Interview with Author Nancy Christie


Nancy Christie is the author of the fiction collection, Traveling Left of Center and Other Stories, and two short story e-books, Annabelle and Alice in Wonderland (all published by Pixel Hall Press). Her short stories can also be found in literary publications such as EWR: Short Stories, Hypertext, Full of Crow, Fiction365, Red Fez, Wanderings, The Chaffin Journal and others. The founder of “Celebrate Short Fiction” Day, Christie is currently working on several other book projects, including a novel and a book for writers. Charles Weinblatt interviews for Author Publishing and Book Marketing:

CW: Tell us about yourself. NC: I wish I had an unusual childhood or had spent my adult years in some exotic locale but the fact is I am living in the same area where I was born, have lived in the same house for about 35 years now and although I have a passport, I have only pulled it out for domestic travel. I am a writer—plain and simple. I’ve been writing for 50 years now—that’s because I started in second grade!—and can’t imagine not writing. I’m a professional writer by trade (marketing and corporate work primarily with some magazine articles thrown in) and a fiction writer by preference, which means that there isn’t a snippet of conversation overheard or a physical contact witnessed that doesn’t get stuck somewhere in my fiction writer’s brain to be pulled out and used in one way or another.  

CW: Give us an overview of your writing/books. NC: My first book, The Gifts of Change, is an inspirational book about making the most of the changes that come into your life—even if you didn’t want them. That book was inspired by my mother’s cancer diagnosis and a number of other changes and challenges that came into my life—some desired, others, not so much. My second and current book, Traveling Left of Center and Other Stories, is a short fiction collection about characters who, whether by accident or design, find themselves traveling left of center. Unable or unwilling to seize control over their lives, they allow fate to dictate the path they take—often with disastrous results. So, in a way, both books deal with change—just from different perspectives.

CW: Who/what was your biggest inspiration? NC: I don’t know that I could point to any one person or event. I was always a bit of a loner and loved to read, and fortunately my parents indulged me in that. I had wonderful teachers who emphasized writing skills—spelling, grammar, and punctuation—as well as content. And then there are authors whose work is so compelling and creative that I can’t help wanting to write as well as they do, and give to others what they have given to me: journeys to places—some real, some imagined—full of fascinating characters.

CW: What has been your greatest challenge? NC: Time, for one thing. In addition to my professional work, I am caregiving for my father, and that takes up a fair bit of time, although I am glad to be able to do it and even happier that, at 92, he is still so vibrant and in good spirits. And of course, the self-doubt, the inevitable comparisons with other writers, the fear that I won’t be able to live up to the good reviews with my next project—or worse, that the good reviews I have already received are all the good reviews that I am going to get!

CW: What do you most want readers to take from your book(s)? NC: A sense of sympathy and understanding for those who are struggling through life.  It’s so easy to sit in judgment or say that we would never make the choices that others have made that led them down that path of destruction but we don’t really know that for certain, do we?So rather than be afflicted with that most dangerous of all viruses—superiority—we should instead be compassionate. It’s that whole “there but for the grace of God” thing…

CW: Are you actively trying to have your books made into a play or a movie? NC: That is my plan for 2015. I have heard about certain actors who are buying movie rights to books and so intend to pursue that possibility.

CW: What’s next for you as an author? NC: I’m working on a second collection as well as a novel that I want to pitch. But my first goal is to find an agent. (Don’t all writers say that?) My first two books were un-agented, but I think it’s time to get an expert on board and take over that part of my career.

CW: How did you pick a publisher or decide to self-publish? Do you have an agent? NC: I didn’t want to self-publish—I have neither the time nor funds to purse that path and know full well that there is more to self-publishing than just getting the book printed. For my first book, I was encouraged by the comments I received from agents—they loved the book but since I was an unknown, passed on representing me—so I researched publishers who handled first-time un-agented authors, and found my publisher relatively quickly. With Traveling Left of Center, I had already connected with Pixel Hall Press who published two of the short stories in e-book format, and so it was a natural step to work with them to publish the entire collection.

