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Posts Tagged ‘Writer’s Resources’

If you’re published, but are already on book number two and haven’t hit the bestsellers lists, chances are you’re what’s termed a midlist author. To publishers, midlist authors are the least exciting category of writer. Their first books weren’t hotties. They’ve been bought again because they did okay their first time out, but are often pushed to the back of the bus in favor of those at the top, or the next potential hottie to come along.

Editors and publishers have been shouting about the death of the midlist since dinosaurs were harnessed to run printing presses, sometime in the mid-1980s. Publishing industry pundits at the time urged their readers to cup a hand to their ear and listen for the death knell, as corporations began gobbling up publishing houses and sought to “trim the fat” off their operations.

Why should we publish people who aren’t going to be runaway bestsellers? was the prevailing corporate wisdom of the era.

In truth, I suspect that the history of the midlist over the last twenty-five years could provide hours of lively debate. Is it less than it once was? The proverbial mere shadow? Or is it even stronger today?

Lori Devoti’s “The Death of the Midlist” revives the old arguments at Romancing the Blog, with news that two publishers are supposedly sending their midlists to the gallows. In addition to providing an excellent Midlist for Dummies-style primer, Devoti asks an important question.

…when I heard these two publishers were eliminating their mid-list I thought, “How?” Are they dropping everything that isn’t an A to them? Are they getting out their crystal ball and only buying the “big” books? Or are they just gouging out the middle? Keeping the A’s and the D’s but dumping those darn B’s and C’s?”

The answer, I think, would be yes. If publishers wanted to cut their midlist, there are a number of ways they could put the squeeze on the middle. They might raise the criteria for purchases of an author’s second and subsequent books, requiring higher sell-through rates or even a back-to-print order before an author was bought again. They could contract fewer new authors, selecting just a handful at a time, those they perceived as having the potential for mass appeal; whereupon they made those lucky few into bestsellers.

Where would all the unwanted authors go? It’s a sure thing that they wouldn’t stop writing, or attempting to see their books published. I know I wouldn’t. My guess is that more and more of them would turn to eBook publishers and even self-publishing as an option.

Which makes me wonder, will the large New York houses decide not to eliminate the midlist, but transform it instead?

What are the chances they’ll release most of the dinosaurs from the printing presses and put them to pasture, or swamp, or the Brontosaurus graveyard, and choose not to print, warehouse and distribute midlist books? What if they looked forward a decade, to when print book sales will be on the wane anyway, and came to the conclusion that the midlist should be eBook-only?

In this scenario, print would be reserved for two categories of books, the A-list, and those whom publishers visualized as having the potential to A-list, whether they be first-timers, or long-time eBook only midlisters who have found a large enough audience to merit the luxury.

Devoti makes a good argument in her post when she wonders how the buying public would react to a total evisceration of the middle:

…my guess is a lot of authors who live on the mid list would just disappear. This would be okay for a while. There is a never ending supply of new hopeful writers, but eventually wouldn’t that get old? There are a lot of really good books on that mid list. (Seriously, none of us believe only best-sellers are good, right? Or even all best-sellers are good.) If you could only pick between the new and the big, I truly think you would miss what used to be in the middle.

Regardless of what choices corporate publishing makes, to transition their B- and C-list authors to another format, or allow a great migration of the same to smaller eBook-only houses, my belief is that the midlist will never truly die.

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For anyone who has written and sold their first novel, what comes next can often be a daunting task. How do you get the reading public to notice you and buy?

Logically, it sounds like this should be the publisher’s job. They’ve bought your book and made it one of their products. You’ve given over your rights to them. Wouldn’t it be in their best interests to market it so that they can make more money?

Apparently not, according to an article by Neely Tucker of the Washington Post, “On Web, a Most Novel Approach.” Publishers do actively push their titles, but increasingly it’s those at the top of the food chain that get fed, while new authors, those in print anyway, who must fend for themselves.

Authors are expected to behave like mini-entrepreneurs, says Kamy Wicoff, founder and CEO of She Writes, a Web site devoted to helping women writers promote their books. She started the site in June. More than 4,000 writers have joined.

