Blog Radio

Aaron Paul Lazar and I are doing a blog exchange today. (I will be at Murder By 4.) The author of LeGarde Mysteries and Moore Mysteries, Lazar enjoys the Genesee Valley countryside in upstate New York, where his characters embrace life, play with their dogs and grandkids, grow sumptuous gardens, and chase bad guys. Visit his websites at www.legardemysteries.com and www.mooremysteries.com and watch for his upcoming release, MAZURKA, coming in 2008. Lazar says:

Have you noticed a recent explosion in Internet radio shows? Perhaps you’ve heard of Blogtalk Radio, or other venues, in the past year. Basically, folks register as a talk show host and run their show via phones and the web. The guests call in, and listeners can either sign in or call in to join the discussion at the discretion of the host. The podcasts are available to download, feature on websites, or share via articles or email. The venue has become a wonderful marketing tool for writers and professionals in all fields. Over the past year, I’ve been a guest on several shows, ranging anywhere from 15 to 90 minutes. Feel free to listen to some or all of them, if you are so inclined, here.

But in Dr. Niama Willam’s Poetry, Prose, and Anything Goes radio show last week (“Dr. Ni” pronounced “nee”), I experienced a completely different type of interview.

It was more like “literary therapy.” Dr. Ni read and loved Tremolo: Cry of the Loon, brought up questions and issues about the characters, how they related to my life and passions, and spotlighted important aspects of the book linked to current day social issues.

She asked some hard questions that stopped me in my tracks.

But it’s not surprising, because the renowned Dr. Ni, literary scholar, author, creative coach, abuse survivor, and natural therapist, has just what it takes to help you dig into your life or novel, explore literary relationships to your life, and return you from the experience feeling enriched and satisfied.

None of it was planned. I didn’t even get the questions until a few minutes before the show. But that made the whole experience more animated, more natural. She surprised me by asking me to read segments of the book I’d never read aloud. I’m working on recording chapters for future audio books, but these chapters were further down the list and I hadn’t practiced. Sure, I made a few flubs, but the discussions we had about these scenes were illuminating.

The Poetry, Prose, and Anything Goes program opens with Dr. Ni’s lyrical and mystical acapella singing, with a welcome that promises to “let your ears become intoxicated.” We laughed a lot, shared common experiences, and dug deep into important subjects.

Following are some of the topics we covered:

– The concept of innocence; how it relates to childhood and shapes a writer.
– How an author’s fears drive suspense and plot elements
– Abuse, and why it’s a recurring theme in the LeGarde series
– The lives of concentration camp survivor’s children
– Grandparenting vs. Parenting
– The “macho man” culture of some African American and Latino men and how it’s okay to be human, to be nurturing, to allow your emotions to show, while also being strong and protective.
– The history and future of Siegfried Marggrander, and where the German segments come from in the series.
– The differences between 50s/60s kids and some children today
– How playing outside and inventing games was/is so good for children
– Materialism and its destruction of the family and quality of some children
– The desensitization of society to violence, gore, sex.
– Nature and the importance of living with and in it, as opposed to living indoor in electronic cocoons.

I wanted to share this with you all for the sake of connecting on important issues, but also to provide some fodder for ideas for those of you who are established or budding writers. Whether you already have a book out there or are about to be published, don’t hesitate to take the plunge with live radio!

At first it’s a bit scary. After all, you are LIVE. But as you become accustomed to thinking on your feet, the fears lessen and it can be truly delightful.

The best way to prepare for radio is to do lots of print interviews first. You’ll collect your thoughts, have files of answers handy, and will be practiced in the art of thinking about your motivations, characters, synopses of books, etc. I must have done 25 to 30 print interviews before I “dared” go live on radio. But they helped immensely. I even practiced answering the most popular questions out loud, so my mouth actually said the things my mind intended.

You also need to be prepared to read “live.” Again, practice makes perfect. Before I record my clips for future audio books, I practice each chapter numerous times, until the sound of the voices and descriptions match what was in my head when I wrote the words. That’s hard to do at first, but after a while it again, becomes second nature.

If you have a laptop in the kitchen, or headphones at work, click on the link to the show above and let me know what you think about our discussion. We can keep it going here if you like.

Remember, dear friends, to take pleasure in the little things. And if you love to write, write like the wind!

Being a Successful Author — Magic or Work?

My guest blogger today is Sia McKye, a marketing/publicity expert. This is the follow-up to McKye’s article, “Getting Published: No Magic Wands or Treasure Maps.” KcKye writes:

As an author, nothing can be quite as exciting as receiving word you’ve sold your book and it’s going to be published.  You are over the moon and flying high.  Maybe even dreaming of the NYT Best Sellers List. Finally, you’re getting validation for all your work and hours of writing.  Everyone you know hears about it.  You’re discussing galleys, Arc covers, the artwork, blurbs, and author endorsements on your cover. Tossing terms around like Pub dates, Arc mailings, targeted print campaigns, web promotions and Reviews, library marketing, and author events.  Your book finally hits Barnes & Noble and you find yourself going in just to look at a book with your name on it. You take pictures.  You start being obsessed with Amazon figures on your book’s placement of the day or week.  You’ve got it made, right?

