Author Solutions, authors, book marketing, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing, writing

5 free webinars every aspiring author should watch

As part of my role with Author Solutions, I have the opportunity to give and participate in numerous webinars for writers and authors for The Author Learning Center, Hay House and iUniverse to name a few. I always enjoy the experience, but I have to tell you I think some of the best webinars available to authors are on the Archway Publishing website.

Some of the best free webinars for authors are available on the Archway Publishing web site.

Some of the best free webinars for authors are available on the Archway Publishing web site

Full disclosure: I am always involved with approving the topics.and sometimes talk with the presenter to help shape the content, but each time I am always thoroughly impressed with the content and the topics that Simon and Schuster makes available to authors through Archway.

Here are the webinars that you can access for free to learn more about what it takes to publish a better book and market it more effectively.

  1. Secrets of an Acquisitions Editor – How To Get The Attention of a Traditional Publisher-Presenter: Michael Szezeran, Editor at Simon & Schuster
  2. Top Ten Mistakes Writers Make–Presenter: Abby Zidle, Senior Editor at Gallery Books and Pocket Books
    from Simon & Schuster
  3. Four Keys To A Killer Cover–Presenter:Jason Heuer, Associate Art Director at Simon & Schuster
  4. Best Practices For Authors on Facebook–Presenter: Susan B. Katz, Author & Strategic Manager at Facebook
  5. How To Capture Attention On Twitter–Presenter: Andrew Fitzgerald, Twitter Media Team
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.

Author Solutions, authors, book marketing, Publishing, self publishing, writing

From self-published Archway author to Simon and Schuster: Virginia Castleman shares how it happened.

One of the great things about the Indie revolution is the only path to traditional publishing used to be work through an agent and have the book acquired. That has obviously changed as evidenced by this video. Virginia Castleman had a manuscript that bounced around among agents and publishing houses for years. Publishers were interested, but then they left the imprint and so she had to start over.

Finally, she decided to self-publish her book Strays with Archway Publishing and that’s how Simon and Schuster found her. Her book was acquired by Aladdin books and slated for release next year.  Listen to what Virginia has to say about her experience.

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

First-time author advice from Simon and Schuster Senior Editor, Abby Zidle

Archway logoArchway Publishing, the self publishing service of Simon and Schuster which is operated by Author Solutions,  has offered some outstanding webinars in the past year to help authors understand what they need to do to make their books as good as they can be. One of the presenters was Abby Zidle, senior editor at Simon and Schuster who did a presentation titled Top Ten Mistakes Writers Make. The webinar is free and you can watch it by clicking here. As a sampler of what you can expect, Abby offers some helpful tips in this 90 second video titled Avoiding Mistakes First-time Writers Make. Definitely worth watching if you are in the proess of workig on a manuscript.

authors, book marketing, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing

A 90-second crash course on how to create a breakout book cover.

Archway logoWhether potential readers are shopping in a physical bookstore or browsing online, the first thing they will see is your book cover. So it is vital that you give the proper attention to designing a cover that stands out from the crowd, is appropriate for the genre, but also draws the reader in to learn more.

In this video for Archway Publishing , Jason Heuer, associate art director at Simon & Schuster, shares advice on how to create an effective and compelling book cover. Definitely worth the watch if you are in the process of packaging your book for the marketplace.

agents, authors, book marketing, book selling, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, self publishing, writing

Author Cliff Adelman shares what inspired him to write The Russian Embassy Party.

Russian EmbassyOne of the great joys of my current job is meeting and speaking to many authors. I am always interested and amazed to hear their stories of what inspired them to write and by their willingness to help other writers in the journey to get published.

