Archive for December, 2009

How’s Your Book Coming?

Now that we’re in the week between Christmas and the beginning of the new year, it’s time to look forward and think about your writing plans.

Magazines and talk shows urge us to lose weight, improve health, get organized, quit (fill in a habit), and make changes for the better.

One of the changes you can make as a writer is to keep your promise to yourself to finish writing your book in 2010. You like to write (some of my students admit to feeling a bit guilty about writing because they enjoy it so much), so why don’t you? I submit you’re not writing because you’re filling your time with other things that don’t give you as much enjoyment or satisfaction as writing, but they’re things you think you need to do.

Hogwash! You don’t have to do everything you think you do. I learned that over the Christmas holiday. I didn’t decorate nearly as much as I used to. I didn’t bake as many cookies as I used to. I didn’t go to as many corporate (obligations) parties as I used to. And you know what? I had a wonderful holiday. I spent time with loved ones. I felt less stressed. I even did some things I like to do rather than things others told me I had to do.

How about you? You have a book in you. You may even have started writing it. But it never gets done. Why is that? Maybe you really don’t want to write that book. Okay, then don’t. Maybe you feel guilty writing because you enjoy it so much. It’s okay to do things you enjoy doing–and maybe even have something to show for your efforts when you’re done.

Maybe you need to revisit how you use your time. No one ever gets more than twenty-four hours in a day, but we do get to determine how we spend some of that time. If you’re spending it on things that aren’t worthwhile (you get to determine what’s worthwhile), you may want to figure out why you squander time you could be writing, then put that time to better use.

How’s your book coming? Give yourself permission to finish writing it in 2010. If you don’t write it, it won’t get done.

Happy writing!

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Book Awards–Truth and Myth

We’re in the thick of the book award season. Many authors ask us about the importance of book awards, especially as awards translate into book  sales.

Harry and I ran the awards program for the Midwest Indpendent Publishers Association (MIPA) for three years. The MIPA board asked us to take on the project and make it something to be proud of. It was quite a challenge. Why? After many years of handing out awards, MIPA had missed a year. We needed to regain public confidence.

One of the things that needed improvement was how the judging took place. We heard a horror story about how one of our predecessors invited friends over to the house for a wine and cheese party, laid all the books out, and had everyone vote on the winners. What system does the award program you’re considering use for qualifying judges?

We solicited recommendations from publishers across the country for candidates to judge both design and editorial. We had two judges per category, and we used judges in different states, from coast to coast, to assure no one judged a book he or she worked on. What credentials do the judges bring to the award program you’re considering?

We used a form that assigned a numeric score and allowed for narrative comments. We combined judges’ scores and averaged them for the final score. We also had a tie breaker score that we used only if books ended up with equal final scores. What criteria does the award program you’re considering use to select winners?

Fees collected for the awards covered cost of shipping, administrative costs for mailing and publicity and record keeping, cost of the awards, and costs for the reception and program (emcee, entertainment, etc.).  The award gala was free to attend. Anything remaining went to the organization.

The primary purpose for book awards is to raise money for whoever is running the awards. If you’re considering entering your book into an award program, you need to determine if the entry fee is worth any sales you may receive.

Anyone can give your book an award and you can call it award-winning. If you think about it, few people know what award any given book wins anyway.

The real value (to the author) of winning a book award is in the publicity the awards program offers its winners. We did press releases, web promotion, and stickers for the front of books.  What does the awards program you’re considering do to publicize that your book won their award?

I’m not convinced book sales are tied to book awards, but I am convinced authors like to claim their books are award winning. The question becomes, is it worth $100.00 per entry? $75.00 per entry? $55.00 per entry?  Compound the entry fee by how many categories and/or how many book award contests there are and you could be talking big bucks for little return. How many books would you have to sell to make up that cost? That’s a decision only you can make.

Happy writing!

Authors, not Publishers, Sell Books

Whether you’re a Sarah Palin fan or not, you have to acknowledge the woman can sell books. Let me repeat, the woman can sell books. People buy authors, not publishers. Do you even know who her publisher is without looking it up? Probably not.

So, why is it authors expect publishers to market and sell books?

One of the reasons publishers look for authors “with a platform”–that’s code for visibility in the marketplace–is people plunk their money down for books by authors they’ve heard of. That’s why almost every author wanted to be on Oprah. If they appeared on Oprah, they knew people would have at least heard of them and their book and perhaps people would even purchase it.

So, what are you going to do to sell your book once it’s published? Once you realize publishing is business, not dream fulfillment, you’ll be in a better position to write your book marketing plan.

The sooner you start marketing your book, the quicker you’ll see orders come in. That equates to dollars in your pocket, so why wouldn’t you want to get out there and promote your book? It makes sense that people need to know your book exists before they can buy it.

What’s the first step you’re willing to take to market your book? I suggest you focus on the reason you wrote the book in the first place. Was it to capture history? Then research where history buffs are. Was it to help with a medical issue people deal with? Then research the medical institutions or companies that may help promote your book. Also, think about support groups or associations that work with that particular medical issue. Was it to help small business owners? Then find out where small business owners hang out–chambers of commerce, trade associations, etc.

You need to get your book visible to the audience you wrote the book for. Authors, not publishers, sell books. Sarah Palin is a great example of how important the author is in the process, so what are you doing to sell your book?

Happy writing!

How to Qualify a Literary Agent

One of the truths of book publishing is many royalty publishers (those who buy your intellectual property and pay you royalties for copies sold) use literary agents as screening tools. Agents screen out the manuscripts they  think won’t succeed in the marketplace. Of course, agents are human and don’t always know, but royalty publishers often rely on them as unpaid consultants. That’s why you’ll see “no unagented material” or “agented material only” comments in royalty publisher guidelines.

Since literary agents don’t get paid unless you do, they have to sell your writing and wait for their commission. Well, they have to do that unless they charge you reading fees (that means they get money just for reading your work, so why would they even want to bother trying to sell you?).

Here’s an article entitled “How to Evaluate a Literary Agent” that’s worth reading. It pretty much answers any questions you may have about finding a literary agent.

When looking for a literary agent, it’s important you remember the agent works for you, not the other way around. The agent is getting a cut of your earnings, not the other way around.

Click the link, read the article, then make a good business decision when you get the opportunity to qualify a literary agent.

Happy Writing!