Category Archives: Publishing

To Query…Or Not?

By Benjamin Hock

   To query or not to query? It’s really not a question for those of us who wish to have our stories published through a traditional publisher. It’s one step on a laundry list of things that need to be completed before those precious stories we’ve spent countless nights putting together can see the light of day.

    I’m not here to tell you how to query; you can type that into Google. I simply want to share what it’s like to send your precious baby to a complete stranger whose job it is is to play gatekeeper for publishers. Impressing just the right person in only a few short paragraphs is what stands between me and my book ending up on the shelves of my favorite bookshop. 

    Sending my first query was both frightening and exhilarating. Like every writer, I wrote and rewrote, questioning whether or not my query letter was up to snuff. I sent my first, and eventually would send them in batches, preparing for the 12 week wait, wondering if I would hear back and what they would have to say. 

Then, finally, I see it. Maybe this has happened to you. You’re at work or out with friends. Or maybe you just woke up and saw the notification flash on your phone. It’s a response from an agent and you open it…

Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to consider your project. I’m sorry to say that I respectfully pass on yours. 

Agenting is subjective, and while I couldn’t take on your project, another agent may well feel differently.

Thank you, 

[Insert agent name here]

I begin to see this same form letter over and over again. I don’t know if every agent got together to come up with the verbiage for these or what, but they all seem to use it. At first the rejections are disappointing but the knowledge that my other submissions are waiting in agents’ inboxes preparing to wow them brings me hope. After the twentieth rejection it begins to feel personal. Fifty and I’m wondering if I enjoy the rejection, because why else would I keep this up. 

And to be clear, I don’t hold a grudge against any agent that passed on my work. Maybe they read my query on a Friday when their thoughts were on the weekend. Maybe they were having a bad day and nothing was going to catch their eye. Maybe they already had a similar book they were representing or just took on a big project. I’ll never know. But that won’t stop me and it shouldn’t stop you. 

Querying is both simple to do and emotional weighty. The physical act of sending a query today has never been easier. Finding agencies and their guidelines, understanding the template to follow, it’s all a snap. Preparing to hear that others don’t find my book as interesting as I do, well, that’s not so easy. Giving into the resistance that wants me to give up or back down or hide out would be a lot easier.

So why keep doing it? Why put myself through the emotional roller coaster of rejection after rejection? The answer is simple: I want people to read my book. I want to see it in the hands of teens in coffee shops, I want to share it at book readings, I want the characters to be brought to life in the imaginations of people who connect to them.

And even if I get a hundred rejections, a thousand, all it takes is one yes for a dream to come true. My job is not to judge the work or panic over its future. My job is to write the thing that piques my curiosity and do the legwork to advocate for it. I can do that; and so can you.

The Writing Life: Half and Half

By Terry C. Misfeldt

Writers will confess that they love writing but are less than enthusiastic about marketing. The writing life is half and half. Half of the process is getting words together in sentences, paragraphs, chapters, and novels or whatever they are writing. The other half of the process is publicizing what they’ve written to their adoring fans; also known as marketing.

Must equal time be given to both halves? Not necessarily. If all you want to do is write and self-publish so you can showcase your work with a spot on your bookcase shelf, congratulations! You are a published author. If, however, you want to make a wee bit of money selling some of those copies you ordered or to get people to purchase copies online, some marketing is essential.

Simple steps include creating an author’s profile with a link people can click on. This gives potential buyers an opportunity to check you out and, perchance, buy a copy through Amazon or another outlet. Use that author’s profile link in your E-mail signature, too. It is a simple marketing tool. Create a listing for your work on Good Reads and other book-related websites. It takes a few minutes to get it set up.

Encourage readers to write reviews (and be prepared for ones that may be less than flattering). Send media releases to your college alumni association, fraternity or sorority if you were a brother or sister, any other organizations you have or may belong to, your hometown newspaper, and any other place that may publish the information about you and your work. The same release can work for a variety of publications with slight modification.

