Texas, come pitch us your books! April 11, 2015.
Tag: The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Publishing
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Well, he’s at it again. Yes, Irvine Welsh has produced another wild tale full of maniacal madness. The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins. Naturally it’s got Siamese twins sexing it up and being surgically sawn in half. Murder, envy, fat chicks, lunatic kidnappers, media feeding frenzy, dildos pumping away like there’s no tomorrow . But this book is very different. First of all, it’s set in sun-splashed Miami, where Mr Welsh currently has one of his residences. It’s also written from the perspective of two women. And two women who couldn’t be much different from each other. I must confess I loved this book. I devoured it in a weekend, like a junkie binging on China white. You know, the good shit. And this book really actually changed my life. I became horrified by how much empty-calories I was shoving down my pie hole and I’ve been working out like a psycho-trainer was screaming in my ear about how I had to feel the burn. So I thought I would pick the brain of Mr Welsh and figure out how, & why, he did it.
The Book Doctors: What inspired you to write a book that is so incredibly different from the dark, beer-stained, junky-filled landscape of Scotland that made you famous?
Irvine Welch: Miami – a different world altogether from Scotland, a much more visual, body-obsessed culture. I’ve a place there and I’m in the town often.
TBD: Many successful writers seem to write the same book over and over and over. But this book is so far removed from what your fans are used to. Did you think about that in terms of the Irvine Welsh brand? Do you feel pressure, either from yourself, or from your publisher, to just stick with what you already know works?
IW: I don’t think so. I love writing about where I come from, but you also need to step outside your comfort zone from time to time. Unless you are doing genre fiction and are more conscious of deliberate brand building, you can only really write the book you write. I have a blank page and that’s a great luxury. I don’t need to start the first sentence with ‘Harry Potter said…’ or ‘Inspector Rebus rose early…’ and that’s a luxury. I can bring back Begbie or Juice Terry, but only if they are the right tools for the job. In this case they weren’t, so I created Lucy and Lena to tell the story.
TBD: Was it difficult to write in the voice of 2 women who are American & so removed from the dialect of your home turf? What are the methods you used to capture these voices?
IW: The biggest problem isn’t so much the language and dialect. I’m quite tuned into that through living in the States and being married to an American. The toughest thing is the cultural references, all the TV shows etc, that inform conversations. I had to make sure a lot of American friends saw early drafts.
TBD: The main character in the story seemed to me to bear a striking resemblance to Frank Begbie, the notoriously violent psychopath in Trainspotting. Except for the fact that she’s a bisexual body trainer who (mostly) disdains alcohol. What draws you to these extreme characters and how do you manage to get into their heads so successfully?
IW: I like uncompromising characters. They are tough to deal with in real life, but great fun in fiction. With a character who is ‘out there’ you can literally have them do anything. That’s a blessing for a writer
TBD: I don’t want to spoil the plot, but there’s such a fantastic switch, actually several of them, toward the end of your book. Do you outline where your story is going? How do go about constructing plot?
IW: I tend to let the plot come from the characters. Sometimes I might have a vague idea of where I want to go, but I like to throw away my GPS and give them the wheel. “Take me to Miami…or anywhere else interesting” is my only instruction.
TBD: How is it that you’ve managed to get away without ever using quotation marks?
IW: I hate quotation marks. I read a Roddy Doyle novel years ago when I was starting out – The Commitments- and his use of the dash seemed to convey the urgency of the characters better. So it’s Roddy’s fault!
TBD: I was fascinated by the theme of numbers. Did you do a lot of research for this book?
IW: Numbers and stats are huge in America. Especially sports. The idea of measurement is ubiquitous. I did a fair bit f research, but not as much as might be imagined. I suppose watching sports and reality TV is research…
TBD: When I am in Europe, the only fat people I seem to see are American tourists. This is of course one of the big themes of your new book. Why do you think Americans are so fat?
IW: The rest of the world is catching up! But consumerist culture is huge in America, as is fast food. You put those two together and you are heading for lardland.
TBD: Have you ever had a book rejected?
IW: Yes, I wrote a terrible ‘experimental’ novel for my third book. My editor said something along the lines of ‘this is shit. You’re just trying to show off. Go and write the book you really want to write.’ So I binned it and came back with Marabou Stork Nightmares, which is a book I’m very proud of.
TBD: Do you have any tips for writers who want to you explore the dark parts of human nature that would seem, at first blush, to be difficult to sell to the mainstream of the book world?
IW: If you think about the market you are in a very different game. Write what you want to write; work out how it sell it when it’s done.
Irvine Welsh is the author of Trainspotting, Ecstasy, Glue, Porno, Filth, Marabou Stork Nightmares, The Acid House, Skagboys, and, most recently, The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins. He currently lives in Chicago, IL.
Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry are co-founders of The Book Doctors, a company that has helped countless authors get their books published. They are also co-authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How To Write It, Sell It, and Market It… Successfully (Workman, 2010). They are also book editors, and between them they have authored 25 books, and appeared on National Public Radio, the London Times, and the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review.
I first met Jackson Michael in Austin, Texas. He pitched us a book about interviewing old-time NFL players. Men who played the game before there was money. Men who made the NFL a multibillion-dollar franchise. And then in many cases were simply tossed away, physically broken and emotionally shattered. Michael had never written a book before. He was not a football insider. He was just a man with an incredible passion. So I helped him put his proposal together. AIt took almost a year. Polishing, tweaking, researching. Turns out Jackson is one of the hardest working man in show business. By the time he was done with the proposal, he had talked to some of the greatest names in the history of professional football. Frank Gifford, Bob Griese, Walt Garrison, Don Maynard, and Bart Starr. Then, without an agent, he sent the book to bunch of publishers. He got three offers. He chose University of Nebraska Press. The book, The Game Before the Money: Voices of the Man Who Built the NFL, just came out, so thought I’d pick his brain about books, football and money.
David Henry Sterry: What was your biggest take-away from talking to all these great football players from the past, before the game was all about the money?
Jackson Michael: The life lessons. Most players dropped a chestnut of wisdom inside their football stories. Bart Starr not only told the backstory behind his Ice Bowl touchdown, he talked about how Vince Lombardi demanded excellence over simply being good. That makes a huge difference, and applies to anything in life — being a parent, spouse, or writer. My aim was to document football history but readers will pick up some valuable teachings along the way.
DHS: What were some of the highlights of talking to these gridiron legends?
JM: Just getting a chance to chat with these guys was the highlight beyond all highlights. Every interview was just as exciting as the last. It was like having your childhood football card collection come to life.
DHS: What were some of the most horrific things that you heard when talking to the men who built the NFL?
JM: Most of the book is positive, but early African American players dealt with the racism of those times. George Taliaferro told me that (Washington owner) George Preston Marshall shouted racial slurs at him on the field. Garland Boyette shared what he and his teammates had to do to end segregated hotel accommodations. Irv Cross spoke of hate mail and someone threatening to shoot him. Also, I had firsthand interaction with dementia. I called one player about interviewing and his wife told me he doesn’t remember playing.
