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.

 

Fraud Artists: Scamming Authors


We read every day about one company or another scamming novice authors, stealing their hard-earned money for a vague promise and delivering nothing in return except misery. Often the new author who pays the most to an alleged “publisher’ can least afford to lose that money. Yet, every day, hundreds, if not thousands of novice authors fall for these wolves in publisher clothing, leading to anger, resentment and depression.

Almost everyone has heard of the publisher Penguin. They are a traditional publisher with a lengthy track record of success. Fewer authors understand that Penguin has a self-publishing business, called “Author Solutions.” Chances are, however, that someone reading this right now has been a victim of illegal business practices with Author Solutions.

You see, Author Solutions has “dozens of self-publishing brands including iUniverse, AuthorHouse, Xlibris, Trafford and Palibrio as well as media companies FuseFrame, PitchFest, Author Learning Center and BookTango. Author Solutions also operates Archway, a self-publishing imprint that is actually owned by Simon & Schuster. Furthermore, Penguin’s Indian self-publishing brand, Partridge, is another imprint run by Author Solutions.”

Three authors, in cooperation with Publishers Weekly, have started a class action suit worth over $5 million against Author Solutions alleging that Author Solutions misrepresents itself, luring authors in with claims that its books can compete with “traditional publishers,” offering “greater speed, higher royalties, and more control for its authors.” The company then profits from “fraudulent” practices, the complaint alleges, including “delaying publication, publishing manuscripts with errors to generate fees, and selling worthless services, or services that fail to accomplish what they promise.” The suit also alleges that Author Solutions fails to pay its authors the royalties they are due. Their attorneys are asking other writers who have “self-published with Author Solutions or any of its brands and have been the victim of deceptive practices” to come forward.

If this is not enough to give authors pause for thought before plunking down hundreds, or more likely thousands, of dollars, I don’t know what is. While a sucker is born every day, it’s hard to comprehend how someone who has never before won a writing award, who has never before been published for anything, could somehow come to believe that a “publisher” will suddenly bend over backwards to put their name on a book in print. But these sweet-talking fraudulent publishers do it successfully every day. Caveat Emptor! Such bad business practices presume that by flattering an unknown never-before-published author, a signed contract and check will soon be in the mail. And the are right!

By the tens of thousands, new authors are falling over each other to pay on average at least $1,000 to a publisher they have never before heard of, with the expectation that they will soon become the next Tom Clancy or Stephen King. Of course, they do not and they could have used their $1,000 for so many genuine projects and with real, not fraudulent companies.

With so many imprints, Author Solutions has tricked authors into thinking they have dozens of choices. In reality, however, the parent company is just slapping up half a dozen different logos, renaming packages, and selling the same grossly overpriced services to all of their customers no matter which brand ends up on the cover. They are accused of launching supposedly unbiased, purely informational comparison websites to help customers pick the self-publishing company that’s right for them, except all clicks lead back to Author Solutions brands. How many ways can you spell “despicable?”

As more and more of Author Solutions victims discover the class-action suit, there is little doubt that the litigation will rise dramatically in size and scope. Author Solutions claims to have worked with 170,000 authors. It won’t be long before scammed authors take their place in a long winding litigation queue of anger and resentment.

It is uncertain whether or if Penguin’s name as a publisher will be permanently tarnished by the devastation wrought by its subsidiary, Author Solutions. And it seems impossible that Penguin leadership was not aware of this fraud when they purchased Author Solutions. Had they nipped this fraud in the bud immediately, fewer authors would have had their money stolen in the name of “publishing” and that they could have much more easily contained the damage and the size of a likely award to the plaintiffs.

These scammers believe that they can easily get away with suckering people into believing that they can be a “real author.” And, sadly, they can most of the time. Here’s hoping that the Penguin/Author Solutions litigation will garner headlines for many years. Because otherwise how can we put an end to scam artists in the publishing industry? It’s now easy to understand why big business hates government regulation. Regulation and laws are the only way to prevent the wolf from eating the sheep with no fear of monetary loss and bad press. So, if you have been “published” by any of the Author House companies (see paragraph two), please contact the authors’ lawyers, Giskan, Solotaroff, Anderson & Stewart here. And if you are thinking about being published by any of these “self-publishing companies,” please be careful with your investment.

