Monday, April 28, 2008

10 Tips for Attending Book Fairs

As we move into the warmer weather we'll have more chances to display and sell our work at book fairs and other events. Well, it’s one thing when you’re the star of a book signing at Borders or the speaker at the Rotary Club breakfast. It is a very different thing when you’re one of many authors greeting the same potential buyers. When you are invited to attend a book fair, please remember that you are there as part of a community of writers, not a crowd of competitors. Also, remember that you are a guest there. For that reason:

1. Be on time - Often traffic flow can make getting set up in a narrow hall or at a street fair challenging if people don’t abide by the organizer’s set up schedule.

2. Respect your hosts - Every little rule established by the show hosts has a reason. Follow the rules and if you have questions ask them respectfully. You are much more likely to get what you need, and you won’t put them in a bad mood that could affect the rest of us.

3. Don’t pitch to authors - Don’t practice your sales technique on me. I’m not there to talk about your book; I’m there to talk about mine.

4. Don’t ask for trades - It is not my intent to leave the book fair with the same number of books I arrived with, and if I say yes to you I’d feel funny saying no to others. Besides, if I wanted your book I’d offer you money like everyone else.

5. Don’t steal buyers - If someone is already talking to me it is rude to start talking to them about your book. Odds are they don’t want to offend anyone and so they’ll leave with neither book.

6. Stay in your zone - Similarly, don’t stand in front of my table or booth. You have a space assigned to you. When people wander into that area, speak to them. Not before. Absolutely not after.

7. Don’t chase people down - If she was interested in your book she wouldn’t have walked away. If you make her angry she’ll think we’re all like that and will be afraid to speak to anyone.

8. Don’t whine - If you don’t think the organizers advertised enough, or if you don’t like the weather, the venue, the patrons or the rules, keep it to yourself. The rest of us are trying to remain cheerful and positive, because that’s what attracts potential book buyers.

9. Focus on your book - No one wants to hear about your heart transplant, unless perhaps your book is about surviving a heart transplant. Likewise no one cares that you’re a war hero - unless you wrote a war book.

10. Share - your ideas, your thoughts, your lemonade and most of all your enthusiasm. Positive mental attitude is contagious and if you help create a cheerful and pleasant atmosphere, we may even recommend your book to the lady who doesn’t like ours.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

My Agent and Why I Need Her

Susan Gleason is a real-life, honest-to-goodness New York City literary agent. What that means to you probably depends on where you are in your writing career. When I tell some authors they say, “Wow,” like I just told them I won the lottery. Others sneer like I just reminded them of every bad experience they’ve ever had as a writer.

And if I tell you that I e-mailed Susan in early February and she called to reply this week, you might ask why I would put up with such treatment.

The fact is that agents are part of the yin and yang of the publishing world. For example, there are two kinds of publishers: the small press and the majors. You can submit your manuscript to small press publishers and they may read it and even publish it. Advances, support and distribution will all be small or nonexistent. The majors pay substantial advances, have powerful distribution arms and can offer substantial backing if your book warrants it. However, they won’t look at your manuscript unless they get it from a reputable agent.

Hustlers and crooks aside, agents also come in two varieties. Some will invest the bulk of their time into finding a home for your manuscript. They can do that because you are the biggest name author they represent. But they haven’t brought any publisher a big money maker, so publishers don’t hold them in very high regard.

Then there are agents who HAVE brought money makers to the publishers they work with. They have proven they can pick a winner, so when they talk, publishers are more apt to listen. What that means, of course, is that these agents spend a substantial amount of their time on bigger fish and only take on newcomers if they really believe in their work. Having proven themselves to publishers, they won’t represent anyone who’s going to embarrass them. For this reason, I know that Susan believes in me and my writing.

I met Susan through one of her clients, Warren Murphy. She got another client, David Hagberg, to blurb one of my manuscripts. She’s representing Barbara D’Amato and has asked her to blurb another of my manuscripts.

When Susan called, it was to tell me that one of my manuscripts is with Kensington right now. And that she’s had another to Bantam and Grand Central Publishing (formerly Warner Books). It was to share feedback she got from an editor at St. Martin’s Press who was kind enough to recommend changes that could make that book more commercial. To tell me that at Book Expo America she’ll be discussing a couple of my properties with a film rep. And that she’ll meet with me during Thrillerfest in July so we can present a manuscript or two to some industry names in person.

