Friday Five

 

Ok, I’m finally hopping on the bandwagon.

It’s not like I’ve been diabolically opposed to doing the Friday Five or anything, but I just used to do a Friday Forecast on the publishing industry, etc. You know what though? I love reading people’s Friday Fives! And since I STILL have yet to get livejournal, I figure, I can at least join in the fun in small part. So here I go, my first Friday Five:

 

1. He’s Just Not That Into You comes out tonight and I’m so excited to see it! (Although I have to wait until tomorrow.) I’m a huge sucker for romantic comedies, etc. Anyway, you know on the trailer when Ginnifer Goodwin is going everywhere with her cellphone out. She’s doing yoga and keeps checking to see if she missed a call. That is so me! First, when I was waiting for the Agent Call and now being on submission. And then Drew Barrymore talks about how myspace, blackberries, etc. and how exhausting that is. I feel like that too! Except with writing stuff–twitter, myspace, AW, blueboards–it IS exhausting! Too funny.

 

 

2. Going to see Legally Blonde the musical tonight. I’m excited. My girlfriends at school planned this at the beginning of our first semester at law school. I can’t believe we’re finally going! Time flies.

3. I’ve been asked by my agent to push the flashbacks I added in a little farther by incorporating more dialogue and description, so I believe that is my project for today, although I’m also kind of in the midst of writing Chapter 5 and 6, so I guess we’ll see where my brain takes me.

4. I started reading Looking for Alaska last night by John Greene. This is defense against my reading Hunger Games because I know I would sit down, start reading Hunger Games and not get up ’til I’m done. I’m not sure I have that kind of time. And it’s not that Looking for Alaska isn’t amazing. So far it is! But it’s a bit quieter of a book, I think. So, I can stroll through it and enjoy the beautiful writing at less than breakneck speed.

5. I don’t understand Twitter. At all. I have an account. And as far as I can tell you just post a sentence about what you’re doing. What’s the point? Do you have conversations on it?

The Writing Olympics

The Olympics start in a couple days and I got to thinking: Wouldn’t it be cool if we had Olympics for writers?

I mean, especially if it was for amateurs only like back in the day.

What would The Writing Olympics be like?

1. You think the Opening ceremony is long now? At The Writing Olympics the ceremony would go on and on and on and the announcers would use words like “gallant,” “laudable,” and “superheroic” to describe the events to come.

2. Instead of gold medals, winners would earn six-figure publishing contracts. Silver medalists would win five-figure deals and bronze medal winners would walk away with a “nice” four-figure advance.

3. The national anthem? No way. The gold medal writers would hear their manuscript’s playlist booming over the loudspeakers as they solemnly held their hands over their hearts and sipped a latte.

4. The events? Well, the Nanowrimo word wars would certainly make a primetime appearance. The other events may be less riveting to watch. Some of the highlights would be:

-Who can have the most friends on MySpace, Live Journal, and Twitter combined?

-Battle of the Forum mods

-Most creative means of procrastination

-A gladiator-style melee to determine the next J.K. Rowling

 

Ok, I’m thinking The Writing Olympics may not be a breakout success. I guess I’ll have to revert to the Beer ones.

Have any ideas on what should be in The Writing Olympics??

 

To win advance copies of The Gargoyle follow this link to participate in the AW blog scavenger hunt! 

 

Status:  Did some writing, but mainly am getting ready to leave for Texas tomorrow. I got a few more requests for SCOUT. Keep your fingers crossed for me, please!!

Topical Tuesday: Brand Yourself

Before you reach for the hot iron and sear your forehead, I’m talking about making your name into a brand.

Stephen King, James Patterson, Nora Roberts, Janet Evanovich, Tom Clancy–These are authors whose names are now recognizable brands. Anything they put their name on sells. While we might not become mega-brands over night, we can’t get started down the path with a few simple steps.

Yesterday, Allie Boniface offered some great tips on promotion. Today, I’ll add to her great suggestions while still keeping with the theme of book/author promotion on a budget.

