Category Archives: Publishing Industry Trends

Book Launch a Success – 4 Ways Authors can Build a Platform & Engage Readers

Wave of Books

The last seven months spent researching Atlanta’s amazing neighborhoods and the entertainment, economic and environmental drivers of the metro area culminated yesterday as we celebrated my book launch at Atlanta Movie Tours in Castleberry Hill, an up-and-coming artist loft neighborhood and popular filming spot in south downtown. More than 40 people made it to my event, in spite of light rain and the Donald’s appearance at a rally at the Georgia World Congress Center less than a mile from our venue.

The story of this book project and the way I approached both writing and marketing it are probably worth a few words on The Writing Well — at least for the benefit of other writers.  First, a bit about the book.

Moving to Atlanta: The Un-Tourist Guide is the seventh guide book published by Newt Barrett of Voyager Media based in Estero, Fla.  His other books have

My publisher Newt Barrett from Voyager Media was on hand to celebrate the book launch.

My publisher Newt Barrett from Voyager Media was on hand to celebrate the book launch.

spotlighted medium-sized cities such as Charleston, Tampa, Sarasota and Naples.  Atlanta is by far his most ambitious city to tackle based on its sheer size and diversity. It was a big challenge to capture the story of Atlanta in 152 pages.  I felt strongly that I needed to quote actual residents, who knew Atlanta’s diverse neighborhoods the best, and that’s what I did.

  • For the chapter on education, I talked to two Atlanta moms who have navigated Atlanta’s public and private school systems in meeting their children’s learning needs ,and an academic dean of continuing education who briefed me on the many adult continuing education courses available to residents.
  • For the chapter on entertainment, I talked to the editor of Creative Loafing Atlanta, the president of Atlanta’s Lawn and Tennis Association, and the founder of AtlantaTrails.com.
  • For the chapter on choosing where to live, I quoted realtors and residents in 18 intown neighborhoods and six suburban communities.

SpeechcroppedIn remarks to guests at my party yesterday, I thanked all the people who have contributed to my book. I said, “You’ve made Moving to Atlanta something more than a typical guide book …you’ve helped present an authentic picture of what it’s like to be a part of this amazing city. Your input, I’m sure, will help people decide if Atlanta is right for them. They’ll be able to begin to narrow down which neighborhood or community they could call home.”

I hope it will meet the needs of prospective new residents, but I also hope it is an enjoyable narrative for Atlanta natives. That’s why I was so happy to read this comment from an early Amazon reviewer:

“As someone who has lived in this wonderful state and city for almost 35 years… I have to say I’m impressed. ‘Moving to Atlanta…’ is up to date… contemporary with a wide range of information and tidbits about the city… its politics, people and culture. Spending 20 years here as a journalist has given me a unique perspective and access to all of the city and its neighborhoods… both inside and OTP (outside the perimeter, as they say..) The author covers the good and the bad (traffic and rush hour!!). But anyone contemplating moving to our city will soon learn the ebb and flow of the city and its interstate. Recommending the Wayze App is a good start.”

Writing a book as good as it can be is only the start of what we as authors must do. Marketing is when the real work begins! Here are 4 tips that I took to heart when developing my own marketing plan and author platform:

#1 Partner with people, brands and businesses that can help elevate your book.

Carrie_Anne_photobyPam Sabin

With Carrie Burns, founder of Atlanta Movie Tours.

For Moving to Atlanta, I ended up aligning myself with Carrie Burns of Atlanta Movie Tours, the center of Atlanta’s film tourism movement. I interviewed her for the Hollywood of the South chapter and learned that she was president of the Castleberry Hill Neighborhood Association, so was able to tap into her insights of having lived in that community for 15 years in my “Choosing Where to Live” chapter. Carrie not only offered to host my author party, but also brought in The Smoke Ring, a hip BBQ restaurant nearby, and both of these businesses contributed gifts to raffle at my party, and are now active on social media promoting my book by retweeting highlights of the launch.

#2 Don’t just post or tweet your book, engage people on social media. ScreenShotQuiz                               

  • Share your journey along the way – I posted milestones as I was writing key chapters and shooting photos around the city on Facebook. Photos are a great way to engage followers to envision your book coming to life and feel invested in its success.
  • Do a contest – I asked Facebook followers to weigh in on the top 10 reasons to move to Atlanta for a chance to win a free book.
  • Embrace trivia  surveys – I created a survey to test people’s knowledge of ATL – the answers found in my book. I incorporated humor into the summaries where people are ranked based on how well they answered questions. They could be an “All-knTriviaShot_All-knowingowing Atlanta Insider” or a “Soon-to-be-Undead” in homage to the zombie-hit TV series, “The Walking Dead” filmed here.

#3 Build relationships with journalists, PR influencers and bloggers.

They are powerful allies to get word out on your book because these folks already have a platform and readers! In a sea of so many other books being published, this is one way to be strategic and position your book that can really help boost your profile.

The key here is to target outlets that fall into one of these categories: (a.)  they love your book topic — it ties to what their readers care about (b.) they are looking to feature local residents doing interesting things (especially a publication more local or hyper local focused such as the Patch) or (c.) they want to help you succeed because they know you and your capabilities as a storyteller, interviewer and writer. I find featuring other authors on my blog, The Writing Well, creates a lot of goodwill and willingness to blurb and blog about your book to “pay it forward.” I know at least one 11-time fiction book author who says a major factor in him being able to attract 50,000 Twitter followers is engaging with other writers.

