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, authors, helpful hints, Publishing, self publishing, writing

Blog to book: How to make it happen.

Build Your BlogThis past weekend I had the opportunity to speak at the Build Your Blog conference on behalf of LifeRich Publishing to help bloggers better understand how they can take their blog content and turn it into a book. Not surprisingly many of the attendees were tremendously interested to learn what it takes to become an author, but also confused by the options available to writers today.

I had never spoken at a conference like this so I did not know what to expect, but I was quite impressed with the enthusiasm and passion of this group. Writers as a whole are a passionate bunch, but for some reason, committed bloggers seemed even more so.

ASI_FourPaths_HomeGraphic_240x130As I have seen at other conferences, identifying the 4 Paths to Publishing was very helpful, judging by the nods I saw in the audience as I unpacked the idea. Explaining the advantages and differences of the DIY, General Contractor , Supported Self Publishing and Traditional publishing paths seemed to really help them understand their options and which may be best for them.

WHY PUBLISH A BOOK?

The place I started our discussion was establishing why publish a book if you have a blog. There are certainly a number of reasons– ranging from a purely personal motivation to a business decision, but these were some of the more important ones.

Credibility and cache—Like or not, there is still something about the word author that carries more weight than just the word blogger. That’s why taking the rich content of a blog and publishing can change the perception people have about a writer.

Build your brand—Blogging isn’t just about writing. Bloggers begin to develop their own brands. A book is one more way to do that.

Expand your audience—With a book, you have new ways for people to find you and your content even if they have never seen your blog.

Create new income opportunities—In a future blog post, I am going to talk about the 8 ways an author can earn money besides book sales, but suffice it to say, a book gives you ways to sell you and your services in a way a blog alone does not.

SO WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO GET PUBLISHED?

At this point, there were no arguments that publishing a book was a great idea personally and professionally, but the question at hand was how. So based on my conversations with bloggers who did publish, I suggested these three key steps.

  1. Organize your material—by this I mean, look at your blog content and see what themes you see. Then organize chapters or sections around those ideas.
  2. Choose your title—Title is a key and so you want to do the research and make sure your title makes sense for your audience and genre. I have written about this topic on this blog here
  3. Pick a publishing path—this is where the 4 paths discussion proves very helpful.

 HOW TO DECIDE WHICH PATH IS BEST FOR YOU

To make a decision among the four publishing paths, you need to be clear about four specific points: your goals and expectations, skills and experience, time commitment, and budget.

Goals and expectationsThink about what your goals and expectations for your blog’s success and how that translates to publishing. What are your goals for publishing?  Write those down.

Skills and experience–How do your skills and experience in writing and your blog’s subject matter come into play when choosing a publishing path? Do you know how to format page layouts or ebook formats? Do you want to even bother with it? Being clear on what skills you have will help you decide what you need to hire out.

Time commitment–How much time are you willing to invest to make your book as good as it can be? That is also a key question to answer as you think about which publishing path

Budget—publishing is not free and really is just a trade-off between what you want to do yourself and what you want to hire someone to do, but know what you want to invest before you begin and you will make a good decision.

THE BLOGGER DAVINCI IS A GREAT EXAMPLE OF HOW THIS CAN WORK

Davinci the bloggerAs part of my presentation, I shared the platform with Da Vinci who writes YourLifeAfter25.com, a lifestyle and women’s blog, and is the author of The Pocket Sous Chef: Da Vinci’s Guide to Cooking for 1 + 1, which was published by LifeRich. From her experience, she shared three key ideas to help bloggers get to published book as she did. She summarized by saying you need to build your book, brand your book and broadcast your book.  All three are critical.

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Author Solutions, authors, book selling, iuniverse, Publishing, self publishing

From book to screen in 8 years: Still Alice movie released this weekend

For those of you follow this blog, you will know I have periodically mentioned the book Still Alice written by Lisa Genova. It was originally self published with iUniverse and then went on to be a best seller in multiple countries for Simon and Schuster. This weekend, it is being released as a major motion picture.  It is a compelling story and I hear there is Oscar buzz for Julianne Moore’s performance. In fact, this past weekend, she won the Golden Globe for best actress.

I really enjoyed the book and am looking forward to seeing the movie. Also, I wanted to bring this to your attention because I think it is a great example of  how long it can take for a book to be made into a movie. Still Alice was first released in 2007. Eight years later the movie comes out. Still worth the wait.  Enjoy.

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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, helpful hints, Publishing, self publishing, writing

6 tips to make sure you fulfill your New Year’s resolution to publish your book!

These tips will you get from manuscript to published author this year.

These tips will you get from manuscript to published author this year.

This is the time when people set goals and make resolutions for the coming year.  If publish a book is on your list, here are some suggestions to help you make sure 2015 is the year you become a published author.

Set a date when you want to hold a copy of your book.  In all the years I have worked with self-published authors, I have found that picking a date for when you want your book available is absolutely critical. If an author works with a traditional publisher, there is always a release date set by the publisher. That determines when the manuscript needs to be finished by.  When you self-publish, you need to set your own “release date”. Otherwise I find too many other distractions get in the way of actually finishing the manuscript. Now this date can be an actual event such as a speaking engagement or a book signing or you can just pick a day. But without a day circled on the calendar, it is likely you will never get to your goal.

When you self-publish, you need to set your own “release date”.

Build a timeline to get your goal. Once you have a date when you want to hold a copy of your book in your hand, you then need to build a realistic timeline to get your manuscript to published book.  Start with that date and work backwards with these key milestones in mind.

  • Complete the manuscript.
  • Time for editing.
  • Time for revisions based on editor suggestions.
  • Illustration or image creation if applicable.
  • Cover and page design.
  • Review and approval of cover and galleys.
  • Distribution to online and e-book retailers.