Look for speaking engagements: Book clubs, service organizations, and other groups are often looking for programs. Book clubs mean people buy your book, read it, and then invite you in to discuss it.

None of these tools on your marketing belt cost a lot of money, other than a First Class stamp. Just carve out the time to do it and see what happens.

Cover Art

By Terry C. Misfeldt

In this day and age when naysayers believe print books are going the way of dinosaurs, it is ever more important that the cover art of your book grabs a potential reader’s attention.

Print on demand (POD) publishing today demands even more that your artwork is appealing since your book will most likely have a soft cover. That means paper instead of a stiffer, non-printable binding.

Now, if you are getting published in hard cover, there will be a wrap-around cover which will still require cover art. Even E-books have a need for cover art.

How do you create cover art that sells? I have long held the belief that copy sells while art enhances, but selling books with cover art requires both.

Romance writers know their cover art needs to show couples in a passionate embrace. Poets have more latitude in what graces their covers. Science fiction writers need “out of this world” artwork to entice potential readers.

Elements of strong cover art include: 1) Attractive color schemes; 2) Text (like your book title) that stands out from the background and uses an appropriate font; 3) Images that convey the essence of your book and entice people; 4) Catchy blurbs to garner attention; and, 5) a Professional image of you, the author.

Consider hiring a professional graphic artist to create your cover. Many publishing companies have cover artists on staff to assist you in that process…often at a steep cost. An option I employed with my first novel was contacting the local university’s graphic arts department to see if any students wanted to attack my cover. After several drafts and a few hundred dollars, I got an excellent (IMO) cover, thanks to Angela Collier. Can you guess what the novel is about?

COVID Motivation

By Terry C. Misfeldt

Writers I converse with regularly seem to lack motivation to write as a result of COVID-19. They are isolated from other writers, family members, and friends, so it is hard to write about anything without human interaction. So here are my thoughts for writers who lack COVID motivation.

  1. Dedicate time each day to writing. Just write! It matters not what you type into your document or scribble on a note pad. Write about your day’s experiences if nothing else. What is essential is that you are writing, whether it’s at 7:00 in the morning or 11:00 at night. Write!
  2. Find something to write about. Your favorite food and why you relish that delicacy. Your best friend and how you get along with that person, even if your best friend is yourself. Write about your favorite time of year or the season that inspires you, such as the colors of autumn.
  3. Correspond with someone you care about. Find a blank note card and send a friend who lives far away a message about why you miss them or what you treasure most about your relationship and your hopes of rekindling it when you can get back together again. Open your heart to them.
  4. Find a writing contest and enter it. There are many magazines and writing groups solicting entries in their writing contests. If you find one you feel qualified to enter, study the rules and write that winning entry. It may cost you a few bucks to enter, but the satisfaction of competing…and winning…can be motivating. And last…
  5. Set a daily goal and write your novel. If you want to write a 90,000 word novel, you can do it in 90 days if you set a goal of writing 1,000 words every day. Perhaps you write 500 words in the morning and another 500 after dinner or all of them at once. The key is to set a goal and keep working at it. It can be your motivation.

A Shot

By Benjamin Hock

A shot. It’s all we as writers ask for. We believe if the right agent read our manuscript, got to know our characters, their story, their life, that agent would fall in love with them as much as we did. Then we’d be off to the races. In pursuit of that book deal that might change our lives forever. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

If you haven’t heard of #PitMad. That’s what it is. ​A​ shot. One of a handful of ways to get your work in front of agents without the initial hassle of drafting a semi-custom form letter that can feel halfway between an E-Harmony and a Linked-In profile.

So when it came to pass the next pitmad contest was just around the corner I decided to take my shot at this once every three month opportunity and throw my hat in the ring as they say. Like any contest there are a few rules, which I won’t go over here. If you want to try your hand at PitMad you can find the rules and times at ​www.pitchwars.org​. But in true PitMad fashion I’ll describe the entire contest in 280 characters or less.

