A Bookseller’s Perspective on How to Promote Your Book

Michelle Maycock worked in independent bookstores in Virginia and North Carolina as a buyer and manager, and as an independent publishers’ rep in the 1990s selling to bookstores in the Southeast. She now teaches in the Professional Writing program at Virginia Tech. Maycock offers valuable advice to authors:

As a former trade bookseller and book sales representative with twenty years experience, I would like to add the booksellers’ perspective on how to promote your book.

Help but do not push your local booksellers to sell your book. Let’s face it; nice paper books are a technology that some people are going to like for a long time. If you can capture that market too, even locally, it will get you ‘out there.’ If you prefer to read or publish digitally, keep in mind that there is still a market out there for nice cozy paper between boards . . . And digital authors can learn a few lessons from the business formerly known as the book trade. Goodwill (as Dr. Garte mentioned in many places in his blog article) and gently supplying concise, useful information about yourself and your book are your best (I was going to say “weapons,” but let’s tone down the adversarial and go with) strategies. Think of everyone online as potential customers, and bookstores and booksellers as your business partners, and they will be more likely to go to work for you.

Persistence pays off eventually. There is that famous proverb quoted by Oprah that ‘luck is when opportunity meets preparation.’ Frank McCourt remarked that he knew he was exceptionally lucky when Angela’s Ashes became a hit. It was a moment he had been preparing for all of his life, from trying out his stories on his students and writing all of his life. Successful authors are exceptionally hardworking and exceptionally personable.

ALWAYS be pleasant, and do not be pushy. Bookstore people have a lot of work to do, and unless or sometimes even if they own the store, they are not hugely compensated. They are bombarded with requests to put self-published books on consignment, many of which are of questionable quality. Keep in mind that they work retail, which requires infinite patience, a strong back, feet of iron, a keen intellect and a very good memory. All of which means, they will remember if you act out.

Don’t assume that because someone works in marketing or in a bookstore that they are not well read. I have a friend who is a retired Shakespeare professor emeritus who happens to work part-time a big chain bookstore. The bookosphere is peopled by lots of people with extensive literary knowledge. Don’t be afraid of them! They love books and words just as much as you do. It is ultimately a very rewarding business, whether or not you make money at it. Being a successful author is a full-time job, and promoting yourself, whether online or in person, is a second full-time job. Authoring is a public enterprise-if you are writing for the public, take the time to make your book the best it can be-get it edited by someone else with expertise, and then get a second opinion, even before you go to a publisher. Quality sells. There is too much competition out there in all channels-and other people are willing to help.

Even if you are a bestselling author, any bad or condescending behavior on your part will not sell your book. This also goes with book signings. Don’t pull a tantrum if no one shows up for your signing. That could be your own fault. But even the best-planned events sometimes don’t draw enough people. It may have just been bad timing. Live and learn. If you are lucky enough to get a signing event, invite everyone you know. Be ready to help the bookseller have a reasonable quantity of your book. Graciousness under pressure will endear you to the bookseller as well as the general public. When you appear in a public forum, keep your opinions low key and test the water carefully before offering up any criticisms. Remember, you want booksellers and other people in general to remember how nice, intelligent and interesting you are so that they will recommend you to other people. Any ill will or petty gossip in their direction can sabotage your whole effort.

One bestselling author said he would sign his name on the back of people’s hands if that would make them happy. Say or ask something personal about each person who brings a book to you to be signed. Stay a little longer if the line is long, and make an effort to talk to anyone who is interested in your book, even if they are pretending! Be friendly and comment pleasantly to as many people as you can who show interest in your work on sites like Facebook. A nationally known author once friended me because I said something nice about his or her book on the FB fan page, and now I have bought the earlier books and tell all of my friends and students that they ought to read this author.

As far as the booksellers are concerned, they cannot always give one author more attention than any other, and everyone wants their attention. Being a pest will not do you much good either. You want word of mouth buzz . . .  make it always positive and you will go far!

Being a nuisance is not a good way to promote yourself.

Information is key. Talk up your book to booksellers, but be brief (they have thousands of other books to worry about). Don’t pester them to buy more of your book if a few copies sell. Gentle reminders, maybe a nice email or note, but don’t demand. They have to make minimum orders. And if they have had two copies of your book for six weeks, they are unlikely to get more. And maybe they are not in charge of the budgeting.

