Books & Such Literary Management http://www.booksandsuch.com Tue, 05 May 2015 08:00:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Picture Books http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/picturebooks/ http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/picturebooks/#comments Tue, 05 May 2015 08:00:58 +0000 http://www.booksandsuch.com/?p=24469  

Blogger:  Wendy Lawton

We always try to engage in trend spotting. Sometimes the trends are good but others break our hearts. I generally look toward the future with optimism but I always allow myself time to mourn what used …

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Blogger:  Wendy Lawton

We always try to engage in trend spotting. Sometimes the trends are good but others break our hearts. I generally look toward the future with optimism but I always allow myself time to mourn what used to be. Happily, everything has a way of circling around again so we usually don’t need to mourn long.

One of the trends I mourn is the decline of the picture book. Parents are too often jumping over picture books to hurry their children into chapter books. How sad.

As an agent I don’t often represent picture books but I’m a dedicated fan of the art form. I’d hate to even admit to how many feet of bookshelf space in my house is dedicated to these slim volumes. I consider them story and art. I originally bought picture books to read to my children but it didn’t take long for me to stop using children as a ruse to buy the books. I buy them because I love them. With today’s blog I’m sharing photos of a few feet of my children’s picture book collections.

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For me the books are a bound art form that combines both art and words– a feast for the eyes and the heart. Everyone who knows me knows that there is no gift I love better than a fine picture book. I’ve previously mentioned some of the writer/illustrators I collect butif you want to see some of the best, check out contemporary authors Patricia Polacco, Jan Brett, Susan Jeffers, Michael Hague, Trina Schart Hyman, Barbara McClintock, my own client Andy McGuire, and many others. In the “antiquarian” category I love Johnny Gruelle’s early Volland Press Raggedy Ann books, Rumer Godden, Tasha Tudor, Maud Humphrey, Kate Greenaway, H. Willabeek LeMair, Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit books, The Babar books and so many more there’s not room to list them. There’s barely enough room to shelve them all. One of my all time favorites is All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLachlan. These are works of art.

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Illustration is one of my favorite art forms. Over the weekend, Lauraine Snelling and I spent some long hours poring over the illustrations of the Swedish artist, Carl Larson, as inspiration for her upcoming Norwegian novels.

But, of course, the real consumer of picture books is the child. There are so many reasons parents can’t abandon picture books with their little ones. Books are critical in the development of the child. A few of the reasons:

  • The very act of reading a picture book to a child brings the adult and child together in something other than play– a quest, an experience.
  • Picture books not only introduce the child to words but to both story and art.
  • Picture books give the young child the tactile pleasure of turning pages. He is in control of the experience  as opposed to media like television which is passively delivered to him.
  • Picture books allow the child to discover more over time. They reveal themselves slowly. It’s one of the reasons I’ve always loved Jan Brett’s illustrations. If the child studies the illustrated frames around the pages she can uncover the secrets unfolding in the story.

Deciderius Erasmus wrote, “When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food.” That’s how important I feel picture books are for children. Strike that. That’s how important picture books are for all of us.

We need to reverse this unfortunate trend. Let’s lavish picture books on the people we love.

Your turn. Tell us why picture books are important. What picture books are not to be missed by us? How have you incorporated them into your own personal library?

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Have Publishers Failed Authors? http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/have-publishers-failed-authors/ http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/have-publishers-failed-authors/#comments Mon, 04 May 2015 01:50:32 +0000 http://www.booksandsuch.com/?p=24338 Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant

Recently British author Harry Bingham and American publishing consultant Jane Friedman conducted a survey entitled “Do You Love Your Publisher?” The survey measured how satisfied authors were with various aspects of their publishing experiences. The results …

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Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant

Recently British author Harry Bingham and American publishing consultant Jane Friedman conducted a survey entitled “Do You Love Your Publisher?” The survey measured how satisfied authors were with various aspects of their publishing experiences. The results are enlightening.

1. The majority of those responding were authors who had published 5-6 books, and most of those books were with large, traditional publishers. Most of these authors were represented by agents. So the results reflect how experienced authors see publishing. That in and of itself is interesting because it’s hard to find data on this group of authors. Self-published writers have been surveyed far more vigorously.

2. The authors tended to rate the editorial input they received as excellent or good. That, frankly, surprised me since we hear a lot about how in-house editors don’t have time to evaluatetime to dig deep into a manuscript. Even copy editors (grammar, punctuation, etc.) received high marks, which also surprised me because I find that many books I read are deplorably copy edited.