PitMad is like going to buy a scratch-off ticket. Most of them are losers. There’s some luck involved. The more you play the better your odds, and everyone wants to win the jackpot, however most of us go home a dollar poorer but can say it was a good time. That said the hardest part of PitMad is not the rules but the idea of taking the entirety of three plus years of work, 62,000 words, and summing it up into what amounts to a fortune cookie fortune.

How is this even possible? I agonized for days, writing over and over and over again this tiny billboard advertisement for my book that hopefully would stop an agent, if only fora moment, in their infinite scroll through Twitter. And if I did my job right, that agent would hit that ‘like’ button to tell me they are willing to take a look at my work. That’s right. All this for a chance to stand in line to get into the door. When the day of the contest arrived and the clock struck 7 a.m., like the morning bell of the stock market, a buzz of social media activity began to fly.

Writers littered the twitter-sphere with their own tiny billboards, including myself. My phone buzzed. A retweet. That must be good. More retweets equals more chances for agents to see it, right? A few hours pass. No likes. I post again, this time a revised version of what I essentially now consider micro-flash fiction. A few minutes go by and nothing. An hour. Nothing. Then ​ping​. The sound of a chime rings from my phone. I have a like. It’s from a small press publishing company.

Did their butt accidentally like my tweet when they sat down? No. They would like me to email them my first10,000 words. I followed up with my one and only like in less than twenty-four hours. My mind rushed with both hope and skepticism. Seventy two hours later I received a request for the full manuscript and a new excitement had risen within me, one of possibilities. I hit send and my book is on its way, zipping through fiber optic cables at the speed of light, to land on someone’s digital to-do stack.

Would I say taking part in PitMad was worth it? I can’t say for sure. This is still an experience in progress as I wait for either that next step into the door or that all too familiar email–thanks but no thanks. However, one thing is for certain, it was a good time.

The Marketing Side

By Terry C. Misfeldt

Professionals in the publishing business advise writers that the easy part of getting your story into print is the writing of it. The marketing side is the other half and should be considered the most important…unless you do not care how many books you sell and are only interested in holding that precious chunk of paper in your hands.

Trust me: The feeling of having a book in your hands with your name on the cover is an enviable feeling. It is symbolic of hours and maybe (in my case) even years of work to write, edit, re-write, edit, and think about what you have entered into a document in the hope they will be someone interested in reading what you have written.

That is where the marketing side rears its head. Go back to the simple process of thinking about who you have written your book for: Who is your audience? If you had a test reader from that target group evaluate your story and they were impressed, you know there is a good chance your book has a feasible chance of selling to that audience. Call it market research.

Now, how do you reach that group of potential readers to let them know it is available for purchase? Can you get in front of them through social media? It is a low cost approach to marketing if you can approach it wisely and avoid alienation.

For broader markets, consider media releases to home town newspapers, college alumni associations, fraternities or sororities, organizations where you are a member, family and friends. One-to-one E-mails can be effective in creating awareness. You must plug your book mercilessly and not be afraid to ask for a purchase. If you are hesitant to do this, think about a lawyer who hangs a shingle outside her office and wonders why no one is interested in hiring her.

The first principle of marketing is to make people aware of your work. If they are at all interested, they will check you out. Do you have a website where they can order your book? If they like what they discover (cover art, cover copy, blurbs, etc.) they will buy.

Blog about it. Tag everything you do with links to your selling page. Print up business cards with the cover on the back. This is the marketing side, and here’s an example: I recently published my first novel, Shevivor, which has an excellent cover designed by Angela Collier and is now available through Amazon and my website, https://www.terrycmisfeldt.com/shevivor. It is set-up for Pay Pal purchases.

Thanks!

Writing Perspective – Day 31 of 31

By Valerie Routhieaux

Day 31 – Marketing

It’s the final day and the final tip, which is good because I can’t think of any more. I need this one as much as anyone. Today’s topic—Marketing.

Your novel is finished and available. How do you market your work?

Set up your author page on Facebook. I’ve done that. Let people know when your book will be available, if you’re still writing, or where they can get a copy if it’s available. Post your book on Goodreads. Announce it on social media—not only Facebook but Twitter and LinkedIn and other sites that will help with getting the word out.

