a partner in your journey.

On the warm and fuzzy side, how much she believes in me and my writing is something I couldn’t have anticipated.

Being an author still feels like this soap bubble that might burst at any moment. Even after having my first novel published, that insecurity hasn’t gone away. If I didn’t have my agent to give me pep talks and reassure me of my talent when the chips are down, I don’t know where I’d be.

Being a writer is hard work. Getting published is even harder work. Having an agent can give you a much needed hand. Just know that there are some surprising twists and turns along the way.

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Brian A. Klems is the online editor of Writer’s Digest and author of the popular gift book Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.

WHEN SHOULD WE SELF-PUBLISH? WHY? WHY NOT?


By Charles S. Weinblatt

My first book would have been a perfect poster book for self-publishing. It represents every solid reason why an author should self-publish. Forget the years of effort writing books and then devoting months or years attempting to contract with a small, independent publisher. Forget the years of writing, searching, struggling to gradually create an impressive author platform to attract literary agents. Forget depending upon someone you did not hire for editing, graphic design and printing. Forget waiting until a publisher is ready to schedule your book’s publication, and then the added time to distribute, promote, market and sell your book. When you self-publish, you make every decision on your own and on your own schedule.

Why was my first book such a perfect example of when to self-publish? First, it was not fiction. Fiction is harder to sell if it is self-published. It was a textbook on job seeking skills, something that I had honed for six years as a vocational rehabilitation counselor and then continued on my own in my private consulting practice. I taught it so frequently that I might have done it well in my sleep. And I knew that I was good at it. Thus, my textbook, Job Seeking Skills for Students (1986, Kendall-Hunt Publishing Company), would be viable. I could sell almost as many copies as I desired through my consulting practice and as required reading for graduate students in my university (The University of Toledo). Why share the profit if you don’t need to?

Of course, I wrote that book in 1985 and I understood nothing about self-publishing then. Along came Kendall-Hunt Publishing with a nice advance and I required no convincing. They could see that I would have little trouble marketing and maintaining regional sales. All they had to do was replicate it elsewhere. Given my complete lack of understanding that there was another option (self-publishing), I took the advance and gave my book to Kendall-Hunt. However, if I had the same decision to make today, I would self-publish it in a heartbeat.

Of course, with self-publishing comes serious responsibilities. The author must hire a talented editor, a gifted graphic artist with successful experience designing winning book covers and jackets, as well as a solid printer and an excellent publicist. The self-published author must purchase the ISBN, arrange distribution contracts on different continents and make sure that every retailer of value around the English-speaking world has copies to sell. This author must also handle promotion, marketing, sales, returns, stocking and restocking retailers, etc. Not rocket science – but very time consuming.

If it happened today, instead of 1985, I would also need to create the e-book version of Job Seeking Skills for Students and format it for each type of e-reader, tablet, computer and smart phone. Then, I would need to post it for sale at Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s, Diesel, Apple (iTunes), Kobo, Sony, Scrollmotion, Baker & Taylor, etc. But it would have been worth the effort. These are books made for self-publishing. Bypass the annoying, laborious platform creation and go directly to sales, where you, not a publisher, keep most of the profit.

There is a time and a place for everything. And when it comes to self-publishing, there is a difference in the chance for success between fiction and non-fiction. If the author is a celebrity or a highly-recognized subject matter expert, self-publishing makes perfect sense. But if the author is unknown and writes fiction, all such bets are off.

You can count on your digits the number of best-selling self-published fiction authors who were not already made famous by celebrity or by traditional publishers. Today, many famous fiction authors are deciding to carry their readers along into the self-publishing world. In other words, this works in only one direction. You use small independent trade publishers to attract literary agents, who will attract major publishers to your books. After you’re a famous fiction author, you may then decide to self-publish and keep more of the profit.

There are some excellent self-published books. I’ve self-published three books. They’re probably not excellent; but through them I was able to comprehend the process. Here is the single most important factor. There is no talent entrance bar for self-publishing. No one evaluates your writing. No aptitude is necessary. You can literally make your cat a self-published author in a few hours. This fact degrades all self-publishing books in the eyes of readers, agents, publishers, distributors, publicists, reviewers and bookstore owners. Please note that I am not advocating this as a desired condition; only stating it as a fact. It is not good, bad, right or wrong. There is still a stigma attached to self-published books. Thankfully, the stigma is somewhat lower than in prior years. But it remains. Since anyone can become a self-published author, regardless of talent, all such books are stigmatized by those careless, inept, unskilled “authors.”

