Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Is Kindle's Good News Bad news for Authors? by Teresa Kennedy

The recent announcement that Amazon has opened new Kindle stores in Italy and Spain has been met with lots of excitement in the Kindle community, but it begs the question of just how good Kindle’s expansion in foreign markets is for the independent authors who publish with them.

According to PC magazine :

“The new stores have a total of more than 900,000 titles in various languages, including many international best sellers, the company noted. Amazon also announced that independent authors are free to use Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) to make their works available in the Italian and Spanish Kindle Stores.”

A further breakdown of the numbers indicates only 22,000 titles are available in Spanish in the Spanish store, while only 16,000 titles are available in Italian in that country’s Kindle store. So if, as an independent, your book isn’t available in either of those languages, your chance of significant sales in those or any other country where Amazon has a Kindle store are pretty slim.

Further, you’re competing with international bestsellers; that means titles whose translation rights have already been sold throughout the world, usually through an agent or larger publishing enterprise.

It’s no secret that foreign rights sales can make significant money for an author, often much more than the original version. And the global nature of today’s economy means that rights sales are booming. The problem is that within the area of foreign rights, there’s a significant scramble going on for territory. In exchange for translating your work, publishers want exclusive rights to publish in their territory. And if an English language version of your book is readily available in their local Kindle store, chances are they’ll not only pass on ebook translation rights, but on print rights as well. That spells a potentially significant loss of revenues for authors, especially independents.

Too many aspiring authors, anxious to get their work “out there” have only a dim understanding of just what rights they’re giving up in signing Kindle’s direct publishing contract, and unfortunately, many independent houses now insist on “worldwide” rights as a means of skirting the whole issue.

It’s an area of the industry that raises a lot of questions, and most of those questions don’t have any easy answers. But make no mistake, Amazon’s wholesale distribution practices and new Kindle stores are for the good of Amazon, not individual authors. Most important is for authors to be aware of their rights, and to find publishers and representatives willing to protect them in the global marketplace. Negotiate in your own best interests. Ask if your agent or publisher has contacts or partners in the foreign rights community. We certainly have those contacts at Village Green, but many don’t.

NEVER sign away world rights unless you have to. Some agents cave on it just to make the deal and some publishers will try and convince you that translation and subrights are just not an issue unless you have a track record. But that’s just not true. If you’re in it for the long term, the potential for foreign rights sales is just as important for your first book as your last one.

For more good reasons to keep your eye on amazon, read the following:


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Quantity and Quality by Teresa Kennedy

Yes I know, we all love our gadgets. Computers, smartphones blogs, texts, tweets and social networks have us connected in a way that we’ve never been before.

Honestly, I don’t think I ever would have finished a manuscript without the advent of the personal computer. Word processing takes a good deal of the drudgery out of writing, changing those names, correcting the typos, not to mention doing the research. Knowledge truly is power and the ability of our machines to put whole worlds of knowledge at our fingertips is really awe inspiring.

The problem being that all that information and social networking can keep writers and editors both awfully busy. We live in a world of more or less instant results and it’s that same point-and-click mentality that can really wreak havoc on the creative quality of our work.

As much as the world would like us to believe that creativity is somehow inextricably linked with productivity, quite the opposite is true. An author can write one book or fifty, yet we are continually urged to greater and greater amounts of output, to make more sales, gain more fans and build our networks.

But a good novel just isn’t about how many words it contains, or how fast the author wrote them. Some books take longer than others to write. Programs that insist you can write a novel in a month if you just produce X amount of words per day can be a valuable exercise in discipline, but they don’t necessarily result in quality books, any more than being able to draw that lady on the matchbook makes you a great artist.

I once had an author whose manuscript I had edited text me a corrected scene from her smartphone. She was so obsessed with keeping to her schedule, she wanted immediate feedback in order to proceed to the next “correction.”

Ambition is great of course, but sometimes the best thing you can do for your writing is to really take some time to track your own creative process. Where is your inspiration coming from? Chances are, your best ideas arise out of what I like to call “mental free time.” Day dreaming, night dreams, staring off into space, meditation, exercise—whatever it takes. Turn off the phone and (gasp!) even the computer--long enough to detach from the clamor of modern life and find that space of not-thinking, not-doing and not-worrying too much about how to make that scene come out.

As much as writing is a conscious process in the sense that it necessitates applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair, typing away and getting that darned book finished, the creative process is largely unconscious, mysterious and full of wonder. The unconscious provides a rich, nearly inexhaustible resource, where ideas flourish and dreams are real. It’s a place where so-called writer’s block doesn’t exist and your characters take on a life of their own. Truly, I think every writer lives for that creative moment when the story begins to tell itself and the actual writing becomes almost secondary. It takes some work to get there, but it’s a magical moment, indeed.

So we have to make the effort to connect with that creativity. It’s in each of us, always. But for most of us, that means disconnecting from our technology, at least long enough to remember that productivity isn’t everything. It’s isn’t the quantity of the words on the page, it’s the quality of the ideas those words represent.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Voice: What Is It?

    I had an author I’ve been working with query me as to just what it meant when we talk about the writer’s voice. She’d been doing a lot of internet reading on the subject, and not surprisingly, discovered lot of conflicting information.

    At its simplest, the term “voice” means that everyone's writing needs to be different from everyone else’s. And the process of developing a narrative voice all boils down to a question of choices. Every writer makes choices --about the story they choose to tell, their topics, their choice of words, the details of character and scene; and how they begin, or end, their book. All those different choices in turn determine the collective effect their story has on the reader.

    While it’s often referred to  “tone” or “mood" or even “style,” your narrative always tells the reader something about your personality and the entirely unique way you see the world. That means your writing choices need to be conscious ones. The problem arises when you discover choices aren’t always made consciously, but rather are the result of idioms and idiosyncracies that have a way of creeping where they don’t belong. Readers are extraordinarily perceptive creatures. They can feel a writer hesitate, or struggle through a passage that isn’t quite there yet.

    When it comes to strategies for developing a more authentic voice though, there are a few rules to follow. 

