Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Katherine Smith's Five Golden Rules of Publicty for Authors

Katherine Smith writes about her five rules of publicity for authors on her blog, Writer’s Write. Every author needs to institute a broad range of strategies in their quest for publishing success and we all need to be exposed to as many people’s ideas as possible. Use the tips for what they are; the kinds of things that made others publishing successful.

Being your own publicist is at once hard and easy. If you know the what and how of the task, doing those things are a matter of faithful execution. Teresa Evenson at TEAM Marketing runs a clinic on the subject and attending should be a must for every serious author. I caught her clinic at Estes Park and was amazed at her ability to boil the whole thing down to manageable pieces.

My first exposure to her author self-publicist concept was when she used to do her author tour each year at CBA EXPO. Teresa cajoled a room full of press into a conference suite and ran authors through at twenty minute intervals, giving each huge exposure at such a pace the press had no choice but to pay attention, or miss an opportunity.

It was very affordable, easy to achieve and had long term benefits for everyone, not the least of which was the literary press corps.


The Five Golden Rules Of Publicity For Authors
By Katherine "Kat" Smith

The hard work, you think, is over. You've labored into many late nights writing your book, struggled to literally make sure every "i" is dotted and every "t" crossed. Your book -- your baby -- is all grown up now; completed and ready to set the world on fire.

Then, the cold, hard truth slaps you in the face like a winter chill. Like the proverbial tree falling in the woods with no one around, your book isn't going to make a sound -- or even be known about by anyone -- unless you get the word out. You could hire a publicist, but the often high-costs can be prohibitive, and perhaps most of your "book money" went to editing, design, layout and printing.

What to do?

Relax, set your ego aside, and set up a plan and course of action. Book promotion isn't rocket science; but it does involve a lot of hard work, persistence and some added touches of creativity. Here are some basic yet invaluable pointers for the bold author who has decided to go it alone in the wild world of book promotion.

Change positions with the media

The essence of book promotion is the utilization of the media to get the word out to the public about your book. Sure, producers, editors and journalists can be a gruff bunch, but the reality is they are literally swamped with books and press releases every day.

What you need to do is put yourself in the shoes of the media. If you were a feature editor at a paper or a producer of a talk show, what would interest you? Too often, amateur publicists simply believe that getting a book or press release into the right person's hands will do the trick. WRONG. You've got to think of an angle, hook, slant -- whatever you want to call it -- that will interest the right people.

Listen to talk radio. Watch TV talk shows. Read the lifestyle and feature sections of newspapers. Read magazines. See what makes it; then create a press release that will make it happen for you.

Remember: No one ever interviews a book

Getting on radio and TV talk shows is exciting, fun and can really jumpstart book sales. But if you think your book will get you on the air by itself, you're probably wrong. No one interviews a book ... they interview PEOPLE. Of course, the topic your book may be gets the attention of producers, but they need and want people who can be informative, entertaining and articulate. People make a show ... not books.

When you're promoting a book, you're also promoting yourself. Remember this, practice this, and go for it!

Invest in useful resources

No self-promoting author can achieve success without a few essential resources. You need to know who to contact and how to contact them. Media directories are plentiful, and some are actually affordable. Shop around and get one. One of the most popular is the series of Bacon's media directories, but there are many available.

But what about non-media publicity resources? Book signings and speaking engagements are excellent ways to get books moving and create word-of-mouth awareness. A book such as The Book Seller's List -- a directory of book stores and other outlets -- puts the information right at your fingertips. Other books cover virtually every aspect of book promotion -- from direct mail and marketing to media coaching and radio interviewing skills.

Practice relentlessness

The reality of book publicity is ... you have to get used to being a salesperson. Make no mistake about it; you are selling something when you try to get the media interested in you or your book. Practice the art of persuasion while always keeping in mind what the media wants.

Any publicist will tell you that being relentless is paramount in book promotion. You have to walk the fine line between persistence and annoyance, being careful to not become "pushy," but persuasive. Don't stop with one phone call, email, fax or letter. Follow everything up, and then do it again and again.

Know the game

Think of book promotion as a very simple marketing game: If you give the media what they want -- good stories, solid information, controversial or provocative topics - they'll give you what you want -- print coverage or air time to get the word out about your book.

So many authors complain that they "sent 100 review copies out with fancy press kits and no responses!" Perhaps the books and press kits didn't give the recipients what they need and want to do their jobs? Are you simply shoving a book in their face, or persuading them to take a look at the book because of a compelling angle or tie-in to a topic many people are interested in?

Anyone can send out books or press releases about a book, but the successful self-promoters lure the media in by enticing them with information that can help them do their job.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Twitterature - A New Sub-Medium

...and now for something completely ridiculous.


"Twitterature" Has Book World Atwitter

Posted by Stephen J. Gertz
Two nineteen year old freshmen at the University of Chicago have scored a publishing deal for their book, Twitterature: The World's Greatest Books, Now Presented in Twenty Tweets or Less, to be released later this year by Penguin.
The students, Emmett Rensin and Alex Aciman, "had an epiphany," they declare on their website. "What, we asked, are the grandest ventures of our or any generation? And what, to give this a bit more focus, best expresses the souls of 21st century Americans?"
Their answer: that the two most important platforms of expression for their generation were literature and Twitter, and so they sought a way to marry the two.
"More than any other social networking tool, Twitter has refined to its purest form the instant-publishing, short-attention-span, all-digital-all-the-time, self-important age of info-deluge that is the essence of our contemporary world. So what could be better than to combine the two? After all, as great as the classics are, who has time to read those big, long books anymore?"
And so their "humorous retelling of works of great literature in Twitter format aimed at people aged between 18 and 35."
The intent is to metaphorically throw the works of Dante, Shakespeare, Stendhal, Joyce and JK Rowling into a log-chipper and have twenty 140-character Tweets for each come out the other end. The humor, presumably, will be added somewhere along the process, like carnauba wax in a car wash, then polished to hilarious sheen. Humor's a tricky thing; without meta-context the laughs get lost and there's no room for any sort of context in a Twitter tweet.
This is not exactly a fresh idea. In early May of 2009, the U.K. Telegraph reported that writer Tim Collins has a new book, The Little Book of Twitter, comprised of plot summaries of the great books and aimed at the Twitteratti, i.e.:
jamesjoyce: Man walks around Dublin. We follow every minute detail of his day. He's probably overtweeting.
Great Expectations:
charlesdickens: Orphan given £££ by secret follower. He thinks it's @misshavisham but it turns out to be @magwitch
The Catcher in the Rye:
jdsalinger: Rich kid thinks everyone is fake except for his little sister. Has breakdown. @markchapman is now following @johnlennon
Pride and Prejudice:
janeaustin: Woman meets man called Darcy who seems horrible. He turns out to be nice really. They get together.
Bridget Jones's Diary:
helenfielding: RT @janeaustin Woman meets man called Darcy who seems horrible. He turns out to be nice really. They get together.
Okay, this is fun up to a point; I got paid to do this in an earlier incarnation: Ultimately, Collins' book is an exercise in writing what in TVLand-speak is called the "high-concept," a high-fallutin' way to describe the log line for the program/movie's TV Guide entry, nothing more. Writing "high-concepts" sounds a lot more significant than writing TV Guide teasers, along the lines of "sanitation engineer" for garbageman which, come to think of it, was exactly what I was doing.
Twitterature apprs 2B aimng at smthng mre &, hopefully, litteratwerps hu thk plot is bk wll B dsapntd.
If Rensin and Aciman can capture the soul of a book within its theme, plot, character, and milieu in twenty Tweets of 160 characters each or less, and include a wry slant, that would really be an accomplishment; high art, I think, and poetry of the highest rank.
I'm not counting on it.

How Can You Get Published if No One WIll Publish You?

Mike Hyatt, THE publishing guru, blogged about platform building in an entry April 29th, that needs reviewed by those wishing to crack the concrete ceiling that is hanging over publishing in America.

The truth is that a platform is a huge part of the equation, just as consistent direct communication between you and those visiting your blog/twitter/facebook/etc.

The day of publishers taking a flyer on a new author are so over, one wonders if they ever existed, or if it was just a fond, imaginary, phase we all went through together. In this century, you build from within, maintaining a data base, even if it's in Outlook, of everyone you touch through your writing, speaking and marketing of yourself.

Do the easy work now and you won't be playing catch-up later.

Mike Hyatt received an email yesterday from a young lady who wanted to write a book. She complained that neither publishers nor agents would give her a chance. According to her, their main objection was that she didn’t have a platform. "How can I get a platform," she wrote, if no one will publish me?"

Frankly, I get this question a lot. The answer is simpler than you think: build one. It’s never been more possible. For the first time in history, perhaps, you don’t need a lot of money or even the right connections. What you need is something to say, a fair amount of determination, and persistence. But it is possible.

By platform most publishers mean the ability to influence an audience that is large enough to make publishing a book less of a risk. Just a few years ago, this meant you had to have a television or radio show or write a regular magazine or newspaper column. This typically required a lot of money or important contacts.

But today, by starting a blog and making use of tools social networking tools like Twitter and Facebook, you can build a big platform with little more that the investment of your creativity and time. I’m not saying it is easy, but I am saying it is within reach. (By the way, I consider my blog to be my homebase and Twitter, Facebook, Plaxo, LinkedIn, etc., to be outposts.)