3, Responders indicated they felt pretty involved in the designing of their covers and even in the cover’s back cover copy.

4. But the publishing process seems to fall apart for authors when the marketing department gets involved. Only 19.75% of the respondents felt they were meaningfully engaged in the marketing process, with another 18.11% saying the communication was good but could have been better. That leaves the majority of authors seeing themselves as marginalized–with 21.40% saying they didn’t think their books even had a marketing plan. (Remember, the survey measured authors’ perceptions. This last statistic shows authors never saw a marketing plan, even though one might have existed.)

5. Among other communication questions the surveyed authors responded to was, “Did you receive systematic guidance from your publisher about how you could add [the] most value to the overall publishing process?” 19.20% indicated they did receive guidance most of the way; 25.41% said they received guidance but would have liked more; 30.25% said they didn’t need their hands held; 25.14% said they felt excluded or marginalized. Now, if these had been debut writers, seeing 1/4 of them feeling marginalized might make sense. But these are authors who know the ropes. That’s a pretty disturbing percentage, in my opinion.

6. The publishers didn’t ask authors for feedback. When asked if the publishers ever sought author feedback on how the publisher was performing, a full 74.38% said feedback had never been sought. Considering that every time I stay at a hotel; shop at various sites online; or use GoToMeeting, my opinion on that experience is solicited, it’s pretty stunning that publishers, whom we view as having regular connection points with authors, don’t tend to ask, “How are we doing?”

7. Publishers received high marks for paying on time and for making their royalty statements clear. That response also surprised me because some publishers’ statements are beyond deciphering. Now, it’s true these publishers aren’t the largest in the land, but even some medium-sized publishers manage to obfuscate just how a title performed. I think this stems from the publishers being inward focused rather than author-centric. Some have made a real effort to clearly communicate a book’s activity. For example, Simon & Schuster provides so much information on each title that a person reading the reports can feel inundated with data. The reports are relatively easy to read, if you take the time to sift through all the pages. Other publishers’ statements offer inadequate data; there’s no way to determine exactly how a book is doing.

8. Authors aren’t particularly loyal to their publishing houses. The survey asked, if another reputable publisher were to offer the same size advance for the writer’s next book, would the writer switch. 37.22% said they would; 32.92% said they would stay; and 29.86% said they weren’t sure. Considering that your current publisher is in the best position to win your heart, it’s disconcerting that, for the same amount of money, an author would seriously consider shifting to a new house.

9. In comparison, if a different agent offered representation, these authors generally would choose to stay put. 45.77% would stay; 33.57% weren’t sure; 20.66% would move.

10.  The survey goes on to ask perceptions about self-publishing (many of these authors are hybrid); about Amazon; and about the role of publishers. Authors generally expressed a negative view of publishers.

  • 56.79% agreed with the statement: Publishers have been lazy and uninnovative when it comes to digital.
  • 46.72% agreed with: Publishers have ever less to offer. They don’t know how to market books any more.
  • 43.05% affirmed: Publishers are a crucial bastion of culture and learning in our society.
  • 34.02% think that: Publishers think and act collusively; the big 5 is an oligopoly of sorts.
  • 25.19% would say: Publishers treat their authors well (in nonfinancial ways).
  • 15.88% predict: Conventional publishing will cease to exist in 10-20 years.
  • 7.63% believe that: Publishers pay their authors well.

Taken as a whole, this survey is a pretty sobering picture of the author-publisher relationship. It seems that, as a book is produced, the experience is positive until the marketing equation is weighed in. Authors generally feel disengaged from the process at some point, see themselves as underpaid, and don’t see publishers as doing much to change with changing times.

11. Still, most authors agreed that being published traditionally is important to them. 31.58% responded with an unqualified yes, while 53.6% gave a qualified yes.

This desire to be published traditionally, the level of editing, and the sense of being meaningfully involved in the cover and jacket copy, add up to some compelling motivations for publishers to ramp up their engagement of authors with marketing–and to crack the nut of what marketing works today. Not to mention asking the simple question, “How are we doing?”

Do these authors’ responses encourage or discourage you? Which responses surprised you?

TWEETABLES

Are publishers failing authors? #publishing Click to tweet.

A survey shows how authors see traditional publishers. #publishing Click to tweet.

What do authors like/dislike about their publishers? #publishing Click to tweet.

