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Newsletter Dated: 4/30/2007 10:16:30 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 and hope you will stay around to see new features in every bi-monthly issue.
In this issue:
• From the Author*s Desk
• Jaclyn Weldon White’s Story
• TJ’s Perils of Self-Publishing
*** From The Author*s Desk ***
I’ve had some good news, some changing news, and discovered some new places to express and promote myself that I share here with you. First the good news. I entered the 10th annual Dynamic Graphics Design Makeover contest and won! The DG staff selected entries with the greatest potential for improvement (gee, does that mean my web site sucks?) Who cares? because after the designers work their magic, the results will be featured in the June/July Makeovers issue of the magazine, always one of the most popular of the year! (Results will show up online too.) Yippee!
A couple weeks ago I got a great little note from Kristin von Kreisler telling me that she voted for me and I’d won the At-Large Board Member position for the American Society of Journalists and Authors. Wow, great! Then I got a message shortly after saying that the nominations are still open and there’s another election. So if you are ASJA, vote for me, okay?
I am happy to announce that I am in a really cool new blog (I’m sure everyone is, no?) Anyway, it’s not like this one. I’ve joined an exceptionally stellar group for InColdBlog:
Started by my author friend, Corey Mitchell, it’s a composite of true crime writers, criminal justice commentators, forensic science professionals, and an editor and publisher here and there (did I get everyone?)
*** A Tale of Two Publishers by Jaclyn Weldon White ***
If two or more writers were stuck in an elevator, as soon as they pushed the emergency button and knew help was on the way, the talk would turn to publishers. Sometimes you’d think that there was a prize for the writer who’s had the worst publisher. And if there were such a contest, I might be a contender. I’ve had several publishers over the years. In fact, with my latest book, Mockingbird in the Moonlight, I had two publishers.
My first five books were published by a small university press. They were nice folks and we had a cordial relationship. However, when I finished my first murder mystery in 2005, I knew I’d have to go elsewhere. University presses don’t publish trade fiction. Since it’s nearly impossible to get to the big publishing companies without an agent, I concentrated on regional presses. And in a very short time, I got lucky – or so I thought.
Publisher X – I know it’s not an original name, but at least it’s not libelous – read the manuscript and agreed to bring out my book the following March. They soon sent me a contract. I was so pleased that my first impulse was to sign it immediately and send it back by return mail.
Instead, with the Authors Guild’s Model Trade Book Contract and Guide at my elbow, I went over the contract line by line – and discovered several items that the Guide warned against. Publisher X, expected me to grant them all print rights, including foreign sales, along with 50% of any electronic or film rights. The Guide was adamantly opposed to such a thing, but I really wanted the book to be published. Besides, Hollywood wasn’t waiting to buy it, so what did it matter? Publisher X also demanded first refusal on my next book. The Guide declared that, too would be a big mistake, but I was certain that the first mystery would be a great success. Why not let Publisher X have the next one, too?
Okay, none of my earlier contracts had these clauses and a reasonable person wouldn’t have ignored all those red flags, but I’ve always been way too optimistic. I signed the contract and sent it back. Believing the book would be out when they’d promised, I began setting up promotional events around my home in Georgia. I lined up appearances on television and radio shows, numerous book signings and even planned a release party.
My excitement grew as the months passed, but so did a vague sense of misgiving. In the past, my publisher had always kept me in the loop. But the only time I talked with anyone at Publisher X was when I called to advise them of the signings and promotions I was arranging. I kept waiting for my first proof pages to see what my editor wanted to change and to begin the long process of making any corrections. Although they assured me everything was on schedule, I never saw a proof or even spoke with an editor.
Then in late November, they sent me a curt email advising that they’d have to go ahead and send the book to the printer without any jacket blurbs! I knew I was supposed to arrange for the blurbs, but, I explained, I’d been waiting for a final proof to send to those people who’d agreed to write the blurbs. I was told I should have already sent out copies of my manuscript and had the blurbs in hand.
And speaking of proofs, I asked when I’d be seeing one. Their answer was quite a surprise. There was no need, they told me, for me to see a proof. Several people there had already looked at the book and they thought it was “okay”. And since I’d failed to do what I was supposed to, there wouldn’t be any blurbs on the book jacket.