1. Join online writers’ groups. Absolute Write is the forum in which I am most involved. But, professional organization such as RWA and SCBWI usually have boards to which you can belong. Verla Kay Blue Boards are great if you are a children’s writer. While most of the time you don’t meet these people face-to-face, you begin to feel like you “know” them. I have felt compelled to buy several books from Blue Board writers. Moreover, other writers on the site tend to want to promote their own. A lot of support was thrown behind Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely and Ink Exchange as well as all of the Jennifer Lynn Barnes book by their fellow Blue Boarders.

2. Email Signatures. Put a standard signature in your emails about your book and a link to where people can find more information. This way, you don’t give yourself the option to pick and choose who you will tell about your book. You’re emailing your college professor? Ok, well, he knows about it now. Don’t be embarrassed. People are curious and will probably take the time to check that link.

3. Blog. I have been persuaded to buy books because of author blogs. The only reason I picked up Lisa Shearin’s books was because I read her blog daily. I feel invested in what she has to say. Don’t discount the importance of a blog just because it seems like everyone is doing it.

4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Ask you friends to provide a link to your site or a blurb about your book on G-chat or on their Facebook status. Word-of-mouth is a huge component of book and author success. Widen your radius.

5. Your book can have a Facebook Page. No, faces are not required to belong to facebook. Make your book a member and then add as many people as possible as your friends. Also, on your own facebook account, how many people on facebook are friends that you actually chat with daily? Yeah, probably a minority, right? Start a group and invite everyone to belong to it. When the random person you went to middle school sees the group they are probably going to be like, Wow so-and-so wrote a book! And then you pray that random middle school person is curious enough to run out and buy it.

6. Contact your local newspaper. Most newspapers don’t have a problem with running a “Local girl pens novel” story. Send them a media package.

7. Run a contest for Amazon reviews. Lisa Shearin did this recently. Every person who posted an Amazon review was entered to win prizes on her blog. Amazon reviews matter when it comes to Amazon rankings. Remember that.

8. The Internet is your friend. Book trailers on YouTube and Google Video. Twitter. MySpace. LiveJournal. Do them all.

9. Ask for interviews. Most of the time, people are not going to come beating down your door asking for an interview. It’s ok to ask someone whose blog you like to host you for a day. What is the worst that could happen?

10. Have a cyber launch party. Avoid the costs of a real live launch party and have a cyber one. You can even wear your PJs. Places like Enduring Romance host online parties for book releases and, if you have doubts about their effectiveness, they bring in TONS of comments from readers!

11. Cheap promotional giveaways. Want to send some gear to conferences or be able to provide goodies for prizes. Consider having your book title/logo put on a few goodies. There are a ton of places you can have this done. A Cheap Giveaways you can get pens with a logo on them for $.31 a pop. At the minimum of purchase of 428 pens, that will cost you $132. Not too bad.

12. Write Great Books. That’s the most important. And Guess what? The cheapest! Though the most time consuming. Look at The Shack, a book that is currently topping the bestseller list. $300 used to promote it. But, it’s a good book and, through word-of-mouth, it spread like wildfire.

 

 For last week’s Topical Tuesday on Ideas and Execution in Book Packaging click here.

Status: Today I’m cracking down. My goal is to finish between 12-15 pages of script today. I’m working toward that July 18th deadline of getting our proposal together to submit. The query letter is almost done. I’m waiting on some artwork. I’ve been chipping away at the script. And, I just downloaded a trial version of Comic Book Creator 2 because I think I am going to do the lettering for at least the first 15 pages in order to submit. I’m debating whether or not to purchase the software, but at $50 I think it is probably worth it.

Countdown to Allie Boniface’s New Release

I’ve been super excited to share this interview with you today. Allie Boniface is stopping in to chat with us and I’m proud to say that Fumbling with Fiction is the first stop on her blog tour to promote her latest book, One Night in Memphis (Samhain 2008).

The book release is tomorrow (yay for Allie!) and in honor of that Allie has been holding a running contest. Every comment you leave on this blog post will enter you to win a free download of One Night in Memphis, plus an autographed copy of one of her other novels, or any book from her home shelf.

Welcome, Allie!

Hi, Chandler, and thanks for featuring me on Fumbling with Fiction today!  Great interview questions, so let’s get right to the answers…

 

So, this is an exciting time for you, release day for your new book is tomorrow!  Can you tell us a little bit about One Night in Memphis?

