Wednesday, April 23, 2008

On Self-Publishing

A number of people have been commenting on self-publishing.

Evil Editor gave his opinion about Should I self-publish?

Tess Gerritsen, an author, wrote about self-publishing.

The Rejecter, an agent's assistant, answer a question by someone with self-published books who is now trying to sell professionally.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

How People Buy Books

Here is some interesting information found in David Wolverton's Daily Kick in the Pants: Writing a First Chapter:

Sol Stein, a famous editor, once made an informal study with several other editors who lurked in bookstores in New York, watching potential customers pick up books.

Customers, as you know, will typically be interested in a book based on the cover and title.

They might flip to the back of a book to see what kinds of blurbs other authors or critics might have given the book--but probably not. The cover and title are what they focus on. In fact, recently I was selling a children's book called Rindin the Puffer at some Christmas festivals. I'm very proud of the cover quotes on our book, but I found that of over 500 sales, only two consumers bothered to read them!

After glancing at the cover, the readers then open the book and read a bit. Stein says that his editors found that in every single case, the customer made a choice to buy the book that they browsed through based upon the first three pages. In fact, he found that some ninety percent of the buyers read only the FIRST page.

David Wolverton, of course, was using to say that authors need to write a very engaging first page or three. While that's true, I also think we need to look at why people read so little before deciding to buy.

At least for me, I use the back cover description of the book to decide whether or not to buy the book. If I'm not sure, reading the first few pages might be what decides me one way or the other. However, more often, I've already decided that the idea is intriguing, I just want to find out if the author's writing is a style I'll enjoy reading for 200-800 pages. Some styles turn me off, and the book goes back onto the shelf. Others engage me, and I'd be ready to read practically anything by the author because I enjoy the writing so much. After reading the book to make sure it lives up to its promise, I'm willing to buy the next one sight unseen. Other styles don't engage me as much, so I might buy one book by the author but not another.

I'm pointing this out because I think we often forget that agents and editors are readers, too. Our novels may be publishable, but truly "not right" for that agent because she doesn't want to spend hours reading and working on a story with a style that she doesn't like. If we aren't willing to spend money on a book which might be good, but we don't like the style, then why get angry at agents who don't want to spend their limited time on a book for the same reason?

On the other hand, I'll admit that it can be supremely frustrating to not know if a rejection is due to different reading tastes or a fatal problem with the manuscript.

Monday, April 21, 2008

News on Book Sales

From Publishers Weekly, 4/21/2008:

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, bookstore sales in February jumped 11.3%, to $1.13 billion, bringing the two-month total to $3.40 billion, a 6.7% increase over the comparable period in 2007. Total retail sales were up 7.3% in February and ahead 5.9% for the two months.

So we don't have to worry quite yet about publishers not being interested in acquiring new books.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Publicity and Marketing

Alison Morris at ShelfTalker wrote a booksellers view on booksigning tips for authors and what bookstores do behind the scenes for booksigning/promotional tours.

Rachel Vater wrote about The Importance of Publicity.

Victoria Strauss at Writers Beware! wrote about Ways Not to Publicize Your Book: Spam Campaigns.

Kristin Nelson on her Pub Rants blog wrote about getting a Promotional Head Shot Photo and if authors who aren't published yet need to build a website.

On the Bookends blog, Sally MacKenzie wrote about The Place of Reviews in the Writer’s Universe.

Tess Gerritsen wrote about "Major Marketing Campaign": where does the money go? and book clubs.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Process of Publication

Rachelle Gardner at Rants & Ramblings talks about the process of getting published from your finished and polished manuscript to the finished book in:

From Proposal to Publication - Part 1
From Proposal to Publication - Part 2
From Proposal to Publication - Part 3
From Proposal to Publication - Part 4
From Proposal to Publication - Part 5

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

How Many Pages?

Want to know how the professionals determine how many pages your book will be? Anna Genoese wrote an article on How to do a Castoff that explains this.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Miscellaneous Links

Christie Craig wrote on Motivation on the Bookends blog.

Jessica Faust wrote about the factors (including mood) that affect an agent's decision to request more from query letters. She also wrote on what Writing What You Know really means.

Miss Snark wrote about true class.

The Rejecter wrote about the history of genre and books.

Alison Morris, a book seller, wrote on her ShelfTalker blog about My Publishing Pet Peeves.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Writers and Conventions

I'm running a fever and not precisely thinking clearly. Since it's convention season, I thought I'd post Carol Berg's view of last year's World Fantasy Convention and what writers can get out of such conventions. On March 16, 2007 on DeepGenre, she wrote:

World Fantasy is a very interesting con - different from any other that I’ve attended. There’s an art show, a dealers’ room, and panel discussions, but you won’t find costumes, masquerades, RPGs, anime, fan parties, or excessive media-related programming. It is primarily a networking weekend for the literary branch of the fantasy community. As such there are LOTS of authors, editors, agents…and aspiring writers. The programming is fairly minimal. One track of panels and one or two tracks of readings. (The best reading tracks of any con, IMHO.) Though panels are few, it is possible to attend one with, say, Connie Willis, Stephen Donaldson, and Gene Wolfe talking about how they develop characters. (One of the best I’ve seen.) And there is always a mass signing where you can walk up and visit with a huge number of friendly, accessible published authors...