After that, things went from bad to worse. I wrote a letter enumerating my concerns and they countered by postponing publication for a year. After a few more letters were exchanged, I asked to be released from the contract. I thank God every day that they agreed.
But, of course, then I was back at square one. After wallowing in self-pity for a while, I pulled myself together and looked for another publisher. This time I really did get lucky. I found Indigo Publishing right here in Macon, Georgia. They offered me a fair contract and have been wonderfully tolerant of my new paranoid attitude. Unlike Publisher X, everyone at Indigo talks to me. They call. They email. They keep me posted on every move that’s made and actively seek my input. They’ve done everything they said they would and more. In fact, I’ve finally had to stop telling my writer friends about how terrific it is to work with Indigo because I can’t take any more of their envious pouting.
My advice is be careful and be patient. For every writer like me who finds an honest, caring publisher, there are many more that don’t. As hard as it is, listen to your own common sense when dealing with a publisher. We all want to get our work out there, but there are worse things than not being published. And, like my mother always told me, if it feels wrong, it probably is.
Jaclyn Weldon White’s new mystery novel is Mockingbird in the Moonlight, Indigo Publishing – 2007. She is also author of five previously published books, including Whisper to the Black Candle – Murder, Voodoo and the Case of Anjette Lyles, Mercer Press – 1999. She and her husband live in Macon, Georgia. For more information, please visit www.jaclynweldonwhite.com.
*** The Perils of Self-Publishing by TJ Perkins ***
You write a book, get it accepted by an agent, and then a publisher. At least, that’s the “proper” path to publication. When I was a new author, however, no one told me what the “proper” way was. I wouldn’t wish my struggles on anyone, so I offer insight. It’s been a long, hard path for me, but it’s finally paying off.
I’ve been writing for 13 years. I spent the first eight on short stories and books. A few of my short stories were published, but 50 to 80 publishers turned down the books.
I didn’t know there were different types of publishers; I thought they were all alike. However, since my books were mysteries for ”tweens,” I did target publishers that wanted mystery/ children’s stories. I was still turned down. Then I thought perhaps I had to go outside the lines, be unorthodox in my approach and shake things up. One way to increase your chances of being published is to create and build a publishing credits list. I decided to do that by writing Star Wars fan fiction and getting short stories published for free through webzines.
After I had what some magazines considered “worthy experience,” many of my short stories were published in real magazines. I started getting paid for my efforts.
When a publisher accepted my first book, Wound Too Tight, in 2001, I was very excited. It wasn’t until the book came out and I tried to set up book signings and appearances in places such as Barnes & Noble that I learned I had a POD publisher. I had no idea what that was, or why it made my book undesirable to stores. I’m sure many of you have heard horror stories concerning Vanity and POD publishing and I’m here to tell you how to fix the mistake:
POD – Print On Demand – means a publisher prints only the number of books you order and since they’re not returnable, if they don’t sell in a store, tough. This is why big stores like B&N, Waldenbooks, etc. won’t buy or carry POD books. The only way around this is to contact independent booksellers. Try popping into local stores with copies of your book, flyers and business cards. When you tell independent bookstore owners about your book, ask if they’ll be willing to host a signing for you. You’ll have to buy your books from your POD publisher at whatever discount they offer and then offer them to the store (on consignment) at a discounted price, so the store makes a profit. The more books you sell, the more you and the store make.
Set up signings months in advance. And if you have a signing at a store in spring, schedule another in the fall. My biggest sales have been from the time school starts until the weekend before Christmas.
Participate in as many book fairs as possible. Once again, you’ll have to buy your own books to sell at your table. The following are helpful hints:
• Buy or make a tablecloth that fits your book’s theme.
• Bring flyers with information about your book, how to order it, where it’s carried, your website, etc.
• Hand out business cards and bookmarks.
• Have a bowl of candy on your table.
• Raffle off a book. Raffle tickets are available from large party stories and Smart & Final.
• Keep in mind that some chain bookstores have special local author events and educator appreciation nights.
