Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Giving Back

One of the ways many experienced writers "give back" is to offer a helping hand to beginning writers in some way: teach writing workshops, pen blurbs (endorsements) for books, even write how-to books on the subject.

Excellent books on the craft of writing include On Writing by Stephen King, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamont and Jerry Jenkins' Writing for the Soul. And of course, we mustn't forget Grit for the Oyster: 250 Pearls of Wisdom for Aspiring Writers, the foundation block of this blog.

When I started writing 7 years ago, I was so encouraged by several seasoned writers who bent over backwards to give me guidance that I vowed that if I was ever a posesser of knowledge that would help other writers, I'd gladly share. That vow has manifested itself in numerous opportunites over the years: teaching local workshops ("So You Want to be a Writer..."), leading workshops at statewide writer's conferences, co-writing Grit with some awesome gals, and one other big event. . .

I'm excited about the upcoming writers retreat I co-founded two years ago: The Florida Inspirational Writers Retreat. This year the FIWR will be held at the lovely and inspirational CedarKirk Retreat and Conference Center in Lithia, FL on 11/14/09 and some outstanding presenters will be featured: award-winning author and speaker Eva Marie Everson, editor and writer Sue Miholer and creative writing instructor, editor and author Larry Leech.

Along with my co-founder, award-winning author Ruth Ellinger (Ambassador Intn's The Wild Rose Series), I'll lead a track on "Writing Nuts and Bolts." Our Night Owl option will be a real hoot, including a sleep-over experience (on 11/13) complete with entertainment, networking opportunities and an indepth writing critique group led by successful auhors.

Did I mention a popcorn pajama party?

We'll be giving out tons of writing guidelines and info from book publishers, agents, magazines, and trade journals. And free books and door prizes galore.

Anything here pique your interest? Zip over to my website for registration information. Ask about our available scholarships.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Preparing for a Golden Anniversary

This is the fifth and final entry in a series: Manuscript to Book Metamorphosis. Scroll down to read the previous posts if you haven't already: Proposals form the Heart (9/23/09), After the Proposal: the Wedding (9/30/09), Signing in Blood (10/7/09), and Proof is in the Putting (10/14/09).

After finally receiving your long-awaited book in the mail (and weeping with joy for two solid days), it's time to put your marketing plan into place. That includes newsletters, e-mail blasts, sending out press releases, querying radio, TV, newspaper and any other media source you can think of for interviews, donating copies to libraries, sending out copies for reviews in high profile venues (especially online), enter contests, and securing book signings.

For the latter, I recommend seeking non-traditional settings such as coffee houses, tea rooms, gift shops, libraries, craft fairs, etc. so that you can pocket more proceeds from book sales without having to share huge cuts with hosting bookstores. If you really want that traditional bookstore signing high, Barnes & Noble stores usually offer two local author book signings per year (spring and fall), which you can sign up for in advance.

Unless a bookstore carries you books, it's difficult to book a signing (another reason to explore non-traditional venues for first books).

A major outlet for promoting and selling your books is to begin speaking to groups interested in your genre, i.e. church women's groups for inspirational self-help books. Focus on presentations that will help them in some way - you will be more in demand if you meet a felt need. Developing and dispensing a professional-quality brochure about your presentation options is a very good idea. Offer a video sample of you speaking on your website for easy reference for those considering your services. Apply for national speakers bureaus for more extensive exposure.

If you haven't already, I recommend having eye-catching bookmarks printed as your best and cheapest means of advertising. You can get good quality and prices online from companies such as Printrunner (shop around) - don't be chinchy on these; they speak volumes to prospective readers. I include the cover of my newest book on one full-color side and on the back, list my other books, website (from which they can contact me), and a few brief endorsements if there's room.

Many authors create (or pay someone else to create) book trailers to post on YouTube and other online sites. Trading links and blog interviews with other authors is a fine idea so that your book gets as much exposure as possible. Mention the title, positive reviews and blog interviews as often as possible in Twitter, Facebook, and your blog.

New ideas for your next book should already be bouncing around in your head; don't let the grass grow under your feet. Capitalize on the buzz surrounding your book to create interest in the next book. It's all about the future!

Now you're on your way to a long and fulfilling union with the publishing industry!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

New Yorker's Take on Book Promotion

My friend, Jeannette, passed this "New Yorker" magazine spoof on book promotion to me. Writers will find this article particularly amusing!

Hi, Ellis—

Let me introduce myself. My name is Gineen Klein, and I’ve been brought on as an intern to replace the promotion department here at Propensity Books. First, let me say that I absolutely love “Clancy the Doofus Beagle: A Love Story” and have some excellent ideas for promotion.

