authors, book selling, Editing, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing, Writing Contest

What I heard at the San Francisco Writers Conference: 2012 edition

If you follow this blog, you know that over the past few years, I have been a presenter at the San Francisco Writer’s Conference and Author Solutions has been a lead sponsor for both the conference and the Indie Publishing Contest.  Along with being one of the best conferences in the country,  the panels and and speakers have often been almost prophetic in their comments on publishing.  Furthermore, it has been interesting to see the change in attitude toward indie publishing over the past few years. Whereas, just a few years, it was  dismissed as a career killer, now it is promoted and explained as the most sane way for authors to get published.  So what were people talking about this year?

  1. Not that long ago, no one could get published. Today everybody can get published. One of the panelists who I sat with said that she had attended the conference for many years. Not that long ago, one of the keynote speakers looked out at the crowd and told them, “you know none of you will likely ever get published”. While I am sure the speaker thought she was being helpful and truthful, it was actually discouraging and demotivating. Well, the panelist said, she wanted to let everyone know that while that may have been true a few years ago, “today everyone in the audience could be published.”   That is why I have been saying for years, this truly is the best time in history to be an author.

    This year's winner of the Indie Publishing Contest, Azadeh Tabazadeh jumped for joy when her name was announced.

  2. No matter how you publish, make sure you get your manuscript edited.  It is no surprise really, but I think I heard it in every session I attended. Make the investment to get your book edited. And that doesn’t mean have your daughter who is an English major, read the manuscript. It means hire someone with experience in the genre you are writing to read through, comment and correct.  While your first draft may have everything you want to say written down, it can only be made better with editing.
  3. Be sure you think long and hard about your book pricing.  The price of your book should be part of your marketing strategy and so you want to be able to set your price to be competitive in the market place.
  4. Try a 99 cent or free e-book promotion at some point.  Digital readers have made books impulse purchases and so to stimulate demand and take advantage of word of mouth, you should strongly consider running a limited promotion at some point with a very cheap or free ebook. If your book is good, people will tell others and you will see a return on that promotion in the months that follow.
  5. Publishing is still a dream for many people that can now come true.  One of the joys for me personally is being able to present the grand prize for the winner of the Indie Publishing writing contest. This year, when I announced the winner,Azadeh Tabazadeh, who wrote the memoir The Sky Detective,  she stood up, cried tears of joy and said,  “you have made my dreams come true”.  I really look forward to reading her book. It is her story about how she escaped from Iran with her brother and cousin. Look for her book when it comes out. I think it is going to be quite good.
  6. Agents are getting into self publishing. More and more agents are trying to figure out how to add value in the current environment and many of them are now turning to self publishing as way to cultivate talent and build platforms for new authors before they pitch the books to traditional houses.

Once again, it was a great conference and it gave me greater evidence that the Indie Revolution in publishing is in full bloom.

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

Ten mistakes a reader never misses: Imprecise punctuation (Part 6)

It’s not just about what you say but how you say it.  Punctuation defines your voice—your unique way of speaking to your reader. Which punctuation mark should you choose? Which one communicates the sentence to the reader the way you heard it in your head when you wrote it? Which one reflects your personal style and voice? A good editor should  polish your punctuation to reflect your voice. No matter your subject matter or whether your book is scholarly or casual, precise punctuation throughout your book breathes life into your words and whispers in the reader’s ear, “Wow, this author really knows how to communicate exactly what they want to say.”. Good punctuation can bring emphasis to the right word or words and used properly, it can create a rhythm to the writing that takes the reader on a pleasant ride.

So which of these sentences uses the correct punctuation?

It was his best book , written with the greatest care.

It was his best book ; written with the greatest care.

It was his best book : written with the greatest care.

It was his best book — written with the greatest care

It was his best book written with the greatest care.

In different contexts any of these could be preferable. It depends on what you want to say and where you want the emphasis. They all “sound” different if read out loud  Th e comma, colon, and dash are the most likely candidates, but even among them, the choice becomes a matter of the way you express yourself. Your editor should “listen” for your voice in the text  and then adjusts the punctuation to you, your voice, and your story. That’s why having a competent editor look at manuscript can only make it better.

