What Are Other Authors Selling? Why Should I Know…

 Susan Violante Managing Editor

Susan Violante
Managing Editor

Last week I spoke about the benefits of going to the library. As I mentioned I have committed to visit the library once a week, so I did! This time I focused on checking out what other authors have written about on my topic in the age group I write for. The experience was enlightening and inspiring, to say the least, even though this was not the first time I had done research on what other authors were doing. What made this experience different was my focus. My goal was not to find a niche in my genre to target but to learn from what worked for other authors by looking at their writing styles, vocabulary, illustrations, format, and any other detail that called my attention. Below are some things to consider when looking at books that are published and successful, to learn from them and to create an applicable guide to follow with your own project:

·         Publishing Information. The first thing I did was to collect information from the books I liked that were within my marketing target and made a list of the titles and the aspects I liked about them. I also compiled information about the publisher, illustrator, etc. in case I decide to consider pitching my book instead of self-publishing.

·          I looked at the main characters. Were they boys, girls, animals? What was unique about them? How did they relate to the target reader? Was it the character that made the book successful or was it the story? How different or similar were they from my main character?

·         I looked also at the story, message, and other characters, and compared them to my own project to determine how different it is to what’s out there, and whether or not I can apply anything I learned to my own project to make it more current, relatable to the reader, captivating and marketable.

·         Pay attention to any new idea that might pop up into your mind while checking out other books within your genre and write them down. You never know, maybe one of these ideas will be your new best-seller!

In the end, we authors have a passion for writing, feel that we have something to say, are committed to sharing a message, love books and want to be able to make a living writing and reading them. So, what better way to be successful than learning from each other? For more information on how we help authors visit www.bookbybookpublicity.com.

Feeding your Writing and Library Field Trips

 Susan Violante Managing Editor

Susan Violante
Managing Editor

Recently, I decided to visit our new Central Library downtown in Austin. It had been a while since I had been to one since I spend most of my time in my home office or should I say ‘Cave.’  But after spending half a day in the library something clicked within, in such a way that I can no longer live as a recluse. Since then I have committed to work from a library at least once a week. Here are some benefits of breaking away from the home office desk and venturing into a library to write.

·         Creative Juices Recharge – The only way to describe what happened to my brain when I explored the shelves is to imagine sleeping beauty waking up from years of sleeping! I could not write fast enough all of the new ideas and directions I could apply to my own projects whether directly to my manuscripts or their marketing! By being reclusive I was missing out on the benefit of other brains to the point of having my brain on a constant loop revisiting the same old ideas.

·         Energy Recharge – By being always within the walls of my writing cave I was also missing out on others’ energy. Just by sitting among other minds at work I felt motivated to work on my projects, was energized as my passion levels for my story boomed and for the first time in a long time, I lost track of time!

·         Routine Enrichment – Having a weekly field trip to the library scheduled has given me something to look forward to in my routine. It has been surprising to me how much it has increased my motivation and productivity as I strive to get things done to make sure I can work on research, writing or any other task for my own projects; or simply explore the shelves for new reads.

Contrary to the myth of being glamorous, the life of a writer is an isolating and lonely one…especially now as we do more promotional work and platform building on the internet. So as authors we sometime fall into the reclusion trap and find ourselves in a looping plateau. By working in the library some of the time, we can connect to the literary world and feed from it. What are you waiting for? Feed your writing!

Awards Programs and Other Contests - Benefits of Early Submission

 Susan Violante Managing Editor

Susan Violante
Managing Editor

Granted, sometimes books come out right before the submission deadlines for some awards programs chosen by authors, so early submissions are no longer an option. Yet with advanced planning, a book launching can always be synchronized to contests deadlines, literary magazine guidelines, and important marketing calendar dates. If it is too late for the current book in production, creating a synchronized publishing calendar, program, and plan for the next title in the works will definitely give the best chance possible for the title to make good sales, especially if it can get to the hands of awards judges early.  Following are a few benefits of submitting early:

·         An early submission gets to judges with a blank slate on what the standard curve of the contest will be.  Remember, books are graded by judges as they are read, so it makes sense to try to get a book to them before they have read a hundred submissions in the same category, in my opinion, in hopes of being judged before other strong competitors raise the bar.

·         If the contest offers a book review with it, sometimes the review gets posted on their page shortly after it is produced. This not only gives the author a view of what the judge might think about it, it also gives the author a tool to use to get followers, buyers and to create anticipation with their fans. From the marketing point of view, all of this interaction brings new visitors to the author page, improving opportunity for sales.

·         By sending submissions early, the author can focus on all other aspects of the title’s launch, events and other publicity efforts.

·         Many awards programs offer early entry discounts, which always helps the budget.

All that said, clarification is needed on entering a contest early. By no means should ARC’s be sent to a contest, even if sending early.  The books sent should be the final product, as they are subject to judging with the intent to score a placement. Although advanced copies are great to send to reviewers, they are not the best idea when sending to a literary awards program. For more information on how we help authors visit www.readerviews.com. To enter the Reader Views Literary Awards Click Here.