This lack of industry vetting might mean nothing to a non-fiction author who is already a celebrity or known subject matter expert. But it can mean everything to a novice fiction author. Tread here very carefully. The vast majority of self-published books are not well written. They contain a multitude of errors in spelling, grammar, character development and punctuation. Just sample a few self-published books.

Do not suspect that most readers won’t notice these “little mistakes.” Readers will most definitely notice and they will roast you in reviews because of the mistakes. If you’re not willing to take the time and spend the money to hire a talented and experienced editor, why publish? It will only be embarrassing after it’s been read.

Self-published fiction is almost never reviewed by the most respected, persuasive and compelling review organizations in any genre. I am a long-time reviewer for The New York Journal of Books. Believe me, the best review organizations will reject it. As none of the best reviewers will take on a self-published book (so far), the author is left promoting reviews from readers, family members, neighbors or workplace buddies. Such reviews might appear nice on the surface, but they are unconvincing to the public. You would not buy a car if it was rejected by every major automotive review organization. Why would you not feel the same way about a book?

Self-published fiction books rarely appear on the shelves of bookstores, where more than half of all books are still sold. I’m not arguing for or against this – only stating a fact. Yet, that’s an enormous market to just give up because you want to self-publish rather than go through the trouble to create a winning author platform and attract publishers.

Unlike the trade-published author, who typically receives an advance and pays nothing to be published, the self-published author typically invests several thousand dollars on editing, graphic design, printing, ISBN, distribution, publicist, video trailer designer, marketing, promotion and sales. In most cases, the self-published fiction author will not recoup those expenses, let alone earn a profit. Please understand… I’m not telling you not to self-publish. I’m telling you why your chances for self-published fiction success might be poor and why you most likely will never recoup those expenses.

 

Although all authors must market, the SP author is completely on her or his own. She must hire her own editor, graphic designer and publicist. Without prior experience, hiring this kind of talent successfully can be hit and miss at best. The author must then hire a talented and experienced video producer to create a quality video book trailer and then it must be distributed in literally dozens of the right places.

 

Publishers, especially major publishers, promote your books at key international book fairs, conferences and conventions, something that would cost the self-published author thousands of dollars each year. Yet these are the best places to reach film producers and studio executives, screenplay authors, directors, as well as opportunities for translation and foreign rights sales. So add the cost of trips to London, Paris, Jerusalem, Berlin, etc., to your book budget.

And while the self-published author is devoting at least 20-30 hours per week to distribution, promotion, marketing, sales, stocking, etc., the trade-published author has more time to write new books because their publisher handles some of this heavy lifting. Don’t take this too far. All authors must promote and market their books. It’s just somewhat easier and less time-consuming when you have a publisher helping out.

A novice fiction author requires a powerful author platform to attract an agent. Major publishing houses only accept proposals from trusted literary agents; and well-connected agents almost never take chances on their reputation.

When an agent decides to read your query, he or she will also Google your name. When that occurs, you’ll want the agent to read many pages of powerful author platform, including dozens of positive articles and references about your books and your author reputation. Platform also includes influential writing awards, especially with regional or national media recognition. Agents and publishers want to see a gradual increase in sales of prior trade-published books. National or international news articles about you and your books in newspapers, magazines and journals are prominent platform building blocks. Major radio, TV and Internet interviews with powerful agents are useful. Blogging successfully and guest blog appearances with the best and most well-liked blogs help.

All of this takes a lot of time – years – to accomplish. To a novice fiction author, platform means everything. The big advances and publicity are earned one trade-published book at a time.Of course, being trade-published for fiction is not a decision. You need talent, a marketable book, a high quality publishing proposal (see other articles on this site for information about how to fabricate a winning book publishing proposal) and the determination to contact dozens or even hundreds of small independent publishers. During this time, building your author platform is the single most important focus of your task. It’s more important than royalties or sales. Platform means everything to a fiction author, because generates success later. And it can attract one huge piece of the puzzle – a well-connected literary agent. More about that, plus book marketing ideas elsewhere here: http://cweinblatt.wordpress.com.

5 Things Writers Should Ask Potential Agents by Brian Klems


An agent has offered me representation, but I don’t know how to tell if she’s right for me. What are the most important questions a writer should ask an agent before signing? —Anonymous

There are hundreds of questions you could ask an agent, from the sensible “What attracted you to my book?” to the slightly less sensible “When will you net me my first million?” The key is to choose the ones that will get you the most important information you need to make an informed decision.