 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Easy Book Marketing http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/easy-book-marketing/ http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/easy-book-marketing/#comments Fri, 01 May 2015 07:01:47 +0000 http://www.booksandsuch.com/?p=24445 Blogger: Rachel Kent

Ever been overwhelmed by marketing your book? Perhaps you’re short on extra cash to spend on marketing. Well, I have some book marketing ideas for you! This post is based on an old series of posts I …

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Blogger: Rachel Kent

Ever been overwhelmed by marketing your book? Perhaps you’re short on extra cash to spend on marketing. Well, I have some book marketing ideas for you! This post is based on an old series of posts I did, so it is rather long, but I hope it’s helpful and sparks fresh ideas for you.

The first idea is: Waiting Rooms

Take a few copies of your book with you to places with waiting rooms and leave them there. If you are a regular patient somewhere and you know the staff, this should be easy. It’s best to ask for permission, but I know my doctor or dentist would say “Go for it.” I bet yours would, too!

Just think how many people could be exposed to your book or name through this! Doctors and dentists have new traffic coming in each day. Even if the patients don’t pick up the book, they will still see the cover and title, and it could subconsciously cause them to purchase the book or recognize your name in the future. If a few do start the book while waiting in the office and enjoy it, they’re likely to purchase the book to finish it.

Feel free to take this beyond your own doctor or dentist, too. If you tell other doctors and dentists that you are a local author and ask to leave your book in the waiting room at their offices, I bet some of them would be excited to have it there.

Cost: Gas and time, and you need to step out of your comfort zone.

Perhaps you will need to purchase the books, but authors usually get free copies upfront and a large discount on additional promotional copies.

Rewards: Exposure to approximately 1o0+ people each week per office.

Tip: It might be useful to take a one-sheet with a short summary and author bio to hand to the staff while asking permission. That way they can double-check that the content is appropriate for the office.

Extension: Get your close friends and family to take the book to the waiting rooms they visit as well. Include your out-of-town friends and relatives, too!

If you try this idea, please do report back to let us all know how it worked! :)

Here are three easy ways to market your book using mail: either email or snail mail.

1) Only use personalized stamps with your latest book cover on them. This is an easy way to spread the word about your book without saying a single thing. The stamp will not only be seen by the recipient of the letter but also by postal workers. You might as well use them to pay bills, too. Perhaps the person processing your bill will purchase your book.

Cost: The price of the software (on sale for $16.99 right now) + the price of stamps (which you are already paying). Here’s the link to the software if you are interested.

Rewards: Exposure without doing word-of-mouth marketing.

Has anyone done this before? It’s probably nearly impossible to track the results of this effort, but if you have tried it, was it easy to do?

2) The second way to use mail to market is to include your new release in your yearly Christmas letter. Your friends and family should be happy to hear about your latest release as long as you don’t come across as a braggart or like you are asking them to purchase a copy. Leave the decision to purchase the book to them; just announce how excited you are about it.

Cost: None. (The cost of stamps, but you will already be spending the money if you are sending Christmas cards.)

Rewards: Sharing exciting news with people who should be pleased for you can lead to word-of-mouth marketing.

3) The last way to use letters to market is to send a mass email to all of your contacts the day your book releases. If you have a reader list, be sure to send the letter to them, but also put a note on Facebook and send an email to your personal email contact list. Include the cover and the title of the book. Be sure that you don’t spam people. Only send the announcement to personal contacts and to those who have subscribed to your reader list or Facebook list.

Cost: Just your time.

Rewards: Potential sales. Your readers will be informed about the new release, and your friends and family can pass along the news to their friends as well.

Have you used either the postal service or email to promote your book? Were you able to track any sales as a result?

Many of you have author newsletters, which are great, but if you can take newsletter marketing to the next “circle of influence,” you can reach that many more people and hopefully they will come to  join your “inner circle.”

Here are a few ways you can take newsletter marketing to the next level:

1) Send an announcement about your new release, with the book cover and a link to your website, to your Alumni Association or college magazine. I know the U.C. Davis magazine will publish alumni news snippets. Many colleges have an alumni newsletter.

Cost: The cost of a stamp (or free, if you can email your announcement) and the time it takes to put together the news item.

Rewards: Exposure to thousands of graduates. Hopefully building your inner circle through those who check out your website and sign up for your personal newsletter.

2) Send an announcement about your new release to your church for publication in the church newsletter. Again, include a book cover and link to the website. Offer to host a book group/potluck at the church if enough people are interested.

Cost: The time it takes to put together the announcement and to possibly host a book group.

Rewards: Exposure to the entire church congregation. Hopefully some will join your personal newsletter list.

