It took Reilly about four years to write the book.
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The PubGuy has over six years of experience with Print-On-Demand Publishing. He has been a professional journalist with bylines appearing in USA Today/Baseball Weekly, Soccer magazine, The Omaha World-Herald and The Des Moines Register among others.
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It took Reilly about four years to write the book.
iUniverse is dead. The doors will close on March 31, 2008.
I spent 6½ years at iUniverse from November 1999 through September 2006. I met some of the most amazing people there among my coworkers and am very pleased that many of them remain my closest friends. I also had the pleasure of working with some of the best as-of-yet undiscovered authors publishing today. So it was with great disappointment that I greeted the news that iUniverse would close its Lincoln, NE office.
I’m extremely proud of the work we did at the company and the many quality books we helped bring to the public. I’ve featured many of those books on this blog, titles like The Death of Milly Mahoney, Tom’s War and The Quest. I was proud to help get other titles like Cagney & Lacey… and Me, My Father’s Voice and Subterranean Towers out to the public.
What’s that you say, iUniverse isn’t dead? It’s just moving to Indiana?
Authorhouse and its parent company, AuthorSolutions, purchased iUniverse in September of 2007 and is moving the iUniverse operations to its headquarters in Bloomington, IN. The name and the logo may go to Indiana, but the heart and the soul, the employees that made iUniverse what it is will remain in Lincoln. The iUniverse in Indiana will be akin to a reanimated corpse in a George Romero film. Some iUniverse employees will be offered the opportunity to relocate to Indiana, but I don’t believe many will be willing or able to take advantage of the offer.
A few years back 1st Books Library changed its name to Authorhouse for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was to distance itself from a less-than-stellar reputation. It seems that original reputation was hard to shake. So now Authorhouse will go around dressed in the iUniverse name and logo. Kind of like Leatherface from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Good luck with that. Good luck to authors who venture too close to that house.
Anyway, I’ll be striving to get a broader mix of topics into the blog in the New Year. This should be easier as I avoid doing my homework in my MBA classes at all costs. With that in mind, I’ve run across a couple of posts on other blogs that talk about book signings and there place in every authors marketing campaign. I’ve only attended a few book signings, but enough to know that first-time authors come into them with high expectations and are often sorely disappointed. I’ve seen authors become angry and even cry after failing to sell a single book at an event.
A small consolation may be that book signings are a challenge for even some well-established authors. Rick Riordan, the author of the Percy Jackson juvenile fiction series and the Tres Navarre mystery series for adults, recently blogged about his early book signing experiences.
“I remembered one of the first book signings I ever did, ten years ago, when Big Red Tequila first came out. I was invited to Waldenbooks in a shopping mall in Concord, California. They set up a table at the front of the store. They allotted two hours,” Riordan writes. “I sat there in my coat and tie and watched people pass by, steering clear of me like I was an insurance salesman. I gave directions to Sears. I explained several times that I wasn’t an employee at the bookstore and I didn’t know where the self-help section was. I signed a napkin for a couple of teenaged boys who thought the title Big Red Tequila sounded slightly naughty because it had to do with alcohol. I sold no books.”
Riordan’s book signing struggles ran through the publication of The Lightning Thief and Sea of Monsters, the first and second books in the Percy Jackson series.
“I remember when Sea of Monsters came out, a year later, I was still having anxious conversations with my editor and agent, wondering what I could do to improve sales,” Riordan writes. “Were we missing something? Was I wrong to think the series would connect with kids? It took almost two years before I really felt like things were turning around.”
One of Riordan’s big breaks came when The Lightning Thief was selected for Al’s Book Club for Kids on NBC’s The Today Show. That honor came just prior to the release of the third Percy Jackson book, The Titan’s Curse. It was also just prior to the release of the last Harry Potter book, when interest in juvenile fiction was at a peak. Timing is everything.
I’ve read all three of the Percy Jackson books and enjoyed them thoroughly. Greek mythology is a central element in the books. The stories of Apollo, Athena and Poseidon helped establish my love of reading early on, so it was great to see that world featured in new adventures.
Over on R.W. Ridley’s blog, The Self-Published American, authors are being encouraged to think beyond the book signing and take advantage of the many marketing opportunities that the internet offers. Ridley references a recent article from the Christian Science Monitor, Why Book Tours are Passé.
“Among the many reasons for this shift are marketing tools that have made it possible to orchestrate a virtual encounter, without the hassle or expense of travel,” the article states. “Publishers and authors are now touting books through podcasts, film tours, blog tours, book videos, and book trailers.”
Ridley is an award-winning, self-published author and is also a sales and marketing consultant for Amazon.com-owned POD Company BookSurge. His blog features a number of other helpful marketing hints. Be sure to check out his books on Amazon as well, The Takers and Délon City.
Chasing Hunter became available on Amazon on October 25th, so it has only been out for about 7 weeks, and I feel like I am still in the early stages of marketing. At this point, I have focused more on getting all of my family, friends, co-workers and acquaintances to read the book. To that end, I emailed everyone I knew with about the book, and asked them to forward the email on to anyone they thought would be interested. I also had postcards made up and mailed/distributed them to over 1000 people. We have hosted two book launch/signing parties (in New Jersey and Long Island), and I have also brought the book into several bookstores in an effort to get them to carry it. Finally, BookSurge helped me compile a press release, which was distributed to close to 800 media outlets. The email campaign and the launch parties were the most successful marketing efforts, and the press release appears to have been the least successful.
Before pursuing print-on-demand, I attempted to get an agent to represent me and attempt to sell Chasing Hunter to a traditional publisher. I did the research, studied the agent's guidebooks, and sent about 16-18 query letters to the agents who I believed were the best fit for my book. Unfortunately, the responses were all very brief form letters, often stating that the agents were not taking on new clients or did not feel that Chasing Hunter was right for them. Although this experience did not work out, I am glad that I went through it, and feel that it was a good learning experience for how to do a better job approaching agents in the future.
I wasn't sure that print-on-demand was "the way to go" until after I began researching the industry. As with a lot of research these days, I think my first effort was typing the phrase "self-publishing" into Google and reviewing the websites that popped up. Other than my online research, I spoke with the few people I knew in the publishing field, and at least one person I knew that had self-published another book. One of the factors that led me to BookSurge was an article by a journalist about self-publishing. The article detailed the writer's own experience with self-publishing through BookSurge, and her experience had been extremely positive. After this article led me to BookSurge, I was pleasantly surprised at how quick, easy and inexpensive the process seemed. The more I explored it, the more confident I became in using BookSurge, and that is why I decided to use them to publish Chasing Hunter.
One of the strongest points to the BookSurge process is that they provide you with detailed information on exactly what is needed in order to publish your book. For someone like me, who took the publishing process extremely seriously, BookSurge gave me all of the information I needed to make sure that things would go smoothly. The customer service was very prompt and helpful - all of my inquiries (and there were many) were answered within a day, and often much quicker.
I have always loved writing, and the story for this book has been rattling around in my head for at least five or six years. Regardless of whether Chasing Hunter (and the sequel that I am currently working on, Serial Hunter) ever takes off, I would never stop writing because it is what I am passionate about, and what I truly enjoy doing. Although it is a work of fiction, several aspects of the book come from my own life - my career as a lawyer, interactions with friends and family, and my educational background all provided inspiration for Chasing Hunter.
Although some people have called Chasing Hunter a "legal thriller," that description is somewhat of a misnomer. There is no trial or courtroom drama in the book, although the main character works at a Manhattan law firm. I consider the book more of a suspense thriller, and often call it a combination of The Firm and The Fugitive. Because there is not much "legal drama" in Chasing Hunter, my work as a litigator did not really influence the book. My specialty in the law is representing policyholders in insurance coverage litigation (a fancy way of saying that I help people try to get money from their insurance companies). I also have experience in commercial litigation and other general litigation matters.
My two favorite writers are Michael Connelly (especially the Harry Bosch novels) and Robert Crais (the Elvis Cole/Joe Pike books). I've also read almost everything by Grisham, Baldacci, and Deaver (the Lincoln Rhyme novels). Much of my writing style is similar to these writers, as well as to Harlan Coben and James Patterson. Several of the Amazon reviews of my book have mentioned the works of Coben and Patterson as books to which Chasing Hunter compares favorably.
I heard about iUniverse from a friend who is also working on a book, and I checked their website out online. I realized early on in the process of writing the book that self-publishing was about my only option for the book, because I wanted the book out during the 2007 college football season, and I began working on it the spring prior. It would have been very tough working anything out with a traditional publisher given the timeframe.
I never have visited the office, but their location in Lincoln was an advantage. I hoped they would be a bit more understanding of my book's subject and its target audience, being that they were located at the epicenter of Nebraska football and were likely to have a lot of football fans working for them.
No. Time was a major factor, and I was pretty confident that marketing would be taken care of by the media, given the book's relevance to the current football program and season.
Self-publishing can be a little frustrating at times, because there isn't much devotion from the company to your book. Any written work is essentially being pushed through on an assembly line, and it can be difficult getting any "special treatment", even for a book that you feel is going to have reasonable success. But, once the book was mentioned in Sports Illustrated and the New York Times, along with most other sports news outlets, I think they saw the potential for the book and have been very accommodating. I've been really happy with the response I've gotten from them in helping me with the book.
Doak Ostergard, who was a heavily-contributing source for the book and wrote the forward for it, took the picture on the front cover. The rest was the work of the iUniverse design team, and I'm happy with the way it turned out.
I had self-publishing in mind; I didn't stumble upon iUniverse until later, but once I was aware of them and researched them as a publisher, I didn't look anywhere else.
Somewhere between 2-3 months. Two of those months were very intensive, though; seven days a week, and the researching was much more time-consuming than I expected it to be.
Making revisions and editing on my own. It's really tough to assess your own work sometimes, and I was concerned at the time about missing some obvious things, having weak transitions, presenting information poorly, and so on. I didn't have the luxury of getting advice and feedback from other people, so the book is essentially the best work I on my own could do. I will say, I would have really loved to have an editor read through it. There's only so much a writer can do on his own.
I talked to some people who have been published and worked in publishing, and iUniverse had a lawyer look over the book. Additionally, before the book was sent to the publishing press, another attorney looked at some of the chapters in the book where semantics and accuracy of information were vitally important.
