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Newsletter Dated: 9/1/2005 11:00:30 PM
Subject: Soup*s On
Andrea Campbell’s Newsletter
*** Greetings! ***
This newsletter is being sent to you because you are a writer, professional friend of Andrea*s, or a fan and reader of her books. If you are new to the list, welcome. There are a ton of newsletters and e-zines out there to read, thanks for requesting and reading mine.
Have questions, comments, or ideas for future publication? I look forward to your input. This newsletter is a continued work-in-progress and I hope you will stay around to see new features in every bi-monthly issue.
In this issue:
* From the Author*s Desk
* Terry Whalin’s Book Proposal That Sell: A Review
* Angelinyourinkwell.com Tip
* How Do You Find Your Book’s Best Publicist?
*** From The Author*s Desk ***
So I’m a glutton for punishment as they say. Studying Adobe GoLive CS2 in preparation for creating three websites. I don’t know how steep the learning curve yet, so I am still sane temporarily. Looking forward to cooler weather too, my running shoes were melting into the turf.
My next 8-week online e-course for Mediabistro.com is scheduled to start September 6. So if you think a nonfiction book is in your future, come check out: Publish That Book: Write a Killer Nonfiction Book Proposal. You can find the link at: http://www.mediabistro.com/courses/cache/crs746.asp
And we’re all about books this month, hope there is something helpful for you here.
*** Terry Whalin’s Book: A Review ***
Book Proposals That Sell: 21 Secrets to Speed Your Success by W. Terry Whalin
I was excited to read Terry’s book since nonfiction book proposals are a big part of what I do in addition to teaching Mediabistro students my methodology. I study the discipline ad nauseum and hardly ever see anything new, although Terry’s book provides some great ideas for the novice, and managed to surprise me with some tidbits about the business end of publishing.
His statistics are particularly interesting. I didn’t know, for example, that “At any given time, 500,000 proposals and manuscripts circulate across the United States.” Daunting numbers those, but they still don’t seem to discourage writers from sending out the wrong material, in a nondescript or incorrect format, and worse still, with no clearly thought-out premise. For those folks, Terry’s book should be a staple. Not only does he explain the book proposal business through the eyes of an acquisitions editor, but he points out the misconceptions beginning writers have about the nonfiction book market in general, that they don’t consider from the publisher’s viewpoint ‘…publishing is about managing risk.” He also takes us through an editor’s day, the options open to them for procurement, and then plunks us down in the boardroom for the publisher’s meeting and gives us a revealing glimpse into why books are rejected. Important stuff this.
Terry scares us again when he tells about a publisher he knows who received over 6,000 unsolicited manuscripts and proposals in a single year, but did not accept a single one! Yet, despite these hard-boiled truths, Terry still seems to talk to writer-readers in a nurturing way, helping them to understand the correct mindset needed if one is going to break through to publication.
After I devoured this book in two visitations, I decided to ask the author some questions.
Q.: Would you please tell Soup's On subscribers a little more about your background, your job, and who you are in a more personal vein?
I work both sides of the editorial desk—as a writer and an editor. While I majored in journalism at Indiana University, after college, for ten years, I left my writing and spent that time in linguistics work (primarily in Guatemala, Central America). About twenty years ago, I started writing for different magazines and my writing has appeared in more than 50 publications like Writer’s Digest, The Writer, BookPage, Publisher’s Weekly and many other publications. The bulk of my writing has been about the religious inspirational market. In 1992, my first book released which was a 32-page children’s book. Since then I’ve written more than 60 books for traditional publishers—all nonfiction for adults, biographies for youth and a few children’s books plus I’ve written collaborative books for more than a dozen people. I’ve been a magazine editor for publications like Decision (1.8 million copies each month) and others.
Over the last four years, I’ve been an acquisitions editor for two different book publishers. Currently I’m the part-time fiction acquisitions editor for Howard Publishing (a small family-owned publisher based in West Monroe, LA). It’s part-time because I only acquire six to eight full-length adult novels a year—where the typical acquisitions editor in a full-time capacity normally does 15-20 titles (and I did over 30 my last full-time year on the job).
