Thursday, March 31, 2011

EBook Quality Control

Guys, this is going to seem like shameless self-promotion. But it's not. Because it's Ann Rockley saying these things, not me. And see, I'm I'm shamelessly promoting...both of us?

Oh, whatever. Don't you judge me...what're you doing? Writing a query letter?!?! AKA shamelessly self-promoting your BOOK!?

Pshaw. Whatevs.

If you want to self publish a book (you+Amazon/BN/Smashwords=book!, not the ePublisher model--see here), you have to code it.

You can't just save it as a webpage or upload the doc to Amazon, etc. I'm sorry, you just can't. Ann lists some common problems she's seen in ebooks in the link above. I've seen some crazy crap too. More than that, I've worked through those problems. Like why Amazon doesn't understand the italic command on page 4, but it does on page 97. Oh, it's because I didn't close that one tag...blargh.

Hiring someone to format your ebook seems expensive. It seems like an extra step. It's not. There are a lot of awesome people out there that can help you. I can. Joshua Tallent can, and has been an invaluable resource as I've learned the ropes. Ann's company does it. Lots of others, too. Hire one of us.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


There was a Comment Section Debacle yesterday on a book reviewer's blog. If you haven't heard about it already, let's just say it involved some pretty defensive reactions from an author whose book got mixed (not bad) reviews. And other commenters thrashed her for it. She was acting cray-cray. But the incredibly hostile reaction was ill advised too.

Neither our disgruntled author nor the self-righteous backlashers were in the right. Both trounced online best practices--you know, the ones where you don't get too personal with questions or overshare or post your bachelorette party pictures. Or freak out on people. Sarah Fine has a great post on the psychology of it all.

Yesterday's display points to a serious tendency among online media users to be short-sighted and self-centered. We're all guilty of it. We're getting used to feeling entitled to say whatever's on our mind: broadcasting with the sense that someone out there must care, and that our opinion matters, even if it's adding nothing to a discussion where the same sentiment has been expressed ad nauseum (They don't, It doesn't). Protected by the quick pace and relative anonymity of the web (getting no response to a tweet or status update is much different than, say, telling a joke at a party and getting crickets), we live more stream-of-consciousness than ever. Stream-of-our-own-consciousness, that is.

Getting outside our own heads is important for a lot of reasons. First off, as I have previously advocated, making content relevant to your audience means thinking of their needs, not just yours. That's about building a following, a brand, etc.

But besides being a good PR/marketing move, taking a step outside of ourselves, as real-world interaction forces us to do, makes us considerate of others and temperate in our reactions. That's about being human.

Don't forget that those avatars represent people, people.

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Lovely Little Bookend

Publisher's Weekly has a nice article today about the ways that agenting is going "Untraditional," which we've been discussing here...and everyone's been discussing everywhere else. I like to think we were first though, intrepid readers. (Allow me my delusions)

As a small recap, we've decided that there are two types of straight-to-electrons publishing: self-publishing (author+Amazon/Smashwords/etc.=book!) and ePublisher (traditional publishing, but online).

There are benefits and drawbacks to each, one of the major issues being who does all the post-sale stuff: covers, interior, coding, marketing, royalty analysis. Etc.

If you self-publish, you do so with the understanding that "self" is the operative word. You're doing all that stuff. You're doing all this analysis. You're in control, you keep a whopping 70% of the money you make. Could be a sweet deal. But by this time, enough people have told you that Amanda Hocking is an anomaly, including Amanda Hocking, that I don't have to.

Few writers make money self-publishing. Not because self-published authors are incapable of marketing themselves or even the fact that there are millions of self-published books, although that's a factor for sure. It's because after maintaining your day job (which you should do), cooking dinner, doing the laundry, and kissing your kiddies (or, insert family member/pet here), there's no time to dedicate to the post-pub.

When people get in that situation--when they need something done but can't do it effectively themselves, they pay someone to do it. Lawyers. Hairdressers. Accountants. Literary Agents. Publishers. It's not about whether writers can do it--you can, with enough time. It's whether you should. Is it best for your career to bear the full-time job that is getting a book effectively published and marketed? Can you keep doing it?