Keep in mind that just having your book in print doesn’t mean it will automatically sell-books don’t sell themselves, even if they are listed on Amazon–or on the shelves of Barnes & Noble. As a friend of mine recently reminded me:  “Over 195,000 new novels are published by traditional publishers in the U.S. every year. Of those, 70% sell fewer than 500 copies.”

Here’s another reason to aggressively market yourself and your books and the importance in building a reader base. 

Debuting authors are lucky enough to get a first print run of 10,000 for their book, depending upon the genre and your publisher’s confidence in your work (some can be as high as 20,000). You might think 10,000 is a big number until you start calculating book stores and Amazon.  It’s really a small run and it’s not going to hit the best sellers list with that number. If they sell only 500 copies or less, then the publisher eats the cost of having the other 9500 shipped back to them, at full cost, and made into pulp.  Publishers are not happy when this happens, but they have a contract with you, maybe for a three-book deal. Maybe they’ll recoup their losses on the second book?  If they don’t will they take another three books from you?  Or drop you like a hot potato?  Can you see where active promotion and publicity is vital? 

On the other hand, you’ve worked your butt off with marketing and promotion. You’ve built up name recognition on the Internet through Facebook, WordPress, Twitter, and Gather, MySpace and other social networks.  You’ve worked hard at blogging and building presence and attracting your consumers-readers.  You started this long before your book was even sold.  You continued even after your book was sold. You’ve written book reviews on books similar to yours, written anything and everything related to your books and also to you as a person.  You’ve made yourself a personality, with likes, dislikes, and interests.  In other words you’ve become a real person to your readers.  They see you share the same interests as they do, you chat with them. You build characters in your books; surely it isn’t that hard to project yourself to your readers?

Because your potential readers like you and have gotten to know you somewhat, they do name-dropping about their “good friend, the author.” 

“Oh yeah, I know Anna Campbell and she just released TEMPT THE DEVIL.  Highlanders, honey, you have to look for it.”

“I just read the best suspense/thriller recently, A SPARK OF HEAVENLY FIRE, by my friend Pat Bertram.  We’re talking danger and a story of ordinary people becoming extraordinary to survive.  You’ve got to order it.”

“My good friend Judi Fennell wrote this cool series about sexy mermen and a kingdom under the sea. The first book is called IN OVER HER HEAD, you gotta read it!”

“Toni Blake is just the nicest person evah.  She writes some real sizzlers, we’re talkin’ hot and sexy.  She has a new one coming out called ONE RECKLESS SUMMER…”

It’s that simple and any debuting or popular author’s name can be slipped in there.  Why? Because you’ve worked hard to be assessable and real to your readers. Because once you knew your release date, you started building anticipation for your book. So now, your book is released and sells through at 80%, or 8000 books.  Your publisher is very happy and is patting him or herself for their ability to find talented writers.  They decide a second print run is good business. Because you’ve built a buzz you probably will do well on the second run. Your publisher decides for your next book (for a debuting author that can be as soon as two-three months later) to start out with a first print run of 25,000 and a much larger presence on the bookshelves of Barnes & Noble and more pressure for the staff to push your book.

By the way, to hit the NYT best sellers list?  The book needs a first print run of at least 35,000.  Maybe Nora Roberts or Christine Feehan may get that type of run, but look at all the time they invested in marketing and promoting themselves and their books.  As a debuting author, you’re not going to get that with a first run.

This type of marketing/promotion also works for POD authors.  True, you don’t have to deal with print runs and costly returns, but if your books are in bookstores, the return cost are still a bite and one you as the author have to foot.  It’s smart business; again it’s your business, to have these books sell through.  You want to be successful and to do that you need a solid reader base as much as, or perhaps even more than, a traditionally published author.  Collecting dust is not the image of your books you want in the bookstore management’s eyes or your own, especially if you want them to continue to carry your books.  Shelf space is not a guarantee of sales any more than having a book with your name on it is. 

Stirring up publicity and marketing of yourself as an author and promoting your book, is many times, the least favorite task for an author. The point is if you want to be a success as an author then it’s going to take hard work. A third of your time is spent in writing the story and the rest is spent in selling it to a publisher and then promoting the book and yourself as an author. Building that all important reader base. It’s a necessary part of business.   

Writing is a business. The author is the proprietor of that business. Products have to be promoted to be a success. It’s as simple as that. Once we realize that, we put ourselves in the right mindset to be a success.

There are no magic wands, treasure maps of shortcuts, or guarantees to be a successful author or being published.

Just a dream and a lot of hard work.

Getting Published: No Magic Wands or Treasure Maps

My guest today is Sia McKye. McKye writes:

I’ve been in marketing/publicity for quite a few years.  I’ve sold, promoted, and publicized various products and services over the years. To be effective one has to know the product or service being offered-which in this case is selling you as an author and your book.  Knowing the business end of the product you’re selling, which in this case would be publishing.

I write quite a bit about marketing, promotion, and publicity.  I work with a couple of small independent publishing companies to promote their authors and increase sales.  I am also a writer.  So learning about the publishing field is a must.  As I learn about it, I write about it.  I get comments, sometimes emails from aspiring authors who want to be published and want to be a success.  I’ve had questions from published authors on suggestions I might have on marketing.

