Many Ways to Skin a Cat | Shevi Arnold

Blog Series: Researching “The Many Ways to Skin a Cat” in Publishing

Over the next few weeks I am going to be looking at all the ways “to skin a cat” in publishing. I am going to interview and feature guest posts with different authors from different publishing options. So if, like me, you are at that painful and exciting point of trying to make the most informed choice…stick around and watch this space. Perhaps one of the options will stand out for you and perhaps one of these authors that I interview or who guest-post will inspire you down the same path.

I am coming at this with a completely open mind and non-judgmental attitude. I am doing this series as much to get more information for myself and educate myself as I am any reader whom finds this interesting or useful.

Open Call*

Also if you want to be one of the authors to be interviewed or guest post on this topic in this series, please shout out.

*My Guarantee: No Cats will be harmed or skinned in the writing of this series!*

😼   😼   😼   😼   😼

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing a woman of many talents. Not only does she have a way with words but she has a way with pictures and illustrations as well. She is definitely a “cat” with many lives. She has been an editorial cartoonist, a newspaper illustrator, a journalist, a comics magazine editor and now she is a published author. She has a unique view on the world of publishing since she has been in the industry of words and images for over 20 years. I have been itching to get her views on “the many ways to skin a cat” in the publishing industry and what better time and place than right here and right now on Dragonfly Scrolls. So relax, sit back, put your feet up while the talented Shevi Arnold and I chat.

1. Can you tell us what “being Indie” means to you?

Shevi >> I came to indie publishing after trying to break into traditional publishing for nine years. I found some success—one of my novels, Ride of Your Life, won third place in a big national contest and received numerous requests from literary agents for full manuscripts—but I found a lot of frustration too. I was okay with rejection letters, but when so many agencies switched to a “no response” policy, I just couldn’t take it. I couldn’t handle not knowing, never knowing, not even if my query letters had been received. It felt like I was sending my stories into a black hole. It got so bad that I literally got palpitations every time I hit the send button on a query letter. I have this thing that I do when I hit a wall. I stop, reevaluate the situation, and ask myself why I got into it in the first place and whether it’s still worthwhile to continue along the same path. Over those nine years, indie publishing had evolved. After taking a long hard look at it, I realized that traditional publishing couldn’t offer me anything I didn’t already have. I had years of writing experience. I had years of illustrating and designing experience. I even had years of editing experience. True, all of this was in newspapers and magazines, but it was still experience. And I could use that experience to adventure out on my own. For me, being an indie author means taking the fate of your work into your own hands. It means that you’ve chosen to believe in your own work, instead of waiting for someone else to believe in it for you.

2. Nowadays there are so many options for authors but the sheer amount of publishing options can create confusion.

Why did you decide to go the pure Indie route of self-publishing?

Shevi >> I’m not sure I would say that I have decided to go the “pure indie route.” I have for now, but things might change in the future. I’d like to keep my options open. Indie publishing does take a lot of time, however, which is why I’m focused only on that. And I am enjoying my freedom. Independent publishing lets you take chances a traditional publisher might be hesitant to take. I like that the reader gets to see my vision for the story, because no one made me change something to make it more marketable or for some other reason. For example, I like to illustrate my own stories. Even my YA novels, like Toren the Teller’s Tale and Ride of Your Life, have illustrated chapter headers. I feel this gives the readers extra value when they buy my books, and the readers seem to like it. When I was working for the Jerusalem Post, I used to draw illustrations for my own consumer column, but a traditional book publisher might not want me to do that. I like that as an indie author that’s a choice I can make.

3. You hear of authors switching methods of publication from seeking traditional representation from agents & the Big6 to small press to self-publishing.

Did you try any other route in publishing before settling on self-publishing and can you tell us what these routes were?

Shevi >> (See my reply to question 1.)

4. On the converse side of the debate, are you a dyed-in-the-wool Indie author or would you ever consider the lure of a Big6 publishing contract?

Shevi >> It depends. I like to keep my options open.

5. What would you say is the most important piece of advice you were given in your dream to become a published author?

Shevi >> When I was in college, I majored in English Literature and Theater Studies. I took a playwriting course, and the professor told me I should be a writer. I guess that was the most important piece of advice I was ever given on the topic. Before that, I wanted to be a film director, but then I thought, “Writing… Hmm, that’s not a bad idea. It’s just another form of storytelling, after all.” But I guess what you’re looking for is something your readers can take away. I’m not going to tell you, “You should be a writer.” I haven’t just heard you read the play you wrote, so I don’t know. What I can tell you is that you can learn a lot about writing by studying Improv. You can learn, for example, that it doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be done. Perfection, after all, is unattainable. You’ll drive yourself crazy if you try to get it perfect, and you’ll never write a thing. But something really amazing can happen and you take a piece of crap and edit the crap out of it. Of course, before you can do anything, you’re going to need that piece of crap written down. Otherwise, you’ll have nothing to edit. You’ll be like a sculptor without a block of clay. Of course, it might be fun to watch a sculptor trying to create something out of thin air, but in the end the sculptor will have nothing to show for it. The only difference is that as a writer you need to create your own block of clay.

6. Being Indie means that you have to be your own Marketing guru and Public Relations expert, what have you learnt about marketing your own books as an Indie Author?

Shevi >> The main thing I’ve learned about marketing is that I’m really bad at it. I’m first and foremost a writer, and I have qualms about some of the marketing tactics I’ve seen some in other indie authors use. For example, I wouldn’t feel right about rewarding people for reviewing my book, and yet I’ve seen other indie authors do just that. And I can’t stand seeing posts on Facebook from authors shouting things like “Like my fan page! Download my book! Vote for my book in this contest!” How about instead you write a great book, create a great fan page with great content, and then let me be the judge? I’d rather let my books stand on their own merit. I don’t want you to buy my book (or like my Facebook page) because I told you to. I want you to do it because it sounds like something you’d want to read. There’s a magician in one of the stories that Toren tells in my novel Toren the Teller’s Tale who refuses to be paid until the customer is fully satisfied. I feel the same way. I want you to be happy that you bought one of my novels because you enjoyed the story, and not because I told you to.

7. Everyone keeps on about the importance of developing “your own brand” as an author.

Do you agree and how have you built “your own brand”?

Shevi >> I think this was actually one of the main reasons why I came so close to landing an agent but wasn’t able to, if you’ll excuse the cliché, seal the deal—I don’t fit a single brand. I wouldn’t even want to. My tastes are eclectic. I wouldn’t want to read just one kind of book. Why would I want to write just one kind of book? Brands are so limiting. I think that no writer is as well branded as JK Rowling. But look at how she got locked into writing Harry Potter books for years. I couldn’t stand that! Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adore my characters. I look forward to writing the next book in the Toren the Teller series, and I have another series I’ll be starting soon– the Gilbert the Fixer series– with characters I love to death, literally! But I think I would go insane if I could only write one series over several years. I actually wrote a blog post about this. I concluded that if brands were colors, my brand would be rainbow. I can’t help it. It’s just who I am. The only thing I can say is that humor is a part of almost everything I write. Even my most recent novel, Ride of Your Life, which is possibly the most romantic, bittersweet thing I’ve ever read–a story that made me cry buckets while I was editing it–has funny, surprising scenes in it. I don’t know. Maybe “quirky” is my brand. I certainly am a different kind of writer. Steve Martin is one of my heroes. He doesn’t limit himself to one thing, not even one medium. That’s what I want, to be able to tell any kind of story any way I want.

8. Nowadays the world is a smaller place through social media and the internet.

How important a tool do you believe social media is to an author today and what tips would you give an author in how to use it effectively?

Shevi >> I believe that social media is the single most important kind of marketing that writers have today. It’s also the cheapest, and writers have the best tool to take advantage of it– the ability to communicate in writing. The truth is there’s so much to learn, way too much to be summed up in a brief paragraph. I would highly recommend that you read several books on social media marketing. I’ve read about a dozen of them. We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media by Kristen Lamb is a great place to start.

9. What would you say has been the biggest learning curve for you in Indie Publishing, and would you say the greatest challenge was the publishing aspect or the marketing aspect?

Shevi >> The greatest challenge for me was and still is the marketing aspect of indie publishing. There’s just so much to learn; and if you’re shy, putting it into practice can be quite daunting.

10. Considering the question of editing, how important do you think it is that all books (Indie or Big6) be edited professionally?

Shevi >> Generally speaking, I would say that, yes, all books should be professionally edited. However, I have edited my own books. I used to edit a magazine, and I moderated a critique group for many years. I’ve also been offered editing jobs, so I guess you could say my books were professionally edited, even if I did do it myself.

11. If you have a Big 6 contract and/or an agent – you have project deadlines to keep you motivated to finish that draft and keep you from procrastinating. How do you, as an Indie author, keep yourself motivated to keep finishing those drafts?

Shevi >> I used to be a journalist. Journalists have to meet deadlines. I had a 1,000-word midweek column, and a 2,000-word weekend column. Sometimes I had additional freelance work. Writers who finish the work and meet deadlines get paid. Writers who don’t finish the work and don’t meet deadlines don’t get paid. It’s a great motivator. I try to view my work now the same way, even if the rewards are a bit different. I’ve learned so much from being a journalist. It’s not just discipline. It’s also humility. It’s hard to think highly of your writing when you know that tomorrow it’s just going to be lining a birdcage.

12. If an unpublished writer came to you to get advice on whether they should go the Indie route or a more Traditional route in publishing, what 3 tips would you give that writer?

Shevi >> I wouldn’t give tips. Maybe it’s the journalist in me, but the first thing I would do is ask questions and listen to the answers. Why did the writer decide to write a book? How well did the writer research the market for this book? How much does the writer know about publishing? Has the writer studied other books in this genre? Has the writer studied writing? Has the writer studied literature? Who did the writer write this book for? How long has the writer been writing? Is this the writer’s first book? Is the writer in a critique group? The advice I would give would depend on the answers to these questions. Generally speaking, I think it’s best for writers to develop their skills over time. Unfortunately, indie publishing today makes it so easy to go from wanting to write a book to having one published in almost no time at all. Don’t rush it. Great books aren’t written overnight. That being said, there are exceptions. Douglas Adams wrote the radio play that was later adapted into my favorite novel, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, when he was just 19 years old. It would have been silly for me to tell Douglas Adams at that time to wait, especially considering that he eventually died quite young. So a tip that I might give one person would be completely irrelevant to someone else. The indie route is right for some people, but it isn’t right for everyone. Study your options, and choose the one that’s right for you. Leave your options open, because you might change your mind later on. Whatever you choose, I hope you have fun. I think writing is the most fun you can have, and if you have fun writing it, there’s a good chance others will have fun reading it. 