My goal is to graduate in December 2009, but internships and other projects could delay that another semester. I would like to keep writing. I'm not sure in what manner, if it's books or articles. But I would also eventually like to go on to graduate school and become a professor. There are a lot of avenues open to me right now, and I'm trying to keep it that way.
My book was unique in that news outlets gobbled it up. I haven't done hardly anything to market it. I have appeared on a few radio shows to discuss the book and its content, but most of the hub-bub about the book is media-generated.
I've done a few radio and newspaper interviews. As I said before, the book has been in the New York Times, Sports Illustrated, USA Today, and on ESPN.com, along with most other local news outlets in Nebraska.
Not much of one, really. There are several people working up in the press box with books of their own, so I don't think having a book would generate big waves, even if I am much younger than them. But I'm sure there's a wide range of reactions. Some might not care, and some may be aggravated by it - because, you know, young people aren't supposed to write books. I know a few of them have used their space in newspaper columns to take a couple shots at me, but that doesn't really phase me. One thing to realize is that when news of the book broke, most people jumped right into commentary and criticism without knowing much at all about the book.
For the most part, there has been no reaction. Most people just want the news of the book to die down as quickly as possible. I have heard a little positive feedback from within the world of Nebraska athletics, but I'm not going to point in any directions.
Very positive. Professors have been very supportive, although surprised, and many of my peers were shocked as well. I didn't tell many people about the book before it came out in the newspapers, so I'm sure a lot of my friends were caught off guard as well.
I don't think so. It could have depending on how the athletic department handled it, or how I handled it, but I've tried to separate the book and writing for the DN. I wrote the book at a time when I wasn't writing for the newspaper, so that has helped to keep them separate. No one has denied talking to me or treated me differently, and if anything, it gives me a much better knowledge of football team, which is a benefit to my reporting.
It's already in most bookstores in Omaha and Lincoln, as far as I know.
Author A.C. Ellis
Hits POD Trifecta
Comparing and contrasting Print-On-Demand publishing companies has sprung up as a bit of a cottage industry unto itself. But what do these surveyors really know about the process? Sure they’ve checked out a few websites, studied a few contracts, and maybe even made a few phone calls. But can they truly judge a company without publishing a book with the company?
Author A.C. Ellis may want to consider setting up shop as a POD pundit after he’s done promoting his latest tomes. The Denver science fiction writer published three books with three different POD companies this past summer. In May, he came out with Worldmaker, an out-of-print title originally published in 1985, through iUniverse’s back-in-print program with the Authors Guild. Soldier of ’Tween was released by Angela Hoy’s Booklocker that same month as was In Pursuit of the Enemy with Infinity Publishing.
Ellis recently took time to share his POD experiences.
Who was the original publisher for Worldmaker? How did you go about landing the publishing contract back in 1985? Do you have other traditionally-published books?
The original publisher for Worldmaker was Ace Books, the mass-market arm of what is now known as the Berkley/Penguin group. My then-agent sold the book to them and negotiated the contract. She later sold the book to a German publisher (the German edition appeared in 1993) and about five summers ago the book was optioned by an independent Los Angeles film producer. After about two years of negotiation, the deal fell through.
Previously to the initial publication of Worldmaker by Ace, I had a collaborative science fiction novel, Death Jag, published in 1980 by Manor books. The co-author on that one was Jeff Salten.
How did you learn about iUniverse and the Authors Guild back-in-print program? I was simply browsing the Web one day, looking for self-publish/POD opportunities, when I happened across the iUniverse site, where they mentioned their partnership with the Authors Guild and the Back-in-Print program. I contacted the Authors Guild to confirm the information, joined the Guild on the spot, and applied to be included in the Back-in-Print program. The rest, as they say, is history.
What was your impression of that program and iUniverse?
I was truly impressed with both iUniverse and the Back-in-Print program. They were professional and extremely helpful. I had input into every step of the process, and even came up with the idea for cover art. A very enjoyable experience. And, to top it off, under the Authors Guild Back-in-Print program, there is absolutely no cost to the author.
If you have an out-of-print book you are having trouble getting back in print, I highly recommend this program.
What led you to publish Soldier of ’Tween with Booklocker? What was your impression of that company? How was the process different than the iUniverse process (aside from back-in-print versus new manuscript)?
After beginning the process of getting Worldmaker into print through iUniverse, I realized I had a perfectly good novel, Soldier of ‘Tween — which I had been offering as an e-book for a number of years to good reviews — that I hadn’t really tried to publish in paper format. I knew that I would have a hard time getting it published traditionally, because it had been out there as an e-book, so I decided to go the POD route. iUniverse was quite expensive in any of their publishing plans other than the Back-in-Print program, and Soldier of ‘Tween would not apply for that program. Besides, I wanted to try other POD publishers, to see how they stack up against one another.
I searched around and compared. The one that seemed the best for the money at the time was Booklocker. They seemed more author-friendly than most, and it appeared they would work with the author to produce a quality product.
I was right. Working with Angela Hoy was a writer’s dream. She is not only an expert in the POD publishing process, but is extremely knowledgeable about the creative process, as well. And those who work with Booklocker know their stuff, as well. I sub-contracted with a cover designer, and when I was sent a number of cover ideas that didn’t really suit my book (but were very good in the generic sense) was allowed to produce a cover of my own that more closely represented the book’s content. Consequently, on Soldier of ‘Tween, I got not only the byline for the book, but also the cover art credit.
It all worked out quite well.
What led you to publish In Pursuit of the Enemy with Infinity? What was your impression of that company? How was the process different from the other two companies?
In Pursuit of the Enemy, I had just finished my first mystery, and the first book of an envisioned series. I was still in the POD experimental mood, went looking for a company that did mysteries well. I finally found Infinity Publishing. Their editing process was quite good, and distribution was excellent.
Again, I came up with the idea for the cover, although this time I did not actually produce the artwork. I was amazed by how closely they had captured my concept when I opened the package containing my proof copy. Really, one fantastic cover!
What I plan is to brand the covers of the Brad Carpenter series books. Each will have a smoking gun pointing out toward you, but each will be a different gun. Each will have “Pursuit” in the title. Besides In Pursuit of the Enemy, I foresee Extreme Pursuit, In Pursuit of Justice, In pursuit of Happiness, In Hot Pursuit, In Cold Pursuit, In Pursuit of Honor, In Pursuit of the Past, and, finally, Final Pursuit.
Are you working on any new projects? If so, where will you be publishing it?
I am currently working on the first book of a very dark, very bloody mystery series, the Point series. The titles will be similar to Hollow Point, Point Blank and Point of No Return.
I hope to publish these books traditionally, capturing an agent at the March 2008 Left Coast Crime conference. That’s the plan, at any rate.
What kind of advice can you pass on to other authors using Print-On-Demand companies?
Shop around — don’t go with the first one you find. There are now many POD publishers out there, and you should be dealing with the one that is the best for your needs. And, of course, each author’s needs are different.
How are you marketing the books? What's worked best for you? What has been the least effective?
I am marketing my books. I realize that, even if my books were published traditionally, I would have to take the responsibility for getting them noticed. Publishers just don’t do that any more, not that they ever did much for writers that weren’t best-sellers to begin with.
It is still too early to tell what works best — these books were released during the summer of 2007 -- but I think the best bet is to do as much as you can through Amazon.com. I have published two short stories, The Navigator and Strolling the Road, through their Amazon Shorts program. On each of the pages selling those stories, there are links to my books.
And Amazon has several other programs designed to help sell books on their site, such as their AmazonConnect, Search Inside, and Affiliates programs.
Then, of course, there are my e-mail signature line, e-mail newsletters, Web sites and Blogs. Even this interview. Any way I can get the word out about my books.
Read more about A.C. Ellis and his books at his website http://www.acellis.net/.
Napoleon Conquers Multiple
Borders, Boundries, Genres
Crossing borders and boundaries, genres and media is nothing new for author Landon Napoleon.
Napoleon’s debut novel, ZigZag, was published by Henry Holt in 1997. Shortly after the book hit the shelves, Napoleon was approached by writer/director David Goyer about film rights. The film adaptation of ZigZag came out in 2002 starring John Leguizamo, Wesley Snipes and Natasha Lyonne.
Napoleon than did a bit of a Zig Zag himself when he switched genres and brought out The Spirit Warrior’s Handbook, a self-help book that hopes to inspire one to ‘step into your true potential.’ Napoleon brought the book out through print-on-demand publisher iUniverse.
“I seem to be blessed as a writer in this lifetime. My first novel was made into a film that l love. And my first self-publishing go-around with iUniverse was nothing but positive,” Napoleon said. “I think the biggest plus with self-publishing is getting to design one's own cover; that doesn't happen in traditional publishing unless, perhaps, your last name happens to be 'King' or 'Evanovich.' With my self-published book I got to bring my artistic vision for the cover to fruition. With my novel, I got stuck with a really bad cover that completely missed the mark.”
While Napoleon had several successful signings with The Spirit Warrior’s Handbook, he did not push for much beyond that.
“One thing I've learned is that I love to write, but I'm not real big on the selling side. I did the basics—signings, readings, etc.—but probably not nearly enough to really get the book out there,” he said. “I wrote this one more for myself and if people stumble upon it and find it helpful then that's a real bonus. I had one former high school classmate find the book on her own and track me down to say it helped her tremendously as a person in recovery. That alone made the effort worthwhile.”
The stigma attached to self-publishing is not of much concern for Napoleon.
“Traditional publishing is, well, very traditional! For many in the industry there will always be a stigma associated with self publishing as not 'real' publishing. But I think the lines between 'traditional/real' and 'self-published/not worthy' are blurring more and more,” he said. “I also like the old adage (which applies to Hollywood, book publishing and finding the right mate): No one knows anything. Follow your passion and do what you want to do; forget about all the rest because the clock's ticking and sooner or later we're all going in the box anyway.”
Next up for Napoleon is finding a home for his recently completed novel, The Rules of Action.
“We're currently submitting the new novel to agents and traditional publishers. I like the idea of going the traditional route, if possible, because the publisher picks up a lot of the leg work (editorial direction, copyediting, layout, printing, distribution, etc.),” Napoleon said. “And I also love that self publishing is now a viable alternative to get one's work out there.
“The best advice I ever heard from a traditional book editor is the magical key to this whole business of getting published whatever route you choose. She simply said the best marketing tool is-- drum roll please-- write a great book. I think it's easy to get sidetracked and focus more on 'being a writer' (self publishing, marketing, speaking, selling, cashing six-figure checks, etc.) and less on writing. That is, plant butt in chair for extended periods and produce your pages every day. That's still the hardest part. Write first, sell later.”