One unpublished author wrote to me:  “I am an aspiring writer. However, I am having a bit of a time getting published. I know it is nearly impossible to connect with a large publishing company. So I am trying to decide if I want to do self-publishing or use a print on demand service. Any suggestions?”

I hear things like this frequently. Everyone wants a shortcut.  I have no magic wand.  I share what I learn.  This is actually a two-part question. The first part is how to get published and the best route to accomplish that.  The second part is how to be successful as an author once you are published.   I thought about it and answered.

As an aspiring author trying to get published, the main thing is belief in yourself and in your ability to tell a story. The second thing is polishing your craft. That means learning and applying-what works and what doesn’t. If you receive critiques or suggested changes from editors, agents, or your writing group, don’t get on your high horse and think your words are sacred and descended from God.  Be willing to look at the critiques and suggestions and see if they’re valid.  Third, keep an eye on what’s selling out there.  What do you see on the bookshelf-especially in your genre?  How does your writing compare in premise, character development, and presentation?  Fourth, as a published author, building a reader base by marketing yourself and your book.

POD (Print On Demand) isn’t a shortcut, although many think it is. A shortcut denotes a quicker way to get from point A to point B and going POD isn’t going to give you that, other than you have a book out there with your name on it.  POD can be a good place for some to start. You can build a readership base, see what works with plots and story lines and what doesn’t. An author has more control over their books and any profits generated which is why some choose that route.  Many POD publishers also make the books available as an E-book on places like Amazon.  POD has changed considerably over the years and it’s not at all like the old Vanity press of years gone by when a person could self-publish anything-most of it poorly written. They went the route of self-publishing because they couldn’t get a contract from a larger publishing house and part of the reason was the story was not saleable due to the way it was written.  What came first?  The chicken or the egg?

Unfortunately, some POD books out there are still poorly written and there is a reason for that.

If you choose to go the route of Print on Demand, be careful which POD publisher you go with.  If you have to pay them to publish your book, this is not the one for you.  If you find a reputable POD publisher your work is still cut out for you.  This is where an author discovers that POD isn’t a shortcut. There are very few POD publishers with an editing staff to filter your writing.  That’s up to you as the author. They’ll print your book at no cost to you, they will also offer you a contract-be sure to look it over carefully-and they will offer a percentage of the profits on each book sold and send those royalties to you either monthly or quarterly. Once you receive the proof book back from the printer, be sure you really proof your story well before it goes to final print. Presentation is everything and in this case, it’s up to you to make sure it looks professional and error free.

The thing to keep in mind with POD is it will require an enormous amount of work on your part to promote yourself and your writing. You don’t get an advance to work with and funding for publicity and promotion is very important.  You don’t have the avenues available to you in promotion and publicity that a traditional publisher can offer. You are writer, agent, and business manager, all wrapped in one person. Getting your name known is daunting but necessary.  This actually needs to be started before you have your book in print.  Build an interest in you as an author, and create expectation for your book.  Creating that interest can seem overwhelming to a debuting author. But, it can be done through the Internet, via blogging and social networks such as Facebook, Gather, Twitter, MySpace, and a host of others.  Keep in mind; you still have to allow for time to continue writing.  Producing a product to sell.  That isn’t an easy juggling act as most authors also have a day job and families.

If you don’t want to go POD, and there are many who don’t, make it a point to look into some of the smaller Independent publishing companies. There are a few good opportunities to get on with one if you write genres they publish.  Still, even with a small publisher or even a major publishing house, you will be required to promote yourself and generate publicity for your book-unless you’re a debuting Dan Brown-there isn’t much in the way of dollars for marketing/promotion available for debuting authors.

Regardless of the route you take to being published, caution is necessary.  Make it a point to check out the company or agent you’re considering with Editors and Preditors.  Consider them the Better Business Bureau for writers. There are a lot of scams out there, predators with basically a storefront, whose sole purpose is to make money off your dream and give little or nothing back.  The horror stories I’ve heard would curl your hair.

Agent Query has a good list of agents and their submission requirements and they also have a good list of small independent publishers as well the big boys.  It’s worth looking at and then doing some research on them.  Writing isn’t just a creative endeavor.  It’s a business.  You are the proprietor of that business.

So, as an aspiring author, you need a strong believe in your ability to tell a good story, spend time perfecting your craft as a writer, and keep abreast with what’s currently selling in your genre on the market. Be willing to invest time in building name recognition long before you’ve been published.

But what if you’ve already sold your book?  What can you do to help sell your books?  I will discuss this in part two, Being a Successful Author–Magic or Work?

Contacting Famous People

D.B. Pacini ‘s youth/YA fantasy novel, The Loose End of the Rainbow, will be published soon by Singing Moon Press. Pacini writes:

An author I know often writes to well-known people asking them questions regarding research or asking them to endorse her books. Many graciously respond with answers, referrals, endorsements, and encouragement.  She told me to never be afraid to write to anyone I wish.  The worse that can happen is the person will not respond. 