3) Approach a local bookstore or two about sending a newsletter or e-newsletter for you announcing that a local author has  a new book out. You might get lucky and the bookstore might do this for free (especially an e-newsletter, if you are willing to do an in-store event) or you could offer to pay a little for the use of their newsletter contacts and time. It’s pretty likely they have had requests like this in the past, so they’ll know what do tell you. In Santa Rosa, we have an independent store, Copperfield’s Books, that’s very willing to work with authors to promote books. Check out what they do here: Copperfield’s Online

Cost: The time to put together the announcement and to possibly do an in-store event.

A fee of some sort for the newsletter exposure, if that is how the store operates.

Rewards: Your name and book title will go out in a newsletter to book lovers, and you might even get a chance to speak and sell books at the bookstore. Might get some personal newsletter sign-ups to expand your inner circle.

Can you think of other ways that you can take newsletter marketing beyond your immediate circle of influence?

Does your book involve a topic that certain groups of people might be interested in? For example, two Books & Such clients had novellas release in a collection called A Log Cabin Christmas Collection. Through a little online research, one of the authors found a log cabin society so she sent a note to the society when the book released.

Another Books & Such client has historical books releasing that are set in a town that still exists today. She has visited the town and has done on-site publicity for her books. In this case, the town is one interest group. I don’t know about you, but I love finding books set where I live! Francine Rivers and Lori Wick both have books set in and around Santa Rosa, and I enjoyed reading them very much.

So here is my marketing suggestion for you: Take a close look at your book. List the main topics, settings, and themes. Do some online research to locate interest groups relating to any of those items. Put together a different letter for each group, emphasizing the connection between your book and that group.

Cost: Time and possibly postage if you can’t email your letter.

Rewards: Getting news of your book to people who have something in common with the story or topic.

Take it to the next level: Offer to do a Skype interview with the group or offer to send bookmarks or signed bookplates. Think of some way to personalize the note you are sending to encourage book sales and exposure.

So, what interest groups are out there that might be interested in your book or work-in-progress?

I hope my tips are useful to you and please try some of them! Do you have any other easy book-marketing ideas to share?

 

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Preparing for Conferences: Your One-Sheet http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/preparing-for-conferences-your-one-sheet/ http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/preparing-for-conferences-your-one-sheet/#comments Thu, 30 Apr 2015 07:01:48 +0000 http://www.booksandsuch.com/?p=24433 Blogger: Mary Keeley

Soon it will be the busiest conference time of the year. If you’ve been feeling butterflies beginning to flutter in your stomach at the anticipation, you likely are not alone. Much is involved in preparing your materials …

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Blogger: Mary Keeley

Soon it will be the busiest conference time of the year. If you’ve been feeling butterflies beginning to flutter in your stomach at the anticipation, you likely are not alone. Much is involved in preparing your materials for conferences to ensure that you are organized and at ease in your meetings with agents and editors. Let’s take one thing at a time. Today, we’ll focus on your one-sheet, aka pitch sheet or sell sheet.

This will be review time for those of you who have done these before, but I’ll One Sheet_Forgiveness Falls2make a guess that one or two items have fallen off your radar since the last time you created one. And too, with the ever-increasing number of writers pitching their projects, something said here might spark a creative new approach to use in your next one-sheet.

About Your One-Sheet

For those of you new to the concept of a one-sheet, it is a page that capsulizes what you have written and why you think it’s special. It also provides important details. Here are six tips as you get started:

  • It is a professional document and should look professional.
  • Edit your text to be as concise and descriptive as possible. Your perfectly chosen words will be noticed.
  • It may be the first impression of your work an agent or editor sees. We all know that first impressions stick. Have at least one additional set of eyes proofread it before you print copies on heavier stock than standard printer paper.
  • Use professional software such as a newsletter or flyer template in Microsoft Publisher to design your page. This minimizes the possibility of the design skewing when it is printed or emailed to another computer.
  • Choose colors, shading, images, design elements, and fonts that communicate the tone of your nonfiction book or the emotions, main character, and setting in your novel. Adapting an old adage…your design is worth a thousand words.
  • It’s better to use both sides of the sheet than to crowd too much onto one side, using a small size font for the text, making it hard to read. Leave space between sections to make it user-friendly for the agent’s or editor’s quick read during a 15-minute pitch meeting. They want to give you their best response in the few minutes you have together. Help ALL We have is Today One Sheet_Finalthem out.