Culwell is now hard at work on several projects.
Styx has cut quite a path in its journey from its origin in Chicago to dominant arena rock act in the 70s and 80s to its delta days today as a touring and recording band. Rock biographer Sterling Whitaker chronicles the band’s odyssey in his book The Grand Delusion: The Unauthorized True Story of Styx.
Writing, researching and publishing the book, which came out in March of 2007 from Print-On-Demand publisher BookSurge, was a voyage not without perils of its own. Whitaker shared some of his thoughts on the trip the book took from an idea in 1993 to a bound book in 2007 in a recent email interview.
How long did it take to write and research The Grand Delusion? What was the toughest part of that process? I actually first conceived the notion for a Styx biography back in the early Nineties. I was working as a freelance music writer in Atlanta, and a group called Damn Yankees came to town. It was a "supergroup" composed of Ted Nugent, Jack Blades from Night Ranger, and Tommy Shaw from Styx. I had been a massive Styx fan as a kid, and Tommy had been my favorite member, so I went to the show to do a review/interview and got to meet him briefly. Styx at that time had reunited without him, and very recently he had tried to visit them backstage and famously been denied, an incident that made the newswires everywhere. When I asked him about it in passing, Tommy answered off the record in such a way that made it apparent that the story of Styx was much juicier than had ever been told. I conceived the idea for a book right away. The timing seemed perfect, with both Styx and Tommy very active in the charts at that time. I put out interview requests to all Styx members and Tommy was the first to answer. I interviewed him in 1993 for a book that was then laboring under the working title 'Rockin' In Paradise'.
Then grunge came along and turned the industry on its ear. Styx lost its deal, Damn Yankees lost its deal, and I lost my market. I dropped the project indefinitely.
In 1995 Styx reunited, this time WITH Tommy, to do some promo for a Greatest Hits record. That turned into a hugely successful 1996 reunion tour which then spawned a Gold live record and another very successful tour in 1997, and the band announced its first studio record with Tommy since 1983. The band was very hot again, but it was not to be . . . they had a huge falling out during the recording and the resulting album wasn't that great, and by the time the band went on tour to support it, they had fired their longtime lead singer Dennis DeYoung. That turned into a period of several years of turmoil, during which VH1 filmed an episode of its show 'Behind The Music' devoted to Styx. It was one of the most highly-rated episodes in the history of the show, and after it aired I was convinced that my market was now re-ignited. I also knew that despite the success of the show, the real story had not been told. So I picked up the project in 2001, read my old notes and decided to start over with a new tack. The Grand Delusion took about five years after that.
The toughest part was getting the band members and their associates to see the value of participating in a project like this. That's always difficult, because they have chosen to hide so much over such a long period of time and are reluctant to see a lot of it come out. In the case of Styx there has also been litigation, so some of the original band members who have sued one another are bound by certain legal constraints. In the end I was able to convince a lot of people, but there were many holdouts as well. So from the band I interviewed Tommy Shaw, drummer Todd Sucherman, and Glen Burtnik, who had replaced Tommy on guitar in 1990 and then returned to the band on bass from 1999-2003. Glen Burtnik also wrote the Foreword for the book.
Van Halen may play with David Lee Roth again. Aerosmith had a bitter breakup, but has been back together for quite some time. What are the chances that Dennis DeYoung and the other primary members of Styx play together again? Will Journey and Steve Perry reunite before Styx? The situation with Styx is what it has always been. There have been times when they were together, and times when they were apart for years. There have been times when they were speaking and times when they were not. I always joke that on any given day when the band is together, they are one phone call away from being apart, and when they are apart they are just one phone call away from being together again. I firmly believe that Dennis will be back with Styx in some permutation before they all retire. Anything else would make no sense. Since they really are too far apart as people to make that work over a long period of time, I see a Dennis reunion as their end game; something that they could do once before they retire as a way of going out, if not exactly on top, then somewhere closer to the upper middle.
Steve Perry is another story entirely. He apparently has no desire to sing in public whatsoever. It would surprise me if he ever joins Journey for anything again, but then, the music business is full of surprises. Every day brings some new wackiness. It never fails to amaze and amuse me.
What kind of reaction has the book received from members of Styx? From fans of the band? I don't believe most of the members have read it. I know they have expressed huge trepidation about it to the people around them, which is too bad, because it's not a scathing indictment of the band or anything of the sort. It's a very balanced view of the band and its music. Still, Styx has always had a terrible relationship with the print media—much of it self-inflicted, in my opinion—and they tend to be very, very, very defensive about what appears in print. The members who have actually bothered to read it seem to have liked it well enough. Glen Burtnik even wrote the Foreword. I have had very positive feedback from people that work for the band, which is interesting.
The fans have overwhelmingly embraced the book. The vast majority of fans have given me superlative comments on it. The reviews on Amazon are all excellent. I have received almost entirely positive feedback for the most part, which is very gratifying. When you are writing a thing like this, you work in a vacuum for years at a time with no idea whether your intent is actually making it to paper, so it's really great to have that acceptance. There have also been a very few fans who have objected to certain elements of the story, the interviews or the way I presented some characters or situations, and I've tried to separate what part of that is a fan's need to see their idols as heroic from what part of it might be a legitimate criticism of the work. I always try to view criticism as an opportunity to grow. As proud as I am of this book, I always want the next one to be even better.
How have you gone about marketing the book? What marketing tactic has been most effective for you? What has been least effective? Because it's POD, and because Amazon is the parent company of BookSurge, it made the most sense to target the initial marketing efforts to the online community. I offered some special incentives for buying the book online and used PRWeb to put out a press release to online, print and radio sources. I also got a website called Melodicrock.com to run an excerpt of the book the week it came out. I have been pretty successful in getting interviews on classic rock radio, which has not only driven some great sales online, but has had the nice side effect of creating some book store demand as well. About ten percent of the sales I have made have been through special orders from book stores. Online interviews have been another good source, and giveaways of signed copies through radio promotions have also been great for getting the word out.
The second phase of my marketing plan involves traditional book stores and libraries. Now that there is a demonstrated demand for this book online, it enables me to approach distributors armed with some numbers that might help them to justify taking a chance on a largely unknown author and his self-published book. They are generally very wary of that scenario. I actually just got word yesterday that a library distributor has made an order, and I also have pitches in to a specialty store distributor and a major distributor that sells to all of the major chains. I feel pretty confident, based on how things have gone so far, that the book will duplicate its online performance in book stores as well. The most effective marketing tactics have been press releases, e-mail blasts, radio interviews and giveaways, and online interviews.
The least effective have been banner ads and Google Adwords.
This is your second book with BookSurge. What led you to choose BookSurge as your publisher? What's your experience been like with the company? I chose BookSurge initially because I liked the way their royalty structure worked. I published a book called Unsung Heroes of Rock Guitar with them in 2003, and that experience was absolutely disastrous. I left it to them to format the book, and I was dissatisfied with everything from the cover, to the photos, to the paper quality . . . the result was a physical book that I just didn't feel good about. That made it hard to go out and effectively promote it, and predictably, it was a huge failure. But it was a learning experience, albeit a painful one. It taught me what NOT to do, which is a good thing to know.
I would never have considered using BookSurge again but for the fact that they were acquired by Amazon. That has made all the difference, and my experience with The Grand Delusion has been great for the most part. Of course there are still nagging little problems, but I know people who work with major publishers and the truth is, every publisher has its drawbacks.
How has the company changed since being acquired by Amazon? It's essentially a different company with the same name, as far as I'm concerned. The physical quality of the books is far, far better, the presentation is much better, which makes it possible for me to go out and compete with books published by major houses. That certainly was not the case the first time around. The customer service is also much better, and they don't have the fulfillment issues that they used to have anymore, either. With Unsung Heroes of Rock Guitar I had it happen many times where someone ordered that book and got something else in the mail entirely. I have been happy with the quality control, customer service and fulfillment since being acquired by Amazon.
Before going to BookSurge, did you attempt to find a literary agent and/or traditional publisher? If so, what was that experience like? I did, and it was the same old runaround. Styx is a very successful band, but one with a bit of a puzzling stigma because it got such terrible reviews. As a result of that, the band is misperceived, under-reported and under-represented. Most people in the music business don't realize how huge the Styx fan base really is, let alone the book publishing business. I did have some discussions but I wanted to write a very specific kind of book, one with the emphasis on the music and history of the band, and wasn't surprised when self-publishing turned out to be the best way to get that done. Traditional publishers are good at what they do, but what they do is mass market books for a short period of time, bank the money and move on. The Grand Delusion is a book that I feel strongly can continue to be creatively promoted year after year as Styx continues to perform 100 dates per year and releases new products. My having control of the production, promotion and distribution is really the best way to ensure that.
I understand you're working on a Van Halen book. How is that coming along? When can we expect that to be released? I'm workng full-time to promote The Grand Delusion right now and don't intend to start anything new until I am pretty sure the sales have peaked and slowed way down, which so far has not happened. I anticipate working this one project pretty single-mindedly until at least the end of the year, if not into next year. And in the meantime the word is that another writer is coming with a Van Halen biography in August, so I'll have to wait and see what kind of job he did to decide what I will do next. If he did the job right, I won't be interested anymore. If he didn't, then there will still be room for me to come along with a better version and say, "Here's the DEFINITIVE story of Van Halen." Otherwise I have toyed with the notion of a Journey bio, and I have also given some serious thought to an unauthorized biography of American Idol. I honestly don't know yet.
To any other writers I want to say, despite the "amateur" stigma that can be associated with POD publishing, if you write a great book and present it in a high-quality package, you can still separate yourself from the pack and publish your own work effectively and profitably, and with far less hassle than you would have with a traditional publishing deal. It's working very well for me!
Solve Secret of
Lola Somerville is quite the sleuth.
In Miss Media, she uncovered corporate corruption. In Death by Chick Lit, she’s hot on the trail of a serial killer. But Ms Somerville may have cracked the toughest case of all in between — how to solve the riddle of traditional publishing.
Somerville, along with her creator, Lynn Harris, has moved from Print-On-Demand publisher iUniverse, which brought out Miss Media in November 2003, to the Berkley Trade imprint with her latest effort, Death by Chick Lit. That book hit stores June 5, 2007.