Thank you Shevi for your insight into the many publishing options nowadays. It is wonderful to meet such a diverse writer with such a varied experience in the publishing world. What stood out the most for me out of chatting to you is: “You can learn, for example, that it doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be done. Perfection, after all, is unattainable. You’ll drive yourself crazy if you try to get it perfect, and you’ll never write a thing. But something really amazing can happen and you take a piece of crap and edit the crap out of it. Of course, before you can do anything, you’re going to need that piece of crap written down. Otherwise, you’ll have nothing to edit. You’ll be like a sculptor without a block of clay. Of course, it might be fun to watch a sculptor trying to create something out of thin air, but in the end the sculptor will have nothing to show for it. The only difference is that as a writer you need to create your own block of clay.” Before we even think of publishing options, we need to be continuously writing, creating and “moulding” our own block of clay. We need the product before we can sell it or market it after all. Words of advice every writer can take to heart. Great words on motivation and how to stay focused as well. Thank you for taking the time to share your writing journey with  us. ~ Kim

 

Author Notes

BIO: When I was little, I wanted to be God. Then I discovered that job was already taken. So I decided to become a film director instead, because that seemed like the next best way to create worlds. Then I discovered that directors have to work with a lot of people who don’t necessarily share their visions for those worlds. So I decided to become a writer. After graduating with degrees in English Literature and Theater Studies, earning a teacher’s certificate, and studying art and design, I began working in newspapers and magazines. Over 12 years I’ve worked as an editorial cartoonist, a newspaper illustrator, a comics magazine editor, an arts-and-entertainment writer specializing in comedy and children’s entertainment, and a consumer columnist. In 2001, I left my job to move to New Jersey in search of a better education for my autistic son. After that, I decided to start writing what I wanted to write, the stories that had been playing like movies in my brain since I was a little girl. I’ve since written seven novels and I’ve published three–Toren the Teller’s Tale, Dan Quixote: Boy of Nuevo Jersey, and Ride of Your Life. Why My Love Life Sucks, book one in the Gilbert the Fixer series will be out later this year. After that, who knows?

Shevi can be found writing on her blog: http://shevi.blogspot.com/

Shevi’s author page can be found on Amazon, where you can also find her books:

Many Ways to Skin a Cat | Denise Grover Swank

Over the next few weeks I am going to be looking at all the ways “to skin a cat” in publishing. I am going to interview and feature guest posts with different authors from different publishing options. So if, like me, you are at that painful and exciting point of trying to make the most informed choice…stick around and watch this space. Perhaps one of the options will stand out for you and perhaps one of these authors that I interview or who guest-post will inspire you down the same path.

I am coming at this with a completely open mind and non-judgmental attitude. I am doing this series as much to get more information for myself and educate myself as I am any reader whom finds this interesting or useful.

Open Call

Also if you want to be one of the authors to be interviewed or guest post on this topic in this series, please shout out.

*My Guarantee: No Cats will be harmed or skinned in the writing of this series!*

😼   😼   😼   😼   😼

Today I am very pleased to have the pleasure of Denise Grover Swank’s company on the blog. It is especially a pleasure because today is Denise’s Birthday – So Happy Birthday Denise!

Denise is not someone to be pegged into a square. She has written across genres, has been a self-publishing success and has just been signed to a top literary agency. As Denise will tell you in this interview, she did not go searching for the accolades, she writes for the love of writing. Her fans fell in love with her writing and she has proven what I have always believed that no matter what genre an author writes in – whether they stick to one genre or one market or diversify and cross genres and markets – the readers will continue reading your books. Once you have turned a reader into a fan, your success as an author is guaranteed.

1. Can you tell us what “being Indie” means to you? 

Denise >> I know there’s a big controversy about what “Indie” means.  Some consider Indie to be published with a small press. Others consider it to include self-published authors. I typically call myself a self-published author. I used to say defensively, now I’m proud of it. I’ve also begun to interchange the words “Indie” and “self-published.”
2. Nowadays there are so many options for authors but the sheer amount of publishing options can create confusion. 
Why did you decide to go the Indie route of self-publishing? 
Denise >>  I started out wanting a traditional book deal. I wrote three books in three different genres and actively queried them with agents but never got an offer of representation. Then Nathan Bransford wrote a post saying he thought there were valid reasons for self-publishing and it was the approval I needed to pursue it. I plan to write a series for my agent, Amanda Luedeke  with MacGregor Literary, to shop to traditional publishers, but even if I sell to a Big 6 publisher, I will continue to self-publish.
3. You hear of authors switching methods of publication from seeking traditional representation from agents & the Big6 to small press to self-publishing. Did you try any other route in publishing before settling on Indie Publishing and can you tell us what these routes were? 
Denise >>  I was very close to acquiring an agent with my YA Here. She was also reading Chosen, my urban fantasy. I knew the agent liked darker manuscripts and wouldn’t be interested in my rom com mystery, Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes. But I loved that story and the characters so the thought of the book dying on my hard drive upset me. I decided to self-publish it. During the process to prepare it, the agent rejected Here and I decided to self-publish Chosen. I’ve self-published five books and plan on a sixth in June. I’ve never regretted my decision. I am planning to write a new urban fantasy series for my agent to shop in NY, but I’m doing that to widen my reader base. It’s a business decision.
4. You have just recently been signed by a literary agent. Congratulations!
Can you tell us how this came about?
Denise >> Amanda found me. Chosen had climbed to the top 100 on the Kindle list and hovered in the 20’s for several days and Amanda emailed me and asked if I was seeking representation and said she’d love to chat with me. I really liked Amanda’s forward thinking and loved that she wasn’t threatened by my self-published works. During our conversation, she offered unsolicited career advice with no sign that I would sign with her. That spoke volumes to me. She was the one who suggested I write a new urban fantasy/paranormal romance series. She believes the success of The Chosen series will make me more appealing to New York.
5.  You have already gained huge success as an Indie author.
How will having a literary agent now change things for you as an author? 
Denise >> I’ve had foreign rights and production rights inquiries. I’ve handed all of those over to Amanda to take care of, which has been a huge relief. She’s going to actively pursue other foreign rights sales She also plans to try to sell my new series to a traditional publisher. But my self-published books are mine, and at this point, I’m deciding all my career options.
6. Do you plan on continuing to release books yourself now that you have an agent, or will you be looking mainly at the traditional publishing houses?
Denise >> Yes, I fully intend to continue to self-publish even if I get a traditional book deal. I love the control.
7. Being Indie means that you have to be your own Marketing guru and Public Relations expert:
What have you learnt about marketing your own books as an Indie Author?
Do you also feel you are now more savvy about the Publishing Industry because of your Indie experience?
Denise >>  I think one benefit to being an indie author is that I can make immediate changes. If I want to change the price of my book or change the cover, I can do it. I don’t have to seek anyone’s permission. I can change the price within hours. I can put a book on sale or set up a free promo. I can decide where I sell my books or if I make them exclusive somewhere. That being said, I really don’t play with prices other than when I raised the price of Chosen and Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes from $0.99 to $2.99. I’m also raising the price of Here to $3.99 after it goes off its $0.99 sale.  (Here is on sale on Barnes & Noble and Amazon until June 1.) Still, I change the price with strategy in mind. I’ve also made both ebooks free for several days but all three times were carefully thought out and calculated.
I feel like I’m very much more savvy about the publishing industry. Amazon distributes 98% of my books, so I’m constantly keeping up on the theories behind current algorithms. I also study pricing in my genres, rankings, the rise and fall of similar book’s sales. I read multiple articles and blog posts a day to keep on top of the latest news and theories. I spend one to four hours a day on research and marketing.
8. Everyone keeps on about the importance of developing “your own brand” as an author.
Do you agree and how have you built “your own brand”? 
Denise >> Yes, I think I have a brand even if it’s not really an actual written concept. I think my “brand” is that I’m somewhat sarcastic and funny (even if in my own mind LOL) I hope people see me as a usually positive person and that I’m generous to my readers. Romance authors typically have a “tag line” or brand for themselves. If I have one it’s: I keep my sanity by creating characters to talk to and worlds to live in. What did I say about my sanity?
9. Nowadays the world is a smaller place through social media and the internet.
How important a tool do you believe social media is to an author today and what tips would you give an author in how to use it effectively? 
Denise >> I don’t think I’d be here right now without social media. Social media sold my first 200 books when I released Twenty-Eight last July. I was told to expect to sell around 20 books the first month, if I was lucky. But I’d stopped writing my family blog, There’s Always Room for One More, to write novels. I had encouraged all my readers to friend me on Facebook. So when I released my book last year, several people bought it to see what in the world I’d been done for the last two years. Thankfully, most loved it and recommended it to their friends. I watched the book sell in ripples. My friends bought it, then their friends bought it. By last August and September, I was getting reviews on Amazon, B&N and Goodreads from people I didn’t know.(Confession: That actually kind of freaked me out at first. People I didn’t know were reading my book!!!)
As you know, Kim, I’m a big Facebook user. I usually make multiple updates a day. I encourage readers to friend me. I talk to them. I’m forever amazed at the authors who never interact with people on Facebook and Twitter. It’s social media. That’s the point of it. I love talking to my readers and anyone who friends me is “fair game.”  If you’re my friend on Facebook, I’ll comment on your status update if I have something to say. I want readers to know I’m a real person, just like them.
I also use Twitter, but less so than I used to. Most of my readers seem to be on Facebook and I like that we can carry on a “conversation” with relative ease. On Twitter, I have to scroll down MULTIPLE tweets to keep up with a conversation unless it’s in real time.
I have a Tumblr account but haven’t used it in ages. I have a Pintrest account but usually use it to pin pictures associated with my books, like characters and locations.
I try to answer every email, Facebook message, post on my Facebook timeline and tweet. If someone took their valuable time to reach out to me, I want to let them know I appreciate it.
Thank you so much, Kim!
Thank you Denise for taking the time to talk to me and my readers about Publishing Options and the routes you have chosen. You will soon straggle the worlds of both NY Publishing and Self-Publishing and definitely have a unique perspective on the options open to authors today. I especially love the fact that you are a writer who has stuck to your guns on writing the stories you way to and need to write regardless of whether they are in the same genre or different genres than your others. I knew the agent liked darker manuscripts and wouldn’t be interested in my rom com mystery, Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes. But I loved that story and the characters so the thought of the book dying on my hard drive upset me. I decided to self-publish it.” – I love that you refused to let your story die on your hard drive and decided to self-publish anyway. I wish you even greater success with all your next books.  – Kim

Author Notes

Denise Grover Swank lives in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. She has six children, three dogs, and an overactive imagination. She can be found dancing in her kitchen with her children, reading or writing her next book. You will rarely find her cleaning.

 

You can find out more about Denise and her other books at www.denisegroverswank.com or email her at denisegroverswank@gmail.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/deniseswank

Twitter: @DeniseMSwank

Book links:
The Chosen Series:
Rose Gardner Mysteries:
On the Otherside Series:
Denise Grover Swank
Author of The Chosen series: Chosen , Hunted and Sacrifice (The Chosen Series) adult urban fantasy, Redemption, (The Chosen #4) October 2012
Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishesa humorous southern mystery, Twenty-Nine and a Half Reasons release June 29, 2012
and Here (On the Otherside, #1) a young adult science fiction/romance, There (#2) Late December 2012

The Many Ways to Skin a Cat | Maria V. Snyder

 

Blog Series: Researching “The Many Ways to Skin a Cat” in Publishing

Over the next few weeks I am going to be looking at all the ways “to skin a cat” in publishing. I am going to interview and feature guest posts with different authors from different publishing options. So if, like me, you are at that painful and exciting point of trying to make the most informed choice…stick around and watch this space. Perhaps one of the options will stand out for you and perhaps one of these authors that I interview or who guest-post will inspire you down the same path.

I am coming at this with a completely open mind and non-judgmental attitude. I am doing this series as much to get more information for myself and educate myself as I am any reader whom finds this interesting or useful.

Open Call

Also if you want to be one of the authors to be interviewed or guest post on this topic in this series, please shout out.

*My Guarantee: No Cats will be harmed or skinned in the writing of this series!*

😼   😼   😼   😼   😼

Today I have the pleasure of a well-known author’s company. I have been a fan of her’s for just almost 3 years now. When I picked up her book, Sea Glass, I was captured by her writing style, her incredible world building and her exquisitely crafted characters. I couldn’t get enough of her other books. If you are a teen or have a teen in your house, you will know exactly who I am talking about. If you love reading books written by story-weavers then you will know her too. She has carved a niche in readers’ hearts all over the world. She has written 3 successful series of books and many short stories. From when her first novel, Poison Study, was published in 2005, nothing has held her back from creating new worlds and weaving new stories. 