It is your job to get out there on the web and in public and sell your ideas and the book that goes with them — then maybe then your book will start appearing in larger numbers on shelves and will get ordered online and reordered too! Keep in mind that you have to be very persistent. John Grisham’s first novel was published by a small publisher, but he kept working to promote himself and sending his next book out to bigger publishers. Having a second book ready before you launch is not a bad idea. But all of this takes a lot of determination, energy and patience, but it can pay off.

Writing Columns and Branding — Interview with Author Aaron Paul Lazar

Aaron Paul Lazar writes to soothe his soul. The author of LeGarde Mysteries and Moore Mysteries savors the countryside in the Genesee Valley of 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 http://www.legardemysteries.com/ and http://www.mooremysteries.com/ and watch for newest releases, Mazurka, coming January 2009 and Healey’s Cave, March 2009.

Bertram: Is a having a column valuable for a writer?

Aaron: Columns provide multiple avenues to “spread the word.” Not only are they ideal opportunities for building name recognition and growing ones circle of readers, but they also provide connections with real live people, especially if they’re online and feature a “comments” section.

There’s nothing more satisfying than posting an article on writing advice, or even general “life lessons,” and receiving voluminous responses ranging from “thanks for sharing,” to “you made my day!” I love connecting with readers on every level, whether they are LeGarde Mystery fans or just plain humans with common passions or angst.

Of course, if readers enjoy your columns, they may well enjoy your books. So it’s a natural progression for column readers to ask questions about and then devour the series, one book at a time.

Bertram: What are the drawbacks of having a column?

Aaron: Okay, here’s the rub. Being asked to write a regular column is a coup, right? It’s a validation that a magazine editor or literary journal host believes in your work and thinks readers would come back to you, week after week, or month after month. What an honor! But there is a down side. The pressure can be tough to produce something fresh and new on a regular basis. And of course, it takes away from your pure writing time if you’re a book author.

I write “Seedlings,” a monthly column that started life at Bob Burdick’s “The Back Room,” literary journal, then moved into the Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine and the Voice in the Dark Literary journal at mysteryfiction.net. I also host the Gather.com (a social network) “Writing Essentials” group on Saturday mornings. The latter involves reading and approving/declining writing submissions for the day, depending on their quality and consistency within established guidelines. I also post an article each week, addressing group members. Sometimes I appeal to their “writerly” sides, with articles filled with writing advice or even book reviews. At other times I write about my life, or grandchildren, or dog. ;o) But I try to consistently show up (with the exception of vacations, severe illness or catastrophes) and touch base with the group on Saturday mornings. Of course, my weekends are packed with chores – so I have to rise extra early to prepare for this. It’s a big commitment, and one I don’t take lightly.

Bertram: How does a writer go about pitching a column?

Aaron: I’m embarrassed to admit that I never had to pitch a column. They sort of “came” to me. LOL. That said, if I were trying to snag such a job from scratch, I would create my own “column” by branding it with a name, photo, and logo, and posting regularly on social or writers sites, such as http://www.gather.com/ or Murder By 4, a blog that I host with three wonderful writers that appeals to both writers and readers. Becoming a regular contributor to such sites will increase your name recognition and may result in someone else asking you to join their journal or newsletter.

Let me share what I mean by branding. For “Seedlings,” I chose a beautiful photo I’d taken of my tangerine Siberian Wallflowers. Full of color, it epitomized my passion for life, gardens, and all things beautiful. It symbolized “me,” in that I am always either out in my gardens, or dragging my characters around their gardens, or picking bountiful baskets of vegetables and fruit from my gardens. While up to my elbows in soft earth, I’m always happy. You get the idea.

While you’re creating your lovely stable of columns, by creating these bits and pieces that go with it — you are branding yourself.

And as long as your host(s) don’t mind you republishing your work, there’s no reason why one can’t post in multiple sites — social networks, writers groups, your own blog, simultaneously. It can get complicated, though. I have to keep a massive spreadsheet of all my reviews and columns to keep track of what posted where and when!

Be sure to have a collection of pieces you can draw on — if you are pitching a column, you need to “have” a column with multiple articles that you use to showcase your talents. Shoot for somewhere between 800 and 2000 words to start, but naturally you must comply with your host’s submission requirements in all cases.

Bertram: How did you get your column?