CW: Do you have suggestions to other writers about the writing process and publishing? NC: It’s a business. Treat it like one. Yes, you need to be a good writer but if you plan on being published, you also have to be a good business owner. Your book is your product. Know how to market it. Do your advance work. Expect to spend time and money doing what you need to do to get it out there. Nobody else is going to do it for you.

CW: How do you market yourself and your books? NC: I have done some in-person events—not as many as with my first book simply because I can’t travel as much with my other obligations. I blog, I do the whole social media thing, did some virtual tours and plan to do more, participate in interviews, request reviews and then, when I get them, make sure I get the word out. I send out press releases, update my book’s web page every time there is something interesting to share—basically, I do everything I can think of, and then read articles and blog posts to find even more suggestions that I need to incorporate in my marketing.

CW: Where can someone buy your books? NC: Everywhere and anywhere—from bricks-and-mortar stores like Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Powell’s and other indie booksellers to online retailers like Amazon.

CW: What would you like your Writer’s Epitaph to say? NC: Fiction writer.

CW: I’m pretty sure that’s already been accomplished exceedingly well.

You can read my reviews of Nancy Christie books at The New York Journal of Books, here:

Author Platform: Reaching Readers and Gaining a Competitive Advantage


“Author Platform”: If you’re an author, your platform is your ability to reach readers. Authors who can build, maintain and leverage their platforms will have a significant competitive advantage over those who cannot. Think of author platform as a multi-layered infrastructure that allows you to reach both new and existing fans. Elements of this infrastructure include your social media followers on Twitter, Facebook and the RSS feed of their blog (social media tool). It also includes subscribers to your private mailing list. It includes your celebrity, and your ability to leverage social media or traditional media or the love of your fans to get your message out. There are two primary factors that drive sales of any product or brand. The first is awareness. If the consumer is not aware of your product or brand, then they cannot purchase it. Authors must place their product in front of a consumer and gain their attention before the consumer can consider purchasing it. The second is desire. Once a consumer is aware of your product or brand, they must desire it. The author is the brand. Your job as the author is to build awareness of your brand, and to build, earn and deserve positive desire for your brand. Awareness plus desire create demand for your product. This is why platform will become more important than ever in 2014. Your platform helps you get the message out to existing fans, those who already know and desire your brand; and, equally if not more important—your platform helps you reach new fans. The larger your platform, the more it will grow incrementally because a well-maintained platform grows organically.

——– By Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords. Reprinted with permission from the AAA Books Unlimited Literary Agency October 2014 Newsletter.

25 Tips on How to Impress a Book Publisher by Cheryl Tardif


1. Understand that publishers are very busy people. We are juggling multiple authors and manuscripts, as well as promotions, events, and marketing. We have little time to spare, especially when swamped with hundreds of manuscripts, many of them sent when a publisher is closed for submissions. Showing a publisher that you understand they are busy and submitting during their open submissions time shows you respect their time.

2.Learn everything you can about the publishing company. Learn about the publisher, their authors, and the works they’ve published to ensure that you’d be a good fit. Connect with them on social networks. Share their posts and tweets. Buy some of their titles, especially in the genre in which you write.

3.Read and follow their submission guidelines. Most publishers post their guidelines on their websites. Read them carefully, and pay special attention to whether or not they have a specific time frame for submissions. Follow their guidelines! Give them exactly what they want. Be prepared to answer questions, especially regarding past sales.

4.Hook the publisher in the first sentence of your query. Just like a well-written book, your query should hook them in the first sentence. Read your first sentence, and ask yourself: “Would this make me want to know more if I were a publisher?” Ensure that you follow the Four Firsts for your manuscript.Don’t know what I’m talking about? Learn about the Four Firsts here.

5.Let your personality shine as a positive person. Don’t be afraid to show publishers who you are. Just be sure it’s someone publishers will like. Be humble, appreciative, and a team player. Don’t act like you know it all. You don’t.

6.Be open to learning. With the ever-changing landscape of publishing, successful authors must always be open to change—and to experimenting when new things come along. Show a willingness to learn and to evolve with the industry.