So make yourselves comfortable as the talented Maria V. Snyder and I have a conversation about Publishing.

1. Can you tell us a little bit about you as a beginning author and can you tell us the best advice you ever received before being a published author?

Maria >>  I started writing because I was bored at work (shhh…don’t tell!).  I’ve always enjoyed reading and being creative and I had dabbled with painting, acting, and dancing, but lacked the confidence to pursue any of those for my career.  The best advice I received was to be persistent – to keep writing and submitting.  Truthfully, when I first heard it, I thought it was one of those “eat an apple a day” type of advice – something you say that doesn’t mean anything.  But it proved 100 % true in my case – persistence paid off!

2. Nowadays there are so many options for authors but the sheer amount of publishing options can create confusion.
If you were starting out now as an author, would you still have made the same choices in publishing that you have made?

Maria >> Good question!  At the time I was sending my first book, Poison Study around there were other options like self-publishing, digital formats, and print on demand available, but I really wanted to be published by a traditional publisher and if I hadn’t sold the book, I wouldn’t have pursued those other options.  In today’s market, e-publishing is more popular, but I think it’s very difficult for a new author to stand out without spending lots of time and energy on marketing.  If I was just starting out, I think I would still try to find a traditional publisher first before looking into e-publishing, but I wouldn’t rule it out like before.

3. How long did you spend in the pre-publishing trenches before you got an agent?

Maria >>About four years.

4. Rejection comes with the territory in the publishing industry.
Did you receive many rejections before signing with your agent? How did you persist submitting in spite of the rejections?

Maria >> I received 40 rejections from agents for Poison Study.  After I exhausted all the agents who represented fantasy, I submitted the book directly to the publishers.  I had a list of 20 publishers and I was determined to send the book to all of them before putting it away.  While all this was going on, I wrote another book, Storm Watcher for kids ages 8 to 12.  When I finished that book, I sent it to 20 agents and actually found one who wanted to represent me.  When Poison Study found a publisher (#18 of 20), I called my agent and asked her to negotiate the contract.  She asked me why I didn’t send her Poison Study when I was searching for an agent. I told her she hadn’t listed fantasy as one of the genres she represents and she said, “Oh, I take anything I like.”  Sigh!  This was back in 2003 – she never did sell Storm Watcher, however, I recently sold it to a small publisher (Leap Books).  Even after 9 years, I didn’t give up on it.  It is hard to persist when the rejections keep rolling in, but I was determined to exhaust all the publishers before giving up.

5. Many unpublished authors believe that the golden ticket to success is signing with a top literary agent. Would you agree and why/why not?

Maria >>In my case, I sold Poison Study on my own and my agent helped with the contract. However that was 9 years ago and many publishers were still accepting unagented submissions – I found 20, but today a writer might only find 5 as editors are relying on agents to pick the gems from the slush pile.  An agent is very helpful and I always suggest you try to find one first, but if no one is interested, then to go ahead and submit on your own.  Be careful about which agents you query – not all are reputable.  I’ve an article about finding agents on my website here: http://www.mariavsnyder.com/advice/findingL.php

6. Do you get nervous when a book submission and a new contract is under way, worrying whether it will be accepted or not?

Maria >>Yes!  During contract negotiations, I’m always so thankful to have my agent.  He (my second as my first passed away) loves to negotiate and I can hear the glee in his voice as he reports to me on how it’s going.  He also gives me feedback on my novels as I working on them so I know if I’m in the ballpark or not – since he’s been in publishing forever, he knows if one of my projects won’t fly with my editor.

7. Can you share with us the process you go through once you have finished writing your book up until the time it is published?

Maria >>After I send off my book, both my agent and editor read it and send me comments.  I revise based on their comments and re-submit.  Then I get the copy edits and a few more comments from my editor (or her assistant).  I revise again, and either agree or disagree with the copy edits then re-submit.  Then I get the galley proofs and I have to go through every single line, looking for errors and typos (not fun) and then type up ALL the changes on the Author Alterations (AA) form (which is hell on earth) and send in the form and the pages with the changes.  About six weeks before publication, I receive a box of books in the mail (always fun!).  During this time, I’m also making up bookmarks with the cover art of the new book, updating my website, writing newsletters, preparing for blog tours, sending out review copies to bloggers and media, and doing a ton of other marketing and promotion.  With Touch of Power, I had two blog tours (one in the US and one in the UK) and did a number of events for the Australian release.

8. Nowadays the world is a smaller place through social media and the internet and readers/fans can now have and often demand to have more direct access to authors. How important a tool do you believe social media is to an author today and what tips would you give an author in how to use it effectively?

Maria >>Social media is wonderful!  I always encouraged my readers to contact me through email, but I noticed once I had a Facebook page, the number of emails I received went down.  The trap is spending too much time on these sites and not enough writing your book.  I’ve fallen into that one many times.  If you’re a new author, I’d suggest that before your book is released, that you set up a website, blog and make a Facebook page at the least.  Some authors also do Twitter and Goodreads and other sites, but I think if you have too many, it’ll suck up all your time.  I use Facebook, Goodreads, my blog and website and I’m barely keeping my head above water (and I have a quarterly e-newsletter, too).  The nice thing about my blog is – it will automatically show up on my Facebook and Goodreads pages, saving me time.  I’d suggest you set aside a certain amount of time each day for social media and stick to it so it doesn’t dominate your life.

9. What would you say has been the biggest learning curve for you in the Publishing Industry, and what has been the greatest challenge for you?

Maria >> The biggest lesson was that not all books/authors in a publishing house are equal.  Certain titles and certain authors get more support and more marketing dollars because their books sell like crazy.  It’s not personal, it’s business.  The greatest challenge for me is to say no.  I really enjoy marketing and promotion and visiting schools and answering emails, and doing Q&As, that I don’t write as much as I should.  Plus my children are teenagers and will soon be off to college and I want to spend time with them – so juggling all my commitments is a constant challenge.

10. One of the most important relationships any author has is the one with your editor.
Have you had one trusted editor for the length of your writing career or have you had a few different editors?

Maria >> My very first editor, the one who called me to offer my first contract left the company six months later.  I’ve heard horror stories about orphaned authors and I would have had a heart attack, except my new editor called and told me not to worry since she was going to take me on.  And I’ve had the same editor at Harlequin since!  Love you Matrice!

11. There is a lot of talk about how Indie Publishing and Traditional Publishing are at loggerheads with one another.
What are your feelings about the rise of Indie Publishing and the digital book format?
Do you believe it can work alongside traditional publishing or is it a threat to traditional publishing?

Maria >> I believe the rise of Indie Publishing is great for authors.  It gives authors more options and greater control over their stories and more control over what type of stories they write.  I think it will also lead to changes to the traditional publishers’ contracts that will be better for authors.  They’ve always been the gate keepers and authors had to agree to their terms in order to see their books published.  This isn’t the case anymore.  I think most publishers are adapting to the changing climate and both Indie and Traditional will exist together in the future.

12. If an unpublished writer came to you to get advice on whether they should go the Indie route or a more Traditional route in publishing, what 3 tips would you give that writer?

Maria >>

  1. I’d tell her to do lots and lots of research – there are a few success stories about self-published books hitting big like Amanda Hocking and E. L. James, but there are far more stories about low sales.  
  2. I’d also recommend he hire a professional artist – book covers are still important no matter the format.  
  3. And I’d suggest no matter what the format, that she give away copies of her books to book bloggers/reviewers – that’s the best way to generate interest and buzz about a book.
Maria, thank you so much for taking the time to sit down and chat with me about Publishing and your writing journey. Thank you for the many generous tips and advice you gave. I know, that you made the Traditional Publishing process much more transparent for me and many others. I think we can all relate to you when you tell us “It is hard to persist when the rejections keep rolling in, but
I was determined to exhaust all the publishers before giving up.”. Rejection is a really difficult pill to swallow and the literary world is such a subjective world that it is hard to know what the perfect formula is for acceptance. “The best advice I received was to be persistent – to keep writing and submitting.  Truthfully, when I first heard it, I thought it was one of those “eat an apple a day” type of advice – something you say that doesn’t mean anything.  But it proved 100 % true in my case – persistence paid off!” – I have to agree that is Brilliant advice. Persistence in writing and determination in seeing your book published is key. Thank you again Maria. It was a true pleasure to hear your views on the “many ways to skin a cat” in Publishing. ~ Kim

Author Notes

Maria V. Snyder switched careers from meteorologist to fantasy novelist when she began writing the New York Times best-selling Study Series (Poison Study, Magic Study and Fire Study) about a young woman who becomes a poison taster.  Born in Philadelphia, Maria dreamed of chasing tornadoes and even earned a BS degree in Meteorology from Penn State University.  Unfortunately, she lacked the necessary forecasting  skills. Writing, however, lets Maria control the weather, which she gleefully does in her Glass Series (Storm Glass, Sea Glass, and Spy Glass). Maria returned to school and earned a MA in Writing from Seton Hill University where she is currently one of the teachers and mentors for the MFA program. Her published young adult novels include Inside Out, and its sequel, Outside In, both are about the dystopian and fully-contained world of Inside.  Her latest release is Touch of Power, which is about healer dealing with a plague stricken world.

You can find her at:

Her Website: http://www.MariaVSnyder.com

Her Blog: http://officialmariavsnyder.blogspot.com

The Many Ways to Skin a Cat | Jonathan D. Allen

Upcoming Blog Series: Researching “The Many Ways to Skin a Cat” in Publishing

Over the next few weeks I am going to be looking at all the ways “to skin a cat” in publishing. I am going to interview and feature guest posts with different authors from different publishing options. So if, like me, you are at that painful and exciting point of trying to make the most informed choice…stick around and watch this space. Perhaps one of the options will stand out for you and perhaps one of these authors that I interview or who guest-post will inspire you down the same path.

I am coming at this with a completely open mind and non-judgmental attitude. I am doing this series as much to get more information for myself and educate myself as I am any reader whom finds this interesting or useful.

Open Call

Also if you want to be one of the authors to be interviewed or guest post on this topic in this series, please shout out.

*My Guarantee: No Cats will be harmed or skinned in the writing of this series!*

😼   😼   😼   😼   😼

Are you a writer who writes in a hard-to-market genre? Do you cross or blend genres in your stories? Have agents and editors told you they love your work but don’t know how to market it because it is so “different”? Don’t fear…here’s one author’s take on how he made his writing style work for him and how he took the publishing reins into his own hands…

In interview #2 on The Many Ways to Skin a Cat I have the pleasure of Jonathan D. Allen’s company. He kindly agreed to sit down with me and chat about Publishing, the route he chose and  the tips he has learnt along the way. Jonathan found that his talent for blending the genres of dark fantasy and horror didn’t necessarily translate well to the Big6 but this did not stop him. He took matters into his own hand and decided to go the Indie route.

1. Can you tell us what “being Indie” means to you?

Jonathan >> It means being the master of my own destiny. That can be a good and a bad thing – if things go well, not only am I able to take the kudos, but most of the profit comes back to me, and can be re-invested into things like covers and editing. Of course, if things go badly, I also take the burden of those losses and mistakes. It’s enormously freeing but also scary and depressing at times.

2. Nowadays there are so many options for authors but the sheer amount of publishing options can create confusion. Why did you decide to go the pure Indie route of self-publishing?