Aaron: I started corresponding with Bob Burdick (aka RC Burdick) after reading his wonderful mystery, The Margaret Ellen. (that’s another great topic, how reviews help increase credibility and internet presence) and falling in love with his characters and writing style. We struck up a friendship, and one day he asked me to write a piece about “The Writer’s Life.” I did, and thus was born the “Seedlings” columns. Prior to that I’d thrust all my writing energy into my novels. But it didn’t take long for this form – a bit more casual and folksier than my mysteries – to become addictive. Once established at Bob’s site, I also posted on my blog and other locations. Soon I was asked to do Seedlings for FMAM, and it grew from there.

Bertram: Anything else you’d like to tell us?

Aaron: If your ultimate goal is to promote your books through networking — a worthy endeavor — columns are a wonderful way to enhance the process. But don’t stop there. Be sure to join writers’ groups, read extensively and post reviews, keep your website fresh and exciting, and participate in as many library and book events as possible. I love reading aloud to my fans – and that has brought in new opportunities on radio and live events. Just be careful to balance these efforts so that you still have time to write!

Selling Your Book to Readers — Part II

Today I am again honored to have as a guest blogger Seymour Garte, PhD.  Dr. Garte is Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences of the Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, and a member of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute in Pittsburgh PA.  He is also the author of  Where We Stand: A Surprising Look at the Real State of the Planet. Dr. Garte writes:

In the absence of a major marketing campaign ala Harry Potter, the best way to get your book sold is through publicity. Which basically means free advertising. Book reviews are wonderful publicity, even if they are not gushing with praise. A really bad review is of course, not good, but those are also rare. The big question is how to get your book reviewed. You publicist will send out galleys or books to whomever she thinks might be interested in the book. These days, this will include blogs, and other web based media, which can have more readers than some newspapers. It will also include the local media in your hometown. She might try some of the bigger national magazines or journals, but they get swamped with requests to review.

The hardest books to publicize are general literature fiction. Genre fiction (romance, sci fi, crime, thrillers etc.) are easier, because there are specialty web sites, organizations, newsletters, and other outlets that often allow for free publicity of new books. Non-fiction is much easier, because (depending on the subject of course) there is the possibility of the author taking a role as an expert in the media. Again, this is where your publicist comes in.

Television and radio are major outlets for book publicity. You have seen the results of the work of publicists, when you watch any TV show with a guest who has just published a book. In fact, most talk show guests are there to publicize their books. There are two ways to get on a national TV talk show or major network. 1. Be famous already. 2. Have a book that talks about something incredibly topical. Local TV shows are much easier to get onto (my first publicity gig was on a local TV show), but of course don’t have the selling potential of any national program.

If your book is on the theory that massive biological extinctions were caused by gigantic earthquakes, and your book release date is two weeks after a gigantic earthquake in California, you might have a shot to get on CNN, or one of the morning shows. Radio, TV and print all follow the news cycle. If your book is on dieting, and there is a news story about some famous star fainting from lack of food, you could get lots of calls. If your book is on the Middle East, and the Israeli tanks start moving, get ready for a barrage of calls. In my case, there was a toxic scare of lead in toys from China, Al Gore’s Nobel Prize, and a few other environmentally related news items that put me in demand. And then the election campaign started, and all books NOT about politics just died for 8 months You might surmise from this that luck is a big player in getting publicity, and you are right.

Radio, talk radio in particular, is the medium where authors of non-fiction can do well. Your publicist will get you booked on as many radio shows as possible.  Of course not all radio shows are equal. Some like Mankow from Chicago, get almost a million rush hour listeners. Others, like a thoughtful health and environment show from Oregon, might get only a few hundred listeners, but they tend to be loyal and really listen. Of course the more topical the subject of your book, the more likely you are to get booked.

My publicist sent me a whole kit on how to do radio. I am lucky in that I have a good radio voice, a hammy personality, and not a shy bone in my body, so I turned out to be a natural. The better you do on the early shows, the easier it is for the publicist to get more bookings. 

Doing radio shows is fun, but can be frustrating. Often the host has no idea about your book, other than reading the title and inside flap 5 minutes before airtime. Sometimes their questions are absurd, sometimes they get your name or the title wrong. I did the Mankow show twice, and got about 5 minutes of airtime. My publicist assured me this was the equivalent of a full-page ad in the Times. Most of the shows I did were a half hour to an hour. I appeared in person at two or three shows, and sat in the studio, but most of the time the interview is by phone.