Have book signings. Get your business cards from Vista Print. You can also get postcards made and send them in the mail. Hand out your business cards to everyone you talk to. I’ve been doing that. Have books on hand to sell when people show interest. I have a few in my car, so they are always handy. Visit your bookstores to let them know you have books available. You might get them interested in putting them on their shelves.

If you’ve self-published, it’s difficult, but I’ve heard of people getting it done. They might even allow a book signing at the store.

Inform your television and radio stations you have a book coming out or available.

These are all the marketing tips I’ve heard about and/or tried. Good luck marketing your book. If you have any other marketing tips, please share.

Thanks for reading.

Writing Perspective – Day 22 of 31

By Valerie Routhieaux

Day 22 – Self-Publishing

Today, I’m going to deviate from writing to publishing, specifically self-publishing.

If you Google self-publishing, you will find many publishing options. Most, if not all, are expensive. When I started self-publishing back in 2012, that’s how I found the house I published with. It was an expensive package, at least for me as I didn’t have a huge income at the time, and my son was angry at me for going that route. I have since found a free, easy to use publisher—CreateSpace, now KDP Direct as they merged this past year. CreateSpace and KDP Direct are an Amazon company.

When self-publishing you need to be aware that no one will help you with revision, editing, or anything else unless you pay someone to do that. It’s all on you.

What I did when I found myself faced with editing my work, I bought several editing tools. I might have mentioned them before, but here are the books I bought to help me. English Grammar for Dummies by Geraldine Woods, The Artful Edit by Susan Bell, Revision & Self-Editing by James Scott Bell.  Someone also sent me Harbrace College Handbook 9th Edition by John C Hodges and Mary E. Whitten.

These have been valuable tools in learning how to edit. Last year I also downloaded Grammarly the free edition, and prowritingaid.com, which I bought. These have been and continue to be helpful in my writing.

CreateSpace, now KDP Direct, gives you guidelines to follow along with templates to help with formatting your manuscript. If you submit your work outside those guidelines, they won’t accept it.

During the publishing process, you choose a generic cover or if you have one, download the cover. It must be 300 DPI. I have since found a great site for converting your pictures to 300 DPI. It’s easy, and most importantly, it’s free. https://convert.town/image-dpi.   CreateSpace/KDP Direct will review your manuscript to make certain it’s within their guidelines and send it back to you to review and edit. They do not give any suggestions.

It’s a good idea to edit your manuscript at this point, even though you have done so many times before you submitted it for publishing. You always miss something.

BEFORE you hit submit when you are fully satisfied with the manuscript, be certain to get your copyright. This will be your only charge as it’s your Library of Congress copyright. It’s generally $25. Unless it’s gone up.  I’ve missed this step on every manuscript I submitted. I thought I could get the copyright after I submitted it. You can’t. It must be done before you submit. Do not be confused with the ISBN you received as soon as you submitted your manuscript at the start of the publishing process.

Once you submit your manuscript for publication in the final step, it goes live immediately and people will be able to buy your book. It will also tell you how long before it becomes available in foreign countries. It could take up to a week for that.

After you submit for publication, you’re not finished yet. You have the opportunity to get your manuscript into an eBook or Kindle. It’s an easy process and it too will be live as soon as you okay everything.

As for royalties, Amazon pays out monthly. Because CreateSpace/KDP Direct is an Amazon company, your royalties come from Amazon to your checking account. Your royalties are delayed for two months. For instance, if someone buys your book today, you will receive the royalty for the book in two months. They pay out on the 29th of the month. You also don’t need to earn a certain amount to be paid. My smallest royalty was .07.

As for how much your book costs, you set the price. They give you guidelines on what to charge, based on the number of pages in your book. Once you determine the cost, they give you the royalty amount in the various currencies around the globe. You set this price for the paperback as well as eBook.

Are you ready to submit your book for self-publishing? I hope I helped with the process.

Thanks for reading.

Tomorrow’s Perspective: Reader Engagement