Historical Novel Society, 2018: “This is one of my favorite books this year.”


Jacob’s Courage: A Holocaust Love Story

BY 

In Austria in 1939, young Jacob Silverman and Rachael Goldberg are in love. Jacob plans to go on to college. Then tragedy strikes as Hitler’s army invades Austria. All the Jews are forced to live in a decrepit ghetto. Soon they are sent on to a concentration camp, where Jacob and Rachael secretly marry. They are able to escape, join partisans, and fight the Nazis. They become separated during an attack on a German train, and Jacob is again captured by the Germans. The partisan leader falls in love with Rachael and tries to protect both her and her unborn child until she can be reunited with Jacob.

This is a magnificent, gripping novel of breathtaking courage under extreme circumstances. Subtitled “a Holocaust love story” because of the relationship between Jacob and Rachael, the novel describes the considerable cruelties and inhuman behavior caused by the Nazis and experienced by the Jewish people in Eastern Europe during the war. The author places readers into the thick of it. You will share the pain and grief of this young Jewish couple as they are forced into imprisonment, as their friends and families are killed. The story is immensely readable, although the book is quite long. This is one of my favorite books this year.

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Book Marketing: Sweetening Your Royalty Stream


© 2018, Charles S. Weinblatt

Congratulations!  You have produced your book. You are a published author! What’s next?  What should you do to enhance sales?

In today’s highly competitive and rapidly changing retail book market, even trade-published authors cannot count on someone else to successfully market your book. So, you will need to chip in with some time and effort to make your book a smashing retail success.

What marketing tasks must you accomplish as the author? Why an author platform?

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, employees or enthusiasm to make electronic marketing successful. This is where the author must step in, with the motivation to work hard on behalf of your own 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.

Viral marketing ideas:

What should you do to help reach readers?  Contact local newspapers, magazines and blogs to solicit articles about you and reviews for your book. Reach out to local bookstores and arrange for book signings. In some cases, you can sell books on your own through local organizations. Keep in mind that institutional sales often include repeat sales, year after year, such as with schools, encyclopedias and libraries.

Try to obtain reviews and interviews about your book everywhere in your town. One of the fastest ways to solicit business for your book is through the media. Since positive reviews sell books, contact regional newspapers, libraries, schools, magazines and book clubs. They are a great place to start. When you encounter serious interest, send them a review copy.

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 much more global electronic marketing campaign. Fortunately, almost all of this can be accomplished with your computer.  Better yet, it won’t cost you a dime.

First, create a viral marketing campaign. Viral marketing means any way that social media allows for people to continue to spread the word on their own electronically. The obvious examples include web pages, blogs, social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, video marketing (You Tube) and all other electronic means of spreading the word about your book. It sounds difficult. In reality, it is simple and free.

Use effective KEY WORDS, so that search terms in Google or other search engines will easily help readers find places where your book is sold.  Test your key words often for accuracy. Modify them as necessary.

Identify local people, places and organizations relevant to your book or your potential readers. Contact them in an effort to make them aware of your book. Ask if you can give a presentation to groups, if appropriate.

Contact regional newspapers, journals, magazines, TV and radio stations with a sales pitch for your book, or for your as an author. Personal interest broadcasters are always seeking new ideas and people. The more personal your effort, the easier it is to achieve success. Always try to tie your book or its subject to regional events, history, activities or to local people.

E-mail marketing is inexpensive 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 web sites and the publisher and will sell the value of your book instantly.  More about e-mail marketing later in this article. 

Web site marketing:

Never rely on the public finding your one book landing page, or even your publisher’s web site, if you’re lucky enough to have someone else working for your book’s success.  Anyone can create a free web page for his or her book.  Just visit Yahoo, Google, Hotmail, WordPress, BlogSpot, Goodreads, or Facebook and begin building your site.  There are many other Internet sites where you can build a web site or market for free, not the least of which is LinkedIn.  The instructions are simple and fast.  The more pages that you create for your book, the more chances buyers will discover it.

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 web site here.

I created another 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.  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 useful references to me and to my book.  Select your key words very carefully.  The more accurate, distinct, descriptive and appealing your key words, the better the chance that search engines will uncover your book.