As for selling a book… The key to this con is your comfort in networking. You have to walk up to people after a panel or catch them on the elevator and ask to bend their ears or buy them a drink, because most people are going to end up sitting around talking to each other or going out to dinner. This is not a “writers’ conference,” where editors and agents are sitting in a room awaiting your ten-minute pitch or trolling the bar looking for new books to publish, nor is it a “writers’ workshop,” where famous authors are going to read and critique your twenty pages, nor is it a “regional sf con” with lots of panels like “how I got published” or “what my agency is looking to represent.” There are publisher parties, but you have to hunt around for indications of where they are and whether or not they are closed. That is, WFC is not necessarily where you would SELL a book, but a place you would come to meet people in the business and LEARN. People come to WFC because they truly love the genre and the other people who make it come alive. I think it’s a great place for would-be writers, but you have to be willing to work at it.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Print Runs and Sales Numbers

How large a print run is good, especially when compared to the percentage of the print run that's sold?

Miss Snark wrote about What Sales Numbers are Good?

Editorial Anonymous wrote about how many books sold is good?

Tess Gerritsen wrote about The Print Run. On a related note, she also wrote about How many copies sold is a bestseller? and how to tell how many of your books were ordered by Borders.

Anna Genoese wrote about Bookscan sales figures. To quote a part of the article:

...whenever a book is sold at a place that tracks by ISBN or ISBN-13 (aka EAN), the sale of that book is recorded and put into a database. Publishers have access to that database--not just for our own books, but for every single book sold through this method....

On the other hand, we don't take Bookscan all that seriously because the numbers are very often skewed in a bizarre way. What Bookscan is good for is if I look up, say, Josh Lyman's sales on Bookscan specifically. Bookscan tells me that Josh Lyman's autobiography...netted 70,000 copies in the last year. Then I compare that to the records I have--our sales information from our database says that Josh Lyman's autobiography netted 150,000 copies in the last year.

Then I compare it to General Adama's biography....According to Bookscan, that's sold 150,000 copies in the last year.... I can extrapolate that since Bookscan only showed me 47% of the sales of Josh's book, it's probably only showing me 47% of the sales of the Old Man's book. That means that probably the Old Man's book sold about 319,148.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Romantic Suspense Contest

The gals at Bookends have announced the winner of the women's fiction contest. They are now doing a romantic suspense contest. Go to their blog to read the complete rules and enter. The deadline is tomorrow, April 11th, at 9:00 a.m. EST.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A Reason to Avoid Unsolicited Submissions

Jessica Faust at Bookends wrote about Agents Getting Preferential Reads. In the blog post, she described why agents don't resubmit to an imprint an author has already sent a submission to and been rejected.

To quote that part of the post:

If you send your manuscript to Joe Dell at Bantam and he rejects it, I have no real idea what process the book went through. Did Joe simply read it himself and reject it? Did he pass it on to an assistant who rejected it or did he pass it on to a freelance reader who rejected it for him? Or, did Joe like the book enough to bring it up at an editorial board meeting, get second reads, and ultimately reject it based on the decisions/opinions of his peers? Even if I think the book would be better for Jill Bantam at Bantam, I can’t go over Joe’s head (even if Jill is Joe’s superior and even if Joe had a reader reject it for him).

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

On Being a Writer

Author Tess Gerritsen has writen an interesting post on her blog about What I’ve learned from two decades in the business.

Monday, April 7, 2008

When Online Previews Aren't Profitable

Since I live in a small town with only one small, local bookstore, I do a lot of book shopping online. I love it when I'm able to read the first page or two of a book online much like I'd do in a bookstore. But, according to The Australian article titled Writers lament effects of internet, some authors feel like they actually lose sales when parts of their books are posted online. To quote the article:

Amazon has found that its Search Inside function, which allows readers to see selected pages of books, has increased sales.

But others are losing out when parts of their work are posted online.

"It's hitting hardest the writers who write books that you dip in and out of: poetry, cookbooks, travel guides, short stories - books that you don't have to read the whole of."

I hadn't thought about this aspect, probably because I don't shop for those types of books online. Interesting information. I found one part of the article funny, though.

"For a while it will be great for readers because they will pay less, but in the long run it's going to ruin the information. People will stop writing."

Even if they predict the future correctly in the first part of this quote, they're wrong about the second part. Writers write because they have stories to tell or information to impart, not for the money. There might be fewer books written by authors that might otherwise be able to write full time or by celebrities writing just for the money, but true writers aren't going to ever stop writing.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Query Letters

On the ever-popular topic of query letter advice:

On, agent Holly Root talked about query letters during an interview.

Agent Nathan Bransford wrote on his blog about Query Letter Mad Lib, How (And Whether) to List Your Publishing Credits, and quoting your novel's first line in queries.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Manuscript to Published

Tess Gerritsen on her blog wrote about Manuscript to pub date--how long? and Which month should I go on sale?

The Rejecter wrote about Inside the Partials Process.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Book Offers

Today, Jessica Faust at Bookends talked about how she goes about sending submissions to publishers and some of the various responses that occur (including auctions and how those can be handled).

A bit ago, Jennifer Jackson talk about book offers from the agent/client viewpoint of accepting them.