Based upon an article on Forbes Magazine, “Penguin And Author Solutions Sued For Deceptive Practices,” 5/7/13. http://www.forbes.com/sites/suwcharmananderson/2013/05/07/penguin-author-solutions-sued-for-deceptive-practices/.

Proposal Power: What Publishers Desire in a Proposal


As resume writing is a path to a successful career, the publishing proposal is a gateway for being published, especially for fiction. Unfortunately, very few neophyte authors are experienced in publishing proposal writing. Novice authors are rarely considered by publishers. Why should a publisher spend several thousand dollars on an unknown, unproven author? Since very few rookie authors have a literary agent, it’s up to the author to design a proposal that not only meets their expectations, but sweeps editors off their feet. Non-fiction authors who are known subject matter experts should still design a proposal. But it is vastly more critical for unfamiliar fiction authors.

Before we go any farther, if you think that this article will enable your book to be published by HarperCollins, Penguin, Random House or any other major publisher – STOP READING. Only trusted, well-connected literary agents deliver author proposals into the hands of major publishers. If you don’t have such a literary agent, or a close friend or relative in the industry, you will NOT have a proposal read by a major publisher – PERIOD.

Many small independent publishers around the world specialize in one or two genres. However, you can have a proposal read by one of the many thousands of small independent publishers around the world; and that’s a good way to start an author platform and propel your nascent writing career.

Publishing proposal writing is a science and an art form. Your proposal must not only explain very succinctly the synopsis of your book, but also how it compares to similar successful books in the same genre. It must contain, at a minimum, one section each on: the author, a concise synopsis, a market analysis, a competitive analysis, promotional and marketing concepts, a chapter outline; and sample chapters. This cannot be thrown together and submitted carte blanche to any and every publisher. It should be re-worked and customized for each publisher. You must explain why you and your manuscript are a good fit with each publisher, based upon the publisher’s past experience, areas of success, author and genre predilections. You accomplish this by analyzing each small publisher and demonstrating why your manuscript will make sense given the publisher’s preferences.

The author is the easiest section to complete. Expand upon all of your accomplishments as a writer or as an author of fiction. This can go back as far as your high school newspaper. Include all writing competition awards, published articles, prior published books, media outlets that have accepted your work, positive reviews from persuasive review organizations, etc. Include all major media interviews via radio, television, cable, Internet and local newspapers, journals and magazines. This section tells the publisher that you have had successful writing responsibilities and that you have been rewarded and recognized for your talent. It explains what makes your writing and literary experience relevant to this topic and to the specific publisher.

The synopsis sounds easier than it is. In about 500 words or less, you must describe your target audience, why your book is exceptional and why it is a worthy expenditure for the publisher. Concisely describe the most compelling and persuasive aspects of your book. Lead with a powerful description. You must grab the editor’s attention immediately. Here is one example that led to a publishing contract for one of my novels about young Jewish lovers during the Holocaust:

“How would you feel if, at age seventeen, the government removed you from school, evicted you from your home, looted your bank account and took all of your family’s possessions, prevented your parents from working and then deported you and your loved ones to a prison camp run by brutal taskmasters? How would you feel if you suddenly lost contact with everyone that you know and love? How would you feel if you were sent to the most frightening place in history and then forced to perform unspeakable acts of horror in order to remain alive?”

If that doesn’t grab your heart, maybe you don’t have a pulse. It makes everything that follows easier from the publisher’s perspective. No, the paragraph above does not constitute the synopsis. It says nothing about the protagonists, the story line, scenery, character development, dialog or the ending. But, it’s a start that may be sufficiently emotional to grab the editor’s attention. Avoid creating a long-winded, detailed synopsis, which is a very common mistake. Your synopsis should be about one page. Keep editing it until it describes everything relevant in your manuscript within a page. You do not need to explain the ending. But you definitely must hook the publisher’s editor.

The market analysis is relevant and essential. It tells the publisher that you comprehend the market for such books and how your manuscript is consistent with market needs. In describing the potential for your book, you must compellingly submit how expansive that market is today and where your book fits into it. Describe which authors are doing well with which similar books within this genre and why. This is where you’ll explain who will purchase and read your book, how many readers enjoy such books, where they are and why they will pay for it. You’ll need to perform enough research to cite specific examples and statistics to back up your claims.