DHS: What you think needs to be done to rectify the abuse and neglect of retired NFL veterans, many of whom are in such terrible physical, mental and emotional shape?
JM: The oral history gives players a chance to share their stories rather than put me in a position to suggest solutions. For example, fans learn that the pensions of men who played in the era the book covers are less than those of recent players. In fact, it was announced this week that pensions are being raised solely for players who played during the 1993-1996 seasons, leaving pioneers even further behind on the <a href=”http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/11408531/nfl-players-union-increases-pensions-1722-former-players” target=”_hplink”>pension scale</a>.
The increases older retirees have received over the years apparently haven’t matched inflation. Don Maynard told me that he collected under $450 a month before the 2011 collective bargaining agreement — for 17 years of NFL service.
Moreover, injuries can worsen over time, requiring surgery and physical therapy. For example, several players I spoke with had their knees replaced long after retirement. The NFL doesn’t pay for that, and pensions often don’t compare well with the costs of insurance premiums and copays. Conrad Dobler states that he spent more on knee surgeries than he earned over his entire 10-year NFL career.
It was clear to me that these guys aren’t sitting around feeling sorry for themselves. They are proud men, retired from a game requiring immeasurable toughness. Furthermore, many do extremely well after football, but enough struggle that real issues exist. Guys seem most concerned about ex-players in harsher situations than they experience. Some set up charities, like Mike Ditka’s Gridiron Greats and Bruce Laird’s Fourth and Goal Foundation. Even the Hall of Fame has an Enshrinees Assistance Foundation.
DHS: We surprised by the generosity of these American icons?
JM: Although I was surprised, I felt more fortunate and thankful. Nobody had any reason to speak with me other than kindness. I felt this enormous responsibility afterward to get the book published. These guys gave me their time, opened up to me. Now it was up to me to get their fantastic stories out there. Getting published was a more ardent process than I had expected.
DHS: What was the process of getting this book published like?
JM: Writing the proposal was a tremendous amount of work. Spending considerable time on a query letter only to hit “delete” built character. Additionally, I had previously only published a handful of magazine and online articles. Nobody welcomed me into their publishing house on a chariot.
DHS: What were some of the things that you did to make this book sellable, and in fact, sell it?
JM: Getting the proposal to communicate the project in terms publishers understood was crucial. At first I thought the mere fact that I collected interviews from all these fabulous players was enough. A great idea, however, only buys you thirty seconds of attention. Publishers invest thousands of dollars in each book, so you better show up with more than “I’m really creative and this is super cool.” The Book Doctors provided indispensable guidance in conveying information publishers need: possible marketing strategies, relevant demographics, how the book tied in with current news. Stuff artists despise, but you need to show commitment to the marketing end because you’re asking people to market your book. The other important thing I did was I objectively considered what publishers told me the book needed. That led to timelines and introductions before each section, and a table converting player salaries into modern-day dollars.
DHS: What were some of the pitfalls that you fell into when you tried to get this book put together, and then published?
JM: I expected the first publisher I contacted to enthusiastically offer me a contract. Instead, I was told I needed a platform. I actually had to Google the term. After learning what a platform was, I bought a book appropriately entitled Platform by Michael Hyatt, and did what I could to start building one. Another pitfall was agents. One condescendingly asked me who I thought I was because I didn’t work for Sports Illustrated. Another said oral histories weren’t interesting to readers. A third said people weren’t interested in football books. I decided to go straight to publishers, figuring it was easier to obtain one “yes” from a publisher rather than two from both an agent and a publisher. That might not work for everybody, because it did probably cost me money and it’s impossible to pitch to the Big Five without an agent. I was most concerned, however, with getting this book out while guys were still alive, and the University of Nebraska Press team has been great.
DHS: Did talking to all these former players change the way you think about the NFL? About college football? Professional sports?
JM: Most of the book is players recalling their golden moments, so it’s predominately a feel-good story. I love pro and college football as much as ever. After getting to speak with players, however, I’m more aware of the game’s human element and don’t get as upset over fumbles and interceptions. Playoff loses still bum me out, though.
DHS: As a first-time author, do you feel like you want to write more books, or never write another book as long as you live?
JM: If anything, completing this book made me crave more. Call me weird, but spending 10 hours editing or doing research is as much fun as the beach. One of life’s dirty secrets is that most artists are simply glorified workaholics. I’m currently working out an idea for a Texas music book suggested by Robert Hurst, an outstanding painter who connected me with several players in The Game before the Money. I’d also like to see my novel, Broke and Famous, get published. Then there’s that notebook full of fiction ideas, and a desire to record a Civil Rights oral history.
Jackson Michael grew up in Madison, Wisconsin. He currently lives in Austin, Texas. He is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and the Maxwell Football Club. A true sports geek, Michael possesses a near encyclopedic knowledge of sports history. <em>The Game Before the Money: Voices of the Men Who Built the NFL</em> is his first book. Michael worked for several years with the Austin Daze, as the alternative newspaper’s entertainment writer and music critic. He also conducted interviews for Tape Op magazine, the most widely distributed periodical in the field of audio engineering. The Game Before the Money is his first book.
He additionally enjoys a successful music career, having released solo five albums. He has recorded with Barbara K (Timbuk 3), Kim Deschamps (Cowboy Junkies) and Gregg Rolie (Santana, Journey). Also a skilled audio engineer, Michael has recorded albums for a number of Texas music acts. Twitter: @JacksonMichael
<em>David Henry Sterry is the author of 16 books, a performer, muckraker, educator, activist, editor and book doctor. His anthology was featured on the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review. His first memoir, Chicken, was an international bestseller and has been translated into 10 languages. He co-authored The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published with his current wife, and co-founded The Book Doctors, who have toured the country from Cape Cod to Rural Alaska, Hollywood to Brooklyn, Wichita to Washington helping writers. He is a finalist for the Henry Miller Award. He has appeared on National Public Radio, in the London Times, Playboy, the Washington Post and the Wall St. Journal. He loves any sport with balls, and his girls. He can be found at: www.Davidhenrysterry.com
9 a.m. – Noon to register click here.
HOW TO GET PUBLISHED SUCCESSFULLY
This is the greatest time in history to be a writer. The barriers to publishing have been torn down and now anyone
can get published. But getting published successfully is a whole other matter. Arielle and David will take you
through the entire publishing process. This step-by-step, soup-to-nuts workshop will demystify the murky world
of publishing and give you a map and a compass to publishing success. Handouts.
You learn to:
Choose the right idea
Craft an attention-getting pitch
Find the right agent or publisher
Self-publish effectively with ebooks, print-on-demand or traditional printing
Find your audience and build a following through social media
Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry have helped dozens of writers become published authors. Their book is
The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How to Write It, Sell It, and Market It…Successfully.