    First and foremost, care about what you’re writing.That may sound fatuous, but face it, if you don’t care, your audience won’t either. You may have the most brilliantly conceived dystopian horror fest ever to hit Microsoft Word, but if you’re not into that sort of thing, your readers will know. Writing is not manufacture; there’s a subtle interaction between author and reader that happens somewhere between the lines. If you’re faking it, you will be found out.

    Express yourself honestly. Be yourself on the page. If everyone felt the same way about everything, we’d all tend to do and say and think the same things. But our feelings about things are what make us unique. Beginning writers very often reach for a tone or style that they believe is more “literary” than how they would normally express themselves. Some try to imitate the style of authors they admire. While there’s nothing wrong with experimenting with different styles, the key is consistency. If chapter twelve sounds like it was written by an entirely different writer than chapter two, you might be in trouble. If you want to be true, you have to start by being true to yourself.

    The stronger your feelings, the better. Do your own attempts at comedy actually make you laugh? Do you actually come to tears when you kill off a character? If they do, chances are you’re in the zone required for a really authentic voice.

    Be original. One can argue that there’s nothing new under the sun, but to say that something is original is simply to say that we haven’t seen it done quite this way before. There’s a difference about it that is ultimately the result of the confidence and willingness of the author to convey a sense of personality on the page. When a reader finishes a book by a favorite author, they frequently feel as though they’ve gotten to know that person. While it isn’t entirely true, that quality of intimacy is an important ingredient in developing an original and unique voice.

    Match your tone to your audience. A white paper on global warming isn’t going to have the same tone as a young adult rite of passage. A romance is not a mystery. I can’t say it often enough, but the voice you choose for your writing must match not just your purpose, but your audience. They want to get to know you, so it only stands to reason you should get to know them.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Double Standards by Teresa Kennedy

You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you are going, because you might not get there.
- Yogi Berra

     Publishing puts you in touch with all kinds of interesting people, but never so much or so many as when you advertise that you are seeking novel-length submissions.

    Call it a sign of the times, but in the past few days, Village Green’s website has received a number of queries, almost none of which would be considered appropriate were we a more traditional venue. I get queries that demand references before I even see their book; I am asked whether we have ever infringed on an author’s copyright and I even had one note insist that no “reputable” publisher would charge for editorial or promotional services.

    Babes in the woods, poor dears.

    As a niche publisher and something of a hybrid in an ever-changing industry, we offer a full range of services both for those wishing to self-publish (whether electronically, or in print) and those wishing to pursue more traditional publishing outlets. Those services include development and editorial; design services, pre and post publication support, agent and submissions help, book reviews and publicity services.

In addition, we are also seeking to build a select list of titles for our own catalog. But just because a book isn’t right for our list doesn’t mean it can’t find success elsewhere.

    The interesting thing about many of the queries we get lately, is that they all seem to be informed by an overriding suspicion that as a relatively new company and an industry hybrid there is something inherently suspect about us. That we charge reasonable and entirely appropriate fees for our services seems to make us doubly so.

    We started this company with one mission—that was to see deserving authors published. As a 30 year veteran of this industry, both as an author and editor, when a former editorial client invited me in, I began the venture with eyes wide open. I’m not going to get rich at this; I’m not going to get famous, and it’s going to take time.

    Part of the illusion that pervades the unpublished author community these days is that those realities just don’t apply. Further, any and all publishers must now somehow justify their existence, as though we were all just one more evil corporation waiting to abuse the unsuspecting.

    And yet I ask you, if you were trying to get your book published with Doubleday or Random House, would you insist on seeing your editor’s resume before you made changes? If an agent recommended further editorial help before taking you on, would you consider them a rip-off? When you call a cab to get you to your destination, do you demand the cabbie produce his license to drive?

    Look, I know this isn’t an easy business, but that’s no reason to approach a prospective publisher with a chip on your shoulder. That’s one sure way to get nowhere.

    Whether writing is your passion, your art or your hobby, in the end publishing is a business. Businesses make money, and sometimes the best money is an investment in yourself.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Perfect Pitch

The best novel in the world isn’t going to capture the attention of an agent or editor if you don’t know how to pitch it. And the “pitch” is just exactly that. When constructing your queries, responding to calls for submissions, or looking for representation for your work, it’s easy for the uninitiated to make some fatal mistakes. Keep in mind that most agents and editors are powering through at least 200 queries a week, usually many more. More importantly, they have one and only one burning question in their minds as they do: Can I sell it? So for better or worse, your queries need to somehow address that single question. You are not selling yourself, your background, the astonishing intricacies of your plot or the compelling details of the character development. You are not pleading, coaxing or begging to have your genius recognized. You job is to intrigue them enough to make them want to see more. That is the essence of a perfect pitch. Step One: The Hook With so many queries running through the average agent’s or editor’s mailbox on any given day, if you don’t capture their attention in the first line or so, chances are they won’t read much past it. Thus, your hook can pose a compelling question relevant to your novel’s premise; you can compare your work to other bestsellers in the genre, or you can insist that your novel goes where no novel has every gone before. Your choice, but don’t be cute, don’t try to be funny and don’t try to otherwise divert their attention from the business at hand. Regardless of how you frame it though, hook them you must. Do NOT begin by telling them how long it took you to write it, who recommended that you write them, or how frustrating it is to find good help these days. Neither should you introduce yourself by telling them their business, i.e, “Paranormal fiction is flying off the shelves.” Everybody knows that. Step Two: The Jist Two short paragraphs at most, and hard as hell to write. More specifically, the body of your letter should address the three principle elements of your story—the protagonist, the setting and the plot. Period. Paragraph number two is all about the plot development. “After joining forces, X and Y struggle against the forces of evil embodied by A,B and C in their quest for the Grail. ” You do not need to let them know the detail of how the plot is resolved, only that is it resolved. Which should then be followed by a memorable sort of summary: “Their lives will be forever changed with the revelation that not every Prophecy is fated to come true.” That’s it, that’s all. No mas. That your characters take a side trip to Atlanta, or attend their 20th high school reunion may be all very well and good, but it doesn’t mean a thing who somebody who hasn’t read your book. So skip it. Step Three: Your Bio Here’s where too many authors make the mistake of trying to oversell themselves, rather than relying on their pitch to do the work for them. Many will include all their publication credits, how they’ve been writing for 19 years while the kids were asleep, and even their “day jobs”. If you blog as financial editor but your novel has nothing to do with finance, skip it. The key to imparting information about yourself is to only impart the information that is relevant to your novel. You can get friendly once they accept your manuscript. Close your query with the offer to send sample chapters or a complete manuscript. Let them know how long the manuscript is, and thank them for their time. Sign it, include your contact information and voila! Perfect pitch. Need help? See our sponsor page http://www.villagegreenpressLLC.com is offering a new AGENT LINK service. Special pricing for a limited time only!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Editorial Bloopers Hall of Fame: Part One by Teresa Kennedy