“Berkley was attracted to Harris’s engaging writing, sympathetic heroine, and clever plot,” said Kate Seaver, Harris’s editor at Berkley. “Harris’s writing is hilarious, but at the same time she has some very pointed things to say about the chick lit genre and the publishing industry in general.”
Harris actually had several traditionally-published works of non-fiction before coming out with Miss Media. After that book came out, Harris began outlining the plot for Death by Chick Lit and looking for representation.
“I basically asked all my friends (my friends with good book deals) if they'd mind referring me to theirs. This also gave me incentive to focus on finishing a partial manuscript for the book, because agents don't necessarily take you on as, like, a person—they are more likely to take you on for a particular project. So I was this close to working with Agent A when Agent B called out of the blue after seeing a piece I'd written in Nerve and asked if I was looking for representation,” Harris said. “I met with her and felt we clicked. Plus, it was sort of the literary version of The Rules: I was impressed that she sought me out—obviously, she liked my writing, which is an important start—and that, in the bigger picture that she was the kind of agent who was aggressive and charge-taking and on the lookout like that. (Of course, she was also probably looking to expand her roster, but who isn't? Point is, I liked the way she did it.) And, fortunately, I did have a partial manuscript to show her; double fortunately, she liked it. So we agreed to work together.”
Agent B turned out to be Paula Balzer of the Paula Balzer Agency. She also represents Kathleen Hughes (Dear Mrs. Lindbergh: A Novel) and Tracy McArdle (Confessions of a Nervous Shiksa).
Harris said Miss Media helped prove to industry professionals that she could sustain a novel-length project.
“It did to some degree with my agent. Mainly because she loved it; that helped her be able to sell me enthusiastically and as someone she knew could sustain a book for 200-some pages,” Harris said. “But the new book really had to sell on its own terms.
“I would neither downplay nor overplay your POD book. Make it part of your package, and have your nice, short positive story straight—should it come up—about why you used POD the first time around. But unless your POD book has been a blockbuster—like you've driven around the country and sold literally thousands out of your hatchback—your new book is going to sell to a publisher on its own terms. Still, a POD book is nothing you should hide; it's an excellent calling card to have. Publishers and agents know that many successful writers get their starts this way.”
So how different is the traditional publishing experience from the iUniverse adventure?
“The process itself kind of feels the same, assuming you use iUniverse's (very high quality) editorial evaluation option,” Harris said. “The funny part is, at iUniverse, you're not working directly with an editor whose name you know; feels more like you're working with the great and powerful Oz. You come asking for a book; iUniverse magically gives you one!”
Harris will be busy this summer promoting Death by Chick Lit. She has several signings scheduled in the New York area including an appearance at the Community Bookstore, 143 Seventh Avenue, Park Slope, Brooklyn, 7:30 PM on June 28 and July 15 at Stain Bar, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY, 7 PM.
“Nothing really "outside the box," unless you consider a MySpace page outside the box,” Harris said. “While we're making the usual efforts to get good placement in the press and bookstores, I'm also working on building good old fashioned word of mouth—basically reminding your friends to tell their friends they liked it, and so on—which at the end of the day can sell as many books as an official Marketing Plan.”
Check out Harris’s website at http://www.deathbychicklit.com/ and her MySpace page at www.myspace.com/deathbychicklit. Harris has already received some solid press coverage for the book including a review by Kate Harding at blogcritics.org and an article on mediabistro.com (you have to be an Avant Guild member to access the whole article). If you want to go old school check out this article about Miss Media from the original PubGuy site.
Back in 2003, Harris received her author copies of Miss Media the day before her wedding. Her family has since expanded along with her writing career.
“We now have a seven-month-old daughter named Bess, who is a hoot and a peach. I'm sure she will come to love reading books, but for now she mostly eats them. Because of some publishing delays—something you'll have with traditional publishing but likely not iUniverse, by the way—I wound up having to go over the almost-final copyedited draft of DBCL while on maternity leave with a month-old infant. This should explain any typos or infelicities you may encounter,” Harris said.
“Now that I'm back at work, I'm (still) writing for Glamour, Salon.com, the New York Times, the Washington Post (doing book reviews for the latter two), and others; I also write the dating advice column for MSN.com and the "Rabbi's Wife" column for Nextbook.org. All in four days of work; I spend Fridays with Bess. Let's just say she gets more naps than I do.”
Lola’s career path has some remarkable similarities to Harris’s. Somerville may be following her creator down the Mommy track as well.
“I've got a new mystery in mind for her. More of a missing-persons case than a murder, though. And let's just say Lola may be sleuthing for two ...”
Shares her secrets
“What’s your Secret?”
Helena Antonaccio has been asked that question ever since she graced the pages of Playboy magazine. The question keeps coming even though 38 years have past since she was named Ms June 1969. Antonaccio is finally sharing her tips in her new book entitled appropriately enough, What’s Your Secret?
“I started writing it about four years ago when fans at shows kept asking me ‘What’s you secret?”, in acting and looking the way I do at my age,” she said.
Despite her notoriety as a Playmate, Antonaccio struggled to find a literary agent for the book.
“If I got one he was fired or left the group, or told they are too booked up with too many authors, nothing negative but just didn't have the time of day for me,” Antonaccio explained.
She turned to Print-On-Demand publisher iUniverse to get the book out and on to major online retailers including Amazon.com and BN.com. What’s Your Secret was released in May. Antonaccio is already getting kudos from friends, family and fellow Playmates.
“They’ve been impressed and couldn’t believe I finally got the book out,” Antonaccio said.
Antonaccio, a Jersey girl her entire life, continued to model and act following her Playboy appearance. She even made a return appearance in the magazine in August 1997.
“I have lead a healthy lifestyle my entire adult life. I am a firm believer in exercise and eating unprocessed foods as much as possible,” Antonaccio said. “I believe in holistic healing along with conventional medicine. Skin care is very important to me and I would like someday to own my own cosmetic and beauty line.”
The book is likely to earn a mention in the Playmate News portion of Playboy in the upcoming months and Antonaccio is planning other marketing efforts as well. She hope to contribute an article or two in several magazines, may appear at several pin-up and modeling conventions and is hoping to book television appearances as well.
For more on Helena and her book visit http://www.helenaantonaccio.com/.
Help Del Sesto's Trip
On to Book Shelves
What leads a reader to pick up a book from an author they’ve never read before? It can be an attractive cover that jumps off the bookshelf or a positive review in the local newspaper. Or maybe an endorsement from a favorite author.
I discovered Nicole Del Sesto’s book, All Encompassing Trip, by hanging out on the message boards at the website of my favorite author, Christopher Moore. Del Sesto is a frequent contributor to the boards. Trip sounded interesting, so I picked up a copy and queried Del Sesto about how she went from message board maven to published author.
Is Afterbirth Books a traditional publisher using Print-On-Demand technology or a self-publishing outfit like iUniverse or BookSurge?
Afterbirth is an independent traditional publisher which utilizes Print on Demand technology.
What led to your decision to publish with Afterbirth?
For a period of about 4-5 months, I shopped my book through various literary agencies. I knew All Encompassing Trip wasn't "mainstream" but I really felt like people would enjoy it. So, I persisted through the rejections. I had some literary agents who were very helpful with suggestions for improvements, and I took them all and applied them to the manuscript. Two literary agents requested the whole manuscript.
During the time I was waiting to hear back from the agents, I'd finally broken down and purchased a book I'd been looking at called The Menstruating Mall, by Carlton Mellick III. I can't say why, but the title really appealed to me.
I'd not considered submitting directly to a publisher until I read that. I looked Afterbirth up on the internet, submitted my query and within hours they requested the manuscript. Twenty-four hours after that, I had an offer to publish All Encompassing Trip.
I asked a lot of questions (my editor can confirm that!) and contacted both of the literary agents who had the manuscript to let them know about the offer. Ultimately, they both very pleasantly declined the novel, and I decided to go with Afterbirth.
What was the process with Afterbirth like?
The best part of working with an indie publisher is the flexibility. Afterbirth was really flexible and willing to try as many ideas as I threw at them. Some of them worked, some didn't, but I was truly pleased with the fact that we tried everything.
Afterbirth operates like a traditional publisher in terms of editing and cover-design. The authors, of course, have input on the cover. My cover was a result of a contest we ran. (One of the ideas that Afterbirth was willing to try.).
Marketing is a challenge. The first thing that Afterbirth told me was that all their authors really try to help each other out in terms of promotion. We try to support each other in that way and share ideas. This is one of the big differentiators from using a service like iUniverse, a collective of like-minded authors trying to get their work into the world.
How long was the book in production before being released?
Feels like forever. Basically the whole process took a little over a year.
What type of marketing are you doing for the book? What has worked best for you? What has been least effective? In general, are you pleased with the results so far? What kind of goals to have the book? What are your long term writing goals?
My motto is: One book at a time. By that I mean, every time I sell a single book, I celebrate that individual success. I'm still sort of waiting to see how this all plays out. I think it would be really cool to sell the movie rights. Marketing? This is the $64,000 question. I've been very active in promotion of this book. It's very consuming and you really have to make the time, and be willing to try (and fail).
Things that worked:
MySpace has been terrific. I've made a tremendous investment in time there, developing relationships and an audience for my writing via blogs. It takes effort. You aren't going to sell books on MySpace by sending out a bulletin every 10-minutes telling people to buy your book. You'll irritate them and get deleted.
Offering personalized pre-orders was very successful.
I was the first Afterbirth author to print Advanced Reading Copies (ARC's) and because of this I was able to get blurbs from two mainstream authors (who I met on MySpace.)
Networking and never being afraid to ask questions—I am of the opinion that it never hurts to ask, and I got a ton of great advice along the way.
Things that didn't work:
Booksense Advanced Access program. Basically, you pay $50.00 to list your book in Booksense's bi-weekly newsletter. You offer up Reader Copies of the book in hopes that the store will like it and want to carry it. Turns out, the stores like free books. Most of the copies I sent out were up for sale on Amazon, BN.com and Alibris within hours of their arrival at the store.
My MySpace book giveaway isn't doing much for me. I thought it would be fun and easy, and I'm grateful for the people who have participated, but I thought it would garner some more participation.
The bookmarks I spent $200.00 on are sitting on the floor beside me aren't doing much for me. But that could be my fault. :-)
I've posted a blog on Amazon Connect about word of mouth. I'm just trying to get people to talk about my book, and tell their friends about it. I'm getting to the point where I feel I've sort of done all I can do on my own.