At Book Expo America in May,  I had the opportunity to meet Cliff Adelman, author of The Russian Embassy Party, which he self-published with Archway Publishing.  Here’s a summary of the story from the web site:

A ride on the edges of history, with all its unanticipated connections, from the 1963 March on Washington to the 1993 chaos of Yeltsin’s Russia. When an ex-CIA agent convinces a bumbling law student to write a term paper on international rights on the high seas, the student and his roommates in Washington wind up with the whole Soviet Embassy coming to dinner. This happened on August 10, 1963, and has never been marked in the history books. Out of this encounter spins a story of revenge, counterpoint, and rollicking foolishness, ending on a railroad platform by the Russian-Finnish border in September, 1993. The Russian Embassy Party follows its sort-of-ordinary people in a not-so-ordinary web through the edges of history (the set for ‘I Have a Dream,’ watching the fall of the Berlin Wall, revelations of the Katyn Forest Massacre, the last gasp failed Soviet coup of August 1991, stumbling attempts to shore up democracy in Yelstin’s Russia) until . . . Well, let’s say only that there is a good dose of history in the story, and a larger dose of realism in the minds, environments, and conversations of both American and Russian protagonists and supporting cast. At the same time, the echoes of the 1963 Russian Embassy Party itself (when the students behaved and talked like the late-adolescents they were) cut veins through the story, linking its participants in ways they realize, bit by bit, as adults.

According to his bio on the Archway Publishing website:

Cliff started making trouble in grade school in the Boston area, made it constructive trouble at Brown and the University of Chicago, and brought the construction to a head in a string of influential monographs that demonstrated how tractable and smart both governments and foundations can be. Not exactly a wall-flower.

As you can tell by his bio, Cliff is an interesting character in his own right so I asked him to share about his book. Here are my questions and his answers to an interview I conducted with him. I think you will find it an enjoyable read.

What inspired you to write the book?  For years, I had three stories I wanted to tell.  I chose The Russian Embassy Party for my first novel.  Why?  First, because I started writing the 1963 portion of the novel as a memoir in 1973.  It didn’t go anywhere then, and certainly wasn’t a story in and of itself.  So it slept.  Thirty years later, I meet a Finn on a train from Helsinki to St. Petersburg whose business is hauling out industrial waste sludge from Russia to extractors that could pull precious metals from the glop.  It took nearly 20 years more for me to put the two poles together and say, “You know?  There’s a good story here. Now, can I do it?”  That 2013 is the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, which plays a revelatory role in the 1963 portion of the novel, was push enough to get this thing done in 2012.

….let your characters talk, and their talk should become the engines of the story.

What do you think gain by reading your book?  They will squirm a little with the 1963 late adolescents talking and experiencing life like late adolescents; they will come to appreciate the underside of Soviet/Russian life as experienced by more-or-less ordinary people, who also tell bad Russian jokes; they will learn perhaps more than they ever knew of the way advertising works in international contexts; and will come to see how they, too, are bounced along the edges of history. And they
will have a good deal of fun along the way.

….have a marketing platform spelled out for yourself before you try to sell the finished product,

How did writing [non-fiction] for your job help you when writing this book?  I wrote monograph-length pieces in ways that,as people said, “made data sing,” and asked how the hell the U.S. government let me get away with that kind of colorful writing, let alone titles such as Women at Thirtysomething, Tourists  in Our Own Land, Answers in the Toolbox, and Moving Into Town–and Moving On.  Gradually, these got longer, so I knew I could sustain the prose.  Whether I could build and sustain characters and a plot that did not depend on underlying data was another story, and whether I could have the characters and story emerge principally through dialogue (as opposed to an auctorial voice) was a significant challenge that, as it turned out, was less difficult than I anticipated.

Archway logoWhat tips would you to  give aspiring writers?  First, never write about places you have not visited   As Orwell said, the physical memories—sounds, smells, surfaces of things—come first.  Second, let your characters talk, and their talk should become the engines of the story.  Don’t tell the reader what some character is thinking or feeling: let the character do it!  Third, if you have an international environment, use languages other than English and put the translations in brackets.  You may need help for this.  I did with the Russian (not the German, in which I am half-conversant; but you will notice that, even there, I had the bi-lingual German character translate for his American listeners in the natural rhythms of conversation).  Fourth, have a marketing platform spelled out for yourself before you try to sell the finished product, whether you wind up with an agent (highly unlikely), publisher directly (even more unlikely), or engage a self-publishing platform.

What has been the most satisfying aspect of publishing a novel? (I had published three non-fiction books with commercial publishers previously, so fiction was the issue) Easy: it opened the door to putting the next novel together.  It said: you can do this, so do it again