Therefore, if you are thinking about writing a book, and if you don’t already have a large media platform, I would strongly urge you to start blogging. Why? I can think of four reasons:

1. It will hone your writing skills. The truth is, that if you can’t muster the discipline to blog consistently, you won’t have the discipline to write a book either. In addition, blogging enables you to find your voice, one post at a time. The more you write, the better you will get. There’s no substitute for practice and lots of it.
2. It will provide near-instant feedback. The problem with writing a book is that it is a long process. You won’t get much feedback along the way. And you won’t really discover if you have hit the bulls eye, so to speak, until after you have invested a great deal of blood, sweat, and tears. With blogging, you get almost instant feedback, particularly if you encourage comments. This will give you a tremendous boost to stay with the process and keep writing.
3. It will enable you to build a tribe. If your writing is good, and if it connects with people, then they will begin to tell others. Whether they mention your blog in casual conversation or Twitter a link to a post that was meaningful to them, you will start to attract readers. This will be slow at first, but you must persevere. Like almost everything in life, it’s difficult to overcome inertia and get the flywheel turning. But once you do, the growth will come more quickly.
4. It will eventually get an agent or publisher’s attention. Once you are getting 500 - 1,000 unique visitors a day, you suddenly have a platform that can be leveraged into a book deal. In order to track this, I would strongly urge to sign up with Google Analytics. This will provide you with a verifiable way to prove to an agent or a publisher that you have the traffic you claim to have.

Obviously, you can blame agents, publishers, the industry, or even the economy for why you can’t seem to get published. Or, you can roll up your sleeves and get to work.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Made Perfect Through Brokenness

There is a village is the Far East that, through the centuries, was known for its exquisite pottery. Especially striking were its urns, admired around the globe for their strong form and delicate beauty.

Legend has it that each urn took months to fashion, redone until each surface was perfect. When the artisan knew his creation was ready, it was fired into a smooth, glass-like, amazingly unique piece of art.

When it was finished and painted in colors so rich they made you cry, there was one final step. The potter would examine the piece and after declaring its perfection, take a large mallet and shatter it.

The potter would then begin the painstaking process of putting the broken pieces back together using only gold filigree.

An ordinary urn was then transformed into a priceless work of art. What seemed finished wasn’t, until it was broken.

We think we have arrived. We believe our life is perfect. Sometimes we even proclaim perfection through our words and behavior and one day life smashes our perfect dream, breaking our life into an array of pieces. Our world suddenly seems disjointed, out of step and unfulfilled.

Then the Potter takes over, taking all the little pieces of a life destroyed and carefully fitting them back together using the most precious substance known, to cement us in place, so that He might place us among the many other works of art He created out of brokenness and pain.

Give Him a chance, today. Stay a while on the Potter's wheel and be healed, fixed, recreated and made beautiful by the hands of the One whose love was so great He left Heaven to die on a cross, alone and hated, so that He would not have to live forever in Paradise without you.

Rest in His arms.

Let the wheel of His will restore and repair you.

As He turns your broken heart and shattered dreams into a priceless work of art, let His love overflow your vessel, touching and changing everything in its path.

He Loves You, you know.

You personally. Individually.

He loves you...

But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
2 Corinthians 3:18

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Why Should YOU Help Sell Your Book?

Rachelle Gardner makes some tough points from an agent's perspective, on the responsibility of the author to sell books. When I worked with Jerry Jenkins at Moody Press, he always considered it his obligation to market a book for AT LEAST the first year after publication and as long as run up to publication as possible.

If you are not selling books for yourself, your going to limit, dramatically, what you can sell in the future. That is IF you get a publisher, in this market, who is willing to take a chance picking up your project. That is reality to many, MANY currently published authors, finding out their house said "No" to the next project and maybe to some already under contract.

Why You Should Help Sell Your Book

Every time I post anything about building a platform, blogging, or creating an online presence, I inevitably get a few grumbles and complaints about why this is necessary. Some people want proof that all these activities can actually sell books. I also get "what-if" and "but-I" and every possible argument from writers who don't want to do this.

Well, here's the thing. If you manage to get a contract with a mainstream commercial publisher for your first book, that's awesome. But if your book doesn't go on to have strong sales to consumers, your publishing career could be over. Just that quick. Even if your publishing career isn't over at that point, it's definitely handicapped, and you might have to work even harder than you did with your first book to sell a second one to a publisher.

In the golden days of publishing, it was common for publishers to put a book out there, then expect it to slowly build. They'd allow time for readers to find it. Even if a first book didn't sell very well, publishers took the long view of an author, understanding that it might take two or three books for readers to find them. They'd stick with that author and build them over time. But today it's rare to get that kind of treatment. We don't have the luxury of "waiting" for an author to find an audience.

There are exceptions. Occasionally there's a writer that the publishing house believes in so strongly that they'll put out a second and even a third book, despite poor sales, especially if it was a multi-book contract to start with. Hopefully by then, the sales will begin to meet the publisher's expectations. If not... doom.

In general... the latest wisdom from the current publishing industry is this: It's easier for a first-time, never-published author to sell a book to a publisher than it is for an author who's had a book that tanked.

What's the definition of "tanked?" It depends on what the publisher's expectations were to begin with. Your book could sell 75,000 copies, but if the publisher projected 150k, the book may be seen as a failure. Or, your book could sell 20k, but the publisher expected 12k so you are considered very successful, and they'll want more books from you.

What's my point?

In this environment, wouldn't you want to do everything humanly possible to drive up the sales of your own book? I'm talking about sales to the end-user, the reader purchasing your book from the bookseller. Wouldn't you want to be looking at ways that you could find an audience for your book, and at least try to help it fly off the shelves at Barnes & Noble? If your publishing future depends on your sales, it makes sense.

A blog can help you build an audience, but maybe a blog isn't your vehicle of choice. Maybe you have access to 5,000 people or 50,000 people another way... through an organization you work for, or a newsletter you distribute. It doesn't matter. The point is, if you want a career as a multi-published author, that first book really needs to sell. It's in your best interest to find an audience and do what you can to boost sales of your book.

Sure, you could leave all the marketing to your publisher. But then if your book doesn't sell very well, who are you going to blame? Your publisher, of course. You'd be abdicating your own responsibility and the power you have to impact the sales of your own book.

This article is about Bookscan, but the first paragraph gives a bit of crucial information. A publisher is giving the reason for declining to pick up a third book from an author who has published two highly praised books. "...sales of his two titles have been modest in comparison to the great praise and attention his work has received, and in this economy that’s a very difficult obstacle for us to overcome with our accounts and booksellers." The point is, publishers base these decisions on previous sales; more importantly, so do booksellers. Even if the publisher picked up a book from this author, the booksellers may decline to carry it. Bummer.

I'll admit, this isn't an easy road. But you do have some power, and you get to decide: Help sell your book to consumers, or not. It's that simple (and that hard).

Inheriting the Gift

One of my devotions written for the Barbour Books men's devotional,

"The Great Adventure Journal."

ISBN: 9781602606043

Inheriting the Gift

I Cor. 8:6 "There is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live."

Have you ever paddled a canoe across a mountain lake and wondered at the beauty of the scenery? God the Creator made it all just for you. Have you ever gazed up a mountain, from the lake and caught sight of an eagle? His hands made their wings. If you noticed any of these things, did you take a moment to consider who God was thinking of when He made it all?
Millions stand beside the waters that flow through their lives, oblivious to the panoramic slide show God is performing for them. Their busy lifestyles shut them out from the beautiful and they miss the One that makes it possible.
If you’re going through a hard time... if you’re seeking answers to questions you haven’t got the courage to pose... If your life is one long disappointment with occasional joy and no beauty, then you’re missing the secret. Its right before your eyes and all you have to do to find it is stop and look around, without the blinders of hurry and the bondage of disappointment.

God give us courage to stop and gaze on Your Creation, so that we might better appreciate the Creator.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Save Time and Money with Professional Editors

Writer’s Digest has some strong words about using professional editors to make your work all it can be. The truth is that publishers are harder pressed than ever to fund their projects. If you bring them a proposal in ready to print condition, you likely get nearer the top of the pile.

Bring them one that isn’t and you go straight to the bottom and it’s a bottomless pit.

How to Save Time and Money with Professional Editors
Posted by Jane

This post has been adapted from material by Jim Adams, at his site Migdalin.com. I met the talented Jim this past weekend at the WD Editors' Intensive, and we discussed his passion for editor George H. Scithers.


After 30 years of rejection, I finally got tired of not knowing why my writing wasn't working. Before trying to find a publisher or an agent, I sent the novel I'd just finished (or so I thought) off to a professional editor.

The year that followed was expensive (professional editors don't come cheap), but it also taught me things about plot, protagonist, pacing, and novel structure that I hadn't picked up from 15 credit hours of undergraduate creative writing courses, an M.A. in creative writing, and reading untold books on writing (some of them with titles like PLOT).

Professional editors are more efficient than how-to books. They give you feedback specific to your project. It's one thing to read a "rule" in a book, it's another thing to have an editor point to a spot in your opus and say, "Here's where you broke the rule, and here's how your writing was weakened as a result."