You're a frequent poster to the message boards on Christopher Moore's site (that's how I first became aware of the book). Were you able to see him on his latest author tour? Has that been an effective marketing tool for you? What other sites do you contribute to on a regular basis?
First, yes, I am a huge fan of Chris's both as a writer and as a person. He's a great guy and been a tremendous resource for me. I was able to see him on the You Suck tour (along with several of my friends from the board) which is always entertaining.
I try to be respectful of Chris's space, in that I'm not there to try to generate book sales. A good portion of those people I consider friends. A good portion of those people bought my book because they are friends. I've been posting there since before the completion of the book, through publication. They've seen my highs and lows about it, and been there to offer advice and encouragement along the way. I'm extremely grateful to them. In fact, I only found Afterbirth because of the Chris Moore Board. Chris blurbed Foop! by Chris Genoa, which was published by Eraserhead Press, which is run by Carlton Mellick III, who wrote The Menstruating Mall. So basically, I found my publisher as a result of a suggestion on Chris's board and a Listmania list on Amazon.
I drink my coffee with the Boardello every morning.
I've already mentioned MySpace. I belong to several book groups there, and I also post in the 50 Book Challenge at LiveJournal. I'm also a member of Bookcrossing. I love to be places where people are talking about books. Not because I'm trying to sell books, but because I love them.
Who are your biggest influences as far as writing goes?
This is probably going to sound so hokey, but every book I read influences me in some way. I think it's my reactions to certain books which compel me more so than an individual author's work. Chris Moore makes me want to write laugh-out-loud passages, and Tom Robbins makes me want to write fabulous sentences. Chuck Palahniuk makes me feel OK about being dark and edgy and weird, and Janet Evanovich makes me realize that there's a place in the world for writing that isn't brilliant, but which is entertaining.
I recently read Black Swan Green by David Mitchell , and it depressed me because the writing was so good. A week later, I read The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst and her beautiful writing inspired me to write more beautifully in the future.
I hope I am a sponge ... soaking up all the good and improving with each book I both read, and write.
What's your latest writing project?
I've got two projects in the works right now. Actually, I've got two projects sort of stalled right now. But they are out there awaiting creation ... Another Bizarro novel which is as yet untitled about a woman with a calendar addiction, who is being stalked by the Moon. The second is a mainstream collaboration with another author that I am unable to divulge any information on.
The Traitor's Wife
Atop Amazon Lists
It’s tough to stay on top.
A little adultery, some backstabbing and the occasional murder were a few of the methods employed in the days of Edward II.
While that might have flown during Edward’s reign in the 1300s, the setting for Susan Higginbotham’s historical novel, The Traitor’s Wife, Higginbotham has taken a gentler approach to keep the book amongst iUniverse’s top sellers on Amazon.com.
The Traitor’s Wife follows young Eleanor de Clare, favorite niece of King Edward II, and her marriage to Hugh le Despenser. The book, released in July 2005, has sold about 1,000 copies, claimed a silver medal for historical fiction in ForeWord’s Book of the Year Awards in 2005 and will soon be released under iUniverse’s Star imprint, reserved for the publisher’s top-selling and best-reviewed titles.
Higginbotham has used a variety of methods to get her book in front of Amazon browsers.
“I’ve taken advantage of all of the free marketing techniques Amazon has to offer—the lists, the blog feature, tags, the Amazon profile. I think the most helpful thing, though, was submitting my novel to Search Inside the Book,” she said. “Not only can customers preview the book, the search feature leads customers to it. With self-published novels in particular, it’s really helpful for customers to be able to “flip” through the book before they buy it.
“It helped a great deal too when after the first few months, enough Amazon customers bought The Traitor’s Wife for Amazon to start generating the “Better Together” feature, in which my book was paired with other novels, some by major authors, including Sharon Penman and Margaret George.”
Higginbotham has a strong web presence beyond Amazon as well. Her website can be found at http://www.susanhigginbotham.com/ and includes a link to her blog at http://susandhigginbotham.blogspot.com/.
“My novel, of course, is a historical novel, and one in which all of the major characters are historical figures as opposed to purely fictional ones. I put a lot of historical information on my website so that people doing searches for, say, ‘Edward II,’ would come across my website and thus to my book,” Higginbotham said. “I also have a list of novels set in the same period so that people looking for those novels would happen across mine too.
“My blog has also helped a great deal, and has been quite a fun experience as well.”
Despite her web success, Higginbotham has struggled in her efforts to storm the walls of traditional bookstores.
“Even the big independent bookstores in my area aren’t hospitable to self-publishers,” she said. “One refused to let me sign my books, even on consignment, but then suggested that I should put a link to their store on the website! Well, no.”
While Higginbotham chose iUniverse to take advantage of its design services, she’s recently published a second book, Edward II: His Friends, His Enemies, and His Death, with Lulu, a more do-it-yourself process than iUniverse’s programs.
“The Edward II book started out as a series of short articles that I was going to post on another website for marketing reasons. The other site went through some policy and management changes, so I ended up turning the articles into a booklet in PDF form and putting it on my website instead,” Higginbotham said. “I thought I might as well have a printed version of the booklet in case I ever wanted to hand out copies along with my novel, so I went ahead and had a version printed on Lulu—I call it my “little Lulu book.” It doesn’t sell many copies, since the booklet is simply a bound version of what people can read for free on my website, but the PDF file has brought a lot of people to my website.”
Higginbotham is hard at work on her next project.
“I’m working on another historical novel, set in the 1340’s and featuring some of the same characters who were in The Traitor’s Wife,” she said. “I’ve also been trying to get some material ready for submission to Amazon Shorts, which is a feature where authors who have a book listed on Amazon can sell works from 2,000 to 10,000 words, downloadable as e-texts for the princely price of 49 cents. For Amazon Shorts, I’m working on a short story, which is a genre I usually don’t write in, but I’m eager to see what type of response such a venture would receive.”
Wears Multiple Hats
Does anyone know more about Print-On-Demand publishing than Richard “R.W.” Ridley?
Ridley has published two books through BookSurge, his latest, Délon City, and the IPPY-award winning The Takers (2006, Horror). He also works as a sales and marketing specialist for the amazon.com-owned BookSurge.
Ridley recently shared his insights about POD, wearing both his author and publisher hats.
How long did it take you to write The Takers? How was the book edited?
The Takers took about 9 weeks to write. It was a project I had thought about for a long time. In fact, I wrote the first line about a year before I started developing the story. It just struck a chord with me. I am married to an editor. My wife has many years of experience proofreading and developing newsletters and online material. In addition, I had a team of about a dozen readers that gave me input. There were some after market typos that were discovered and easily fixed because of the POD model.
How was the cover design developed?
That was me. I have a background in marketing and advertising so I have experience in Photoshop. I wanted something simple but effective. I love to tinker around with that kind of stuff so it was a labor of love.
What was your reaction to winning the IPPY Award? How has that impacted sales of the book? Has it helped generate interest from traditional publishers or agents?
The IPPY award was just validation that I was on the right track more than anything else. It did generate some sales, and has helped tremendously on the marketing front. I used the "IPPY Award Winning Author" moniker on Book Two (Which is currently available on Amazon.com). I will be entering Délon City, Book Two of the Oz Chronicles this year. Librarians love award-winning books, so they have worked me into their budget. I've been through the rejection process with agents and traditional publishers for so many years that I haven't approached them since I self-published. The book's doing okay on its own, and I'm making 25% on sales right now. That would be cut pretty severely if I went the traditional route. I'm not completely closed to that opportunity if it comes along, but I don't feel the sense of urgency I once felt. If it happens it happens. If it doesn't, I'm building a nice little fan base that is spreading the word for me, and my sales should continue to grow.
How many copies of The Takers have you sold?
About 700. Not Harry Potter numbers, but pretty good for a POD.
What other marketing strategies have worked well for you? Have you been able to generate interest in the Charleston media?
I have the good fortune of talking to writers 5 days a week about publishing and writing, so a lot of my marketing strategy has been centered around personal contact. I have a three-year marketing plan put together for The Takers and Délon City and I'll do the same for The Pure (Book Three). I've been invited to speak to classrooms, Book Clubs and writers groups, and the relationships I've developed with other self-published writers have been invaluable. I have shamelessly asked for help. That's what you have to do as a self-published author. I preach this every day to BookSurge authors, and try to lead by example. I have had a few mentions from the Charleston press, and I even had a nice email exchange with the book reviewer from our daily paper. He didn't do a review because they only review pre-publication material, but he did put a blurb in the paper for me. Little things like that help a lot.
What kind of profile does BookSurge have in Charleston? Does the company generate much news locally?
We get a lot of great press from the local media. It's a great company that truly puts the author first. I know the people here, and I know how dedicated they are to putting out the best possible product for the author and the author's customer. I trusted them with my own books, and I didn't just do that because I work for BookSurge. My reputation goes out with every book I sell so my faith in the people behind its production takes precedent over company loyalty.
I see the sequel, Délon City, has just come out. It’s published by Middlebury House Publishing. Is this an imprint through BookSurge or a traditional publisher? How did you come to publish through Middlebury?
Middlebury House Publishing is me. It's still done through BookSurge, but I plan on putting out a compilation of Oz Chronicles books as Advance Reader Copies to try and generate more reviews from mainstream publications.
How long have you worked for BookSurge? How has the sale to Amazon impacted your role with the company and the company in general?
I've been with the company since April 2005. I actually started about two weeks after Amazon purchased the company, so I don't have a pre-Amazon point of reference. I love the idea of being part of the Amazon team. It truly is the great equalizer for self-published authors. They have a lot of great tools to help you gain exposure for your book on their site.
What have you learned about publishing by working at BookSurge?
Basically, I gained an understanding of why all those editors and agents over the years rejected my queries and submissions. The volume of writers seeking to publish is enormous, and when you submit a query, you can be rejected simply because you didn't follow their submission guidelines. It's not personal. It's because they have a pile of manuscripts on their desk that they need to get to. I have much more respect for agents and acquisitions editors. I still think they miss a lot of quality manuscripts, but I give them a pass because of the tremendous task they have to undertake day after day.
What are some of the biggest misconceptions that authors have about both traditional publishing and POD publishing?