The competitive analysis is perhaps the most critical portion of the publishing proposal. Here you contrast and compare your book with at least three similar books that have achieved prodigious public success. Select these three similar books carefully. They certainly do not need to be contemporary. Feel free to select a book from the Eighteenth Century, if it is relevant. Explain why people by the millions purchased that book, which is very similar to yours. Then explain why your book adds to the success of that genre.

It is not appropriate to suggest that your book is the same or better than the best-selling books in your sample group. Nor is it a place to suggest that your writing is better than that of Edgar Allen Poe (it is not). It’s a place to analyze why those similar books were a best-seller and how your book has the same potential. Heavy use of statistics is appropriate here. When you compare your book with a famous best-seller in the same genre, use research to produce valid positive statistics. For example, what is the best-selling book’s current Amazon sales ranking? How many editions were created? Was it popular globally? How many copies have been sold? How many positive reviews from famous review organizations did it receive? What did some of them say? How many awards did it receive? Was it made into a screenplay? If so, how much did the film gross? What awards did it garner? You’ll need to do this at least three times with the most successful books in your genre.

At the same time, discuss how your book treats similar situations differently and why. NEVER try to convince a publisher that your book is “exactly like…” the famous book. It isn’t and you will be perceived as insincere or not to be trusted. As you compare and contrast your book with the big-time, well-known successful books, cite similarities and differences in plot, location, dialog, protagonists, narrative, descriptive scenery, etc. Your book can belong to the same genre, but it should always be sufficiently different and for good reasons. Compare your book to the best-selling books in its genre by listing the potential for millions of sales, Amazon sales rankings, number of customer reviews, academic credentials, reviews from the most compelling sources, etc. Facts and figures belong here, as well as why that book sold so many millions of copies and how your book has similar potential. Many editors and publishers view this section as the most critical part of the publishing proposal.

Promotional and marketing concepts is an equally critical section. Here you’ll demonstrate two things: 1) that you are willing to carry forward the bulk of responsibility for marketing and promotion, and 2) that you comprehend the various tasks, requirements, efforts and skills required to make promotion successful.

Today, even large well-known publishers require authors with a platform to take on much of the responsibility for marketing. Unless your name is King or Clancy, it will up to you to market your book. The days of an author delivering a manuscript to a publisher and then doing nothing are long gone. No matter who you are as an author, regardless of your platform success, marketing and promotion are YOUR job now. Show that you understand how to do this. If you are not willing to engage in repeated public speaking, bookstore signings and book tours, if you’re not willing to produce media interviews, if you won’t land newspaper, magazine and journal articles about your book, if you will not create and daily add to a Facebook fan page and a web landing page, if you won’t blog, write on others’ blogs and disseminate an excellent book video trailer, then no publisher, other than a subsidy publisher, will have an interest in your manuscript.

The chapter outline is extremely important. Here, the publisher anticipates that you will deliver a description of each chapter in several sentences (not paragraphs). The publisher wants to digest the content of each chapter within a few seconds. If your chapter descriptions are several paragraphs each, the proposal will go into the e-junk pile. I have worked very hard to reduce my chapter outlines and my agent continues to demand even more brevity. This is an exercise in being extremely concise.

The publisher will want to read a few sample chapters. This is often the first three chapters, because that’s where character development is born. But it need not be. If you believe that three later chapters will better sell the book, use them. However, be advised that if you use later chapters, and the publisher has no way to relate to your protagonist, the quality of your manuscript will be lost. If you decide that the first three chapters are too boring to use, consider that those first three chapters may need rewriting to incorporate more anticipation, expectation, character development and conflict.

Finally, when all is written, edited and re-written, create a table of contents and use page numbers to identify each section’s location. All publishers expect this.

You’ll never attract a publisher by suggesting that you’re a talented author. If you are a novice and have yet to win writing awards or obtain positive reviews from compelling review organizations, don’t worry. We all start in the same place. Instead, show that you understand the publishing industry and your marketing and promotion responsibilities. Explain how you are creating an author platform that will be increasingly valuable to that particular small publisher. If the publisher has some interest in your book, they will be more willing to finance its publication. And if the publisher believes that more of those high quality books in the same genre are on the way, they will be more likely to donate several thousand dollars to print your first book.