….precise punctuation throughout your book breathes life into your words

authors, book marketing, book selling, Editing, helpful hints, Publishing, self publishing, writing

Seven guidelines for creating a killer back cover

Authors spend months and even years writing their manuscript, but often give little thought to what may be the three most important paragraphs for selling the book: the back cover copy. Think about it. Before a potential book buyer reads a word of the book, he or she will likely pick up the book, look at the cover and flip it over to read the copy on the back cover. So what can you do to make sure your back cover helps convert browsers to customers? I asked Joel Pierson, head of the editorial department at

Joel Pierson, Director of Editorial Services at Author Solutions shares his guidelines for creating killer back cover text

Author Solutions to share his insights based on seeing thousands of books. Some good. Some bad. Here are the guidelines he provided for creating the best text possible.

the three most important paragraphs for selling the book: the back cover copy

  1. The ideal length for back cover text is 150 to 200 words. Think of this copy as a movie trailer or commercial—provide highlights, tease your audience, but don’t give away the ending!
  2. Do not refer to your book as “the book.” Use the book title, set in italics. Avoid underlining words and using all caps. Do not refer to your audience as “the reader” or “readers.” Write the copy in a manner that incites the reader to take action. For example, instead of “Readers will learn how to improve relationships with their pets,” write, “Learn how to improve your relationships with your pets.” Or “Learn how to improve your relationship with your dog, cat, or even parakeet.”
  3. Break up the copy into paragraphs. One long paragraph is very difficult to read. Bulleted lists help to tell the reader what’s included at a glance. If you include a bulleted list, make sure that you have a lead-in sentence followed by a colon, and that each item in the list has parallel construction.
  4. Avoid clichés such as “a must-read” or “This book will change your life.” The back cover copy is not a book review. Keep the verb tense consistent throughout. If you need examples or ideas, look up books that compare with your title and read the book descriptions online or in your local bookstore.
  5. If you have advance praise (quotes, endorsements), you can include short excerpts with a credit line giving the name and title of the person who gave you the endorsement. It’s best to use endorsements from people or periodicals that relate to your book in some way.
  6. The last paragraph of the copy should compel the reader to take action; it’s the “take-away promise” of the book.
  7. The author biography should be no more than fifty words and should consist of three key elements: (1) A few statements that communicate why you are qualified to write the book. Are you an expert in this field? What unique insights or experience do you have that give your book credibility? For example, “Jane Smith is the founder and president of C-Cat, the leading online magazine for ceramic-cat collectors in the United States.” (2) A statement that moves from the qualifications above to something more personal. For example, “Her collection of ceramic cats now numbers more than 5,000.” This personal information should relate to the book in some way. (3) Where you live and something about your personal life. You don’t need to be specific; your listing can be as general as the state you live in, although the city is also preferred. (Consumers often lean toward buying books by local authors.)
authors, book marketing, book selling, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing

An interview from the Pubslush blog on my current thinking on indie publishing

One of the cool new publishing options for authors is a site called Pubslush.  In their words, Pubslush is a crowd sourced content discovery and distribution platform for aspiring authors.  In addition, the site is a huge advocate for global literacy.  It is like Kickstarter meets Tom’s shoes. Recently, I did an interview on their blog. These are questions I get asked a lot so I thought I would just republish the interview if you did not see it on their site.

PS: What role do you play, apart from Author Solutions, in the publishing revolution?

KO: I actually started as a consultant at Author Solutions because I was an author who had used the services of AuthorHouse and the president of the company at the time asked my opinion about their marketing.  So my engagement in the indie publishing revolution began as an author, which I would be even if I didn’t work for the company. That experience though has helped me in my role at ASI because I believe it gives me insight into the challenges, fears and triumphs that come with those brave few who have the tenacity to finish a manuscript and put it out there for people to judge.

PS: What role does Author Solutions play in the publishing revolution the industry is currently experiencing?

KO: I like to say that we didn’t necessarily start the revolution, but we have been the most passionate advocate for it. I wrote a whitepaper four years ago titled The Next Indie Revolution, which suggested publishing was going through  a change that we had already seen in film and music. Since then we have spoken about it at numerous conferences and have published other whitepapers and videos that have promoted the idea of the indie revolution and its benefits.  In fact, when Harlequin was vilified by the Romance Writers Association for launching a self publishing imprint, our CEO released a video that pointed out the indie revolution was great because it created more opportunity for authors and more choice for readers. How could that be a bad thing?

PS: How would you describe “indie book publishing” vs “self publishing”?

KO: Some may argue, but I would suggest we were the ones who started using the term “indie publishing” as a substitute for “self publishing”. As I mentioned earlier, I actually wrote a white paper to make that point.  So in practice, there is no difference between the words. They describe an author who invests his or her resources to get the book into the hands of readers. However, even though there is no difference in the action associated with the words, the connotation and perception between the two is  significant.  The fact is when a person invests their own time and resources to professionally package their content and distribute to an audience that is “indie”. The problem was that term was only being used for film makers and musicians, but not authors. In fact, if a film maker or band invested their own resources to produce a finished work, they were thought to be cool and respected. If an author, did that, they were a second class citizen. That didn’t make any sense, which is why we began to talk about authors who “self-published” in reference to film makers or musicians and not traditionally published authors. We have been consistent in that message and slowly, the perception and connotation of self publishing changed from a lesser choice to something that is respected. It has been amazing to watch and actually quite fun I might add.

PS: What’s your advice for aspiring authors who feel they have the talent, but aren’t sure the next step towards publication should be?