Arielle Eckstut, an agent-at-large at the Levine Greenberg Literary Agency, co-founded the iconic brand Little Missmatched, and an author of eight books. David Henry Sterry is the author of sixteen books. His books have been translated into ten languages, and one appeared on the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review. David and Arielle have been featured on NPR, in the New York Times, and have taught everywhere from Stanford to Smith College, and presented at more than 100 bookstores, and book festivals from Texas to Miami, Brooklyn, and Los Angeles.
As The Book Doctors have traveled all across this great land, we’ve made a startling discovery. A staggering number of adults want to write books for kids. And approximately 99% of them have absolutely no idea what they’re doing. They don’t know the rules. They don’t know the players. They don’t know anything except that they have a great idea for a kid’s book and they yearn with a burning fever to get it published. Between us, we have we’ve thirteen books, four being nonfiction books for tween girls, and the other a middle grade novel aimed at boys. And Arielle has agented dozens and dozens and dozens of books in her 18 year career as a literary agent. But so much has changed in the world of children’s books, and so many people seem all fired up to write them, that we thought we’d get the inside skinny from one of our favorite children’s book resources, Jennifer Laughran. Jennifer’s had a fascinating career in the publishing industry, because she’s gone from hand-selling books to readers in brick-and-mortar bookstores, to finding writers who have the right stuff, then figuring out how to present and sell their manuscripts to publishers in the increasingly ridiculous book business.
Book Doctors: How did you manage to end up in the book business?
Jennifer: My first job was in a bookstore, when I was twelve.
Book Doctors: Ah, they got you young.
Jennifer: Exactly. It may have been child labor; as I recall I got about five dollars a day plus all the stripped copies of Sweet Valley High I could read.
Book Doctors: Who could resist that?
Jennifer: Certainly not me. I spent the next eighteen years working as a bookseller, and then events coordinator and buyer, for bookstores all over the country. I was also a reader and assistant for literary agents for a couple of years before I became one myself. Then I joined Andrea Brown Literary Agency as an agent three years ago.
Book Doctors: So, everyone wants to know, do you need an agent to get a children’s book published?
Jennifer: Ten years ago or more, the answer would have been no. These days, trade publishing is ever-more competitive and none of the major publishers accept unsolicited (i.e., un-agented) submissions. If you are very lucky, very persistent and very well-connected, you may not need an agent. But most authors don’t fall into that category. That said, if you are looking to be published in a niche market, by a specialty educational publisher, regional or smaller independent publisher, you may not need an agent.
Book Doctors: What are the standard age groups for children’s books?
Jennifer: Board books: 0-3. Picture books: 3-7. Chapter book/Early readers: 5-8. Middle Grade: 8-12. YA: 12+ or 14+ (depending on content)
Book Doctors: Does your book have to be a particular length to sit on a children’s book shelf?
Jennifer: Sure. But that varies depending on the age group; picture books are usually less than a thousand words, YA is usually less than 100,000 words.
Book Doctors: Can you sell a book for kids of all ages? How would you go about doing this?
Jennifer: In general, children’s publishers pick one age group that the book is for and publish it accordingly, and if there is crossover, that is all to the good. Every book I can think of that is supposedly “for kids of all ages” does in fact fall into one of those categories above, or is an adult gift or novelty book in disguise.
Book Doctors: If a writer has ideas for illustrations, should she put them on the page?
Jennifer: No. Illustration notes are distracting and almost always unnecessary, and will expose you as a newb.The only time you should put them is if there is some sort of visual joke or device that is totally necessary to the plot of the book, but impossible to deduce from the text alone.
Book Doctors: Is a good idea to have your uncle’s friend’s 18-year-old son who’s pretty good at art illustrate your book?
Jennifer: No. Let me say again:<em> No!</em>
Book Doctors: Is it ever okay to team up with an illustrator before going to a publisher?
Jennifer: There are some successful folks who are husband-wife or sibling teams or even best-friend teams, where one party is a professional illustrator and the other writes. They work well together and create awesome projects together. That said, these sorts of collaborations aren’t the norm. The much more likely scenario is that a publisher will prefer the text or the art and might be fine with publishing one but not both. Publishers almost always really want to choose their own illustrator.
Book Doctors: If you are an illustrator that has an idea for a kid’s book, but you have no writing chops, how would you go about getting your book published?
Jennifer: I’d learn to write, or get enough published as an illustrator of other people’s works that I developed a reputation with publishers. A big-name illustrator has a much better chance of getting help from publishers in developing a project.
Book Doctors: What are the top 3 mistakes you see in author submissions?
Jennifer: Impatience, Poor Presentation, General Cluelessness. Folks often shoot themselves in the foot by not taking the time to craft an effective pitch, or to target agents specifically, or to query in small batches. They submit material that is deeply flawed, not revised, not finished, or in some cases not even started. They submit material that is totally inappropriate and not what I represent at all because they are blanket-querying every agent in the world simultaneously. I only do kids & YA, fiction yet I daily get queries for erotica and narrative nonfiction.
Ideally, authors would do their homework before they start querying, and their work would be as finished, polished, as close to being ready to sell as possible.
Book Doctors: Does it help to come up with a publicity and marketing plan for your book when querying an agent or publisher?
Jennifer: Sure, though I wouldn’t lead with that; it’d just be a cool bonus if they loved your work enough to publish it already. Most marketing plans sort of grow organically as the book progresses in the editorial and design process and as buzz builds in-house.
A book can take anywhere from a year to several years to be published, and the content of the book, as well as the way it is positioned in the marketplace, are definitely subject to change in that time. That means marketing and publicity pushes that come about just prior to or just after publication will likely look a lot different, and be a lot more effective, than what was being imagined at the query stage. That early in the game, most folks don’t really know what their book is going to be when it grows up.
Book Doctors: Jennifer, on behalf of the Book Doctors and clueless children’s book writers all over America, we thank you.
Jennifer: You are all certainly welcome.
Jennifer Laughran worked in bookstores for years, and is now an agent at Andrea Brown Literary Agency. She is also the founder of the Not Your Mothers Book Club.
Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, aka The Book Doctors, are the authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published. They’re hosting Pitchapaloozas–a kinder gentler American Idol for books–at bookstores and libraries all over America. Check out their website http://www.thebookdoctors.com/to see their tour schedule, and for free helpful hints on how to get successfully published.
