authors, book marketing, Indie book publishing, self publishing

3 statements I hear from first-time authors that make me cringe.

Over the years, I have had hundreds of conversations with authors and there are three phrases I sometimes hear that give me pause.Quote marrks

“The audience for my book is every man, woman and child on the planet”

Identifying your audience is one of the keys to creating an effective marketing plan for your book. If your target is too broad, it will be difficult if not impossible to be successful.  Plus, you set unrealistic expectations that will only lead to disappointment.  Instead you should:

  • Describe who you think will most likely read your book in terms of gender, age, occupation if relevant.
  • Write a simple statement as to why you think they will want to read your book
  • Identify where you think your audience looks for information. If they are engaged on social media, be specific about which platforms, such as Facebook or Twitter.
  • Consider what events do they attend and can you have a presence there as an exhibitor or speaker
  • Think of anywhere locally where your target audience might congregate?

“My daughter is an artist”

Your book cover is first marketing decision, so having an appropriate and eye-catching cover is very important. Unfortunately, too often first-time authors make decisions based on personal preference or to be provocative. Knowing someone who can draw or who is a graphic designer is not the same as working with a cover designer. Cover design is a particular skill so you will want to make sure you work with someone or a team who has experience specifically designing book covers. You can find more information about good cover design in the post I did titled, Six tips from wicked good book cover designers,

“My job was to write the book. Someone else can promote it.”

Book Marketing sign postOne of the great myths among first time authors is that if they get published by a traditional publisher, then someone else will do the marketing for their book. The reality is no matter how you publish, you still need to be involved in the promotion of your book.  One of the key ways is to use social media to connect with and cultivate an audience. In fact, one the criteria most traditional publishers consider when acquiring a title is the platform of the author.  If you want to learn more about how to develop your marketing acumen, you might want to consider reading this post, Confused about how to do book marketing? Here is a simple way to build an effective marketing plan.

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authors, Editing, Indie book publishing, iuniverse, Publishing, self publishing, writing

Lisa Genova: From self-published author to being thanked on Oscar night.

Still Alice book cover

Still Alice started as self-published book and look where it ended up.

If you have read this blog before, you know I have mentioned Lisa Genova in previous posts.  She is a gifted author in her own right, but her own story is amazing. Recently Kevin Gray wrote about her journey on the Archway Publishing blog. I thought it was a great summation of the path she has traveled from being a first-time, self-published author to having Oscar winner, Julianne Moore, thank Lisa in her acceptance speech. As I have said many times when I speak to writers groups and at publishing conferences; “changes in publishing doesn’t mean everyone will be successful, but it means everyone has the opportunity to be successful”.  I can think of no better example of what that can mean for authors, than Lisa. Enjoy.

Still Alice” author Lisa Genova is living a dream. The night before the 87th Academy Awards, she posted a picture on her Facebook page all smiles, standing next to an ebullient Julianne Moore at a party hosted by Sony Entertainment. It’s an unusual setting for a Harvard-educated neuroscientist, to be sure, but perhaps an equally unlikely place to find a self-published author.

Long before Hollywood parties, celebrity meet and greets or a seat at the Academy Awards; Genova queried publishing’s gatekeepers, seeking a publisher for her novel, “Still Alice.” Agents and publishers alike told the unknown author the audience for a book about Alzheimer’s disease was too small. One agent even cautioned Genova that self-publishing her story would “kill her career.”

Despite that warning, Genova took the plunge and the book in 2007.

Fueled by her dedication to researching dementia and other neurological disorders, Genova tirelessly spread the word about her newly self-published work. Her diligence, and a little bit of luck, resulted in hitting the jackpot: a review in one of America’s top newspapers – The Boston Globe.

Beverley Beckham’s expectations for “Still Alice” were meager, but Alice’s story captured her: “It had arrived in the mail a week before; I’d promised to take a look and that’s all I was doing – just looking–but I couldn’t put it down,” Beckham wrote in her May 16, 2008 review for the Globe. Beckham led her piece with a ringing endorsement: “After I read ‘Still Alice’ I wanted to stand up and tell a train full of strangers, ‘You have to get this book.’