To start: Do you blog? If not, get in touch with Kris and Christopher from our online department, although at this point I think only Christopher is left. I’ll be out of the office from tomorrow until Monday, but when I get back I’ll ask him if he spoke to you. We use CopyBuoy via Hoster Broaster, because it streams really easily into a Plaxo/LinkedIn yak-fest meld. When you register, click “Endless,” and under “Contacts” just list everyone you’ve ever met. It would be great if you could post at least six hundred words every day until further notice.

If you already have a blog, make sure you spray-feed your URL in niblets open-face to the skein. We like Reddit bites (they’re better than Delicious), because they max out the wiki snarls of RSS feeds, which means less jamming at the Google scaffold. Then just Digg your uploads in a viral spiral to your social networks via an FB/MS interlink torrent. You may have gotten the blast e-mail from Jason Zepp, your acquiring editor, saying that people who do this sort of thing will go to Hell, but just ignore it.

The vi-spi is cross-platform, but don’t worry if you think you’re not on Facebook, because you actually are. Jason enrolled you when you signed the contract last year, or at least he was supposed to, and he told Sarah Williams he did before he had to retire and Sarah left for nursing school. You currently have 421 Friends, 17 Pending Requests, 8 Pokes, 5 Winks, and 3 Proposals of “Marriage.”

I’ve attached a list of celebrities we think would be great to blurb your book, so find out their numbers and call them up. Be sure to do all this by Monday, because Sales Conference starts Tuesday. We come back Friday and then immediately on Saturday (!) all of editorial (Janet, plus probably Michelle, her assistant) and I go to the Frankfurt Book Fair for a week. During that time the office will be closed, although to help cover the costs of the Germany trip it will actually be sublet to the John Lindsay Elementary School P.T.A. as a rehearsal space for this year’s fund-raiser production of “The Music Man.” I’m told that this was one of the things that Jason didn’t understand and which contributed to his “condition.”

Once we get back from Frankfurt, we’d like to see you on morning talk shows like the “Today” show and “The View,” so please get yourself booked on them and keep us “in the loop.” If I’m not here—which I won’t be, since after the book fair I go on vacation for two weeks—just tell Jenni, my assistant, when she gets back from jury duty.

Remember in your blog to tabskim your readers’ comments. You can use Twitter, Chitt-chaTT, or Nit-Pickr. When you reply to comments, try to post at least one photo per hour of you doing everyday tasks around the house, such as answering comments and posting photos. Please make sure they’re pre-scorched. Let me know, when I get back from Retreat a week after my vacation, if self-surging is a problem.

As re: personal appearances, to cut down on travel expenses we’re trying something new this season called RAP, or Readings by Author by Proxy. We’re asking authors in certain key areas of the country to stay “close to home” and give readings at local bookstores of both their own books and a few of our other new releases. We can send you a list of bookstores in your area once you fill out the My Local Bookstores list on your Author’s Questionnaire. You’ll be reading not only from your book but from “Code Blue Stat,” a new medical thriller we’re really excited about, and “Fifty Great Pan Sauces,” a cool new cookbook. Their authors, Dr. Steven Rosenthal and Gail Freenye, will stay in Chicago and Boston, respectively, and read from each other’s book and yours. This idea, apparently, is what made Jason take his clothes off and lock himself in a supply closet.

F.Y.I., we’ve migrated all the photos out of your book and onto the Web page. It makes the hard-copy version cheaper to produce (fewer pages; no photos) and the e-text more “Kindle-friendly.” Sometime next week, call Christopher over an ISDN line and say your name, as distinctly as possible, at least two hundred times, so we can dub it as an AudioAutograph onto the podcast edition. (You may already have done this for a previous book, but somehow Jason managed to delete all the audio files before Security escorted him from the building.)

Don’t hesitate to try to contact me if you have any questions. I sort of have my hands full, promoting twenty-three new releases this fall, but I’m really excited about working on your book, and I look forward to collaborating with you to make “A History of Moorish Architecture, 1200-1492” the biggest success it can be.

Best regards,

Gineen Klein ♦

Source: The New Yorker

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Proof is in the Putting

This is the fourth in a series: Manuscript to Book Metamorphosis. Scroll down to read the previous posts if you haven't already: Proposals form the Heart (9/23/09), After the Proposal: the Wedding (9/30/09), and Signing in Blood (10/7/09).

During the 4-12 months of editing and rewrites, your manuscript will be marinating in the minds of your publisher's marketing and editorial teams. They will decide whether to change your title for better marketing (don't be shocked - it often happens!), and cook up some concepts for cover design. You'll be included in the idea-bouncing process, but understand that the final decisions are theirs, not yours. Most publishers are gracious and listen intently to what you have to say, but when you signed that contract, you relinquished final say to their years of expertise.

You will likely be asked to seek endorsements for your book (the biggest names possible in your genre). Agents can be very helpful in obtaining these blurbs - they have connections you don't and a host of other clients who would be delighted to get the free publicity. These will be included inside or on the front or back cover of your book, again your publisher's decision.