Okay writers, let’s face it. We all have our little quirks, idiosyncrasies and those weird, entirely individual conventions in our style of personal expression that have a way of working themselves into our prose.
Sometimes, those can manifest on the page as what is politely called “authorial intrusion”. Other times, they are celebrated as the true essence of the author’s emergent “voice”. Most times, however, they provide unfortunate evidence that the overworked and underappreciated writer maybe should have gotten up from the computer and gone outside for more fresh air and sunshine until they stopped writing long enough to figure out what they were actually trying to say.
Remember folks, it’s not the number of words you write, but the quality and precision of those words that count. So to honor some of the most prevalent, and in some cases, downright spectacular crimes ever committed in the name of literature, we present the following examples, each in its own weird way, worthy of a mention in our Editorial Bloopers Hall of Fame:
The Directionally Challenged: “She looked up at the ceiling, as she sat down in her chair.” Here’s the thing: Ceilings are always UP and readers tend to know this. So are stars, the sky and indeed the firmament. Similarly, it is very difficult for a character to sit anywhere but down. Any and all chairs, sofas, settees tend to be constructed for that convenience. The only possible exception is when a character sits up from a prone position, at which time it is almost never necessary to specify what they are sitting up on. Surprisingly, readers are also never interested when characters “walk across the floor”. If they are indoors, there’s always a floor and everybody knows that.
Nouns are Not Verbs: Sure, you may insist upon poetic license, you might call it stylistically experimental, but the fact is, if your readers share a common language, we’re all fairly familiar with the basics of how it’s supposed to work. In much the same way that you can flavor tofu to taste like steak, but everybody still knows it’s tofu, dressing a noun up in verb’s clothing just doesn’t cut it. Therefore, sentences such as “Myrna fisted her hand.” Or “Gregory lipped a smile,” are enough to give the average reader serious pause. And guess what? When a reader pauses, they’ve stopped reading.
Body Parts: It is an unwritten rule of editorial thumb that unless you’ve authored some sort of zombie apocalypse, body parts should not react independently of the characters they’re attached to. “Her head swiveled at Alfonse’s entrance, as her chest heaved” might mean anything from torrid attraction to something out of The Exorcist, but unless we know the parts are indeed attached to the character in question, we have no way of discerning just what Milady’s reaction to Alfonse might consist of. Too often, a writer will zone in on the part in question thinking to clue us in, (her head is moving so she must be thinking) rather than specifying what’s actually going on, saying things such as, ”Her hand made a little gesture,” instead of actually coming out and saying if she was doing the royal wave or flipping somebody off. It never, ever works.
Winkin’, Blinkin’ and Nods. Truly the bane of a line editor’s existence, if we had the proverbial nickel for every time we blue-lined one of these, we probably wouldn’t be blogging. “He nodded his head,” “She blinked her eyes rapidly. “ “Ferdinand couldn’t resist another wink of his eye.” If you don’t find this device redundant, just try nodding something besides your head, or winking or blinking some bit of anatomy that isn’t your eye. See what we mean? Wink, wink.

Tune in again for Part Two of The Bloopers Hall of Fame!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Are Ghosts the New Vampire?

Teresa and I noticed a trend in horror novels lately: ghosts have become core characters in lieu of vampires. I find this very interesting because many have had experiences with what they would call a ghost or spirit whereas the vampire universe is relatively closed, or at least seems to be. I suppose enough people watch the Halloween specials on Discovery or A&E featuring real-life practitioners of vampirism, but I would bet if you approached 25 people on a dark street in, say, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and asked whether they had ever seen a ghost or experienced "spirit" activity, you would receive many affirmative responses.

So we're going to put it out to our readers: are ghosts the new vampire? And do you have a ripping yarn to tell about ghosts, vampires or both? Whatever your answer, as Halloween is fast approaching, we would love to post some good tales and get your opinion.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Why Rejection Letters Aren't Necessarily a Bad Thing

Face it, we have all received the dreaded rejection letter. I don't know but there is something about receiving a paper letter that makes it more "real" than an e-mail - perhaps it is the fact you can physically tear paper into bits - but whatever form the letter takes, the sting can hurt. It can also make you do one of two things: step up and figure out whether there is a flaw in your product that you can fix; or pout and blame it on the ineptitude of the author of said rejection. Clearly the second option feels better for about five minutes. Then most professionals would move back to option one.

Some rejection letters give clues regarding what might have gone south for you. Perhaps the agent or publishing house doesn't represent or print the type of story you have. That goes back to your research and not their lack of ability to see the next bestseller. If that is your problem, then perhaps it would behoove you to actually pay attention to the statement of what a given agent/publisher says they will accept.

Often the letter will tell you specific details about why your work was not accepted. Perhaps it was too long; or the writing good but not salable. It happens. And it can help you write better.

The question is how will you handle it? Because how you decide to cope with this business of rejection is important. It is also critical to your ability to enter the publishing fray for the long haul. Expect rejection, but do not court it by submitting things too quickly and without forethought for the recipient. If the entity asks for 5 pages, don't send the whole manuscript. If they say they only publish e-books, don't ask for print copies. These seem silly, but as much as these points beg the obvious, you would be surprised how many people do not read details regarding submissions. And, bottom line, not everyone can be an author published traditionally. Sometimes enough rejections despite your best efforts to make a work salable is a clue that being an author is not your forte.