 

Sure!  One Night in Memphis falls into the genre of contemporary romance, but it’s a little different from your ordinary romance novel.  The entire book takes place over a single day and night: twenty-four hours, and twenty-four chapters. It will actually be my second published “One Night…” book; One Night in Boston released in 2007.  In both cases, I wanted to explore the possibilities of love budding overnight.  Typically, romance authors develop their characters and relationships over a period of time, months or even years.  But I think we all know people who believe in, and experience, “love at first sight” moments as well.  In One Night in Memphis, the heroine, Dakota James, breaks up with her boyfriend and then jumps on a plane from New Hampshire to Tennessee to visit her best friend and heal her heart.  She meets the hero, Ethan Meriweather, in a blues club on Beale Street…but only after she realizes that her ex-boyfriend has followed her to Memphis, and that his intentions are not only dangerous but deadly.  The rest of the novel is a pretty fast-paced cat and mouse story with some romance thrown in for good measure!

 

Sounds like a great read, especially for these steamy summer months! How, as the author, do you prepare for the release of a new book?  Any tips on marketing/promotion on a budget?

 

Well, Samhain releases its books in electronic format 10 months before the print versions come out, so ebook promotions and print promotions are somewhat different.  I tend to increase my web presence, send out newsletters and press releases, mail bookmarks to conferences, etc., around my release dates.  Either way, however, my two biggest recommendations for marketing are to develop a strong web presence and keep writing good books.  It’s very easy to spend a lot of money promoting your books, but as a new author, you have to look carefully at the cost-effectiveness of your dollars and what your return will be.  At minimum, I recommend having a website (many web designers will create one for $200 or less, or you can also build your own and pay a low hosting fee for less than $10/month).  Beyond that, get your name out there on different electronic forums.  Post on message boards that relate to your genre.  Participate in chats hosted by your publisher.  Blog.  Write articles for different ezines.  Create a MySpace or Facebook page.  Conventional wisdom says that someone must read your name seven times before they’ll remember you, so publishing something every year is one of the other best things you can do as an author to boost your name.

 

Of course, you can also take out print ads, host launch parties, donate books to contests and raffles, hold book signings and writers’ group appearances, and travel to regional and national conferences, but if you don’t have the money, don’t sweat it.  Work your way up (that’s what I’m doing!).

 

I wrote an article on Budget Promotions a few months back – here’s the link if you’re interested: http://longandshortarchives.blogspot.com/2008/01/article-promotional-tools-for-faint-of.html

 

Thanks for sharing that link and those are some great tips. Can you tell us a little about your path to publication and what is it like working with Samhain?

 

I started writing for publication around 2002, but mine was a pretty long learning curve.  I wasn’t even sure what genre I really fell into, for a while (I straddle the line between contemporary romance and women’s fiction, if you’re wondering).  I wrote 4 novels and queried all the major publishing houses and agents before I sent One Night in Boston to Samhain.  My editor picked it out of the slush pile there, and since then I’ve published 2 additional novels and a short story (which will appear in Adams Media’s anthology My Mom is My Hero in May 2009). 

 

I love working with everyone at Samhain – they’re incredibly professional and absolutely aggressive about marketing and promotions.  The owner worked at Ellora’s Cave for many years, so she has terrific publishing savvy and contacts.  My sales with Samhain have been quite respectable for a first-time author, and I’d recommend them to anyone who’s looking at small presses. 

 

I’ve heard wonderful things about Samhain and am thrilled to finally get to chat with one of their authors. Are you looking for an agent or do you feel like, at this point, it’s not necessary?

 

While I am still looking for an agent, I’ve become more knowledgeable about the publishing business in the last year and realize that having an agent is not crucial to becoming a successful author.  Obviously, if you’re looking to break into the big New York houses, it’s easier if you’re agented.  But you also have to realize that some agents submit their authors’ works to publishers who take unagented submissions – Samhain is one of them.  And those authors are paying 15% of their profits directly to their agent.  Also, snagging an agent doesn’t necessarily mean your book will go to auction and sell for six figures; I know a fellow Samhain author whose agent has been shopping her book for three years!  If I get to a point where an agent can do significantly better for me than I can do for myself, then yes, I’ll sign on. 