Does Size Matter When It Comes to Books?

 Susan Violante Managing Editor

Susan Violante
Managing Editor

I think it does, but let’s consider all the angles.

As a passionate reader myself, when it comes to books I’d rather read in installments. Let me explain myself. I take books with me everywhere, on my e-Reader and printed books as well, so big heavy books don’t often make it on my book shopping sprees.  Granted, there are long stories that are epic works of art, yet, I bet most of the libraries of regular readers have only a few of them! Also, I find myself skipping from one genre to another one as after reading one genre for a length of time, I just need a break from it. This is easier for me to do with regular length books up to about 300 pages or so. Thus, as I check out new books to read I tend to pick that size of book over larger ones that also called my attention. I don’t know if there are many readers like me, but I tend to believe that I am not alone on this.

As an author and publisher, I can tell you I’d lean toward breaking long epic stories into multiple smaller books rather than publish just one big one for the following reasons:

·         Bigger books are more expensive to produce and more difficult to sell unless you are a celebrity author.

·         By breaking the story into a trilogy or a series, new authors can build their platform with each installment growing a larger and long-lasting fan base. This guarantees an advantage to any new story the author produces afterwards.

·         The electronic age has transformed the attention span of human beings. We now absorb information quicker, but on the same token our attention focuses less amount of time on one thing. This fact tells me as a marketer that the new audiences coming up want it short and sweet.

So, yes size does matter but it is my opinion that shorter is better! I guess that it is at least something to think about when deciding how to publish your story.  

Finding Time to Write

 Susan Violante Managing Editor

Susan Violante
Managing Editor

Many people have great ideas for books. But most people never actually write their books. The most common reason people use as their inability to write is time. But it’s not the lack of time that holds people back from writing; it is their idea of time.

“I will write a book when I retire”

How often have we heard that, or even said it ourselves? The truth is that writing is extremely isolating and time-consuming. Beyond just getting words down on paper, we have to revise and polish our work.  The time and effort involved can seem so overwhelming that we might think we can’t do it unless we are retired. I don’t know about you, but my idea of retirement includes traveling, going out with friends, meeting new people, join a knitting club, reading all the books I can never get to, spending time with my family…etc., so the reality is that I will probably have time issues as well after I retire!

First of all, most of us don’t have a lot of free time. Secondly, not having “enough” time is a complete myth. We all have enough time to write a book. It’s not so much about time as it is about discipline, and discipline doesn’t mean chaining yourself to the computer seven nights a week. It means seizing the opportunities when they present themselves. So here are some tips on how to write a book while living your life.

  • Determine how much time you spend doing things that don’t really matter in terms of the big picture? I’m not talking about things you have to do like the dishes, working at your job, or taking care of your children. I mean things like watching TV. At the end of your life would you rather be able to say “I’ve seen every episode of Game of Thrones three times,” or “I wrote and published a book?”
  • Writing does not require a disciplined schedule. It doesn’t require the latest, finest computer on the planet. It doesn’t even require a fancy pen. Writing just requires a few minutes of thought here and there, and then later tying those thoughts together. Get a pen or pencil and some paper, or a laptop—whatever is comfortable for you. Go ahead and sit down in front of the TV, and when the commercials comes on - write. I actually do this for real!
  • The point is to break the big things down into small tasks. Rather than chaining yourself to a desk for three hours give yourself three-minute writing spurts. Challenge yourself not to fill several pages, but just a small piece of paper. If you’re using the computer, it’s great if you can turn on the word count so you can watch it increase. Write 100 words. Then 500 or 1,000 words. Each evening, try to break the previous day’s record. Make it into a game and be persistent. If you are consistent, the words and the pages will add up. Do the numbers, 100 words a day equals 700 hundred words a week, and so on. As you get used to writing, and the number of words you put down increase, you will be closer and closer to finishing your first draft. But if you look at the total words your novel should be, compared to how many you actually have at the time, you will be discouraged and stop all together. Enjoy the writing process and see your work grow.
  • Don’t edit yourself while you write. Just focus on putting the story down on paper and completing the number of words you set as your goal for the day. No book was ever written in a day—not one worth reading at least. Patience and determination will get the book done. If your goal is to write 500 words a day and those 500 words are poorly written, at least you got them on paper. You can always fix them later. The main thing is to write them so they can be fixed. Ernest Hemingway said he wrote one good page for every one hundred bad pages. Bad writing is no big deal if you fix it before publishing. Not writing is a big deal.
  • Time exists all around us if we just take advantage of the moments as they come up. I truly believe anyone who puts his or her mind to it can write a book. It just takes discipline—fifteen minutes a day is sufficient. Whether you use them during lunch in your office, when you wake up in the morning, right before you go to sleep, when you are riding the bus or in front of the TV, pick up that pen!