Regardless, it is important to accept receiving rejections as part of the business of writing professionally.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Recommended Reading Corner

Sometimes an aspiring author needs a little humor and advice all in one wonderful package to reference:

How Not to Write a Novel: 200 Mistakes to Avoid at All Costs If You Ever Want to Get Published by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman
Penguin, 272pp

Available on amazon.com

Here is a marvelous excerpt.:


Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Difference Between a Good Book and a Great One

In the course of my checkered history in publishing I’ve dealt with a whopping number of egos, personalities, talents and not so talented types and I can tell you for certain that if there’s anything all publishing folks have in common, be they writer, agent, editor or publisher—it’s the quintessential search for The Holy Grail of the industry, a REALLY GREAT BOOK, hereinafter referred to as an RGB.

Now because of the various egos involved, all the agents, editors, writers and publishers will go through a perfectly enormous of amount of chest- thumping, posturing, bean- counting and opinion-mongering about just what constitutes an RGB. Any number of experienced and not-so-experienced people are only too happy to pipe up and offer advice about producing that hottest of properties. They will tell you that it’s a matter of capturing the “bestseller formula”, of plot, luck, timing, subject matter, category, perfecting your craft, finding your audience, establishing a social platform, adequate editing, exquisite marketing, a picture perfect format; who you know, not what you know; and last but not least, a great cover design.

In point of fact, all of the above contribute to, but do not necessarily constitute ,the RGB. A really fine fictional craftsman can find fans and sell copies without ever getting credit for having written an RGB. A brilliant marketer can make hay while the proverbial sun shines, hold live internet chats and willing authors will be enthralled with tales of his or her success. But it doesn’t mean they have written an RGB.

In my younger days, I devoted no end of effort into discovering the secret to producing the RGB: What IS that elusive thing that makes the publisher buy it, makes the public hanker for it, and makes your agent rich enough to retire to the Hamptons simply because he or she “discovered “it?

The only answer I ever managed, after millions of hours of research and countless hours of writing, paying my publishing dues and so forth was, hmmm--perhaps all these experts spend their off hours reading tarot cards and entrails? I mean, who knew?
Many years later, I’m beginning to discover that I might have gotten closer to the truth than I’d imagined. Because if there’s anything that RGB’s have in common with the business of publishing it is, that like tarot cards and entrails, there is always something about them that depends to a large extent on intuition.

The psychologist Carl Jung defined intuition as "perception via the unconscious" while Thomas Merton said the artist has a subjective identification with an object that is intensified and so can "see" the object's spiritual reality.

Any writer makes a host of essentially intuitive choices in the course of writing a book, of course. But it’s not so much the ability to “write what you know” that defines a great book, it’s the ability to tap your intuition and write what we ALL know that really counts. What readers respond to without always knowing why, is that spiritual reality that goes beyond the specifics of plot or formula or character and enters the realm of our common experience as human beings.

For a writer, the real key to what we call the creative process lies in that moment when those characters stop doing and saying what you want them to do and start moving through your story on their own. It lies not so much in your ability to write from a well constructed outline, but to depart from it. That takes courage, a certain amount of skill and a fair command of your craft, but it also takes the ability to really listen to that inner voice.

So the next time you find yourself obsessing over how many words you’ve written today, or whether Marcie’s eyes are the same color on page 230 as they were on page 12; or what the next wave in paranormal fashion might consist of, take a step back and read between those lines. What you find there is almost more important than the words on the page.

It isn’t magic—but it’s close.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The photo

If anyone is wondering, Lisa took the photo from the top of a butte in Nebraska. Nice sunset, eh?

Monday, August 22, 2011

New Challenges Facing the New Wave of "Kindle Authors"

Hey, I'll be the first to admit that I love being a Kindle author. I know Teresa does, too. It seems to be like the wild west of publishing these days, and boundaries are being pushed every which way. And this is a good thing. But the sheer quantity of material available on any of the e-book platforms is truly daunting. And there are more than a few stinkers out there. But for the most part, it is a positive thing for both authors and their burgeoning readership.

Yet still I wonder if and when the Kindle flame will burn out. I remember not too long ago-ca. 1990 or so-when e-books were the wave of the future. Several publishing companies created fledgling e-platforms so people could download a book onto their desktop. And the trend went...nowhere. Until Amanda Hocking made the news and Kindle commercials became, well, cute. Booyah, there you go: Kindle-ification of America. Soon NOOK, smashwords, iPad....the plethora of applications, platforms and services exploded into the American consciousness like the Big Bang of the prose industry.And it is realistic to say that desktops will soon phase out in favor of the pad applications even for every day use.

I feel like such a plebeian because, well, I don't actually own a Kindle or similar device...ok, yet. The debate is whether to get a color Kindle, a NOOK...or iPad. Choices, Sophie, choices. 

Still I enjoy browsing the titles and seeing what's out there. It's really exciting. And it makes me wonder how one stays competitive when so many new titles appear each day. In the old print and ink days, there was a benchmark: number of copies sold. With the low pricing and emphasis on cool cover art, even mediocre titles are selling, and far exceeding the benchmarks that used to-theoretically at least-be set by a higher quality of writing.

So where does this leave both the reading and writing industry? Certainly new authors will have to be multimedia savvy; proficient in code and formatting numerous platforms for e-books. And it isn't an easy task, even for a twenty-something. One will have to have access to ever-evolving cover art - are flash covers too futuristic right now? I don't think so. I think that would be hot actually.

We have genre morphing where certain distinct genres blend together into a new hybrid that works more often than not. And why not? Can one blithely categorize life into genre bits? Of course not, but the business that loves to label things "a" and "b" will have to accept "abz". And that will be a challenge for publishers. The authors seem perfectly content to field that ball.