Professional editors can be more effective than a degree in creative writing, since half your time in getting that sort of degree will be in ancillary class work. Worse, unless you're careful and choosy, you could easily wind up (as I did) at a university where the creative writing teachers sneer at pedestrian concerns like plot. If you dream of getting an M.A. or M.F.A. in creative writing, you might consider finding a professional editor instead. Not only could you learn more in less time, the editorial route might even be less expensive (depending on the university you're applying to), especially if going back to school means giving up a decent-paying job.

As sold as I am on getting help from professional editors, though, when I started working on a new novel, I faced a real dilemma: an insufficiency of funds. Although I hope this new book will need less editorial hand-holding than the previous one, getting the full manuscript critiqued still represents a major expense.

Also, I never feel I've mastered something until I do it right three times in a row. As such, I still have doubts about my ability to spot major plot holes and plot sidetracks on my own.

My brilliant solution to this conundrum?

I sent my editor a detailed synopsis rather than a complete novel.

Getting a synopsis critiqued is not only less expensive, it can save you a lot of time. In my case, although I already had a complete draft of the novel written, revising generally takes me twice as long (at least) as writing the rough draft. Thus, by spotting major non sequiturs in the synopsis, my editor can save me from tweaking pages, chapters, or even (please God, not that again!) an entire book that needs to be tossed out and rewritten from scratch.

If you like to outline and plan books ahead of time, you could even save yourself time during the drafting stage by getting an editor to look at your story premise and outline straightaway.

While they might tell you things you don't want to hear (such as that your underlying story idea won't hold water), wouldn't you rather find that out before you've spent months or years of your life working on the thing?

Even getting a synopsis edited can cost $200 or more, but it's money well-spent, since this particular $200 could save me weeks, even months, of fruitless revision and polishing. Even better, it could save me several thousand dollars, compared to sending a full manuscript to my editor, only to find that my novel has major structural problems—problems that could have been fixed via a review of my story outline.

Wondering how to find a solid professional editor? Preditors and Editors is a good resource for checking out an editing service before you give them your money or your manuscript. I've been using The Editorial Department, and the editor they assigned me to (Peter Gelfan) is the greatest: cruel, insensitive, tactful, patient, and very insightful.

My first book is still making the rounds of agents and publishers, and may still wind up turning into a trunk novel. While I'm convinced it's technically solid, that isn't enough to make a book sell given the difficult publishing environment these days. But whether my first book makes it or not, I feel much better about what I'm doing. I no longer feel like I'm spinning my wheels fruitlessly, repeating the same mistakes over and over again without realizing it.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Saying More Than We Can Say

Saying More Than We Can Say

Why the Arts Matter Even During a Recession
Carolyn Arends


At a concert in Erie, Pennsylvania, I sang a song called "In Good Hands." Afterward, the church's custodian stopped by. "When you was singing that song about Jesus' hands," he said, "the sun was setting behind you, and it was making them stained glass pictures of Jesus glow. The sound of your buddy's violin was bouncing off these stone walls, and, well, you was saying more than you was even saying."

In these tough times, I worry that violins and stained glass and folk songs may become extraneous. Many people are in a state of financial frostbite; just as blood flow to the extremities is restricted to save vital organs in a case of hypothermia, resources for less essential items must be diverted during an economic crisis. Who's going to buy tickets to a film festival, ballet, or concert when there isn't enough money for groceries?

What business do I have writing songs when there is practical work that needs doing? Do the arts matter? Are they expendables or essentials?

Karl Paulnack, director of the music program at the Boston Conservatory, tells the story of Olivier Messiaen, a French composer who was 31 when he was sent to a Nazi concentration camp. Messiaen convinced a sympathetic prison guard to provide paper and a place to compose; in January 1941, his Quartet for the End of Time was performed for 4,000 prisoners and guards. To this day, it is considered a masterpiece.

Paulnack asks, "Given what we have since learned about life in the concentration camps, why would anyone in his right mind waste time and energy writing or playing music? … And yet—from the camps, we have poetry, we have music, we have visual art … Why? Well, in a place where people are only focused on survival, on the bare necessities, the obvious conclusion is that art must be, somehow, essential for life. Art is part of the human spirit, an unquenchable expression of who we are."
The Christian faith provides an explanation for the resilience of the human creative impulse. Consider God's first revelation about himself, the first five words of the Bible: In the beginning, God created. When we help make something—when we participate in bringing "cosmos out of chaos," as writer Madeleine L'Engle put it—we affirm the fact that we are made in the image of the Creator. No wonder we can't help ourselves. We are made to participate in the arts.

There are a thousand arguments for the usefulness of the arts in the church. Paintings and plays let us say things that we could never express in direct conversation, giving them great evangelistic potential. Poems and visual icons can be powerful discipleship tools, and Scripture mandates the use of song. Music and poetic liturgy have long been essential mechanisms for communal worship.

But the arts are also important for less obvious reasons. When we witness the transformation of raw material into something beautiful, we are encouraged to remember that other new realities can be made—that perhaps justice can be created where there is injustice, wholeness can be wrought where there is disease and poverty, and community can be made even from discord. Beauty not only suggests these ideals are possible, but it also awakens a longing for them.
When songwriter Sara Groves told International Justice Mission founder Gary Haugen that she wanted to quit music and become a lawyer in support of the cause, Haugen told her she must continue in the important work she was already doing to move hearts and minds toward justice. The arts are not in competition with efforts against injustice; they are an essential part of the fight.

But the arts do even more than help us believe in transformed realities: they kindle faith in unseen realities. My own sense of transcendence is nurtured primarily by beauty—in the created world (mountains, oceans, wildflowers) and in the world we help create (poems, songs, sculpture). By convincing us that there is something more than the material realm of atoms and synapses, the arts open a vista to belief in God.
And when we meet this God, our creativity becomes one of the ways we delight in him. The Message translation of Genesis says that we were created "reflecting God's nature." When we are lost in some endeavor—consumed by singing a song, dancing a jig, building a presentation, or telling a story—people say we are "in our glory." In truth, we are in God's glory, participating in the beauty overflowing from the Creator himself.

Those are the times we wind up saying more than we are even saying, and knowing more than we could know any other way.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Avoid Scams in "Traditional" Publishing

The playing field has shifted in the last year, more so than in the 25 years previously. WHen the economy is bad, scams pop up all over the map. Take a look at employment scams for a primmer.

Writers Weekly has an excellent article on the subject that can teach us all several important lessons. Read on for more...


June 24, 2009

"I Just Landed a Traditional Contract...Or Did I?"


Below is an email I received from an author last week, with details edited to protect his identity. The author had been led to believe that this was a traditional publishing house.

My new publisher has stopped responding to my messages. Their committee spent a week "reviewing" my manuscript.
They decided to publish the book.

The contract is attached to this email. They would be selling the book at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and would make my book available to bookstores through Ingram. Please take a look at the paragraph I've colored in red.

They asked me to "co-invest" in the project - to pay them $900.00.

I declined the offer and told them that I found it to be humiliating. Rather than offering an advance to the author, the publisher asked for it!

I wish I could say this is a new type of scam...but it's not. In fact, it mirrors other types of scams we've read about over the years.

Several BookLocker authors have emailed me over the years, asking to terminate their contracts because they landed a traditional contract. Some of these authors really did land traditional contracts. However, a few were duped.

This is basically how the scam usually works.

1. Somebody puts up a website, claiming to be a traditional publisher.

2. They accept the author's manuscript after some sort of seemingly high-level "review" process (when, in fact, everybody gets accepted). They then tell the author he or she must immediately terminate any other contracts they have for their book. (As with most scams, they want you to hurry, before you can figure out you're begin scammed and before you can ask someone else for advice. They will likely state they can't offer you a contract until/unless you are not under contract elsewhere. Note: They may even send you the text of one contract "for review", which doesn't mention fees...but send you a different contract - the real one - to officially sign later.) At this point, the unsuspecting self-published author will email their POD publisher and terminate their contract...basically throwing away all the money they invested to self-publish their book. They are now at the mercy of their new "publisher" and, believe me, the new publisher knows this.

3. The company starts making broad claims about how great they are, how professional their books look, and how successful their authors have been (cough). Lots of glowing emails are exchanged back and forth over the days or weeks, praising the author, and making them feel like a V.I.P.

4. The publisher also makes (false) claims about all the promotion they're going to do for an author's book, perhaps including a book tour for the author, a press release sent to thousands of journalists, a book review in a major, nationwide magazine, and much, much more.

5. With each email communication, the author gets more and more excited about the possibility that they're going to have a huge best seller, thanks to their wonderful new publisher! They're going to make so much money that they'll be able to retire on a beach somewhere, and spend the rest of their days with a mai tai in one hand and a keyboard under the other.

6. Only after the "traditional publisher" has elevated the author's hopes to incredible heights (and separated the author from their previous publisher), do they say, "Oh, and by the way, to show you're as serious as we are about your success, we need you to invest money in your book, too. Please send us $$$ (hundreds to thousands of dollars) today so we can move forward with your future best seller!"