“Do I really need an author website?” We get asked that question every day by an author, or someone who wants to be one. Having spent lots and lots of time and energy constructing one ourselves, we are big believers in author websites, but we decided to take this question to the person we consider the expert on the subject: Annik LaFarge. Annik is the author of The Author Online: A Short Guide to Building Your Website, Whether You Do it Yourself (and you can!) or You Work With Pros. She also happens to have spent twenty-five years as an executive in the book publishing business, working at Random House, Simon & Schuster, Addison-Wesley, and Bloomsbury USA. She began her career as a publicist, and went on to become an associate publisher, marketing director, senior editor, and publishing director. And she was involved in the early efforts to create e-books and develop strategies for digital publishing. In the late 1990s, at the height of the dot com boom, Annik took a year away from publishing to join entrepreneur and journalist Steven Brill in the development and launch of Contentville.com, where she published an original series of e- books and oversaw the website’s bookstore. In 2008 she left publishing to start her own company, Title TK Projects, which specializes in website project management, editorial work, and consulting on digital strategy. Author websites she has project-managed include MitchAlbom.com, FrenchWomenDontGetFat.com, MireilleGuiliano.com and TaraParkerPope.com. Clearly, Annik knows what the heck she’s talking about. So we asked her to share with us the benefits of author websites. She was also kind enough to share with us her 10 ½ tips for being a more effective author online.
THE BOOK DOCTORS: In this age of social media, why is a website still important? Is it possible to just get away with a blog/Facebook page/Twitter presence?
ANNIK LAFARGE: Even in this age of social media, having a website is really, really important. A recent study by the Codex Group showed that that websites are one of the key ways people find out about books. Surprisingly, in terms of new book discovery, Facebook and Twitter are much less influential than author websites. Some of the reasons for this have to do with SEO (search engine optimization) and keywords. When you type in an author’s name, his/her website is first thing that comes up. To be the first result that pops up in a Google search is reason enough to have a website. This visibility gives you the opportunity to control your message and to craft the experience that you want that person who is interested in your work — that person who has taken the time to Google you — to see. Your website also gives you the opportunity to capture people’s email addresses and to build a newsletter list. Your mailing list is extremely important, even if you’re a literary fiction writer. People who give you their names and email addresses are telling you that they’re interested in you and your work and want to know more about you; they want to be kept up to date. Even just a 100-person list matters because you can use it as a mini-focus group, testing book covers and plot ideas, and you can easily alert your fans about new releases. And over time that list will grow and grow.
THE BOOK DOCTORS: What are the top mistakes authors make when designing their websites?
ANNIK LAFARGE: The biggest mistake I’ve seen is building a website and not using it. People get excited, build the engine and then let it just sit there. You need to have a plan for your website — a monthly and yearly plan: what sort of content will you launch with? What will you add as time goes by? How frequently will you post new material? Enough to blog? If so, what will the voice of your blog be? What will be the first 10 things you write about? I tell authors to plan for their website the way they do for a new book: write an outline, like a book proposal, that includes not only the “big think” — the overall substance and point of view of the website — but also a list of all the different pages and what they’ll contain. Think of it as a business plan for your site. Or to put it in more literary terms, it’s like mapping out a long piece of nonfiction — for both the hardcover and the paperback edition.
THE BOOK DOCTORS: A lot of struggling writers are concerned about the costs of setting up a website. I know you write about doing it yourself, but if you don’t have the time or inclination, what’s the minimum a person can spend and still have something that looks professional?
ANNIK LAFARGE: Anybody should be able to get a fine looking blog/website using WordPress, Sandvox (only available for Mac) or Squares Space; these are content management systems that allow you to customize a site off an easy-to-use template for nothing (in the case of WordPress, which is purely open source) or less than a hundred bucks. If you’re working with WordPress pick a theme you like at themeforest.net— my favorite of the theme sites but there are zillions on the web. And if you’re intimidated by technology then hire a designer who can create a nice banner and who knows how to do the basic programming (so you don’t have to hire a separate programmer). This can be done for as little as $500 and most designers these days are very comfortable in WordPress particularly. BUT, there is a very strong argument to be made for building a website yourself. Writers care enormously about how they present their ideas and their presence on the page, and having control over their own “content” is extremely important. Understanding how your website or blog works — how to post new material, set up new sections, add photos and videos, link up with Facebook and other social media venues — means that you can always make changes and additions whenever you like; you’ll never be dependent on a webmaster or an overworked publicist again. For many authors a website is their beating heart in the public space. Creating one can feel daunting — anything more technical than Microsoft Word intimidates many writers — but it’s enormously empowering and creative, and the technology has evolved to the point where honestly anyone can do it. You can map out the structure for your website — e.g. create your own “wireframe,” which is to a website what a blueprint is to an architectural project — at a cool new site called GoMockingbird which is very easy to use and inexpensive. Or you can do it the old-fashioned way, using a pencil and an 8 ½ x 11 sheet of manuscript paper. But sketching out a site — putting your plan on paper — is a great way to work through your ideas about who you want to be on the web, and it can save you lots of time and frustration later on.
THE BOOK DOCTORS: You are now a self-published writer. What platform did you use? What was the costliest part of the process? What was your favorite part of the process.
ANNIK LAFARGE: I went the more complex route by setting up my book at many different retailers. I used Amazon’s Create Space for the POD (print-on-demand) paperback version of my book and am very happy with them; they have great customer service and excellent help documentation. Early on I decided I wanted my book to look like a real book — even the ebook version — so I paid a designer to do a proper interior and a cover. I thought I could do the Kindle conversion myself but I made a real hash of it, so I sent the manuscript to ebookconversion.com and let them create the ePub edition. Then I set up accounts at Apple’s iBookstore (using iTunes Connect), Barnes & Noble’s PubIt! for the Nook), and Google Editions, and I simply uploaded the file at each place, created all the metadata (description, bio, etc.), and I was in business. For awhile I even sold a PDF of the book myself, on TheAuthorOnline.com, using an online tool called e-junkie, which allows you to sell digital products very easily and inexpensively. I could have gone to Lightning Source, which is a great company, and they would have streamlined the whole process for me, but I wanted to learn about each and every step along the way myself, and I make more money this way on every sale. It was time-consuming, but generally fairly easy to do. The most complicated part was dealing with Bowker who you have to go through to acquire an ISBN (the unique identifier for your book that retailers use to display and sell your book). But I’ve trained myself to go into what my partner Ann calls “the Sufi state” and become deeply patient before I visit any e-commerce site I want to partner with. I’ve found that eventually I can slog through and figure out just about everything I need to do, and there’s a particular satisfaction in that. Call it author empowerment. What I love about ebooks and POD is how nimble they allow an author to be. You can update the content any time you like, and also change the price at will. You don’t get locked into decisions. And if you set up your own website, as I did with TheAuthorOnline.com, you get the benefit of the huge amount of traffic data that Google Analytics provides — for free. So you can learn a great deal about who your readers are. My advice: start slow, be smart, have fun, and just get on with it.