7.Be everywhere online! Recognize the importance of a website, blog, and social networks, and use them frequently. Even if you’re not yet published, you should have a website, a blog, and Facebook and Twitter pages dedicated to your writing. Publishers will look for these.

8.Have an impressive platform in the SAME genre as the one you’re pitching. If you’ve been writing nonfiction and have a huge following there but are pitching a work of fiction, understand that the audience isn’t the same—unless there is a common theme. Example: Nonfiction books on dealing with autistic children have a specific audience of people looking for help with dealing with autistic children. A novel featuring an autistic child as the main character would then appeal to this audience.

9.Don’t rave about how awesome your book is and how it’s going to sell thousands of copies in the first week. Be humble and stick to the facts.

10.Show you understand your audience and that you know who your target audience is. Don’t pitch a book with a ten-year-old main character as a novel for adults. And don’t pitch an unpublished book as “for anyone, any age.” There are few titles that fit that description, but this is established by sales and time.

11.Don’t send the book until the publisher asks for it. Unless the publisher’s guidelines tell you to send it with the query, wait for them to ask for it.

12.Ensure your book is as error free as possible. Run a spell-check and grammar-check before sending it. And have at least one other person edit the entire work, preferably someone with actual editing skills who understands CMOS rules.

13.Know what CMOS is and understand the rules. Have a hard-cover edition on hand or sign up for the online edition. Show your knowledge of CMOS style rules in your manuscript. CMOS is the writer’s Bible.

14.Do not e-mail the publisher to ask if he/she has read your book yet. If the guidelines do not stress a time limit, ask for one when the publisher requests your manuscript.

15.Impress them with your publishing credits. If you have published other works in the same genre or type (fiction or nonfiction) as the book you want to submit, let the publisher know, and point them to your Amazon profile page.

16.Make sure you have an Amazon profile page if you have published works available on Amazon. If you have no profile page, you’ll look like someone who doesn’t know what she’s doing.

17.If you have won a prestigious award, mention it briefly. Ensure you know the difference between a “prestigious” award and one that means very little.

18.If you have published other works in the same genre, briefly summarize what you have done to promote them. Impress publishers with your marketing abilities and creativity.

19.Reviews are vital! Make sure you have a substantial amount of reviews on your published works, especially those in the same genre as the book your are hoping to submit. Don’t query a publisher or agent until you have 10+ reviews on the majority of your works, and an average rating of 3.5 or above stars.

20.Don’t pitch a publisher your manuscript while also pitching your services as a book cover designer, editor, marketing coach, formatter, etc. Query separately. Be professional.

21.Be editable. Your book isn’t perfect. Even if you’ve had it edited by someone else, the publisher will need to know that you’re open to being edited.

22.Don’t ask if you can supply the cover, cover description, or images for the cover. Publishers have their own creative designers.

23.Understand you have competition. Know who your competitors are and who has written works comparable to yours. Watch how they promote their works on social networks. Learn from those who are selling.

24.Make the publisher curious enough to want to ask you questions. Don’t tell them everything in your first e-mail.What you want is for the publisher to engage in conversation with you. You want to give them everything they ask for and hint at anything outside of that. For example, if a publisher doesn’t ask for sales data in their guidelines, you could mention you made a best-sellers list for two weeks in a row. Let them ask for more information. When they do, give them everything you can, including where the best-sellers list was published, what ranking you got, and total sales to date for that title.

25.Express gratitude. Be thankful for the publisher’s time and for any feedback or advice they give you. They don’t have to give you any feedback­—or their time.

Cheryl Tardif is the publisher at Imajin Books, a hybrid publishing company based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. She is also known as Cheryl Kaye Tardif, an award-winning, international bestselling author represented by Trident Media Group in New York. She is best known for Children of the Fog, Submerged, and Whale Song. Booklist raves: “Tardif, already a big hit in Canada . . . a name to reckon with south of the border.” Check out Cheryl’s website and Imajin Books website, and connect with her on Twitter (Cheryl and Imajin Books) and Facebook (Cheryl and Imajin Books).

http://www.imajinbooks.com
http://www.cherylktardif.com

Blog: http://www.livewritethrive.com/2014/09/29/25-tips-on-how-to-impress-a-book-publisher

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.