 

Interesting perspective for those of us who get so caught up in the agent search. On a different tangent, we know you are a writer, but, as I understand it, you are also a teacher.  What age group and what kind of books are kids interested in right now?

 

I teach Education and English to high school seniors – yes, really!  In one of my classes, my students are required to read one book every month, and then we talk about their choices.  They can choose any book they like, and what’s neat is when one book becomes a class favorite and gets passed around during the course of the year.  What kinds of books do teenagers like?  Anything that’s a good story, really.  Here are some of the class favorites from the past few years:

 

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

Looking for Alaska by John Green

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

Be More Chill by Ned Vizzini

Bleachers by John Grisham

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

Black and Blue by Anna Quindlen

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

 

Thanks for sharing. As a YA writer I’m always dying to know. What’s your writing schedule like?  How do you fit it into your daily life?

 

Well, I blog every morning, and I try to write every evening.  At times I might sneak in some writing at lunchtime, too, but that doesn’t always happen.  Weekends are good for solid hours of writing time…and since I’m a teacher, summer is perfect for me to get in some serious writing too!

 

It’s always good to see writers with careers succeeding in the publishing world. But, more specifically, how do you approach the writing process?  Do you outline?  Do you start with characters or a premise, etc?

 

Oh, I’m a huge outliner.  I have to have the entire plot in place before I begin a novel.  This is not to say that things don’t change; they always do – the characters take me on wild turns I’d never dreamed of!  Usually, I begin with some kind of “what if” premise, and then figure out how many conflicts I can work into the story from there.

 

I’m jealous of your outline abilities. Prior to publication, how did you deal with rejection as a writer?

 

Um…prior to publication?  I’m currently collecting rejection letters from agents that I sent my latest women’s fiction novel to. One of my Samhain colleagues also has a women’s fiction novel she can’t find a home for.  Another fellow author has queried agents every year for the last five and still hasn’t found someone to take her on.  My advice to both pre-published and published writers is to develop a really, really thick skin.  This is true when the reviews start coming, too: some people will like your book, and some won’t have anything good to say about it.  You absolutely must be tough in this industry, or I don’t think you have a chance of lasting.

 

Good to know what to expect, although I think everyone would agree that an end to rejection would be nice. On a happier note, what was it like the first time you heard your work was accepted?

 

  1. Exhilarating.
  2. Hugely relieving.

I bet! I love hearing authors’ reactions to success! It was a ton of fun hearing from you. Please come back and visit again!

 

Thanks for having me here today, Chandler – readers can find out more about One Night in Memphis by visiting this link: http://www.samhainpublishing.com/authors/allie-boniface

 

Hope you’ll join me in celebrating my release day tomorrow ~ that’s the nice thing about ebooks: they cost about as much as Starbucks latte and last a lot longer!

 

 

 

———-Samhain is the gold standard of small presses. If you’d like to know more about submitting to small publishers, check out 10 Things to Look For When Submitting to Small Presses

10 Things to Look for When Submitting to Small Presses

First I’d like to point out a great series of posts on what of my favorite author blogs. Ally Carter has a wonderful series entitled 101 Tips on Being a Writer. Ally is the author of the bestselling Gallagher Series put out by Hyperion. In this series of blog posts she covers everything from writers’ block to publishing to completing a novel. Great stuff and a must read. (This is the link to the first set of 101 and you can work your way through the rest via her sidebar.)

On to today’s post: What to look for in a small press.

Thank goodness for small presses. They diversify the type of books available and they are often more accessible to newer authors. So it’s no surprise that there are many good reasons for an author to pursue publication with a small press. An author may want a more intimate experience. If he or she is a new author, a bit of handholding on the part of the publisher can be nice. I’ve mentioned this before, but sometimes it is better for a writer to build their career up from the ground floor. If you go with a big publisher with a big advance and flop, then your career could easily be doomed from the start. Better to exceed expectations. Also, working with a small press editor can be a great learning experience as their lists are smaller and they can devote more time to working with you to grow as an author. 

These are all good things. But, it’s important to remember that not all small presses are created equal.

