Wednesday, February 17, 2021

What Covid-19 Should Be Teaching Authors

Back in 2008 (going back in the Way-Back machine) and we had that first recession, things looked pretty bleak for authors. Book buyers were deciding that buying basic groceries was probably a better decision than buying books. All of those brick and mortar stores that we loved to hang out in were starting to close. Publishers started looking at e-books and there was a thought that the print book would be gone. As a result, many publishers started cutting back on the number of new authors they were signing. For new authors, it was just plain tough. 

But they fought through. It became apparent that e-books were not going to drive the print books out. Publishers, although still not signing as many new authors were starting to pick up again. And authors now tried to find new avenues to being successful. They got creative. They still had to rely on all of those traditional outlets for getting their books out there. They may not have had the large book stores, but they started pushing those smaller independent book sellers.

And then Covid-19 hit. If authors thought 2008 was bad, this totally sucked. Look at the impact this tiny little virus had: 

  • Conferences were cancelled. And this is where authors hyped up all of their books.
  • Book stores closed. And this is where authors were trying to get those book sales out.
  • Book stores and other locations closed or shifted to curbside or delivery. This meant that the people who used to go INTO a store were now now browsing the books on the shelves any more
  • Social media was now flooded. In the past authors could try this, but now those posts were lost among all of the other posts as people attempted to get together.
  • Editors were now working from home. And this slowed the process of getting books through all of the individuals needed to get the books to the shelves. 
  • The number of people self-publishing increased. This now flooded the digital market which meant finding a book or author was even more difficult. 
I am seeing a few authors trying to get creative, but for the most part, I am not seeing a new wave of creativity about getting those book sales up. People are still trying the old methods, and then, with their friends (most likely in Zoom chats) are complaining about sales. 

Covid-19 SHOULD be teaching authors to think outside of the box. They were successful with finding ways to stay entertained while locked inside their house. Some businesses were successful with finding ways to keep the doors opened. Authors need to do the same thing. 

Get Creative.
Think.
Try something new.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Understanding the VOICE of the Publisher

 I am currently teaching a course on Developmental Editing with the UCLA Extension program. (Shameless plug but check out the program 😁). One of the first major assignments I give the participants is to examine and study a single publisher. The goal is to know that publisher "inside and out." While all of the students did a pretty good job, they all made the same mistake that a lot of authors make. They looked at things on a surface level and only focused in on the big issues. What did they miss?

THE VOICE!

The voice of a publisher is really something that all authors need to look at before submitting any manuscript. I would even go so far as saying you need to know the publisher you want to write for and know their voice before you even start writing. Let me explain what the people in my UCLA course were doing. 

They looked at plot and topic. They looked at "mission statements" of the publisher and what they publisher said they like in terms of themes. Yes, these are all great places to start, but it still comes down to the voice. 

You will find that the genre of your writing or even the topics you write about show up with a lot of different publishers. HOWEVER... the voice of every publisher is very different. You can pick up a romance novel from Harper Collins and clearly be able to say that is a "Harper Collins voice." You can also clearly hear the difference in the same genre of writing when you pick up a Source Books, Kensington, or Berkley novel. They all produce the same genres and often have very similar descriptsion of what they look for (including word count) but the voice is VERY different. 

If you really want to be successful in this business, you need to take the time to really study the voice of the publisher. I promise, it will pay off for you!

Monday, February 15, 2021

A Guaranteed Way To Get Rejected

Rejections are not easy to take as a writer. They are sometimes, as equally not easy for an editor or agent to write. As always, I want to take a quick moment and give you a quick suggestions to not get rejected. Or, if you want to get rejected, let me give you the easiest way to get that nasty-gram in your mail.

DON'T FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS! 


That's right! If you don't follow the directions, whether it is submitting in a way not asked for, or submitting something we don't accept, you'll get that rejection letter! What's more, you will likely get that form letter that all of you complain about getting!

I spent this weekend answering submissions and I was amazed at the number of authors who clearly love rejection letters. Consider the following examples (beyond submitting something I do not acquire...I'll get to that in a moment:

  • My submission form calls for a 250 word blurb about the novel and yet authors submit not just the full synopsis but several chapters.
  • My submission guidelines say to only include a query letter and yet, author submit embedded in the email the entire novel
  • My requested material states to submit a manuscript and synopsis as an attachment (with some additional items that I will not mention here) and people just embed all of the documents in one message.
  • I clearly state what I represent and people email saying that they know this is not what I want but I should take on their project anyway.
Let's expand on that last one. Again, here is a reason for an automatic rejection eventually. I get several submissions a week, from the email link on my website of people saying they do not know what I acquire, or what I am asking for in a submissions. Umm, hellllooooo! You are emailing FROM MY WEBSITE! The information is there. Apparently reading skills might be a serious issue. 

I know some of you will say that the information is not available, but I hate to break it to you, the information is there. It might be because you are looking on some large list or databased and not going to the website for the information. I know that some of you will argue that you are trying to be helpful and save us the time so you want to give us more than we ask for. Again, this is not going to work because there is a reason for what we ask for and how we ask for it. 

Now I know that some of you are thinking that this is why you go to self-publishing. You believe this is all about "jumping through hoops" and agents being nothing more than "gate-keepers." Nope. This is a pretty basic thing that all businesses like to consider when they are looking at their employees. Can you follow directions or not?

Just something to think about on a Monday!


Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Marketing Strategies and Thoughts

 I am in the middle of prepping for a second class with the UCLA Extension program. This one focuses in on Marketing for PR and Agents. As I put this together, I am seeing a lot of things that I do believe many of you authors are not doing successfully. Many of these things I have stated here on the blog, but, like so many times earlier, reminding you might be a good thing.

First of all, you have to be proactive. Readers will not just come to you. It is up to you to find them. This means a constant barrage of trying new things. It doesn't matter what, but if you are seeing sales not going the way you want those sales to go, it might be time to start doing something about it.

Secondly, know you readers. Each of you have a completely different group of followers. It might be determined by the genre you write or simply by your unique voice. It really doesn't matter. The key is to know who they are and how to communicate with them. What do they want to hear about? How do they gather their information? If you are not taking the time to figure this out. You are really missing out. 

Finally, remember that just because one author finds success with one strategy, it might not work for you. Along the same lines, if one of your writing colleagues says that an approach does not work, that just means it does not work for them.

The key to all of this is keep pushing. If you want those sales to go through the roof, you have to find a new approach!