 

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. 

Being Published


Being Published

By Charles S. Weinblatt, Copyright © 2010

To Publish, or to Self-Publish?

The publishing industry is changing rapidly, morphing from clear, delineated lines into a morass of options.  Self-publishing was once considered somewhat nefarious and referred to as “vanity” publishing.  Vanity publishers will appect anyone’s manuscripts, print it and place it inside of a jacket.  They will mail it to you.  You pay them, typically several hundred to several thousand dollars.  Sometimes they offer a menu of other services, including editing and graphic design.  You will pay for each of them.  The ligitimate vanity publishers stop there.  They will not arrange for distribution contracts.  They will not market your book.  They will obtain no reviews.  They wil not represent your book at key international book fairs, conventions and conferences.

The vanity publisher scam artists move surreptitiously from state to state, moments ahead of state prosecution.  These organizations may call themselves “self-publishing,” but in reality, vanity publishers are only interested in taking your money.  They could care less if no one purchases the book.  The “editing and graphic design” services are typically poorly performed.  Many of them will tell a novice author to “bone up on their writing skills” and they send the author to another fraud who will steal some more of your money on “courses or services to improve writing skills.”  Beware of these services.  Use Predators & Editors and Writer Beware to identify scam artists in publishing and literary agents.

Today, there are wide varieties of excellent self-publishing services and distribution organizations delivered by very ethical companies, including names like Lightning Source and CreateSpace.  But, understand that this form of self-publishing is a misnomer.  They will not be the publisher.  You are the publisher.  You purchase the ISBN, the editing service, the graphic designer; and you are responsible for distribution and marketing.  Self-publishing has transformed from questionable to outstanding.  For many authors, for several reasons, self-publishing is a better choice than waiting for a traditional (trade) publlisher.

The traditional publisher is at risk of obsolescence, unless they find a way to successfully market their authors in various print and electronic formats.  Your book must not just be in print, it must also be sold as an e-book.  It must not just be an e-book; it must be electronically formatted for tomorrow’s e-readers, tablets and smart phones.  Plus, the publisher must continue to stock and restock brick and mortar retailers (where almost half of all books are stil sold) and contract with global distributors. As the public changes the way they read, with electronic devices and telephones, publishers must swiftly react, or risk failure.

Underneath all of this change, the author still must decide whether it is best to self-publish, or to wait for a traditional publisher.  Non-fiction tends to adapt well to self-publishing, especially if the author can sell large numbers of books on his or her own (as a seminar leader, public speaker, teacher, consultant, trainer, curriculum designer, professor, etc.).  Fiction is often better sold via a traditional publisher, where the best editors, graphic designers and marketers reside.  Trade publishers also have important global distribution contacts, necessary for large numbers of books to be sold in retail (brick and mortar) stores, where, for the time being, more books are still sold. And trade publishers have deep connections with the best review sources in specific genres.  They can also connect the author for translation and movie rights.  There are many reasons why an author would want to share profits with a publisher.  When the publisher can open large doorways for reviews, at key book fairs and conferences, with translation and movie rights, then the profit spit is a good deal.

Before you begin too seek a publisher, develop an author platform.  An author platform is the collection of published books, career accomplishments, events, venues, reviews, interviews, speaking engagements, signings, web sites, pictures, video trailers, media appearances, tours, newspaper and magazine interviews and articles that pertain to you and your book.  Intelligent marketers develop brand strategy before the product or service is ready for sale.  One you have a book cover, plaster the picture and link all over the Internet.  Work with a designer to develop a video book trailer.  All of this, and more, constitutes an author platform.  Having a significant author platform is more important than you might think.  When someone like an agent or publisher decides to Google your name, you want seveal pages of positive data to emerge.