Annik’s 10 ½ Tips for Being a More Effective Author Online
No. 1: Think Like An Author
One of the things that authors (unlike other mere mortals) do is organize their thoughts and ideas. You don’t just sit down and write a book from page 1 to 300; you do a lot of thinking, researching, and planning. Tip #1 is to approach your web project in the same spirit. Put on your author hat and make notes and an outline. Start with several general questions that will help inform the overall organization of your website or blog:
Who am I as an author? If you were writing the opening graf of a newspaper profile of yourself, what would you consider the ideal description of your work? Where would you place the greatest emphasis? Where the least? And then: What do my readers want? What sort of questions do they ask you when you make public appearances? What do they say when they write letters or emails to you? And: What do I want my readers to know about me that they may not currently know? This is your chance to write the Ur Q&A. Consider it a work-in-progress: post it, then keep adding to it as time goes by and your writing and career develop.
No. 2: Make a Content Plan, Part 1: Static Elements
Make a list of static elements that you want to include on your website: content that doesn’t get constantly updated or newly created like entries in a blog. First focus on things that you already have or would be easy to create: sample chapter(s); biography; reviews; Q&A; etc. Then start another list: stuff you’d love to add in the future (The Author Online contains an exhaustive list of features that readers say they like on author websites). Then go back and prioritize your master list and arrange the items into broad categories that could serve as the navigation on your site: Books (do you subdivide Fiction & Non-Fiction?), Bio, Journalism, About, etc. These are the categories that make sense to you, based on the work you did in Tip No. 1.
No. 3: Make a Content Plan, Part 2: New Elements
Consider where your new content will come from. Do you want to blog? (Do you have time to blog? Will you run out of steam after 3 months?) Will you write occasional articles/essays to post on your site? Will you share early chapters with your fans? Invite them to vote on jacket art from your publisher? Will you constantly post new links to bloggers, videos, new studies/research in your field, etc.?
No. 4: Be Smart Today and Plan to Grow in the Future</strong>
Websites evolve. The best thing you can do is be smart and focused at the beginning, and assume that you’ll grow your online presence with time and valuable feedback from fans, traffic data, and other sources. So if you’re just starting out be honest with yourself about how much time you can devote to your site; be ambitious but also realistic about your plan for adding new content. Focus on quality of content not quantity, and always circle back to the questions you asked yourself in No. 1: what do your readers want? What do you want them to know about you? Then think about what’s the best way to deliver that on your site and map out a plan for the coming months. And be sure to keep a handy list of “Future Features” and ideas for new content. Tip 4a Set up a Dropbox account and keep your list in the cloud so you can always access and update it. This is particularly handy if you travel a lot, and you can install Dropbox on any mobile device. (See here for more about how Dropbox works. While you’re there, check out Evernote, another great app that helps you keep track of stuff you find online.)
No. 5: Build a Mailing List
Even if you don’t intend to send out an email newsletter create a sign-up form and place it conspicuously on every page of your website or blog. Do this on Day 1. You may not see a reason to have an e-letter today, but in a year or so you may. People come to your website because they like your work or they’re interested in your subject; give them a simple way to stay in touch. An author’s email list has tremendous value, and it will grow over time. Start now.
No. 6: Use an ESP
Use a professional email service provider (ESP) like MailChimp or Constant Contact. Some of these services are free until your list reaches a certain size (like MailChimp) and there are many benefits: they provide simple templates for creating professional-looking emails; easy opt-out links for your subscribers; and vast riches of analytic data about who opened your emails, what they clicked on, how many times they forwarded it, where they live, etc. From that data you will learn to do things better and more effectively in the future.
No. 7: Be Creative About Your Newsletter Signup
You don’t go on the radio and simply say “buy my book, it’s a great read.” You say: “buy my book because I describe all the best tools and strategies for killing a zombie and tell you how to prepare yourself in both an urban and a rural setting.” So in your newsletter signup offer some specifics about what your emails will deliver. For a very good example of a smart newsletter sign-up see the form that SocialMediaExaminer.com uses. They promise a value-add (a free video tutorial on using Twitter), and the text has a real voice. Another example of a creative newsletter signup is the blog CrazySexyLife.com. The first signup box I saw there (in 2009) had three separate options: daily, weekly and monthly, so the reader could choose how much of author Kris Carr’s stuff she really wanted. Recently Carr updated her newsletter signup and it’s still great, but very different and now she also offers a free piece of content for folks who sign up. You’ll find screenshots of all these examples at TheAuthorOnline.com/newsletter
No. 8: Use Google Analytics
Set up your Google Analytics account on Day 1 and get addicted. As you gain traffic you will find this a terrific editorial tool because you’ll know what your readers are looking for, what they actually spend time reading, where they come from (country, state, city), and much more valuable data. Nothing will teach you more about how you’re doing online than Google Analytics, and it’s free. Don’t forget: launch it on Day 1.
No. 9: Visit Your Own Site Regularly
Go to your website at least once every few weeks and test your links (they have an uncanny way of breaking for no apparent reason). While you’re there, chances are that something will strike you: “gee, I could do this better,” or “that featured article is feeling a bit long in the tooth, it’s time to replace it with something else.” Be objective, be critical, be creative. Test new things and check the results in Google Analytics. Then lather, rinse, repeat.
No. 10: Have Fun, Be Empowered</strong>
Websites are stressful — everybody knows that. But remember all those times you had a great idea for your publicist and it just never got off the ground? Well, guess what: with your own website you can do a whole lot on your own. And once you start understanding how to use it well, and you get in the groove (and you build up your mailing list, social networking fan base, RSS subscribers….) you’ll be able to reach your readers directly whenever, however, you want. And you can invite them to provide their feedback, both publicly (through blog comments, message boards, and of course in social networking environments) or you can keep things quiet and just enable people to email you via the site. You can start small and grow. Most of all, can you can do it yourself. Visit TheAuthorOnline.com for a rich (and constantly updated) list of resources, sample author and book-specific websites, online tools, articles, links, and more. Please email me and tell me what you think I can do better, or simply alert me to your web project. I’m interested, and many others are too. Most of all, have fun.
Good luck with your project!
Blogs, writing, publishing. Mama plus!
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1. PICK SOMETHING YOU’RE PASSIONATE ABOUT
DHS: First of all, pick a subject matter that you’re absolutely passionate about.
Don’t try to follow trends. We get this all the time, like people ask me “What’s the hot thing in publishing? What should I be writing about? Werewolves, vampires, unicorns, dwarves?”
No: pick something you’re passionate about, something that has meaning for you, something that makes you excited, something you think about and do in your spare time.
2. PUT SOMETHING UP WITH CREDIBLE REGULARITY
DHS: And then, of course, there’s persistence; to have daily application of the principles involved in success. You’ve got to put something up with credible regularity: if it’s not every day, every couple of days.
You’ve got to keep feeding your blog; it’s like a garden. If you don’t water it, if you don’t weed it, if you don’t plant the right seeds, it’s just going to sit there and be a scrappy patch of weeds.
3. REACH OUT TO PEOPLE
DHS: You’ve got to have people to read it, so you’re going to have to reach out to people.