This blog post first appeared in the Archway Publishing blog.

This blog post first appeared in the Archway Publishing blog.

Fast forward to early 2009 – shortly after Beckham’s piece – a literary agent took another look and agreed to shop the novel and several publishers expressed interest. Simon & Schuster, owner of Archway Publishing, came to terms with Genova to acquire “Still Alice,” and to rerelease it through its Pocket Books imprint. Upon its 2009 rerelease, the book debuted high on the New York Times Bestseller List, where it would stay for more than 40 weeks.

In the ensuing years, Genova’s released two more bestsellers: “Left Neglected” and “Love Anthony,” becoming to novels about neurological disorders what John Grisham’s become to legal thrillers. The rise of Lisa Genova and “Still Alice” from self-publishing to silver screen feature film is not typical. Luck was part of the winning equation, but Genova did so much more to advance her book.

  • She wrote about a specific topic about which she had vast knowledge and a deep personal passion.
  • Despite warnings that her book’s appeal was too narrow, she developed and filled previously unrealized niche.
  • She believed in her work, ignored negativity, and took the self-publishing plunge rather than letting her manuscript gather dust on the shelf.
  • She was relentless. She networked, she spread the word. She convinced a reviewer from a prestigious outlet to glance at her book.

First and foremost though, Genova wrote an exceptional book; a book that is bringing attention and changing perceptions about a devastating condition.

And anyone who reads it will never, ever forget Alice.

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Author Solutions, Editing, Indie book publishing, iuniverse, Publishing, self publishing, writing

3 ways you can use your life experience to help write a great story

You have probably heard the old adage, “write what you know”.  That is great advice for any aspiring author. However, I think too many writers believe those words only apply to factual knowledge when they should actually serve as encouragement to draw on all your sensual experiences for writing. In other words, don’t neglect your remembrance of smells and touch and emotions and particular sounds and dialect. As a writer, you have a vast resource of experiences to draw from to make your writing as good as it can be. Here are three ways you can tap experiences from your past.

Draw from places you have been. Too many writers try to describe locations and scenes that they have never visited. That usually creates a flat or incorrect description of a setting. When you are establishing a scene, take the time to draw upon what you remember from a particular location with all your senses. Use that to bring the scene to life for the reader. Also, be careful if you are writing about a city or geography where you have never traveled. Making up a setting for a fantasy novel is fine, but I would not recommend describing a location from someone else’s description.

Use dialogue and physical description to convey emotion instead of telling the reader how the character feels. Too often first-time writers tell readers what a character is experiencing emotionally, which is not the best way to draw the reader into the life of the character. Writing in that way reads more like a newspaper than a novel. Instead, use dialogue to unveil what the character is feeling or thinking.

One of the best examples I know of personally is the book Still Alice written by Lisa Genova.  This book, which was first self-published by iUniverse, is now a Simon and Schuster title and a major motion picture starring Julianne Moore. The first time I heard Lisa talk about writing the book she explained that she had actually taken acting classes to develop her craft of writing dialogue. It definitely worked. The book, which takes you through the experience of a woman with early onset memory loss, masterfully draws you into what Alice is experiencing. I could not put it down.

…think about all the experiences of your life as a place to look for inspiration. Smells you remember as a child. Time spent with crazy relatives. Car rides with the family.

Visit your past to find things to use today.  When you think about writing, you should think about all the experiences of your life as a place to look for inspiration. Smells you remember as a child. Time spent with crazy relatives. Car rides with the family. Any or all of those may be resources you can draw from to make your writing more interesting.  One author who used her past as motivation for writing a whole book is Virginia Castleman. Virginia self-published her book Strays with Archway Publishing and then was picked up by Simon and Schuster.  In the video below, she talks about how drawing from her childhood challenges gave her the inspiration to write the book.

 

 

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Author Solutions, authors, Editing, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing, writing

5 ways that mistakes in your manuscript can hurt your reputation as an author.