I decided that there were several well-known people I would like to contact.  

*One was movie producer Paul Davids. He had written/directed a movie I absolutely love, Starry Night; about master artist Vincent van Gogh.  I researched and secured the email address of someone who knew Paul. I wrote and asked that person to please ask Paul to read my novel, Emma’s Love Letters.  I was thrilled when Paul agreed to allow me to snail-mail him a copy of the manuscript.  He was extremely busy with numerous projects but he took time to read my manuscript.  He then generously provided revision suggestions that made the novel more cinematic. My website for Emma’s Love Letters now features a wonderful endorsement from Paul Davids.  

*One was John Prine. The amazing John Prine is the favorite modern day musician/poet of Emma, the main character in Emma’s Love Letters.  I though he would get a kick out of how he is portrayed in the novel. I called his record company, Oh Boy Records.  They allowed me to snail-mail them the manuscript and they gave it to John.  How cool is that?  It is very cool.  

*One was author John Bellezza, a highly respected and incredibly busy Tibetan scholar. The second novel for my youth/YA fantasy Universal Knights trilogy features Tibetan youth and young adults as the main characters. I emailed and asked John if he will serve as a consultant to insure that my information is authentic and honorable to Tibetan people. He read The Loose End of the Rainbow and then agreed to serve as a consultant for the second novel.  I’m thrilled. 

*One was Stephen Hawkings.  I admire him and I want to share The Loose End of the Rainbow with him.  I’m not asking for anything in return, I just want to give him the story as a gift of appreciation.  I have sent him an email.  His website states that it can take a while to receive a response.  I may never receive a response, but maybe I will.  How cool would that be?  It would be out-of-this-universe cool.  

*One was David Friedman.  He is the still photographer behind some of the greatest images in cinema.  He is the first and only still photographer to be voted into the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences and the man who took the last cinematic images of Steve McQueen and Bruce Lee.  He has recently published My Life in the Movies (Dalton Watson Fine Books, 2008). After an apprenticeship as an assistant cameraman, Friedman went on to become one of the most in-demand still photographers in Hollywood from the late 1960s until the late 1980s. While shooting on location for dozens of Hollywood’s classic films of that era, he befriended stars such as Steve McQueen, Bruce Lee, Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, John Travolta, Michael Caine, James Caan, Goldie Hawn, Cissy Spacek, Omar Shariff, Olivia Newton-John, Jack Nicholson, Richard Dreyfuss and Jaqueline Bissett. Some of his movie credits include Brian’s Song, Summer of ’42, Little Fauss and Big Halsey, Enter the Dragon, Carrie, Grease, Superman, Rambo II, The Falcon and the Snowman, Rocky IV and The Running Man. Friedman was also the still photographer for Steve McQueen’s last two motion pictures – Tom Horn and The Hunter – in which a chapter is devoted to each film. 

A good friend of mine is a friend of David Friedman.  She asked him to read my manuscript for The Loose End of the Rainbow.  He was on an international tour for his newly released book.  I mailed my manuscript to his home address.  He loved the novel and is providing an endorsement.  

*What I’m trying to share with these examples (I have several more) is that we must be daring. We must try to contact anyone we wish and be open and honest about our reasons.  I’ve contacted well known people for a number of reasons.  Some have not responded.  That is fine.  The best part is that some have responded.

Book Stores and Book Signings

Shirley Kennett, author of the P. J. Gray series, left this comment on a Suspense/Thriller Writers discussion on Facebook, and I wanted to make it available to all writers who are embarking on this business of book marketing. Shirley wrote:

Booksellers should be the primary target of your promotion instead of individual readers. Word of mouth recommendations about your book among individual readers is great; among booksellers, priceless.

With six books published and a seventh on the way, I’ve tried a lot of approaches to promotion. Bookmarks, postcards, promotional items, you name it, I’ve tried it at one time or another. I’ve learned that the most productive thing I can do is have direct contact with booksellers. In person if possible, by phone otherwise. A store might junk an email from you without reading it, so start using that unlimited long distance on your phone plan.

Reluctant to call up strangers and pimp your book, as a dear friend of mine calls it? Okay, put a little money where your mouth isn’t. Buy copies of your book with your author’s discount or at a discounted retail or online store, and mail bookstores a free copy of your book. It won’t end up in the trash. Bookstore people can’t help themselves. They love books. With your book in their hands, the quality of the book has a chance to do its job. Even better, deliver the book in person. You have an immediate ice-breaker: a book to give away. Start locally for a confidence booster. You’d be surprised how thrilled people can be just meeting an author who lives in their town and not in an ivory tower.

With most of your effort channeled toward booksellers, you should still try to make it to conferences. Just look at all those potential fans of yours gathered in one spot, and that includes all of the other authors there.

One of the best ways to overcome shyness at these events is to volunteer, both in advance of the event working behind the scenes and right at the conference, greeting people at the registration desk or anything else that puts you in a position where you’ll meet people. Having served as registrar for ThrillerFest (a plug: http://www.thrillerfest.org) for three years in a row, I work behind the scenes months before the conference, building relationships with everyone from bestselling novelists to librarians, bookstore owners, agents, editors, publicists, and of course readers. Then at the conference, everybody comes to the registration desk, and there I am, already a familiar name before I say a word.