Remember these rules when doing a live radio interview (most are live, taped shows are much easier of course). Use a fixed phone, not a cell phone, but have a cell phone handy for emergencies. Wherever you are, make sure your phone will not run out of battery charge. Lock the door, and post a sign outside that says in large letters “DO NOT ENTER OR KNOCK. FOR ANY REASON. EVEN FOR FIRE OR EMERGENCY.”

While on the phone in an interview, you need full concentration. I learned both of those rules the hard way.

During the two months following the release date, I did on average 4 radio shows a week. On some days I did 3 or 4 a day. Usually the notice would come the day before by email or cell phone. “Tomorrow morning at 7:30 AM EST, half hour live at KOMG, Boston, they will call you.” I got used to the routine. If the show was to start at 7:30, the phone would ring at 7:29, a producer would ask if I was ready, then put me on so I could hear the feed, (usually a commercial) and then the host says, “I am very pleased to welcome Dr. Seymour Garte, author of Where We Stand, A Surprising Look at the Real State of Our Planet. Welcome to the show, Dr. Garte.”

“Thank you Bruce, it’s a pleasure to be here.”

“So what do you think about this whole Global Warming stuff?”

Now my  book is about the environment, but only makes a passing comment about global warming. Doesn’t matter, the host will ask about what interests him or her, not about what your book is about. And what interests the host is what interests their listeners, which is usually whatever is on the news that day. When Al Gore won the Nobel Prize, I got a lot of bookings, but everybody wanted to talk only about global warming and Al Gore. The trick is to turn the conversation away from the host’s topic to your book’s topic, which is not that hard to do.

It is fine to say controversial stuff, because it leads to more phone calls, which is good for the host. But be very very careful to say nothing mean, derogatory or insulting toward either host or callers. If you do, you are through, and you will not get another show. Your publicist will stop trying to get you booked.

Book tours, readings and signings in bookstores are well-known publicity methods for all types of books, fiction and non-fiction. The rules for getting book signings are much more fluid than for radio shows. Some bookstores will only book authors through publishers or publicists. Other, smaller stores in smaller towns, are open to new authors suggesting a book signing, especially if the author is a local resident. The idea of a publisher paying for a new author to do a national tour promoting their book is long dead. The publisher will try to get you signings in stores near where you live, or if you tell them you will be in San Francisco for a month, they will try there. But they will not pay your expenses.

Here is the main thing about book signings and readings at bookstores. If no one shows up, it’s a disaster. In fact, some stores will want to see your mailing list or know how many people have agreed to come to the reading, before they book you. I have been lucky, to have been able to draw a crowd, in the few book readings I did. It can be fun, if you like speaking on your subject or reading your work.

Frankly not everyone is a ham like me. Some people just don’t like to do public speaking. But, remember that your audience is (by definition) already interested in you or your book or both, otherwise they wouldn’t be there. Rarely will you face a hostile crowd, unless your book is highly controversial, and makes people mad. Most people who would not buy your book, simply don’t show up.

For non-fiction books, especially those written by experts, there is an entire set of opportunities for (mostly print journalism) publicity related to current events, and the need for expert quotes. Journalists, TV and radio producers, free lance writers, and networks of experts are all tied in with one another for mutual benefit. And at the center of these webs are the publicists; the tool is the query.

Say a journalist is given an assignment to write an article on green buildings. Deadline tomorrow at 7 AM. The journalist shoots out a query email to a network of publicists, industry groups, academics and other experts which says “I need an expert on green buildings, technical, not economic. Must have science credentials. Call before 4 PM today” My publicist gets this and forwards it to me, with the added note “Can you do this?” I answer “Yes.” She then answers the journalist with my name, credentials, the name of my book, etc. The journalist goes through the many positive answers she has received, and if I’m lucky, she chooses to  call me. She talks to me for at most 10 minutes, gets a quote or two, and again if I’m lucky, mentions my name and the book in her article. From her assignment to getting my quote, maybe two hours have passed.

Related to the print articles that mention your book are other possibilities for publicity. Appearance on Web casts (which are really much like TV), presentations at public forums, and appearances at conferences are all useful. For months I carried a stack of flyers in my briefcase, and distributed them liberally at conferences, seminars, and where ever I traveled.