Charles S. Weinblatt is the author of published fiction and non-fiction, including the popular Holocaust novel, Jacob’s Courage. His recent published books can be observed at http://charlesweinblatt.wix.com/charles-s-weinblatt.

Book Marketing 101


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

The Best Way to Publish Fiction


I have been trade-published and self-published several times. I now have a talented literary agent. Although I have self-published three books, I feel more comfortable publishing fiction with a traditional publisher, especially a large, distinguished publisher. I realize that this is not an author decision. Publishers require talent and a marketable book. If you have both, it can still take months or even years to obtain the best publishing offer. You need to know how to construct a winning publishing proposal and agent query; and you might need to submit well over a hundred proposals to obtain the best publishing contract. It’s true that the top level of publishers will only accept a proposal from a trusted agent. HarperCollins, Random House, Penguin, Simon & Shuster, etc. will not open your submission unless it comes from a well-connected literary agent. The good news is that there are now literally thousands of small, independent publishers. Many of them have learned how to be successful within one or two genres. They might be small, but they often have a talented and motivated staff. Plus they can be well-situated to garner reviews from the most compelling and persuasive sources – just like their full-size publishing kin.

A TP author does not need to worry about hiring the best editor, graphic designer, printer and promotion/marketing specialist. The publisher will do it for you, while they proffer a nice advance. Your publisher will also obtain powerful and compelling reviews from the best organizations in your genre, because they already have deep connections with those reviewers. It’s not likely that a novice author could obtain reviews of that caliber. Nor does the TP author need to worry about distribution, sales, stocking and restocking bookstores. We can devoted that time to producing new books.

I have never felt compelled by my publishers to accept editorial changes. I think that’s a myth – an urban legend. In each case, my publisher’s editing changes made perfect sense and enhanced marketing potential. But the decision to accept those changes has always been mine. My publishers have never told me what to write; nor does my agent.

That being said, there will always be a time and place to self-publish, especially when testing a new market, when you write non-fiction as a subject matter expert and when you have a large fan base to shift to your SP books. However, you can count best-selling self-published fiction authors on your fingers and toes. As of 2-3 years ago, the average SP author spent about $2K and sold a few dozen copies (could never recover expenses with sales), while the average TP author spent nothing and sold several hundred copies. Self-published books are almost never reviewed by the most compelling and persuasive review organizations. Maybe it’s not fair, but as a reviewer for two major review organizations, I know this is true. Nor do SP books appear on many retail store shelves. That is a huge sales market to give up, just to SP your book. Many retail and on-line stores are making money hand over fist with print books, including Walmart, Target, Amazon and B&N.

With an even distribution of my TP and SP books, I have a foot in each market. I’ve discovered that at least for fiction, I’m much happier with a major publisher or a small, independent publisher. I’m happy to let their team of professionals handle all aspects of editing, graphic design, printing, distribution, marketing, sales and stocking retailers and buyers. This gives me more time to write which is, of course, the fun part. For that, my publisher can reap most of the profits and my agent can acquire her 15%. Doing their job in a professional manner allows me to write, rather than publish, distribute and market.

Finally, if you’re serious about earning a living as an author, you’ll need an accomplished and impressive author profile. That means you’ll need to produce several books that have either been trade-published or SP with high sales volume. You will need to write published articles and appear on the best Internet interview sites and blogs. You will need newspaper and magazine articles supportive of your books. And when a publisher decides to Google your name, several pages of professional writing accomplishments must appear. Being trade-published is likely the best anchor for your platform, especially for fiction. 

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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Book Marketing 101


Book Marketing 101

© 2009, Charles S. Weinblatt

Congratulations!  You have found a publisher well suited to your book.  The contract has been signed.  You are a published author!  What’s next?  What will your publisher do?  What should you do to enhance the publisher’s efforts?

Authors covet traditional (trade) publishers because those publishers are experts in taking a book from manuscript to retail stores with perfection.  No matter how many articles you might have read about the enticement of self-publishing or “vanity” publishers, trade publishers know what must be done, how to accomplish the tasks and they can do it in a timely manner.  They have the artists, printers, distribution channels and retail connections that you require.  That’s why you should be willing to share some of the profit with trade publishers.