Travis Taylor, founder of the tourist blog, wanderlust Atlanta, getting his signed copy of Moving to Atlanta.

Travis Taylor, founder of the tourist blog, wanderlust Atlanta, getting his signed copy of Moving to Atlanta.

Some of the blogs and news sites that are either covering Moving to Atlanta in editorial, or are promoting it on social media include: ALTA’s Net News magazine; Vinings Lifestyle Magazine; Points North Atlanta magazine; wanderlust Atlanta, a blog exploring some of Atlanta’s most popular tourist destinations; AtlantaTrails.com; and “Mitch’s Media Musings,” an Atlanta Media blog by Mitch Leff, who is interviewed in my book on what the media environment is like in Atlanta.

In late March, I will be featured on BlogTalkRadio’s show, “Write Books that Sell Now,” where I will talk about Moving to Atlanta and other book-writing projects that cross genres. One of the hosts of that program, Anita Henderson, known as the “author’s midwife,” is a respected colleague who has been interviewed on “The Writing Well.”

#4 Get your book reviewed early on Amazon…and don’t forget to secure a few book blurbs.

Advance Reader Praise Advance Reader Praise_Eric Advance Reader Praise_Grant Heath

This is important, and it means thinking strategically  about who would be the best person to blurb your book. In my case real estate agents who know Atlanta and executive recruiters who are focused on attracting talent to Atlanta as well as new residents or people thinking about moving to Atlanta. I was fortunate to secure all three for Moving to Atlanta, with two making it on the book jacket.

One Final Thought

Finally, the hardest thing about marketing is turning it off so you have time to write…I am still working on that as I carve out time to finish my novel this year while continuing to market my current book. There’s no question that being an author today is not just about great writing and research skills. It’s also about being strategic with your time, and finding ways to get your network of connections to work with you to get the word out.

I wish all writers the best in their efforts on both fronts — don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for people to support you. Believe it when I say, it takes a village to be an author.

Let’s Get Social!

Follow Anne’s new book adventure on social media or visit her book website at these links:

Website: www.MovingtoAtlantaGuide.com

Twitter: @MovingtoAtlanta

Facebook:   http://bit.ly/M2AFacebook

Amazon: http://bit.ly/M2AAmazon

Moving to Atlanta Trivia Quiz:     http://bit.ly/MovingtoAtlantaQuiz

 

 

Newspapers Not a Dying Business in Southwest Florida – A Journalist’s Mecca

Tablet Smartphone News_001

“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
                         – Thomas Jefferson

Not long after moving to Southwest Florida last November, I ran into a gentleman in front of Publix selling subscriptions to the local newspaper, The Naples Daily News. A journalism grad who had just relocated with my family from Atlanta, I was keen to sign up. I’d always loved printed papers, and mourned the decline of print journalism – a byproduct of the online revolution.

I asked him how sales were going, fully expecting to hear the same depressing outlook. He smiled, telling me that Naples has one of the best demographics of newspaper readers with its influx of affluent retirees. He predicted his community will always have a thriving newspaper, even as much of the rest of the world embraces online sources for staying informed.
I was excited to learn that sentiment echoed on Tuesday when two area newspaper publishers talked about the news business at the Gulf Coast chapter luncheon of the Public Relations Society of America.

Publishers Talk State of News Biz

 

L-R Bill Barker and Mei-Mei Chan, publishers of The Naples Daily News and The News-Press. Photo courtesy of PRSA/Gulf Coast Chapter

L-R Bill Barker and Mei-Mei Chan, publishers of The Naples Daily News and The News-Press. Photo courtesy of PRSA/Gulf Coast Chapter

Bill Barker of The Naples Daily News and Mei Mei Chan of the Fort Myers News-Press were both upbeat about the health of their newsrooms and advertising base in remarks made to a room of professional communicators.

Chan, who joined the Ft. Meyers paper five years ago from Seattle’s news market, kicked things off with a video marking her paper’s 130-year anniversary that culminated this past November with an open hFtMyersNewsPressouse at the paper.

Describing the complex processes that come together to get a paper out 24×7 as “The daily miracle,” Mei-Mei admits that how we access news has changed since the early days of newspapers. Some readers remain loyal to print papers while others have evolved to e-editions, usually through their iPad.

Storytelling  that Resonates

“How can we reach this very fragmented world? How do we keep ahead of it and don’t leave behind the legacy of the printed world?” she asked the group. Her answer: storytelling.

“Storytelling makes the difference – it’s what drives us every day,” she said.

Mitochondrial Disease sufferer Gavin Lawrey.  Photo by Sarah Coward/news-press.com

Mitochondrial Disease sufferer Gavin Lawrey. Photo by Sarah Coward/news-press.com

The challenge for news reporters is to find the stories that need to be told that can’t be told any other way such as the story of Gavin, a five-year-old Cape Coral boy who was diagnosed with an incurable disease.

The human interest story told online and in print detailed his family’s financial struggles and spirit, including his sister’s super hero comic-book writing to give her brother hope in fighting the disease. The series on Gavin earned an Edward R. Murrow Award. More significant, the story touched readers, resulting in the family receiving $40,000 in aid within a week of the initial piece running.
“That’s the kind of love and outpouring great storytelling can inspire,” Chan said.