If you are familiar with the publishing process, you can probably build this timeline on your own. If you are not, then you will likely need help from a publishing consultant or supported self publishing company.

Put writing appointments on your calendar.  Most every author I have spoken with confirms there is a best time during the day for them to write. In other words, they are more productive when they write at certain times than others. For you it may be early in the morning or late at night. It doesn’t much matter when, but it does make a difference if you block that time on your calendar and keep it as an appointment.

Blocking time to write when you are most productive is one of the keys to completing your manuscript. (credit: pixgood.com)

Blocking time to write when you are most productive is one of the keys to completing your manuscript. (credit: pixgood.com)

Make yourself accountable. As with most goals in life, support is a key factor to success. Publishing a book is no different. So once you pick a date and build a timeline, make sure others help you stay on track. Share your milestones and ask them to check in and see how you are doing.  You may already have someone in mind who can help you in this way, but you may also want to look for a local writing group or online group.  The Greater Los Angeles Writers Society (GLAWS) is a great example of a local writers group that can provide excellent support if you live in Southern California. The Author Learning Center is an example place to create an online group.

Make an investment. That in which we invest is usually what grows.  So when it comes to publishing a book, you are going to invest both time and money to get it done. Sometimes putting money toward a project even before the manuscript is done can provide extra incentive to get the job done.

Plan your book launch event.  Many people have ideas for books and even start writing, but it is a rare few who actually become published authors. So when you make it to your goal, you need to celebrate. Throw a book launch party to commemorate your achievement. Be creative. The location does not have to be a book store. I know authors who tie the location to something relevant in their book. It could be a restaurant or a church or a library.  Just put it on the calendar and it will serve as additional motivation.

If you have any other helpful suggestions that keep you motivated, please use the comment section to share those.

Many people have ideas for books and even start writing, but it is a rare few who actually become published authors. So when you make it to your goal, you need to celebrate.

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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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authors, Editing, helpful hints, Publishing, self publishing, writing

Treat Your Book Like a Start-up: How Beta-Readers Can Help You Launch Your Book Successfully

BookCountry-logoLucy Silag, community and engagement manager at Book Country, has written a very helpful whitepaper outlining the benefits of including beta-readers in your writing process. Book Country is an online writing and publishing community that is a division of Penguin Random House. Lucy is a graduate of the fiction program at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She is also the author of the Beautiful Americans novels for young adults (Penguin/Razorbill) and has written nonfiction for magazines and blogs. What follows is an excerpt from her whitepaper, which you can obtain when you register on the Book Country site.

 What Is a “Beta-Reader”?

The idea of a “beta-reader” comes from the parlance of start-up companies. Before a company launches a new website, they will ask web-savvy “beta-users” to use their site and give feedback on it. The company then has a chance to improve their site before they make it widely available to the public, which helps them to make a better product and avoid bad publicity.

A “beta-reader,” then, is someone who reads your book and gives you feedback on it before you begin the publishing process. This helps you to see how readers would react to your book if you tried to sell your current version to them.

How do beta-readers help writers?

Beta-readers help writers to figure out which parts of their books are working and which parts need to be revised. Often, writers can’t see what’s not working in a manuscript unless someone points it out to them.  Additionally, a beta-reader can make suggestions for how to improve your book’s cover, marketing copy, and even your author bio.

Get a copy of this helpful whitepaper at BookCountry.com

Get a copy of this helpful whitepaper at BookCountry.com

Who Is the Right Beta-Reader for You?

Here are a few things to look for in your ideal beta-readers:

  • Do they read a lot of books, especially contemporary books? Are they aware of current publishing trends and bestselling writers?
  • Are they well-read in the genre that you are writing in? For example, if you are writing romance, you’ll want a beta-reader who has read many romance novels. They’ll be able to tell you how your book measures up against other writers of the genre.
  • Do they write too? A writer will be able to analyze your book in a way that goes beyond what the average reader will offer in terms of feedback. A beta-reader who is also a writer can tell you not just where you have made typos or copyediting mistakes but can also offer suggestions for how to improve voice, character development, plot, setting, and pacing.

Finding Beta-Readers through Online Workshopping

Online workshopping has become a convenient, low-risk, and free way for writers to get feedback on their work. Often called “online writing communities,” these sites are like social networks for writers and no-commitment writing classes all in one. Simply join the online writing community and exchange feedback with writers from the comfort of your own home.

What should you look for in an online writing community?

  • The community should have a fair system for making sure that members are actually reviewing one another, rather than just posting their own books for review.
  • Make sure the community has writers in your genre.
  • Writers reviewing manuscripts in a community should be exchanging detailed, honest feedback, and offering suggestions on how to make your book better.
  • You should be able to post new drafts of your book and archive previous versions of the manuscript so that you can access them as you revise.
  • The community should have credible ties to the publishing industry, so that you can trust the opinions and advice of the site’s content.
  • The community should be open to traditional publishing and self-publishing.
  • The community should be focused on helping one another.

What Kind of Feedback Makes Your Book Better?

A writer needs honest, detailed feedback about these writing issues:

  • plot
  • setting
  • character development
  • voice
  • continuity
  • setting
  • point of view
  • pacing
  • dialogue
  • clarity in specific lines or passages of the prose

Since so much of finding an audience and selling a book is about how a book is positioned in the marketplace, it’s also important to get feedback about how your book compares to other books in its genre, and whether the way it’s presented (for example, the book’s cover and title) makes sense to a reader. A writer should get feedback on his or her synopsis too.

Workshopping your book with beta-readers can be the difference between a great idea and a great book. Follow the example of successful start-up companies, and find beta-readers to help you launch your book successfully.

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