Without a publisher, you would need to be an expert at cover art, graphic design, editing, printing, acquiring distribution channels, web site design, marketing to retail booksellers and all facets of sales.  Or, you would need to pay someone to accomplish these tasks.  Very few excellent writers are also experts in all of those areas.  And, even if you were an expert in all of those fields, would you have the time to accomplish all of those tasks, as well as restock retail stores?  In today’s highly competitive and rapidly changing retail book market, even trade publishers cannot do everything.  So, unless your last name is King or Clancy, you will need to chip in with some time and effort to make your book a smashing retail success.

What can you expect from your publisher?

A trade publisher will edit your book, create cover art, print the books, contract with distributors and then place your book on the Internet sites of Amazon, Borders, Barnes & Noble, Target and other major global retailers.  Your publisher will market your book globally and arrange for distribution in all relevant countries.  The publisher will then process the books to sales outlets and restock them on a regular basis.  Your publisher may also promote your book at book fairs, through catalogs, through an e-mail or fax blast, generate media publicity, arrange book tours, create a web site, solicit reviews and arrange book signings.  And, despite all of this effort on the part of your publisher, you’ll receive royalties, which a pretty nice feeling.

However, in today’s ever-changing book sales market, a great deal of additional work remains to be done by the author.  Much of this requires electronic marketing and social networking.  Because of the changing nature of the publishing world and the revolution in electronic book purchasing, someone needs to market your book throughout the Internet world.  Because this work is extremely labor-intensive and detail-oriented, few publishers have the time or resources to make it happen.  This is where the author must step in, with the motivation to work hard on behalf of his or her book.  The bad news is that there is a lot of work for the author to do.  The good news is that almost no expertise or money is required to accomplish these vital tasks.

 

Viral marketing:

The Internet has turned the publishing world upside down.  Even mammoth publishing houses are today petrified with this abrupt change.  People can purchase on the Internet, or through a telephone or e-reader, bypassing brick and mortar stores.  People today make purchasing decisions based upon what they can see and read on the Internet.  For example, Amazon not only allows you to describe your book, display its cover and details; it also has a feature called “Search Inside” that allows prospective buyers to sample many pages of your book before buying.  Bookstores and publishers are frightened and losing profit margin.  But here is where you can step in and help your publisher.

What should you do to help your publisher?  You can contact your local newspapers, magazines and on-line blogs in order to solicit interviews and articles about your book.  You can contact local bookstores and arrange for book signings.  You can sell books on your own through local organizations.  You can try to obtain reviews and interviews about your book everywhere in town.  One of the fastest ways to solicit business for your book is through the media.  Since you require positive reviews to sell your book, newspapers, magazines and book clubs are a great place to start.  When you encounter serious interest, send them a review copy.  If your publisher runs out of review copies, send them an e-book preview copy, or ask them to purchase the Kindle version.

But, the world is a lot bigger than your neighborhood.  If you want a great many people to read your book, you will need to create a global electronic marketing campaign.  Fortunately, almost all of this can be accomplished with your computer.  Better yet, except for the video trailer, it won’t cost you a dime.

First, create a viral marketing campaign.  Viral marketing means many things, including web pages, blogs, social networking, video marketing and all other electronic means of selling your book.  It sounds difficult.  In reality, it is simple and free.  However, it can be time-consuming.  Use effective search terms to find places and people related to your book on the Internet.  For example, my book is about the Holocaust.  I found hundreds of Holocaust museums through Internet searches, each of which could purchase my book.  I also discovered Jewish community centers, Jewish schools, public and private schools, universities and colleges, historical societies and organizations dedicated to genocide prevention.  I exposed literally thousands of people, places and organizations that might find my book appropriate to their needs and purpose.

Once you uncover these people, places and organizations, all that remains is to contact them with a sales pitch for your book.  E-mail marketing is cheap and fast.  However, your sales pitch must grab the reader’s interest quickly.  You must construct an e-mail cover page that is informative, has embedded links to your trailer and web sites and locations that will sell your book instantly.  More about e-mail marketing later in this article.