Some people recommend that you give away downloadable copies of your book on the Internet, as a marketing tool.  Publishers may disagree.  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. Someone recently asked 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 a viable 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 you refine and enhance your key words/tags, the more times people will discover your book.  Continue to perform maintenance on your key words and update your sites with continuously with new tags and links.

Before you are done, go to this web page.  Here you will be able to submit your book’s web  sites to Google’s search manager. This step is critical, so that your web sites will appear on as many future Google searches as possible.

Blogs:

Blogging about your book, blogging as a writer or writing on other blogs 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.  You can see them here and here. 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. And use hyperlinks to activate the name of your book and your name.

Using Google to find appropriate marketing opportunities:

Anyone can use Google to search for any key words with a feature called “Google Alerts.” Simply visit this Google page and you’ll be able to program Google to search the web continuously, snagging every article, book, news item and relevant site to your book and its needs. You’ll not only know the latest news about the topic of your book, you’ll also be able to effectively measure the value of your prior marketing efforts for quality.

Importantly, you can also comment on other people’s blogs, vastly increasing your book’s visibility. For example, my book is about the Holocaust. I use the above 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, evaluate it for marketing viability and decide whether it is a useful marketing tool about my book.  When Google finds other blogs and pages that are Holocaust-related, I comment there about Jacob’s Courage.

Similarly, you can comment on articles in magazines and newspapers via their Internet versions. In some cases, you will need to register.  It’s usually free and the time you put into registering is a small price to pay for the ability to promote your book in 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 and the sales URL of your book (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Facebook fan page, etc..  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? What’s your book about? 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, WWII and philosophy.

There are many free places to publish your articles, including TRCB, Ezine and Blogger.

LinkedIn is another terrific place to market your books. I’ve discovered that tens of thousands of readers and authors populate many more tens of thousands of group message boards in LinkedIn. Find one in which you can share some expertise. Then, within your posts there, find some unobtrusive way to share information about your book(s). Even if you simply sign off with your name and the name of your book, you can include a link or an embedded link below your name, or in the name of your book. I track most sales of my published books and I saw a significant increase in sales after I posted in various LinkedIn groups related to writing, publishing or books. There are many more. It’s not why I went there; but a side effect is more royalties.

Publish Articles:

I had excellent success publishing articles about a number of topics. In many cases, no experience as a published author is required. Two of the best places to start are Ezine and TRCB  My book is about Judaism, but I look for a chance to write articles about it that will be distributed on various web sites for all faiths. Again, sign off with your name and the name of your book underneath and copyright each article.  If they allow it, add the reverse-link to your best landing page.

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.

Social networking:

Join as many social networking sites as possible. Twitter, LinkedIn,  Google, Facebook, You Tube, WeChat, Tumblr, Skype, Snap Chat, Google+, Pinterest, Telegram, Reddit, Instagram, Goodreads, …  They are all valuable ways to make your book known.  At each of these social networking sites, you can create a profile, including a description of your book and stores where it is sold. Be sure to create a Facebook fan page for your book, spread the word about  it and update it frequently. Join groups within the sites that are related to your book, writing, being published and anything related to the topic. Join groups of interest and related to your book. You can reach many 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 Author Page”). Amazon’s “filedby” includes an author biography where you can post relevant articles. Also within Amazon, each content section has forums in which people start topics or respond to the topics of others. Amazon forums are 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 (“author of…”). You will instantly have the potential to reach thousands of readers.

Create a review for any relevant book sold there that you have read. (“Create Your Own Customer Review”). 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 a 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 cover 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 am the author of historical fiction framed within the Holocaust called Jacob’s Courage  (2015, Texas Tech University Press).  A retired university administrator; I was also published for nonfiction in 1986, for non-fiction again in 2011 and then twice more for fiction.  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 popular historical novel presents accurate 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 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.

Jacob’s Courage is sold through all major booksellers. Reviews include Jewish Book World and the Association of Jewish Libraries. You can read some of the other reviews more extensively at the Amazon siteJacob’s Courage is also a Kindle Book.  A syllabus is here.

Would you care to write an article about Jacob’s Courage, interview me or review the novel?  May I send you the e-reviewer’s copy?

Feel free to contact me at XXXXXXX.XXX or by telephone at XXX.XXX.XXXX.  Thank you for your kind attention.

Sincerely,

Note that hyperlinks are vastly superior to typing in lengthy Internet addresses.