As an author, you will have to be less about the greatness of you and more about the good storyline that pops in a mini blurb. And yeah, I'm still stuck on the flash cover thing. But even the static cover will have to pop louder than any others. I suggest finding the good professionals and hiring that work out. There is nothing worse than pixelated, goofy looking covers to really hack you off. Even if the writing is good, covers do sell titles.

Authors also have to be competitive about pricing their product appropriately. You sure you want to charge what the local bookstore charges for a paperback? I would study the other authors in your area and see what they are charging. Keep it real.

Yep, it is true: Kindle authors are moving into a cool new wave of publishing. I am pleased to be riding that wave. We'll see if I get tanked or stay on top for a while. Either way, the ride will have been worth the effort.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Publisher on the Grill: A Series of Informative Questions

An aspiring author queried Village Green Press regarding how we do business with authors. Our responses are below the questions. We thought you might like to know.

1. Do you do a final edit of the manuscript before it goes to print, & is there a charge to the author?

We don't automatically accept every submission, but only those we feel have potential in today's competitive market. If we feel a manuscript has that potential, but isn't quite ready for "prime time" we do offer an array of editorial services to help get it where it needs to be that are billed separately before we agree to any publishing contract. It's common knowledge in the industry that well edited books sell better, and we work with you in partnership to achieve that goal.

2. The cover design, is it included or again is there a charge to the Author?

Good cover design is a specialized skill. While we work with authors who may bring us previously designed covers, and do listen to their input, we only publish books with covers that are consistent with current commercial standards. Should you be accepted for our program, the cover design is included in the quote for your particular publishing package.

3. What is the percentage you give your author?

Our royalty percentages vary for various publishing products (print, e-book, foreign rights and translations, book club sales and so forth) Generally speaking royalties fall in the 50-70 percent range.

4. How do you determine the price of a book?

By calculating the projected number of copies we expect to sell, and comparing it with similar titles' prices. We feel that titles with a lower price point tend to make up in volume what might be gained in possible revenue for a higher priced product.

5. Do you have a marketing team,if yes is there a charge to the author to use it?

Our authors can choose from a range of adjunct paid marketing services in addition to those included in our basic publishing package. Typical examples of such services include, press releases, book reviews, author websites and blogs, social networking, scheduling online author interviews, book signings, public appearances etc.

6. What does a typical time line look at from acceptance to actual print?

Four to six weeks.

7. Do you offer any feed back to your author after a submission?

Our goal is again to support the author all the way through the publishing and post-publishing process. We understand that in today's competitive environment some books take quite awhile to gain an audience and offer our authors regular and continued support through that process.
8. Do you sell on any of the larger sites, example, Amazon,Barnes & Nobles, Books a million?
9. Do you charge the author to make their book available in ebook?

Every author has the option to include e-book publishing in their initial contract package, or to contract separately for e-book publication. Charges depend on their choices, but as e-book publications exceed print publication by 147 percent last quarter, we do encourage author to issue an electronic version of their books.
10. How committed are you to making sure you have done all you could do to help your author's success?

We consider ourselves to be in a true partnership with our authors. While we can't always predict what's going to be the next bestseller, we do believe that good books always find a following, and work with you to help establish your reputation as an author.One that will continue a career over many books, not just one.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

How to be an Aspiring Author by Teresa Kennedy

As someone with more than 30 years in this industry as an editor, author, packager, and manuscript consultant I’ve worked both sides of the desk. And I can tell you for sure that if there is one constant in the publishing industry, it’s that the rules are always changing. Less than two short years ago, so called “self-publishing” was considered anathema to a writer’s career. That is of course, until authors began to succeed at it. Now, even the most staid and power-suited publishing conglomerates are scrambling for a piece of the pie. E-books and self published titles with the right kind of sales can be suddenly transformed in whopping print deals, blogs become books, and translation rights have truly gone global. The truth is, the great free-for-all that is today’s publishing landscape holds a wealth of possibilities for aspiring authors everywhere.

For a newbie, those possibilities can be overwhelming. And the blogs and newsletters and advice columns are chock full of conflicting advice about what to write, who to write to, how to edit and how to be “professional,” or held to some largely invisible, yet vaguely articulated standard.

Let’s face it, an amateur is not a professional and no amount of professional posturing is going to change that. But that doesn’t mean your work shouldn’t be published either. To be a professional simply means getting paid for what you do; it does not mean changing who you are and what you write about in order to get there.
There are some rules that never change though, and in the interest of helping along your process, here are my Top Ten for aspiring authors everywhere.
          Write a good book. Easier said than done, I know, but the fact of the matter is, I see a lot of material written by folks who see their book as a tool to market themselves, not as a story or collection of information that has to stand on its own. Bottom line: If it’s not a good book, it doesn’t matter how big your following or social platform is, it will tank anyway.
            Don’t rely on feedback from friends, relatives and other aspiring writers. While feedback groups are great and writers’ groups can certainly serve as a lively way to get much needed support in what can be a very lonely job, the keyword there is support.  But support is not the same as a professional , objective opinion. Taking editorial advice from someone who hasn’t published a book is like hiring a mechanic who can’t drive a car—doesn’t mean it’s wrong, but it’s all theoretical.
            Begin at the beginning. Too many first and second drafts begin by introducing characters, explaining the background, depicting a series of events leading up to the point where something actually happens and so forth. As one very informative writing teacher has said: Know what the chase is, and cut to it. Any background can be worked in later on.

4.       If you can’t explain what your story is about in 200 words or less, you don’t yet know what your story is about, so it’s probably best to wait before you present it to others.

5.       Few aspiring writers realize the damage the wrong verb use does to their work, not to mention their sentence structure. Consider the following: “I started to turn the doorknob. “ “I began to think.” Go over your prose with a fine-toothed comb and get rid of all the started tos, wanted tos, and began tos, et al. Either your character turns the knob or they don’t; either they think or they don’t. But if the author can’t be more precise, you may find your readers 'beginning to yawn.'

6.       If your manuscript is presented in Courier, you are broadcasting to the world that you are amateur. Period. Similarly, if you have preformatted your manuscript to appear more like a printed book, if it’s single spaced or you have not paginated it, everyone will know that you have not taken the time to discover how to format your work appropriately. So even if you are an amateur, you don’t have to look like one. ‘Nuff said.