“The landscape has altered so fundamentally and irrevocably that almost no one is immune from finding ways to participate in the promotion of their books,” Wicoff says. “Writers with small advances and limited resources are expected to treat their book as a new company, with marketing and promotion and PR.”

Tucker makes this sound like a new development, though it has actually been the case for many years now. The current economic recession and systemic financial difficulties in the publishing industry, however, have accentuated the disparity.

Never Underestimate the Value of a Book Trailer

As an example, the Post tells the story of first time nonfiction author Kelly Corrigan, who in 2008 published a memoir, The Middle Place, about cancer’s effect on the family. True, nonfiction about disease is a long way from romance fiction, but many of the same challenges face fiction and nonfiction authors alike.

When her book came out, Corrigan received no invites to book festivals, was not sent on tour, didn’t even get reviews. What she did in response, however, could serve as an excellent PR blueprint for all authors. She got busy.

She cobbled together a trailer for her book on her home computer, using iMovie software, downloading a free tune off the Web for background music, and stuck it on her Web site. Her agent helped get her on one network television morning show. About 20 friends hosted book parties, which she hit on a self-funded three-week blitz, selling books out of the trunk of her car. A guy shot video of her reading an essay at one of these parties, and she posted it on YouTube when the paperback came out.

A year later, the book has sold about 80,000 copies in hardcover and another 260,000 in paperback, according to Nielsen BookScan data. It sat on the New York Times bestseller list for 20 weeks, peaking at No. 2. That homemade trailer has been viewed more than 100,000 times. The video of her reading has drawn 4.5 million hits.

EBook authors may not find themselves selling copies of their books out of their trunks. Still, the ingenuity behind Corrigan’s story is admirable and inspiring. This is a meaty article, with a single bottom line lesson. If you want to get noticed, it’s your responsibility to do it for yourself.

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If you’re looking for a home for your science fiction romance manuscripts, you might want to click on over to “Where to Submit Science Fiction Romance,” at The Galaxy Express. Heather Massey has put together a two-part series on SFR publishers, Part I dealing with New York print houses, Part II with digital and small presses.

While she names many of the usual suspects in the post on digital publishers, (Samhain, Cerridwen, Liquid Silver, and Lyrical, etc.), there are a few on the list that may be unfamiliar to romance writers. Among them:

  • Crescent Moon Press
  • Desert Breeze Publishing
  • Drollerie Press
  • Eirelander Publishing (new publisher opening in October)
  • Mundania Press
  • Whiskey Creek Press

Remember to check out submission guidelines first before submitting your manuscripts to any publisher, not only to make certain you’re submitting material appropriate for that house, but to protect your own interests regarding rights, royalties, and payments. Your goal as a writer is not simply to sell your work, but be sure it sells well, sells safely, and that you get paid.

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inverted-em-sigJust stumbled across this fun website, Excerpt Monday, an ongoing hub of links to new romance novel excerpts that are refreshed each month. For September, I counted thirty-six romance authors participating, among them Emily Ryan-Davis, Ella Drake, Stephanie Draven, Julia Knight, and Jeanne St. James. Here’s how site creators Bria Quinlan and Alexia Reed, explain it.

Once a month, a bunch of authors get together and post excerpts from published books, contracted work or works in progress, and link to each other. You don’t have to be published to participate–just an writer with an excerpt you’d like to share.

The site is pretty bare bones, but the links to the individual excerpts on authors’ websites are terrific. I especially love the sneak peeks at works-in-progress or books that haven’t yet hit the stores.

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One of the most frustrating problems for romance authors and author hopefuls is not how to write something, but what to write and how to find people, ideally lots of people, who will buy it. Some authors excel at the business and marketing side of the writing biz, while others loath it and just want to be left alone to do their work.

Personally, I hate marketing. Why? Because it’s extremely complex and considering the vast array of ways people communicate with each other these days, there’s just so damn much of it. If you’ve ever visited a writers forum and taken a look at the signatures of the various posters to that forum, you may have noticed it’s common for an author to include links to websites, multiple blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and other assorted “content streams.” All of that has to be built and maintained, and it’s a helluva lot of work, time that’s pulled away from what many writers prefer to do, write.