That's right. The author has simply been tricked into moving from one self-publishing service to another, at great financial and emotional expense. Yes, emotional expense. Authors who have fallen for this type of scam are deeply ashamed when they realize they've been duped. Many won't talk about it publicly, which, of course, helps the scammer stay in business, pursuing even more victims. Some will even pay the money, either feeling they have no other choice (because they already terminated their other contract), or because they continue to naively and desperately hope the "publisher" will still fulfill all their promises later. Some even refuse to initially believe they've been scammed, and remain in a state of denial...until months later, when they finally realize there will be no book tour, no national magazine review, and certainly no mai tai's on the beach. Only then will they admit that something didn't feel quite right all along.

So, how can you protect yourself from this type of scam?

1. Don't blindly trust the publisher's references. Even some of the authors listed on their website might be the publisher (or his/her relatives), writing under a variety of names.

2. Don't terminate an old publishing contract until you have a final, signed contract from your new publisher. If they balk, tell them to include a clause that requires you to terminate your previous contract within a certain number of days/weeks before your book's scheduled (new) publication date.

3. If you think you've landed a real "traditional" contract, have a literary agent or your attorney negotiate the details and terms. If an attorney or agent intervenes on your behalf, scam services will likely "change their mind" about your manuscript, and may suddenly decline to publish it. Or, they may simply stop responding to correspondence from you and/or your attorney/agent. Many literary agents will be very happy to accept an author who has already landed a traditional contract. Heck, you've already done most of their work for them! If a "traditional" publisher says you don't need an agent or attorney, or, worse, refuses to correspond with yours, RUN!

4. Google the name of the company with words like scam and complaint. Look through their website for other companies they are associated with. Google those names as well.

5. Ask around! Posting inquiries about these types of companies online will almost always result in feedback from others. Warning: If the company is too new (or if they change their name periodically in an attempt to separate themselves from bad press), you may not find anything about them online. Aso be ware of false praise as many shady companies have trolls posting false positive statements about them online.

6. Take advantage of your research skills and poke around a bit. Get creative. You'd be surprised how much you can find out about a company or a company's owner/associates/affiliated firms just by following links on their website(s), in search engines, and their DNS information.

With the so-called publisher above, I discovered these tidbits:

- Their homepage states they're in New York...yet they're actually located in a different state.

- They have a sister company that is a literary agency. Why would a publisher also be a literary agency? That's an easy one! If an author is accepted as a client of their "literary agency", they will then refer that author to their (fee-based) publishing company, leading the author to believe the "literary agent" landed the contract for them! The company then gets the publishing fees AND the literary agent percentage! This is also an old scam in the industry.

- They include logos and verbiage that makes authors think their books will be stocked in the large bookstores.

- I found a warning posted about them that lists more than a dozen company names associated with this outfit - all of them appear to be scams, with hundreds of complaints posted online. Sure makes me wonder why the police haven't intervened in this one.

Why haven't I named them here? Because I want to protect the victim that contacted me and because I want authors to be wary of, and investigate, all so-called "traditional" publishing houses that offer them a contract.

Sadly, no matter how many times I publish articles like this, authors continue to fall for these too-good-to-be-true scams...and scammers continue to find new ways to rip-off authors.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Where will we be in five years?

Chip MacGregor Asks - Where will we be in five years?

...At a conference recently where they asked people in the industry to talk about trends they're seeing in publishing. Specifically, they wanted to know what changes we should expect to see in the next five years. My list...

1. You will own an electronic reader. It may be a Kindle (the Amazon.com tool that works on cell phone service, so that books show up on your clipboard-like device like a text message), or the Sony Reader (a better device to use, in my opinion, since it feels more like a book and you can easily download your own files without sending them off or paying Amazon to do it), or some cheap $99 knock-off device that we'll start seeing in the next year. But you WILL own one. Why? No more forty-pound sack of books to carry around. A thousand books on one device. If you get bored with one, you can skip to another. No losing a book ever again, since the companies who sold you the title will replace it for free. You remember when you thought you could get by without a cell phone, iPod, DVD player, Blackberry, GPS, and laptop? Well, you now own most of those. You'll soon recognize the value of an electronic reader and you'll buy one.

2. The web will replace your book show and your book catalog. The big book shows are dying -- too expensive and not enough return to keep going. They'll be replaced with smarter, more cost-effective company events or web-based specialty events. And publishers will soon buy into the green movement by doing away with printed book catalogs and going to web-based catalogs that are always accessible and easy to correct and update.

3. Publishers will soon scrap their print-based semi-annual royalty statements to authors and agents, and will replace them with electronic statements. This makes too much sense. It could be done today, frankly, if publishers wanted to spend the time to make the change. The only thing keeping your publishing house from moving to an email version of your royalty statement is that it doesn't want to be bothered changing the system in light of all the other financial struggles it is facing. But within five years, they'll all have gone to electronic royalty statements.

4. The concept of convergence will jump from newspapers and magazines to books. We live in an image-driven culture, so it's only natural that the convergence of words and images will come to the world of books. On an electronic book screen, we can expect interactive features, downloadable extras, video clips, author interviews, and all sorts of other images to enhance the text. (Think of the newspapers they sell in the Harry Potter movies, with moving images and dynamic graphics -- that's exactly the type of book we'll see in the near future.)

5. A new role will be established within publishing houses. All those images and special features will mean a new role must be established to create and manage the convergence of words and images. We can expect "creative content editors" to become a regular part of every editorial staff. These indviduals will have experience with words as well as images and the interactive aspects marketing.

6. The new products will mean new companies. It may sound crazy in this lousy economic time to predict a spate of new companies being formed... but I think the new technology will make it imperative. One thing that has always been clear is that new breakthroughs in technology (and I believe the electronic reader is a wonderful breakthrough) means new companies to create cutting-edge applications. I think we'll see new companies rise up to compete with the big New York houses when it comes to e-books.

7. A writing superstar will self-publish a book (and make a killing). Again, I think this is inevitable. There is too much money at stake for a celebrity writer to leave it on the table by remaining with a regular royalty-paying publisher. I believe one of the big writers of our era will decide to self-publish, either digitally or in a print-on-demand format, and he or she will sell a boatload of books. (For those not in the know, you can make MORE money at self-publishing, if you have the ability to sell your book. The reason most self-pubbed authors lose money is because they don't know how to sell their book.)

Friday, June 19, 2009

The AMY AWARDS - Christian Content in Secular Media

...from Jim Barrett, Executive VP of The Amy Foundation...


The Amy Writing Awards is celebrating our 25th year of the program. Last year more than 600 articles were submitted. Cash prizes totaling $34,000 were presented to fifteen authors in May for articles published in 2008. These include the $10,000 first prize award, $5,000 second prize, $4,000 third prize, $3,000 fourth prize, $2,000 fifth prize, as well as ten $1,000 awards of Outstanding Merit. For articles published during 2009, prizes will be awarded in May, 2010.

The Amy Foundation Writing Awards program is designed to recognize creative, skillful writing that applies in a sensitive, thought-provoking manner the biblical principles to issues affecting the world today, with an emphasis on discipling.

To be eligible, submitted articles must be published in a secular, non-religious publication (either printed or online) and must be reinforced with at least one passage of scripture. Each author may submit up to ten entries.

There is no entry fee. A submission form is available on The Amy Foundation website. Past Amy Writing Award winning articles are posted on our website as well as printed in our annual booklet of prize-winning entries.

Entries must be postmarked on or before January 31, 2010 to qualify for the 2009 Amy Writing Awards. Please note that January 31, 2010 is a Sunday. Entries must be postmarked by that date.

The Benefits of Selling to Non-Bookstore Markets

I got a chance to review "Publishing Basics" article on non-traditional book selling opportunities at:


...and thought you would love to read more about it.

Special-sales marketing is the process of selling your books to individuals — or to professional buyers — in businesses other than bookstores. In non-bookstore marketing, a successful title is written in response to an identified need, is published in the form desired by the reader, then is properly priced, distributed and promoted directly to a defined group of prospective customers. There are two major advantages of special sales over traditional bookstore marketing. These are control and segmentation.

1. Control. Special-sales marketing gives you more control over your destiny. The responsibility for success falls squarely upon your shoulders as you direct and control the journey of your titles to the appropriate buyers.

Pricing control. Competitive titles are not on a shelf next to yours, so immediate price comparisons are unlikely. The price ceiling is raised, if not eliminated. At the same time, distribution discounts may be eliminated and your print run could be higher. A strategy of pricing your titles based upon the value they offer the customer is more the rule. The result is more pricing flexibility and more leeway to offer price incentives, discounts, two-for-ones or coupons. There are instances in which you could actually lower your list price and still be more profitable.

Product control. Bookstore marketing requires that you sell books, probably 6” x 9” softcover books with a wide spine for easy visibility on the shelf. In special-sales marketing you are not necessarily selling books, you are selling the intangible content of your books. People are interested in what the information in your books will do for them – educate, inform or entertain. The beauty of non-traditional marketing is that the categories of frontlist and backlist are irrelevant. Buyers are concerned with the relevancy of your content to the solution of their problems, and the format in which it is delivered, while relevant, is not mandated as a book.