She considers the emergence of social media and new technology as a positive development because “we can compete as never before with our broadcasting brethren.”

Reporters today have to wear many multimedia hats — not only interviewing sources and filing their stories on deadline for the print edition, but also shooting video so that the story can be told across channels.

Newspapers need to Engage, Report the Good and the Bad 

Bill Barker agreed with many of Chan’s points, acknowledging that “we are in a big transition.” NaplesDailyNewsBarker was appointed publisher of The Naples Daily News in October 2013 after serving as publisher of The Tampa Tribune and president of Tampa Media Group Inc.,

“Engaging content is the key today,” he said, adding that newspapers today must report both the good and bad news in a way that is “engaging, deep and meaningful.” “Our role is to tell stories in a way that grabs you…enriches your life and helps you be a better person.”

Barker told the group he loves coming to work at his paper’s new headquarters and seeing the community engaging with the paper. “We open our building all the time to community events.”

Sunday News Readers Eclipse Super Bowl Viewership Every Week

Even as many papers around the U.S. have shut their doors or gone to “web only,” the E.W. Scripps Co. invested $95 million in the new 186,000 square-foot facility in 2009. In addition, both publishers reiterate that Sunday remains a huge news day for their readership. In total,  more people read the Sunday paper each week than tune in to the Super Bowl.
Barker said papers need to once again embrace their editorial voice – and take a stand on issues, noting, “Isn’t it great that we’re having conservations on Facebook about issues?”
He contends that newspapers don’t have “an audience problem” – “we have a business model problem.”

The news media’s biggest challenge:  to leverage content and distribution to challenge how people think about issues.

“Newspapers still set the agenda nationally and locally. You should expect your newsrooms to be accountable – to have a voice and to have a reference to debate,” Barker concluded.

 

Publishing Success: Debut Author Susan Crawford Shares Her Story

Susan Crawford

Susan Crawford

In February, Atlanta writer Susan Crawford got the news new authors dream about: a two-book deal with a major publisher after a seven round-seven-bidder auction for the work.

According to Publisher’s Weekly, Carrie Feron at William Morrow took North American rights, for publishers-weeklymid–six figures, to Susan’s debut novel, The Pocket Wife. Agent Jenny Bent described the novel as a “stylish thriller in the tradition of The Silent Wife and Turn of Mind.”

In the novel, Crawford follows a woman, Dana Catrell, whose neighbor is violently murdered. The last person to see the victim, Catrell is experiencing mania brought on by bipolar disorder; unable to remember the fateful day, Catrell must race to clear her name, and stay sane, as she becomes the chief suspect. Crawford teaches creative writing in Atlanta and has won, four times, the Atlanta Writers Club Award.

Here, Susan shares with The Writing Well her journey to this exciting moment in her literary career.

Q. What kind of a storyteller are you? What types of stories that you are drawn to?

SusanCrawfordTo pull readers in to the characters and their surroundings and thoughts as well as the plot, I like to reveal information a bit at a time. I’m drawn to the types of stories I aspire to write – books that absorb me and make me forget I have water boiling on the stove or papers to be graded or my husband waiting for me to call him back.

Q. How long did it take for you to finish your novel? What inspired the story line?
I initially wrote The Pocket Wife in about six months. I did a lot of rewriting, though, so it ended up taking about a year and a half. The story line was inspired by a few things – critique group members suggesting I rev up action in my submissions, my interest in mental health, and by my desire to try writing suspense.

Q. You’ve successfully navigated the terrain of securing first an agent, Jenny Bent, who then helped you secure a two-book deal! What advice can you offer other writers looking to find the right agent for them? How did you know you had a good fit with the Bent Agency?

Jenny Bent of The Bent Agency.

Jenny Bent of The Bent Agency.

I met Jenny at an Atlanta Writers Club conference, so I am somewhat biased in favor of meeting agents face to face. That said, there is an incredible amount of agent information online. Look for those who want the first chapters or pages included with the query; that way they see your book-writing style initially, which might be different from your knack (or lack of knack) for writing query letters. I liked what Jenny had to say when she spoke on the Agents’ Panel at the conference. I also liked her enthusiasm for my book, even though she had me do a lot of rewriting before she took me on as a client. The changes she wanted me to make in my manuscript were changes that greatly improved the book; she was thorough, communicative, and really good at what she does. We clicked.
Q. What was the most surprising about the process of getting a book contract? What do you wish you had known before that you know now that would make that process easier?

I think what most surprised me was how quickly things happened once the book was sent out. Jenny and I were flying through the last-minute edits and within days after she submitted it to editors there was an offer. As for what would have been helpful to know before, there are a few things: Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone and try something different; have fun with what you’re writing. If you really like a particular agent, do what you can to become a client. If she says, “This doesn’t really work for me the way it is now,” ask what you can do to make it work. Also, knowing the outcome, of course; that would have made the process much easier!

Q. Where are you in terms of the launch date of your novel? What steps are you taking now in the months leading to the launch?

I think Harper Collins is aiming for a launch early next year, 2015. Right now I’m beginning to work on my edits, setting up a web page, and talking up the book to anyone who will listen – friends in book clubs, friends who have other friends in book clubs, librarians, people in line at T.J. Maxx.