This year, I’m conference chair, and I can say my address book is overflowing with new contacts of all types. So get out there and volunteer, and don’t be afraid to step up to a more responsible job after you’ve gotten your feet wet.

Ah, signings. Worth it or not? It’s up to the individual. Yes, you can build a relationship with the bookstore, but if you’re doing it for the sales, I don’t think it’s worth it. It’s expensive, it’s time away from your writing, and unless you’re already a mega selling author, you’re not going to draw large crowds of non-relatives to your signings. If you don’t have the hide of a rhino, it’s going to hurt to sit there all by yourself at the signing table. Instead, you could visit 10 booksellers in a city in a day and hand out 10 free books. Say 7 of them think your book is great (can’t please everyone), and begin handselling, which happens even in chains. That could snowball into a lot of sales. Maybe then they’ll be calling you, pleading for you to come for a signing!

If you do have signings, here are some tips. Don’t take for granted that everything is going smoothly on the store’s side or you could show up with no one expecting you and none of your books in stock. Really, truly. Contact the store 2-3 weeks in advance confirming the plans you made 3 months ago, and then phone the day before you arrive to make sure whoever is working on the day of your signing is aware of the big event.

Here’s the hard part–don’t sit silently behind your table waiting for people to miraculously notice you and buy your book. If you do that, it is possible that the only person who comes to your table will want to know where the ladies’ room is. Stand up. Talk to people as they pass by. Make sure your table is in a high-traffic area and not stuffed back in the corner with the reference books. If you’re nervous doing this, have something in your hands at all times to ease your way. Say hi and offer a bookmark or a pen. Yes, the steely ones will resist eye contact and move on. But most people will reach out to accept something being handed to them in a non-threatening way.

Once the item changes hands, you have at least a short time to chat about what type of books the person likes. Initially, make it about the reader and not about you, if you are shy. Don’t go for the hard sell. You’ve already got your advertising in their hands, so let it do the job of selling. If you’re lucky, you’ll get asked about the book and then you’re on comfortable ground. You can bring a friend or relative with you to the store to cruise around talking with readers and handing out bookmarks. Be sure to clear that with the store manager, and make sure your friend isn’t obnoxious.

Try to have your picture taken at your table with a few people around. This is great for your website and for one other use. Follow up with a thank you note to your contact at the store. A real note, not a quickly-tossed-off email. If you want to spend some money on it, print note cards with your book cover on the front. In the note, include a copy of the picture taken in the store. (Crop it to make it look more flattering if you have to.) That photo might go in a store newsletter or on a bulletin board or sit on the counter for a little time.

If you belong to any writing groups that have chapters in the city you’re visiting, be sure to notify them. Chapter members may turn out in support of you.

If you end up with up with zero sales–and it is bound to happen sometime–be gracious about it.

One more thing: when the signing is over, you should ask if you can sign the remaining stock of books. You may be shy getting started in this make-yourself-known process, but amazingly, a lot of readers are too shy to talk to the Big Important Author face-to-face. They’ll come in after the signing, and your signed book will be available. Be cautious with this and don’t press the store to let you sign these books. Once signed, they are not returnable and realistically might gather dust rather than kudos. Best of all is when a store manager or owner asks you to sign the remaining stock, rather than the other way around!

TK Kenyon Talks About Book Marketing For the Introvert

This is a reprint of an article by TK Kenyon, author of the book Rabid, and is used with her permission. Kenyon writes:

Writing, especially fiction writing, is a tough business to get into and a tougher one to stay in. Generally, neither authors nor publishers make a significant profit until an author’s fifth novel is published. Most of the time, the majority of the meager money that publishers put into publicizing books goes toward review copies and the usually unproductive author tour. How many books do first-time authors sell? Over 195,000 new novels are published by traditional publishers in the U.S. every year. Of those, 70% sell fewer than 500 copies. Yikes.

To be in the other 30% of authors, you must seize every promotional advantage you can, especially by using the web and other new media. My first novel, Rabid, sold out of its first print run of 10,000 copies in under two months and is currently chewing through its second print run, which is better than average.

To sell your book, (1) inform people that you and the novel exist, (2) interest readers enough to buy your book, and (3) build a relationship to keep them coming back for more.

For all this, the Internet is the perfect medium.

Inform

To announce your presence to the world, first you blog. Before your book is published, start your own blog or blogs on subjects related to your book, especially controversial themes or subjects that people want to know more about on an easy, free blog host like Blogger/Blogspot, Livejournal, or Xanga. Join blogs. Be a guest blogger. Trade blog posts with other bloggers. Many small blogs and blogger networks, including those that you start or join and co-op blogs, allow you to write one blog post and then cross-post to them all, which means far more bang for your time and typing buck. Some blog networks also feed into search engine news services, which is an added publicity bonus.