Agents aren't "making themselves needed" as one commenter put it. As I see it, we just are needed. Not for everyone, of course--plenty of people self-publish and are happy as clams about it. In fact, we're happy for them, too. But for everyone else, for whom writing and getting published are high emotional priorities, but low practical priorities, agents are the stopgap. Aside from the front-end stuff, being the "second pair of eyes," agents' job is to shepherd the book through the rest of its life.

But, really, if agents just don't resonate with you, if you really can't see the point, don't have one. Fortunately, you don't have to anymore.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Self-Publishing: The Agent: Follow Up

AWESOME questions, guys. I want to centralize my response so they're easier to find...and so they're not awkwardly cramped into the comments section.

A distinction that I should've made before:
There are two forms, as I see it, of self-publishing.

  1. One is the long established "Author+Amazon=BOOK."
  2. The rise of the "ePublisher" (we WILL talk about this more; what follows is just a snapshot)

There's a ton to be said about ePublishers but the most important things to remember:

  • They're new. A lot will change.
  • An ePublisher can never NEVER be monetarily associated with or a part of an agency. AAR would have our hides. So, in fact, would our authors.

Related to bullet two above: Agents and agencies make their money from AGENTING. Not anything else. You won't pay an agent to design your cover, and you won't pay them to find you someone who will (not directly, at least. Good cover=increased sales=more money from their commission, but that's sort of arbitrary.)

You can hire freelancers to do work like cover design. But if you do so without an agent, you do so without an advocate. Sure, you can get all up in your designer's grill if they don't produce something up to snuff. But you're just one client. They're not going under if you get mad, or even if you don't pay. A freelancer's relationship with an agent/agency is different. Those entities offer volume: hundreds of referrals are at stake if the agency takes their authors elsewhere. They're more likely to get it together, crash a project, or make a deal for that kind of risk.*

Point 3 about ePublishers:

  • Royalty/Advance structures aren't set in stone. Some deals do have advances, others use high royalty rates to offset a no-advance deal. Either way, the agent signs up for what you sign up for: if there's no advance, we don't get paid until the first royalty statement (but, with no advance to earn back, there should be immediate money).

So, blahblahblah, that's all fine--why are we back to a publisher again?! Isn't the point of self-publishing to get away from all of that???

If you feel that way, may I direct you to number 1, above. But here's what ePublishers are offering (the ones that will succeed, at least): Distribution.

In traditional publishing, distribution is what makes the Big Six "big." It means they get your books shipped to stores with favorable rates on shipping, etc. that minimize cost and maximize market penetration, maximize profit.

But this is the Internet, right? We've all got "distribution," Sally. Well, yes. But I italicized minimize cost above for a reason. Distribution is not only about getting the book on the shelf (digital or real). It's about doing it efficiently, with the lowest cost. ePublishers can do that because (to answer Livia's question), they do have special deals with online retailers. This is similar to the freelancer/agency relationship. Perseus is the largest distributor of independent publishers in North America. You think they have clout with Amazon and Apple? You bet.

Exactly what that clout will get ePublishers remains to be completely defined. But they will have special arrangements for royalty models, and more control over book pricing, not to mention other things that don't even have to do with price, like page placement. It's the equivalent of getting your book face-out or not in a bookstore. That was the publisher's doing, you know.

The ePublishers are just getting themselves launched. They make arrangements with agencies because they need work that's 1. vetted and 2. plentiful. They need content--a lot of it--in order to have clout with eRetailers--agencies offer an aggregation of hundreds of authors, thousands of books. Even a sole proprietor offers dozens of authors and books. For you, the author, getting into that pool means getting the best deal. Getting an agent (at an agency that's thinking about these things--question to ask people offering rep.) means getting into that pool.

Agents are able to see where ePublishers are getting it right and which ones to steer clear of. And, by the way, which books just need the ol' fashioned traditional publishing treatment. Authors are brilliant. They could do the research and figure out 90% of what agents know. But then there's still 10% advance info gleaned from contacts about new initiatives/companies/etc. that you'll never have access to. Not because publishing is "so insular," but because you're not in publishing. You don't have those relationships.

Agents have the full picture. They can strategize with you. That's what made them valuable in traditional publishing and even moreso now. With so much in flux, a lot stands to be gained by having a professional advocate, and a lot stands to be lost by going it alone.

But, you know...I'm biased.