Q. How valuable has the Atlanta Writers Club been to your success to date as an author?
The Atlanta Writers Club has been invaluable to me. Before Ginger Collins brought me to my The-Atlanta-Writers-Clubfirst AWC meeting I had no idea how to go about being a published author. The contests, the tips, George Weinstein’s sage advice, the authors’ talks, the workshops, and especially the conferences led me to where I am now. Everyone I’ve encountered at The Atlanta Writers Club has been supportive, helpful and enthusiastic. There’s an energy at every meeting that makes me want to leap out of my seat and run home to write. It’s a fantastic group of people, and I’ve made some very good friends there!

Q. Do you also recommend critique groups?

Critique groups can be productive or not. It really depends on the group. I was lucky. I found a helpful group and then another smaller one more focused on publication. If you do join a critique group, it’s important that its members appreciate your writing, even if it isn’t the sort of story they write or prefer to read. If they find fault with the style, for example, or if you feel like going home and shredding chapters (or them) after meetings, you’re in the wrong group. A good rule of thumb is that if two or more readers think something needs changing, take another look at it.

Q. What’s next for you in terms of a follow up to Pocket Wife? Do you know what story line you’ll be tackling for your second book?

The Pocket Wife was sold as the first in a two-book deal. The second book will also be suspense; it centers on two women and a detective, all impacted by a fatal car accident in different ways. One of the women is the dead man’s widow and the other is his girlfriend. A tangled web.

 

Death of a Bookstore

PeerlessBookStore

Today, The Writing Well features local Atlanta author Stephen R Drage, an entrepreneur and award-winning public speaker. Stephen is a gifted storyteller, who is working on the second book in his Mud Lane series, which he describes as “comedy nostalgia about growing up in England.”

A member of my writing group, Stephen wrote the following short story right after Atlanta independent book retailer Peerless StephenDrageBook Store closed its doors earlier this year. The news of the store’s demise hit the Atlanta writing community hard and our group especially hard. Peerless’s owners, including fellow writing group member Susan Jimison and her husband, Mike, were advocates and friends to Atlanta’s author community.  Losing an enclave that supports indie and established writers is always distressing, especially since Peerless was a gathering place for both writers and readers who love good stories. It makes one wonder what is to become of local bookstores when even big chains such as Barnes and Noble are struggling to survive against the might of Amazon, so well articulated by economics writer Megan McArdle in an article posted last February in The Daily Beast.  I leave you with Stephen’s eloquent and haunting goodbye to a very special place.

_________________________________________________________________________

 Peerless_closeupA somber cloud of doubt and despair settled like a layer of dust on the shelves at Peerless Book Store. With several other of the store’s hardcore devotees, I stood in shock – as if at a small graveside gathering – mourning the passing of what had become a second home.

The shop had been the community cornerstone, a retreat for writers and readers and the lucky ones able to step into the stuff of imagination and build worlds. But tomorrow the vultures would come with padlocks and red closure signs. Accountants’ practiced eyes would then perform their dubious calculations, and the soul of the bookshop would be auctioned away.        

I found myself choked with sadness  by the image of the shop’s owners, their normally cheerful countenance surrendering to a hopelessness that their brave exterior couldn’t quite mask. It didn’t feel real. I had been absorbed into one of a thousand stories that lined the shelves.

Chance might have assigned me a home in yellowing, adventure-filled pages where I could assume the role of a pirate captain, a daring explorer, or a brilliant detective. Instead, I had silently slipped between the leaves of a tale of loss and unwillingly accepted my part as the awkward bystander, unable to find words of consolation or encouragement. I wanted to frantically turn to the end, to discover wrongs had been righted and the shop was open for business the next morning.

But the unforgiving rules of time trapped me in a painful now.    

A small boy shuffled in. Only 10 or 11 years old, yet I’m sure he sensed something was wrong. After a cursory lap of the store, he approached one of the owners, George, unaware of the mental geography that separated them.

“Er…do you have any good books about zombies?” the child said hesitatingly.   

Good books about zombies?” replied the bookseller, emphasizing the word good and demonstrating that, despite the aching avalanche of circumstances, his sense of humor remained intact.

“Well…they don’t really have to be good,” replied the boy.

There was a long uncharacteristic pause from the owner, where it seamed to me he was forming about half a dozen replies simultaneously. I know George, and I knew what he wanted to say was;

“Yeah, kid. You like zombies? Hang around here for a few hours and you’ll see some. They’ll be here in the morning. Dead inside, uncaring and unfeeling as they dismember and consume this store. A business that has absorbed its share of sweat and tears and struggle, yet it was still able to provide joy and entertainment to thousands. They’ll come and unmake all that, driven on by a column of numbers and the need to destroy, as they tear this place apart book by book, to be parceled and packaged and sold off to the highest bidder. You want monsters, you’re in the right place.”

But maintaining his dignity, all George said was, “No, not really. Sorry.”

The boy ambled out.

The owner continued boxing up some rare used books.

And then it struck me that this was just another story, a mere thread in the tapestry of life’s elaborate unfinished script, the end of which had not yet been written.

I could but hope this was merely the end of the eleventh chapter.