As I mentioned, the publicist who works for your publisher, is pushing more than one book at a time. This means she has limited time for your book. Some people suggest that an author hire a free lance publicist. This works. A private publicist will be able to book you (depending of course on your book subject, and your reputation as a speaker) on many top radio shows, and also on national TV shows. But if you go this route, you need to examine your motivations. This kind of publicity will definitely raise your book sales. But often NOT enough to equal the cost of hiring the publicist (unless you get  lucky). Publicists charge according to how many radio shows they book for you. (TV is a much more complex rate calculation). 

Whether you hire your own publicist, or only use the publisher’s publicist, (or both) remember that you are on call 24/7. I missed one good opportunity because my cell phone had run out of battery charge. Again, this is a stressful and busy period, but it ends pretty soon. Even great, enormously successful books stop being publicized a few months (no more than 6 to 8 months) after publication. From then on the big driver of sales is that all important and totally unpredictable factor —  word of mouth. There isn’t much you can do about whether word of mouth spreads the story of your book and continues to boost sales after the publicity period ends. The key is how well your book is written. Well written books do better than poorly written ones, regardless of how intense the publicity might be at the beginning. So I end this discussion of the post writing phase of being a writer with a return to the basics. The real key to success as a writer is great writing. Big surprise, eh?

Also by Dr. Seymour Garte:
Where We Stand on Selling Non-Fiction vs. Fiction
Selling Your Book to Readers — Part I

Selling Your Book to Readers — Part I

Today I am honored to have as a guest blogger Seymour Garte, PhD.  Dr. Garte is Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences of the Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, and a member of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute in Pittsburgh PA.  He is also the author of  Where We Stand: A Surprising Look at the Real State of the Planet. Dr. Garte writes:

You’re still jumping up and down, the phone doesn’t stop ringing. Your agent has sold your book! After all the work writing, editing, rewriting, editing again, entering contests, sending queries, finally landing an agent, suffering through rejections, and being almost sold, the time has come. Your book is going to be published. You made it!!!

Well, actually, not really. Of course being published is wonderful. Only a small fraction of people who write get published. But that is a small fraction of a very, very large number. At any given time there are about 5 million books in press. So a lot of books are getting published. And now that you have joined the ranks of the elite, you are about to come face to face with an issue you might not have thought about much before. How to get your book sold. Not to an agent, not to a publisher, but to readers. Lots of readers. Readers who will buy your book.

Some people don’t care a lot about selling their book. The joy of seeing their baby on the store shelves is enough. But most writers like the idea of other people, strangers even, reading their words. And the phrases “best seller” “New York Times” “Oprah” etc. have a magical ring for most writers. Fame, glory and wealth are really bad reasons to want to be a writer, but . . . hey, if it happens, groovy.

So how do we sell our books to the public? There are two major players in getting a book sold, the publisher and the author. The author’s role is always crucial. Even well known, famous, best selling authors must spend lots of time and energy selling their books. And if you are not famous, and this is a first book, you will find yourself wishing for the easy relaxed days, when all you were thinking about was writing, editing, querying, and submitting.

The first thing to understand is that all attempts to sell a book come under one of two headings — marketing and publicity. Marketing is defined as anything that costs money, like advertising. Most publishers spend very little if any money on marketing new, first author books, so don’t count on a full page ad in the New York Times for your first book. The extent of the publisher’s investment in paid advertising will depend on how successful the publisher thinks the book will be. Since selling a book is expensive, publishers will only invest an amount of money they think they will get back. Of course this is often a self fulfilling prophesy, since the more publishers spend, the more books will be sold, but that does not always follow.

Publicity refers to free advertising, and this is where you will be spending all of your efforts. Publicity includes book reviews, interviews, book signings and readings, blogging, other online discussion of the book, web sites, and if you are lucky, news items or talk shows.

You will not be doing this alone. Publishers hire publicists, generally young, highly overworked people, who will be in charge of all the possible ways to get your book noticed. The first job of the publicist, which starts well before publication is getting the book reviewed. Many writers don’t realize that the vast majority of books are not reviewed. Getting anyone to agree to review a book is a major coup. Then if the review is good, that’s just gravy.

This timing of the review process is very important. No one will review a book published longer than 3 to 6 months ago. And it takes time for reviewers to read the book. This means that review copies need to be sent out to potential reviewers months before the publication date, so that the review can be out around the time of publication. Sometimes the publicist will send out galleys instead of a review copy, if the book has not actually been printed yet.

