Monday, February 28, 2011

Industry Changes! Which Way Do I Go?

With all of the changes in the industry - the shift to eBooks, bookstores dying, etc. - it’s difficult for a writer to know what path to take. Look for a publisher? Look for an agent? Or self-publish?

I decided to ask an author in each one of those positions who has achieved (or will hopefully achieve) success with her books. Below are the responses from an author with an agent & big publisher, an author with an independent publisher, and an author who self-published.

With all of the changes in the industry - the shift to eBooks, bookstores dying, etc. - what are the advantages of an author in your position?

From Elana Johnson, an agented author with Simon & Schuster, whose first book comes out this summer:

With all the changes, I’m glad I have an agent and a big publisher to help me every step of the way.

My agent fights for every dollar from any kind of sale, whether it be a digital copy, a physical copy, or the rights for audio, to come to me. I think that’s a huge advantage, because it’s something I don’t have to think about. I don’t have to be “the heavy,” and negotiate percentages. That’s her job, and she does it well. My time is freed up for writing my next project.

With a larger publisher, the ability to reach more people is increased. Simon & Schuster has a built-in network of librarians, booksellers, bloggers, teachers, and readers. Those are markets that I could attempt to break into myself, but with a track record like S&S’s, I don’t have to.

Of course, I’m still organizing marketing strategies. Every author should. But with an agent and a larger publisher, I also have their wealth of knowledge to supplement whatever I do.

Elana Johnson's debut novel, POSSESSION, will be published by Simon & Schuster on 6-7-11. She runs a personal blog on publishing, is a founding author of the QueryTracker blog and The League of Extraordinary Writers, and is a WriteOnCon organizer.

From Talli Roland, an author with independent publisher, Prospera Publishing, whose second book comes out later this year:

As an author published by a small press, I’m in an ideal position to capitalize on the growing market trend towards e-books. Smaller presses don’t have the long lead times of traditional publishers, so they can get a product to market much faster. With e-books and their unlimited reach, the major drawback of independent publishers – distribution – doesn’t exist. Also, small presses have much more flexibility when it comes to pricing e-books. They don’t have the large operational costs of larger publishers, so they can afford to be more competitive. Finally, small presses care if their titles are performing, and if they’re not, they work to fix it. When the cover of my debut novel The Hating Game wasn’t hitting the right target market on Kindle, my publisher had a new one designed and displayed, within a day. In my opinion, small presses provide the right mix of quality control and quick-wittedness.

Talli Roland’s debut novel The Hating Game is out now as an e-book with Prospera Publishing; paperback coming next month! Her next title, Watching Willow Watts, will be released later this year.

From L.J. Sellers, a best-selling author of multiple books, who chose the path of self-publishing:

The biggest advantage for the indie author is the speed to market. For example, mid last year I had three completed novels scheduled (but not yet contracted) to be published by a small press in late 2011, 2012, and 2013. I decided waiting that long to publish them was not in my best interest. Readers were excited about my stories and wanted more.

I was able to hire editors, a cover designer, and a formatter, and release all three books in a matter of months. Now I’m earning money from each of them that goes toward my bills. Which in turn, gives me time to write more novels, instead of having to freelance to get by.

The second main advantage is that all the royalties come to me, so again, I’m able to earn a living from novels for the first time in my career. And last, as an indie author, I’m more motivated to do the necessary promotion everyday because I can directly witness, and benefit from, the results of my efforts. Leaving my publisher to go indie was best thing I’ve ever done!

L.J. Sellers is an award-winning journalist and the author of the bestselling Detective Jackson mystery/suspense series: The Sex Club, Secrets to Die For, Thrilled to Death, Passions of the Dead, and Dying for Justice. Her novels have been highly praised by Mystery Scene and Spinetingler magazines, and all four are on Amazon Kindle’s bestselling police procedural list. L.J. also has two standalone thrillers: The Baby Thief and The Suicide Effect. When not plotting murders, she enjoys performing standup comedy, cycling, social networking, and attending mystery conferences. She’s also been known to jump out of airplanes. Visit L.J. at her website, blog, and Amazon author page.

Thank you Elana, Talli, and L.J.!

Which path will you choose? Bookstores are dying. EBooks are taking over. Gatekeepers no longer control all. The Internet levels the playing field. An agent gets you a better deal but working with a smaller publisher can be more personable. Which way will I achieve more success?

It still all comes down to promotion - and your personal goals!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

How Much is Too Much Promotion?

A post by Sue Ann Jaffarian on Inkspot posed the question when does self-promotion become self poison? While Sue Ann didn’t have any definite answers, there were many in the comments. Earlier this week, Elizabeth Spann-Craig touched upon over-promotion when she discussed promoting oneself rather than one’s books.

How much is too much for you?

For me, when every post and/or comment mentions the author’s book/product/service, then it’s too much. That’s why I don’t mention my own books very often. (Although recently several people commented that they didn’t realize I’d written so many books, so maybe I should mention that fact now and then?)

Authors pour so much effort into their work and it does consume a large portion of our lives. However, there’s more to our existence than just our books! They are but one aspect of our world.