Your e-mail message should be brief and concise – less than one page.  Embed the right web sites, contact information, reviews, sales links and media successes.  The e-mail is only designed to grab their interest, so be brief. The embedded web sites and relevant links 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 the site.

I created four web sites for my book and I provide a few interesting articles as well.  This  took only a few days to create and modify them to my tastes. 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 and make money by selling advertising on it. Learn more about the affiliate program.

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 the button for “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 bookstore increasingly do this now on the Internet. The Internet is filled with web sites, social networking locations and blogs that can be used to attract the public to one’s book and accomplish the sale with a few mouse clicks.

The author can solicit reviews, articles and sales by creating several attractive and concise web pages and by implementing an effective e-mail marketing campaign, right from their own computer – and it is cost free.

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, a publicist, an agent or anyone else to accomplish critical tasks, particularly if you are a new author. Remember that in fiction, the quality of your author platform means everything. Be willing to implement your own marketing with web sites, blogs, a Facebook fan page, regular Twitter posts and e-mail. The harder your effort, the larger your royalty checks will be.

Charles S. Weinblatt\

Author, “Jacob’s Courage

 

 

7 TIPS FROM A SOCIAL MEDIA STRATEGIST FOR STRENGTHENING YOUR ONLINE PRESENCE


 kate.jpg

Reprinted with permission from The Greatest Escapist.

I’m a proud Clevelander, an incurable writer, an unabashed liberal, a neurotic Jew, & a chronic, unapologetic oversharer. I’ve been sharing my stories here since 2007.”

I love when people think that writing is my full-time job, but alas, it isn’t. I work a 9-to-5 (OK, more like a 10-to-6) at a nonprofit organization, where I’m responsible for writing & editing, yes, but also for lots & lots of social media management. My background is in journalism, but social media was just gaining traction during my college years, & as a communications major, I fell into it naturally. You could say social media & I have grown up together – or at least grown together. We’ve both come a long way!

I’ve done a little bit of social media consulting on the side, but mostly I just like to engage in on-the-fly conversations with friends & small business owners who have one-off questions or just want quick tips for building their social media presence. I know, I know, don’t give away your expertise for free – but I like it.

Here are the seven most common quick tips I like to share with folks who are struggling to get a grasp on their social media presence. Please consider forwarding it to someone you know who’s having a hard time Internetting!

1. Make time. 

Especially if it doesn’t come naturally to you, set aside a little time each day – on your clock or calendar! – to devote to social media scheduling, engagement, etc.

2. Use scheduling tools. 

No one wants to spend all damn day online, social media professionals included (& perhaps especially!) I love Hootsuite, Sprout Social, & Facebook’s native engagement tool for setting it & forgetting it while remaining consistent in posting.

3. Engage with others!

If a tree falls in the forest & no one is there to hear it… same with social media. Retweet, share, praise, ask questions, etc. Your social media voice shouldn’t exist in a vacuum.

4. Vary your content from platform to platform.

Switch it up, rather than cross-posting the same thing over & over on all of them (& for goodness sake, don’t set up auto-crossposting!). These platforms are different for a reason, & different presentations work best for each of them. You’ll see the most engagement & have the most success if your messaging is tailored for the medium.

5. Post different kinds of content. 

Sometimes, post a teaser link, other times a photo or a branded graphic, or a retweet-with-comment, or a direct share, or a video, or a Spotifty playlist, etc. See what works best for your audience & which kinds of posts give you the greatest levels of engagements.

6. Google is your BFF. 

Have a social media question? Someone has definitely already answered it online. Stick with reliable sources, a la Mashable, Hubspot, & other industry professionals.

7. Ask a pro. 

Still not sure you’re doing it right or want direct feedback? Hire a professional to help you sort out your social media presence & get on the right track. Lots of folks with full-time marketing/writing gigs do social media consulting on the side (like me, or Brittany from According to Brittany), so you should be able to find someone at a reasonable price, whatever your range.

Reprinted with permission. http://www.greatestescapist.com/2017/10/7-tips-from-social-media-strategist.html?m=1

Interview with Australian Author/Novelist Sara Ridley


   Sara Ridley

CW: Tell us about yourself.