You want to find those people in your discipline, in your area of interest, and connect with them in meaningful ways. Do nice things for them.
I like to say that the biggest principle of social media is ‘Good Samaritanism’. I get things every day, and I’m sure you do too: “Vote for me!” “Be my friend!” I’m like, “Why am I going to vote for you? I don’t even know you! Why are you sending me this? Why do you want me to do something for you when I don’t even know you?”
Now, if someone emails me and says “Hello, I just wrote a review upon Amazon – which anyone can do – of your book The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published, I’m going to do something nice for that person. I will put a link to their blog all over my Facebook and my Twitter and, you know, I’ll do something nice for them if they have made themselves a friend of me.
When I’m going after somebody, I put a link to their stuff up on my various platforms. I put a review up. I put a comment up on their blog; it doesn’t take much time to do that. But when I’ve done three or four of those things, then I feel comfortable about asking them to help me in some way.
So I think that’s a really important principle to embrace: to collect your tribe of people. That’s what’s absolutely crucial. You’re writing about something in new and interesting ways, that you’re passionate about, and then to have a group of people who are interested in the same thing.
911 said the sign as we edged into the central Oregon town of Sisters. We weren’t sure if that was the population, or a cry for help. It was Saturday afternoon, and we were booked into Paulina Springs Book Company as part of our Putting Your Passion Into Print Tour. In fact we had put together this event to sell our books Satchel Sez: the World, Wit and Wisdom of Satchel Paige, and Pride & Promiscuity: the Lost Sex Scenes of Jane Austen, because our publishers, Simon & Schuster, and Random House, had told us it would be very difficult to do a successful event in a bookstore revolving around Satchel Paige or Jane Austen, both of whom are dead, and most likely will remain so. But Kate Cerino at Paulina Springs seemed to think differently, and had insisted on doing an event about Satchel Paige, instead of Passion Into Print. So there we were.
We walked into the store at 4:40 for our 5:00 event, and apart from Kate, none of the 911 Sisterites were there. Our expectations, which had been extremely low to begin with, plummeted as we spied the 30 empty seats sadly facing one lone chair, which was staring off into space self-consciously.
As we strolled around Sisters, we noticed that all the shops were closed, and no one was around. It was like a Twilight Zone episode. We began to wonder if there really were 911 people in Sisters, or if we were going to be abducted by author-starved aliens who would make us write books day and night for the rest of eternity.
Well, imagine our surprise at 5:00 when we returned to find Paulina Springs Bookstore packed with 35 of its 911 occupants. 3% of the population. If this was LA there would’ve been 300,000 people there. Our jaws hit the floor. Those melancholy chairs were now full and happy, brimming with Sisters bottoms, all waiting for us to say something intelligent, insightful and witty about Satchel Paige.
I scanned the crowd, and it suddenly hit me: there were only two people under the age of sixty in the audience. Talk about your target audience. Afterwards, the crowd asked great questions, and many of them shared their own Satchel Paige stories. It was America at its best, oral history flying all around us, right there in Paulina Springs Book Company, Sisters, Oregon, population 911. Turns out almost everyone there had seen Satchel pitch, which is not as strange as it might seem, since he barnstormed North America from Moosejaw to Miami. One woman told a story about when she was a little girl and her father took her to Comiskey Park in 1948 so she could see Satchel pitch against the Cleveland Indians. As she told us, her eyes glowed like gold as she lit up the room.
Towards the end of the event the Oldest-Man-in-the-Room raised his hand. In a voice weathered with age but still going gangbusters, he said, “I was the batboy on Satchel Paige’s team. My uncle was his manager. I used to ride in his car with him. He was fast. He would have made a great race car driver, Ol’ Satch.” He stole the whole show in about twenty seconds.
After the event, the Oldest-Man-In-the-Room approached me. He had several hundred thousand miles on him, but his smile was wide, his mind was tack-sharp, and he had incredible posture. Made me stop slouching just looking at him. He thanked me for writing the book. Then he told me that he had one of Satchel’s old gloves. I said I would love to buy it from him. He said, “No, sir, I want you to have it. Give me your address and I’ll mail it to you.” I insisted on paying for it, but he wouldn’t hear of it. He gave me his pen, and I wrote down my address for him. He carefully folded the paper and put it in his pocket. Then he stuck out his hand and I took it in mine. It was old and thin, but the grip was strong, with a little pump at the end. I hope I’m shaking hands as well as that when I’m 80. After we said our heartfelt farewells, I was distracted by someone asking me to sign a book, and this led to another signature, then another. As I signed the books, I was so happy when the buyers asked me to make the inscriptions out to their grand-sons and grand-daughters. Then it hit me: this is why I wanted to write the book in the first place, so the next generation would know about Satchel and his 6 Rules for Staying Young. As I signed, I felt a tug on my sleeve. It was the Oldest-Main-in-the-Room. I smiled to myself. I figured he probably forgot something. “Sonny, you got my pen.” I cracked up, handed him the pen, and smiled as I watched him walk away slow but steady, overjoyed at 44 to be called Sonny.
We thanked Kate, she thanked us, then we all patted each other on the back for quite some time. We promised her we’d be back when my memoir Chicken comes out in February, and she said she was looking forward to it.
Everyone in the store bought a book. It was the most successful event on our whole 13-stores-in-15-day tour.
As we packed up to leave Sisters, population 911, Arielle turned to David and said, “You never know.”
D & A: Why did you buck conventional wisdom and bring an event revolving around Satchel Sez: The Wit, Wisdom, and World of Satchel Paige into Paulina Springs Bookstore, when most publishers say in-store events about baseball players don’t work when the ballplayer is dead?
K: Someone in the store heard David being interviewed by Scott Simon on National Public Radio, and thought it would make a good event.
D & A: Why did you think an event about a Negro Leagues legend would work in your store when there are so few African-Americans in your town?
K: I don’t really think about it like that. We try to only bring in great events, so when people come to see an event here, they know it’s going to be interesting. Like all independent bookstores that have managed to survive, we have very loyal customers, and they support us.
D & A: So, you don’t make automatic assumptions of which books will draw crowds, and which won’t?
K: No, not really. We just try to bring in high-quality authors we think will put on really good events.
D & A: Your store has such a nice feel in it, it seems very intimate.
K: I think that’s important. A lot of people are intimidated by writers. A woman came to an event here and she said she’d always wanted to go to one of these events, but she felt intimidated. We have a very casual feeling here, and I think that makes a big difference.
D & A: And you had books I’d never seen before.
K: We’re able to hand-select the books we sell. I think almost every book in this store has been read by someone on the staff, or was recommended to us by a customer. One of our customers lives most of the time in Berkeley, and she comes into our store to buy books. I asked her why and she said, “You guys always have seem to have great books I can’t find anywhere else.” And she’s from Berkeley, where there are so many bookstores!