Locating and Contacting Publishers:

There is some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that you may need to send your manuscript to hundreds of publishers before the best offer arrives. The good news is that there are literally thousands of small, specialty publishers willing to take on novice authors. Many of them specialize in one or two genres.  You can submit your proposal electronically, saving time and money. Use the Internet to search for publishers in your genre.  On-line services such as Writer Beware and Predators & Editors are worthwhile for leads and for warnings.  Writers Net, Publishers Marketplace and Writers Market are also useful sites.

Most publishers prefer that you send a proposal by electronic mail. This makes it much easier and less costly to contact them. However, your proposal must be perfect and that takes time and effort. Also be advised that each publisher prefers their own specific information. That means you must research each publisher carefully on the Internet. Look for “Submission Guidelines.” This will tell you precisely what to send, and how to send it. If they are seeking a genre that is very different from yours, forget them and move along. If your book seems to be a good fit with the publisher’s interests, then create a proposal that will fit their guidelines.

Is My Book Good Enough to be Published?

There are two keys to being published. First is the quality of your writing. Few reputable publishing companies will be interested in a book that is poorly written. If you are concerned about the quality of your writing, it might be useful to pay a professional editor to look it over. Good editors will tell you the truth about your writing without being condescending or insensitive.

The second key requirement for being published is having a book that is marketable. No trade publisher will be interested in a book about how to drink a glass of water, even if it were it written by James Michener. You must be able to convince a publisher that thousands of people will covet your book. And, it’s not enough to say that they will love it. You must provide a demographic analysis of your readers, along with a competitive analysis and marketing strategies that will work (and explain why they will work). In other words, you must show the publisher exactly who will purchase your book, where and why. More on this later.

Trade publishers are often the best choice, particularly for fiction. Check the Internet for organizations that uncover scam-artists in the self-publishing world.  You can also Google the name of any publishing company. If you see several complaints from ripped-off writers, flee from that publisher. Caveat Emptor!

If you write non-fiction and you can sell many of your own books, then self-publishing might be a better choice. For example, a public speaker or instructor can often include the cost of his or her book in the price of an event. Seminar leaders, teachers, professors, consultants and others who can include their book as required reading might do better financially with a reputable self-publishing company.  If you are capable of selling hundreds or thousands of books on your own, why share the profit? Of course, you’ll need to obtain your own compelling reviews, pay for editorial and graphic art services, printing and distribution.  You will need to stock and restock retailers.  And, you’ll need to perform the marketing services that a publisher would handle.  But, with a steady clientele, self-publishing is perfect.

Traditional (“Trade”) publishers will place your book on the web sites of all of the major retailers (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s, Target, etc.) and they will contract to have your book distributed globally, which is the only way for it to be sold on store shelves.  Trade publishers will create a web site for your book, arrange for book tours, signings and catalog distribution.  Your publisher will attend key international book fairs on your behalf and market your book electronically to a global audience. They will stock and restock your book as necessary and on time. And, most trade publishers perform these tasks without charging a fee. They ask no money from the author and the author receives a royalty for each book sold, although some small publishers are now asking the novice author to share in the cost.  Some better-known authors still can expect an advance to “complete” the work.  This might not happen to you unless your name is well-recognized.

The author should establish specific goals for the book.  For example, some memoirs are meant only for grandchildren.  Some novels are meant to become best-sellers.  If you only want a nice book with your name on it for your coffee table, then a small self-publisher or POD might be appropriate.  For a fee, your progeny will consider you famous.  You won’t worry about marketing because you don’t desire sales.  It won’t be on the shelf of your local bookstore.  But, that’s OK for a family heirloom or a coffee table shrine.

If you want people to read your book and you don’t know how to sell them on your own, you might wish to wait for a trade publisher.  If your book is well written and marketable, you will have a good chance to be published by a traditional publisher.  Yes, it takes longer.  Yes, you’ll need to develop a platform and yes you’ll need to market.  You will have to develop a winning book publishing proposal and most likely, you will need to search for small publishers in your genre.  It takes effort, dedication and perseverance.  But, it most definitely can happen for you.  It worked for me.

Where are the Best Chances for a Novice Author?