Personally, I have a science blog, Science for Non-Majors (general science essays including genetic engineering of food animals, opinions about recent research in autism and Alzheimer’s Disease, and why snot is slimy,) and participate regularly in co-op blogs like Criminal Minds at Work (for authors of crime novels, as Rabid has both a murder and a trial in it,) and The Write Type, plus one at my publisher’s website, and blogger networks Bloggernews.net and Opednews.com.

Writing guest articles for newsletters, print, e-magazines, and other blogs is one of the best ways to reach new readers. Articles for big blogs and e-magazines, such as this one or Bookslut, are generally exclusive. Don’t cross-post these, though you can link to the post from your other blogs with a teaser about the article. Query blogs via email with a paragraph about the topic of your article and why you should write it. Find popular places to post by using tools like Technorati or PageRank on the Google Toolbar, which is also an indication of popularity — a higher number is better. Statsaholic and Alexa are other sources for traffic information that you can utilize.

If you have the time to commit to writing several articles per week for only one site, About is competitive but lucrative. Blogcritics is an excellent site, though less remunerative.

Literary journals, especially e-journals, are excellent places to publicize. Excise self-contained nuggets out of your novel and submit them. You can also write stand-alone prequels, sequels, or exquels to your novel. Lists of literary journals, such as this one at Poets & Writers, abound.

Social networking sites are also great places to up your profile ante. Wikipedia has a good but incomplete list.

A page at MySpace.com is the minimum. You can cross-post your blog essays on MySpace blogs, too. Add friends, join groups, and aim for 1000 friends as your first goal, then 5000, then 10,000.

Goodreads is a must-visit social networking site for authors. It’s similar to MySpace except that it’s geared toward bibliophiles — a target-rich audience. Add friends, join groups, and post book reviews.

Gather is a community of writers and is another great place to make friends and turn them into readers by cross-posting your blogs and essays.

Once your book is added to Amazon, enroll in the AmazonConnect authors’ program. You can post blogs, announce book tour dates, and connect with people who have purchased your books in the past. Your posts show up on your book’s page.

Forums and newsgroups are the great underground for authors. Make a list of topics, especially controversial ones, in your novel, and search YahooGroups, GoogleGroups, and search engines for “forum” plus your topic. Post to the introductory thread with details about your book, then respond to other people’s posts, and cross-post any topically related blog posts as thread starters. Include your book’s title in your sig file, but don’t actually advertise your book as that will likely just get you branded as a spammer. As long as your posts are on topic, helpful, thoughtful, and informative, people will visit your signature links. Forums are good places to enjoy yourself while “working.” Caveat: trolls lurk under these cyberbridges, avoid getting involved in any flame wars.

Where to get ideas for blog essays: news items (write an opinion piece, not necessarily contrary, and link back to the source article), forum posts (on a discussion thread, when you write a long answer to a post, copy/paste your answer, tidy it up, and post it on your blogs), your characters (write short stories about them, which you can then submit to literary journals, or do “interviews” with them, which is always an amusing exercise), or questions that people ask you about your book.

Interest

After you inform people that you and your book exists, give them more information. Seventy percent of readers who are thinking of buying a book by a new author search the Internet before they buy.

The first thing you should do when you sign your book contract, if you haven’t already, is buy your name as a web domain address. You might want to buy the dot-net and dot-org versions as well as the dot-com, because if you don’t, someone else will.

So what do you put on your web site? First and foremost and as always, content is king. Readers want to know more about you, your book, subjects in your book, writing your book, excerpts from your novel or other short stories, and your characters. Don’t just slap up a couple sales pages.

For example, my own website, TKKenyon.com, includes a bio about my scientific work (virology and neuroscience) as well as fiction writing, essays on the craft of fiction writing, and about subjects that are themes in my novel, and more about the characters in my first novel, Rabid. Most people want to know more about two of them: Dante the tormented Jesuit Catholic priest, and Leila the wild graduate student.

Republish essays that you hold the e-rights to on your website. Link to others and to your blogs. Include a few pictures of yourself but nothing that will overly interest a stalker. Write content for the site that includes important key words and optimize your pages for search engines, which includes naming pages using commonly searched words that are also subjects of the essay and ensuring that the links between pages work. Add content frequently. Include a way to email you (important for building an email list, see below,) and a way to purchase your book immediately. To do that, join an affiliate program, such as from Amazon.com, BN.com, or Powells.com.

Build

After you’ve found someone and sold them your novel, sell them the next one by building a relationship with them. As any MBA will tell you, the easiest customer is the repeat customer. To do this, build an email list.

Anyone who emails you, write them back and add them to your emailing list. When you start out, you can do mass emailings to your friends, but as you get bigger you should have an opt-in email list. You can collect email addresses from people at bookstore signings if you buy a little $2 bag of truffles and have a drawing, no purchase required. (Note: if you require the purchase of your book to enter the raffle, your contest falls under state lottery and gambling laws, and you don’t want that.) Send out at least a couple newsletters each year and make sure there is a way for people to remove themselves from the newsletter so you are in compliance with anti-spam laws. Definitely make use of your email distribution list to announce the pre-sale and sale of your next book.

AmazonConnect, mentioned above, is a great way to contact people who have bought your book from Amazon.com. In addition, AmazonShorts is a program where you can post short stories about your novel’s characters, or other short stories, 2000-10,000 words in length, and sell them on the cheap. While it will not provide retirement income, it is another way to introduce new people to your writing or update them on the further adventures of your charaters.