Here’s a list of the five most crucial questions you should ask any agent before agreeing to join her client list.

1. Why do you want to represent me and my work?

The agent should be able to answer this easily. Agents generally take on projects that they not only think will sell well, but that they personally admire. This question gives the agent an opportunity to express her interest to you.

[Want to land an agent? Here are 4 things to consider when researching literary agents.]

2. How did you become an agent/get your start in publishing?

You want an agent who has a history in publishing, whether as a junior associate at a well-known agency or perhaps as an editor with a small imprint. You need to be assured that the agent knows the business and has the contacts necessary to give your book its best shot. You might also want to ask if the agent could refer you to one of her clients in your genre as well; getting the perspective of a writer who is in the role you’re about to step into can be invaluable.

3. What editors do you have in mind for my book? Have you sold to them before? Will you continue to market to other editors if you can’t make a deal with your first choices?

This is more of a three-part question, but it’s the overall answer that you want. By asking these questions, you’re checking to see if this agent has connections, and you’re also clarifying her overall game plan. This is key. You want to make sure your expectations are aligned.

[Understanding Book Contracts: Learn what’s negotiable and what’s not.]

4. What books have you sold recently?

This indicates whether the agent has a track record of selling books in your category or genre.

5. Why should I sign with you?

You’re about to enter into a partnership that neither party should take lightly. This is an opportunity for the agent to pitch you, just as you’ve pitched her, and convince you that she’s the right person to represent your work.

You’ll have additional questions more specific to your work, so don’t hesitate to ask them. They’ll simply show the agent that you’re savvy about your book’s target market. Agents are used to these inquiries, so they are unlikely to be surprised by any questions you may have. And if an agent refuses to answer anything on the list above, that should be a red flag that something is amiss.

 

 

Agent Queries and Publisher Proposals – Why You Should Use Links, Not Attachments


By Charles S. Weinblatt

Copyright © 2014

Abstract: Agents and publishers do not accept unsolicited letters, proposals or manuscripts from a novice author. Nor will they open an e-mail attachment from an author unknown to them. A well-connected literary agent is your access to major publishers and major publishers can shower you with a hefty advance and place the efforts of the best editors, graphic artists, printers, marketers and publicists at your doorstep, to make your book a market success. So, how do we, as unknown (or little known) authors, get agents and publishers to deliver contract offers?

This series of articles will help new or unknown authors understand how to create desired proposals and what literary agents and publishers will accept or reject. It offers a structural framework for distributing vast amounts of positive author information (platform) in a safe and protected manner that agents and publishers will feel good about opening without a malevolent result. Using a variety of embedded live Internet links, your author’s platform will be instantly available and with significant depth of data. This includes opportunities to sample different kinds of writing, writing awards, major newspaper, magazine and journal articles, TV, radio and broadcast news about you and reviews for your books from the most compelling and persuasive review organizations. This method will deliver the greatest amount of positive platform data in the most benign and viable manner.

Would you open an e-mail attachment from someone you’ve never heard of, who lacks any connection with you personally or by way of business? When someone you’ve never known sends you a poorly-worded e-mail informing you of their desire to share $20 million that their poor dead father left in some obscure bank account in Ghana just for you, do you give them your personal information? If a stranger via e-mail offers a free roof on your house if you will only open the attachment, do you open it? Well guess what? Neither will agents or publishers open your attachment. They don’t know you and now that you’ve contacted them in this manner, they never want to know you.

First, read the submission rules on each and every agent and publisher web site. Some agencies and publishers are closed to submissions or proposals. Sometimes this is only temporary, or for one or two genres. Those that will accept a proposal typically have solid rules for submission. Sometimes they even embed a strange or unusual rule, just to make sure that applicants are obeying. They own the game. Disobey their submission rules at your own risk. But remember, unless you’re a very well-known celebrity, you need them much more than they need you.

Never send a literary agent or a publisher an e-mail proposal in which the most important information has been added as an ATTACHMENT. This might sound like something everyone should already know, but then you might be surprised with the number of neophyte authors who don’t comprehend or who or won’t obey the rules. A number of small publishers and literary agents have regaled me with stories about how rookie authors ignore both submission rules and common sense.

In the past, we wrote manuscripts upon metal typewriters or by hand, paid to have it professionally edited and then we mailed the entire manuscript on paper to a literary agent or a SMALL independent publisher. Major publishers rarely opened or responded to unsolicited proposals then, let alone now.