If you are an unknown author, forget the major publishing houses. Harper-Collins is not likely to glance sideways at your proposal. Instead, focus on smaller publishers that specialize in your genre. I began with historical fiction and then narrowed my search to trade publishers who specialize in Jewish or Holocaust-related books. If it’s a children’s book, search for those publishers. If it’s science fiction, search using that term. You can use the Internet to plan and execute effective publisher searches. Plan to contact hundreds of trade publishers, if necessary.  Being published is much like getting a job.  The more employers you contact, the sooner you will be successful.  You might need to contact twenty publishers to get one good response.  And, you might require five good responses before you receive a desired contract offer.  Even my deplorable math skills place the total number of publisher contacts at 100.  Wait for the BEST offer; don’t lock yourself into a poor contract just because it is your first offer.  Be persistent. Try to send at least 20 proposals per week.

The most critical piece of the publishing puzzle is the proposal. We’ll talk about that next. But, more than any other time, obtaining critical reviews is essential.  Ask friends and family to read the book and review it.  You only need a few honest paragraphs.  Having others speak positively about your book is the way to begin marketing.  Get as many reviews as you can from the best and most appropriate sources as possible.

Use Your Author Platform

An author platform is a nebulous virtual avatar, representing you as an author and your books (and sometimes the individual characters).  Create web sites and blogs at places such as WordPress and BlogSpot about your book.  Write articles related to your book and publish them at places such as TRCB and Ezine.  Arrange bookstore signings and tours.  Submit your book for awards.  Seek book reviews from the most influential sources.  Obtain television and radio interviews about your book.  Save them as digital files and send them as embedded hyperlinks to publishers and agents.  Get interviewed by magazines, newspapers and e-magazines.  Mention your book and its awards and reviews. Add a link to your Wikipedia page (ex. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Weinblatt).

Your platform is the combined newspaper articles, author interviews, critical reviews, virtual book tours, video trailers, web sites, blogs, book signings, author interviews, speaking engagements and the digital recording of every piece of information related to you as an author.  When a prospective publisher or agent decides to Google your name, it would help immensely to have several pages of positive references. This is also the most important time to find opportunities to be interviewed.  Contact local newspapers, TV stations, educational institutions, churches, etc.  Radio is a good opportunity.  Become a local “media expert.”  If you’ve mastered something, tell the world as an expert.  It will enhance your platform.  There is also no substitute for compelling reviews from the most persuasive sources.

The Book Publishing Proposal:

Proposals must include very specific information in a very precise format. Fail to do this and you will likely be rejected immediately. At a minimum, your proposal must include: a table of contents, sales attributes, author biography, synopsis, chapter titles, market analysis, competitive analysis, and marketing strategies. Some publishers require additional information. Read their submission guidelines very carefully. Each portion of this proposal is critical. Take your time and try to use at least one page for each content topic. Use the multitude of referenced articles available on an Internet search.

Each time you edit your proposal, it will become more concise and persuasive.  The synopsis might require several pages. Sometimes the publisher will request several chapters, or the first three chapters. Read their submission requirements very carefully. Publishers receive hundreds of proposals daily and they will gladly delete yours if you fail to follow directions carefully, or fail to provide all of the information required in their guidelines.

Acquire lists of prospective publishers with Internet searches; then contact them via e-mail submission. You can also purchase mailing lists for publishers.  I discovered them easily on my own.  Your book must be a good fit with the publisher’s genre and you must be assured that your publisher is viable and appropriate.  Use Internet searches (Writer Beware and Predators & Editors, etc.) to check them for fraudulent activities.  Try to connect with existing authors of that publisher.  Sometimes you can reach them by e-mail or telephone and conduct an interview.  Ask them about the quality of their publisher.  Research book publishing contracts, so that you’ll know what to expect in a contract.