*Are the agents/agency getting a kickback from these referrals? More thank likely not, although models for becoming more full-service are evolving. Always remember: the agent gets paid if you get paid. They've got your best interests at heart because it's their best interest. If you don't feel like that, you've got the wrong agent.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Self Publishing: The Agent

Agents today, if they have one forward-thinking bone in their body, consider self-publishing a viable option. It's a different model, for a lot of reasons (not least of which is no advance). But self-publishing has other advantages (not least of which is no advance). A decision to steer a client to self-publish involves a lot of factors.

Just the fact that there are a lot of variables sounds like a fine reason, to me, to have an expert involved. Yet I still hear a lot of grumbling about agents and earning commissions in a self-publishing model. Maybe I'm biased. Let's look at what's going on:

Before self-publishing was available, agents' most recognized "value added" was knowing the gatekeepers at a publishing house. Gatekeeper. Because that doesn't play a role, most authors chafe at the thought of paying someone a commission to handle their book.

(Now, there's a lot of other stuff an agent does, but authors typically aren't exposed to that until they have an agent. Then it's still frequently so behind-the-scenes that they don't know it's going on.)

Getting a book published, on a "shelf" (digital or real), is only step one. Self-publishing exposes authors to every single subsequent step. Distribution, for instance. Um, PRODUCTION?? Cover design? It also exacerbates longstanding challenges, like promo and marketing. Though everyone cries foul that publishers don't promote authors, they do cover some basics, like printing galleys to send for blurbs. Tweeting, even putting an author up on their site is helpful, for SEO if nothing else. Who takes on the rest of the promo effort? Agencies. Oh, and remember editing? And do you simply trust that Amazon is sending you the royalties you've earned?

^^Hopefully, that doesn't sound like too much for you to handle, intrepid self-publisher. Because it's only the vaguest outline of what goes into a book.

None of this is even getting into what I talk about as agents' "new responsibilities" as digital becomes a bigger and bigger deal. This is all what agents do on a regular basis today.

Do I need to say more?

Self Publishing: The Stigma

We know it's true because we all do it. Some poor soul mentions their book, forthcoming from PublishAmerica in fall 2011, and we all whip out the stank eye.

It's not an entirely unfounded bias, either. There're a lot of books online. Some of them are bound to be crap. But, as a couple of people pointed out in the comments last week, there's crap coming out of traditional publishing, too. Even some books lauded as "bestsellers," that make millions, have their detractors.

Self-publishing's been stigmatized because it seems to allow anyone to vomit something up there and drag us all down with 'em. There's no oversight, no gatekeeping. It's interesting, because complaints of unfair or erratic gatekeeping are perhaps the most common of those leveled against traditional publishing. (eyebrow: raised)

Self-publishing is coming into its own as a viable option for serious writers, and traditional publishing is actually leading that charge, primarily from the agenting side. Agents are a great legitimizing force for self-published authors because, in general, recognized experts raise the perceived value of a product. Raising the perceived value = eliminating stigma.

Self- and traditional publishing are not foes, and they're not either/or. That's why traditional publishing must-haves, like agents, aren't going anywhere. It's why, despite all predictions 5 years ago, publishing hasn't gone bankrupt and stopped printing physical books. It's ironic, but the most important people in self-publishing's journey to validity are traditional publishing professionals.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Self Publishing

There's a post from Editorial Anonymous from last week about whether you need an agent. I think it makes some great points. And by that I mean it makes one point: Yes, friend, you need an agent.

The one exception: "if you are an intrepid explorer yourself, of a patient and workmanlike nature; if you enjoy the research involved in plotting your own path through publishing, and are flexible about learning more as you go along, then you may not need an agent."

May not. Even if you are actually all of those things (and independently wealthy to boot--this research takes time, which you probably don't have between writing a book and, um, working.) you still only get a maybe on not needing an agent. Not wanting. Needing an agent.

This is probably frustrating to you. You say "But why should I be beholden to these keepers of the gilt publishing gates?!" I hear ya.

But the truth is that "booby-trapped and pathless jungles" doesn't even begin to describe publishing. Self-publishing is just as fraught with peril, if not more so (yes, I can defend this claim).