Jonathan >> After a round of rejections from literary agents (most of them friendly and personal – some even praising the writing but saying they didn’t quite know how to sell it), I realized a few things. One was that, in the old model, the traditional route might well have worked for me. It also answered a burning question that’s plagued me throughout my career: when would I be ready? Those responses told me that I was now ready. At the same time, I realized that the kind of fiction I write has limited mass appeal, and I have no interest in changing what I write. If I really wanted to blend genres in the manner that I’m currently pursuing, it made a lot more sense to go it alone, at least for a while.

3. You hear of authors switching methods of publication from seeking traditional representation from agents & the Big6 to small press to self-publishing. Did you try any other route in publishing before settling on self-publishing and can you tell us what these routes were?

Jonathan >>As I said above, I did try the agent thing. That had been my dream for years – close to 23 now: get the agent, get the publishing contract, and then see my books in stores. I was 13 years old when I figured out that whole equation, and it was just “what you did” if you wanted to be a novelist. I still toy with the idea of going back to the old way of doing things, but sooner or later something occurs that reminds me that things have changed forever. I won’t lie, part of me misses that old system, but I’m also excited about the future of this industry.

4. On the converse side of the debate, are you a dyed-in-the-wool Indie author or would you ever consider the lure of a Big6 publishing contract?

Jonathan >>Right now, I’m flexible. I would prefer to stay indie or possibly move over to a small press that gets what I’m trying to do, but I also won’t lie: I’d love to be able to do this full-time, and if a large six-figure advance dropped in my lap, I’d have to snap it up. I don’t necessarily see that as “selling out”, as I would never accept a contract, no matter the size, that changed what I’m doing. Of course, my current path makes that dream contract a lot less likely, anyway.

5. What would you say is the most important piece of advice you were given in your dream to become a published author?

Jonathan >>”You know, you can do this.” I can still hear that in my head all these years later. Those came from my 10th grade English teacher, who encouraged my creativity at a critical time. She allowed me latitude in the papers that I wrote for that class, and showed me ways that I could use my imagination in not just creating stories, but in my everyday life. I learned from her that I had…well, an exceptional imagination, but I had always believed that either others were better at it, or I was wasting my time with it. She showed me quite the opposite.

6. Being Indie means that you have to be your own Marketing guru and Public Relations expert, what have you learnt about marketing your own books as an Indie Author?

Jonathan >>That I’m not a very good marketer. Actually, I’m not so sure how I’ve done, as I’ve followed a lot of the “conventional wisdom”, consumed marketing books for self-publishing, done book blog tours, etc. and seen very little bang for my buck. I’m slowly realizing that the only real conventional wisdom that works is the oldest one: the best marketing for your books is writing and releasing another book (or short story these days).

7. Everyone keeps on about the importance of developing “your own brand” as an author. Do you agree and how have you built “your own brand”?

Jonathan >>To some extent, I do agree. I couldn’t tell you exactly how my “own brand” would be packaged, but I do know that my stories have certain themes in common, and I can see how they’re evolving as I write them. I think sometimes writers fear that establishing a brand means they won’t be able to write what they want, but I tend to disagree. Look at Stephen King. He’s written sci-fi, horror, straightforward literary fiction, and fantasy, yet each of those stories have an undeniable “Stephen King quality”. It’s all about establishing a signature quality. I’ve focused on that and keeping my book covers consistent as a way of building a brand. The other stuff seems like wasted time.

8. Nowadays the world is a smaller place through social media and the internet. How important a tool do you believe social media is to an author today and what tips would you give an author in how to use it effectively?

Jonathan >>I think it’s incredibly important, but not in the ways that a lot of social media marketers would tell you. Sure, it’s a way to advertise your work and maybe get more people aware of your existence as an author, but I think it’s far more important as a tool to connect with other authors, publishers, and readers on a personal level. I’m a total Twitter junkie, and I always shake my head when I see people who spam a link to their book, with no other information, over and over. I think it’s fair to expect a little of that when you follow an author, but the whole point of something like Twitter is carrying on a conversation or giving micro-blog updates to friends/readers. The same applies to Facebook.

9. What would you say has been the biggest learning curve for you in Indie Publishing,  and would you say the greatest challenge was the publishing aspect or the marketing aspect?

Jonathan >>Marketing. Hands-down. I’m in a difficult-to-market genre, which makes getting across the unique aspects of my story even harder. Many times I wonder if the issue is really my approach or just that I’m writing material that is difficult to package.

10. Considering the question of editing, how important do you think it is that all books (Indie or Big6) be edited professionally?

Jonathan >>Extremely. I will not allow a novel to be released under my imprint without it having been edited professionally. The same goes for the beta reading process – nothing leaves without at least one level of beta reading (usually two). Would you want to buy a product that hadn’t been quality tested at some level? I think it’s the same thing here.

11. If you have a Big 6 contract and/or an agent – you have project deadlines to keep you motivated to finish that draft and keep you from procrastinating. How do you, as an Indie author, keep yourself motivated to keep finishing those drafts?

Jonathan >>I’ve found that deadlines are counterproductive to my own creativity. That’s not to say that I “wait for inspiration”, I’ve set a goal of writing at least 1,000 words a day, but just that when I have a set deadline, I feel pressure and begin to worry too much over mechanical aspects of the work. That’s fine in my day job as a technical writer – in fact, it’s desirable, but fiction is a whole different beast. I keep myself motivated simply by knowing that I’m mentally healthier when I’m writing on a regular basis. That and the 1,000 word goal are enough to keep me going.

12.  If an unpublished writer came to you to get advice on whether they should go the Indie route or a more Traditional route in publishing, what 3 tips would you give that writer?

Jonathan >>

  1. Think about what you want – what you really want – out of your career. Be brutally honest with yourself. Are awards and associations important? Would you rather make more money at the risk of appearing less “legitimate”, or would you like to have someone help you chart the waters? There are lots of pros and cons to both traditional and indie publishing.
  2. Ask lots of questions. Talk to people who’ve been both places, whether it’s one person who has done both or several who only have experience in one or the other. Get a feel for what their experiences have been like. Ask them about their pros and cons, and weigh those against what you want from your career.
  3. Remain flexible. Over the course of my first year, I’ve already gone back and forth between which I would prefer, and while I’m fairly settled at this point, I still have some doubts from time to time. What you want may change as your career evolves – try to be open to those changes.

Thank you for taking the time to chat with me and my readers today Jonathan. What really resonated for me was: “in the old model, the traditional route might well have worked for me. It also answered a burning question that’s plagued me throughout my career: when would I be ready? Those responses told me that I was now ready. At the same time, I realized that the kind of fiction I write has limited mass appeal, and I have no interest in changing what I write. If I really wanted to blend genres in the manner that I’m currently pursuing, it made a lot more sense to go it alone, at least for a while…” So often we as authors want to stretch our wings and pursue a genre that is perhaps a little more off-the-wall than others. Understandably traditional publishing is generally speaking less willing to take a risk on a hard-to-market genre or a blended genre story. This is when Indie is sometimes the best option. At the end of the day, readers will read stories that keep them turning the pages, not caring whether it is an Amazon imprint or a BIG6 imprint. Good stories trump marketing and genre-marketing any day. As you have said Jonathan: “I’m slowly realizing that the only real conventional wisdom that works is the oldest one: the best marketing for your books is writing and releasing another book…”. No matter what route a writer chooses to publish, Keep Writing. ~ Kim

Author Notes

Born and raised in the rural Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, Jonathan wrote his first fantasy/sci-fi novel at the age of 13. After studying writing and communication at James Madison University, Jonathan turned his passion for writing into a full-time technical writing career in the DC Metro area, working for companies like Sprint/Nextel, Time Warner Cable, and Sirius XM Radio, where he had an opportunity to combine his love of music with his love of writing.

 He may have drifted away from fiction at times, but it was always his first love – and he always returned to it. Now living in Bethesda with his wife, two cats, and two quirky guinea pigs for whom his publishing company is named, he crafts the kinds of stories that he had always hoped to read but just couldn’t quite find.

You can find him at:

The Many Ways to Skin a Cat | Introducing Patti Larsen

Upcoming Blog Series: Researching the many ways “to skin a cat” in publishing

Over the next few weeks I am going to be looking at all the ways “to skin a cat” in publishing. I am going to interview and feature guest posts with different authors from different publishing options. So if, like me, you are at that painful and exciting point of trying to make the most informed choice…stick around and watch this space. Perhaps one of the options will stand out for you and perhaps one of these authors that I interview or who guest-post will inspire you down the same path.

I am coming at this with a completely open mind and non-judgmental attitude. I am doing this series as much to get more information for myself and educate myself as I am any reader whom finds this interesting or useful.

Open Call

Also if you want to be one of the authors to be interviewed or guest post on this topic in this series, please shout out.

*My Guarantee: No Cats will be harmed or skinned in the writing of this series!*

😼   😼   😼   😼   😼

Today I have the great pleasure to kick off this series of “The Many ways to skin a cat” Talking Publishing options with a prolific YA Author and one of my closest friends and writing mentors: Patti Larsen

Patti Larsen is a YA author with 15 books published. Her readers love her and other authors respect her. She is an author first and foremost and writing is her business.

So pull up a chair and make yourself comfortable as Patti talks about her business, the business of writing and publishing, with me on Dragonfly Scrolls.

 

1. Patti, you have made yourself a well-known and well-regarded name amongst Indie authors & YA authors. Can you tell us what “being Indie” means to you?

Patti >> Being an independent author/publisher means I’m able to be my own boss, just how I like it. There was a time when having a publisher (and I’ve signed with two in the past) was the best thing in the world, the core of the dream I’d been longing for my whole life. But times are changing and my inner entrepreneur (I’ve owned three businesses) just couldn’t tolerate not having the reins in my hands. I’m the type of person who has to try every single job in a profession in order to understand that profession, and working with a publisher simply didn’t give me that flexibility. I like to get my hands dirty as well as know exactly what’s happening day in, day out, with my business–from sales to pricing, marketing to production, cover design, editing, you name it. I often found myself in the dark and waiting on one publisher (I’ve now parted ways with the company) for even the most basic answers. The realization I had lost control, that signing away my rights meant I no longer had the ability to see how the process advanced, I put on the submission brakes and dove back into what I love–being a writer AND a businesswoman. It was the best decision I’ve ever made.

2. Nowadays there are so many options for authors but the sheer amount of publishing options can create confusion. Why did you decide to go the pure Indie route of self-publishing?

Patti >> Think of it this way: you can have a boss (traditional publishing) who assigns you work and gives you a paycheck based on what they think you’re worth at the end of every quarter(if that frequently), with no transparency on accuracy of profit reporting and no input into how your work (cover design, final edits) is produced. All while expecting you to do the majority of the marketing, relying on you for the success of the work while keeping the majority of the profit. Or you can open your own small business (indie publishing) and take the project on yourself, hire a team of professionals to come together as a partnership, ensuring the final product is exactly what you wanted. Track day by day the amount of money you’re making and keep the profit for yourself, minus expenses. I’m not bashing traditional publishing. For some people, the first scenario is what they are looking for. And that’s okay. But to me it’s a no brainer.

3. You hear of authors switching methods of publication from seeking traditional representation from agents & the Big6 to small press to self-publishing. Did you try any other route in publishing before settling on self-publishing and can you tell us what these routes were?