D & A: Your event was the most successful on David and Arielle’s 13 stores-in15-days Northwest Tour. Why do think the event such a success, in a town with 911 people?
K: Well, that’s a little deceiving. There are actually about 10,000 people who live in and around Sisters. But I think Paulina Springs Book Company is in many ways an intellectual center here in Sisters, and, in fact, for the larger Central Oregon community. The store’s owners, Dianne Campbell and Dick Sandvik, have worked very hard over the past nine years to develop strong audiences for our in-store events. People really pay attention to who we bring in. Like a lot of small towns all over America, many well-educated, interesting people live here. People have chosen to move here because it’s such a great place to live. We really work hard to get the word out on our events, and we benefit a lot from word of mouth in the community.
D & A: Do you think that publishers sometimes underestimate small-town bookstores’ ability to sell books and stage successful events?
K: Most definitely! We have a very hard time getting publishers to send their authors here. We’ve been very persistent, especially at making direct contact with writers. Authors like Sandra Dallas, Barry Lopez, Ivan Doig, and Craig Lesley came to Paulina Springs despite reservations of their publicists – and had great receptions and wonderful experiences. We think it’s time publicists and publishers took note that their authors might make a bigger splash here, rather than being part of the background noise in the big city. I was cleaning the files the other day and I found a note from Pete Fromm addressing this very point. “…the entire way to Boise, where the Barnes & noble experience was pretty much a bust. Meeting you guys, the dinner and the reading at your store turned out to be one of the high points of the entire trip. Thanks for pestering the publisher to get me there.”
D & A: That was our experience, too, Kate. Thank you so much for talking to me, and thanks for making us feel so welcome.
K: Thank you.
To read on Huffington Post click here.
When we first met Roxanna Elden during our workshop at the Miami Writers Institute, she said she had an idea for a teacher book. This made us skeptical at first — we’ve run publishing workshops for years, and in that time we’ve met hundreds of teachers who wanted to write books. Quickly, though, we realized Roxanna’s idea was different: a book that debunks Hollywood-movie teaching myths (see Hilary Swank, Edward James Olmos and Michelle Pfeiffer), and shares honest, funny stories and practical advice from teachers around the country. She described it as “Hard Liquor for the Teacher’s Soul.” Arielle and I were impressed, but we know writing doesn’t work like Hollywood either. Many talented writers give up before their work gets into the right hands. That’s why, along with quality writing, thorough research, and smart networking, our workshop emphasizes a fourth component: Persistence. Roxanna took this message to heart.
See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers was first published in 2009. Unfortunately, just as the book was beginning to gain national attention, the original publisher stopped printing its entire line of career books. Situations like these, as we mention in our book, The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published, can test even the most persistent of authors. But take heart, orphaned authors. The book caught the attention of Sourcebooks — one of our favorite publishers. A second edition of the book is out this month with an even better cover, a top-notch publisher, and an author with several years of experience promoting a published book. We are now checking in eight years since we first met Roxanna when she was a writer dreaming of being an author at our workshop. We asked her about teaching writing, writing about teaching, and getting a second shot at publishing success.
The Book Doctors: Congratulations on the second edition, but let’s start at the beginning. When did you start writing your book and why?
Roxanna Elden: My younger sister began teaching three years after I did, and during her first year, I started writing the book I needed during my first year — a funny, honest, practical collection of stories and tips from veteran teachers. There are so many books that share heartwarming teaching stories, but on a day when a second grader curses at you, you don’t want to read a heartwarming success story. You want to read a story about a kindergartener punching a teacher in the eye. You need to know that teachers can bounce back from their worst days and still go on to become successful. Then you need to know the next manageable step you can take to be a better teacher in the morning.
TBD: What has changed for teachers since the first edition of your book came out?
RE: New teachers today spend a ton of time comparing their unedited footage to other people’s highlight reels. They are also caught in the middle of political debates about education that have become much more public, polarized and angry. New teachers are usually not interested in getting caught up in politics, though. They just want to focus on getting kids to stop throwing wet toilet paper at the bathroom ceiling.
TBD: What has changed in your life since you first became a published author?
RE: I’m now a relatively experienced teacher, but I have recently become a rookie parent. It’s been a long time since I’ve been a beginner at something where the stakes are so high, and it kind of brings me back to that feeling of being a beginning teacher.
TBD: How does being a new parent compare to being a new teacher?
RE: Both teachers and parents need humor, honesty, and practical advice. The most important difference, however, is that there is that there are very few parents who quit within five year. Nearly half of all teachers do quit within five years. At low-income schools, half of all teachers leave within three years. Students at low-income schools are much more likely to have a rookie teacher at the front of the classroom. Any lessons new teachers learn the hard way, they learn full of a class full of kids. <em>See Me After Class</em> lets them know they are not alone.
TBD: You have attended the Miami Writers Institute for many years. How did that community help you with the writing and selling of your book?
RE: People travel from all over the country to attend the Writers Institute at Miami Dade College. I’m lucky enough to live ten minutes away. The Writer’s Institute has been like an express train, moving me to each new publishing milestone faster than I could have gotten there on my own. They offer workshops and opportunities that help with every part of the process. My first time attending was the year the Book Doctors were presenting. Your book and workshop gave me a map to follow that kept me from taking unnecessary detours. In later years, I attended workshops on structure and revision that helped make the book everything it could be. Four years into the process I met my agent, Rita Rosenkranz, at a workshop she was presenting on non-fiction book proposals at the conference.
TBD: For many authors, finding an agent is one of the most difficult parts of the publishing process. What was the process like for you?
RE: It was the longest part of the publishing process for me, and the most difficult, ego-wise. I spent many weekends eating pizza in my pajamas and reading “The Rejection Section” of your book. Then, each time, I would decide I’d put in too much work to quit, and start researching other agents. Most of my early queries led to one-line emails and rejection form letters. Then I started getting personal rejections with feedback. Later there were agents who showed interest at first and then said no after months of preparation on my part. This was frustrating, but their demands forced me to strengthen my platform — I launched a website, began performing standup comedy, and began finding public speaking opportunities. I also became a National Board Certified Teacher, which enhanced my credibility within the teaching profession. When I attended Rita Rosenkranz’s workshop about four years into the process, I immediately had the feeling that all of my experiences with other agents — even the frustrating ones — had prepared me so I would be ready when I met her. I handed her a business card and followed up by email the same day. Within a week we had a contract, and less than a month later she got a great contract with our first publisher. Later, when the book went out of print, she acted immediately to get the rights back and find a new home for the book at Sourcebooks, who has done an amazing job with the second edition. Without Rita’s help I would never have had the courage to switch publishers, and even if I did I can’t imagine I would have ended up with such a good one.
TBD: What is different in your promotional plan this time around?