The biggest misconception authors have about traditional publishing is that once they sign a contract they won't have to do anything but write the next book. A traditional publisher is going to demand a lot of marketing support from the authors they sign. I've even heard of traditional publishers "requesting" authors hire their own publicists. Publishing is a business and you have to treat it like one if you want to succeed. The biggest misconception author's have about POD publishing is basically the same thing. Some author's have an "if you build they will come" mentality. They invest in the publication of their book, and wait for it be discovered on Amazon. You've got to draw attention to yourself, and most authors aren't willing to do that.
What are some of your favorite books that you've worked on at BookSurge and why?
I've really enjoyed working with most of my authors and I hate to leave anyone out, but The Crescent Veil by Judith Sanders is an excellent read, and Point and Shoot by G.D. Baum has been getting a lot of excellent buzz.
Check out Ridley’s website at http://www.rwridley.com/ and his blog at http://selfpublishedamerican.blogspot.com/
Climbing the charts is nothing new for Rudy Sarzo.
As the bass player for bands like Quiet Riot and Whitesnake, Sarzo put out multi-platinum albums and played in front of massive crowds during the heyday of heavy metal. Sarzo is climbing the charts again, but this time, instead of earning a bullet on Billboard, his latest effort, Off the Rails, is climbing the book charts on Amazon.com.
Off the Rails is currently among the top sellers for Print-On-Demand publisher BookSurge. The book has garnered 38 reviews on Amazon from its release date of Nov. 2, 2006 through early January 2007.
Off the Rails chronicles Sarzo’s days as a part of Ozzy Osbourne’s band. The book is largely a tribute to the late guitarist Randy Rhoads. Rhoads was killed in a plane crash during the Diary of a Madman tour.
Sarzo had planned to publish the book through a traditional publisher, Cherry Lane, but when the deal fell through, he turned to the POD option and BookSurge.
“Due to a conflict of interest among the Osbournes, the publisher and my self, the book was dropped and I was left with an edited manuscript ready to be published,” Sarzo said. “So after nearly a year, I decided to go the self-publishing route. Since BookSurge is an Amazon.com company it was the only print-on-demand outlet I considered.”
Sarzo, a self-described computer geek, put the cover together himself and completed the publication process with BookSurge in three weeks. Sarzo credited Richard Ridley, his BookSurge Publishing Consultant, for guiding him through the process.
“Richard Ridley, was extremely helpful with the whole process. There's also an abundance of templates to suit your needs available at the Booksurge site,” Sarzo said.
Ridley, who has published two books through BookSurge himself (The Takers, Délon City), enjoyed working with the heavy metal bass master.
“Rudy contacted us, and I was just lucky enough to get the call. He is one of the nicest guys on the planet.” Ridley said. “The man is part of rock 'n roll history, but he's so down to earth you'd never know it by talking to him. Off the Rails has generated a lot of interest and it's one of our bestsellers on Amazon.”
As of Jan. 11, Off the Rails was listed as BookSurge’s No. 2 seller with a sales rank of 10,923.
Sarzo has been promoting the book with appearances on the Sirius and XM satellite radio shows of Scott Ferrall, Jim Breuer and Eddie Trunk. He’ll be on Rockline Wednesday, Jan. 24. He’s also done interviews for several print magazines as well as web zines.
“This is a book that has been highly anticipated by Randy Rhoads' fans for some time,” Sarzo said. “So there was a high demand for this book to see the light of day. Since I wrote the book for my friend who's no longer with us, my goal is to share memories of him with those who want to find out what Randy Rhoads was like.”
The book has already been translated into Japanese and that version is scheduled for a March 2007 release.
While the book has been front-and-center for Sarzo of late, music is always his main mistress. He has been on the road with Dio, a band he has been a part of since 2004. The band has plans to work on a new record this year.
Check out Sarzo's MySpace page at www.myspace.com/offtherails.
Highlight Artists' Work
Remember when Dorothy went from the black and white of Kansas to the Technicolor of Oz?
Artist Terry Rodgers collaborated with Jim Zimmerman, an English professor at James Madison University, to produce Vectors of Desire through POD publisher iUniverse in September 2004. The book includes 50 black and white images of Rodgers’ major oil paintings.
In Vectors, produced at 7.5” x 9.25” as opposed to iUniverse’s standard 6” x 9” trim size, Rodgers’ paintings translate well to black and white and the larger format allows for a better presentation of the work. But much like classic black and white films should be presented in the original form; Rodgers’ work should be seen in color.
Rodgers’ paintings receive just that kind of treatment in Apotheosis of Pleasure, which will be available in December through Torch books of Amsterdam.
Apotheosis, which recently had a short write-up in Playboy, is a 112-page hardcover. In addition to 100 images of Rodgers' work, the book contains a short story, The Absent, by internationally best-selling French writer Alina Reyes.
Color and scale are an important part of Rodgers' work. The original of the image featured above is 96" x 144".
In a recent interview, Rodgers shared information on both Apotheosis of Pleasure and Vectors of Desire.
How did the Apotheosis of Pleasure book project come to pass? What role, if any, did the Vectors of Desire project that you did with Jim Zimmerman play in the evolution of the new book?
TR: Jim’s book took a first look at the work. It definitely created some interest. The time had come for a fairly comprehensive and full-color book of the paintings.
What will be the best way to get the book? Will it be available through Amazon.com and BN.com? Do you know what the retail price will be?
TR: Initially, the book will be available through:
firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
The retail price will be 45 euro which is about $60.00.
What does the publication of the book signal for your career?
TR: It provides a terrific opportunity for people to see a great variety of my work.
What type of promotion will you be doing for the book?
TR: I won’t be promoting the book. I make paintings and there’s never enough time for that. I will leave the promotion to the publisher.
What kind of goals did you have for the Vectors of Desire book and what was you impression of that book and the publication process with iUniverse? Do you feel the work translates to black and white?
TR: Vectors of Desire provided an introduction to the work. I believe that was Jim Zimmerman’s goal. Jim hoped that people would visit my website where they could see the work in color. Color is very important to my paintings.
One of the central themes that many of the writers hit on is that, while there is a lot going on in your paintings the subjects are rarely if ever interacting with one another. Is that a valid observation and, if so, what does that communicate?
TR: It is something that I notice around me frequently. Do remember that these are paintings and not social science data. The paintings may be better read as metaphors than data. I am representing something about the difficultly many people have relating to others even when they seem to be interacting. Often their activities and exchanges/jokes/laughter are to disguise their loneliness and fear. As they may reveal the next morning.
Paris Hilton makes the occasional appearance in your work. What does her image represent in your work? Is she aware of your work and has she ever commented on it?
TR: Paris is a perfect example of someone envied by many, criticized by more and “known” by very few. An icon of desire and an enigma. She is both a private person and, in the minds of many, a fantasy/fiction. And so much of our contemporary “mind” is made up of highly-imagined desires – cars, clothes, enhanced bodies, perfection, sexy experiences, vacations. So Paris represents very well this confusing duality of self and image.
What kind of interest has the Playboy article generated in your work and the book?
TR: Everyone at the coffee shop I frequent knows my work now.
Visit Terry Rodgers' website at http://www.terryrodgers.com/.
Kozak: Polished Product
Helps Publishing Chances
MANHATTAN, KS — One has to empathize with Wollie Shelley. She just can’t find Mr. Right.
It’s no wonder. Author Harley Jane Kozak has Shelley, the protagonist in her first two books, attempting to navigate the dating scene in novels entitled Dating Dead Men and Dating is Murder.
Kozak, a graduate of Lincoln East High School, was on hand at the Great Manhattan (KS) Mystery Conclave, Nov. 3-5, to discuss a challenge that can be as daunting as finding Mr. or Ms Right — getting published.
Kozak, along with fellow authors Susan McBride (The Lone Star Lonely Hearts Club, The Good Girl’s Guide to Murder) and Laura Durham (For Better or Hearse, Better Off Wed), hosted a discussion entitled “Everything You Wanted to Know About Publishing But Were Afraid to Ask, Presented by the Book Babes, Who've Been There and Done That.” A polished manuscript is the biggest key, Kozak said.
“You might think ‘well, if they see that there is a lot of raw talent here, they’ll take me on.’ That’s actually not true,” she said. “People are so overwhelmed in the publishing world with unsolicited manuscripts. You have to send your absolute best.”
The publishing business is just that — a business, she said.
“In this publishing climate, it’s very rare to have someone who seriously edits your book. An editor’s job is not as it was in the olden days,” Kozak said. “They need to see a manuscript that they think can realistically make them money. You have to be prepared for that reality.”
Kozak, who has a long list of acting credits from soaps such as Guiding Light and Santa Barbara to feature films including Necessary Roughness, The Favor and Parenthood, has managed to conquer the book business as well. Her third novel, Dead Ex, is currently in the final stages of editing with her publisher, Doubleday. It is scheduled to be released around August 2007. In Dead Ex, Wollie is dating a correspondent on the fictional talk show SoapDirt. Kozak was able to tap into her experience on the soaps and spent some time on the set of General Hospital as well.
“It was really fun. That was the easy part because that’s the part I did not have to research except for going and spending a day on the set of General Hospital,” Kozak said. “It turns out I knew half the people at General Hospital cause they had done other soaps that I had done. It’s very small world.”
Kozak got some assistance with her research from readers of The Lipstick Chronicles , a blog to which she contributes.
“I thank at least a dozen of them in the acknowledgements,” she said. “When I finished the first draft I had this 15-page list of things I had to check out. People wrote in and said ‘I’ve got number seven for you.”
Marketing plans for Dead Ex are still hazy, but a trip to Lincoln for a book signing is almost a foregone conclusion.
“I’m sure I’ll come back to Nebraska just because I’m always looking for an excuse to come back to Nebraska,” she said. “It’s dear to my heart and I dearly love the bookstore (Lee Booksellers) there. I just have friends there that I always love to see.”
Sean Doolittle has some new neighbors, but they’re kind of a shady bunch. He only has himself to blame. He invited them. Heck, he invented them. We will say this for them, while a few may be of questionable character, they all have one thing in common — they’re compelling.
Doolittle, an Omaha-based writer, has set his fourth published novel, The Cleanup, in his hometown.
“Honestly, after spending the amount of time with them that I did, they sort of feel like neighbors. I guess I live on a questionable street.” Doolittle said of his Cleanup characters.
This is the first time that Doolittle, whose previous books include Dirt, Burn and Rain Dogs, has set a novel in Omaha.