Video Book Trailer:

A key element in viral marketing is the video book trailer.  Just like the trailer for a film, this is a short (1-3 minutes) and sweet video revelation of your book’s enticing content.  Using digital images, film, video, art and words, a good trailer designer will be able to capture the hearts and minds of your audience.  Designers charge anywhere from $500 to $1,500 for a video book trailer.  Once completed you (or the designer) must upload it to as many places as possible, including You Tube, MySpace, Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Metacafe and each and every webv site and blog that you own.  If you’re fortunate, your video book trailer will move from site to site, reader to reader and blog to blog.  This is viral marketing in action. Mine is here http://tiny.cc/ivdgk. Note that I used a small INternet address for my trailer.  Try using sites like “TinyURL” to reduce long or complex addresses into very small and manageable ones.

 Web site marketing:

Most publishers will create a web page for your book.  But never rely on the public finding that one page, or even your publisher’s web site.  Anyone can create a free web page for his or her book.  Just visit Yahoo, Google, Hotmail, WordPress, Blogspot or Goodreads and begin building your site.  There are many other Internet sites where you can build a web site or blog for free.  The instructions are simple and fast.  The more web pages that you create for your book, on your own, the more chances buyers will discover it.  I have dozens of such sites.

For example, I created a free web page that includes many detailed facts about my book (Jacob’s Courage), including review excerpts, historical data and links to my blogs and web sites, as well as my publisher.  To keep readers on the site, I added dozens of interesting and useful links about the Holocaust.  You can see this free web site here http://jacobscourage.wordpress.com/.  I created another free web site that includes a syllabus for my book, packed with features and reasons why people should purchase it.  You can see that web page here http://tiny.cc/yyf7t.  Connect these web pages to each other via links.  This is FREE.  All it takes is some of your time.

The secret to success with Internet web sites is to make them interesting and to use effective key words.  Key words (a.k.a. “tags”) are the way that search engines find web pages.  For example, if you Google “Holocaust love story,” you will find many references to my book.  Google the title (Jacob’s Courage: A Holocaust Love Story) and you’ll find dozens of references.  Google my name (Charles S. Weinblatt) and dozens more references appear.  Select your key words very carefully.  The more accurate and appealing your key words, the better the chance that search engines will uncover your book. This is part of your platform.

Some people recommend that you give away downloadable copies of your book on the Internet, as a marketing tool.  Publishers may disagree, or suggest that the author distribute a preview edition.  However, if you allow someone to download your e-book, or e-mail it to them, there is a chance that they will enjoy it and tell their friends about it.  Since most people do not wish to read a book on their computer, particularly a long book, print sales will increase as a result.    Someone recently asked me if I was disappointed that so many people were reading my book from the local library, rather than paying for it at a bookstore.  I don’t mind at all.  People who enjoy your book will tell friends and family about it.  In the end, giving away books judiciously is an effective sales tool.

There is no limit to the number of web pages that you can create.  The more times you create a new web page, and the more times you update an existing page, the more times people will discover your book.  Continue to perform maintenance on your key words and update your sites with new links.  Before you are done, go to this web page http://www.google.com/addurl/?continue=/addurl.  Here you will be able to submit your web sites to Google’s search tool.  This step is critical, so that your web sites will appear on all future Google searches.

Blogs:

Blogging about your book, or writing on other Blogs about it can be a powerful tool to increase sales.  Anyone can create a Blog for free and use it to promote a book.  I blog on two of my own sites (this one and http://cweinblatt.blogspot.com/).  Blog about anything of interest to you, or any particular expertise you have acquired.  It doesn’t have to be related to your book.  Note that you can easily promote your book on blog pages, through links and sidebar widgets.  Just be sure to sign off each post as, “Author of …” below your name.

Perhaps more importantly, you can comment on other people’s blogs, vastly increasing your book’s visibility.  For example, my book is about the Holocaust.  I use a Google search feature to troll the Internet searching for Holocaust key words.  When I find Internet newspaper or magazine articles about the Holocaust, I visit the site and write something there about my book.  When Google finds other blogs that are Holocaust-related, I comment there about Jacob’s Courage.  Always sign off on blogs with the title of your book under your name.