Buyers want to buy helpful information, not necessarily books. This gives you the flexibility to customize the form in which the information is delivered. It may be a comb-bound or spiral-bound manual that lies flat when used as a workbook during your seminars. Or, it may be a 3-ring binder allowing people to add or change pages easily. You may choose to serve the needs of you potential customers with a video program, DVD, CD or saddle-stitched booklet.

Promotion control. You no longer have to cringe when a careless editor misinterprets your press release, or when a reviewer pans your book. Instead, you can create your own publicity, advertising, sales literature and sales promotional tools to tell your story in your way. You may also decide to contact people directly by telephone or personal visit to present your story and negotiate the terms of sale.

Distribution Control. In non-bookstore marketing you can devise your own sales channels. You might sell your business books through airline magazines or career coaches; your book about dogs, in kennels; or your book about car safety in schools or automobile dealerships. You might choose to sell your romance novel to discount stores, or negotiate with Godiva Chocolate Company to use it as a premium, or have limousine services purchase it as a gift for their passengers.

2) Market segmentation. Some people looked at Goliath and thought he was too big to hit. David looked at him and thought he was too big to miss. You might look at special-sales marketing and think, “Is the non-traditional market big enough to approach, or is it too big?” The answer is yes. A market of $15 billion is too big to pass up, but it is too big a market in which to compete profitably — if you look at it as one goliath market.

Selling books is similar to selling automobiles in the sense that neither is one homogeneous market. In the latter, there are many groups of people, each with a preference for economy cars, luxury cars, sports cars, SUVs, used cars or antique cars. Within each segment, some people may also demonstrate a unique preference for style and color. There are demographic breakdowns in age groups that buy certain brands or styles, as well as psychographic differences among people who buy particular cars to express themselves.

The essence of special-sales marketing is this concept of segmentation, the act of breaking the mass market down into smaller pieces, each more relevant to your particular title. The total non-bookstore market is actually made up of hundreds of “mini-markets,” each with varying degrees of suitability for your title. These could be separated geographically, demographically and psychographically.

As an example of non-traditional market segmentation, consider the market for selling job-search books to unemployed people. Not everyone in that total market has the same career needs, skills or aspirations. There are college students seeking their first position. There are 50+ people with families and greater financial obligations. Women, minorities, blue-collar workers and Hispanic people all have different needs, require different information and may look for job-search assistance in diverse places. A title describing the basic functions of how to get a job could – and should — be marketed differently to each segment.

This concept applies to fiction, as well. Fred Fenn’s Journey to Common Ground is an historical fiction novel set in New England during the Civil War. This book could be sold in Civil War museums, or in airport stores, gift shops and bed & breakfast inns in New England.

Segmentation also applies to publicity. You might seek a review for your science fiction book in the Fantastic Daily Book Reviews ezine, your romance novel in Romantic Notions or your mystery in The Drood Review instead of submitting them to the New York Times Book Review.

Award competitions are also segmented. IBPA’s (formerly PMA) Ben Franklin Awards competition has many different categories for fiction and non-fiction titles. You may also enter your science fiction book for The World Fantasy Award, or your mystery for the Dagger Award presented by the Crime Writers Association.

Segmentation helps you market your book where interested, prospective buyers congregate. This may save you from wasting time, effort and money – all valuable commodities to the independent publisher. Below are additional benefits that accrue when selling books in special-sales markets.

A) Increase your sales in a marketplace equal in size to the bookstore market. If you do not seek book sales outside of bookstores than you may be missing half of your potential. Or, to look at it from a different perspective, you could double your sales with additional marketing effort directed to non-bookstore markets.

B) Experience growth that is virtually limitless. You can create an entirely new segment for your books simply by conducting some basic research. Mandeville Press was able to breathe new life into its line of spirituality titles by finding new sales in yoga-center bookstores and meditation centers, in bookstores at retreat centers and through marriage counselors.

C) Take your titles to the potential buyers rather than waiting for them to go to a bookstore, browsing among all the competitive titles. When you call on large corporations or small gift shops you have the buyers’ undivided attention. Most likely, no other author or publisher has tried to contact them. And when you call on people who more regularly deal with publishers – such as book clubs and catalogs — the buyers are usually receptive to your presentation.

D) Reduce the competition because most publishers ignore the segments in which you are selling. The majority of publishers ignores special-sales markets, with the possible exception of libraries, and relies upon bookstores as their sole source of revenue.

E) Minimize discounting since buyers do not have immediate access to competitive pricing. Bookstore buyers know where your book compares to competitive titles. That is their job. But if you go to product managers in a corporation who are looking for a premium to boost the sales of their products, they do not know if yours is priced above or below competitors’ titles. They are only concerned with its cost — how the information in your book can help them sell more of their products profitably.

F) Sell books on a non-returnable basis. Although some buy on a returnable basis (discount stores, warehouse clubs, supermarkets) most special-sales buyers do not expect to return books.

G) Stimulate increased exposure. Confer multiple hits upon your target buyers through a variety of promotional tools such as articles in niche magazines, trade shows, direct mail, and media performances. If you are selling a title about improving someone’s tennis serve, a review or article in Tennis magazine would more efficiently reach prospective buyers than it would in People.

H) Increase your flexibility in negotiations since there are few fixed distribution fees. Discounts are more flexible, and are typically based on the number of books purchased. Even if you negotiate a 50% discount with a buyer, you are 5 – 20% better off than selling that same book through bookstores. There are also non-price variables open to negotiation, such as format, terms and payments periods.

I) Improved cash flow, since some businesses purchase your products at list price. Government agencies are obligated to pay you interest if uncontested invoices are not paid within 30 days. In special sales markets, many orders are for multiple copies, minimizing your costs to fulfill orders. Shipping charges are typically prepaid an added to the invoice. Returns are less prevalent and payments may be made in 30 days from your invoice date.

J) Make your marketing expenditures more efficient. Segmentation of your prospects and pinpoint promotion reduce waste and increase the efficiency of your expenditures.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Adrift in the Land of Readers. What makes readers tick???

Mike Hyatt blogging on the life in land of readers makes some fascinating points. As always, every writer has an audience but must define themselves, their work and their message, so that their audience can fine them.


I am endlessly surprised by what works and what doesn’t, especially when it comes to publishing.

I experience this first-hand when it comes to my blog.

Sometimes I write a post and think, This is going to get huge traffic. Then I post it and watch in disbelief as people collectively shrug their shoulders and ignore it.Then I can throw something together on a whim, post it within minutes, and—bam!—my traffic goes through the roof.

For example, on Saturday, my daughter, Megan, told me about a great quote from P. J. O’Rourke on how easy it is to get distracted when you are writing. I Googled it and finally found the quote:

Usually, writers will do anything to avoid writing. For instance, the previous sentence was written at one o’clock this afternoon. It is now a quarter to four. I have spent the past two hours and forty-five minutes sorting my neckties by width, looking up the word “paisly” in three dictionaries, attempting to find the town of that name on The New York Times Atlas of the World map of Scotland, sorting my reference books by width, trying to get the bookcase to stop wobbling by stuffing a matchbook cover under its corner, dialing the telephone number on the matchbook cover to see if I should take computer courses at night, looking at the computer ads in the newspaper and deciding to buy a computer because writing seems to be so difficult on my old Remington, reading an interesting article on sorghum farming in Uruguay that was in the newspaper next to the computer ads, cutting that and other interesting articles out of the newspaper, sorting—by width—all the interesting articles I’ve cut out of newspapers recently, fastening them neatly together with paper clips and making a very attractive paper clip necklace and bracelet set, which I will present to my girlfriend as soon as she comes home from the three-hour low-impact aerobic workout that I made her go to so I could have some time alone to write.”

I read it aloud to Gail, and we both were laughing so hard we could barely get through the whole thing. It so perfectly expressed the week I had had and the challenge of writing.

So, I thought, Great. This is worth sharing this with other writers. I decided to post it in the Resources section of my blog. This took me about three minutes. Then I tweeted about it, so people could find it. (Posts in my Resource section don’t appear in my usual RSS feed.)

Little did I know how popular it would be. On Saturday, 3,053 people read that little post. On Sunday, 4,345 people read it. Conversely, some of the posts I spend the most time on have the poorest readership. I don’t get it.

The bottom line is that there is no necessary correlation between what I think will be popular and what actually is popular. The only way you can tell is by experimenting. (This, by the way, is why every author should have a blog. It is a sort of lab where authors can figure out what works and what doesn’t.)

That’s also true with book publishing. So often, the books that we think will be big bestsellers (and pay big royalty advances on) aren’t. They tank—or at least don’t achieve what we hope they will. Why? Because people just aren’t interested, no matter how much we hype the book or spend on promotion.

Similarly, some books that we anticipate will have modest sales completely blow us away. The Traveler’s Gift by Andy Andrews, Wild at Heart by John Eldredge, Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller, and Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore were all surprise hits—and continue to sell well to this day.

The moral of the story? Knowing what the public will respond to is still shrouded in mystery. If we could reduce it to a simple algorithm, we would. Then we could only publish the bestsellers. But, alas, this is not possible.

So instead, we try to learn from the past, listen to our gut, and publish the best content we can. In the end, publishing is a humbling reminder that none of us can determine with absolute certainty what will work and what won’t. Relatively speaking, the readers are still sovereign and we would do well to respect that fact.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Writer Conferences: Good Advice Part II

Part II of Chip MacGregor's commentary on Writer Conferences.