Early on, the sales team will receive sample chapters and probably your proposal as well so they have a good feel for the type of book they'll be pitching. They prepare a Sales Sheet for their sales force to begin promoting your book to industry buyers. They'll shift into fast gear several months before the release date.

Back to putting the proof to bed. When you and your content editor are finishing polishing your manuscript to the best of your ability, it proceeds to a copy editor, who corrects grammar, typos, footnotes, quote permissions and punctuation. A completed copy will be sent to you for your input.

After final proofing, it's sent to typesetting, where the layout is finalized. A completed "galley" is sent to you, where you peruse every jot and tittle for one last time. This is your last chance to catch any slippery errors that might have slid by.

Then HOORAY - on to the printer!

Stay tuned next week for the final installment of this series: Planning for a Golden Anniversary

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Winner of the Book Bomb and other news...

Congrats to the winner of Monday's "Amish Peace" Book Bomb! Carol G.

And also to the two winners of the Amish cookbook, Elaine J. and Janice P. I'll send you an e-mail for your addy and get those right out to you.

And thank you to everyone who participated in the Bomb! I've so grateful to each and everyone one of you who are helping to spread the word about "Amish Peace." There are 18 customer reviews up on Amazon...all five star! And I promise...they're not from my mother.

So I just finished two radio interviews and faced a worst-case scenario: a coughing fit. Can you imagine something more blood-pressure spiking than having a coughing fit on live radio? (Maybe a sneeze attack?) There weren't any commercial breaks so I had no easy opportunity to gulp some water or cough to my heart's content.

To top that off, there was an echo on my end, too, so I heard my voice twice.

I plowed ahead and didn't let myself over-focus on the distractions.

In some ways, that's been one of the biggest lessons I've learned in being an author/dealing with promotion. It's getting comfortable with imperfection. Not that I've ever been much of a perfectionist (not a successful one, anyway), but when you're in a public sort of hope you can give off the impression of having it all together.

I so don't.

My favorite memory is walking into a speaking event and having a good friend of mine, Peggy, grab a velcro curler that was stuck to the back of my blazer. "Here," she said quietly, handing me the curler. Such a kind act forever endeared me to her.

After all, it's hard to look hip in curlers.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Signing in Blood

This entry is third in a series called Manuscript to Book Metamorphosis (be sure to scroll down and read the previous two posts if you haven't already: Proposals from the Heart and After the Proposal, Marriage).

So you've finally made it to that over-the-rainbow place where your book dream is actually coming true; your manuscript has been accepted by a publisher! Yay! (pause for cheers here)

Believe it or not, the real work is just beginning!

First you or your agent (if you're fortunate enough to have one) will receive a contract which should be reviewed with a good, strong magnifying glass. Included will be such items as your royalty (ranges from 6% to 16% for first books) and your advance.

Contrary to popular belief, an advance is not free money; it's exactly what it says it is - an advance of the royalties the publisher expects you to make in book sales during the first 6 months. This choice morsel (although it's never as juicy as you hope it will be) is simply to allow you to eat during the 1-2 years before you book actually hits bookstores (one of mine took nearly 3 years). You won't receive further royalties until you "earn out" your advance. If by chance you don't earn out your advance, some publishers require the author to pay back the difference (check your contract for fine print).

Many authors (including myself) opt for a relatively small advance, which they usually sink right back into book promotion/marketing, to avoid the acid burn of worrying about earning out the advance. The advance is usually paid in halves; half upon signing the contract and the other half when they receive the completed manuscript.

Other items included in the contract are the due date and length of the manuscript, release date,
rights (electronic, domestic and foreign), revision requirements, author copies (you receive complimentary copies, usually anywhere from 10 to 50; some negotiate for more), and a myriad of other details that your agent should discuss with you. Make sure you understand everything.

Many points are negotiable and this process can last several days to several weeks. Remember, it's like buying a car - the first offer will likely be low and negotiating is actually expected. After ping-ponging a few times until points are agreed upon, the final contract is drawn up by the publisher, signed by both parties, and a copy is returned to you. The advance check will follow within a matter of weeks.

You are then put in touch with your assigned editor and begin to hash out your editing schedule and rewrites. You will be given a written and verbal synopsis of the process and expectations and then you buckle your seat belt and hit the gas on revising your manuscript.

Your editor will be hands-on at this point and will become intimately involved in your work. This will chafe at times. Sort of like a boody rash. You may differ in opinions, but choose your battles. Bear in mind he/she has been in the biz longer than you have and likely has a broader perspective of what sells and what doesn't (that means success for you in the long run).