SR: My name is Sara Ridley and I live in a small outback town in remote Australia. I have self-published four novels and own a blog, Life Of A Storyteller (http://www.lifeofastoryteller.com/), dedicated to helping aspiring authors write, publish and market their novels. When I am not typing away at my computer, I have my head in a book or am trying to come up with new theories for Game of Thrones.

CW: When and why did you start writing?

SR: Since the age of 12, I always knew I wanted to become a writer. It wasn’t until I asked my Grandmother if I could write her life story did that become a reality. I started researching her life in 2013, and two years later self-published her story for the world to read. As a sufferer of onset dementia, I wanted her to always be able to remember the life she lived. That is why I wrote the novel.

CW: Give us an overview of your books. Which one is your favorite? Why?

SR: Since 2015, I have self-published four novels. The first is a memoir centered on the life of my Grandmother during WWll called ‘Unspoken Words.’ The second is a coming of age romance novel centered on real life aspects and people called ‘Boy.Girl.You.’ The last two are informational and teaching novels at Life Of A Storyteller called ‘How to Write a Strong Novel: The 9 Key Pillars to Focus on’ and ‘The Novel Planning Blueprint: An Every Day Planner for Writers.’

My favourite novel out of the four is ‘Unspoken Words.’ It was such an incredible experience to work alongside my Grandmother and discover her life story and be able to tell that story to her friends, family, and those who are interested in reading the novel. 

CW: Who/what was your biggest inspiration?

SR: There have been many people who have influenced my writing career since it begun. My main inspiration for writing comes from my Mum. Growing up in a remote outback town leaves you with limited opportunities to spread your wings. A lot of people believed I was simply a dreamer, that becoming a writer was unrealistic.

It was my Mum who inspired me and told me that I could be anything I want. That society’s expectations of who I had to become shouldn’t hold me back. I took her advice, and if I hadn’t listened to her all those years ago I wouldn’t be where I am today.

CW: Who are your favorite authors? Why?

SR: I am a fantasy geek, so naturally speaking my favourite authors are those who write in the fantasy genre. Each author for me brings something special to the table. My favourite authors include George R.R. Martin for his use of dialogue and character building, J. R.R. Tolkien for his world building, Patrick Rothfuss for his unbelievable descriptive writing, and J.K. Rowling for her storytelling.

CW: Do you have a favorite genre? If so, what do you enjoy most about it?

SR: My favourite genre is fantasy. What I enjoy the most about this genre is that it has the ability to transport you from your reality into a fictitious world of pure imagination. A world, whether good or bad, that creates magic.

CW: What has been your greatest challenge?

SR: My greatest challenge as a writer has been acceptance. I come from a small mining town that can place certain expectations on what you are to become once you leave school, such as a nurse or a hairdresser. I was never one to follow the rules of society and realized that I wasn’t going to settle for anything less than my dreams.

When I told people I was writing a novel, some were supportive or interested. However, the majority didn’t understand why I would waste my time on something that wouldn’t be a lifelong job. Building myself as a respected writer and gaining that acceptance has been challenging, yet rewarding. I didn’t cheat my way around the bend, I earned their acceptance.

CW: What kind of characters do you create? Why?

SR: I have always believed that the best type of characters are those that the reader can relate to. Characters should be flawed, have both strengths and weaknesses, contain real life aspects, have internal struggles, afflictions, and so on. In life, we are not perfect. Your characters shouldn’t be either, and that is the sort of character I like to write in all of my novels.

CW: Do you write from an outline, or do you simply write whatever enters your mind?

SR: I have always found that when I have a basic blueprint in front of me it is easier to write the story. It acts as a roadmap that guides my writing, characters, and plot. Another thing I like to do before sitting down to write my story is to create an outline for each of my main and secondary characters. A lot of the time writers tend to focus more on their plot than their characters. Every time I read a story it is the characters I connect with, and that is why I believe it is important to focus on them as well.

CW: What do you most want readers to take from your book(s)?

SR: With each novel that I write, there is an underlying message within them. Each message is symbolic to that novel, however, I believe in each of my novels I try to inspire hope. Fear is such a strong emotion us humans have in us, whether it be a fear of moving forward in our lives, fear of falling in love, fear of writing a novel, for instance. As President Snow states in the Hunger Games, ‘the only thing stronger than fear is hope.’ With a little hope, I believe we can move mountains.

CW: Are you actively trying to have your books made into a play or a movie?