7. Amy said, "I was thinking of doing something creative with my proposal, just to make it stand out. Does that sort of thing help?"

True story: I once received a woman's romance proposal wrapped inside a lacy thong. Apparently the author thought it would make the project stand out in my mind. It did -- I assumed the author had lost her mind. My job is interesting enough as it is; I don't need to add t"ouching someone else's underwear" to my to-do list. This sort of creative thing can seem downright weird unless you explain it. So no -- I don't think these types of extra bonus things help very much. Ultimately it comes down to the idea, the writing, and the platform of the author. If you do a good job with those three things, you'll be way ahead of everybody else.

8. Jennifer asked, "Is it really important to include comparative titles in my book proposal?"

Absolutely. Good comparable titles make the editor's job easier. It sets up your manuscript and gives it context. It allows the editor to tell his or her sales staff, "This book is like that book." Besides, it's not that hard to do -- spend some time on Amazon, then poke around the shelves at Barnes & Noble. You'll quickly find some appropriate comparable titles. The one lesson I'd keep in mind is "not too big, not too small." In other words, don't compare your book to Left Behind, Harry Potter, The Purpose Driven Life, or The Shack. That just looks stupid -- you can't really be expected to compete with runaway hits. By the same token, don't compare your book to something nobody has ever heard of, a book that sold 12 copies, or a book that died a dog's death. Hello! That just suggests your book includes a one-way ticket to Loserville.

9. Rob wants to know, "If an agent at a conference invites me to send him a proposal, how long is okay to wait before I send it?"

Generally you'd want to send it as soon as possible. I mean, if you need a few days to polish it, by all means put the finishing touches on your work. But agents see a lot of proposals, and they aren't going to remember many they saw briefly at a conference. True Story II: I received an email from someone last week that reads, "I met you at a writing conference two years ago..." Um, who cares? I'd have a hard time telling you what cities I was in two years ago, let alone remember some guy who had another book idea. Besides, the marketplace for books changes all the time -- I don't know if an idea that was good two years ago will still be viable today. So don't delay. If an agent asked to see it, send it along.

10. And Anita asked me, "Can you show me a sample book proposal?"

If you go to my company website (MacGregorLiterary.com), you can find a sample fiction and a sample nonfiction book proposal. If you go the website of my former employer, Alive Communications, you'll find sample fiction and nonfiction book proposals (Alive is a very good literary agency). If you need help, I recommend Terry Whalin's wonderful little tome, Book Proposals That Sell. You can find it on Amazon for about ten bucks, and it's got great information to help you create a winning book proposal.

Writer Conferences: Good Advice from Chip MacGregor

Chip MacGregor is blogging about Writer Conferences. I have a strong interest in the subject and urge all potential writers to use them as an important resource. Chip says;


June 14, 2009
A Dozen Questions about Writing Conferences

I've been going over the questions people have sent me recently, and several have asked about writing conferences...

1. Dylan asked, "Are you a fan of writers' conferences?"

I'm a huge fan. I think writing conferences are a great place to network with other writers, learn about the craft, and meet people in the industry.

2. Sarah wants to know, "Is a writing conferernce worth the cost? What should I get out of it?"

The value of a conference depends on your expectations. If you're going to meet people in the industry and get connected, you'll probably find it worthwhile. But if you're going with the thought that "an agent will have a ten-minute conversation and want to sign me" or "an editor will take one look at my proposal and offer me a contract," you're probably going to be disappointed. I suggest an author sit down and look at the list of faculty and the list of workshops being offered. If you need craft help, go to a conference with really strong craft seminars. If you are most in need of talking with agents, look for one with a long lineup of literary agents. With travel, meals, hotel, and the registration fee, you could be spending more than a thousand bucks on a big conference -- that's a lot of money, especially if you're a writer who isn't making a thousand dollars a year via writing. So you've got to think about what your expectations are and how well the conference meets them. A little research can go a long way.

3. Veronica wrote this: "I'm planning to attend a conference in September, and they offer appointments with agents and editors. I'm not really ready for an agent -- should I sign up to meet some anyway?"

That depends on what your goals are. Sometimes you'll sign up with an editor just to let them see your work and get their perspective on it. If you're looking for direction in your writing, make that clear at the outset, so that you can get the most out of your fifteen minutes. You might sign up to talk with an agent about the industry -- again, give them some sense of your expectation in the meeting. But be aware -- sometimes an editor or agent will have limited times available, and we hate it when somebody is clearly wasting our time. I'll offer two examples... I don't represent children's books, poetry, or sci-fi novels. Ten minutes of research would reveal that to a prospective author. Yet I regularly have morons pitch me their sci-fi children's poetry crap during agent appointments. As though they expect I'm suddenly going to see the light, grasp their proposal, and shout, "Hallelujah! Poetry I love!" Geez. That's what you call "getting off on the wrong foot." A couple years ago, at a conference I did as a favor to the director, I could only be there for an afternoon. They made a big point of stating "Chip is here just for a couple hours, and we'd appreciate it if you would leave those appointment times for experienced writers." So who was my first appointment? A woman with her fourteen-year-old daughter, who began by saying, "I don't really have anything to talk with you about, I just wanted my teenage daughter to meet you." (And I was polite. I figure seriously stupid people require calmness in order to keep from getting violent.)

4. Danny asked, "What do you say at a meeting with an agent?"

That depends on you and the agent. If you were meeting with an agent who was a longtime editor like Janet Grant, you might ask about the salability of your work, or talk about your craft. If you're talking with an agent who is known for industry stuff, like Steve Laube, you might ask about how your idea fit with publishing houses. If you were meeting with me, you might ask career questions. In other words, do your homework. Be ready to talk about yourself and your book. Be clear about what you're hoping to get out of the meeting. Allow the agent to respond to your questions. Don't push too hard. Understand that agents are just people doing their jobs, so they may not have fabulous answers to every question you ask. If you're serious about writing, then you have to treat a conference as a business trip, not just a mini-vacation.

5. Sally said this: "I've met you at conferences before, and you never seem to take material with you. Why don't you take proposals?"

It gets worse, Sharon... I usually don't even take business cards. Why? Because I don't want to have to fill my suitcase with piles of dead trees. If I find your idea interesting, I might ask you to email it to me. But understand that I frequently say "no thanks" to ideas pitched to me at conferences. (I feel a need to say that, since I find some editors are total weenies and seem to tell everyone to "send it to me." That way they can just reject stuff with a faceless email.) Look, if I'm not crazy about the idea, or it's not a fit, or I don't think the person can write, I've got no reason to take their proposal. Or their card or bookmark, for that matter. I see hundreds of proposals each year, and I might take on a handful of clients. Do the math.

6. Mike wrote: "At last year's conference, I had a bunch of people ask to see my proposal... but no one made me an offer. Am I wasting my time at conferences?"

Not the way I look at it. I figure having people say "send it to me" is better than having them say "get lost." So it didn't sell -- at least it got looked at. Get some people to help you improve it, and show it to them again. (Or ditch the old idea and move on to something better.) Remember, for most people getting published is a process. You start out taking baby steps, and move toward learning how to write as an adult in the marketplace.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

NewsWeek - Have the Days of Christian Media Come and Gone?

NewsWeek is a little anxious to declare Christian Media dead and gone. In a typically liberal article, Newsweek writer Lisa Miller pretends to understand what the closing down of Christianity Today, means.

Have the days of Christian media come and gone?
Jun 4, 2009 | Updated: 1:22 p.m. ET Jun 4, 2009

Another week, another failed magazine. But while the collapse of print media is hardly news, this demise is different.

Today's Christian Woman was founded in 1978 to reach evangelical Christian women who wanted a publication that reflected their values. They didn't want the crass sex talk of Cosmopolitan. They didn't want the mainstream relationship advice of Redbook. They wanted inspirational stories of faith and Bible-based help in managing their children, friendships and marriages. Anita Bryant graced the first issue's cover. "It was as close to what people were looking for as anything," remembers its founding editor, Dale Hanson Bourke. Last week, TCW's parent company, Christianity Today International (CTI), announced that the magazine's September/October issue would be its last. "I feel like a dinosaur," Bourke moaned in an e-mail.

The death of TCW is important for two reasons. First, it shows that Christian magazine publishing is in the toilet along with almost every other kind of print publishing. In its announcement, CTI also said that Ignite Your Faith—formerly the historic Campus Life—would close, and that 22 percent of the CTI staff would be laid off. (Christianity Today, CTI's flagship publication, founded by Billy Graham in 1956, will remain in business.) Other Christian magazines—Discipleship Journal, Pray and CCM, the Christian community's version of Rolling Stone—have also been shuttered in the past 18 months. New Man and SpiritLed Woman, published by the Charisma group, have abandoned print and are now available only online. "The perfect publishing storm that's hitting everyone is hitting us," says Harold Smith, CTI's CEO and editor in chief. "It has hammered us."