A measure of author angst is usually involved at this stage as you hold your breath to see how your beautiful "baby" will be dissected. Sometimes an arm is detached, a foot is grafted onto a tummy, or the head is turned around backwards. But you must believe that the result will be better and even stronger than before.

This back-and-forth process between you and your editor will continue until your manuscript is spit-shined and polished to a blinding gleam. Just like your pearly whites as you smile at the incredible almost-finished product.

Stay tuned next week for the fourth stage: Proof is in the Putting

Monday, October 5, 2009

Love Books? Amish or Otherwise?

Are you a book lover? If so, today might be a lucky day for you!

Today, October 5th, is the "book bomb" day for Amish Peace: Simple Wisdom for a Complicated World. Revell Publishers is encouraging you to buy a copy of Amish Peace at your local bookstore or on-line. Then, just shoot off an e-mail where you bought it and your name will be entered into a drawing for a basket of books of Revell authors!

A sweet prize!

And to make it even sweeter, I am giving away two Amish (genuine!) cookbooks...the proceeds of which are donated to the victims of the Nickel Mines Schoolhouse shooting.

Above is a picture of the site of that very schoolhouse, which was razed ten days after the shooting (three years ago--October 2, 2006). I was fortunate enough (blessed is a better word!) to meet some of the families affected by the event.
Graciously, they gave me permission to share their stories in Amish Peace. A few of the families put together this cookbook. Part of the healing, I think.

And it is a wonderful cookbook! I use it often! The one that makes me smile is called "Boyfriend Impresser Bars." (Isn't that a breaking-the-stereotype title for an Amish cookie?! I teased the young Amish woman from whom I bought this cookbook and she turned a shade of plum!)

So is the day! Go a copy or two of Amish Peace. Then e-mail me: or and your name will be put in a hat for the drawing.

Ahem. I mean, a bonnet.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Book Bomb!

Been wondering what a book bomb is?

Sounds a little scary, in this day and age of high security alert on just about...everything!

But it's not! This book bomb is entirely harmless. Downright beneficial!

On Monday, October 5th, Revell Publishers is encouraging everyone so inclined to buy a copy of Amish Peace , send me or my publicist, Amy Lathrop, an e-mail telling us where you bought it...and you'll be entered in a drawing to win a gigantic basket of books from Revell. Not my book...other great Revell authors' books!

Hope you'll consider it! Amish Peace makes a perfect Christmas gift for your neighbors, your great Aunt Ethel, your kids' teachers, your dog catcher, mail catch my drift.

Amish Peace has a gentle Christian message without whacking anybody on the back of the head with a two-by-four. It can be read at many levels. For those who have an interest in the Amish culture. Or...for the deeper message...of incorporating principles of simplicity and forgiveness and God's sovereignty in your life. A lot of folks are using it for small group study or personal devotions.

One of my Revell editors gave a copy to her pastor...and he quoted it in the Sunday sermon!

So if you're thinking about buying it...Monday's the day! And shoot me or Amy an e-mail to let us know, so we can enter your name in Revell's drawing! or

And thank you!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

This Promotion Gig

As I update my blog today, I'm in between two radio interviews. One was at 5:30...AM! BEFORE COFFEE. Which meant I woke up every few hours to make sure I hadn't overslept. And I had very, very weird dreams. Like my entire extended family was in the kitchen with me during the interview...just staring at me.

Finally, at 5:15 AM, I got up, started the coffee pot... and looked through my notes to make sure my brain and mouth were synchronized.

It was for a live commuter radio show in Missouri...and I really enjoyed it! The two hosts were genuinely interested in the takeaway value of the Amish life.

One thing I'm finding with these radio interviews, no matter how well you prepare, the host has his/her own ideas of what he/she likes to talk about. Usually, it's something you're completely unprepared for. Talk about trying to be fast on your feet! And remember...I'm a writer! I like to edit myself!

No such luck with live radio. Alas.

In about thirty minutes will be the next interview, so I'm letting the puppy try to get out all of her energy so she won't get hurt feelings when she's popped back in her crate.

Promoting books is half the life of a published author. It takes quite a bit of energy...especially when you're not "smoooooooth" at it. Like me. I have a friend who is a remarkable author--he had a blockbuster best seller! But he disliked promotion so much that he gave up the writing side and is now an editor at a large publishing house.

I'm finding that I do like this promotion gig, though I don't sleep well before events, and I never feel as if I hit any speaking event out of the ball park. But I respect that an author is partnering with the publisher. Book promotion is a skill set we writers need.

And when your publisher does something like mine did for me this week...well, I'd be willing to take a speaking engagement on the moon! (Even though I'm horribly claustrophic and would be worried about how we going to get this flying tin can back to earth for 99.9% of the trip to outer space.)

Drum roll...please...

I found out on Monday that The Choice, my first novel with Revell, has been chosen as a Main Selection for Crossings.