SR: Currently, I have no plans on turning my published novels into a play or movie. Does that mean I don’t think about what it would be like to see my novels on the big screen or what actors would play my characters? Not at all. One day I would like to see my novels on the big screen but for now, I appreciate them in the format of a novel.

CW: Do you have an agent? If so, describe your agent’s value.

SR: I do not have an agent. When self-publishing my first novel I contemplated on getting an agent or someone that could help me along the way. I chose not to, however, because it was something I felt I needed to do myself. Writing my first novel was such a personal journey of discovery that I felt I had to be the one to step over the finish line. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t seek help, but it was something I wanted to learn for myself so I could, in turn, help others just like me. That is why I started Life Of A Storyteller.

CW: What’s next for you as an author?

SR: As they say, the world is our oyster! I am currently working on a fantasy series that has been in the works for almost two years. I have no plans on releasing that anytime soon as I am still in the world building stage, however, would like to see it traditionally published in the coming years. I do, however, plan on helping as many writers as I can publish their novels, whether that be self-publishing or traditional publishing.

CW: How did you pick a publisher or decide to self-publish? Do you have an agent?

SR: At first, I did try to get my first novel, ‘Unspoken Words’ traditionally published but had no luck. I received rejection letter after rejection letter. I was, of course, discouraged by this as any author would be. It was then that I decided to take matters into my own hands and try self-publishing. It has honestly been the best thing I have ever done. Not only did I get my novel out there to the world, but I had complete control over it. Because of this, I decided to self-publish my next three novels. I would, however, eventually like to see one of my novels get traditionally published and see what that side of the industry has to offer.

CW: Do you have suggestions to other writers about the writing process or being published?

SR: Writing a novel isn’t an easy task. It can be extremely overwhelming and lonely. My advice to you is, during both the writing and publishing process, join writing communities that can encourage and support you along your journey. Not only will you create friends, but you will be able to gain help, advice, and resources from your fellow writers. Another bit of advice I have for you is to just have fun. Don’t think about how many copies you will sell or how much money you will make. Think about the people you are inspiring through your words, and the lives you will impact.

CW: How do you market yourself and your books?  What works well? What doesn’t?

SR: I market myself and my books through my blog, Life Of A Storyteller. I recommend that every author should have a platform where they can market their novels, talk about themselves and the writing process, and update their community of readers on what is happening with you next.

By having a blog, it is a lot easier to control your marketing process as well. You can link your Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google +, etc up to your blog and drive your readers to the one place. For me, this has resulted in more sales and a tighter reading community. At Life Of A Storyteller, I also offer insight into how to start up a blog, manage it, and promote it to the online world.

CW: Where can someone buy your books?

SR: If you are interested in checking out my novels, you can find more information about them and where to purchase at this link: http://www.lifeofastoryteller.com/shop/

CW: What would you like your Writer’s Epitaph to say?

SR: ‘Never give up searching for your dreams, because one day they can become your reality.’


Book Publishing Blunders of First Time Authors

Author, book publishing expert, and coach Judith Briles (AKA The Book Shepherd) joined our February #BBchat Twitter Chat to discuss book publishing blunders of first-time authors.

Judith Briles is an innovative and creative writing coach, book coach, and how-to-get-published expert who can assist you with your book and publishing project. As The Book Shepherd, she has mentored up-and-coming authors and publishers for years and dedicated untold hours to educating others to the pitfalls, and joys, of the publishing world. In 2009, she created AuthorU(niversity), a membership organization designed for serious authors who want to be seriously successful.

If you’d like to be notified about future BookBaby Twitter chats, subscribe to our Facebook events. To view the entire chat transcript, visit this link. Below is a reformatted version of our discussion.


In your coaching experience, what kinds of writers typically need the most help with crafting a professional manuscript?

Authors need to let their egos step aside. I’m here to help make their work even better. I want “your voice” intact, so editing – getting the right one for your book will be at the top of the list – then design comes into play. Finding the right editor is key: understand that if I gave the same 10 pages to 20 different editors, they will all have different suggestions and takes. Ask for a sample, give him/her a chapter to see what they do and if it “feels” right (their suggestions are good and make sense). There are children’s editors, YA editors, nonfiction, fiction – then there are subs. But the real editor question is, do you need content/development or just copy editing? Then after the book is laid out, it should get what I call a “cold eye” edit.