On your website, add an address where your readers can send you snail mail (like a PO Box, not your street address) and send you a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Then, send them a personalized, signed bookplate to stick in their book. Use large, 2″x3″ or larger, printer-label stickers, and write a quick note and sign them.

So that’s how to use the Internet to rise above the fray: find readers, give them information, and build relationships with them. In-store book signings sell only a few books and publishers may or may not allocate much in the way of publicity funds and manpower to first-time authors. Your own efforts on the Internet can make a dramatic difference in whether or not your novel succeeds.

So You Want to Become a Published Author?

This is a reprint of an article written by Roger Dean Kiser, author of  The White Boys: An American Tragedy, and is one of the best I have read about the realities of the publishing business. Kiser says:

If I may, I would like to make a few points that may be beneficial to a few of you interested in publishing a book. 

I am sure that my stories had a little to do with pushing my rating to a higher position, but most of all it was the hard work going on behind the scenes. I spent hours upon hours of reviewing stories in order to make enough money to promote my stories. I always watch the time of day, and the date(s) to make sure that my work would be seen, at just the right time, and by the most readers. A time when most of you would be on the computer and available to read and review.

No matter how good your story (or my story is); if you do not do the hard work your stories will go unnoticed. It will become nothing more than a bunch of worthless words. 

As time goes by you will learn that writing a story is the easy part. Getting published is the hard part. However, even if you self-publish, which I would never do, how many books will you sell? After your family and a few friends buy your book who is left? Even then you will have to battle your friends to support you. Believe me, I have been there. 

In my opinion, self-publishing companies are somewhat like some funeral homes. They thrive off the client’s feelings. The self publishing company uses your feelings of happiness and joy, while a funeral home feeds off your feelings of loneliness and guilt. 

For example: Let’s take your first book and place it in Barnes and Noble. Inside the front cover we place a ten-thousand dollar bill. Now you and I know that inside that book is something of great value (your work). Now in comes the customer who sees twenty-five thousand books sitting on shelves, along with yours. How would they know that your book has more of a value than do the other books? THEY DON’T. 

Then how do you sell your book? Well, I can tell you this… The publisher is not going to do it for you. They are out to make money and whatever it takes to promote your book is going to be your responsibility. 

BOOK SIGNINGS:

Well, I was lucky and I sold more than 600 copies of my first book in about four months. I held book signings in four states. During that four month period I made about seven-hundred dollars. However, I spent almost that amount in traveling expenses. 

Having a devious mind, I thought of a trick which I used on Amazon.com. I would find books similar to mine and I would review them. Not once did I ever give a bad review. However at the end of the review process it asked if I knew of a book which was a better read. If so, it asked for the ISBN Number of that book. Hell yeah I know of a better book, MINE! 

I then spent hours entering the ISBN number of my book. I repeated this thousands of times over the next few months. How many books did I sell that year? Quite a few. Damn that was pretty good. Bought myself a new truck. Once the money was gone, I was right back where I started. 

I worked twenty hours a day, seven days a week to push my books. I gave away thousands of my stories for free just to get my name out there. I have stories in more than 30 books in five countries. My stories are now used in five states for the testing of school children. I have stories on ten thousand web sites around the world. Yet, how many of you have ever heard of Roger Dean Kiser? 

What is my point? The point is this: writing is a never-ending battle. It is a claw, scratch and very hard climb to ever reach the top.

Oh, let me tell you about the movie deal. 

I managed to put together a movie deal with Universal Pictures, based on my book. I was to receive fifty-thousand dollars up front and then four additional payments of fifty-thousand dollars, as the film progressed. My publisher (Adams Publishing) told me that they held (all) the rights to my first book and that they were to receive the fifty-thousand dollar payments. I was to receive 7.05% of that.

To make a long story short: They refused to budge and I refused to budge, so the deal fell apart. In the end we both got nothing. 

THE POINT: 

Do not sell your soul just to get your story published. Hold on to as many rights as you can. There are many rights associated with the publishing of a story/book. Television rights, movie rights, book rights, audio rights, foreign rights, CD rights, DVD rights; and the list goes on and on. 

An extreme example of the contract: You can sell to white people but not to black people. You can sell to red people but not to white people who are deaf. You can sell to black people but not to white people if they are crippled. You can sell to purple people but not to brown people if they have one eye. A contract is so involved that the average writer cannot understand what is actually happening or what it is saying. Generally, the writer is so excited about being published that they will sign anything placed before them. 

THE LAWYER: 

I know you will go get yourself a good lawyer and he will make it all simple and clear. Don’t bother wasting your money. The damn lawyers are just about as bad as the publishers. They will suck what little money you do get, out of your pocket faster than a sponge dropped in water. 

DON’T DO ANYTHING without giving the contract much thought. Many times the book itself is not where the big money is located. The large payday is in a movie and/or television deal. What you get in the contract is not as important as what you might give away. 