For our next series, I think it's useful to talk about agents and their role in the self-publishing world. I hope you guys will comment with some of your more pressing concerns on the matter.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Thank you, NYM

This is the perfect article:

It allows me to join in mocking the joke of a "news" outlet that is the NY Observer while also:

  1. Not having to write about sex on my professional blog (not done).
  2. Not linking to the joke of a "news" outlet that is the NY Observer. Because you read both NY Mag's funny, derisive article and The Observer'
  3. It's TRUE. And funny.

Phew. Not kidding, I've been debating this all day.
OK, let the playground revelry begin. Again.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Technology and Books.

Recently, I fielded a phone call from a woman who wanted to "get in touch with a literary agent." Le sigh. But, we get a lot of these. I (usually) know how to handle them. So I give her my usual shpeel about researching online, blahblah, queries, blahblah, QueryShark...and she interrupts me.

So at first I'm all "Gurrrrrllll..."

But then I realize what she's saying: She doesn't have a computer.

What? What do you mean, "no computer?" How do you email breathe? I was literally speechless for a second.

"Do you have a local library?" I asked. She harrumphed.

She went on to express frustration that her writing had to be "shoved into a computer" in order to get it looked at. I mumbled something about efficiency (which is actually a totally foreign concept to me) until she hung up. Not my finest phone moment.

My first instinct was to laugh. But this actually brings us to a crux of the current book world.

On a small scale, for agencies, the electronic vs hard copy debate is about equality. Email queries are preferred: they make no waste paper and, because agents are already addicted to looking at their email, they get answered faster. But we've found some good stuff in the hard copy queries; they shouldn't be frowned upon.

More broadly, tension between old and new, print and electronic, is palpable among a lot of readers. You know, the ones who don't want to shift to ebooks because they "like how the pages smell." Now, this is not me (I have no heart, so...). But it is a lot of other people.

Publishing is one of the oldest industries in the world. It's not quick to change. It's not on the vanguard of anything--except maybe cultural trends. We sort of like it that way. Yet this post, by a publishing person is tagged "technology." And it's on the interwebz!!

Publishing's next chapter is about new and old finally having to come to terms. I've made light, in the past, of the tendency to call digital initiatives "a brave new world." But that's actually not fair. It's reductive to scoff at that.

People who express discomfort and apprehension about publishing+tech aren't really being Luddites. What they're really reacting to is a very real fear that something essential to books, reading, and the noble art of publishing books, of promoting art and artists, will be lost. Or at least irrevocably changed. For the first time in hundreds of years.

And that's nothing to scoff at.

The reality is that books are going to change, maybe dramatically. The way people write and the expectations they have for their publishing journey will change. Readers' expectations will change (what do you mean, Jonathan Safran Foer, that I can't read TREE OF CODES on my KINDLE?!).

I think we should all be aware that, as exciting as all of this digital stuff is, print books have been moving us, deeply, for nearly six hundred years. That matters. It always will.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Neovella is a shiny new site that launched last month for collaborative writing--a concept I'm seeing more and more.

What I like:
  • As with brainstorming, I think mediums that force authors to release the death grip on their stories will allow pleasantly unexpected things to happen. I think we'll see creativity at its most unfettered.
  • It's social!
  • There are rules (you have to alternate turns every sentence) but not too many rules.
  • The site allows you to choose with whom you collaborate--or you can just collaborate with strangers. You've got control over who sees your work.
  • They're talking about selling on Amazon and paying authors!! Sweet. The more places to make moneyz writing, the better.
What I don't like, though, is that there doesn't seem to be much thought going into legal issues. Yes, it's understood that each coauthor holds copyright to the words they submit as soon as they type the first letter. This is true of all writing. So we know who owns what.

But when something collaborative gets monetized, there's bound to be conflict over who gets what--and Neovella purports to split royalties based on "the success of the web site and the given story." What about splits based on content? Do we divide based on who submitted the most sentences? Does the originator of the story, as the one who technically wrote the first copyrighted word and, it could be claimed, had "the idea," get a larger amount? What about conflict over quality of content? You *know* some all authors will feel like he/she carried the story.