Have an attorney experienced in publishing review your contract.  Be willing to negotiate with the publisher.  It’s a give and take experience.  My publisher wanted some graphic portions of my novel removed.  I wanted to add some specific marketing requirements for my novel inserted in the contract.  We easily reached an agreement that deleted graphic content, which actually made the book easier to sell; and they added my desired publisher marketing responsibilities into the contract.  Many publishers will be willing to negotiate with you.  Be clear about what you are willing to accept (in editing and cover design) and request any necessary additions.  Then make the best decision based upon your guess for sales and royalties.   You and your publisher must be a good match, with common goals and values.

The Cover Page:

Once you have created a terrific book-publishing proposal, it’s time to create a cover page for your e-mail submissions. The “Subject” line of your e-mail page should typically say, “Submission,” followed by the title of your book. Begin with a generic salutation. Instead of, “Dear Sir or Madam,” you can use something like “Greetings.” If research produces the name of the publishing agent, even better.

The balance of your e-mail cover page must get the reader (publisher) hooked on your book. This cannot be a lengthy narrative. Publishers receive dozens or even hundreds of submissions constantly. If your cover letter will take five minutes to read, it will be discarded. Focus on three to four paragraphs at most. Explain why the publisher is a good fit with your book (yes, you will have to research the publisher in order to do this). This is a great place to include embedded links your most positive reviews.

The e-mail cover letter is also a good place to list (via hyperlink) interviews about your book and all relevant media files. For example, I embedded a hyperlink to an interview that I gave with Jewish Literary Review. Embed your video book trailer, pictures, your Wikipedia page, recorded speaking, radio or television exposure.  Simply create a hyperlink to whatever platform content you have placed on the Internet.  Just highlight any particular word, such as “review,” and then follow instructions for “hyperlink.”  Whatever positive information you can push into a few paragraphs the better. Don’t forget to include your contact information. If requested, attach your proposal. If the publisher will not accept attachments, then you’ll need to use the e-mail cover page for all of it.

Many publishers accept e-mail proposals, but not always with attachments. Let’s face it, all of us will open a hyperlink or e-mail address sent to us by a stranger. But, no one wants to risk a virus or worse by open a stranger’s attachment. You can create web pages and blogs for your book for free (G-Mail, Yahoo, Hotmail, Blogspot, WordPress, etc.). Create a one-page synopsis of your book, packed with features and reasons why people will purchase it. Then, embed the link for that web site into your e-mail cover letter. Here are some examples:

Amazon: http://tiny.cc/ej0rv , Reviews: http://jacobscourage.wordpress.com/, Video Trailer: http://tiny.cc/ivdgk, Synopsis: http://tiny.cc/yyf7t, Read Instantly on BookBuzzr: http://tiny.cc/3v6f7.

Recent Articles & Interviews: Jewish Literary Review Interview: http://tiny.cc/mnxga, Toledo Blade: http://toledoblade.com/article/20101113/NEWS10/11120358/-1/NEWS, Toledo Free Press: http://www.toledofreepress.com/2010/10/22/local-author-to-discuss-holocaust/, Mike Angley: http://childfinder.us/?p=2567, Joey Pinkney: http://h1t.it/boB8Bk,

Published Essays: The Meaning of Passover: http://tiny.cc/ypnj9, Why We Must Speak about the Holocausthttp://tiny.cc/j2zen, Judaism’s Saddest Day:  http://tiny.cc/hjnq3

Remember, you only need to customize the e-mail cover letter. The publishing proposal can remain the essentially same, boilerplated with typical publisher submission requirements.

Be Persistent!

Do not be discouraged. Being published is a numbers game. You might need to send out 100 proposals to get one terrific contract offer. I had four publishing offers for Jacob’s Courage before I was satisfied that I had the best offer. You will want a publishing company well suited to your book and with the right financial arrangements.

Within a month, Jacob’s Courage was up on Amazon. It also rapidly appeared at other global retailers, as distant as Africa, France and Japan. My publisher also swiftly arranged for global distribution with Ingram in the US and Gardners and Bertrams to distribute Jacob’s Courage in the United Kingdom. If you have no distributor, your book will not appear on the shelves of bookstores (where about 50% of books are still sold) and it will not appear on the Internet web sites of popular stores unless you can arrange for it.

Do I Need an Agent?