KO: I get asked this question a lot so I have done a webinar, titled, Six tips on how to get published. It is available on the Author Learning Center . But the short answer is make sure you are clear on who the audience is for your book and what your goals are. Then invest in editing to make sure your book is as good as it be. Finally, understand the differences between DIY indie publishing, assisted indie publishing and traditional publishing. Then based on your goals, talents and budget, choose the best publishing option and get your book in the market. No reason to die with a manuscript in your drawer.

PS: How can an author best market themselves and their book?

KO: I hate to do this for two questions in a row, but I do webinar titled, Seven Secrets of Successful Self Published Authors and cover this topic in more detail, but I think the most important thing an author needs to do is have a clear picture of who the audience is for the book. Without that, you can waste a lot of time and money and never connect with readers. So assuming you know who your audience is, I would make sure you have a social media presence. I am a big advocate for having a blog and using something like Feedburner to push it out to all the other platforms. I would also think about where the audience for the book might congregate and think outside of just selling in bookstores. That way you can create a groundswell for your book because word of mouth is still the most powerful marketing tool there is.  CS Marks is an author who has done that well. She has a fantasy trilogy that has sold tens of thousands of copies. It is well written, but she really knows her audience.

PS: Where do you see publishing heading in the next couple of years?

KO: It is absolutely the best time in history to be an author and the most unsettling time to be a publisher. So I think in the next few years, we will see traditional publishers accelerate their interest in self published books and they will look for alternative revenue streams.  Agents will become more coach and less sales person for authors. They will try to remake themselves as author advocates and in many cases point authors to self publishing first to build a following. While chain book stores are in decline, well conceived independent book stores will thrive and expand. The key is they are not just a bookstore. They are a gathering place for the community and so they embrace book signings and all types of authors. A great example is the booksandbooks stores in the Miami area. They are run by Mitch Kaplan and they are a vibrant enterprise. Hollywood will look to indie published authors more and more for potential ideas to adapt for film and television. Bloggers who vet books and are well respected by an audience will become even more influential in purchases. And let’s not forget digital. It is a trend that moved very quickly and made book buying an impulse purchase. I think we will continue to see e-book sales increase, while hard cover will become available only in libraries and for collectors.

authors, book marketing, book selling, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing

Author C.S. Marks tells how she went from self publishing to traditional publishing deal.

One of the great changes in publishing over the last two years has been the number of self published authors who have found traditional deals. In this interview with author C.S. (Chris)  Marks, she shares her story of what she did to create visibility for her book. There are lots of great ideas that other authors could use or adapt. One of the key themes in her story though is she believed in her work and she was committed to publishing it and promoting it.  Let me know if you think there are things you could do that Chris did to promote your book.

authors, Guideposts, Publishing, self publishing, writing, Writing Contest

New book publishing contest from Inspiring Voices, a service of Guideposts Magazine

Yesterday  marked the beginning of the Inspiring Voices Book Publishing contest.  Inspiring Voices is the self publishing service of Guideposts and a partner of Author Solutions. To announce the contest, they have enlisted the services of Kitty Slattery. Kitty is a traditionally published author and contributing editor for Guideposts and her video is quite interesting. She has been traditionally published, but is now pursuing self publishing, which gives her an unique perspective. She also describes the joy and thrill of holding the first copy of a book which never gets old no matter how many books you publish. Perhaps most importantly, she really is quite inspirational in her attempt to compel authors to enter.

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

Ten mistakes a reader never misses: Unnecessary capitalization (Part 5)

This is fifth in a series of blog posts I have done about the topic of editing. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to have your manuscript edited by an experienced editor. So that means you may have to spend a little money to polish your manuscript, but the investment will be worth it if your desire is to sell books. I have seen many journalists change their mind about interviewing an author after they have received the book and found grammatical, punctuation and spelling errors in a book. One of the most challenging areas of editing is capitalization.

While proper capitalization may not seem like an egregious mistake, unnecessary capitalization throughout a book can make sentences cumbersome to read and affect the overall look of the page. Capitalization might be the trickiest of editing decisions. There are rules, but context is a major factor even though style guides as thick as dictionaries address when to capitalize and when not to. It can take years of experience editing different types of books to make good capitalization choices that result in professional copy and prose. Who knew something like capitalization could be so complicated?

 Which is correct?

 New York state police department

New York State police department

New York State Police Department

All could be correct. It depends on context. That’s why you want to make sure you work with a seasoned editor who knows how the context of the sentence dictates proper capitalization.

 Which words in this sentence should be capitalized?

 Tom Jones, President and Head Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, would attend the Third Annual Conference of the Board of Directors after he arrived at the Indianapolis Airport.

 In this case, only Tom Jones and Indianapolis should be capitalized. Everything else is lower case.  Now not only is that correct, but it also makes the sentence easier to read. Unnecessary capitalization can make it difficult on the reader.