Neovella won't be able to cover every conceivable conflict. Writers are just too creative. But they can track who submits what and pay accordingly. As for heading off the more complex issues, I think Neovella should consider the following:
  • Optional monetization. Just as you can choose with whom you collaborate, you should also be able to opt out of the Amazon program. Take $$ out of the equation, suddenly things get a lot less complicated.
  • Contracts. Neovella could make boilerplates available for story initiators to post with the opening line of the story. As you have to agree to terms and conditions before a program will install on your computer, you have to agree to the contract before being allowed to post. Users should be able to tweak the contract, submitting revisions for approval by the group before the story begins--no revisions after things are underway except by unanimous vote.
My advice: use with caution. Neovella is a great place for brainstorming and recreational writing. But anything you're planning to do more with/sell elsewhere--a character or world from your WIP, say--should be left for your eyes and those of your beta readers.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Blog Promo and Audience

OK, before we were so rudely interrupted on Wednesday, we were deep in conversation about blogs. How you have to have them and what to write on them, and what not to write on them. We are making so. much. progress.

Now, you've got this blog! It's your online brand-y-hub thing! You are crafting a message both personal and interesting to your audience!

Whoa. Audience? Who said anything about that?


Your audience, as you doubtless know, is numero uno. It's more important than your witty quips or cool stories. Plus, if you keep checking your comments and you've still only got that one from your mom asking about your change of address, we've you've got a problem.

Two things on audience: Who they are and how to get on their radar screen.

Both take a little legwork. Your blog has a topic--you don't only have to talk about that one thing, but it should constitute the majorty of your content. So research that topic! Google keywords and see what comes up. Take a look on Twitter to see who's talking about the things you're blogging about. Use this info to:
  1. See who should follow/friend/link to--as in other bloggers
  2. Decide how to tailor your posts and labels (at the bottom of blog posts) so that you include the keywords people most often search when looking for your topic. They're the intuitive ones. The ones you Googled. You're dabbling in SEO now!! You techy, you.

The people involved in the internet discussions you uncovered with your Googling are your core audience--they're already interested. Their followers/friends/readers are interested in what they're retweeting/posting/blogging--meaning they're valuable. They'll extend your "reach." Marketing lingo! Look at you...

Now you talks to them!! But before you start broadcasting your presence, hedge your bets a little. Get about a week's worth of your best material queued up to pose. You can take one of two routes:

  • Have a big launch day.
  • Just sort of ease onto the scene

The former is appropriate if you've got something you know people will want. I had some assurance that people would like the prizes I hawked offered on my launch day (thank you, btw!!), so this was a no brainer to me. I knew it would drive traffic and, through retweets, etc., that people would spread the word (THANK YOU!). Do you? Be creative now...and make sure it's not random. It needs to make sense in the context of your blog.

If you don't do a launch day, tha's cool. Just ease in there--post that week's worth of material before you start promoting yourself. But make sure your best, most interesting post is the one you post on the day you start buzzing about yourself. One that'll hook 'em, and get them clicking around your other posts. Doesn't hurt to cross link to your other posts, either.

When you're ready, just slide into the conversations you've been watching:

  • Twitter is the easiest place to do this. Make comments or retweet. Use hashtags. Don't be afraid to talk directly (@) people. You can link to your blog in your tweets, but also link to other sites that you find interesting. Be interesting/linky and not only will people follow you, but they'll check out your profile, which lists your blog (right???).
  • Other blogs are fantastic ways to get ideas for content or crosslinking. Someone say something you have Opinions about? Response blog and link to it. Mention your response, using the other person's handle, on Twitter. You can build on others' posts and, by linking to them, build a presence in the community.
  • Facebook. I don't know. Post a picture or something. Facebook is a weird and wild animal. It'll have it's own series here somewhere. Plus, I use mine only for personal use. You have to be careful with that. With all the pictures.
  • Quora. OMG this place is so underappreciated. People ask questions, other people answer them. It's a great place to build a platform and find things to blog about. The things people are asking about are the things that they'll want to read blog posts about.

So that's it! KNow that you'll do probably 5 hours of work up front, figuring out where your audience is and how to best talk to them. Expect that, and don't be discouraged. Your time investment will reduce as you find the most efficient means of talking to your readers. And as your readers start reblogging/retweeting you...doing your work for you. :)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Oh, The Observer. You're Silly.

I just interrupted writing an editorial letter (for a stellar manuscript that I pulled from the slush with my own grubby little hands) to write this response to The Observer's adorable little article on Publishing Assistants.

Because it's pissed me off. And not only because of the derogatory tone of the article, which derides publishing assistants' supposedly rampant "chatty notes on...personal stationery" and "affection" (bad?) for our bosses, imprints, and agencies.