#          #          #

Agents Uncensored: A Candid Conversation with Publishing’s Story Pitchers

Photo by: Jeff McQuaid

Connecting with a literary agent is a lot like courting: you need to find the right fit – a collaborative partner who believes in you and your book, and will be in your corner. 

I have a new appreciation for the job agents have in representing authors and finding publishing homes for their stories after hearing an agent panel this past weekend.

Taylor Martindale
 
“Agents have to deal with a lot of rejection — we identify with what you are going through,” stated Taylor Martindale of Full Circle Literary in San Diego. “You’d be surprised by how long we fight for your books.”
 
Martindale was one of eight agents weighing in a range of topics related to publishing and the craft of writing this past Saturday at the Atlanta Writers Conference.
 
Gordon Warnock of Andrea Hurst and Associates advised that writers interview an agent just as they would a prospective employee. “You need to know why they like the book and what their vision is for not only the book but also your career,” he said, adding that understanding how agents communicate is the most critical component to establishing a collaborative two-way relationship.
 
Common Agent Editing Peeve: Pacing
 
I asked the panelists what was the biggest trouble area in manuscripts, especially for first-time novelists.
 
 
Atlanta Writers Conference agent panel participants.  
“The beginning is too slow and the ending is too rushed,” said Paula Munier with Talcott Notch Literary Services based in Milford, Connecticut.

The first 50 pages “usually can go” because the writer is warming up and capturing details important to the writing process, but that aren’t crucial for readers, said Munier, adding that the reverse is true when crafting the end of a story. Authors frequently don’t flesh out their conclusion because they “see the finish line and are racing towards it.”

Later, Munier said authors need to do three things: write a great book, revise it and then revise it again. “If you do that, you have a much better chance of being successful.”
 
Angela Rinaldi of the Angela Rinaldi Literary Agency in Beverly Hills, Calif., urged writers to “find that fatal flaw” in their manuscript. She looks for three things in the opening pages: first, the story promise – “What’s the question that’s going to be answered at the end?” second, “What’s at stake?” and third, “What does the protagonist want?”
 
As Publishing Embraces Digital Revolution, PR Model ‘Broken’
 
Angela Rinaldi

Digital advances continue to rock the publishing industry. And while many book publicists have emerged on the scene with expertise in social media, Rinaldi stated that “the promotion-publicity model [in publishing] is broken and nobody yet has really figured out how to fix it.”

 
One thing is clear, though: authors are expected to connect with their audiences online.  Amy Cloughley with Kimberly Cameron and Associates said that it’s critical for non-fiction writers to have a base of followers before approaching a publisher.  She also urged aspiring novelists to begin building a fan base even while in the writing stages, so when it comes time to launch their book, they’re ready.
 
Becky Vinter

Acknowledging how self publishing is becoming a bigger and bigger part of the industry, Becky Vinter of FinePrint Literary Management said self publishing or a hybrid model is a “legitimate choice,” but authors then will carry the burden and expense of getting their book edited, vetted, produced and marketed on their own. 

 
“In traditional publishing, you have all of that support; you have people doing all that work for you, but it is slower,” she said.
 
Story is Still King
Martindale noted that in spite of the many issues today’s authors must juggle in deciding on their platform and publishing approach, “the most important thing is the story, the voice in your book and your characters. Don’t lose sight of that in the midst of everything that’s going on around your book.”
 
The agents also shared that it’s not always the most talented writer they meet who ends up making it big – rather, it’s the person who never gave up.
 
“Stay in the game; practice your craft,” Rinaldi urged.
 
 

Queries, Pitches, Claire Cook and Other Ah-Ha Moments from the Atlanta Writers Conference

 

 

 
 
I’ve attended my share of writing conferences over the years, but seldom have I come out of one as jazzed as I did at the conclusion of this weekend’s Atlanta Writers Conference.  
 
Brainstorming earlier today with an old friend, I realized what I need to do to take my in-progress historical novel to the next level.  It took an outside perspective to help me frame the story. I know I’m on the right track because when I shared my refined concept to an agent, she asked that I send her the first 20 pages when the manuscript is ready. Wow! And that was without a query letter! 
 
Speaking of query letters, one of this year’s conference attendees can best be described as a query letter ninja. She’s perfected the difficult art of query-letter writing by regularly submitting her draft pitches to websites such as Query Shark. She told me you need a thick skin to withstand the public flaying, but it’s a small price to pay if the outcome was what she experienced: two agents wanting her manuscript.
 
I loved hearing bestselling author Claire Cook kick off the conference Friday afternoon. This prolific writer of romantic comedies/women’s beach reads has published a book every year since 2000. Her second novel, Must Love Dogs, was made into a film starring Diane Lane and John Cusack.
 
A firm believer in “reinvention,” Claire recounted her lifelong desire to be a writer that she kept hidden from everyone, including her family. She worked as a teacher for 16 years before having a mid-life wake-up call in her mid-40s.  
 
“I wrote my first novel in my minivan outside my daughter’s swim practice,”she said.
 
In June, Claire’s latest book, Time Flies, will be released about two friends who get a new lease on life after taking a road trip to their high school reunion. To promote the book, Claire and the Lake Austin Spa Resort are doing a “reunion weekend”contest where one winner can select a friend for an all-expense-paid spa weekend. She shared the contest as an example of how authors can think outside the box and come up with fun ways to engage readers online.
 