The contract(s) with publishers are that extreme and are that detailed. They want every penny they can get out of the contract. They act as though they care about you and YOUR IMPORTANT STORY. Believe me, they do not care. I will repeat myself….They do not care. It is all about the money. They want you to do all the work. They will keep you hyped and allow you to spend everything they gave you up front to promote your own book. Another thing they do not tell you is this: Whatever monies you do get up front must be paid back as the book begins to sell. If they give you three thousand dollars, up front you will have to pay that three thousand back to them out of your royalties. They know that you are excited and will spend every penny of that money in the promotion of your wonderful book. Why wouldn’t you? You are going to be a millionaire anyway, RIGHT? 

Several years ago I hooked up with several producers/directors from Hollywood. I had them purchase the rights to my first book from Adams Publishing. I was made many promises and felt I was on my way to the BIG TIME. 

Well, to make a long story short…They purchased the rights to my book. I got fifty dollars and that was all I ever received. They made several of my stories into movies (called shorts) and entered them into many film festivals. They received top awards and then the producers moved on to several major film deals. I was left behind and forgotten. It is important that you ask that a TIME LIMIT be placed on the contract. Should something go wrong you will not be locked into the contract for years. 

I then published another book (overseas) and was told that I had violated my contract with the above producers/directors and that they were going to sue me.

Well, to make another long story short…..I won the argument but by then the foreign publisher was too scared to proceed and withdrew the book from the overseas market. 

The main point of this writing is to show you that writing has many pitfalls and it is not an easy business. It takes a lot of hard work and hours, upon hours of your time. 

What is the secret to writing a good story? Not just a good story, but a story (or book) that will sell. It must have meaning and it must have a purpose. Your story must shine above all others. If your writing does not invoke feeling(s) it is useless. It is useless because it is only equal to thousands of other stories written about the same subject. 

I have always said “Any writer can make a reader see an apple, but a good writer can make them taste it.” 

That is the secret. You have to make them cry, laugh or get mad. Everyone wants to feel something when they read. That is why they pick up a book, or watch a television show. That is what it takes to become a published writer. 

One last thing you should know. 

My thought was this: If someone offered me a movie contract, based on my book and it made twenty-five million dollars and I only received one-million dollars I could live with that screw job. However, that is not how the Hollywood system works. If they make twenty-five million dollars you will be lucky to receive twenty-five thousand dollars. To be even more honest you will be lucky to receive five-thousand dollars. 

The reason this happens is because, under the contract rules, they will use your portion of your proceeds under what is called expenses. They will eat lobster and steak, while drinking fine wines throughout the entire shooting of the movie. All the while, patting you on the back and talking about what a great book you wrote. When all is said and done you will be left alone with a book that is useless and has no more value. It is important that you get some money upfront. 

How much money are we talking about for a story which might be used for a television series? 

If the story is used in Canada you will receive about one thousand dollars per story. If used in the United States you might receive as much a five thousand dollars per story. 

If you do get a chance to get a piece of the pie; you had better grab all you can while the grabbing is good. When the smoke clears that will be all you get out of the deal. 

GETTING KNOWN: 

Use your time and energy to get known to as large an audience as possible. Do that in the shortest amount of time possible. The internet is one of the best free tools you have. Forget your local newspaper unless you are scheduling a book signing. It is a waste of time. It might be helpful if you live in a large city (one million or more). If you get something working in your favor, stay on top of it. Do not wait for others to make a decision for you. Call them, hound them and stay on their ass until you have succeeded. Others do not care about you, your work or your interests. They will do favors for you only if it puts something in their pocket. I have wined and dined with the best and it was all a waste of time and money.

What I did in order to get my name and stories known on this site is exactly what you have to do on a larger scale. YOU and YOU alone have to make it happen. No one is going to make it happen for you. All I can tell you is that you had best sleep with one eye open when it comes to Publishers, Television and Hollywood. 

WHAT ABOUT AN AGENT? 

Many are up and coming agents who are looking for the next Stephen King so they can make millions quickly. If you sign a contract with an agent (who is worthless) you are locked in for a year or two. That can kill you. Most good agents want to represent writers who are already established-someone they can/will represent for less of a percentage. It is almost impossible to talk to a well known agent.

Getting an agent to represent you is like applying for credit. The bank will not give you credit unless you have an established credit record. How does one establish credit if no one will give them credit in the first place? Taking on a agent is a chance you will have to take. 

Does anyone remember Five Star Music Masters? They were a company who charged thirty-five dollars to put your words to music. Thirty-five dollars was a lot of money in the 1950s. They made millions. No one was ever turned down. All submitted poems and words were “fantastic” and would hit the top of the music chart. (Is there a lesson here?) 

One last thought to remember: If a publisher thinks your story is worth millions they will pay you one-hundred thousand dollars to allow them to publish it.

For those of you who write “heartfelt stories” Chicken Soup for the Soul Books is the best way to have your work published. Its an easy $300.00 per story and I have sold hundreds of my own books because of my stories printed in that publication. Their web site submission is free to all. 

I am not saying give-up or don’t try to make a career in writing. What I am saying is this…A walk though the woods can be very enjoyable, and profitable if you know where the bears and the deep holes are located.

Good luck and good writing.