Proofreading Secrets_FrontCoverRecently, I had Kathy Ide write a guest post for this blog titled: LET’S EAT GRANDMA: The importance of proofreading. I interviewed Kathy for the Author Learning Center and found her to be quite insightful on a range of topics. She is a published author/ghostwriter, editor/mentor, and writers’ conference speaker.  Her latest book is Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors is a volume I would recommend to every aspiring author

What follows is a second guest post from Kathy that was originally published with the title, How to Uphold Your Reputation as an Author. As with her first post, I think you will find her points to be very helpful. Enjoy.

The buzz word in publishing is platform. But did you know that having mistakes in your manuscript can affect your reputation and platform?

 

Mechanical errors can give an unprofessional appearance to publishers and readers.

Even if your manuscript has already been accepted by a traditional publishing house, if their in-house editor has to spend all her time fixing your mistakes, she won’t be able to catch the deeper, more subtle nuances of your text. Besides, you won’t be presenting a very polished, professional image to your publisher.

Mechanical errors can be embarrassing.

A friend of mine once picked up a book at a bookstore and noticed a typo on the back cover. When she reported it to our critique group, she didn’t say she’d found a mistake on a book published by “XYZ Publishers.” She said she found the mistake on a “Jane Doe” novel. She didn’t connect the error to the publishing house but to the author.

Mechanical errors may cause readers to take you and your message less seriously.

I once saw a published article with this title: “Crowe Turns Hero to Help Snake Bite Boy.” The story was about actor Russell Crowe helping a boy who’d been bitten by a snake. But by spelling snakebite as two words, this sentence implies that Mr. Crowe helped a snake bite a boy! Now, I got a good laugh out of that. But I sure don’t want those kinds of mistakes showing up in my own writing.

Mechanical errors can affect the sales of your book.

Readers who find a lot of mistakes in your book will not be as likely to recommend that book to their friends. And who knows? You may have a high school English teacher reading your book, and she just might recommend it to her students . . . unless there are a lot of mistakes in it.

Mechanical errors can give you a poor reputation.

If you self-publish, or work with a small, independent publisher that doesn’t proofread carefully, your book may go out to the public with several typos, inconsistencies, or PUGS (punctuation, usage, or grammar) errors. Readers who catch those mistakes may consider you an amateur.

For a lot of avid readers, typos practically jump off the page. And many are familiar with the rules of punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling. If your reader knows the rules and you don’t, that’s not going to make you look very good.

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Author Solutions, authors, Indie book publishing, self publishing

Author Solutions titles honored as Kirkus Best Indie Books of 2014

KirkusReview-BlogImage

Once again, this year a number of books published through Author Solutions imprints received recognition from Kirkus Reviews as the best books of 2014 on their Indie list. Those titled honored were:

  • “Stein House” by Myra Hargrave McIlvain (iUniverse)
  • “Tales of a Country Doctor” by Paul Carter (Xlibris)
  • “Whirlwind & Storm” by Charles E. Farnsworth (iUniverse)
  • “An Adirondack Life” by Brian M. Freed (AuthorHouse)
  • “ A Century on New Brunswick’s N.W. Mmichiira” (Xlibris)
  • “Playing Until Dark” by John R. Alberts (AuthorHouse)

Each book has been awarded with the Kirkus Star from Kirkus Reviews, which is arguably one of the most trusted and respected sources for book discovery since 1933. The Kirkus’ Indie program began in 2005, when the editors wanted to expand their coverage to include the fastest-growing segment in the book industry—self-publishing. The program gives self-published authors the opportunity to earn critical acclaim from one of the most prestigious reviews in publishing.

 

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Author Solutions, authors, book marketing, Indie book publishing, self publishing, Thomas Nelson, writing

Writing your second book: Westbow Press Mark Eckel shares how he got to the goal.

A few months ago, I interviewed Mark Eckel after he published his first book, I Just Need Time to Think. That manuscript was a compilation of posts Mark has written for his Warp and Woof  blog. I was interested in offering insights from him because I speak to a number of bloggers, but few actually get to the goal of publishing a book. I thought it would be helpful to share what Mark had done and learned from his experience to help others who want to turn their blog into a book.