Every book needs a plan – how do you find and set reasonable goals and deadlines?

Plans are essential. Yours should start with exactly WHO are you writing for. Authors need to know their target market, but few do. You need to know their fears, hopes, concerns, and what are their problems – this is for both fiction and nonfiction. Plans contain what social media will be used and what marketing will be focused on. And book marketing should start pre-publishing.

Are there any common essentials every first-time author should include in their book to reach success?

As The Book Shepherd, I act as the project manager. I do do content editing, but I also bring in the cover and interior designer and I start brainstorming covers and branding. I coordinate eBook, audiobook, and the game plan for marketing. In some cases, I help with setting up Amazon, social media, and working with the author’s website. In other words, launching the author and the book.

What design elements should writers incorporate into their book to keep readers engaged?

I love book design, for both fiction and nonfiction. Make the interior interesting and engaging; use a piece or theme from the cover and drop it in. It’s a nice set-up for the reader. Book interiors need white “space” and maybe an illustration to engage the reader. In the interior, customize. Create pullouts/callouts. Open your chapters with your quotes, maybe an “aha!” moment from the chapter. I think it’s important for all authors to understand that book publishing is a business.

When planning a book launch, how far out should you start marketing before the release date?

Launch date time plans can start months in advance. Get ready, build the audience, offer goodies, create a contest, etc. Think of your book launch and marketing in waves. Create a spreadsheet of activities/events that you can do to support and build up

Should writers spend more of their time building a social media following or growing their email list?

Social media and emails go hand-in-hand. Let’s start with email. You must have a website. Create an “opt-in” to gather email addresses. Websites do three things: build trust with visitor, deliver content, and gather names/emails. With an opt-in, you get the emails. On my website, TheBookShepherd.com, I give a 24-page PDF on eight publishing essentials – free. The first time I posted it, I got 1,800 new names. I like Twitter best, it’s fast and punchy, which fits my style. Find your style. On of the best ways to build fans/followers is to create quotes – why not yours? – or share others. Use Canva or PicMonkey to gussy them up. They get shared plenty and you build your author platform at the same time.

Do you recommend any tools or resources for staying on track to first-time authors?

One of my personal keepers to stay on track: DON’T do what I have no business doing. Think about it. The other is: If I never say NO, my YESES become worthless. We authors get pulled in multiple directions. We have to say no sometimes. Also use a social media management tool. I use Hootsuite, and there are others. The goal is to multi-task here, otherwise, social media is a time suck.

Guest questions

So, Judith, what is THE WORST mistake?
Oh my… let me count the ways. Let’s start with bypassing editing. People actually do that? Too many authors think they can do a DYI or have their mom, sister, or a school teacher do it. NO.

What is a reasonable amount of time for editing your book?
Editing time depends. In content/development, it may take a few months; if its 100,000 words, it’s going take more time (in most cases). Get an estimate from the editor. My cold eye editing is less than a week; I plan on two weeks for most nonfiction; fiction takes longer as a rule; children’s book are quite fast.

Once you have your book edited and cover designed, how do you develop a marketing plan?
Ideally, marketing plans should start early. They start with knowing your competitors in the genre and knowing your target market. Determine which social media platforms are right and set one or two up, then build from there.

What about marketing low-tech? There are some who don’t do social media, Kindle, want only hard copy books, etc.
It takes time now, start with baby steps here. With that said, use your mouth to sell books. Start speaking. My personal record after a talk was 566 books in three hours.

Are there good templates for marketing plans? Something I could edit to my needs?
There are “common” things, but most marketing should have two parts: 1) What are author/book competitors doing? 2) What social media are they doing? Then mimic the best, don’t reinvent the wheel. If the competing author is using Twitter, for example, then follow him/her, THEN start following followers. You will build fast. The best question to ask is, “How long do you want book sales?” Then you know how long you have to market your books. What’s good about the self-publishing/indie markets is that you can repurpose books and relaunch them. Don’t roll print, eBook, and audio at same time. Come back to the party and do another announcement and support each separately.

What’s the best way to get people to review your book?
It’s always good to have someone outside of friends and family do a review. Here’s my #1: have readers of your genre review your book.

What are other common mistakes?
Too many authors rush to publish. Breathe and learn the biz. Commit to consistent updates.