Today, agents and publishers do NOT want to read your manuscript. Nor do they want your snail mail. If they desire you to hear from you at all, it must be in an e-mail with a brief description of who you are, why you have contacted them and why they should have any interest in your writing. All platform data should be in links, not attachments. If your platform measures up and if the topic is of any remote interest, then they will want to know more about your talent. And they will not open an attachment, period. If you send one anyway, your wonderfully-crafted e-mail and its attachment will be unceremoniously dumped into the e-trash pile.

Nor does an agent or publisher want to read a ten page electronic document that explains in great detail who you are and why you are making this contact. They desire your platform, but only in an electronic format that allows then to pick and choose which aspects to access in detail, with no attachment to open. Think about how Wikipedia encodes a vast amount of information about a person through a combination of headings, narrative and links. This is what you need to accomplish, but in an even more concise manner, via your e-mail message and embedded links. Your goal in submission should be three or four paragraphs, filled with LINKS and NO attachments.

That’s a lot about what not to do when contacting an agent or a publisher. So, how does a novice author win this contest?

First, and most obviously, you must have talent. No dashing protagonist or wondrous topic can make up for a lack of writing talent. Second, you must have a marketable book. James Michener could not have sold a book about how to drink a glass of water, regardless of how eloquent the prose or how deep the characters. Finally, you must be willing to spend a great deal of time marketing, show that you understand how to effectively promote books and demonstrate that you have already done so with other published books. All of this is part of your author platform. You can and must be able to prove that you have done this with other books. If you simply haven’t had the time to write a number of books and have then trade-published, then consider that your best years are ahead. You won’t be making the same mistakes as others. But there is no substitute for the time it takes to write, read, write some more and gradually use the learned aspects for future platform enhancement. The more you read, the more you’ll incorporate the best aspects of those author’s talents into your new books. I’m sorry if this does not coincide with our society’s value for instant success. The best authors spend decades reading the best authors and incorporating their winning attributes into their own books. If you are unwilling or unable to devote years toward learning how to be a great writer, then SP or vanity publish and best of luck to you.

For the rest of us, the answer lies in creating a relatively short (three to four paragraph) e-mail narrative that contains all of your platform and writing qualifications opened with LINKS, not attachments. While almost no one will open an attachment from a stranger, most of us will open a link. Why? They’re safer. Your computer might be wide open to attack if you expose a dangerous attachment; but chances are your browser will detect a threatening link and stop it before it opens. Add to that the protection derived from your firewall and anti-virus programs. Attachments are DANGEROUS, while links are much more benign. This article is about how to pass along positive aspects and details of your author platform via links that are live and safe, rather than via potentially-dangerous attachments.

Since your only real shot at an agent or publisher lies in placing all of your critical platform information in links, you will obviously need to put the data on commonly-used formats, such as You Tube, Facebook, Goodreads, book landing pages, major Internet interview sites, publisher sites and retailers, like Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords. I love using two major free frameworks. One is BlogSpot. The other is WordPress. Both platforms are easy to use and are globally recognized. An important criteria in this decision is how well you can understand and use analytics. Analytics provide the reason for the season. They show us who is paying attention, where they discovered us and how much of our message is received.

Contacting an agent or a publisher is not simple or free of risk. As your author platform constitutes everything positive about you as an author, the way you deliver that platform is absolutely critical. In essence, you have a few sentences to sell yourself. The paragraph below elicits how I might contact an agent or a publisher.

I was born in Toledo, Ohio in 1952. I am a retired university administrator. I’m also the author of published fiction and non-fiction. My biography appears in Wikipedia,the Marquis Who’s Who in America, and I am a long-time reviewer for The New York Journal of Books. I write novels, short stories and articles. I’ve received many positive reviews for my recently published novel Jacob’s Courage, including by Jewish Book World and The Association of Jewish Libraries, which you can review here.  Additional information is available on LinkedIn, Goodreads and a Facebook fan page for my novel.

This one paragraph opens almost every aspect of my author platform. The Wikipedia page alone reveals most of my recent writing achievements. But it goes one important step further. It reveals my ability and my desire to heavily market and promote my books. Today, virtually all authors must market – self-published, subsidy-published and trade-published. If agents and authors do not see proof that you are willing and able to market, they are going to be less interested in you. But if they see you working very hard to market, they will give your book and talent a closer look.