• Place ads in local papers listing your events.
• Try to set up interviews with local media (newspapers and radio stations). With any luck, they will mention your signings.
• Many people write checks when buying books. Create a mailing list using the names and addresses on the checks and notify people about your future signings/events.
Now let’s dig a little deeper. What type of book have you written? I write mystery books for ages 8 to 14. I didn’t know it, but my books fall into the “tweens” category. This was something I had never heard of, but if store managers wanted these types of books, I was ready to offer mine.
• I called and mailed every children’s mystery bookstore telling them about my books for tweens.
• I sent out a mailing to schools to set up appearances, telling kids about the publishing process, reading from my books, answering questions, etc.
• I also got the idea that two of my books would make great plays and did a mass emailing to children’s theater companies all over the U.S. One theater in New Jersey made a play out of Mystery of the Attic. I went there for opening day, sold books, and did a signing at the local B&N.
By this time, four years had gone by. I felt totally trapped and held back by my POD publisher. I had to take matters into my own hands. I broke ties with the POD publisher and, once I gained complete control:
• I thought up a publisher name
• Contacted Bowker and bought a block of 10 ISBNs
• Found an illustrator
• Found a cover designer
• Since I’m good with Word, I formatted the text of all of my books
• Contacted a printer, in this case, Lightning Source.
They’re considered a POD printer, but if you code your books in their system as returnable any store can buy them. Not only that, they’re linked to Ingram and Baker Taylor. All it takes is for one store to place an order as a “back order” or “special” in their ordering system to get the ball rolling. When your books sell, Lightning Source sends you a monthly check. Finally all of my tweens mystery books were available at a lower price than the POD company had wanted, had new covers and illustrations, and more importantly, they were RETURNABLE.
• Networking is awesome, stay in touch with the people you meet and do business with.
• Send out Christmas and Thank You cards
• Be very customer service oriented because now you’re your own publisher, marketer, and manager.
• Remember – people buy from people they like.
I found a wonderful company that specializes in promoting authors and their books. They’re called Spotlight Publicity. Last but not least, I managed to get my biggest seller, Mystery of the Attic, made into an amusement park ride. Plus, all of my books are now in the hands of a producer who was looking for ideas for video games for little girls.
All I can say about this last venture is this: Mass e-mailing of a cool idea is a blast for results.
So, what’s your book about? How far are you willing to go to push a great story? Remember, if you don’t believe in yourself and your book no one else will. First and foremost, I strongly recommend you try getting your book published the traditional way. I strongly recommend getting an agent. Keep trying for several years before taking the hard path — the one I took. But once you start be prepared to persevere and hold fast to your belief in that wonderful story you wrote.
TJ Perkins has published seven books. She loves making school appearances to encourage children to write, enter contests and stretch their imaginations. http://www.authorsden.com/tjperkins
*** Crimespace ***
Daniel Hatadi says:
You’ve all heard of MySpace, but you may not have heard of Ning. Ning is new. It allows you to create mini-spaces within it, and that’s what Crimespace is: MySpace for lovers of crime fiction.
The hope is to fill Crimespace with established authors, up-and-comers, occasional readers and committed fans—to share a drink at a virtual bar, schmooze, booze and draw up plans for the heist to end all heists.
Sydney crime fiction writer Daniel Hatadi has been a musician, a petrol station attendant, and a software engineer. His writing has appeared in Crimespree Magazine, Shots UK, Thrilling Detective and Thuglit.
*** Book Marketing Network ***
John Kremer of 1001 Ways to Market Your Book has just set up a new social network for book authors, self-publishers, and book publishers. The free, Book Marketing Network provides blogging capability, book trailers, photo-sharing, and -- most important of all -- forums for discussing and sharing tips, resources, success stories, and questions and answers. Anyone can contribute content.
John says, “If you like the concept of a Book Marketing Network, you can use Ning.com to set up your own network. It took me about 15 to 20 minutes. Ning makes it easy to create, develop, and host such social networks for people who are passionate about a specific topic.”
*** 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.
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Copyright©2007 Andrea Campbell If you wish to quote from here, fine, just attribute it to me and my web site.