Patti >> Settling seems like a harsh word. I feel now like had I signed a large contract, that would have been settling. None of us are immune to the call of the dream, however: write a best seller, find the perfect agent who signs you with the big publisher for the seven figure advance and everyone lives happily ever after in a nirvana of creativity and public accolades. It’s been thrown in our faces over and over again as the only way to be successful. Thank goodness the lie of the dream is finally being challenged. I spent years querying and submitting to agents and publishers, signing with two separate presses. I’m so glad it happened that way first–had I signed with the Big 6, after all I’ve learned, it would have been like selling my soul.

4. On the converse side of the debate, are you a dyed-in-the-wool Indie author or would you ever consider the lure of a Big6 publishing contract?

Patti >> They would have to change their model drastically for me to consider it. Drastically. For instance, I’d need full transparency on all financial matters. They would have to prove to me the value of publishing with them beyond putting my books in brick and mortar stores. That’s my new rule of thumb–what can you do for me I can’t do for myself? 99% of the time, the answer is nothing. As things stand now, I would turn them down. I’m a highly prolific author with a structured release schedule. Having to veer from that because of their demands or being forced to go from publishing two books a month to one a year would simply not work for me. And since most publishing contracts (especially coming out of New York) now require a non-compete clause (meaning I’d be unable to publish on my own while under contract), that would put a serious damper on my schedule. There are a number of other reasons, but mostly because I’m a businesswoman and see the pure benefits of being in charge. Besides, signing a contract and receiving an advance doesn’t mean anything until you earn out that advance. I recently read of an indie author who is being forced to pay back his sizeable advance to his publisher because of low sales. No thank you!

5. What would you say is the most important piece of advice you were given in your dream to become a published author?

Patti >> I hate to beat a dead horse… my dear friend and incredibly talented writer, Joseph Paul Haines, (www.josephpaulhaines.com) was the one who broke the last thread of control the dream had over me. We butted heads over the issue at first, me the champion of traditional publishing and he the level-headed voice of reason. He finally asked me what the hell I, a capable and seasoned businesswoman, was thinking (it still makes me laugh). I will be forever grateful to him. 

6. Being Indie means that you have to be your own Marketing guru and Public Relations expert, what have you learnt about marketing your own books as an Indie Author?

Patti >> This is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. A career. Like any business, it takes time to grow. We’re actually in an enviable position as writers/entrepreneurs. With the connectiveness of the world through the internet, building our business is much easier than ever. Bear in mind, most small business don’t see a profit for up to five years. Meanwhile, I’ve been selling independently for eight months and I’ve made back my investments already. Am I typical? No, I know I’m not. But the other side of the equation is production. Dean Wesley Smith, (www.deanwesleysmith.com) an advocate of indie publishing, himself the author of over 100 novels and a veteran of the publishing industry, puts it like this: think of your business like a bakery. If you make awesome cookies, fantastic. People will rush out to buy those cookies. But if you only have one kind to offer, eventually folks will get sick of them and you’ll lose business. But, if you have a fully stocked store with new merchandise available all the time, your customers will keep coming back over and over again. He’s so right. When I do a special promotion of one of my novels, I see a wonderful upswing in sales of that book–but I also see an equal rise in sequel sales. Meaning I’m not just benefiting from one book, but many. Readers then peruse my store for more goodies, driving up sales of my other series. The more you have to sell, the more money you make. It’s simple math. So many writers put all of their time and effort into marketing one book. And while it works for some, the majority come out disappointed. Marketing is important–but if you don’t have much for sale, you’ve pretty much thrown your efforts out the window.

7. Everyone keeps on about the importance of developing “your own brand” as an author. Do you agree and how have you built “your own brand”?

Patti >> Yes, I agree with branding, though I know for some it’s a dirty word. As authors, we’re notorious for being introverts who hate coming out into the sunlight except for book signings and grocery shopping (and both begrudged!). I’m fortunate in that I’ve had a lifetime of performance experience, so I’m very comfortable and even welcome media attention and the connections that come from networking with readers and other authors. I make sure to use the same bio image for all of my sites, promos and posts, as well as on the backs of my books. My flagship series, The Hayle Coven Novels, has a very distinctive look, allowing me to use the imagery as an easily recognizable symbol representing me and my writing. I guest post as frequently as possible and am always available to other writers as a helping hand as well as doing frequent giveaways to readers. And I’m everywhere I need to be as often as I can be, at least virtually, from Facebook to Twitter, Goodreads and my Amazon author page as well as many other sites like LinkedIn and Pinterest. I if you’re just getting started branding, I highly suggest you not overwhelm yourself with a million different sites. Pick one, get really comfortable with it, then add another. First and foremost is a webpage/blog. Second is Facebook. Third Twitter. And so on. Don’t frustrate yourself by taking on too much at one time. Remember what I said? This isn’t a sprint. You’ve loads of time to build yourself and your books into a visible presence.

8. Nowadays the world is a smaller place through social media and the internet. How important a tool do you believe social media is to an author today and what tips would you give an author in how to use it effectively?

Patti >> My biggest tip? Don’t use social media as a sales avenue. I know this sounds counter intuitive, but think about the name: social media. It’s a place to connect with people, not sell them things. A place to make friends from around the world, not annoy the ones you already have with BUY MY BOOK. The only times I post my books on social media are A) when I have a new one released. I alert everyone once, on all networks. And B) when I’m doing a freebee or giveaway. The rest of my status updates are either links to other people’s free books, witty (I try anyway) stuff I think might make people laugh (I’m sure I’m way less amusing than I think I am), one-time shares of blogs I’m guest posting on and occasional updates on how my writing is going. I do have a Facebook fan page: this is where I update folks on book progress, cover reveals and all things Patti Larsen Books. But again, I don’t overload them with marketing. I offer a page where they can find links to all of my books. And on my webpage, instead of pushing sales, I offer an Amazon trailing widget (www.pattilarsen.com) that scrolls my books past you on the top of the page with clickable links to each novel. The best way to market your books is to be accessible, friendly, open and willing to help others. Making connections with people, friends even, comes first and foremost. Because when you do, they automatically jump on your bandwagon when the time comes to sell more books. Please don’t get me wrong–I don’t see my online friends as tools, not in the least. Our relationships come first. But I’m happy to know they think enough of me to pimp me out.

9. What would you say has been the biggest learning curve for you in Indie Publishing, and would you say the greatest challenge was the publishing aspect or the marketing aspect?

Patti >> This is such a huge question. The learning curve has been enormous and I’m still at it (and always will be). In fact, it’s had such a huge impact on me, I’ve created a course on the subject, which I’m teaching more and more frequently. That said, I love a challenge, so this evolution has been the most fun I’ve ever had. If I had to choose one thing that was the hardest, marketing would be it. Not because it’s hard, but because there is so much conflicting advice on the subject and every book requires a different approach. Trial and error, experimentation rather than sticking to one method has served me well, though I feel like I’ve finally found a good promotion strategy for myself. But even that is ebbing and changing all the time! Best advice? Have fun with it, seriously. Don’t look at it like a job (this goes for social media and building your brand, too!) or a drudgery. This is an awesome part of the process that should leave you happy.

10. Considering the question of editing, how important do you think it is that all books (Indie or Big6) be edited professionally?

Patti >> I can’t stress enough how important a good editor is. If you find one (I guard mine jealously and hope she never, ever leaves me) do the dance of joy. You’ve just found a partner who will help you take your work above and beyond, into a place of greatness. Always, always, always (did I say it enough times?) put out your very best work and only your very best work. And an excellent editor is a vital component to that end. How do you find one? Start auditioning them. I know having a few edit your first chapter won’t help you know if they are good at content edits or not, but you’ll at least see how fast they are, their take on grammar (so important!!) and how comfortable you are with them. Ask around as well, to other Indie authors. Many great editors are leaving publishers to freelance. But be cautious: there are more bad editors out there (with good intentions, don’t get me wrong!) who don’t really understand what you need than there are good ones. Choose wisely!

11. If you have a Big 6 contract and/or an agent – you have project deadlines to keep you motivated to finish that draft and keep you from procrastinating. How do you, as an Indie author, keep yourself motivated to keep finishing those drafts?

Patti >> I’m a very structured and organized person. I track my progress daily, weekly, monthly and even yearly. I know what my plan is well in advance, balancing cover design delivery with editing on the last book while I write the next one, etc. Without a plan, if you don’t treat writing as a career, it’s easy to fall into the procrastination pit and not get anything done. Trust me, I have my days. But I also have very firm goals and readers to please, so I have to focus. It helps I love what I do so much I can hardly stand it. This is what I’ve always wanted, ever since I was twelve years old. And while life can get in the way of my passion, there’s no silencing the voices.

12. If an unpublished writer came to you to get advice on whether they should go the Indie route or a more Traditional route in publishing, what 3 tips would you give that writer?

Patti >>

  1. One: Do your research. Check out The Passive Voice (www.thepassivevoice.com), a legal eagle blog that dissects contracts into human terms, as well as Dean Wesley Smith and his wife, Kristine Katherine Rusch (www.kriswrites.com). Both have been in the industry for years and years, been publishers themselves, have had Bix 6 deals and have independently published. They know their stuff.
  2. Two: Ask yourself–what can a publisher do for me I can’t do for myself? Right now, the only things are a) free editing (but bear in mind you then have no control over that editing–they get what they want, not the other way around), b) free cover design (see previous) and c) placement in brick and mortar stores. Is that worth 90% (in the case of the Big 6) of your royalties? Not to mention the 15% your agent will take from that measly 10% you receive once or twice a year with no idea if your publisher is tracking and reporting your sales correctly (I’m not blowing smoke, here. There’s an inquiry happening right now on just this issue, involving ebook reporting).
  3. Three: Decision time. Are you the type of person willing to put in the work necessary to make this happen? I’m in the enviable position that this is my full-time job. And yes, I work hard at it–but that’s why I’m doing so well. Effort out, success in, like with anything. But many people are succeeding while working full-time. So, are you excited about doing it yourself but a little scared/daunted? Then go for it. If, however, you’d rather just write and have everything done for you, traditional publishing is your way to go.

Patti, thank you for your time and your advice. I especially love “This is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. A career. Like any business, it takes time to grow. We’re actually in an enviable position as writers/entrepreneurs. With the connectiveness of the world through the internet, building our business is much easier than ever. ” I could not agree more. This is a marathon and us writers are in it for the long term. This is also our business. It’s serious. You gave some really great tips and gave us all a great peek into the world of publishing Indie-style. Definite food for thought there. ~ Kim

 

Author Notes

Patti Larsen is a middle grade, young adult and adult author with a passion for the paranormal. Her YA thriller series, The Hunted, started it all, released in August, 2011. The first four books of The Hayle Coven Novels, Family Magic, Witch Hunt, Demon Child and The Wild are also out now, with book five, The Long Lost, due for release this May. Her YA steampunk series, Blood and Gold, can be found on Amazon along with The Diamond City Trilogy. Her YA paranormal novel, Best Friends Forever, is also due in May along with more of the Hayle Coven Novels. Two of her books, Family Magic (Hayle Coven #1) and Run (The Hunted #1) were recently shortlisted for the PEI Book Awards. Patti is a full-time writer and a part-time teacher of her Get Your Book Done program. She lives on the East Coast of Canada with her very patient husband and four massive cats.

 

You can find her:

XOXOXO thank you 🙂

There’s more than one way to skin a cat…Part 1

There is only the “right for this story”, “right for now” and “right for me” way. I am talking about the how/when/what/who that comes into each writer’s decision when they decide to push their story out from the nest into the big, bad world.

I think the important thing with writing is that there is no one way to write any story, and nowadays thankfully there is not just one way to get published…Nobody can tell you that traditional publishing sux or self-publishing sux… I get really annoyed with some writers who believe they should tell others how and when and why to publish their books. This is our own journey and only we can decide what is right for us.