Similarly, you can comment on articles in magazines and newspapers via their Internet versions.  In most cases, you will need to register.  It’s free and the time you put into registering is a small price to pay for the ability to promote your book in all future iterations of that newspaper or magazine.  Most Internet news media allow reader comments after an article.  When you find an article related to your book, write your comment and then sign your name and, “Author of …” after your name.  Be sure to include the title of your book under your name.  If possible, add a link to your best web site under the name of your book.

Write articles:

Anyone can write articles and have them published on the Internet.  Where is your expertise?  In what way can you provide people with valuable information?  Writing articles is not simple or swift.  You may need to conduct some research.  Take your time and write carefully.  Your topic need not be connected with your book.  For example, my book is about the Holocaust, yet I have had articles published on topics as wide ranging as publishing, psychology, Judaism, life, death and philosophy.

Two of the best places to be published are TRCB (http://www.trcb.com/) and Ezine (http://ezinearticles.com/).  There are many more.  I had excellent success writing an article about Passover here.  My book is about Judaism, but I look for a chance to write articles about it on web sites for all faiths.  Again, sign off with your name and the name of your book underneath.  If they allow it, add the link to your best web site.

Establish a Goodreads account.  Goodreads is a web site for readers and authors.  It is a terrific place to see and be seen.  There is no more natural place to sell your book’s value to potential readers.  Although Goodreads is not a retail site, it offers an opportunity to network with other authors who have similar interests and problems. The same applies to Authors Den, LinkedIn and many more.

Social networking:

Join as many social networking sites as possible.  MySpace, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Ziggs, Yahoo, LinkedIn, Multiply, Squidoo…  They are all valuable ways to make your book known.  Use your Wikipedia page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Weinblatt.)  At each of these social networking sites, you can create a profile, including a description of your book and information about stores where it is sold.  But your work there is not finished.  Join groups within the sites that are related to your book, your writing, or anything related to the topic.  For example, I was able to promote my Holocaust book through Facebook, MySpace and Twitter by joining groups related to religion, Judaism, history, persecution, genocide, etc.  LinkedIn is an excellent place to network with professionals of all types.  At LinkedIn, you can create a profile to describe your book that will be seen by countless readers.  You can also join groups of interest related to your book, book publishing, writing and marketing.  You can reach literally thousands of people within these groups.

Amazon:

Amazon is not only a place to sell your book.  It is a place to post a blog.  Amazon has a new sponsored link called Filedby that includes an author biography page where you can post a blog and relevant articles.  Also within Amazon, each content section has forums in which people start topics or respond to the topics of others.  For example, I have posted messages and responded to messages in Amazon forums as wide ranging as history, historical fiction, war, genocide, love stories, religion, literature, etc.  Again, each time you write, sign off with your name and the title of your book.  Amazon will also allow you to post a direct link to your book there within your post.  You will instantly reach thousands of potential buyers.

Another Amazon feature allows anyone with an Amazon account to create a review for any book sold there.  Think about every book that you have read.  You can locate the book on Amazon and create your own customer review.  Just scroll down the Amazon page for any book until you see a button that says, “Create Your Own Customer Review.”  Follow the instructions to rate and then review the book.  When you are done, be sure to write, “Author of …” after your name.  Every time someone reads your review of that book, the name of your book will appear.  Since the reader is already on Amazon, they can purchase your book by typing its name at the top of the page.  You can review as many books as you wish, each time marketing your own book under your name.

Email marketing:

You can personally contact tens of thousands of critical people and organizations with e-mail.  Never count on your publisher doing this.  They can only dream of having the time and labor to accomplish such a task.  All that you need are e-mail addresses, an effective sales letter and some time.

As an example, my Holocaust book could be sold at any Holocaust museum or Jewish center in the English-speaking world.  I used a Google search to locate the Association of Holocaust Organizations (AHO).  Each member of the AHO throughout the United States is listed, with an e-mail address.  All that was left for me to do was to create an effective e-mail letter and send it to each one electronically.

Since we have already established the danger in using attachments that people fear opening, you must embed links instead.  This is very simple and very fast.  Below is an example of one of my e-mail marketing letters:

“Greetings. I discovered your web site and I thought that your membership might have a natural interest in my book, Jacob’s Courage: A Holocaust Love Story. This novel has engrossed countless readers with compelling characters and vivid descriptions of love, faith and courage, including Jewish resistance.