The real interest here, though, is more than merely economic. TCW's death signals something much bigger: an end in America to the perceived separation between the secular and the evangelical worlds. Not 10 years ago, the conventional wisdom as reflected in much of the mass media held that evangelical Christians led completely separate lives from everyone else. They went to separate colleges, they married each other—and they shopped at Christian bookstores, where they could purchase books, records, magazines and tea napkins produced and distributed by Christian-owned companies. Only secular people shopped at Barnes & Noble. So separate were the two worlds that Christian bestsellers rarely showed up on the New York Times bestseller list—and when they did (as with Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins's Left Behind books), the secular media treated the authors and consumers as oddities. In December 1985 the hip, Andy Warhol-founded Interview magazine did a piece on Bourke and TCW. "It was very much a look-who-we-discovered approach," says Bourke.

Now, though, Christian and inspirational stories are widely available in secular places. O, Redbook and Good Housekeeping regularly run the kinds of articles that TCW once considered its bread and butter. On her Web site, Oprah currently features an interview with Queen Rania of Jordan, in which the queen says that she and her husband strive to raise their children "like any other family." "The most important thing," she says, "is to instill [in your children] the right values." Barnes & Noble and Borders—not to mention Sam's Club and Wal-Mart—carry a wide variety of Christian and inspirational books, magazines and music. Even the most committed Christians no longer have to shop only at Christian stores or buy only Christian media. "I don't shop at a Christian bookstore," admits Ginger Kolbaba, the current editor of TCW. "Not when I can go online."

Even more important, evangelical Christians are less willing to identify themselves as a coherent group embodying one set of values. As a result, it seems Christians are more willing to take their parenting and relationship advice from secular sources. "This next generation, they can read a marriage magazine or a parenting magazine and filter it through their Christian world view without saying, 'I need Today's Christian Marriage or Today's Christian Woman'," says Don Pape, publisher of trade books for David C. Cook, a Christian publishing firm. "I can pick up a music magazine and I don't need a writer to say, 'You will like this because it's a Christian artist.' I can do that myself. I think that's one of the issues." In the old days, efforts by Christian or secular companies to "cross over" into foreign turf were considered quixotic. But the popularity of the book The Shack and the music of Carrie Underwood, not to mention The Passion of the Christ and the selection of Kris Allen as America's newest Idol, demonstrate how defunct the conventional wisdom has become.

In the world of Christian publishing, as elsewhere, the successful brands are those that have found small but profitable niches. Relevant magazine, with about 100,000 subscribers, talks to young, mostly male evangelical Christians with a strong interest in social-justice issues. Its ad sales have remained steady through the downturn, as has its subscriber base, says editor Cameron Strang. Now TCW is in the process of reinventing itself as what Kolbaba calls "a digizine": an online magazine for Christian women in their 30s interested in social justice and community action. The price of the new product—which doesn't yet have a name—will be much lower than that of the print version. But since the layoffs at CTI, Kolbaba is doing this relaunch very much on her own. Who else from the TCW staff is working with her on this project? "Actually, just me. I'm it, yeah."

You've got to love her for trying.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

New Trends in the Christian Fiction Market

Sally Stuart is pretty much the expert when it comes to Christian publishing business. Her new article hits some fascinating areas of the market and is good news to many writers... read more


Smokin' Hot New Trends in the Christian Fiction Market

As promised, our esteemed friend Sally Stuart, compiler of The Christian Writers' Market Guide, is here as a guest blogger today. In one of her Q&A responses, she tells below how to get the attention of an agent and/or editor. We here at NovelMatters remind you of our now-running contest, Audience With an Agent. Six winning entries will be read by Wendy Lawton of Book & Such Literary Agency. Submission details under the "promotions" tab. So get those manuscripts polished until they shine, and listen to the wisdom of Sally Stuart as she tells us what impressions and data she gleaned from the new edition of the Guide which just went to press.....

Question: What are the most significant changes you've seen in this upcoming Christian Writers' Market Guide, as compared to the previous one?

Sally Stuart: It seems that most of the changes this year are somehow connected to the advancement of technology. For years I have stressed the importance of submitting material to an editor by name, but every year it seems like more and more publishers are not naming editors in the guide and are asking that submissions be sent by e-mail to a generic e-mail address, or not even supplying an e-mail address but requiring the use of an online submission form.

Of course, one of the most significant changes is the drop in the number of markets. Although there are 18 new book publishers for 2010, the total number is 384--34 less than last year. There are just under 600 periodicals listed (35 new), but 54 fewer than last year. I am hearing of more publications going out of business every week now.

Question: You have your finger on the pulse of Christian publishing. What's hot in book-length Christian fiction right now?

Sally Stuart: Although Amish books seem to be all the buzz these days, I checked to see which genres increased in interest based on publishers' responses in the topical listings in the next edition. The Teen/YA category actually went up the most with 14 new publishers. The next batch tied at 13 new publishers apiece: biblical, frontier, and novellas. Frontier/romance was up 11; followed by historical, mystery/suspense, and historical/romance up 9. The rest ranged from 1-6. Science fiction was the only one not to gain any, and a new genre this year is cozy mysteries with 24 publishers showing interest.

Question: The Christian book industry, like all book industries right now, is suffering. Are editors willing to take chances on first-time novelists?

Sally Stuart: I think publishers are always on the look-out for the next great novelist. But they want really great fiction. Your best chance for making that agent or editor connection is to attend conferences where there are a lot of them present. That's where they're out there looking.

Question: What's the most important thing you would convey to aspiring Christian novelists?

Sally Stuart: The best thing a novelist can do is work on polishing his/her craft. Strive to be exceptional--to stand out in the crowd. Be sure the book is not only well written but well edited. Publishers these days are short-handed and they want books that will require little or no editing. But if an editor sends the book back for rewrites, do it. I'm amazed at how many authors just ignore those requests and just drop it or try another publisher. If a publisher is willing to invest their time to make you a success, you owe them your best.

Sally E. Stuart
Christian Writers' Market Guide
www.stuartmarket.com (order the market guide here)
www.stuartmarket.blogspot.com (marketing info here)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Does Every Author Need a Video Book Trailer??

Web Book Trailers are one of those new, "Must Have" marketing tools that may, or may not be the missing link between you and increased book sales. It is new and it is fashionable. The Book Trailer sets your project apart and at the same time leaps your work up beside the big guys.

Peggy Richardson is blogging all about it on her website;

Every Author Needs a Video Book Trailer

June 1st, 2009 . by Peggy Richardson

Here are my tips for creating your best book or eBook video trailer to promote your product on video sites like YouTube, and places like Twitter or FaceBook.

The job of the video book trailer is the same as that of a movie trailer: give them a taste, but keep them wanting more. It should accurately reflect the content of your book, but not give away the farm.

Perhaps most importantly, this video should be able to be distributed all on its own: if people see nothing about your book but the trailer, they should know (1) what your book will do for them, (2) how much it is, and (3) where to buy it or find out more. This way, you can distribute the video almost any way, through any media, and it will do the same job.

As a sales tool, I won’t bore you again here with my now-familiar rant about video being the most powerful communication medium, how anybody can do it in their basement, and how the cost-benefit ratio of all online marketing tools is highest with video.
Let’s skip to the tips.

- At the very top of the cheap-and-simple scale, you can always cobble together video clips using Windows Movie Maker, now part of basic Windows. Mac fans have numerous choices, but the objective here is to use whatever allows you to get it out the door the fastest.

- Focus on benefits, rather than features. (Yeah, I know you’ve head me lecture about that before, too.) Will the book tell them how to shave minutes off their best marathon run time? Will it teach them how to drug-proof their kids? Will it give them an advantage when they apply for their next job? It’s not about “how to”, but rather about “you can have this too”.

- Keep it under 2 minutes. Longer than that and you lose them.

- Put a ghost image of your URL on every screen, either in the bottom corner or across the bottom. Just make sure you don’t block the view of stuff on-screen. If you can’t put a ghost image, be sure to clearly display the URL at the beginning, somewhere in the middle, and again clearly at the end.

- Include a copyright statement as the last screen with your company and the year.

- Enhance the mood using cool music, appropriate tempo and pace, and additional stock video if need be. (iStock.com now offers video as well as still photographs.)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Writer's Digest. The TRUTH About Self Publishing

Writer's Digest has a fascinating article, "The Truth About Self Publishing." It asks and answers the most pressing questions about the sport of independent publishing.

What is not covered is how YOU get YOUR books out?

What independent publishing house is the right house to work with?

When do you need to hire a publicist and for how long?

Read for yourself.


There are three critical factors if you’re hoping to see your self-published work widely read and/or favorably received by editors and agents:

Editorial quality. Never publish a book that has not been professionally edited. A self-publishing service rarely reviews your work to assess the quality of its content (or, more important, its market viability), and no service will undertake the revision and editing process unless you pay for it. Only you can ensure that your work has the best content, structure and organization, and it’s up to you to pay for copyediting, proofreading, indexing or any other polishing your work may require. Unfortunately, many self-published books have not undergone any meaningful editing, which can give the whole lot a bad rap.

Distribution and sales. The thing to remember about self-publishing services is that, almost without exception, they make their money on the upfront fees that you pay before even a single copy is sold. Compare their situation to that of a traditional publishing house, which must invest a significant sum of money upfront, then recoup the investment through book sales. A traditional publisher has a sales force or a distributor who pitches books to the national chains and independent stores; the same cannot be said of self-publishing services. Plus, in a self-publishing scenario, there’s rarely a supply of books to distribute and stock on store shelves because most authors use print-on-demand technology to keep costs low, printing one book at a time to fill customer orders.