As to who I am? I love to write and yet love to help others succeed. It’s why I often teach at writer’s conferences around the U.S. and Canada. Plus I launched a website loaded with free how-to material for writers called Right-Writing.com: http://www.right-writing.com (in the top 1% of the 56.1 million websites). Also I’ve tried hard in the midst of a busy publishing business to be a different type of editor—one who cares about his authors and works to meet their concerns—and who faithfully answers my email about submissions. As a writer, I dislike sending submissions and queries into the black hole—and never hearing anything from that editor—even “no thank you.”
Q.: Terry, what was the impetus for your writing Book Proposals That Sell?
Book Proposals That Sell came when I recognized a need in the marketplace for writers. Thousands of people are submitting book proposals and manuscripts to publishers—yet often they lack the critical material which a publisher needs to make a decision and issue a book contract. As an acquisitions editor, I was frustrated. I wanted to help these would-be writers to become successful—yet with the time constraints, I couldn’t help everyone. If a proposal arrives 80% complete, I could guide this writer the rest of the way. Otherwise, it was going to be outright rejected—with no reason. If you put forth a reason, then you invite dialogue with this writer (something I didn’t have time to accomplish). I’ve read and studied almost every other how-to book on the market about creating book proposals. None of these books was written from the insider’s perspective—the acquisitions editor.
Q.: What are some of the more egregious mistakes you see in material that crosses your desk?
It’s an old saying in this business but true: many writers fail to study the marketplace and understand what the editor needs. Incomplete proposals or filled with language that reeks of their inexperience would be the worst from my perspective. For example, in the marketing section they will tout their “willingness to appear on Oprah” or to do radio and television interviews. No fooling! Every author will be willing to appear on Oprah or do media interviews—or most of us should be to sell books. The question is more what innovative (yet cost effective) marketing strategies are you bringing to your proposal which shows you understand the partnership to sell books?
Or writers will not include a word count in their proposal. I’ll call or email and ask about the length of their book. They will eagerly write back asking, “How long do you want it to be?” No, the author intimately knows their subject and it is their responsibility to cast the vision for the project—not the editor’s job. I need that word count—because without it, I can’t do the cost analysis necessary to issue a book contract.
Or here’s another stock answer in proposals, “My idea is unique. There is no competition.” Every book competes in the marketplace—and to make such a statement shows the complete lack of understanding for such a writer.
In Book Proposals That Sell, I tried to educate the writer about the pressures of an editor and the necessity for the writer to come alongside and help—not stirring problems or difficulties.
Q.: Is there one area of a nonfiction book proposal that must not fail?
The title and the hook or overview must excite the editor from the minute they pull your proposal out of the package or open the email attachment. The strength of your words and concept must thrill that editor so this person will champion your cause throughout the company (editorial, marketing, sales and publishing executives). It’s not your paper or your package—it’s the words on the page—in the proposal and your sample chapters.
Q.: Your book is filled with hard truths. How do you feel about the state of publishing today?
Publishing like any other business has many challenges. There is high competition for people’s time to read books and get excited about the content within those books. It’s no secret the reading statistics point out these numbers. More books are being published each year through small publishers and self-publishers plus the huge competition for attention or “buzz” in the marketplace of ideas. It’s easy to get a book published—especially if you do it yourself—yet selling that book into the hands of readers is a completely different task that would-be authors need to understand.
While the challenges are ever present, it is possible. I know many editors and literary agents. Each one is actively reading their mail (paper and electronic). They are scouring those submissions for the next best-seller, the next sleeper book which rockets to the top of the chart or helps people solve a key issue in their lives. It’s a matter of understanding these realities of the marketplace and meeting those challenges head-on with fresh and creative ideas.
* * *
Annie Jennings PR launched a free tele-seminar MP3 file on Book Proposals That Sell; an hour-long taping you can save to your computer and listen to when convenient. Here's the location: http://snipurl.com/telesem
You can find Terry’s book, on this page: http://snipurl.com/bkprosell
--or check out the website built for the book http://www.bookproposals.ws
*** Angelinyourinkwell.com Tip ***
A writing observation from http://www.angelinyourinkwell.com, Carol Newman's free website for writers.