Building a social platform is critical for writers.  Claire is a big fan of Facebook, once asking her fans what they have in their junk drawer. The answers she received were so interesting that Claire felt compelled to include as many as possible in her book, Best Staged Plans.
 

Explaining the importance of being disciplined in your writing, Claire credited her ability to release a book every year to her practice of writing two pages a day, every day, seven days a week.  In fact, she won’t let herself go to bed until she’s put in her time writing.

 
“You don’t have to be brilliant every day; you just have to get those pages done,” she said, adding that the first 100 pages are really about “gutting it out.”  
 
When working on her novels, she always does the big-picture content editing first followed by page-by-page editing, and finally, line edits. She suggests that writers read their work out loud to catch mistakes.
 
Concluding her talk, she urged everyone in attendance to build a network, and help one another by forming critique or reading groups.  She said Facebook’s private groups function is a great way to collaborate with others.
 
Here are just a few of my favorite Claire quips:
 
“It keeps me honest.” —  on her practice of using a paper calendar to track that she has completed her minimum of two pages of writing every day
 
 
“We’re really re-writers. That’s the difference in a book that sells and a book that doesn’t.”  — on the importance of editing
 
“Nobody knows anything.” – on the changing landscape of publishing
 
“I’m obsessed with making my craft better.”    
 
“It’s not all about me.” – on putting rejection into perspective  
 
“Can we clone you?” – on what the producers on the set of “Must Love Dogs” asked her during film production.
 
“Be who you really are. People call it brand. I think of it as authenticity.”
 
“I believe we become writers by being readers.”  
_____________________________________
Look for more conference highlights on The Writing Well this week.

5 Things to Remember Before You Self-Publish

In 2008, for the first time in history, more books were self-published than those published traditionally. In 2009, 76% of all books released were self-published, while publishing houses reduced the number of books they produced.

Technological advances have enabled this growth – from print-on-demand technology, to online retailing and technological advances such as e-book readers and tablet computers.

And, many best-selling authors are now choosing to self-publish their work.  J.K. Rowling sells the e-book versions of the Harry Potter series directly from Pottermore, her website dedicated to the magical world of Harry Potter. The estates of Ian Fleming, Barbara Cartland and Catherine Cookson are also publishing their authors’ printed work as e-books and selling directly to the public. 

 
“Whatever stigma vanity publishing may have had has diminished substantially for both readers and authors,” commented Russ Grandinetti, VP of Kindle Content, in a December 2010 interview in Publisher’s Weekly (PW)Select

 

The lure of self-publishing is the fact that you – the author – have complete control.

 

 

“The book is yours – it’s your ideas and your vision from start to finish,” says Angela DeCaires, marketing communications manager for BookLogix Publishing Services.

The Alpharetta, Georgia,-based company publishes approximately 75 titles per year. BookLogix offers authors the full range of publishing services, from editing to selling, as well as offering free webinars for authors on topics such as “Using Skillful Communication to Improve Your Marketing,” “Self-Publishing 101,” “Building Your Publishing Empire” and “Finding and Filling Your Niche as a Non-fiction Writer.”

DeCaries, today’s featured expert on The Writing Well, shares five areas authors should consider before they embark on self-publishing their book:

  1. Financial Ability – “A lot of writers are thinking about the physical production of the book; they are not thinking about all the other costs that are going to go into it such as marketing —whether it’s hiring a PR person or having a video book trailer made or printing up promotional materials or having the funding to set up a website. We encourage everyone to do their homework and get a sense of what the costs could be, and to not get started until you have that base budget ready.”
  1. Commitment– “When you are writing a book it’s like having a baby, you have to be committed to the book and being a salesperson and keeping up on your marketing methods, such as social media and blogging. To make the book successful, it is a long process that requires your full involvement. You should always be thinking ‘What else can I be doing to promote my book?'”
  1. Marketing – “While first-time authors think the writing is the hardest and most important part, we’d like to say writing is 10% and the marketing is 90% of the work and effort you need to put in. Obviously there is no book if you don’t write it, but no one will buy your book if you don’t do marketing because they won’t know it’s out there. The beauty now with self publishing in the digital era is there are unlimited ways you can market your book. It’s about understanding your audience and knowing what marketing method you should use to reach that audience. Our marketing folks can work with an author to suggest some methods that we believe are best based on their book and goals for the book. Ultimately, it’s important to do your research up front.” 
  1. Understanding Your Readers – “Writers should ask themselves even before they start their book: ‘Who is my ideal reader?’ ‘Who am I trying to reach?’” Every decision they make in the writing, publishing, and marketing, should then be based on reaching that reader.
 
  1. Selecting the Right Self-publishing Support Company – “This could be the hardest one for folks. You have to find the right company for you. There are tons of companies out there and each has something that’s great. Do they offer what you are looking for? What are the contracts these different companies are offering? Do they have terms in there that you are comfortable or uncomfortable with? Do they care about the success of your book? Do your homework on what they offer and what kind of support system they have for you, and if they have the customer service behind it.”

“The number one thing authors need to do that covers all of these points is education. It’s crucial that they educate themselves as much as they can about the publishing business,” DeCaires says.

 
Want to learn more? Visit BookLogix on Facebook and follow the company on Twitter @booklogix.For a listing of free webinars, visit:https://www.booklogix.com/Webinars.html

Self Publishing – The Way Forward?