Bottom line? Self-published authors need to have a way to reach their readership directly and let everyone know a book is available for purchase. Without marketing and promotion, very few sales will occur. (Of course, the same is true of traditionally published books, but with distribution in place, it’s easier for people to stumble across books on the shelf and make impulse buys.)

Cover, design and packaging. The cover (as well as the title) can be the No. 1 marketing tool for any book. The same can be said of the size, trim, price and interior features. All these factors contribute to having the right packaging to make the right sale to the right audience. Traditional publishers often have considerable in-house expertise on what kind of packaging will sell to a particular consumer, and they spend numerous hours on title, design and packaging refinement. Many self-publishing services require you take a template approach (one size fits all) for convenience and economic efficiency, which can make it difficult to compete. (Click here to learn more about how to create a successful cover package.)

Of course, if you’re just looking into self-publishing for your own gratification, perhaps to have some copies for your friends and family members, these considerations don’t apply—and you have more affordable options now than ever before. See question No. 3.

Of course not. Even if you publish what in hindsight is a terrible book, or you’re embarrassed by the results, no agent or editor would turn down your subsequent work if it looked like a surefire winner in the marketplace. But, you may ask, have you ruined your chances of traditionally publishing that same work?

It depends. If your self-published book sells well and looks like it could take off with traditional distribution (and you’ve probably read success stories like this, such as the one on Page 50), then agents and editors will gladly take a piece of that success. This is a huge exception to the rule, though, and no one should self-publish solely to win attention from traditional publishing houses. It’s a rare occurrence, and one that usually only happens after the author has created a quality work and dedicated countless hours to self-promotion.

We can’t possibly recommend a service that works for everyone because every writer has a unique situation, a unique book, a unique set of resources and unique goals. It’s up to each writer to research the options carefully and make an informed decision. But what we can do is help you get started, so we’ve created an exclusive online directory of 60 self-publishers and the services they offer. Simply visit writersdigest.com, where more information about each one is just a click away.

If you’re wondering if you’ve made the wrong decision, it’s time to stop worrying and start focusing on either marketing the book you now have, or moving on to writing your next book.

I can’t tell you how many heated discussions the Writer’s Digest staff has had about self-publishing—its advantages or disadvantages, its past and future, its advertising presence in this very magazine. As publisher and editorial director of Writer’s Digest, I can tell you this is where we stand: Our main goal is to inform and educate, so you make the right decision for your work. Self-publishing can be easy, affordable and satisfying—but marketing, selling and promoting can be difficult. Many authors enter into it without a full understanding of the challenges and of what self-publishing services can and can’t provide. We want to help you have realistic expectations and give you the tools to succeed, no matter what road you take.

Social Networking Going User Pay

In an unsurprising move, Financial Times reports, Facebook informs people of the coming payment/credit system being implemented to increase revenue by 1/3 beginning soon.

Facebook Brings in Payment System
By David Gelles

Published: June 2 2009 17:36 | Last updated: June 2 2009 17:36

Facebook has begun tapping a new revenue stream with the introduction of an internal payments system, a move that might help the fast-growing social networking website achieve profitability while being less reliant on advertising.

The long-rumored payments system, which is in its early stages, will allow users to purchase Facebook credits, then use those credits to buy virtual goods from the third-party applications that run on the site, or from Facebook itself.

Facebook hopes that by offering a site-wide currency it will encourage more commerce on the website. By serving as the payment provider, it will capture a percentage of every transaction.

Over time, this will be very significant, said Ray Valdes, an analyst with Gartner Research. Social networking sites have suffered with monetizing [their services], but this leverages [the fact that] users are there on Facebook.

Mr Valdes said revenue from its payments system could soon represent one-third of Facebook’s income.

BookExpo America Notes

BookExpo America is usually full of news but this year the news is off a little. Commentators seem to be struggling to fill their columns, where in years past, they couldn't begin to get it all in print.

I guess, it's all the news that's worth the ink...

BEA: Big Morph in the Big Apple
From Shelf Awareness
Simultaneously this past weekend, attendees at BookExpo America could witness the end of time-honored parts of the show--some of the losses were welcomed, others lamented--and one could see the outline of a different kind of show that should be just as important to the industry, wherever the industry goes. As Peter Osnos of PublicAffairs put it, "This is a great event for learning all the important stuff about digital. BEA is important, as usual."

In addition to ye olde books and authors, change--both technological and economic--was the biggest topic of the show. Companies and individuals are trying to reinvent themselves and thrive in the new era of viral marketing, social networking and upended sales and distribution channels. As Jennifer Bigelow of the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association commented: "Publishers are being creative. They're thinking outside the box."

On the show floor, mountains of galleys were swept away in the cost-conscious e-age and were missed by many. This perhaps contributed to a feeling that there were fewer big show books. But at the same time, the author events, which seemed to have increased in number, drew raves. It's easy to forget that not long ago author signings in booths were banned at these shows; now the lines of people forming on the floor to meet authors add to a sense of excitement in the aisles.

Educational panels and seminars were more focused, of consistent quality, explored the major issues of the day and often drew SRO audiences. The two stages on the show floor featuring author and panel discussions similarly drew large crowds. Nearby exhibitors told Shelf Awareness that the programs, which were not distracting, increased traffic for them.

Exhibitors' booths shrank (overall down 20%), but exhibitors we spoke with expressed satisfaction with the show. For example, Dominique Raccah of Sourcebooks called BEA "the best show of my career." Martha Fluke of Elsevier noted that traffic was steady and that more librarians seek out the company at BEA than seek it out at ALA, a trend that has occurred the past three years. At mid-morning on Friday, Doug Armato of the University of Minnesota Press (which highlighted its books with a sign saying "your mental stimulus plan") said, "Already this is better than Los Angeles."

Some of the slimmed-down booths were striking, most notably Random House's. The company that once took so much space its location was called Randomland had a booth called a kiosk by a few wags. Random's Stuart Applebaum said that the approach--having a floor booth "for authors and booksellers and librarians to meet" while business meetings took place in rooms downstairs, off the show floor--"worked out well."

Attendance was 29,923, up 1,500 from last year in Los Angeles, but down 6,189 or 17.1% from 36,112 two years ago in New York. Still, many felt that if there were fewer people, they mattered more. According to BEA's red-bowtied Lance Fensterman, ABA member bookstore attendance was equal to that in 2007, while media representation rose to 1,700 from 1,250. There were 7,066 book buyers.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Nick Harrison Named Editor of the Year Finalist by ACFW

Fellow Colorado Christian Writers Conference faculty member, Nick Harrison has been named finalist for the coveted, American Christian Fiction Writers, Editor of the Year, award.

Way to go Nick!

Harvest House Editor Picked as Finalist for ACFW 2009 Editor of the Year Honor
For the second year in a row, Harvest House Senior Editor Nick Harrison has been named as a finalist in the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) annual 2009 Editor of the Year award. In addition to his present nomination, last year Harrison was named Fiction Editor of the Year by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA) and was awarded their annual Golden Scroll Award in recognition of his work with Harvest House fiction authors. August will mark Harrison’s ninth year with the publisher. ACFW will announce the Editor of the Year during a banquet at the 2009 ACFW Conference from September 17-20, in Denver.

Monday, June 1, 2009

What IS the Future of Publishing in the Age of Kindle?

The CEO Roundatable at BookExpo America, the old ABA convention, is the topic of Books and Such Literary Agency bloggers tonight. There is a tremendous amount of unnecessary anxiety over the Kindle and other electronic book delivery systems.
Janet Kobel Grant says this:


HarperCollins’s Brian Murray, Macmillan’s John Sargent, Simon & Schuster’s Carolyn Reidy, and Perseus’s David Steinberger. Tina started out the discussion by describing the media as being “in the middle of an industrial revolution,” with a reimagining of an industry taking place, with fewer and fewer places to talk about books (referring to the demise of magazines, newspapers, and book reviews).

One of the questions weighing on John Sargent’s mind was: “Amazon shows Kindle readers buy much more, but do Kindle reader continue to buy long-term?” (My personal experience is, oh, yes. I find I’ve increased my reading–and buying–threefold since purchasing my Kindle last July. Wendy would agree with that.)

David Steinberger said, “The danger is the development of monopolies because there’s someone who has come between the publisher and the reader.” (Referring to Amazon, Google, and Yahoo.)

Brian Murray’s concern was: “Consumers are used to paying for books. What are the ways to make the migration to electronic publishing profitable?”

Carolyn Reidy wanted “thinking electronically to be in everyone’s DNA at the publisher’s. The true explosion happens when people can read on devices they bought for other purposes. How do we step into this world and take control of it?”

The publishers talked about crashing books and how that will become the norm in the future. Carolyn Reidy observed that S&S crashed 150 books last year “and they did well.” Rapid response, David pointed out, is the future of publishing.

Each CEO also weighed in on thoughts regarding marketing, and while each gave a nod to viral marketing, they all agreed that, as Reidy said, “The Internet has not replaced The Today Show yet.” In other words, national publicity still is the way, in the CEOs’ opinion, to generate word of mouth.

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