*Note: Deciding whether or not a particular small press is right for you depends heavily on your goals and expectations. So take that into consideration when reading this post.

1. How will your book be distributed? It’s not terribly difficult to get your book on Amazon. You could do this by purchasing an ISBN number. So, make sure if you want your book to be in brick-and-mortar stores, you ask the publisher if it will be. A lot of times you will get answers like, “It will be available for stores to special order.” That basically means “No, it won’t.” At least not unless someone goes into a specific book stores and asks for your book. If the publisher says, “Yes, it will be in stores” make sure you ask for a list of which ones. Small presses should be able to provide a list of stores where other authors’ books are shelved.

2. The Website: The focus point of a small press’s website should not be a call for submissions. Legitimate publishers–even small publishers–will be flooded with more submissions than they can handle without advertising how to submit manuscripts. Don’t get me wrong, you should be able to find that information, but a little searching never hurt anyone. The focus of the website should be selling books. They should be providing information on their current books to booksellers, to teachers, to distributors, etc. THAT should be easy to find.

3. Will your book be edited? Speak with other authors who have worked with that publisher. Usually you can find them by googling or even on MySpace. Ask how closely he or she worked with an editor. Was the editorial advice useful? Even the best authors need an editor. Be wary of a press that thinks your book is ready to go as is.

4. Advances: There are legit small presses that cannot offer an advance. However, it is something to consider. Do you want/need to be paid upfront for your work?

5. That leads me to my next point…royalties. If you aren’t being paid an advance, then you should be making royalties, right? But, royalties depend on sales. A small press should be very upfront about how many books you should expect to sell. They should be honest, but that doesn’t mean you can slack on your research. Again, contact authors. Ask politely about sales. You don’t need to be blunt, asking exactly how many books they have sold. Just inquire as to whether or not the publisher predicted sales honestly and correctly. No one should have a problem with that.

6. Are you encouraged to buy your own books? You shouldn’t be. No one should suggest that to you. In fact, something you want to look for is a fair amount of free author copies for you to give away to friends and family or for you to use to help promote your book. It’s fine for there to be an author discount in place beyond these free copies, but you should not be pressured into buying your own book and selling it from your garage. Further, a small press should provide a certain number of copies and/or ARCs for promotional purposes and you shouldn’t have to foot that bill. For instance, if you are going to have a book signing, the press should send you copies and you can ship back those that aren’t sold.

7. Books published per year: Small presses are small. Therefore, they shouldn’t try to overextend themselves. Very few titles should be published per year and a focus on a specific genre or niche market (such as libraries) is preferable. Titles by the same author should be published more than six months apart.

8. I hope this goes without saying, but you, as the author, should not pay ANYTHING. You get paid. That’s the flow of money…always.

9. Not a scam, but not a good idea. There are a lot of well-intentioned people that start small presses because they want to give the little guy a chance. That’s great, but really, the publishers should have some experience in some aspect of the publishing industry first. Owning and operating a press is not an entry level job. Check the publishers’ resume.

10. Contracts. A sample contract should be available upon request. If you want to see a great sample contract for a small press ask for one from Five Star Mysteries (not the vanity press, the traditional one–there’s two with similar names). You’ll notice that everything is spelled out for the author. There is even an author handbook to help you decipher. It tells you how many author copies you’ll get, how many promotional copies, what reviewers they will be responsible for sending books to. They are honest about their niche and how many books you can expect to sell plus they layout the advance and how royalties work. Moreover, they send you this contract and handbook upfront. They are really a shiny example of how a small imprint should work.

Finally, while this is not an exhaustive list, I want to give you some examples of great small publishers. I’m not saying they are perfect and they are all very different, but look for the things I talked about and then compare them to the press you’re looking at. Hopefully that will help you to better assess your options.

-Kunati

-Quake

-Asylett

-Five Star

-Wild Rose Press (not Wild Rose Publishing)

 

Status: I’m getting ready to go to DC to stay with Nate’s family. They always celebrate the 3rd of July with the grandparents, so I will be going for my third time to celebrate with them! It is a two hour train ride and a great opportunity to get some work done on my graphic novel, SCOUT.

Also, when Ben gets back I plan on putting up some SCOUT artwork, so you guys can get a sneak peek!