In this article, the Observer paints a picture, for the most part, of any assistant in any industry:
forming "productive connections" with bosses (called "masters" in this article), cliquey, ambitious, hopeful. Hired for "their taste, their poise" and (?) "their pedigree."

The author then goes on to describe some less-than savory elements of a publishing assistant's job, all of which could again be applied to any assistant, in any industry. Chauvinism, problem clients, tasks-outside-the-job-description.

Then there's this gem: "the publishing assistant's duties have steadily declined on an asymptote toward the menial."
Because why? We don't spend all day, every day, reading "elite literary fiction?" Well f*#%ing duh. Here's the thing: neither do our "masters."
Neither does ANYONE in publishing.

I don't know what Ms. Stoeffel thinks of as the "meaningful work" that our masters are supposedly doing behind their gilded gatekeeper shields made of shattered author dreams, but very, very little of it is actually reading/editing. "Acquiring" a book is not a one step process, either. It involves myriad phone calls, emails, and numbers crunching. It involves, by the way, an editor's assistant.

So, here. At an agency. If we spent even a quarter of the day reading Elite Literary Fiction (or even reading queries), here's a short list of what wouldn't get done: calls to editors to follow up on (a sampling:) contracts, money, submissions; emails or calls to clients (yes, I TALK to the authors! OMGGG!!) to discuss the revisions I wrote at 3am or over the weekend; stifling leaks on major projects being shopped for film, TV, and foreign translation; Writing copy and pitches for books going on submission (editorial and (gasp) even publicity assistants have their own versions of this). And this is all ON TOP of the blog/article/Twitter (yes, friends, Twitter is research!) reading that has to get done in order to stay on top of what's going on in markets in which we're selling books (all of them) and who's moved to which imprint of whatever house today.

Does any of that sound menial? If so, I guess you're not cut out to be a publishing assistant, or any assistant, anywhere--because all assistants have similarly diverse tasklists. Maybe you should go write for the Observer.

To give her credit, Ms. Stoeffel did get it right. Once:
"Little of their workday is left to discover the next Lorrie Moore; to read the thousands of manuscripts you have to mine to find The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, they sacrifice their weekends."

Yes. This is totally true. I don't know how late publicists/marketing/production works, but it's probably not exactly 9-5. But everyone. EVERYONE on the acquiring side of publishing (editorial for the houses and us at agencies) reads/edits/revises at night and on the weekends. Because our work days are filled with the other stuff that has to get done to get a book published. Because we love books and are willing to read 1. after hours and 2. a lot of crap to find The One.

I'm confused where any of that translates to "menial" or unimportant or yes-man-ish as Stoeffel implies. Hmm.

But I should get back to fetching coffee...err...wait. Actually that's a phone call about a pending film deal. Oh, and don't forget the client call at 1 to discuss a proposal...oh, and that editorial letter that got interrupted with this crazy article.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Stuff That Really Doesn't Go On Ze Blog

Some things are just not interwebz material.

People may debate excerpts on ze blog. I'll reiterate here what I said in yesterday's comments: excerpts are usually part of a sales strategy. This assumes the book is for SALE (or orderable), whether via traditional or self publishing. If it's not pushing people to buy (NOW) or preorder, your excerpt is wasted. In my opinion and many others'.

But barring your copyrighted content, anything is blog fodder! Blog your LIFE! Your PASSIONS!! Right?!?!

YES. Well, no. Almost.

Just because you're blogging about "your life/passions" doesn't mean you don't have to filter. Someone likened blogging to "reality TV" and "car crashes" in the comments, because it's raw and emotional and you can't look away. Eh...not really.

"Feelings" don't belong on your blog. OK, half of them do. The "YAY This awesome thing!!" or "How cool is this?!" feelings are great for blogging. But the feelings that I most associate with car crashes and Reality TV (regret, sadness, anger, etc.) should never make their way onto the internet--anywhere.

Back to the brand. While no one is happy/professional all the time, your blog/Twitter/Facebook should read like you are. Moments when you're down are moments when you need your friends around you, yes. You just need to TAWLK. But your Twitter followers and blog readers are not your friends (barring the ones that were friends first). They're your Twitter followers and your blog readers.