So this is why you need an agent. Not just because they can help with contracts or because they know which editor might want your work (yes, Susan has these attributes too.) But most importantly because, while writing is an art and a craft, publishing is a business and if you want to win big you need someone in your corner who is also inside the business.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Your Dreams as a Cottage Industry

All the talk I’ve heard about’s “attack on small publishers” has been focused on some sort of “restraint of trade” issue, as if not selling on means not selling at all. Funny, I never considered bringing suit when Barnes and Noble and Books-a-Million refused to carry my Print-On-Demand books. Even funnier, the Amazon debate has not at all focused on the injured parties. Amazon’s new policy doesn’t threaten authors as much as it punishes Print on Demand publishers. The first casualty of the new policy may well be PublishAmerica.

PublishAmerica produces their books using the print on demand process but that in and of itself is not a bad thing. No, the problem with PublishAmerica is two fold. First, they hold the rights to books for several years but don’t pay the author for those rights. They may sell those rights, but unlike an agent, they keep half the money they get. So if an author find a larger publisher, well, he or she is screwed.

The other problem with PublishAmerica is the same as the issue with all publishers who sell a Print On Demand package. They don’t invest in marketing or distributing books because they make their money selling books to their authors instead of bookstores. In most cases, not only don’t these companies pay an advance, but the author pays the company to get his or her book into print. Many of these companies give the impression that authors who do business with them have the chance to make money doing it, maybe even get on a best seller list. They feed those dreams but they are so rarely realized that the exceptions are hardly worth discussing.

The truth is, the Print on Demand publishing industry is built on every author’s dream that his book is better than anyone can guess and if he can just get it out there lots of people will want to buy it. The truth is, there’s a reason all those publishers who pay advances rejected your manuscript - they didn’t think they could sell enough of them to make their money back. The truth is, a publisher who will publish every manuscript that comes in the door doesn’t expect to make money selling those books to bookstores. They know the author will buy books to resell and that’s where they’ll make their profits.

And those publishers are only one link in the chain that shackles optimistic authors. The next step is to tell authors that the only reason their books haven’t sold a million copies yet is that they haven’t been marketed well enough, or edited well enough. There are lots of people who are happy to sell you a marketing plan, or take hundreds of your dollars to edit or rewrite your work, and the false prophets are almost impossible to tell from the real deal until you’ve already written a check. There ARE editors who will tell you your book just isn’t good enough for them to put work into. There ARE marketing experts who will tell you that no virtual blog tour or radio appearance will make your book a best seller. Like publishers, the legitimate ones are selective.

So what do you do if you are convinced that the industry is wrong and you’re right? Well, consider doing it yourself. Instead of giving some stranger hundreds of dollars to produce your book so they can charge you for them, go to the library and learn the process to publish yourself. That way you get to keep all the profits, and if your book goes nowhere you have no one to blame but yourself.

Just be careful, okay, and don’t feed that cottage industry that makes its money on author’s dreams.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

How Can They Find My Writer? by Denise Camacho

There are 1000s of authors on the web these days. More and more are blogging, emailing and have websites to attract readers. One of the things I have noticed about some writers is the lack of presence on the web. It isn’t because they aren’t there, they are, but they have not made it easy to locate them.

Here is a way for the writer’s spouse to do something that is easy and can make a big impact. Do the research! Instead of cruising the web for the latest fashions or music videos, take a few minutes to find out where your author is located on the web. Google their name and/or the title of their book. If they have done it right you should get a hit for them on the first page. If they haven’t you can help.

Most people work with a webmaster to design their websites. Ask your webmaster what they are using for the meta tags for the webpage. The meta tags are hidden inside the webpage html and are accessed by search engines every time someone does a search on the web. If your writer’s name is not in the meta tag then it is less likely you will get a hit on the first page. Seems simple eh? Also, title of the book, publisher’s name, character names etc. Make sure all of these key words and even phrases are in the meta tag for your writer’s website. Then google them again and see if that didn’t help.

Other ways to make your presence known are WebRings ( Look for a webring that is pertinent to your writer and/or your writer’s book. For instance, Austin is a member of the Avid Reader’s WebRing and you will find a link to it on his webpage. This is one way that will allow others to be drawn to your website.

If you are a self-published author join Amazon Advantage and start taking advantage of what they offer. You can update all of the information that is attached to your book on Amazon, including bio, reviews and publisher info. You can even add a blog.

It is simple to make these changes and to research the web to find out where people are finding you, and where they aren’t. Where do authors on the web congregate. Find those blogs and message boards for your writer and sign them up. Get them noticed, get their name out there. It only takes a few minutes to post on someone’s blog or sign up for a webring. And it can make a big difference to your author’s presence on the web.

Now write me back and let me know what you are doing to get your writer’s name out there!