 

Information to Include

Place these in defined, easy-to-locate sections:

  • An image that reflects your topic or your novel’s setting, time period, or theme. Choice of color or black and white depends on how much color you plan to use elsewhere.
  • Title – in a larger, highlighted font
  • Genre and word count
  • Hook – an intriguing phrase or sentence that will capture agents’ and editors’ attention and make them want to learn more
  • Brief description – Write it like back cover copy or sales copy. If you need examples, read the back cover of the books on your shelf or in a bookstore. Its purpose is to entice shoppers to want to purchase the book, or in this case, entice the agent or editor to request a proposal. Highlight your fresh approach to the topic or unique twists to your novel.
  • Endorsements for your book – if you have firm commitments
  • Your professional author photo and brief bio – Your bio should focus on your qualifications for writing your story or nonfiction topic. Your photo is important because it helps the agent or editor remember you and your conversation when he or she returns to the office.
  • Your name, website, email address, and phone number
  • Your agent’s name and contact information if you have one

Don’t wait until a week before the conference to begin working on your one-sheet. Your first impression needs to be stellar, and it will take time to compile all the pieces, design the page, and create your hook and brief description. Maybe I’ll be privileged to see yours at a conference this year.

What is the hardest part of creating a one-sheet for you? Which part comes easiest to you? If you have given a one-sheet to an agent or editor in the past, what feedback did you receive? Do you have additional suggestions?

TWEETABLES:

Preparing for conferences: Your one-sheet takes time to do well. Don’t treat it as a last-minute item. Click to Tweet.

Your one-sheet is your first impression with agents and editors at a conference. Make it stellar. Click to Tweet.

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When You Hit A Brick Wall http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/hit-a-brick-wall/ http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/hit-a-brick-wall/#comments Wed, 29 Apr 2015 05:00:23 +0000 http://www.booksandsuch.com/?p=24422 Blogger: Rachelle Gardner

I’m sure most of you are familiar with the late Randy Pausch’s story and his book, The Last Lecture (co-written with Jeffrey Zaslow). In his lecture and his book, Randy spoke with great wisdom about achieving …

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Blogger: Rachelle Gardner

I’m sure most of you are familiar with the late Randy Pausch’s story and his book, The Last Lecture (co-written with Jeffrey Zaslow). In his lecture and his book, Randy spoke with great wisdom about achieving your childhood dreams.

One of his points that resonated with me was that the obstacles to our dreams are like brick walls, put there to test how badly we really want something. He wrote that those brick walls “stop the people who don’t want it badly enough.” (Of course, those are the other people. Not you or me.)

brick wallReading his positive spin on obstacles was freeing for me as a literary agent, because I’m frequently one of the brick walls with whom writers collide in the midst of chasing their dreams.

I meet so many writers… but I can’t represent everyone. I feel bad, not only saying “no” but for being unable to spend more time with each “no,” giving advice, encouragement, tips. I just can’t… but Mr. Pausch’s philosophy makes me feel better about it.

Each time I become the brick wall… each time an author crashes into my “no,” they are forced to reckon with their own dreams. They have to ask themselves once again, “How badly do I want it? And what is this brick wall trying to teach me?” I hope it leads to ever greater commitment to improving the writing, building the platform, and learning to navigate publishing. Or even finding a different goal.

For Christian authors, I hope the impact with the brick wall sends them back to God, again and again, ever looking for confirmation, refutation, or clarification of their author-dreams.

So maybe it’s not so bad being a brick wall after all. If an agent is an obstacle to you achieving your lifelong dreams, please take it as an opportunity to ask yourself how badly you want it, and what you’re going to have to do to get it.

What kinds of obstacles—agents or other roadblocks—have you encountered in your publishing journey? How do you respond to them?

 

TWEETABLES

When an agent is the brick wall between you and your dream. Click to Tweet.

Brick walls only stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. Click to Tweet.

 
Image copyright: / 123RF Stock Photo

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Playing Around the Edges http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/playing-around-the-edges/ http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/playing-around-the-edges/#comments Tue, 28 Apr 2015 08:00:07 +0000 http://www.booksandsuch.com/?p=24428 Blogger: Wendy Lawton

A few years back I blogged about a comment from a frustrated editor. The warning bears repeating. The editor, speaking about a writer we knew, said, “I just wish he would spend less time networking—Twittering and Facebooking— …

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Blogger: Wendy Lawton

A few years back I blogged about a comment from a frustrated editor. The warning bears repeating. The editor, speaking about a writer we knew, said, “I just wish he would spend less time networking—Twittering and Facebooking— and more time writing a book that takes it to the next level.”

Eek! We are always telling our authors to build a significant presence on the social networks. A platform. We want you to Facebook, to Twitter, to blog and to keep up your website. It’s part of building community, right? And community is potential readership. I mean, we’ve all read Seth Godin’s Tribes and if we haven’t jumped into the blogosphere, we feel guilty about our electronic slothfulness.