Personal Experience

For instance I pitched my novel (the ghost story) to a big NY agent at a con last year August. She loved the pitch and requested a full. She was interested from the pitch point but also wanted me to change my story to something more fitting the market at the time even though she admitted that what had got her hooked was that the story was very original, very different and had  3 hot elements that a lot of  publishers she is dealing with have been asking for. I thought it over long and hard. I decided to give her suggestions the benefit of the doubt even though they went against my instincts. I did change the story around and according to her suggestions but ended up hating the new story. I had lost the magic. This almost led me to delete the whole ms and just get onto the next one. But then I said no. This is my story and I know it is a good story with the premise as is. It is not meant to fit the market. I don’t want to be a copycat of someone else. I want to be Kim Koning and write an original Kim Koning story. So I opted to not go that route even if it meant losing interest from that agent. And you know, I don’t regret it.

As much as I would love to hire an editor and go the self-publishing route, I also want to give myself a chance to build a name in publishing and to learn more about the publishing game before I dip/if I dip my toes into the world of self-publishing. I know so many amazing authors who have gone the self-publishing route, many of them friends of mine, and I applaud their success. However, I feel like a guppie in a shark aquarium with the little I know about the publishing industry. So for now, I am thinking of  going more the way of the mid list publishers at least for this WIP… Because that is right for me and right for this story right now. Nobody says it has to be right all the time… I can change my mind. I’m in this for the long-haul. It is a marathon not a race.

Publishing Options

Nowadays, thankfully we have many options to get our work out there and published. It is a new world in the publishing industry. It is an exciting time to be an author. But on the flip side, although choice can be a great thing too many choices can be daunting and leave us scratching our heads in confusion. There are so many options facing authors today. There is the Big 6 route with agents, there is the mid-list traditional route with agents, there is the mid-list traditional route without agents, there is the small press route, there is the co-operative route, there  is the hybrid route (think Amazon’s imprints) and there is self-publishing not to mention the dreaded (read unrecommended) vanity publishing route.

I am in that spot of decision-making right now and something tells me with the rapidly changing publishing industry that it won’t be the only time I have to make this decision. I have a book, busy in the final drafting stage and it is almost time for it to be put out there. So which route do I take? How do I know which is best for me, for the story, for right now? The truth is I can’t know which is risk-free and which is fail-proof. I have to take my chances, no matter what route I choose. If it doesn’t work, I can backtrack and change my mind. The only thing I do know is that I don’t want to be told I am making the wrong decision when I do make the decision whether it is from other writers, publishers, editors or agents. That will get my hackles up.

Do you feel, like me, that you wonder which route is the absolute-best route to get that book out there?

Have you second-guessed and third-guessed yourself with which option you have chosen?

Have you changed options from indie to traditional (vice-versa) or agent to no agent (vice-versa)?

Upcoming Blog Series: Researching the many ways “to skin a cat” in publishing

Over the next few weeks I am going to be looking at all the ways “to skin a cat” in publishing. I am going to interview and feature guest posts with different authors from different publishing options. So if, like me, you are at that painful and exciting point of trying to make the most informed choice…stick around and watch this space. Perhaps one of the options will stand out for you and perhaps one of these authors that I interview or who guest-post will inspire you down the same path.

I am coming at this with a completely open mind and non-judgmental attitude. I am doing this series as much to get more information for myself and educate myself as I am any reader whom finds this interesting or useful.

Open Call

Also if you want to be one of the authors to be interviewed or guest post on this topic in this series, please shout out.

*My Guarantee: No Cats will be harmed or skinned in the writing of this series!*

Cover Lust

There is a saying: Don’t judge a book by its cover.

Of course in the world of publishing we know how incorrect that statement is. Publishers judge books by their covers. Publicists and reviewers judge books by their covers. Buyers and retailers judge books by their covers. Most importantly, readers judge books by their covers. So the oft unnamed cover artist is a vital and integral part of the publishing and marketing process. This is one of the reasons why I love the world of Indie or Independent Publishing. In the land of gatekeepers, the BIG6, very rarely do the cover artist/s and author ever meet or have any contact with each other. However in the INDIE world to find a cover artist you can connect with and foster a relationship with is like finding a nugget of gold in a mound of rock and sand.

I have found that nugget of gold. For me the cover of a book is almost as important as writing the book is. I am a very visual person so for me to have a visual symbol of my imaginings is very powerful. But though there are many cover artists out there, it is a harder task to find a cover artist who can see what your words should like in a picture format. So I have been searching for over a year, trawling through various art communities but more often than not trawling through the artists on Deviant Art. Until one day I came across an image from one of the deviant artists that just took my breath away. This was the image that hooked me: Enslaved by her song. I knew I had found my cover artist. I emailed her to find out if she was available for commissioned work and whether she would be interested in working with me on my manuscript. Within 3 emails I had her eager agreement and I had met a twin-soul in her love for dark emotional subjects and a love of the paranormal. So as much as I would love to keep this artiste’s talent all to myself, I realised that I needed to introduce her to those I know. I am very excited to feature this emerging cover artist on this blog. I am thrilled she agreed to sit down and have a chat with me about what got her into art, why cover love, and the inspiration behind some of her most popular images.

Enslaved By Her Song
Enslaved By Her Song

So as much as I would love to keep this artiste’s talent all to myself, I realised that I needed to introduce her to those I know. So here she is.

Meet my Cover Artist and Artiste Extraordinaire…Silviya Yordanova.

1) Introduce us to Silviya Yordanova. Who is she?

My name is Silviya Yordanova and I am a 21-year-old self-taught digital artist from a very small country called Bulgaria. I’ve always wanted to find a way to create beauty and letting the world know my story and this is where digital art came! I have been into it for a few years now, started in the early 2008. Since then I can honestly say that I believe I’ve found my own style – depicting the reality through a twist of imagination. My works are always a mixture of concept, emotion and a drop of darkness. Photo manipulation has since then become a very important part of me and since I began doing it I’ve been trying to evolve my skills as much as I can. At first it all started as a hobby but in time it became much more. I found that through it many doors of opportunities were opened for me when I was first contacted for a commission, then for another one and with time it became my own little business and I hope for all the best in the future. I am currently a student in the University of Economics in my home city – Varna but being an economist is not what I want to be, there is no beauty in it …My passion lies in making art, trying to make the world a better and beautiful place, into expressing myself through it. My dream is to keep doing what I love for a living. I wish that someday I could be able to share the knowledge, experience and passion I have to others and help them discover their hidden talents as digital art was for me!

2) What type of art inspires you?

I love all kinds of art but mostly art pieces with an interesting concept, beautifully made with a lot of skill that has amazing impact on the viewer!

3) You have been featured in many interviews lately, which one were you most thrilled for?

I’ve been most excited about the features in big magazines like Photoshop Creative and Advanced Photoshop. Also at the end of February and March I am expecting 2 more features in such magazines but won’t reveal anything yet! If you’d like to be updated with news about me and my work feel free to like my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/MyBeautifulDarkness

4) What awards, if any, have you won for your work?

Well I haven’t won many awards but the one I am most proud of is getting a “Daily   Deviation” award at deviantART.com that I received for my interpretation of the story about Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs – “Snow White Strikes Back”. For me this is a huge deal and to be chosen is a great honor! Another award that I was very thrilled about is getting a “Featured Portfolio” award at Shadowness.com and also receiving 2nd place at the “Digital Artist of The Year” competition at ModelMayhem.com 

5) Tell us a little about your background in art. How did you get into it?

I’ve always loved art since I can remember. I admire people who have the talent to create beauty and I’ve always wanted to be like them. I really like the traditional art of pen and paper but digital art is where my passion lies. I can’t define exactly where my love of art itself came from, I guess it was something I’ve always carried within me.

6) You have said before that you want to make a living designing book covers. What about designing book covers appeals to you?

I was actually talking to my friends the other day about that. The thing that most appeals to me is being able to recreate the author’s vision for the cover that would best fit their story! I can’t imagine something more rewarding than making their wish come true. I see how important this is because despite the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover” people actually do it. No matter how good the story is, for those who choose a book just by how good the cover looks, it is the only way to grab the viewer’s attention sometimes. What appeals to me also is someday to be able to look at my bookshelf and to see books whose covers I created – this would mean I actually left a trace in the world, even a small and maybe insignificant one, but it’s there and I did it! 🙂

7) Do you have a favourite genre you like to design for and why?

My favorite genres are those that have something to do with darkness, the paranormal, emotions and such, I love stories about the creatures of the night – vampires, werewolves, witches etc. I also really like love stories, mysteries.. I think you get the picture  Which is another reason Silviya’s images stood out to me above other cover artists.

8) How many book covers have you designed?

Well I have only designed covers for e-books and so far I’ve designed 5 for author Joely Sue Burkhart, she is fantastic, we correlate so well! You can check them on my Facebook page. Plus my book cover which we are in the process of designing. Ebook version complete and now working on the print version…. watch the space on this blog for the teaser reveal of my cover later on today.

9) What is your favourite art image you have designed and why?

Actually yes, there is one piece that is exceptionally important to me and it’s called “Reborn”. As you see, the title clearly reveals the concept of this piece. I wanted to portray the feeling of letting go of the past and embracing the bright future. You may be wondering why I chose to portray this exact feeling. Ever heard the saying “Let go of the past and embrace the bright future?” Well that about sums it all. This is what inspired me to create this image and why I chose this title. This work of mine is very important to me because of its meaning. What a beautiful inspiration for a haunting image. Another winning image from you Silviya.

10) You work mostly in photo-manipulation. Is there a reason why you prefer this medium to any other?

I guess it is because photo-manipulation offers you more control over the image, you can easily fix any mistakes, try different things and if you’re not happy just remove the element that bothers you and try again  Besides I’m really into technology so these are two passions fused together! An artist after my own heart. I love art in all its forms but digital art is the way of the times. 

11) How would you describe your art style?

My works are always a mixture of concept, emotion and a drop of darkness. This is what stood out to me in Silviya’s images when I first came across her profile on deviantART. This rare combination of darkness and emotion was something that I wanted to capture for my covers as this echoes the premise of all my mss. Her images will haunt you and the longer you stare at them the more they draw you into their depths. Talented is an understatement here. Artiste is a more appropriate description.

12) If an author wanted to commission you, how would they go about this?

If anyone is interested in having me design a cover for their book the first thing they need to do is contact me at my e-mail morteque@gmail.com , let me know whether you’ll need only a cover design or a whole book layout, your budget for the book cover and then we’ll be able to discuss a price and continue further  Don’t fear a long wait either when contacting Silviya. I emailed her one day and that evening I had an answer in my inbox and from there the ball got rolling very quickly. 

13) What sort of working relationship do you like to foster with the clients who commission your art?

I’d really like to keep in touch with them, to be aware of their accomplishments, to see whether they are happy with my work for them. I can definitely vouch for her keeping in touch. Not only is she my cover artist but she has become a hugely collaborative part of this ms. She has also become a good friend.

14) How long does it take you to complete a commissioned image?

Each time it is completely different, for example with sometimes the working process goes on very smoothly and easily, I manage to do exactly what they want without the need of many corrections and changes but there are times when probably because the image the client requests is very different from what I’m used to do or because the client doesn’t really know what they actually want and keeps changing their mind about it, the working process can be very difficult, time-consuming and even frustrating at times. 

15) What is your process, in short, from start to finish when you have been commissioned?