Jacob’s Courage (2007, Mazo Publishers) is a tender love story of two young adults living in Salzburg at the time when the Nazi war machine enters Austria.  This thrilling novel explores Jewish resistance in a lurid world where the innocent are murdered, including Theresienstadt and Auschwitz.  Portions of the book are based upon pogroms visited upon my 103-year-old mother and her family in Russia.  It is an epic love story that resonates clearly with young adult readers as well as adults. You can read some of the reviews and see the video trailer here: http://jacobscourage.wordpress.com/Jacob’s Courage is available with most book retailers in print and as an e-book, as well as from my publisher, Mazo Publishers.

Jacob’s Courage is currently ranked #6 at Amazon for books tagged “Holocaust” and “popularity, ahead of books like The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Sara’s Key, Maus, Night, The Diary of Anne Frank and The Pianist.  It is also ranked #19 at Amazon for books tagged “Romance” and “popularity.”

The novel was requested by The US Holocaust Museum, Yad Vashem and many other Holocaust centers and museums around the world. Reviews include Jewish Book World and The Association of Jewish Libraries. It has been required reading for high school students. Read more about it on Facebook here http://www.facebook.com/jacobs.courage.

Please let me know if I may be of assistance. I can be reached at csw2@bex.net and 419.882.1065.

Best,

Charles S. Weinblatt

Author, Jacob’s Courage

csw2@bex.net

http://tiny.cc/4sndi

Notice that I have embedded hyperlinks to several critical web sites.  Place your cursor over the word and you will see the Internet address of the link.  Click on it and you will be instantly transported through your browser to the correct Internet page.  While few of us are brave enough to open an attachment from a stranger, we are almost all willing to open a hyperlink.  Within this simple letter (above), the reader can access all of my book’s important web sites, including my publisher’s (Mazo Publishers) web site.  Plus, hyperlinks are vastly superior to typing in lengthy Internet addresses.  Remember to use a Tiny URL to replace long addresses.

Note that my e-mail message is brief and concise – less than one page.  No one will bother to read a lengthy dissertation about your book while the rest of his or her daily incoming mail is waiting to be read.  Just grab their interest quickly, embed the right web sites and provide contact information.  The e-mail is only designed to grab their interest.  The embedded web sites will sell your book.  At least one of your embedded web sites should allow the reader to instantly purchase the book.  In my e-mail message above, the reader can buy the book instantly through the publisher’s site or through Amazon, with only one click required to reach each site.

I created many web sites for my book and I provide a few interesting articles as well.  Only a few days were required to create and modify them appropriately.  It cost nothing.  In fact, some large Internet companies, like Google, will pay you per click if you allow them to advertise on your site.  Instead of paying for web site development, create your own site and make money by selling advertising on it.  Learn more about the “affiliate program” at Google.com.

Embedding Internet hyperlinks into your e-mail cover page is simple.  In many e-mail programs that use Word as an editor, you can right-click on any word and then select “Hyperlink.”  Follow the instructions to embed the hyperlink.  That word will appear in all future e-mail versions of your letter in blue.  When your reader clicks on the blue word (while compressing the “Control” key), your web site will emerge in their browser.  Try it with the sample e-mail paragraph above.

Conclusion:

The world of book marketing and sales is undergoing considerable, rapid change.  People who formerly explored the world of books and purchased them at their local Barnes & Noble increasingly do this now on the Internet.  The Internet is filled with web sites and blogs that can be used to attract the public to one’s book and accomplish the sale with a few more mouse clicks.  The author can solicit reviews, articles and sales by creating several attractive and concise web pages, with effective video book trailers and by implementing an effective e-mail marketing campaign, right from their own computer.  Since publishers are still required to edit, print, distribute and market in traditional ways, and since they have fewer staff due to lower margins, it falls upon the author to accomplish many new tasks related to electronic marketing and sales.

Marketing your book is time consuming and sometimes frustrating.  But do not count on your publisher to accomplish everything, particularly if you are a new author.  Be willing to implement your own marketing with web sites, articles, trailers and e-mail.  The harder your effort, the larger your royalty checks will be.

Charles S. Weinblatt

Author, “Jacob’s Courage: A Holocaust Love Story”

http://jacobscourage.wordpress.com/

Mr. Charles S. Weinblatt