So, when is it too much for you? What turns you off?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Greetings Crusaders and an Introduction for All

I’d like to welcome all fellow crusaders! I’ve been overwhelmed with new followers, which launched me past the 400 mark this weekend. If you are a new follower, please leave a comment, as I’ve been unable to follow several of you through Google Friend Connect!

For all my fellow crusaders and newer followers, let me give you a brief introduction. (If you want the long version, read more about me or my books by clicking on the pages above.)

I am a professional speaker and member of the National Speaker Association. (Nickname - Spunk on a Stick) I do motivational talks & classes and instructional seminars in the area of promotion. My professional speaker site is Spunk on a Stick

I’m the author of six books. Overcoming Obstacles with SPUNK! is based on two of my seminars and includes chapters from six other authors. Last year saw the release of book five in my YA series, The Circle of Friends. This five-book series is inspirational and uplifting, and it follows five friends as they learn to overcome. Since the series is now complete, I recently moved The Circle of Friends site here to Blogger.

I’m a professional photographer, and my work includes weddings and portraits to magazines and even an album cover. My specialty is B&W and all photos used here (with the exception of the LOL Cats) are mine. I also partake in several other business ventures.

In my personal life, I’ve been married for almost twenty years - no kids - and own two cats named Rocko & Spunky, who replaced Calvin & Hobbes. I am a Christian, a vegan, and a roller coaster fanatic. Originally from Oregon, I now live in North Carolina.

My next book project is a teen version of Overcoming Obstacles with SPUNK! However, after six books, I’ve experienced total burnout. I’ve done some research and formed an outline, but that’s it. I’m also at a crossroads with my YA work - my writing thus far has been positive and I don’t want to write salacious, edgy, supernatural stuff just to conform to trends. So, I may not set foot into that genre again…

The focus of this blog is book promotion and other aspects of the publishing and speaking industry. (So, you probably won’t see me participating in the Crusader writing challenges.) I would like to write again and hope to find inspiration to dive back in and complete my non-fiction book. I’m also happy to help any writer on his or her author journey. Spunky is here to help!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Birthday Post

Yes, it’s my birthday today. I missed being a Valentine’s baby by 26 & 1/2 hours. I’d tell you what year I’m celebrating, but you wouldn’t believe me. Let’s just say I remember men walking on the moon for the very first time…

It’s a really busy week, too. Three speaking engagements, five clients, Valentine’s Day, and my birthday right in the middle. Guess every birthday can’t fall on a Saturday, right? However, I did get a really great gift from my husband - the new iPhone 32 w/4G! It's so neat. My old one was a six-year old basic model. Yes, it was sad.

My mother’s birthday is in a couple weeks and I decided to make her a picture book with old photos. Since there’s nothing quite like embarrassing myself on my own birthday, thought I’d share a few of the photos I scanned. Hold all laughter and chortling until the end…

This is my father and I at the Oregon Coast. We're bundled, so probably summer. LOL

My mom and I at Yesllowstone National Park.

I went to see the Mercury Cougar, and while you couldn't touch the big cat, I got to pet her cub.

Graduation day with my buddies Violet and Marlene!

Halloween with my best friend, Dale. No idea what I was supposed to be...

Okay now you may giggle and snort!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Booksignings Stink!

Please welcome author Christee Atwood!!

When I published my first book, I thought that as soon as it came out, people would rush to bookstores to buy copies for everyone they knew. I just knew there would be long lines, riots in the streets, and Sixty Minutes on my doorstep.

The reality? My mom bought a copy. The line at the bookstore was for a Harry Potter impersonator. And the closest I got to a media interview was a tax audit. (Of course, once they saw my occupation was “writer”, they just laughed, gave me a five, and went home.

What this rather convoluted introduction is leading up to is that writing a book starts looking like the easy part when you get to the world of promotions.

With that in mind, I’d like to offer a few ideas from my lessons learned. They might be useful … or they might just make you laugh at me. Either one is fine with me.

1. Booksignings stink. They’re uncomfortable. You sit and stare at people. They try to avoid your eyes. And occasionally someone approaches you for directions to the romance section. So what can help this snore-fest? Here are some of the things I do to reduce the pain and itching of booksignings.
• Don’t just have a booksigning. Make it an event, a reading, a party, a demonstration. Learn origami if it helps.
• Give people something else to look at or do when they come to your table. How about an emailing list for a free newsletter? A chance to win a free book? A free mp3 of you reading the intro of the book?
• Always have a candy bowl handy because when the kids attack it, the parents rush up to make sure you’re not trying to drug their kids. Or those who have ADHD kids ask you to drug them…
• Have that cool book trailer you did playing as they walk by. You can even stand and watch it like it’s not your book, making comments like, “This is a work of pure genius!” However, this is less effective if your picture is included in the video.
• Give directions to the restroom. And learn the layout of the bookstore, so you can give directions to the sections. At one booksigning, the store wanted to hire me as a greeter. Damn, I should have taken that job…
• Take digital pictures with your visitors that you email to them after the event. It’s a wonderfully tricky way to get their email addresses. You can also put these on your blog, webpage, or Facebook to increase your subscriptions and hits.
• Have loads of handouts – bookmarks, flyers, novelties, or anything that promotes you or your book. Then walk around the store periodically and hand them out to everyone in there. Just be sure to tell them that you’re the author or they’ll assume that you work there and try to get you to carry their bags.