What does one do with a comment like that?

Before we take a closer look at what this editor was really saying, take a look at this hilarious award winning book trailer from a few years back. Dennis Cass could be the poster boy for online neglect, but the snarky line about his once thinking it was all about the book is a sad commentary on how imbalanced we can become.dreamstime_xs_29127409

But back to what this editor was really saying. There’s an unspoken story here. It has more to do with the quality of the book being turned in than the online marketing the author is doing. This particular author is very visible on every writing blog and every social network. There is nothing more upsetting to an editor than having an author beg for an extension of the deadline when that editor can see the author Tweeting about lunches with friends or a parasailing weekend.

This editor actually loves connected writers, but she was pointing out a dangerous imbalance. I call it playing around the edges. There are too many writers who love the cachet of being an author; they just don’t like the work of writing. They’d much rather talk with other writers, sip exotic coffees in literary coffee houses and just play around the edges of writing. It’s a dangerous business if you hope to build a career.

How can you tell if you are a diligent networker (which is important for a successful career) or just playing around the edges (which can be a career killer)?

You might be playing around the edges if:

  • You like doing Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and blogs far better than writing.
  • You are spending more time online talking about writing to other writers than connecting with your readers.
  • Your blog is all about writing instead of about topics of interest to your readers. (Your readers are more interested in the things you write about and in you than they are in how you write.)
  • You can blow off an impending deadline to have lunch with a fellow writer or go to a conference.

See the pattern?  If writing comes first, you have no worries. If you love the writing community or the online community far more than the solitary work of writing, you may have some soul searching to do. No matter how much we talk about connecting, it’s the writing that will ultimately insure success or be a career killer.

I’d love to hear you chime in. Tell us how you find balance.

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Being Gutsy: An Insider Looks at Publishing http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/being-gutsy-an-insider-looks-at-publishing/ http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/being-gutsy-an-insider-looks-at-publishing/#comments Mon, 27 Apr 2015 01:01:48 +0000 http://www.booksandsuch.com/?p=24372 Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant

The publishing committee for the fledging publisher was small: four people. They sat not at a boardroom table but in a circle of chairs in the publishing executive’s office.

The marketing director shuffled through her sheaves …

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Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant

The publishing committee for the fledging publisher was small: four people. They sat not at a boardroom table but in a circle of chairs in the publishing executive’s office.

The marketing director shuffled through her sheaves of reports on how the first two books in a teen series were selling. The numbers weren’t encouraging.

Everyone was disappointed, for the series was groundbreaking–one of the first two teen fiction series in the entire Christian industry (the year was 1989). What had gone wrong? Considerable marketing and bookstore placement had provided what was hoped to be sufficient muscle to grind out enough sales to grow the series.

A sad silence descended on the group after each person–save the executive–voiced the inevitable conclusion that the series should end at two.

But the executive seemed to be weighing options. Not that any had been presented.man on tightrope

Then he said, “I think we should do two more books to see if that will give us the momentum we need. Teens need novels; let’s do it for the ministry.”

I can recount this scene in detail because I was the editor sitting in one of those chairs. Rolf Zettersten, who now is the senior vice president of FaithWords (a division of Hachette), was the executive who made the decision. The publisher was Focus on the Family, and the series was Robin Jones Gunn’s Christy Miller Series.

Rolf’s gutsy decision, based not on finances but on ministry, paid off on both fronts. The series grew to twelve books, all of which remain in print and are still selling at a brisk pace. So far they’ve sold close to 5 million copies. Yup, 5 million. And Robin regularly receives letters and emails from around the world from girls who have come to Christ because of Christy Miller and who have made other significant spiritual decisions based on the series’ characters’ example.

Good call, Rolf.

Fast forward to the year 2000. Dan Rich, publisher of WaterBrook Press, watches retailers enter a ballroom at the Christian Booksellers Convention for a book signing. Sitting behind four tables are three best-selling authors and a newbie author.

As Dan expected, the first retailers to come in head to the best-selling authors. The second wave of retailers, seeing the lines for the well-known writers, head over to the newbie to collect signed copies of her book. Just as Dan would have predicted.

But then something odd happened. With all the lines being of about equal length, when additional retailers joined the crowd, they looked at the posters of the books being signed and…headed over to the newbie’s line.

That’s when Dan made a gutsy decision: He chose to put major marketing muscle behind the book. Since WaterBrook was a relatively new publishing division of Random House, that was a dangerous decision. If it were wrong, he’d have Random House executives to answer to.