Follow up Rule One: If you have any communication of any sort with an editor or agent, follow up. At a writer’s conference recently, an indignant writer railed about the detailed rejection letter she had received from a magazine editor. “But, but, but,” I sputtered as I tried to get in a word. She saw criticism of her story; I saw instruction in what the editor needed in a story. If she had read the letter carefully, she might have been able follow up. Thank you for your helpful remarks. I would like to rework the story and send it to you in a couple of weeks. Follow up. Write. Send.
*** How Do You Find Your Book’s Best Publicist? ***
Book Publicity: Ten Ways to Find Your Book’s Best Publicist
It’s hard to say it any better: "Publicity is the voice of visibility." That’s from the book, High Visibility. And its lesson to authors is clear nothing can spotlight your book better, or faster than good publicity.
But how do you find a publicist that best fits you and your book? Here are ten easy rules to follow:
1. Find a publicist who specializes in the medium of choice for your book as not every publicist is a master at every medium. For example, if you've written a book on fashion or photography the best exposure would be print or TV, as they're both visual mediums. In this case, you want a publicist who procures print and TV placements on an ongoing basis.
2. Publicists often specialize in different genres of books (e.g., non-fiction, fiction, children's books, religious titles, etc.). So, if your book is religious, find a firm that specializes in religious media as they'll have the strongest contacts and will know which shows and publications represent the best exposure for you. Same holds true for fiction books, children’s books, etc.
3. If your book has a unique topic or audience -- e.g. charitable giving, or secrets of the cable TV industry, etc. -- it's unlikely you will find a publicist who specializes in just that topic. Instead, you’ll want a publicist who will take the time to familiarize themselves with your audience and will craft a campaign to match your special needs.
4. Ask for sample campaigns. Sure, it will be the publicist’s best foot forward, but it will still demonstrate their skill and proficiency at obtaining media.
5. Along with reviewing sample campaigns, if you have the slightest hesitation about engaging the firm - speak to past clients. Ask questions about the quality of their service, how quickly they responded to your calls, etc. You’ll be surprised at what you learn.
6. Find a firm whose fees are in range with other firms. No need to hire the most expensive just because they have a fancy address in a major metropolitan city.
7. And speaking of fees - in the book industry you'll find many publicists who work on a performance or project basis. This is not at all common with PR firms in other industries and it’s an opportunity you definitely want to take advantage of. Bottom line - steer clear of monthly retainer firms.
8. Get past a prospective PR firm‚s sales pitch and make sure they can deliver what they promise. The problem an author can run into is the sales person they speak with and build confidence in, is not always the person who will be handling their campaign. So, don't be shy about asking who will be writing your press release and who will be pitching you to the media. Find out how long they've been with the firm. Ask what their level of experience is. After all the time, money and hard work you invested in writing your book, you want to make sure your campaign isn't being delegated to a rookie out of college.
9. In your search for the right publicity firm don’t just talk to local agencies. Especially if you're looking for regional or national exposure. Virtually none of the work with your publicist will require face time, so just look for the best ...period!
10. One last point - find a firm that has an understanding of your topic and an enthusiasm for your message! Their enthusiasm and determination can often be the driving force behind prime media placements for you.
So think about it: Nothing can get your book more visibility than the right publicist!
Marsha Friedman is the president of Event Management Services Inc. (EMSI), a publicity firm that has specialized in book promotion for over 15 years. EMSI is one of the top resources for guests on talk radio nationwide, scheduling 50 to 100 interviews every week. They also specialize in obtaining TV appearances and newspaper and magazine coverage for their authors.
For more information: Contact Marsha Friedman at 727-443-7115 x 208 or
*** Future Newsletters ***
In upcoming newsletters we will answer reader’s questions, share a new story or two, talk more about publishing, and provide additional writer’s tips. If there is any area of my life or work you would like to discuss, from autopsy to monkeys, just send me a note. Thanks for the read. : 0 )
Copyright©2005 Andrea Campbell If you wish to quote from here, fine, just attribute it to me and my web site.