2. Find tie-ins.
• For my latest book, In Celebration of Elastic Waistbands, I’m creating my own holiday. May 8 is the birthday of the fellow who invented elastic. So, Thomas Hancock’s birthday becomes the Celebration of Elastic Day!
• I’m doing events to celebrate, adding media campaigns to promote it, and offering specials. Yes, I’m a discount author – and proud of it.
• Find businesses, organizations, and occasions that match your topic. Here are some of my examples:
o You can bet I’m having a blast with the cookie bouquet people. Now, if I could just talk them into letting me sample the products.
o Women’s Weeks are another natural for my humor books.
o My business topics are great ways to get introduced to the corporate markets.

3. Team up with other groups.
• Do a reading for a group and allow them to make money off the copies their members buy.
• For each book sold at the back of the room, give a donation to their group.
• Learn to use the discount codes on Amazon, so members can continue to promote the book for a few weeks after the program and get money back from additional sales.

4. Don’t do events alone.
• We’re working on a Louisiana authors’ tour so that none of us has to sit alone. The group might change, but it pretty much ensures we won’t have to do solo events.
• Find other authors who have something in common with you and tour together under a specific topic or title.

5. Never sit down at a booksigning unless you’re autographing a book.
• If you sit down during a booksigning, your energy level goes down. You’re less approachable. And you’re easy to ignore.
• Get rid of that chair and move around to keep your excitement up and your rear awake.

6. Continually play with new technology and trends.
• My latest toy is the Skype interview. It’s free technology, it allows me to present programs to groups without leaving home, and it allows them to join in the conversation. How cool is that?
• I’m playing with the Pulse pen to try doing audio booksignings. That way can I can send a mini-podcast that I am calling an “audiograph”. Cool, huh? Or geeky. But there’s such a thin line there … and I tend to ignore it.
• What do you like to play with? Facebook? Twitter? Find new and interesting ways to use them. Contests, soliciting reviews, and conversations about sections of your book keep your audience entertained and make others feel left out if they don’t read it. Never underestimate embarrassment and exclusion as tools to get your book read.

7. Listen as much as you talk. I know that sounds silly. After all, you’re out to promote your book, not to listen to people talk about themselves or their views. But you know how boring it gets to talk to someone who never lets you get a word in? That’s a bore … or a political speech. Either one is deadly, so limit that one-sided talking.
• Ensure that you have your description of the book down to an elevator speech. Thirty seconds is perfect. Just give them an idea of what it’s about and why they would enjoy it. If they want to know more, they’ll ask.
• Ask them what kind of books they like. If it matches your book, tell them why.
• Ask them who their favorite authors are. Are they some of your favorites too? Wow! Now you have something in common.
• Ask if they can think of anyone who would like your book. Ask if they have any ideas of groups you could talk to. Basically, get them involved. This can help increase their interest in your book because now they’re involved in helping to promote it.

I guess what it all comes down to is that the skills needed for promotion are totally different from those that helped you create your masterpiece. Involving tools, techniques, and toys to help fill in the silence and awkward moments can make it a lot easier and more productive. And if that doesn’t work, alcohol is a handy second choice.

Christee Atwood is the author of In Celebration of Elastic Waistbands: Episodes of Imperfection, Insanity, & Occasional Enlightenment - please visit Christee at her WEBSITE and fun-loving BLOG

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Helen's Hosting a Special Guest! And the Crusade...

Today over at Helen Ginger’s Straight From Hel is a very special guest who is near and dear to my heart. Please go welcome him to the blogging world, as this is his first ever appearance!

And tune in Thursday for a segment called “Booksignings Stink!” from Christee Atwood.

Second Writers’ Platform-Building Crusade

Sponsored by Rachael Harrie

What is the Crusade?

Basically, the Crusade is a way to link those within the writing community together with the aim of helping to build our online platforms. The Crusaders are all bloggers in a similar position, who genuinely want to pay it forward, make connections and friends within the writing community, and help build each others' online platforms while at the same time building theirs.

Length of the Crusade

This Crusade will run from February 1st to April 30th, though I’ll be calling additional Crusades in the future. You’re very welcome to keep on Crusading after my official organization ends on April 30th.

Visit Rachael’s SITE for details!

Monday, February 07, 2011

Your Promotion Speciality?

Last week Elizabeth Spann-Craig had an excellent post on book promotions. She covered book signings, blog tours, phone calls, and more. When you have a moment, read her post at Mystery Writing is Murder

There’s many little things an author can do to promote his or her work. We’ve all tried new tricks and each of us possesses some unique approach.

One thing I do for speaking events open to the public is mail invitations and announcements. In addition to personal contacts, I send invites to businesses and those in notable positions in the community. This not only draws in more people, it often leads to other opportunities.

So what special trick is up your sleeve? Please share so that others may benefit or be inspired to put their own twist on the idea!

And tune in Wednesday for a special announcement regarding a guest on another site who is near and dear to my heart!