But Dan made the right call. Joanna Weaver’s Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World continues to sell at a strong pace fifteen years after its release, and last year it crossed the one-million-copies-sold mark. Lives transformed, hearts renewed.

I know this story to be true because Dan recounted it to me, as Joanna’s agent, a few years into Mary Heart’s happy life.

These two stories remind all of us what makes publishing so wonderful: Following one’s instincts can result in something special happening. But it takes guts. Risk. Going out on a ledge.

Looking for only authors with platform means missing out. Not only on the two books I’ve mentioned but also Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling and writers such as Bev Lewis, Dee Henderson and Karen Kingsbury.

Those in publishing who make decisions based purely on the numbers don’t know what they’re missing. But we can assure them they are missing out on some very important books. The kinds of books that create new trends, that infuse energy (and funds) into the entire industry.

Let’s all be gutsy! Not ridiculous, toss all cares to the wind gutsy. But let’s be people who are willing to take a risk–because that’s what our guts tell us.

What books or authors can you think of that publishing took a chance on–and won?

What would be a gutsy decision for you?

TWEETABLES

What publishing needs now are gutsy people. Click to tweet.

Writers: Follow your gut. It’s probably right. Click to tweet.

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Inspiration Friday: Quotes about writing http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/inspiration-friday-quotes-about-writing/ http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/inspiration-friday-quotes-about-writing/#comments Fri, 24 Apr 2015 07:01:45 +0000 http://www.booksandsuch.com/?p=24411 Blogger: Rachel Kent

After a long week, I believe we all could use a little writing inspiration and a reason to smile. Here are some quotes that I love.

Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles

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Blogger: Rachel Kent

After a long week, I believe we all could use a little writing inspiration and a reason to smile. Here are some quotes that I love.

Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world. –Albert Einstein

People on the outside think there’s something magical about writing, that you go up in the attic at midnight and cast the bones and come down in the morning with a story, but it isn’t like that. You sit in back of the typewriter and you work, and that’s all there is to it. –Harlan Ellison

Any man who keeps working is not a failure. He may not be a great writer, but if he applies the old-fashioned virtues of hard, constant labor, he’ll eventually make some kind of career for himself as a writer. –Ray Bradbury

Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer. –Barbara Kingsolver

Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good. –William Faulkner

If you have other things in your life–family, friends, good productive day work–these can interact with your writing and the sum will be all the richer. –David Brin

It is the writer who might catch the imagination of young people, and plant a seed that will flower and come to fruition. –Isaac Asimov

Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any. –Orson Scott Card.

A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit. –Richard Bach

Write what you know. Write what you want to know more about. Write what you’re afraid to write about. –Cec Murphy

 

Which of these quotes is your favorite?

Do you have a favorite writing quote that isn’t listed here? Please share!

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Check, Recheck, and Then Check Again http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/check-recheck-and-then-check-again/ http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/check-recheck-and-then-check-again/#comments Thu, 23 Apr 2015 07:01:26 +0000 http://www.booksandsuch.com/?p=24404 Blogger: Mary Keeley

I was asked to proofread a newsletter this week. Because it had already passed through two sets of professional editorial eyes, I doubted I would find anything wrong, but I agreed to give it another pass because …

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Blogger: Mary Keeley

I was asked to proofread a newsletter this week. Because it had already passed through two sets of professional editorial eyes, I doubted I would find anything wrong, but I agreed to give it another pass because over the years I have learned it’s always good to check, recheck, and then check again.

Your manuscript goes through three stages of editing in most traditional publishing houses. The first is the developmental, or macro, edit. Big-picture issues such as plot, POV, and character development are addressed here. The second and third stages are the focus of today’s discussion.

When the developmental issues are resolved and the author has made requested revisions, if any, the manuscript progresses to detailed editing. These editors are called line editor and copy editor in some publishing houses or copy editor and proofreader at other houses. The roles and functions of the last two stages are blurred and may overlap, which is a good thing because these editors provide a check and check again for each other. In between, you, the author, will have the opportunity to be the recheck person when the editor sends you galleys to review.

And yet after all this, errors may slip through the cracks and appear on the printed page or e-reader screen. You’ve all seen them and probably wondered how the publisher could have missed correcting it. I cringe when I see the rare error in a Bible because I know how much detailed scrutiny a Bible goes through. The answer is that we’re human and we’re not perfect. If human error can cause a plane to crash, it surely can overlook a misused word.

Because we’re human, we need all the editorial help we can get.