7.       A story takes place on the page, not inside a character’s mind, with the possible exception of say, Kafka. Unless your literary aspirations tend in that direction however, too much by way of internal monologue makes for piles of rejections. We want to know what happens to a character, not what they thought happened to them.

8.       Please, oh, please. Don’t be a copycat. Dare to be different. It is true many books follow a formula, but do keep in mind that if there are seventeen thousand vampire books on the market, yet another vampire book by an unknown author isn’t likely to succeed. There are fashions in the literary industry just as there are in any other industry. But last year’s fashion is always yesterday’s news.

9.       Like any other endeavor, you gotta have heart. Find your authentic voice and use it. Technique can be taught, and craft can be perfected. But a heartfelt story is something people recognize even under a ton of bad technique, and that’s what really counts.

10.   If you’re seeking an editor, an agent or a publisher, find somebody with whom you can form a real relationship, and don’t rely solely on their reputation or track record. Experience certainly helps, but these people are ultimately working FOR you, not the other way around. So it’s important that you believe in and trust them almost as much as you believe in yourself!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Is Writing Advice All About the "Don'ts"? By Lisa Adams

Okay, I was perusing a series of blogs about the craft of writing the other day and something really started to stand out: so much of the advice given was focused on a negative premise: "Don't do....." Wow, why would you want to approach the front door of the house of writing, let alone knock on it?

Don't get me wrong, there are some obvious things you would not want to do as a professional in any field. Paramount among these things is approaching any project without being prepared. I would no sooner go to court without knowing the case than you would send an agent a manuscript excerpt without editing it first, right?

But it seems one would want to be careful about taking a lot of the "don't" advice to heart. Some of the don't-fest folks seem to be adept at trying to get published, but have never actually been published. With a negative and adversarial attitude, it's really no wonder.

And there is such a wide variety of inaccurate "don't" advice out there:
"Don't ever sign on with new publishing companies because they're out to rip you off."
"Don't self publish or you will spontaneously combust."
"Don't ever believe a publishing company that says they are doing something new - old wheels that aren't broke don't need fixing; and publishing will never change - there are no new ideas out there."
"Don't ever send an agent something they don't represent."

As in the law, there are exceptions to every sweeping general statement about publishing.

I have a wonderful new concept: be yourself always and from the beginning. Submit manuscripts in the form requested by the agent and/or publisher. Then be patient and see what happens. If you want to self publish, do so. Because everyone can tell you "don't," but why not give it a shot if that's what you want to do and it makes you feel good?   

And if you are serious about writing for an extended period of time and further, writing more than one book, you will naturally make the effort to portray yourself as a professional. I think you would be far better served by actually speaking to editors and authors at writers' conferences to get a feel for the business, yes, business, of publishing. And once you know something about that the "don't" factor actually should become self evident. In other words, nobody needs to tell you, you can figure it out yourself.

I still find the best resource for information about publishers, agents, and editors to be Jeff Herman's "Writer's Guide to Book Editors, Publishers & Literary Agents." This is what you would call a primary research source, and a good one.

Does all of this naysaying the naysayers mean you shouldn't pay attention to some of what they say? No. All I am saying is invest a little of yourself in the process of decision making about your own future and you should do just fine regardless of the outcome.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Contracts and Widgets

One thing any would-be published author will encounter in one form or another is a contract. Lawyers are scary to many people. Obviously if you receive correspondence from one, unless you are and heir to a vast fortune the likelihood is it is not good news. Add to this the inevitable and never-out-of-style lawyer shows and movies...and Congress...well hell, we'd say you have good reason to be cautious. But contracts are a legal inevitability if you want to: (a) protect your rights as an author; and (b) receive a fair shake in the royalties department.

One word every would-be author should commit to memory: boilerplate. This is a legal term meaning language in contracts that is there and never changes. Typical boilerplate provisions include but are not limited to: how disputes are resolved; which state's law controls interpretation of the contract provisions; who the contract is between (author and publisher); transfer of rights; exclusivity of rights to publisher; and others. Usually these terms are what one would call non-negotiable.

There is usually room for real negotiation with a publisher if the publisher is an indie press vs. a big house; and where the product is an e-book vs. a hard copy product. The rationale behind this is a big house has no vested interest in negotiating anything. That entity has been around for a while and you are literally one of hundreds of authors. That entity figures you will be happy just to have the name associated with your product and so they, for the most part, will dictate the terms. You may have some say regarding the cover design, but even that is unlikely.

An indie press, on the other hand, will likely be more willing and able to negotiate royalty splits on things like e-books because unlike a hard copy run, e-books do not require actual per-page costs. When a big house or indie press goes to press literally, they are looking at certain up-front costs to print the product before it even leaves the distributor's facility. Many of the big houses use Lightning Source (a POD outfit - no matter what they may say, it's true - Simon & Schuster is one of their big clients). If you want to see what we mean, go to their website: www.lightningsource.com.

What points of negotiation are not considered off limits? As previously stated: e-book royalties; certain primary and secondary royalties on hard copy print runs depending on the publisher's cost; method of dispute resolution; how long the publisher has exclusive rights to your title; how the product is to be delivered to the publisher; for of notice for termination of the contract.

If you receive a publishing contract, do not rely on yourself to be able to interpret the legalities of the document. Get off your butt and have a friend of a friend who is an attorney look it over. I guarantee they will see things in it you will miss. A classic example and horror story of what happens when you don't do your homework follows:

Would-be author was offered a contract for her first novel. Publisher said she could have stock warrants in lieu of advance. Author was so excited she signed on. Silly author - a stock warrant allowed her to buy the number of shares reflected in the warrants if publisher ever became a publicly-traded corporation...which of course it never did. So the "advance" was worthless and, in fact, she would have to pay for it. Ooops.