Some authors prefer to use a literary agent to find their publisher.  A good literary agent may connect you with publishers that were out of your reach.  Agents can vastly increase sales, via enhanced marketing opportunities; and they can offer connections for foreign and translation rights, improved distribution, screenplay, film and documentary leads and much more.  However, literary agents don’t often take a chance on an unknown author, even if your book is already in print.  Beware of spending too much time trying to find an agent, instead of a publisher. You could end up waiting years in an unsuccessful search for an agent.  During that time you might have become successful with your own publishing contract, or with self-publishing.  Many of us search for publishers and agents simultaneously.  Once published, you can always search for an agent.

What are the Author’s Marketing Responsibilities?

After you have obtained a publishing contract, be prepared to help market the book. That means contacting local bookstores and other retail outlets where your book can be sold. Request book signings at local retailers. Organize a book tour.  Obtain local and regional newspaper and magazine articles about your book. Conduct public speaking events. Blog and write on others’ blogs.  Write articles and publish them on the Internet.  Publish your interviews, video trailers and book reviews everywhere on the Internet.  Write opinion or editorial letters to newspapers and magazines.  Each time, sign off with your name, the book’s title and your desired Internet landing page.  This can be any specific retailer, such as Amazon.  However, my landing page is a blog page on WordPress.  That is because I can offer my own specific review samples, the trailer, dozens of useful links, comments and a variety of retailers for the book that are just one click away from purchase.  My landing page is here.

Develop and distribute a video book trailer.  Market it through appropriate groups in places such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.  You can reach tens of thousands of people with this effort.  Put up a Wikipedia page.  Create web pages for your book at sites such as Goodreads, MySpace, Zing, Author’s Den, Bookbuzzr, WeRead, Scribid, Ning and many others.  Tweet about your book daily on Twitter. Post about it at Facebook. Create your book’s own page at Facebook.

Marketing is time consuming and often frustrating. But do not count on your publisher to do everything, particularly if you are a new author. Expect your publisher to contract with distributors, obtain reviews and place your book on Internet retailers, such as Amazon, Borders, Barnes & Noble, Powells and Buy.com.  But, unless your name is Stephen King, you’ll be expected to do a lot of your own marketing and sales work. Be willing to conduct viral, electronic and web page marketing on your own. Use social networking groups.  The harder your effort, the larger your author platform will be (and higher royalty checks will likely follow).

E-Sales:

If you self-publish, consider selling your book via Internet retailers and distributors, such as Smashwords and Lebrary.  These entrepreneurs will take your formatted manuscript, cover and your marketing words out to the e-reading public. Smashwords recently revealed an agreement allowing their Premium members to have their books sold on the new iPad, iPhone, Nook, Kobo, Diesel, Sony Reader and much more (via ePub, mobi, LRF, PDB, PDF, RTF and plain text) for leading edge reading devices.  Thousands of downloads of your book can result in unexpected royalties.

Trade publishers also today are beginning to sell many of their print books as e-books.  My Holocaust novel, Jacob’s Courage, was one of the first e-books offered by my publisher and it was one of the first Holocaust Kindle books.  As the reading public swiftly changes their mode of reading, you will want your publisher to have electronic sales opportunities available, in addition to the print version.  If you self-publish, you will need to create these new formats on your own.  Remember that each new version of your book (such as an e-book, an e-Pub, mobi, LRF, PDF, plain text, etc.) requires its own unique ISBN number.  Your publisher will likely purchase it.  If you self-publish, you’ll need to buy your own ISBN numbers for the new formats.

No matter which publishing format you select, I wish you the very best of luck.  Being published is not simple or easy.  But, if you have talent and your book is marketable, you can be published and sell many books.  Developing the best proposal and then contacting dozens or hundreds of publishers is not enjoyable.  But, it is necessary.  I hope that this blog helps you with the intricacies of being published.  Feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns.

All my best,

Charles S. Weinblatt
Author, Jacob’s Courage
http://jacobscourage.wordpress.com/

http://cweinblatt.blogspot.com/

csw2@bex.net