The period of two months before to three months after publication will be a whirlwind for you as an author. You will experience considerable pressure to complete galley proofing, and getting endorsement blurbs in, so that the book is ready for the press, and so that copies can be sent to reviewers. Delays in the printing and reviewing schedule are bad, because the publisher has already promised to ship printed books to Amazon, and the major bookstores, who could already have gotten advanced orders, and a delay means that they have to tell their customers to wait, which they hate to do. And publishers hate to get booksellers upset at them. All of which means your editor, your publicist and the marketing and sales departments will be calling and emailing you until you get it done. And I mean constantly.

So clear your schedule starting two months before publication. And while you’re at it, keep it clear for the 3 to 6 months also, because as your release date approaches, you are about to really get to work.  You will get to know your publicist very well during this period. I had on average about 15 emails a day from my publicist at the peak, and was on the phone with her at least twice a day. I could not imagine her life, since she was actually working on 10 books simultaneously.

So what does the publicist do, and what do you need to do to get your book sold? Selling Your Book to Readers — Part II discusses this for a non-fiction book based on my own experience, and on talking to publicists and others in the bizz.

Also by Dr. Seymour Garte:
Where We Stand on Selling Non-Fiction vs. Fiction
Selling Your Book to Readers — Part II

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?

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.

Think Outside the Book

Cheryl Kaye Tardif, author of Whale Song, The River and Divine Intervention is my guest blogger today. She says:

I am a “Shameless Promoter”. In fact, I enjoy promoting my novels and helping others learn to do so, and I speak at writers’ conferences on this topic. I am even known as “Shameless Promoter” amongst my peers and many in the book industry, and it’s a name I wear proudly. As an author, promoting my books is my #1 responsibility after writing them. I partner with my publishers and distributors, and that’s the way authors need to see this-as a partnership. Now, enough of me. 

Most authors, when faced with the daunting task of promoting their books, think of the most obvious ways–book signings and via their website. I’ve discovered that it’s crucial to the basic survival of an author to “think outside the book!” We’ve all heard the phrase “think outside the box.” This simply means: “Be creative!” Don’t get stuck in a small rut of small activities that lead to small results. 

Dreaming big has led me to much success. And it can for you too! 

My motto for years has been “Dare to Dream…and Dream Big!” And I tell people, “If that doesn’t work, Dream BIGGER!” I’ve been a published novelist since 2003, and all of my novels have gone on to be bestsellers on Amazon in the US and Canada . They’ve also attracted a lot of film success. Why? Because I thought “outside of the book”. 

In 2006, I partnered with a screenwriter and we wrote the screenplay for my critically acclaimed novel Whale Song. This led to writing a movie treatment. I had never thought I’d be writing either, but as soon as I pursued this, opportunity knocked. A film producer in Canada wanted to see the screenplay. While he eventually turned it down, this experience taught me that I must see further than a book on a store shelf. Frankly, that used to be my dream-seeing my books in bookstores. I’ve now come to realize that the real dream is to see those books MOVE off those shelves and into the hands of avid readers. 

So how do you reach the multitudes and market your books to them? 

Think outside…okay, you should have it by now. Instead of thinking “bookstores” as your main market, think “consumers”. You want to reach your readers, those wonderful people who will become fans of your work and email you every time they read one of your books. So go where the readers are! 

You’ll find booklovers on MySpace, Facebook, Goodreads, Shelfari, LibraryThing, AuthorsDen, AuthorNation, NothingBinding,TextNovel, Chapters Online Community and hundreds of other websites. 

What do you do once you’re a member of these sites? Network, make friends and shamelessly promote your work without being pushy. Being genuine is far better, and if you’re like me you’ll enjoy making new friends. For more information on how authors can use online social networks, please check out my 5-part article on exactly that: 

How Can Authors Use Online Social Networks? 

How else can you “think outside the box”? 

Have you contacted your local book clubs? What about nonprofit organizations? Maybe you could partner with them and help them raise funds by donating a portion of your proceeds. Could you benefit from a corporate sponsor? What about trade shows, special events and library talks? And have you held a virtual book tour (VBT). I have a step-by-step plan on how to organize one at: Authors Tour the World with Virtual Book Tours

Have you checked out your local hospital gift shops, specialty gift shops?

You can learn more about me an my novels (Whale Song, The River and Divine Intervention) by visiting my website and official blog:

http://www.cherylktardif.com
http://www.cherylktardif.blogspot.com