It is also a good idea to do due diligence on the publisher. Does this mean if a company is a start-up it sucks? Obviously not. It means they won't have a track record yet. So research the people who started the company. Do they have industry credibility? Have they ever been published? There is a big bad world of shady operators out there, but don't judge all publishers by that standard. Sometimes the most advantageous contract terms will come from the smaller and start-up publishers because they seek clients and want to build credibility. Besides, who's to say one should instantly reject an indie company that wants to do things a little differently than other companies? After all, they said e-books "died out" about seven years ago...hmmmm..

Also do not write off indie houses that have traditional and self-publishing capabilities. Hey, Harlequin did it a few years ago and rocked the publishing world...but they still did it and we doubt their readership changed or their corporate board suffered any from the added revenue. Publishing is a business and the goal of both parties is to make money. Some authors who want more control over their product prefer self publishing but will use the services of an indie press to achieve that goal - it's a hybrid type of publishing contract. And they are valid.

It seriously does not take a rocket scientist to write a contract - there are plenty of templates out there to use - but if, God forbid, you wind up in a dispute with the publisher over the terms of that contract, you will spend a lot of money on attorneys to resolve it. So take some preventative measures and make sure you understand the document you are signing.

At the same time, though, it is wise not to push the envelope of chutzpah merely because you are dealing with an indie house. Somehow there is an idea floating around out there that an indie house has to do things on the author's terms or they will never "make it." Here's a big news flash: it ain't so. What will have happened is you closed a door on an opportunity.

Have some decorum and approach your contract negotiations in good faith - protect your interests; but do not perceive the publisher as the enemy who is automatically out to rip you off. Sure the publisher needs to make money - they will be selling your product. But guaranteed your product will be better once professionally edited and with a spiff cover than when it arrived as an e-mail attachment, right? 

In short, don't let the contract make you lose sleep; but read it with an intelligent and logical approach to what you wish to achieve in partnership with the publisher. After all, there's a lot of litigation out there that could have been prevented by taking a little time to review and negotiate.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Paperless Trail: Should You Publish Your Book Electronically? by Teresa Kennedy

Electronic reading devices have spawned a whole new wave in publishing and self-publishing in the past years. For the first time in the industry, we saw electronic books, or e books, surpass the output of printed books last year. Not only are e books out publishing print titles, they are outselling them, too.
There are a number of reasons behind the rise in popularity of e books: Consumers across the board have a strong desire to “go green” and scale back on printed materials, e books are eminently portable, easily accessible, and the cost is usually much more reasonable than that of printed books. The advent of amazon.com’s Kindle reader sparked some healthy rivalry among its competitors, and now Barnes and Noble’s Nook Book; iPad’s Apple Reader and a host of others offer e book buyers a huge range of titles in a variety of easy to use, instantly downloadable formats.

Too, there are a host of e book services available for self-publishers who may want to circumvent more traditional publishing outlets. Self-publishing is relatively easy, inexpensive and offers prospective authors a much larger percentage of royalties on their work than might be gained elsewhere, ranging from 60-100 percent. The press is only too happy to tout the phenomenal success that some e book authors enjoy. YA maven Amanda Hocking used e books to launch her career, and according to some estimates earned upwards of one million dollars in less than ten months selling her titles at 99 cents per copy. She in turn used those sales to land a healthy deal to turn those e books into print. Blogger JA Konrath reportedly earned $68,000 in one month through his e book sales, and thriller author James Patterson tops the e book sales ranking with an excess of 3 billion copies of his titles sold.

As impressive as those numbers can be however, it’s important to remember that for all the e book hype, there are legions of un-successful e book authors, The truth is , it’s simply not enough to put your work “out there” and expect an instant return. Some books are more appropriate for e book publication than others; and some authors are more able to cope with what self-publishing demands of them than others.
So to help you better make the decision as to whether your book would make a successful e book, let’s consider the following points:
Is your book really ready for publication?

Has it been thoroughly edited, proofread and formatted? As the e book market grows, so does the competition. Can it hold its own against all the other books out there? Though the folks in your writing group may think its brilliant, and your Mom is telling all her friends, readers are not going to want to slog through a boring story or a less than professional quality presentation just because you chose to publish it. Your story needs to be appealing and engaging, your manuscript needs to be letter perfect, and you need to have a good enough grasp of the content to be able to sell it to others. Once a book is published, it’s not so easy to un-publish, so be as sure of yourself as you can be before you start. If you were a baker, you wouldn’t launch a new line of cupcakes that were only half-baked, would you?

Find Your Niche

To some extent all books are marketed by category, simply because readers buy books by category. E books may provide a more direct route from the author to a potential reader of their work, but that doesn’t change the rules. Hard core romance fans will not suddenly become aware that you have written a great mystery, and even if they do, they probably won’t buy it. You’ll find fans of young adult fiction read young adult fiction almost exclusively, and so on.
So establishing an appropriate category for your book is all important. If you don’t know what category your book falls into, do some research. Go to a book store and identify the category listings of titles similar to yours. Categories are usually found on the back cover, near the scan code. On the internet, two fairly comprehensive listings can be found at: http://www.authorhouse.com/Bookstore/CategoryBrowser.aspx



A majority of books fall into more than one category, so the more specific you can be when it comes to identifying the content of your book for a specific readership, the more copies you can expect to sell.
E book publishers are only too familiar with the power of correct categorization when it comes to selling books. According to a recent item from mediabistro.com, Apple’s new ipod bookstore features:   “… a highly organized approach to bookselling. Apple has designated about 20 ‘top-level’ categories for books, including ‘Fiction & Literature’, ‘Reference,’ ‘Romance,’ ‘Cookbooks’ and ‘Comics & Graphic Novels.’ Below those categories lie more than 150 sub-categories, including some very specific genres, such as ‘Manga’ under ‘Comics & Graphic Novels,’ ‘Special Ingredients’ under ‘Cookbooks,’ and ‘Etiquette’ under ‘Reference.’”
The classifications will also include extensive subcategories. “Sports and Outdoors” contains 15 different kinds of labels, while “Fiction & Literature” will have 13 subcategories.