“Local readers will probably recognize real and loosely fictionalized locations all over town. The book ranges from midtown to the Old Market to the river, into the bluffs across the river and back, out to the west side, around the southeastern and northeastern police districts. There’s even a car chase on Saddle Creek Road,” Doolittle said.
The book takes place in the aftermath of a fictional October blizzard.
“The weather definitely complicates the plot” Doolittle said. “I really wanted this book to have an authentic, specific feel, like the story was happening in this part of the country as opposed to any other. I’m not sure how to quantify it with specific locations. It’s just a quality that’s woven into the basic fabric of life in one place versus another.
“I did a lot of general driving around, and I rode with the Omaha Police Department, and I did my usual poking around on the Internet for various tidbits. But this book is, now that I think about it, the first novel I’ve written wherein the main character is actually FROM the area where the story takes place. That probably says it all right there.”
The book follows Matthew Worth, a cop whose been busted down to patrolling a supermarket that’s been a recent victim of robberies. The Cleanup references something a little messier than spilt milk in aisle nine.
“A tender love story about a cop who hides a body to help a girl” is how Doolittle describes it.
Doolittle grew up in Nebraska graduating from Norris High School in Hallam. (The school was destroyed in a tornado in 2004, but has since been rebuilt.). He has both an undergraduate and graduate degree in English from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Doolittle credits several teachers for inspiring him to pursue a career as a writer.
“Three English teachers in particular: one in 5th grade (Ruby Russell), one in high school (Ed Baker, rest easy), and one in college (Gerald Shapiro),” Doolittle said. “The latter was the person who told me, in a way that made all the difference, that he saw in me the raw talent to make a go of it as a writer. But all of these people played some critical role or other in fostering my love of books and encouraging whatever raw knack they saw. I’m in debt to all of them.”
Doolittle published his first book, Dirt, through a small press, the now-defunct UglyTown of Los Angeles. UglyTown also published a hard cover version of his second book, Burn. Bantam Dell republished Burn and put out his third novel, Rain Dogs, before The Cleanup hit the shelves.
“I’m one of those stories you seem to hear more and more these days, a writer who started out in the indie press and moved to a larger New York publishing house,” Doolittle said.
“I think all writers, aspiring and veteran, would do well to accept what a large, inevitable role luck plays in any publishing career. Having said that, in my personally opinion, determination and doggedness and hard honest work remains the best way to place yourself in luck’s path.
“You'll find a lot of advice out there about how to "market" yourself. I say, keep your head down. Read everything you can. Work hard on improving your craft, and strive to grow. Keep writing. Thicken your skin and push yourself. Keep writing. Read some more. Read like a writer. Write some more. Write like a reader.
“And just keep doing all of those things. It’s a tough business—tough to break in, even tougher to stay. If you can be discouraged or turned away, you probably should be.
“If not. . .well, you don’t need my advice anyway.”
Doolittle is already hard at work on his next book, “a still-untitled suburban thriller about a college professor, a retired cop, and a shallow grave.”
He will be at Lee Booksellers in Lincoln, Saturday, Dec. 9 at 2 p.m. and at The Mystery Bookstore in Omaha, Saturday Dec. 16 at 5 p.m.
For more information on Doolittle and The Cleanup check out http://www.seandoolittle.com/ and http://www.thecleanup.com/.
In Diana Douglas’ new book, The Quest, Carolyn Reed is searching for answers and searching for her mother. Reed’s investigation leads her from her sheltered Los Angeles life, to a cabin in Maine and then on to France to unravel a cover-up dating back to World War II.
Douglas’ efforts to write and publish the book took almost as many twists and turns before ending up at iUniverse.
“I had started some time back. Quite a long time back,” Douglas said. “It was in the 80s when the search for Klaus Barbie was still going on. I had always been intrigued by the background of The French Resistance and did quite a lot of research on it. An agent accepted the first draft and was about to send it out to publishers, when Klaus Barbie was captured. The agent said to me 'That'll teach you not to base any fiction on a living character' and withdrew it.
“Over the years I would come back to the idea and it went through (more than one) metamorphosis, ending up close to 400 pages. My new agent, Claudia Menza, was very enthusiastic about the book and submitted it to top publishers who were complimentary about the writing, but unsure about what genre it belonged in. After almost three years of this, at my husband's urging, I said ‘the hell with it — I'll cut scenes and characters, speed it up and make it into a thriller.’ Hence, iUniverse.”
Her husband, Donald Webster, has two books with iUniverse, The Beckoning and Blood Son.
Douglas already had a publishing credit to her name before putting out The Quest. In 1999, Barricade Books published her memoir, In the Wings. Douglas tells how she met and married a young actor, Kirk Douglas, in New York City. While the marriage was short, it did produce two sons, Michael and Joel (Michael wrote the forward to the book). She later married the late actor-producer-novelist Bill Darrid. She enjoyed steady work as an actress herself. Her television credits alone cover a wide variety of productions including Flipper, Barnaby Jones, The Streets of San Francisco, Days of Our Lives, The Waltons, Knots Landing, Lou Grant, Remington Steele, Cagney & Lacey and The West Wing.
“(In the Wings) originated because my son, Michael, asked me for a memoir for his son, Cameron,” Douglas said. “It took four years. I wrote it with no thought of publishing until friends suggested that it should be, and Barricade Books took it immediately.”
Diana, Kirk, Michael and Cameron Douglas all starred in the 2003 theatrical release, It Runs in the Family.
Diana has some additional projects in the works.
“I'm working off and on on a sequel or addition to In The Wings, as so much has happened since. I'll call it The View from Here. I have a play I wrote called Valldemosa about the time that Frederic Chopin and George Sand spent with her children in Majorca. It will be performed at the theater in Woodland Hills at The Motion Picture & Televisions Fund for a charity benefit on Feb, 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th.”
Douglas had a positive experience with iUniverse.
“I was very impressed with the assistance from iUniverse. They designed a splendid cover without my help. (They) did a very good blurb piece on the back,” she said. “When the author copies arrived, I had the same reaction as when Wings came out - checking all the pages like counting my babies toes!”
–Mark Twain from Huckleberry Finn
Author Jon Clinch is not one to avoid trouble and danger. At least not on the printed page. He has taken on the equivalent of Mount Everest in terms of literary challenges. Finn, Clinch’s first novel, is an offshoot of one of the giants of American Literature, Twain’s Huckleberry Finn.
The novel, set to be released by Random House on February 20, 2007, moves Huckleberry’s father from supporting role to spotlight. The official book description states, “It begins and ends with a lifeless body–flayed and stripped of all identifying marks–drifting down the Mississippi. The circumstances of the murder, and the secret of the victim’s identity, shape Finn’s story as they will shape his life and his death.”
Rather than being intimidated by working in the shadow of Twain’s classic, Clinch embraced it.
“The Twain context provided motivation and inspiration, but it was never a handicap or a source of fear,” he said. “Some people, including one or two famous authors who will remain unnamed, counseled me against writing Finn on account of the danger of working in Twain's shadow. I believe that they had no idea how seriously I was taking the idea, and how far I meant to push it.”
Clinch dove into all of Twain’s work as part of his research.
“I reread piles of Twain, since my goal was more to re-envision the world that he created than to recreate the actual world of the Mississippi Valley in the 1840s,” he said. “Certain external research did pay off, though. I discovered the history of the Illinois State Penitentiary at Alton, for example, which dovetailed nicely with Finn's history of criminality.”
In addition to Twain’s own work, Clinch drew some inspiration from others who had created new material within the framework of a classic piece of literature.
“I've only taken note of the biggest examples: Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, John Gardner's Grendel, Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea,” Clinch said. “I was delighted when Geraldine Brooks won the Pulitzer for March last year—not only because March is a fine book, but because her victory suggested that the culture is prepared to take this kind of fiction very seriously. And by "this kind of fiction" I mean fiction that starts with a known framework and a familiar set of elements, and then makes out of them something arresting and new.”
Jeff Kleinmann, an agent with Folio Literary Management, was onboard with Clinch early on. Clinch wrote the book over a five-month period, writing eight to ten hours at a stretch while working around his day job.
“The character, and his world, took over my life to an alarming degree—and I was frankly relieved when it was over,” Clinch said. ‘Folio's Jeff Kleinman and I found each other through another writer he represents. Based on the first 50 pages — all that existed at the time — I could see that he understood the book and was hugely enthusiastic about it; so we threw in our lots together. This was in August of 2005. Jeff spent the next four or five months cultivating editorial interest all over New York, while I finished the book.”
With the novel complete and the publication date set, Clinch now turns his attention to marketing the book. He already has the publicity wheels turning with a strong web presence at http://www.jonclinch.com/ and a site exclusive to the book at http://www.readfinn.com/.
“The web is very important these days. Random House did a fantastic job on the www.readfinn.com site. It's loaded with interesting and useful information,” Clinch said “And there's more to come, including a full-blown Teachers' Guide. The team at Random House really believes in this book, and they've put their credibility and strength behind it.”
The ReadFinn site is interactive and even features some fiddle music in the background.
“The music on the site is a fiddle tune that I've loved for years and years,” Clinch said. “I tracked down the fiddler on the web, and he kindly authorized its use. You can find him at www.TexasShorty.com.”
Clinch will begin an author tour on Feb. 26 at Olsson’s Books and Records in Washington, D.C. Midwest stops include a March 18 visit to the Harry W. Schwartz Bookshop in Milwaukee, WI, and March 20 at Borders in Madison, WI.
of Ancient Text
Beowulf is often used as an introduction to epic poetry in high school English classes. Not being a fan of poetry, a groan was my first response. But Beowulf won me over because it was a good story.
Christopher Webber’s Beyond Beowulf works for the same reason. It’s a good story. I can appreciate the poetry now as well. One of the most fascinating parts of the book is Webber’s introduction in which he explains the technical aspects of the poetry and the framework in which he constructs the work.
Webber published the book through iUniverse and received the company’s Publisher’s Choice designation, endorsing the content and the cover design. The book has also earned the company’s Reader’s Choice designation which means it has sold at least 250 copies through retail channels.
His marketing efforts have included numerous book signings and appearances and an impressive blog at http://beyondbeowulf.blogspot.com/. He even made an appearance on a cable access show in Connecticut, in which his friend, Sam Waterston, the actor who plays Jack McCoy on television’s Law & Order, read from the book.
Webber recently shared some thoughts on writing, publishing and promoting Beyond Beowulf.
What inspired you to write Beyond Beowulf?