When I decided to find a publisher for my debut novel, I understood nothing of how unknown authors are published or how to acquire a literary agent. As the years passed, I read a great deal more about the process. More recently, I’ve interviewed dozens of writers, agents and publishers. I gradually made fewer mistakes. While I remain a relatively unknown author, I have a decent author platform, my recent books have been trade-published, I have a well-connected literary agent and a major university will be publishing me for fiction later this year. That’s not a career in writing; nor do I desire one. But I’m happy to share what has worked and what industry leaders accept as the bare necessity of acquiring an agent or publisher.

Technology marches on and the publishing industry continues to adapt. This serves the interest of both sides. Authors can waste far less time on proposal and query generation. Agents and publishers can access multiple layers of information about an unknown or poorly-known writer electronically. The deeper they want to delve, the more links they decide to open.

NEXT: What to put into your literary agent query and your small publisher proposal.

 

Book Marketing 101


Book Marketing 101. Everything you need to know about author marketing!

Book Marketing 101


Learn how to promote your book with public speaking, media appearances, bookstore signings and interviews. Use compelling and persuasive reviews to generate sales. Cerate published articles that will deliver readers to your landing page. Generate interest and manage your fan base with blogs, social networking and e-mail marketing.

Use newspaper and magazine articles to generate interest, along with e-mail and fax blasts. Take advantage of important
book fairs, conferences and conventions. Generate a Facebook fan page and use targeted Facebook ads. Connect with readers via LinkedIn and discuss your book in the many varied LinkedIn groups and discussion threads.

Learn how to create a winning web site landing page, with successful tags and key words. Select a web site landing page that offers excellent analytics. Connect it to the world with links to global retailers and instant connection to your video
trailer.

Create an impressive synopsis web site that will generate interest. Use click-through technology for Internet retailers and brick & mortar bookstores.

This book has everything you’ll need to generate interest with effective marketing techniques. Create and manage your fan base and deliver continual sales increases. Promote your author platform with viral marketing.

Click on your choice of retailer: Book Marketing 101 is available for $1.99 at Amazon and at Smashwords.

What I Learned about Book Publishing and Marketing


In 2004, I was forced into retirement due to disability. At age 51, I had to step away from a rewarding university career. Being of somewhat sound mind and having the ability to type on a laptop, I decided to start writing again.  I had been published in 1986 for a non-fiction book called Job Seeking Skills for Students.  And, I have no other talent.  My math skills are deplorable and I’m dangerous with tools.  Therefore, in my barely-sane mind, this created the possibility of being published again. But, could I be published for fiction, which was my desire?

After three years of prodigious research and effort, I produced an epic work of historical fiction, called Jacob’s Courage: A Holocaust Love Story (2007, Mazo Publishers).  During this time, I discovered that almost two entire generations of my maternal extended family had perished in the Holocaust.  Of seven siblings, only my grandfather survived.  His brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews disappeared under Nazi rule.  This intensified my efforts and I decided to produce the book in their memory. 

The next stage of my life was devoted to learning everything that I could about publishers, book publishing proposals; locating and contacting publishers and then marketing my book.  I also discovered that I required something called an “author platform” and a “video book trailer.”  This was news to me and an eye-opening experience.  I thought that I could address only a few of the publisher’s submission guidelines and swiftly obtain a contract.  I thought that I could throw together a bio and some sections of my book and then publishers would rush to accept it.  Boy was I wrong! 

What follows is a brief description of the finished product, followed by step-by-step instructions for being published.  I follow no publishing guru. I adhere to no system.  If I can impress any single feature upon you, it is the need to give the publisher exactly what they demand in a proposal (or give an agent everything that they demand in a query letter) and then to be very patient and committed.  I had to contact dozens of publishers in order to generate four solid contract offers.  The last offer turned out to be the best one.  Had I selected an earlier contract offer, I would have missed out on the best match for my novel. 

There are some very good reasons to self-publish, especially for non-fiction.  But, if you want a traditional publisher, never accept your first offer; wait for the best offer.  And, feel free to negotiate terms of the contract.  You have every right to make it meet your needs, as well as the publisher’s needs.  

Before we continue, here is some information about my novel:

Jacob’s Courage is a tender coming of age love story of two young adults living in Salzburg at the time when the Nazi war machine enters Austria. This historical novel presents scenes and situations of Jews in ghettos and concentration camps, with particular attention to Theresienstadt and Auschwitz. It explores the dazzling beauty of passionate love, powerful faith and enduring bravery in a lurid world where the innocent are brutally murdered. From desperate despair, to unforgettable moments of chaste beauty, Jacob’s Courage examines a constellation of emotions during a time of incomprehensible brutality.

Video Trailer for Jacob’s Courage:

 

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