The process is as follows: first you tell me a little bit about the image you want me to create, what you will be using it for, then we should discuss the price, discuss and find the right stock images so that I can get an overall image of what I should create and after this I can start working. Then I keep you updated regularly with screenshots of the working process. At the end when you are satisfied with the final image I put the finishing touches and after receiving full payment via PayPal I send you the high-resolution image and we’re done!  Talking as one of Silviya’s clients – she does indeed keep you regularly updated. I saw every single shot and edit that was added to my ms’ cover. At no point did I have to chase her up. In fact I was bowled over with her speed in both creating the cover and communicating every detail of the process to me.

16) What are your tips on creating a strong book cover image?

My only tip is to know how to or to find someone who knows how to create an image that will catch the viewer’s attention, books are just any other products when it comes to selling – the packaging is very important! Very good advice Silviya – books are a product. As much as to us writers they are our babies, once written and sent out into the big bad world they become a marketable product. This is when the cover becomes so vital to a well written book.


17) Writers get very attached to their stories and nowadays with the rise of ebooks we all realise how strong a good cover is. How do you work with a writer when designing the cover? 

Process is the same as I described above in the question about commissions, the difference is that we need to talk a little bit more about how the image will look like, what story it should be able to tell and the impact you’d like it to have. I can say that Silviya is exceptionally prompt and professional. It is very important for her to work closely with the author.

18) Are there any book cover designers you consider your mentors or coaches and why?

No, not really, I am all self-taught concerning photo-manipulations and everything related with that so I guess I am self-taught cover artist as well, I guess I have an eye for the beautiful things  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder as they say.

19) Where can people find you on the internet?

My Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/MyBeautifulDarkness

My deviantART profile http://morteque.deviantart.com/

My Shadowness profile http://shadowness.com/morteque

My ModelMayhem profile http://www.modelmayhem.com/1043696

and of course my e-mail morteque@gmail.com

20) Are you working on anything at the moment?

Actually yes, I am thrilled to say that currently I am working on my first ever cover for a printed book for a publishing company in my country and I am so excited because this could be my big chance at breaking through in this business! The cover I am working on is for book 8 of The Vampire Diaries! Wow! Can’t wait to see the finished cover.

IMAGES

“Black Widow” – Here I wanted to express my idea about dolls – for me they are both beautiful and scary at the same time. You stare at their beautiful faces and then realize that although they look perfect they are hollow and dead inside. I have always thought there is something frozen and chilling about doll’s faces. Silviya captured this sentiment beautifully in this image.

Black Widow
Black Widow

“Awaiting the Night” – For this particular image my inspiration came from my love of the dark mystical creatures that walk in the night and my love of wolves. I love the sense of fear and power in this image. Then girl should be afraid but she has a power in her that comes across in her stance and her eyes. Who does not love wolves?

Awaiting The Night
Awaiting The Night

“Equilibrium” – Have you ever felt the warm summer rain on your skin? This is actually the feeling I wanted to portray in this image. I am always drawn in by images with water. This image feels so real you think you can feel the water on your own hand and feel the raindrops on your skin.

Equilibrium
Equilibrium

“Snow White Strikes Back” – This is my take on twisting a fairy tale – what if Show White wasn’t awaken by the kiss of the prince… but by his bite! And now she will have her revenge… I’d love to have such a tale. Wow – what an original spin on such a well-known tale. Snow White has never quite looked like this. Very original.

Snow White Strikes Back
Snow White Strikes Back

“The Quiet Place” – Everyone has their own special place, their happy place – this is mine. This is another favourite of mine of all your images. It is absolutely ethereal and haunting. An image that stays in the mind for a long time.

The Quiet Place
The Quiet Place

“Reborn” – As you see, the title clearly reveals the concept of this piece. I wanted to portray the feeling of letting go of the past and embracing the bright future. Beautiful.

Reborn
Reborn

“Take My Pain Away” – When your soul and heart hurt and you’d give anything to make the pain go away…You can feel this girl’s sorrow and broken heart almost as if it was your own.

Take My Pain Away
Take My Pain Away

“Enslaved by Her Song” – A beautiful girl with a wicked gift of a beautiful song that enslaves the soul of every person who has ever heard it…This was the image that first hooked me. Look closely at the violin. Incredible image Silviya.

Enslaved By Her Song
Enslaved By Her Song

“Death, come near me” – Inspired by the beautiful sad song by Draconian – Death, come near me..You have made death look beautiful. Very haunting Silviya.