 
 
I am in the second week of the WordCount Blogathon along with 250 other bloggers. This challenge – to blog every day in the month of May — has given me an excuse to reach out to authors, publishers and editors as I seek to fill the content funnel for my writing blog.
 
I recently discussed with an author the merits of self-publishing versus getting your book out through a traditional publisher.  Who wouldn’t want to say they are represented by Simon and Schuster, Random House, or HarperCollins?  No first-time author would ignore the professional prestige of being signed by a publisher. That milestone brings instant credibility – it says to the world, “Your storytelling is good enough to be in ‘the club.’”
 
A key question facing writers today: does self-publishing still have a stigma? My published colleague believes yes, while I tend to think no. I’ll admit that self-publishing is a noisy place where anyone can push out a book. It’s not hard to find examples of poor quality product — from typos to flat writing. At the same time, there is some great self-published work reaching the public. Writers can connect with audiences through social media in ways never dreamed possible before. Just consider the Cinderella stories of virtual unknowns whose independent works have led to bestseller lists, book deals, and even movie options. 
 
Self-published author sensation Kerry Wilkinson.
There is a growing movement and acceptance of self-published works driven in large part by the explosion in e-books.  Consider these facts:

  • Last year more e-books sold than books in print, and in the UK alone there are 24 e-books for every hard cover book, according to Verdict Book Reviews.  
  •  The Guardian reported last August that sales of adult hardback fiction have fallen by over 10% in 2011, with eBooks now accounting for 13.6% of U.S. market. And who was last year’s top Amazon UK bookseller? A 31-year-old sports journalist and self-published writer named Kerry Wilkinson, who has since signed a six-book deal with Pan MacMillan. 
 
The New York Times Magazine, the publishing world’s most visible channel for literary recognition, acknowledges that “times have changed.” In 2010,  the Times’ Medium blog article, “The Rise of Self-Publishing,” reported that 764,448 titles were produced by self-publishers and so-called microniche publishers in 2009 — a jump of 181 percent from the prior year.
 
“Compare this enormous figure with the number of so-called traditional titles — books with the imprimatur of places like Random House — published that same year: a mere 288,355 (down from 289,729 the year before). Book publishing is simply becoming self-publishing,” the article stated.
 
With that kind of momentum, self-publishing is arguably becoming the path of choice for established and new authors. Independent writers are becoming more organized as a group. Earlier this year, Orna Ross, Irish author-turned-indie, established The Alliance of Independent Authors,  the first non-profit organization representing self-published authors’ interests.
 
 
Even with these positive developments, there is a lot to consider before self-publishing. Visit The Writing Well tomorrow when I interview BookLogix, a Southeastern U.S. self-publishing house, on the five things authors need to think about before deciding to go down this path. 
 
In the meantime, check out this Forbes story, “How Self-Publishing Can Lead to a Book Deal.”

My DragonCon Wrap-up: A Genre Writer’s Dream

I am finally taking a breath after the long Labor Day weekend and work week to share some thoughts from this year’s DragonCon.  For the second year, I braved the crowds of avatars, wookies, Klingons and Death Eaters at one of the country’s largest sci-fi conventions to hear from some of the best genre writers in young adult and fantasy. Here’s just a few of the folks who made an impression this year.
Carrie Fisher
“I was never that great of an actor.”
 

Carrie Fisher and the six Leias.

Carrie shared – with self-deprecating wit – what it was really like playing the iconic Princess Leia (“it was cool being the only girl”), being engaged to Dan Akroyd and her at-times strained working relationship with director George Lucas, who she later collaborated with as a co-writer on “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles.”
In her bestselling memoir and one-woman show, Wishful Drinking, Fisher said, “George Lucas ruined my life.” Her disgust with her Star Wars costumes (including having to wrap her breasts) are well documented, with her least-favorite being the infamous metal bikini in Return of the Jedi. “When I laid down, the metal bikini stayed up, so BobaFett could see all the way to Florida.”
Fisher played off the energy of the standing-room only crowd of fans, who heard her talk candidly about her struggle with bipolar disorder. Many fans thanked her for her openness, sharing that they, too, struggled with the condition.
Sherrilyn Kenyon
“I can’t write when it’s quiet – absolute silence makes me insane.”
So says the Dark-Hunter series author, speaking on a New York Times bestselling author tell all panel, fresh from signing a movie and TV series deal earlier this summer (look out, True Blood fans). The prolific author has made the #1 spot on the New York Times bestseller list 16 times in the last three years. She told fans during the  panel that she writes about 100 pages a day.
Kenyon says things were always chaotic growing up as a middle child with eight brothers. That’s not changed now that she has three active sons. She told fans how her 16-year-old son has decided to start writing, telling her, “Mom, writing is hard.” Her one guilty pleasure? Helping her boys find ways to kill off their Dungeon and Dragon characters.
She says making the the New York Times Bestseller List doesn’t change your life overnight. She had to work all types of jobs on her way to literary fame and found herself homeless with an infant even after writing six bestsellers.
In chatting with the author as she signed my copy of her newest book, Retribution, I asked her about the cable TV deal for her Dark-Hunter Series. No news yet on the lucky network that will take on the book series; however, fans can rest easy knowing that Kenyon will have a say on the adaptation since she will be a producer.
 