I'm fascinated by the SOUND of the original, Beowulf, both in Old English and in translation and began by trying to do my own translation of Beowulf. I'm still not satisfied with that, but I became very aware of the unanswered question at the end: "What will become of us now that Beowulf is dead?" and thought someone after all these years should try to provide an answer.
Were you ever intimidated when you thought “I’m writing a sequel to one of the classics of ancient literature?”
I probably should have been! But I don't remember ever stopping to think about it. If I had, I might have stopped right there!
You’ve written the story as an epic poem, emulating the original. What lead you to that decision? Did you consider writing the story in a different form?
No. I had a correspondence once with a distinguished professor who believes the best translation of Beowulf is a prose translation. I simply don't understand that. Beowulf survived because of the sound of the poetry. A sequel that used some other format would not really be a sequel worth talking about.
Was writing it in that form challenging?
Actually, I think the form made it easier. The need to alliterate made it necessary to ponder word choice more deeply than I might otherwise have done and the alliteration often seemed to suggest the direction the story might take.
What kind of feedback have you received on the book so far? You’ve had a number of readings/signings so far. How have those gone?
I think most authors have had the same experience I have had: a range of audiences from very small to reasonably large. The smallest consisted of the bookstore owner and his parents! But even there, I enjoyed the opportunity to discuss the book with an intelligent audience. The largest audience was probably fifty to a hundred. Reading poetry is always enjoyable. If my book were a technical manual or "how to" type of book, I think I would get bored. But good poetry like good music can be often repeated and enjoyed.
You received the Publisher’s Choice designation from iUniverse. What was your impression of the iUniverse process?
My first impression of iUniverse was very favorable. The people I worked with were prompt to respond and always helpful and supportive. The Publisher's Choice project has been less satisfactory. I was told I was being given the designation in July or August and that it would take "2 or 3 weeks." In fact, it was November before it began to move and I have only today been able to send off the necessary forms to complete the application process.
How did you arrive at the cover design? Was that something you contributed or did iUniverse create that?
I had a picture of a warrior's helmet from a book I had read about archaeological exploration of burial mounds in East Anglia that seem to indicate links with Sweden. I sent them that picture (with other suggestions) and they did the rest. I didn't much like their original color scheme so they changed it. I liked the result a lot. When they wanted to redesign the cover for Publisher's Choice designation they changed the title type face and placement and I'm less satisfied than with the original.
You mention on your blog that Sam Waterston did a reading with you on a cable access show. How did that all come about? What kind of reaction did you get to the show?
I've heard from a lot of people in the area that saw it and were very interested. I’ve come to know Sam Waterston through my involvement over the last dozen years with an Episcopal congregation in Connecticut that he’s part of. It seemed to me that his name would get more attention than mine and he, always generous, was willing.
Are you working on additional writing projects?
People have asked me whether I intend to do a sequel to the sequel. In fact, what I've begun working on is what I call a "paraquel." What I thought it would be interesting to do is tell the same story again from the viewpoint of the hero's wife, Yrfa. Wiglaf is the hero of my story and the only character carried over from the original. Since Wiglaf dies at the end of my sequel, I thought it might be interesting to begin from that point and let her talk about her bereavement and then review their life and relationship. I've done about 500 lines so far toward a goal of 3000 plus (same as Beowulf and Beyond Beowulf). I find that Yrfa is more interesting than I had realized with very strong views about male/female relationships and the male proclivity for war. I've also begun to notice that their son, Weo, inherited just the wrong mix of his parent's best qualities and is potentially a rather nasty piece of work. But we shall see how that develops.
What I'm thinking of doing is completing this paraquel and then polishing my translation of Beowulf, the original, and then publishing "The Beowulf Trilogy" in one volume.
Meanwhile I have one proposal sitting on a publisher's desk. He's indicated interest but asked me to flesh it out some more - which will take time. I've got another project well along and several other ideas I hope to be able to work on before much longer. Having had three books published this year, I'm feeling as if there isn't as much happening right now. On the other hand, I have a pretty busy schedule of readings on my calendar.
Folio's Kleinman Discusses
Finn, First Impressions
It’s impossible to get that first novel published.
At least, it seems that way. Of course, some how, some way, a select few manage to get it done. Elizabeth Kostova broke records when her debut novel, The Historian, was picked up by Little, Brown. A few posts back on this very blog, I interviewed Jon Clinch, whose first novel, Finn, will come out with Random House in February.
Clinch’s agent is Jeff Kleinman of Folio Literary Management, so I decided to touch base with Mr. Kleinman to see what first attracted him to Clinch’s novel and to garner some advice for first-time authors on how to overcome the obstacles.
While Folio is just about a year old, Kleinman and his founding partners, Paige Wheeler and Scott Hoffman, are all veterans of the publishing industry. Kleinman was with the Graybill and English Literary Agency before starting Folio.
While putting together the Finn post, I visited Folio’s website at http://www.foliolit.com/. The site contains a step-by-step guide to getting published here: http://www.foliolit.com/stepbystep.php. I encourage everyone to check it out. As part of the guide, Folio encourages novelists to seek recognition for their work prior to submitting it. Now, they’re really talking about getting short stories published in magazines and submitting for awards that recognize unpublished work, might racking up some awards and some sales via a Print-On-Demand effort help establish an author’s track record as well? I decided to ask:
Step 1B for fiction says "Publish! Win awards, grants. Try to give the appearance of a writer whose career is really taking off. Bottom line, though: the book, and the writing, must stand on its own. If the book's fabulous enough, you don't need any further credentials."
I assume you’re talking about publishing short stories in literary magazines and the like, but does an award-winning (IPPYs, Foreword magazine for instance) POD book fit into this category as well?
It may, but the problem with POD and self-publishing is that it hasn't been validated by a third-party. So "award-winning" is great, as are great sales figures. You need to give the impression that *other* people are as excited about your work as you are.
My partner, Paige, gets a number of newly published authors who have written smaller books and are looking to ramp up their career. Some of these books have won awards. Also, a number of genres sponsor awards for unpublished authors and we look at those as well--it shows the author is really committed to writing, learning the craft and getting publicity.
What is your impression if an author first publishes his or her work with a POD company (iUniverse, Booksurge, Authorhouse, Lulu)?
If you self-publish your book, then you'll get your own ISBN - which will allow everyone to track how the book is selling. This may make selling the book to a traditional publisher more difficult if the book doesn't do that well; and the sales of that first book may reflect on the publishing chances for subsequent books. So if you publish the book yourself, then you may need to demonstrate that you have the wherewithal to market and sell the book successfully, too - which can be an uphill battle.
Then again, if the book is truly *terrific*, agents and editors will certainly fight for the chance to work on it - so on some level it always boils down to the book itself.
Do you get a lot of queries from self-published authors? Have you ever agreed to represent one and, if so, what type of success did you have with it?
I do get a lot - probably 20 or 30 a week. I've never represented one, though, although other people at my agency did, and did great with them - so it certainly *can* work.
My partner, Scott Hoffman, told me, "I'd say that the majority of queries we get from people whose books have been printed have worked with POD publishers, rather than self-publishing. The only authors I've signed who self-published were John Baur and Mark Summers, the authors of PIRATTITUDE: So You Want to Be a Pirate? Here's How! The book is doing fabulously, and is in its 5th printing since publication last September. I'd say maybe 3-5% of the queries I get are from authors whose books have been in print before. Occasionally, publishers have to see that there's a real market for a book before they'll take a chance on it themselves."
Paige has taken on a few – she handles a lot of genre books, and many genre authors decide to go the self-publishing route as they learn their craft. She represented Kate Wendleton, for example, and sold a five book "career series" for her.
Do sales figures for a self-published book carry any weight as far as whether you would represent it or not?
Yes, to some extent, see above. But we’re all really looking for great writing and are willing to try to get around poor sales figures if we fall in love with an author's work. Conversely, if an author has terrific sales numbers, that will definitely grab our attention.
What impact, if any, has POD made on your business?
I think POD has had virtually no effect on our business, but it's been successful for authors whose books are commercial, but appeal to a fairly limited or specialized audience.
Moving away from the POD questions, how did you discover Jon Clinch and Finn? What attracted you most to the book? What do you look for from a first-time novelist?
Jon was a referral from another client of mine, who runs Backspace, a fabulous writers’ website. She emailed me and told me that the site was “buzzing” about the opening pages of Jon’s novel, which he’d posted online. I read the first few pages on my TREO phone, sitting in the middle of a conference (OK, it wasn’t that exciting a conference), and emailed him immediately, asking for the rest. He hadn’t written the rest, but he emailed me what he’d done. I read the material immediately and sent him a retainer agreement within seconds – and then sat around biting my nails waiting for him to sign it.
The novel starts out with a bang: not only a gorgeous, surprising opening, but a wonderful, unique voice and an unstoppable premise, and characters that were familiar and new all at the same time. What attracted me most about the book? No clue. I think it was all of those things, wrapped into one luscious package, that had me on pins and needles from the get-go.
From a first-time novelist I guess I’m looking for precisely what Jon delivered: great writing, fabulous premise, dazzling characters, and a wonderful, wonderful read.
What other upcoming releases are you most excited about?
Brendon Burchard's Life's Golden Ticket is going to be Harper SF's biggest new author release. It's already broken records for 1st novel advances in several territories (with sales in 16 countries), and Harper's planning a HUGE first printing and a big author tour.
Also, Brent Ghelfi's Volk's Game is going to be Holt's biggest novel of the summer, with a 10 city author tour, a big british and german sales, and lots and lots of potential for a debut novel.
Pam Jenoff's The Kommandant's Girl is also generating tons of buzz, with starred reviews all over the place.
We have a number of mystery series that have taken off--Casey Daniels’ second book, following Don of the Dead, called The Chick and the Dead will be out in March.
Kate Kingsury, who has been on the Independent Mystery Bestseller list for the month of December with Slay Bells, will have another mystery out next Christmas.
USA Today bestselling author Julianne MacLean will have her next book, Surrender to a Scoundrel, out this January and it has already garnered fabulous reviews.
Charles Shields’ New York Times bestseller Mockingbird comes out in paperback in June.
Finn expands or elaborates on an established storyline. Anything in particular that attracts you to this type of material either as an agent or as a reader?
It’s certainly an area that interests me, as a reader. I love the idea of taking a familiar setting or characters and going somewhere new and special with them – giving me a new perspective not just on the new work, but on the original work, as well.
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