Death, Come Near Me
Death, Come Near Me

~~~~~

Thank you Silviya for taking the time to answer some of my questions. It has been a pleasure and my honour to have you featured on my blog. I am also very proud and honoured to say that such an incredible ARTISTE is my cover artist. 

Talking of my cover art…Watch this blog for a posting later today where I will tease you with a small reveal of part of the amazing cover that Silviya has created for me. 

Cover me Irresistible

Cover me irresistible

First Impressions Count

In life everything we see makes an impression on us. Both the really good and the really bad stick in our memories. We also make impressions on others. But there is only one first time, there is only one first impression. It is true that if your first impression was not that good, you may have a chance to make a better second impression but the first impression is the one that will also stay in the memory bank.

You wouldn’t go on a first date looking “regular”. You wouldn’t go on an interview looking “average”. You take the time to look your best for “first impressions” in your daily life. You take the time to look your best for “professional first impressions” in your daily life. But often you want to go a step further and look better than all of your competition. You want to look the best in a crowd. You want to stand out from a crowd.

What is the first thing you see when you browse a book store, traditional or online? What makes you stop in front of one book rather than look at the one beside it? What attracts your attention enough for you to pick up the book and read the back blurb? What is your first impression of a book controlled by?

Cover me Irresistible – You had me at first sight

Time and time again I pick up books because of their arresting covers. I might never have heard of the book or the author but if the cover wows me, nine times out of ten I will buy the book. The cover is a book’s greatest first sales tool. It is the packaging of the writer’s project. It is the silver platter that your work is presented on. It can make or break your sales. It can win you new fans and lose you potential readers. Covers are what people buy when you are a new author or an unknown talent. Bookstores will decide on the shelf placing of your book by your cover. Readers will want to know more about your book and pick it up off the shelf if your cover arrests their attention.

Traditional publishing companies pay departments of art and sales people thousands of dollars to make a cover as irresistible as possible in order to make your book a bestseller. Books covers count towards sales. eye-catching covers can make an unknown book a bestseller and bad covers can make well written books difficult to sell.

In Indie publishing – both small press, self-publishing and e-books – covers can make or break a book. Poorly designed covers can make a book look boring, uninteresting, unprofessional and uninviting: all of these points are negatives in selling the product = the book.

So what makes you love a cover? What makes a cover stand out from hundreds or even thousands of similar covers in the same genre? What makes a cover stand out from a crowd of covers?

If there were a golden rule of thumb I am sure many writers would make millions and follow it to the letter. But choosing books is a subjective industry. It is based on personal opinion and personal preference. A cover that i would love might not appeal as much to Jill and a cover that Jill loves might not appeal as much to Joe. There is no “perfect cover” but there are a few key points that the best selling books use for their cover art and cover designs.

  • Colour – Bright colours or dark/bold colours
  • Colour Palette – Not too many colours on one cover and using colours that complement each other
  • Cover Art – Suitable to the genre and must give some sort of “visual blurb” of the story
  • Cover Art – Simple without confusing someone, so pick one main image instead of a complicated and crowded image with so much going on that it is difficult to figure out what you need to focus on
  • Cover Art & White/Black Space – Well spaced design and placement
  • Title – Easily read type font, bold and standing out on the page, should also match the cover art
  • Author’s Name – This should also be easily visible and not disappear into the cover art (Remember, you want the reader to know who wrote the book)

These are some of the top selling covers over the last few years. Let us see if they match all the above points.

Goodreads Best 100 Book Covers 2011

Goodreads Best 100 Book Covers 2010

These are some of my favourite covers that had me enticed…

Stieg Larsen – The Millenium Trilogy
Alice Sebold’s “Lovely Bones”
Andrew Smith “the Marbury Lens”

So tell me which are your favourite covers that have made you pick the book from a hundred others?

Why? What attracts you? What makes a cover irresistible? 

Twitter…It’s a conversation

Part 2 ….

It’s all about the tweeting quality of your conversation…

Are you talking?

One of the most underused and abused of the social networking/media sites is Twitter. I will admit that Twitter completely overwhelmed me and baffled me when I first heard about it. Someone suggested I should sign up as the only way to understand Twitter is to dive right in. Well I signed up. I was lost. For the first couple of months my account remained inactive. So did the conversation. I was not talking to anyone on twitter so nobody knew I was there. I decided I needed to educate myself. I quizzed friends already on Twitter, I read up blog posts on Twitter and then I started a conversation. Someone tweeted something that interested me and I responded. Within seconds there was an echoing response from the tweeter and they had started following me. So I continued talking. Before I knew it I was involved in multiple conversations and had more than a few followers who I followed in turn.

Suddenly a lightbulb had been turned on and I could see the whole room. It was a room full of people talking and connecting over shared interests. I turned around and saw a whole lot of smaller groups. Over there, there was a crowd talking about publishing, just across from them another crowd spoke about music, just across from them another crowd spoke about politics. Turning around I also realised there were celebrities in the room but they didn’t have any “minders” or “publicists”, they were just people like you and I talking about things that interest them.

A good cocktail party is all about conversation…so is Twitter.

Twitter is a social tool that breaks down all barriers of fame, wealth, class, age, geography, language in one huge online room full of people having conversations. That is the trick of Twitter if there is a trick. You have to engage in conversation with another person. There is no way that being a wallflower is going to get you into Twitter. But in Twitter there is no need to be a wallflower because conversation is easy. All you need for a conversation is at least two people and a topic that connects them. That is the great secret of Twitter. You need to be part of the conversations in the room to be accepted, followed and friended.

Yes Twitter can be a great marketing tool in that you can tweet links to your blog – to draw in new readers – or you can tweet links to your upcoming products and a site where people can buy them. But if you are only tweeting links to blogs or tweeting product promotion and self-marketing, you have lost the point and the true charm of twitter.

Think of Twitter more as a cocktail party you have been invited to by an acquaintance. Why did they invite you? Did they invite you so that you can climb aboard a pedestal and promote who you are and what you do? Or did they invite you because you peeked their interest and they want to learn more about you, the individual, the person? When you think of Twitter in these terms you will see Twitter in a different light.

However there are so many different conversations going on in the rooms but you may want to leave the main party room and enter a smaller party room to zone in on one specific conversation/debate. This is when Twitter chats come in play or as they are known on Twitter as # (hash-tag chats). For instance if you are taking part in NaNoWriMo this month, if you sign up to a TweetChat account like tweet chat or TweetDeck and enter #NaNoWriMo, you will enter a room where everyone is chatting all things NaNoWriMo. To continue in this conversation, you tweet as normal but make sure that somewhere in each tweet there is the same #NaNoWriMo, this means that all your tweets will be seen by the people in the smaller #NaNoWriMo room.

As you explore more in Twitter chats you will realise that there will be regular chats in your industry throughout the week. Now for writers, twitter is a perfect hangout and brainstorming session with fellow wordsmiths. There are weekly chats on the craft of writing, on the marketing side, the creative side, the brainstorming side and the critiquing side. You just have to search them out. If you have not joined in on one of these chats, I urge you to do so. Not only will you meet many like-minded people but you will learn a lot too. On my writing blog, Wrestling the Muse, I have a page devoted to the different Twitter chats called #Twittertalk. On here you will find the most regular and popular twitter chats targeted towards writers. Try one of the chats out. You may just enjoy the conversation more than you thought and start understanding the unique charm that is Twitter.

I hope that this post breaks down Twitter in simple terms for you as one more great social media tool. Remember that people will take more notice of your blogs, websites, products and talent if they like talking to you anyway. If you can interest them on Twitter, they will follow you to your other places in social media. Try Twitter out if you have not had the courage to yet. If you have and have been overwhelmed, break it down. It is just a conversation after all. You have those all the time every day. Good Luck with your twittering.

Tell me how you find Twitter? Do you enjoy it? Has it baffled you? Will you give it a chance if you have not yet? I would love to hear about your TwitterTalk. Tell me something. Better yet: tweet me @last_lines   or  @AuthorKimKoning . I look forward to having many conversations with you in Twittertime. Don’t be shy. It is just people talking.

Join me here tomorrow for Part 3 on social media…Tomorrow we are going to talk blogging.

Wallflower or Social Butterfly? | Part 1

Are you a shy & retreating Wallflower?

Or

Are you a Social Butterfly and the Life of a Party?

In real life you may fall into one or the other category but what about in the virtual and digital world of social media? Are you a shy and retreating Wallflower or are you the life of the party and a Social Butterfly? You may wonder what it matters whether you are shy in social media or not but if you want to network and you want to make connections – you need to become a social butterfly if you aren’t already.

Social Media is called “Social” for a very good reason.

You must be social for it to accomplish its task.

Not only has social media changed the business world but it has changed and continues to change our personal lives. If you meet someone new at a party and you want to meet up later in the week, how do you get in contact with them? You ask if they are on Facebook. There are two reasons why people are more willing to give out their Facebook profiles rather than their home address or even mobile phone number. If you friend request them they can learn all about you from your Facebook profile before choosing to accept. Secondly it is safer to give out your Facebook profile than it is to give out more personal information, like your home address, to a virtual stranger.

In this modern day and age more networking and more connections are made and forming through the social media and social networking sites. There is no point in being an ostrich and sticking your head in the sand hoping that life will just go back to being simple.

Most industries rely on marketing savvy and promotion savvy. Everyone and every business has something to sell. Whether this be a service, their name or a talent. The way this is accomplished in 2011 is through social media and social networking. It simply has the largest exposure without a very high monetary cost. An effective and engaged social presence on the internet is more beneficial and powerful than advertising copy in a magazine or on tv.

So what is your presence in social media? Do you have a presence or are you scratching your head as you read “social media”? If you do have a presence, is it effective and engaging? Are you using social media to your best advantage? Do you know why you need social media and what you want from it?

If you are a creative; a musician, an artist or a writer, social media can be either your friend or your foe. This is even more important for a relative unknown or an up-and-coming-not-quite-there-yet star. The creative industries are one of the most difficult industries to get a foot in the door. They are completely subjective industries where most times you are judged on yourself and the impression you give before they will give you a chance to be judged on your talent. This brings us to the old scenario where a young and hopeful graduate is ready to enter the work-world but in countless interviews is told that though they have the qualifications and the look, they don’t have the experience to get the job? This always leaves the young graduate despondent because how does he/she get experience if they can’t get a job in the first place?

So as a creative wanting to break into your chosen sphere, how do you get the bigwigs – these are usually corporates who think with their wallets and guard their time jealously – to sit up and pay attention to you?

You get online! You could do a number of other cost and time consuming activities to engage their attention but at this point your cost and your time is probably limited. So the easiest way is to build an effective and engaging social media that is market-savvy to your specific industry. How? Below is the set of tools available to you in social media…

Your social media tools

Now you may be looking at this and think there are way too many options up there and counting away the hours it will take to build a social presence in each of these media tools…Fear not! These may be all the tools available to you but you do not need to use every one of these tools. You need to choose which are the best tools. When considering that, you need to focus on these factors:

  • What is best for you as an individual?
  • What is best for your talent/service as a marketing tool?
  • It is all about who you know in this world so what is best for your talent/service as a networking tool?
  • What are the most popular social media sites used by your future colleagues in your industry?
  • What are the most popular and watched sites by the bigwigs and decision makers in your industry?

So before reading on, take a notepad and a pen and write down these 5 factors. Then answer them.

Are you starting to form a picture of your social media presence yet?

I am going to tell you about what I use in social networking. I am a writer and my product is my words. So the social media sites are perfect for someone in my industry. I am however also an experienced sales and marketing manager so I have a little more of an insider track on how to sell a product and how to market it.

The social media/networking sites I am listed on are, from longest running to newest:

  • E-mail/SMS
  • Facebook (personal profile)
  • WordPress – Blogging
  • Twitter (personal profile)
  • Facebook groups (related to writing)
  • Facebook group admin / creator (related to writing)
  • Website
  • tumblr
  • Facebook Fan Page
  • Twitter (writer account)
  • Facebook (separate writer profile)
  • GoodReads
  • Blog Hops
  • Linked In
  • Google+
  • Google+ Hangouts
  • Twitter chat host (a weekly writing craft chat)

Now from the above you will see that I have two Facebook profiles and two Twitter accounts. I also have 4 WordPress blogs. Now although writers and most creatives can be accused of having multiple personalities this is not the reason why I have different profiles / sites on the same social media/networking sites. I have a private life and a professional life. I use my personal profiles for personal networking with friends and family and not necessarily friends who are in the same industry as me. I use the professional profiles for anything and everything related to my writing business.

“Writing business”? But you thought writing was a “creative” industry and not sullied with the muddiness of “business”? Wrong! If you are writing as a hobby then yes it is purely creative. But if you are in this for the long haul and hope to make a living from your creativity than you MUST look at writing just like you would any other job or any other Business. Believe me if you want to get noticed and make it in this business, you will need to work harder than at anything else you have ever worked at.

For me the most effective methods of getting noticed and building a readership/following as well as networking with decision makers has been Facebook, Twitter and Blogging. Facebook is still one of the most preferred and effective tools out there. As we hear constantly in the media, if Facebook were a country it would have the third highest population in the world. The next effective method, especially in the writing and publishing world is Twitter. With Twitter you can reach hundreds of followers as well as follow and connect with the who’s who in whatever industry you want to break into.

Then there is blogging. Blogging is incredibly effective to market your actual product – which in a writer’s world is our words and our ability to hold a reader’s attention so that they keep coming back for more.

I have 4 separate blogs that are all writing related but differently marketed. This blog is my creativity and inspiration blog. I blog here on creative exercises, creative tips and tools as well as spotlighting up and coming authors and creatives in the industry. In my other blog, Wrestling the Muse, I blog about my lessons learned while undertaking the adventures of full-time writing. Then I have a poetry portfolio blog, Soul Photographs,  where I blog poetry and all things related to poetry. Just recently I started my fourth blog, Amazon Wanderings, where I will be blogging about my adventure traveling. You probably wonder why I need 4 blogs and why don’t I use one blog with 4 different uses. I have done it very specifically to create niche blogs and niche readerships/followings for each blog. Yes it means I have more blogs to upkeep but this is when a blogging schedule comes in handy.

So in answer to my initial question: If you are a Wallflower when it comes to social media, why are you retreating?  How are you planning on getting noticed in your industry?

Watch out for Part 2 coming tomorrow on how to stop retreating and how to become an effective social butterfly…

Tell me in the meantime: What social networking do you find works best? What social networking baffles you? What social networking do you dislike or find unnecessary?

Join me here tomorrow when I share with you how to effectively market yourself. Remember writing and publishing is big business. Know what your strengths and weaknesses are. It is time to get market-savvy in social media….

Hook that Agent!

Hooks

(Image by lovestruck. via Flickr)

On Tuesday I posted on The Writer’s Achilles’ Heel where I told you there were two words that struck fear into a writer’s stalwart heart: Synopsis and Query. I posted on how I write up a synopsis and promised you that today I would post on the second part of that post.

Query 101

This brings me back to knowing your peers. Your WIP is finished and is perfectly edited. It is submission time. First you look for an agent. Do you approach any agent? Do you hold a lucky draw for the agent that will love your work? If you submitted your YA fantasy to an agent that specialised in medical thrillers, do you think your bait would take? In all probability, even if the agent is intrigued, the agent will reject your WIP. So how do you know which agent to submit to?

 

 You research. You compare. You do your homework. It is safe to be said that the largest accomplishment of actually finishing your WIP is the hardest part of writing. Suffice to say, the creative end of the process is basically complete but now the business end of the process begins. Your precious WIP that you have spent hours of grueling energy over is now just a “product” in the “shop of publishing“.

 

 You have made a choice on which agent you will be pitching to. Now comes the query letter and the submission. 

 

This query letter is your first rung on the sales game. You have to consider that your prospective agent has very little time to waste on reading every submission on the “slush – or unknown writer’s – pile”. So this is your chance to sell your novel.

 

  In this query letter it is important that you not think like a writer but that you think like a salesman

 

 

If you are planning on securing a literary agent for your work, you will need to know the ins and outs of queries. Agencies are very helpful in that they put up submission guidelines on their website telling you how they want you to submit to them. Each agency has an individual approach to submissions but one thing they all share in common is they want to be hooked by a great query.

So the question is: How do you Hook that Agent?

or should the question rather be:

How NOT to Hook that Agent?

  • Don’t ignore the submission guidelines on the agent’s website.

  • Do not submit the incorrect genre to an agent.

  • Do not query a manuscript that you have not completed and polished.

  • Do not address your letter with: Dear Sir/Madam / To whom it may concern / Dear Agent

  • Don’t bribe the agent with food/alcohol/vouchers/money.

  • Don’t tell the agent your life story starting when you were four and started reading.

  • Don’t tell the agent that your family and your friends think you have the next bestseller in your hands.

  • Don’t “pretty” your query email by inserting pictures, font colours and/or emoticons.

  • If it is a manual query: don’t send on pretty pink paper with stickers on.

  • Do not write a 10 page essay as a query letter.

  • Do not include attachments or links to Dropbox (or any other online storage facility) where they can download your novel.

Now: How do I HOOK that Agent?

  • Do your homework by checking out the agent’s website/blog.

  • Always follow the Agent’s submission guidelines.

  • In an email query: In the subject write – Query: (insert your ms title)

  • Use the standardized 12 point for font size.

  • Personalise your query letter by addressing the Agent by their name.

  • Write a strong first sentence hook.

  • Always include your title / word count / genre.

  • Write 1-2 paragraphs on the main premise of your manuscript.

  • Write 1-2 paragraphs on yourself: Give only the relevant writing credits/background that is pertinent to the story you are submitting.

  • End by thanking them for their time and consideration.

  • If indicated by their submission guidelines, include your 1 page synopsis.

  • Always check your grammar and use spell-check.

  • Keep the letter professional, clear and concise.

    If your query is not successful. No matter what response you receive: Do not take it personally. Respond professionally and courteously.


Remember, you are using this query letter as a cover letter, not as a resume or a short story on yourself, to sell the Agent on your Manuscript. This is not an opportunity that you want to miss because you have not done your homework on either the Agent or how to write queries. I like to think of a query letter like a short advertisement.

It must entice, intrigue and grab the Agent.

The query is important because within the first few lines the Agent will decide if they want to know more about either the manuscript or the writer or not. 

This is your first impression. No matter what you think, First Impressions can happen only ONCE and it is ALWAYS the first impression that counts.

Make this First Impression be the BEST Selling tool for your manuscript. 


Related articles

The Writer’s Achilles’ Heel | Part 1 (kimkoning.wordpress.com)

Synopsis: Are you in or out of Sync? (dragonflyscrolls.wordpress.com)

Publishing your book: Be market savvy. Be reader savvy. (dragonflyscrolls.wordpress.com)