RE: For this edition, I am starting with a much larger network of people who have read the book and are now happy to help promote it. The past four years have also provided a tremendous opportunity to connect with other writers and organizations that work with teachers, which has also helped in promotional efforts. Best of all, in the process of speaking to spread the word about the first edition, I’ve realized I love speaking to teachers and others interested in education. The past few years have brought many new offers for paid speaking opportunities, which has led to an unexpected side-career speaking on a variety of education-related topics.
TBD: We usually hate to ask writers to give writing advice, but you teach writing at a high school — what advice do you give students based on your own experience as an author?
RE: I usually don’t tell students that I’ve written a book until late in the year. Then I do a short unit on the publishing process and also try to relate it to other careers in which people advise you to “keep your day job:” music, acting, art, dancing, etc. I have a Xeroxed packet of my past rejection letters that I pass out early in the talk. Then I tell students the happier parts of the story. In the process, I try to reinforce the same four points your workshop emphasized four years ago, adapted for a high school audience: Put in the time to do it right, make an effort to meet people who can help you, and do your homework to see where you fit into your market. Most of all, be persistent: even if you hit roadblocks along the way, the story is not over until you say it is. But also keep your day job.
Roxanna Elden is a National Board Certified high school teacher. Her book, See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers, is a funny, honest, practical guide with tips and stories from teachers around the country. Elden also speaks on a variety of education-related topics. For more information visit www.seemeafterclass.net.
The Book Doctors have helped dozens and dozens of amateur writers become professionally published authors. They edit books and develop manuscripts, help writers develop a platform, and connect them with agents and publishers. Their book is The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published. Anyone who reads this article and buys the print version of this book gets a FREE 20 MINUTE CONSULTATION with proof of purchase (email: email@example.com). Arielle Eckstut is an agent-at-large at the Levine Greenberg Literary Agency, one of New York City’s most respected and successful agencies. Arielle is not only the author of seven books, but she also co-founded the iconic company, LittleMissMatched, and grew it from a tiny operation into a leading national brand that now has stores from Disneyland to Disney World to 5th Avenue in NYC. Her new book is The Secret Language of Color: Science, Nature, History, Culture, Beauty of Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, and Violet. David Henry Sterry is the author of 15 books, a performer, muckraker, educator, and activist. His new book is a 10 year anniversary of his memoir, Chicken, an international bestseller, which has been translated into 10 languages. His anthology, Hos, Hookers, Call Girls and Rent Boys was featured on the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review. The follow-up, Johns, Marks, Tricks and Chickenhawks, just came out. He has appeared on, acted with, written for, worked and/or presented at: Will Smith, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Stanford University, National Public Radio, Penthouse, Michael Caine, the London Times, Playboy and Zippy the Chimp. His new illustrated novel is a coming-of-age, Mort Morte, black comedy that’s kind of like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, as told by Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver. He loves any sport with balls, and his girls. www.davidhenrysterry.com
Featured Books by David Henry Sterry
My man Khaled sits for a brain-picking by the Book Doctors on the Huffington Post.
A couple of years ago we did a Pitchapalooza (think American Idol for books) in Kansas City. Our winner, Genn Albin, gave an outrageously amazing pitch for her dystopian YA trilogy. This led to an enormous buzz around her book, Crewel. Many agents were interested in her and she asked us for our advice on this most monumental of decisions. We told her, hands down, Mollie Glick was the way to go. Mollie got her a mid-six-figure three book deal with one of the best publishers in America, Farrar Strauss Giroux. Mollie is that rare agent: smart, wise, savvy, and nice. So we thought we’d pick her brain about the state of books.
MOLLIE GLICK: I’ve always been a bookworm. In fourth grade my teacher told my mother during their parent/teacher conference that I read too much! So I knew I had to find a job where I’d get paid to read. Plus, I actually get to use my English degree!
TBD: Many writers are under the impression that their manuscript just has to be pretty darn good and then once they get an agent, the agent will help them make it better. Is this is fact the case?
MG: Depends on the agent. Personally, I’m very hands on if I have a clear vision for where a novel needs to go… and that vision resonates with the author. But I actually lose out on a lot of projects to agents who tell writers it’s just perfect as it is, and then get scared off when the first round of rejections come in because they don’t know how to help the author revise.
TBD: Writers often look to what’s already been published to help them decide what kind of book to write. Is it too late to wait until a trend has appeared on bookshelves to hop on the bandwagon? Should a writer even consider trends at all?
MG: Honestly, when I take something trendy on it’s in SPITE of the fact that it’s trendy. For example, Josie Angelini’s STARCROSSED series came to me once paranormal romance had already taken off. At first I questioned whether I should still consider it. But then I started reading and I couldn’t put it down. Ultimately, that’s always my litmus test of whether I’m going to offer representation.
TBD: Do you think it’s easier these days to sell fiction based on a true story than to sell a memoir? If so, are there certain categories of memoirs (like mother/daughter stories, alcoholism stories) that this rule particularly applies to?
MG: Nah– I still love memoir! It just has to be really, really good.
TBD:What is the threshold for sales of a self-published book that make you go, “Wow!”? And in what time frame are you looking for with these numbers?
MG: Good question. I’d like to see someone selling at least 5-10k copies and hopefully more like 20k on their own. And it’s not so much about the time frame as what price they’ve set their novel at. A novel selling hundreds of thousands of copies at a dollar a pop is still intriguing, but you do wonder whether those fans will keep buying once the book costs more like ten dollars.
TBD: Do you respond to all queries, even those that are in categories you don’t represent? If not, why not? How can writers avoid the void?
MG: No– we get hundreds and hundreds of queries a week, and many of these authors are querying dozens of agents at once. I can’t respond to every one and still make a living, But my assistant and I respond to every query that looks right for my list within a week or two of receiving the query– and often much sooner. The best way to avoid the void is to make sure you’re querying a genre the agent represents, that your query letter is intriguing, and that it is grammatically correct!
TBD: What are the most common mistakes you see in queries?
MG: Addressing a query to multiple agents at once. Or sending queries on topics I’ve never expressed interest in.
Mollie Glick is an agent at Foundry Literary + Media, representing literary fiction, young adult fiction, narrative nonfiction and a bit of practical nonfiction. After graduating with honors from Brown University, Mollie began her publishing career as a literary scout, advising foreign publishers regarding the acquisition of rights to American books. She then worked as an editor at the Crown imprint of Random House, before switching over to “the other side” and becoming an agent in 2003. In addition to her work as a literary agent, Mollie has served on the Contracts Committee of the AAR and teaches classes at Media Bistro and the Grotto. Her instructional articles on nonfiction proposal writing and query letter writing have been featured in Writers Digest. Some of her recent projects include Jonathan Evison’s The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving; Carol Rifka Brunt’s Tell the Wolves I’m Home; Elizabeth Black’s The Drowning House; Daniel O’Malley’s The Rook; Gennifer Albin’s Crewel and Josie Angelini’s Starcrossed.
Very nice article by Andrea Pyros
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