Can you speak to e-publishing short stories / novellas / novelettes? (Kindle Direct). What’s the price point there?
Shorts are hot. Short books and stories are the new black. Do them and for all, think “repurpose” of existing books.

What marketing mistakes should authors avoid making?
Getting sucked into elaborate plans that cost lots of money. Again, who is your target market? Where do they hang out? What social media are they on? Then focus there. If you are a speaker, or plan to be, DRILL into the industry that’s your expertise and claim it. Problems are your BEST friends, because you have answers and solutions. It’s how I sold over one million books in healthcare.

Can you use your blog to promote or does it need to be a separate website?
You should absolutely use your blog to promote, and you should keep on your website. With each new post, blast it out on your social media channels.

Is it worth the investment to create an audiobook version of a print book – do you see authors getting an ROI?
Audiobooks are HOT. I say yes indeed, and there are ways to spend lots of $$$ and ways to do it for little. Richard Rieman’s The Author’s Guide to Audiobook Creation is a great info/how-to guide. (Disclaimer, I was his book shepherd.)

Thank you ALL! I do free coaching every MONDAY at 12 ET. Info on TheBookShepherd.com.

 

How to Become Trade-Published as a Novice Fiction Author


Being published as an unknown author is not terribly difficult if you write non-fiction and you are a known subject matter expert. Your fame represents your non-fiction author platform. For non-fiction, you might not have much trouble selling plenty of copies on your own as a self-published or POD author. You hire a good editor, pay for printed copies and sell them by yourself as the expert. If you are really famous, an agent and publisher can handle it all.

No such road is available for unknown fiction authors. Unless you are a celebrity, and mostly likely no one reading this is, you’ll need to create a viable author platform. Without one, you’ll have a great deal of trouble acquiring a talented and well-connected literary agent or one of the big publishing houses that will make you famous. You can count on your digits the number of famous self-published fiction authors, and most of them used traditional publishers to become famous.

Big publishing houses only work with trusted agents. Yet, it can be more difficult for an unknown fiction author to acquire a good agent than it is to find your own small publishing company. At least that’s what happened to me. The novice fiction writer should begin by finding a small traditional publisher. It’s attainable.

There is a way to create some fame for yourself with fiction. The trouble is, it will cost some hard-earned cash. Large publishing houses only accept proposals from trusted literary agents. The way to break into traditional publishing for fiction is to work with a small traditional publisher. In some cases, that small publisher will not charge the author a dime. Traditionally, that was the definition. But today, with small publishers squeezed financially, some will ask you to share in the cost.

I most certainly do not mean subsidy (vanity) publishing. Subsidy publishers earn their money from authors willing to pay up front to have their book printed and bound. Such “publishers” are disparaged by the greater publishing industry. They perform no significant editing. They are more like printers than publishers; as the author must pay the entire cost, plus the subsidy’s margin. One they have your money, they will do nothing at all to distribute, market, promote or sell your book. In most cases, after paying a few thousand dollars, you’ll have nothing more than a handsome book suitable for coffee table impressions, plus your book will be displayed on a web site that attracts almost no one. The public will not know that the book exists, or that you are a published author; and no one will lift a finger to distribute and sell that book. Nor can you impress readers, agents and publishers by throwing out the name of your subsidy publisher. In fact, once known, that information will damage your reputation as an author. I recommend subsidy publishers for only one type of author; the person who wishes to write a memoir for progeny, but has no interest in sales.

As publishers are increasingly squeezed financially, they have taken to asking unknown authors for a contract in which the author pays the expenses, or at least share in the cost of editing, printing, binding, ISBN numbers and distribution. Virtually all authors today must market their own books, even with a large publishing house. But if you are willing to throw some cash into it, a small traditional publisher might be your best answer.

Think globally. There are thousands of small publishers today all over the world. It doesn’t matter if your small publisher is two miles from home or on the other side of the world. I live in Ohio. The traditional publisher of my first book was a large textbook publishing company in the US. But the publisher of my debut novel was a small publishing house in Israel. After I acquired an agent, she sold it to Texas Tech University to be republished. Telling the world that you have been published by a university for fiction is a powerful addition to your author platform. Global commerce related to publishing has become much more fragmented in recent years. A trade publisher is a trade publisher, whether they are in New York, Paris, Mumbai or Tokyo.