Some experts claim that no amount of marketing an author does, and this includes book signings and tours, will increase that authors sales. Others believe it’s crucial to engage in as many activities that put your name in front of readers as you can. Most authors have the option of leaving all publicity efforts up to their publishers, but it’s becoming increasingly rare to find an author who doesn’t have at least a bare bones website or blog.

Even if the subject of market trends makes your brain want to shut down, it pays to have at least a passing knowledge of them. Who is buying books now and why? How are they buying books? Where are they buying books? What are they buying? How can you use this knowledge to sell your books to them?

More importantly, where is the market going to be one, two, five years from now? You may wonder, am I going to be left in the dust if I don’t pay attention?

Lucienne Diver, an agent with The Knight Agency, gave the keynote address at the Heritage Book Festival in St. Augustine, Florida last week, a speech that addressed many of these questions. “New Publishing Paradigms,” is now posted on her blog. I liken it to the publishing version of a fold-out pocket map of a foreign city.

Some nuggets:

  • Reading among adults and teens is actually on the rise for the first time since 1982
  • Some companies are experimenting with enhanced eBooks, which do more than simply deliver words on the screen
  • Audio downloads of books are currently outselling eBooks
  • You can’t have a bestseller without having people talk about your books (handselling), and much, if not most, communication occurs online
  • Viral marketing is the “big buzzword,” (i.e. friends emailing links to friends who forward the links, etc.)
  • Serialized novels are becoming popular
  • Some print publishers are experimenting with a low advance/50% of monies earned model
  • Dark and sensual is currently outselling humorous and light (odd given the depressing economy)

This is only a brief list. I’ve left out many of Driver’s other important facts and insights. Some of you may already have much of the information in this address, but I’m willing to bet you’ll find a helpful surprise or two.

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Kassia Krozser, late of the shuttered Quartet Press, has posted an excellent primer for writers on the differences in eBook publishing versus print on her blog, Booksquare. If you’re an unpublished writer hoping eBooks might be your ticket to publication, or a print novelist considering selling extra romance eFiction to indie pubs such as Samhain or Ellora’s Cave, give “Digital Publishing: Looking at the Business Model,” a look.

Krozer sifts the pros and cons of the eBook publishing model for the novice, including:

  • Advances and lower royalties from print pubs  vs. no advances and higher royalties from eBook pubs
  • Selling on proposal to print vs. selling full manuscripts to eBook pubs
  • Differences in time to market of your manuscript in print and electronic format
  • Quality control of finished product in print and eBook
  • Expected sales numbers in print vs. eBooks
  • Pricing and third party sales

This is an extensive article. Even those already working in the eBook publishing world may discover a fact or two about the digital publishing model they may not have known before.

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As I hunt up new things to blog about, occasionally I’ll come across something noteworthy or fun that doesn’t always end up in a post of its own. Here are a few sites and tidbits I’ve come across this week that are well-deserving of a mention.

The Season

Hands down one of the most elegant and visually sumptuous romance sites I’ve seen, The Season is a place where historical romance fans can get their fix. It’s also worth a look by non-historical romance types for its sheer originality.

When visiting the site, viewers are asked to play along with the idea that they have joined the London Regency Era “Season” of parties and balls in full swing, while simultaneously viewing the latest historical romance titles. Run by romance author, Beverley Kendall, The Season exists in three-month doses with an archive page for past seasons. Visitors will find plenty of excerpts, book recommendations, and contests.

Sexy Wallpaper from Gena Showalter

If you’re into sexy guys—rhetorical question?—get this free wallpaper from Gena Showalter for Deep Kiss of Winter. Two versions are available for download.

deepkisswall1-300x187

The Passionate Pen

Looking for an extensive list of eBook romance publishers and their websites? Check out this no-frills, but extremely helpful directory by Jenna Peterson. Though not intended expressly for eBook authors, there’s still plenty of good coverage of the format, including articles on marketing your manuscripts to editors.

Free Reads from Celia Kyle

Not content to offer just one free read, this Liquid Silver Books author offers 7 short stories on her website. They’re not downloadable and must be read on screen, but hey! 7 free stories.

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