Mark Eckel shares his insights after publishing his second book.

Mark Eckel shares his insights after publishing his second book.

Now Mark has released another book, When the Lights Go Down. Once again, he has done something few authors accomplish. He has published a second book. So I thought it would be helpful to learn what he did to reach the goal of publishing another book and hear what advice he would give to aspiring authors. What follows are answers to questions I posed to Mark about his experience as an author so far. I think you will find his comments to be very helpful.

This is the second book you have self-published recently. What prompted you to write a this book?

I love movies, so I wrote a book! J For over 30 years I have been watching, discussing, and interpreting movies with my students. The book is full of stories from these encounters. But there is another reason: I have a large backlog of writing which needs the organization a book can provide. If one has a large amount of written material, writing a book becomes much easier.

What did you learn from writing you first book that helped you when you wrote your second book?

Cover design: Instead of choosing a photo for the cover as I did for the first book I let Westbow’s design group create the book’s appearance. Everyone remarks about how good the cover looks.

Editing: I had the Westbow editors do the edits for the first book and was so impressed I used them again this time. Even with the costs involved the book looks so much better ‘punched up’ by a good set of eyes who know the market.

Organization: Many people had commented about how much they liked my layout of short essays for the first book. I used the same approach for the second book with similar responses.

What did you learn about marketing your first book that you are using as you market your second book?

Professors. I sent a galley copy to a colleague who immediately adopted it for a class. I am using the same approach this time.

Students. Often the people I teach will want a copy of the book.

Conferences. When I speak to large audiences, the emcee is grateful to be able to hold up a copy of a book I have written.

Reviewers. I asked a good number of people to write reviews for the first book. In the second book I asked 16 people to contribute interviews which provides a built-in promotional-audience.

Foreword. I desire to have high-profile leaders create publicity for the book. The first book foreword was written by a college president, the second by a famous film festival founder. In both cases, all I had to do was ask.

What has been the most surprising thing you have found as a published author?

I never cease to be amazed at the response people have to holding a book with my name on it. There is an immediate attitude of respect folks give authors. My response is always the same: humble gratitude. I am grateful for the opportunity to write and the humbled by the possibility that the writing could benefit others for good.

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Author Solutions, authors, Editing, Indie book publishing, self publishing, writing

When six words are enough to tell a good story.

Book lovers peruse new titles at the Author Solutions gallery at the Miami Book Fair

Book lovers peruse new titles at the Author Solutions gallery at the Miami Book Fair

One of my favorite events of the year is always the Miami Book Fair, which is held the week before Thanksgiving. It is one of the premier venues where authors and book lovers gather to meet, mingle and discover new books.  Along with the usual schedule of activities and outstanding street fair, this year included an interesting community event called #6wordsmiami. The premise was really simple.  People submit a six-word Miami-influenced story and the Fair published the best from among the 4,000+ entries.

Six words does not sound like a lot, but as the list below shows, a writer can express significant meaning in a mere half-dozen words.  Here are some of my favorites.

  • You: Category 5 hurricane. Me: shutters
  • Tie that mattress down good, bro
  • Without Castro, there is no me
  • T’was a dark and stormy party
  • Liquor smell. Like home. Like Dad.
  • He came. He saw. Date over.

Now why is something like #6wordsmiami helpful for writers to know about? Three reasons immediately come to mind.

  1. Sometimes you can say more by actually saying less.
  2. The right words, even if only a few, can create a powerful image that engages all the senses
  3. It is a reminder of  how important it is for writers to choose their words carefully

So as you write and rewrite and rewrite again, ask your self these two questions.

  1. Could I say what I just said with fewer words?
  2. Could I use a different word or sentence structure to create a more powerful image for the reader?
Story time at the Miami Book Fair in the Author Solutions book gallery

Story time at the Miami Book Fair in the Author Solutions book gallery

Chances are if you take an honest appraisal of your work, you will find places where you can improve it by simply remembering to use fewer words or using an even better word than the one you have chosen so far.

Remember no one buys a book based on the number of words or page count. They buy it because it is good writing that impacts them.

 

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