Why should you pay a small traditional publishing house to create and distribute your book? It might be the only way as an unknown author to impress agents, publishers and readers with your talent. Unlike subsidy publishers, small traditional publishers have a good reputation. And because they earn their profit from sold copies, they have a vested interest in effective promotion and marketing. Every time you tell people about it, engage in marketing, post a book landing page or Facebook fan page, you’ll be proud to tell the world that you are under contract with a real, bonafied trade (traditional) publisher. It instantly elevates your fiction author platform in a way that self-publishing and subsidy publishing cannot accomplish. After that, you will find it much easier to distribute and sell copies, as well as attract agents and big publishers.

Why should you pay to become trade-published and then share the profit with your publisher? To an unknown fiction author, platform is more important than royalty income. The more famous you become, the better your platform, the easier it will be later to acquire an agent and through that agent, become published by one of the big houses; which makes your platform even more enticing to big publishers. All of your future books stand a much greater chance of success when a team of experts is in charge of editing, printing, distribution, marketing and sales.

When a prospective agent, publisher or reader decides to Google your name, you’ll want many pages of positive articles and publicity to appear. Note I said “many pages” of positive items – not many items. That’s your goal. And to reach it, you must either hire a good publicist, which can cost thousands of dollars, or you can learn how to be your own publicist. Again, the Internet will be a huge help. After being published by the big houses a few times, you will no longer be an unknown fiction author. When you acquire a large fan base, you can then consider whether you should self-publish and keep all of the net profit from future books.

How does an unknown fiction author contract with a small traditional publishing house? First you must locate them. I devoted months to that task when my debut novel was completed. It’s painstaking work. Fortunately, almost every publisher, small or large, has a web site. Let Internet searches do the hard work. Some small publishers specialize in one or two genres. You can have Google troll the Internet on various search terms.

There are also many agencies and associations that list small publishers and literary agencies, along with contact information. Try to send proposals out to at least 10-15 small publishers per day. I had to contact over 100 small publishers in order to generate four contract offers (excluding subsidy publishers). The more you contact, the sooner you’ll have options. I’ll deal with proposal writing in a later post. You can also review some of my older posts here for proposal writing information. Believe me, creating a winning publishing proposal is very hard work. Never underestimate its importance.

In conclusion, novice fiction authors can become famous, acquire agents and land big publishing house contracts. It takes time, determination and hard work. But it can happen, if you have talent and marketable books. This is the only way to get your book into bookstores and chain store retailers, where more than half of all books are still sold. Want your book sold at Walmart and Target, in addition to Amazon and Barnes & Noble? Don’t self-publish. Find a small trade publisher. Nor can you obtain a review from any of the biggest and best review organization if you self-publish. As a long-time reviewer for the New York Journal of Books, I’m well aware of that issue. Publishers will promote your books at international book fairs, conventions and conferences, with top industry leaders; how many self-published authors can pay for that? So as a novice fiction author, there is a way to become successful. It’s with small traditional publishers. If you must pay some of the costs, it could be well worth it. Go for it!

 

 

 

 

 

Announcing the New “Jacob’s Courage,” Republished by Texas Tech University Press


In 1939, seventeen-year-old Austrians Jacob Silverman and Rachael Goldberg are bright, talented, and deeply in love. Because they are Jews, their families lose everything: their jobs, possessions, money, contact with loved ones, and finally their liberty. Jacob and Rachael and their families are removed from their comfortable Austrian homes into a decrepit ghetto where they are forced to live in squalor. From there, the families are sent to the Nazi concentration camp Theresienstadt, where Rachael and Jacob secretly become man and wife. Revel in their excitement as they escape through a harrowing tunnel and join local partisans to fight the Nazis. Ride the fetid train to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where only slavery, sickness, brutality, and death await. Stung by the death of loved ones, enslaved and starved, the young lovers have nothing to count on but faith, love, and courage. 

Jacob’s Courage is available in print at Amazon with Texas Tech University Press here.  It’s also available as an e-book ($4.95) at Amazon. It’s also available as an e-book with Smashwords and many other fine e-book retailers, including Apple (iTunes), Baker & Taylor, Barnes & Noble, Diesel, Kobo, Sony, Scrollmotion and many other retailers.