Charlaine Harris
“The most important message is tolerance.”
That’s what the author hopes readers get when they read her SookieStackhouse novels, which are the inspiration for HBO’s True Blood series.  She deliberately writes about characters with different sexual orientations for this reason.
During the True Blood Q and A she said how glad she is that fellow southerner Alan Ball got the job directing True Blood.  “It’s like they took my book and gave it steroids,” she says of the HBO adaptation.
Later, during the New York Times Bestselling author panel, Harris opened up about her addiction to Facebook(“it’s a terrible use of a writer’s time”) and her daily routine as a writer, saying she writes every day and doesn’t clean her house anymore but still does her family’s laundry.  Her guilty pleasure? Watching Project Runway.
She takes her writing deadlines seriously (“getting paid is a huge inspiration to me”) and recalls being late once – after her mother died.
You can access the full video of DragonCon’s first True Blood panel here.
Michael Stackpole
“Think bigger than one story.”

Aaron Alston and Michael Stackpole.

That was Stackpole’s advice to writers during one of the more popular sessions in his hourly Writer Workshop delivered over 14 hours with fellow New York Times bestselling author Aaron Allston. (Stackpole has said in a recent blog post that he and Aaron are returning in 2012 – this is GREAT news to writers who want to further their craft).
The session I attended, “Writing Careers in the Post-paper Era,” gave attendees an update on the growing E-book market for novelists, noting that the battle between traditional and digital publishers is not about sales, but about “control and access to audiences.” Stackpole urged people to write in packages that are friendly to consumers – instead of a 120,000-word novel, think in terms of three smaller 50,000-word novels. Instead of focusing on a single story, think about developing “a property” where you can tell more than one story in that world. “Series sell.  They breed loyalty – we always come back to them,” he says.  I will write more about Stackpole’s presentation in a future blog post.
Aaron Allston
“Die adjective, die!”
Allston – not unlike Ernest Hemingway – sees little value in adjectives or adverbs for serious writers, calling them “insulating layers,” that do anything but give the reader a sense of the experience being described. The phrase used to describe this practice is “purple prose.” He urges writers on their first editing pass to “look at every adjective and adverb and strike most of them out.”
Allston shared other advice during his workshop session — from the role of pacing to balancing exposition with dialogue to tell a story memorably. He advises writers to match the length of description to what their character sees.
He also says that you can fill in descriptive passages later after the first draft is crafted.  “Backfill motivation, description and foreshadowing. Vastly limit adjectives and adverbs. Participles are not good. Use active verbs. Keep it simple. Keep it short. I am for transparency – don’t be too stylized.”

Save

Save

Save

Today’s Blog, Tomorrow’s Book

Today, I’m pleased to introduce The Writing Well’s first-ever guest blogger — publishing entrepreneur, Bonnie Bajorek Daneker. As CEO of Write Advisors, Daneker oversees the strategic direction of the company to enable its clients to express themselves digitally and in print, using the most appropriate resources to reach their goals. Formerly, she was president of BD Donaldson Publishing, Inc., an Atlanta-based publishing company that created and distributed healthcare information. Author of The Compassionate Caregiver Series®, Daneker released her seventh book, CLIMB, in November, 2010, with Sandy Hofmann, president of Women in Technology (WIT).  Here, she offers advice on how to turn your blog into a successful book.

* * * * * *

Blogging has carved out a significant place in the online community for idea exchange. Through it, we easily share knowledge and opinions. Professional blogging lead to engaging discussion and innovation. Blogging has also laid the foundation for longer, more substantive written work, including dissertations, screenplays, and books.

When carefully composed, blogs lend themselves to becoming sections or chapters on their own; and when organized, they can flow into a valuable addition to a genre – especially business books and memoirs.

Courtesy of Google images, zemalf.com

If you’re thinking about developing your blogs into a book, here are 10 things to consider:

1. Identify your passion. You’ve likely covered many topics in your blogs. Review them for threads or trends to identify the focus of your book.

2. Decide the structure and function of the book. What are your goals in publishing?

3. Know your genre. You don’t want your hard work sounding like something else already on the market.

4. Generate content. And more content. Many of my clients are actively gathering content through blogging, both self-generated and audience-generated. When you’re ready to publish a book, you’ll be able to separate the wheat from the chaff.

5. Don’t do it all yourself. Ask for guest bloggers. Interview others for quotes. Secure testimonials from other professionals. These will add texture to your overall products.

6. Follow your blog voice. You will want to reach your readers the same way in your book as your blog. Make sure the writing is consistent, and as formal as you need it to be in both places.

7. Keep your facts straight. Even if your writing is informal, treat it like a reporter treats a story. Diana Keough, CEO of ShareWIK Media, recently surfaced an old journalism school adage: “If your mother tells you she loves you, get two sources.” Look up facts and spelling. It’s an easy way to build your credibility and keep your readership.

8. Use the Rule of Threes. Another J-school rule, especially relevant in this stimulating world: Tell them what you are going to say, say it, and remind them what you said.

9. Know when to stop. Your book doesn’t have to be long. Don’t risk losing your readers’ attention.

10. Get an editor. A good one will catch your embarrassing mistakes and make you look like a star.

When you’re ready to take on a book-writing project, know that it can be a smoothly-vectored transition from blog to book. It can increase your platform as an expert, and give your blog followers a treat.