The Right Attitude – Agents and Editors Conference

 Susan Violante Managing Editor

Susan Violante
Managing Editor

It had been 8 years since I attended the Writers’ League of Texas annual Agents and Editors Conference, so I signed up this year. I have been stuck on a couple of writing projects and looked forward to attending the sessions, as well as get the latest information on the industry and publicity. I also decided to take a pitching shot in a one-on-one with an editor and an agent, or at least pick their brains and get their opinions about what I was working on. After I signed up, life decided to play a joke on me as I hurt my right foot, couldn’t walk and ended up needing foot surgery which confined me to a wheelchair for over three months. Of course, the conference fell during one of those months. Being too late to get a refund on the $500.00 I invested and since the conference was here in Austin and did not require traveling, I decided to wing it, and found someone to be my official wheelchair pusher for the 3 days I attended. It was interesting, to say the least, to navigate the conference, but at the same time it gave me a sense of acceptance which made possible a new perspective and the right attitude. Below are some tips to make the most of an Agents and Editors Conference:

·         Open your mind to all the other things the conference has to offer, instead of focusing only on the pitching opportunity. Make a list of goals other than a call back.

·         Make a list of the sessions that you do not want to miss and be sure to include the sessions where the editor and/or agent you picked for the one-on-one is on the panel.

·         Make sure you participate in the sessions and if possible, ask questions directly to the editor and/or agent you picked for the one-on-one. This will break the ice for when you go into the pitching session and will allow you to make it about getting help and advice if the pitch doesn’t result in a call back.

·         Do not focus only on pitching though. Pick the experts brain. Introduce yourself and ask questions that can help you to produce a better project.

·         Finally, network with other writers and make friends. One of them might be able to refer you to their agent later on!

Don’t wait to break a leg to find the right attitude…just go there looking to learn and make friends, as well as helpful contacts. Remember you can always submit directly to the agents and editors you met, so relax and have fun! For more information on how we help writers visit bookbybookpublicity.com.

Local Book Events - Tips for Authors

 Susan Violante Managing Editor

Susan Violante
Managing Editor

Many authors are writers first and marketers second, and although it takes writing the book to market it…without the marketing in place the book won’t get to readers. It is a vicious cycle, but somewhere in there, the author can find the perfect timing and come up with a balanced formula that can work for them. Here are some tips:

·         Although online stores are an awesome way to get books out there, the author should also think local in order to get a jump start on sales through book events planning.

·         The best time to plan local events is 6 -3 months before the book is out. The author should come up with a list of possible book stores that might be interested in hosting a book launch, signing or speaking event.

·         Visiting the store and establishing a positive relationship with the sales staff and management before approaching them with a book pitch is not only wise…it is necessary. So, the author needs to allocate that time to build up these relationships before the book is in production. Mentioning their upcoming book is OK, as long as it sounds like sharing a comment and not like a pitch.

·          When the time comes, and there are galleys available, the author should then present the pitch by following their regular process and not expect special treatment.

·         The author should always remember that he/she is not the only one trying to get their book into the store, and that to the end, creating a positive can go a long way.

In the end, we are all humans, and if given the choice the bookstore will always choose the product that they think will sell, but they will also prefer to work with the author they already know to be nice, easy to work with, and that can have their back by being available to fill in gaps on their events calendar. For more information on how we can help authors visit us at www.readerviews.com.

 

Feedback: Constructive Criticism or TMI

 Susan Violante Managing Editor

Susan Violante
Managing Editor

Yes, I am going to go there… again. Through the years I have truly enjoyed helping other authors, to the point that I have found myself neglecting my own writing projects. But occasionally I bump into an author that makes it very difficult to not ask, “Dude, what are you thinking?!” So here I go again writing about author etiquette when dealing with free services or media attention, such as reviews, interviews, giveaways, and awards prizes that are valuable services. However, this time I am writing as an author, much like yourselves, because as an author I find difficulty in trying to understand how there are some among us who are eager to give unnecessary criticism on a free service. I’d like to remind everyone that any publicity is better than no publicity and the professionals offering them take time out of making a living to give a helping hand. We should all be appreciative enough to keep unsolicited advice. Here are some tips on how and why to do so:

·         The professionals who offer comp services are specialists in the field. They offer them to give back, network, and any other number of reasons they might have. But they do give a free service at their own expense instead of using that time on a paying customer.

·         They do the work in a professional manner following the standard guidelines of the field. In other words, you are getting the same service you would if you had hired them.

·         Sometimes, by voicing opinions without knowing the reason behind the way things were done, you are closing a door for the future. Consider asking upfront why things were done in such a way instead. You could learn a thing or two and keep a door open for future projects.

Finally, remember that the advantage of receiving freebies goes beyond of what you are getting. You are also establishing contacts that might be helpful in other ways. The professionals offering them know other professionals in the field, they also have all levels of successful clients, and deal in some cases with media contacts. So be friendly, professional, appreciative and most of all kind. Gaining friends along the hard road of Indie success is not a plus, it’s a necessity to making it to the finish line successfully.

To learn more about how we help Indie authors, visit us at www.readerviews.com.