You might be wondering if I found any errors in the newsletter. Since it had already gone through a professional check and recheck, I approached it with a cursory glance. Until the third paragraph. There it was, the first of four errors I eventually found in the document. Once I discovered the first one, I was on high alert. I hope I caught all of the remaining errors.

The main point in all this is that, while I stress the need for you to check, recheck, and then check again, realize that editorial professionals do so as well. If the experts can miss errors, so can you. For those who self- or indie-publish, the editing falls fully on your shoulders. Self-published books have notorious reputation for being poorly written and riddled with poor grammar, punctuation, and spelling. If the authors of those books had been diligent to check, recheck, and then check again, or had hired a freelance editor to cover the editorial stages, their chances of attracting an agent, and then a publisher, would have been much improved.

Some of the detail errors I have encountered in proposals recently include wrong use of a word, overuse of colloquial phrases, clichés used by a male character that are more commonly attributed to women, a teenager’s slang that hasn’t been used since the last generation, and contemporary slang used by a character in a historical novel. Not to mention grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors.

Do yourself and your work a favor by seeking multiple editorial detail reviews from your critique partners—on a reciprocal basis. Even better, invest in a good freelance editor for one of the reviews before you can have confidence your proposal is ready to submit.

Do you have a group of experienced writer friends with whom you can share good detail proofreading? What errors have your critique partners or an editor pointed out to you? Have you ever made any of the mistakes I mentioned above? Did you notice my error in this post?

TWEETABLES:

Check, recheck, and then check again. A motto for writers when editing and polishing a manuscript. Click to Tweet.

Being human, writers—even editors—can miss errors. Check, recheck, and then check again. Click to Tweet.

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10 Tips For Agents http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/tips-for-agents/ http://www.booksandsuch.com/blog/tips-for-agents/#comments Wed, 22 Apr 2015 05:00:18 +0000 http://www.booksandsuch.com/?p=24391 Blogger: Rachelle Gardner

It’s that time of year in which many of us are headed to writers’ conferences. I’ve noticed there are plenty of blog posts with tips for authors attending conferences… but for some reason, we never see advice …

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Blogger: Rachelle Gardner

It’s that time of year in which many of us are headed to writers’ conferences. I’ve noticed there are plenty of blog posts with tips for authors attending conferences… but for some reason, we never see advice for agents! I guess we’re supposed to know this stuff by osmosis or something.

So as we head into conference season, I wanted to remind myself of the important things I think about when I’m at a conference having one-on-one meetings with writers. Herewith, my notes for myself, i.e…

Top 10 tips for agents:

 
1. Dear agent, it’s not about you. Sometimes it’s not easy sitting through pitches one after the other. But the writer may have paid a lot of money to be at the conference, and they also used up their precious “agent meeting” slot on you. They’ve probably been thinking about this meeting for days or even weeks. They deserve your very best, even if it stretches you. Even if you’re tired.

agent meeting2. Everything you say will have an impact on a new writer. Good or bad, it will stick with them. Choose words carefully.

3. Writers are getting conflicting advice from other agents, editors and workshops. Don’t berate them for doing something “wrong” like bringing a proposal. Or not bringing one. Give them credit for trying. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

4. This may the most vulnerable a writer has ever felt. This may be the first time they’ve brought their baby out to show the world. If their baby isn’t cute, find a nice way to say it.

5. Maintain a spirit of humility. Cultivate a servant mindset. Constantly ask yourself how you can serve the writer in front of you.

6. A smile goes a long way. Use it to make others feel comfortable.

7. Offer helpful advice. If you need to say, “It doesn’t sound like this project is for me,” then try to follow it up with, “but can I offer you some input?” Then you can give them some helpful advice, either about their project, about the market, or about their pitch.

8. Be kind. If you’re having a rough day… if you’re exhausted from teaching workshops and taking meetings one after the other… remember that a word of encouragement can help a writer, and a dismissive word can wound them—and come back to haunt you.

9. Represent the publishing industry well. You’re there to find good writers, but you’re also there as a representative of the publishing industry. You are comfortable there, while many writers are not. You have nothing at stake; they might feel like everything’s at stake. Treat them well and make us all look good.

10. Your next great client might be the person sitting across from you. Of course, this one’s not hard to remember. That’s why you’re here!

Treat writers as you’d like to be treated, and remember that your words will be remembered. Be nice, be helpful, and everybody wins.

Any more advice for agents and editors in pitch meetings?

TWEETABLES

Have any tips for agents attending writers conferences? Add to our list! Click to Tweet.

There is plenty of advice for authors attending conferences. What about advice for agents? Click to Tweet.

Image copyright: / 123RF Stock Photo

 

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