Keep in mind though, that some kinds of books will always sell better than others and adjust your expectations for fame and fortune accordingly. You may be writing cutting edge, experimental,  Pulitzer quality literary fiction, but the fact is literary fiction doesn’t often sell as well as some other categories and e books are no different in that respect.

You Really Can Tell a Book by Its Cover

A good book cover captures a potential reader’s attention through a combination of color, font and image. It gives a clue to content, and should distinguish itself from other books in the category.  If you’re not graphically skilled, it’s best to make the investment in a professional cover designer. Most are reasonably priced and more than willing to listen to your input. Dear to your heart as your book may be, don’t get too wedded to a specific vision or to seeing your name in the largest type possible. A good book cover is a composition of word and image that conveys necessary information without allowing one element to overwhelm any other element. Because e books tend to present covers as thumbnails first, it’s important to review your cover design as a thumbnail to see if it works. Once your ebook is published,  it’s also important  to add larger images to your storefront page on amazon or Barnes and Noble when possible. Finally, unless you are a visual artist yourself, avoid commissioning expensive works or original art or paintings for your book covers. Most cover designers have a more than adequate stock of images from which to choose in their inventory and the expense of original art is unlikely to be worth your investment.


As easy-breezy as most e book publishing platforms can make it sound, formatting your book for publication can get complicated and crossing technologies can seem a lot like crossing the Himalayas.

All e readers are not created equal, and so all formatting venues use different software with important rules to follow. Kindle formats in a very basic HTML; NookBooks has different options for color or black and white; formatting for ipads is more complicated still. And each and every venue will reject your book without hesitation if it’s not formatted correctly. So unless you’re very computer and systems proficient, formatting error free documents for upload is again, best left to the professionals.  Prices for this very basic service can range anywhere from $25.00 to $100 or more depending on the length and graphic complication your book presents, but in my opinion anyway is well worth it.

Keep in mind also that most e-publishers have very limited capability for publishing heavily illustrated works. So if you have plans to publish a photographic retrospective, a history of art, a children’s picture book, your original songs with guitar chords and sheet music, or even a cookbook with illustrations, hold off on an e book version until the technology can catch up.

Have you done the paperwork?

ISBN: Publishing an e book requires that you purchase an ISBN number for each electronic version of your book. The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a 13-digit number that uniquely identifies books and book-like products published internationally. That means your Kindle version will have a different ISBN than your NookBook version, and a third will be required if you choose to publish through a distributor such as Smashwords. Purchasing single ISBNs can get expensive, so if you’re planning on publishing on any scale do purchase multiples at one time for greater cost efficiency. More information and purchase costs can be found here: https://www.myidentifiers.com/

Copyright: Before publication it’s also important to establish that you, the author, own copyright to the work you are about to publish. You should therefore take the time to register your work with the US copyright office, which offers a number of options for both electronic and hard copy filing of your work, with fees ranging from $35.00 to $65.00 per work. For more information see: http://www.copyright.gov/

DRM: Finally, do pay attention as you prepare to e publish your book, to any questions asked regard DRM, or Digital Rights Management. Digital rights management (DRM) is any technological method intended to prevent piracy or illegal content sharing. The three main DRM systems for ebooks are Adobe DRM, Amazon Kindle DRM, and Apple FairPlay DRM. Ebooks in any one of those systems are incompatible with the others, so if the kindle version can’t be read on your buddy’s ipad, you’ll have to publish an ipad version so he can read it. You may choose to enable DRM, or you can choose not to. The important thing is educate yourself as to what those rights mean and how they can be used to your advantage, or not.

What Should it Cost?

There’s currently quite a lively debate in the electronic publishing community about what e books should cost, but the fact of the matter is that as they become more popular, prices have been steadily rising. As traditional publishers join the party with bestselling authors in tow, some command prices of over ten dollars, comparable to a print paperback. Yet volume sales tend to favor lower prices. Who doesn’t like to feel as though they’re getting a deal? So most new authors, anxious to gain exposure, tend to price their titles in the 99 cents to $4.99 range. It’s your choice, of course, but a good rule of thumb is to calculate what you’ve invested thus far against your projected sales over the next six months. If you feel that you can make your money back during that period of time at a $3.99 cover price, go for it.

Are You Social?

E books are published and sold through the internet, and so the internet has to be the principle focus of your marketing efforts as an author. Social networking is the process of connecting with the book buying public, potential readers and fans through avenues such as FaceBook, Twitter, a personal blog, your author’s website, other authors and forums, book clubs and communities of readers around the world. Links, tags, diggs and hashtags will need to become part of your vocabulary, and if the idea of tweeting gives you the heebie jeebies, then maybe e book publishing is not for you.

If that sounds labor-intensive and time consuming, it is. But the social connections you make are essential to getting the word out about your book. Readers of ebooks are a willing audience, but the competition is fierce and getting fiercer. Kindle’s book store is currently carrying nearly a million titles, and e book distributor Smashwords publishes in excess of 5,000 new titles a day. So audience outreach and a solid platform means a lot.

Giving away reader’s copies and encouraging everyone and anyone to post their customer reviews is also invaluable for selling copies, because those reviews are posted right at the point of sale. Many outlets such as Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly are now offering paid review services for independent e book authors as well. If you haven’t the time or patience to launch your own publicity campaign, there are agencies and independent publicists willing to help--for a fee.

Some authors are more inclined to dive into the world of social networking than others, but know that e book marketing will to some extent involve marketing yourself as an author and an expert in your field.  Be willing to give interviews, to review others’ books and to offer insights and information to other writers about what you’ve learned from the process. Paradoxically, the wired world of the internet can actually create a sense of isolation so the more consistent and personal your outreach as an author, the more readers will respond.

Establishing a reputation as an author doesn’t happen overnight. More importantly, it rarely happens with just one book. So even as you publish that first novel, start writing the next one. Readers of e books are especially fond of series, trilogies and books that take a group of characters through a number of episodes or adventures. So when you’re thinking e books, think long term. With time, patience and some necessary effort, you’ll be sure to get your e books happily and successfully published and be well on your way to establishing an audience of willing fans just waiting for your next release.