You love them, but it's, like, meta-love. It's binary code love. Not suitable for heavy emotional stuff--too much is lost in translation. Just think about all those text messages that have come across wrong at one time or another. Do you really want that happening on an interwebz scale?? No.

Monday, March 7, 2011

You Want To "Blog," Not "Ruin Your Career."

So you've claimed every online patch of grass that you can slap your name on. Right? What? You didn't immediately do so after reading the last post?? Well.

The top reason people resist the blogosphere (futile, btw, as resistance generally is) is that "they don't have time," which I tried to address in the last post--get a schedule, queue your posts up. Do what you can--three times a week isn't too hard (no, no it's not).

The second most popular reason is closely related: Coming up with something to say is hard--it takes time. You have to think...

And, really, do we need another writer blogging about their daily wordcount or their submission process? Is anyone interested in that?! No. No, they're not. Good instinct.

Think in terms of your brand again. Brands have specific messages, tailored to specific audiences. Successful brands sell product to audiences that are interested in consuming that product--they don't waste time talking about what their audience isn't interested in (*cough cough* your personal writing experience).

Blog about something you're passionate about. This will come across sincerely, and you'll have plenty to say--content won't be difficult. For me, it's the intersection of technology and publishing.


I don't because there's not time for that. But it's easy for me to find topics because it's where my mind gravitates naturally.

But, I'm passionate about WRITING, you say. Um, OK. But you're going to have to have some specificity, or risk becoming another one of "those" writer/bloggers. With no followers and no commenters

Ask yourself this question:

What do you like writing about? Are you fascinated by your characters' psychology, like Sarah Fine? Are you intrigued by court life in Regency England? For nonfiction, what's your premise? Fashion? Politics? Fashion in Regency England?! Blog about these topics--they're your voice, and they're what you love.


But continue to exercise caution. You have to keep your novelling/nonfic-ing SEPARATE from your blogging. Why? Because the book is (one of the) product(s) you're hawking--ideally to the same audience who finds your blog so clever. If you've said all you want to say on your blog, why would a publisher pay just to compile it? Why would readers pay for what you've already given them?!

Which brings me to the question of excerpts on the blog. NO!! NO, NO, NO!!!! No! Don't put writing you intend to sell on the interwebz for free. Not only are you putting it out there with only the minimum legal protections against intellectual theft, but you're undermining your book in the long run.

Build a following for yourself, separate from your book by blogging about the topics that prompted you to write a book. It's one step removed from your writing. This means that your blog readership is interested in you + your book. It's the best possible scenario: readers want to consume both products.

Win. Win. #Winning?

Author Blogs

Viewers here have expressed a lot of interest in talking about blogs. Do we have to? Why? Really?? What goes on the blog? What doesn't? All good questions.

To address the first question: Yes. You do have to. A blog is the easiest way to brand yourself. You control the content, you control the impression and personality that you're sending out. It's really important to create an online persona--a brand--that's separate from your personal life. Recognizing a distinct line between who you are online and who you are in person is vital to avoiding the "oversharing" faux pas that plague social media users. We'll talk more about that, too.

Your blog serves as your hub. You can direct people from your Twitter, Facebook, etc. back to your blog for contact information, info on how to buy your products (even unpublished, you're selling something--don't be fooled), and a cohesive view of who you are. Things get really fragmented out on the Twittersphere.

Of course, the major drawback is that the blog doesn't post stuff on its own (Conspiracy??? I think so.), which means you have to develop a posting schedule and stick to it. Three times a week is pretty ideal. Less than that and things just look sparse.

How to get started: claim and create some blogs (, for instance). Then write up a few posts--maybe two weeks worth--and schedule them to post automatically when you're ready. That'll give you some cushion as you get into the rhythm. Of course, if brilliance strikes, you can insert the post in place of a scheduled one. Then you'll just have a post saved up for a rainy, uninspired day.

Tomorrow: Blog Content. Avoid word vomit. And ruining your career.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Contest Winners!

Everyone, thanks for the HUGE response on Monday to La Vie's launch. I'm excited, I'm glad to see you guys are too. You had some great ideas and requests. Here are a couple that I'm looking to feature soon:

Rena at 6:13am had a great idea for a chat session. There are a lot of these out there already, especially on Twitter, but I'd like to get one going as well. Maybe Twitter, maybe not.

A bunch of people asked about blogs: how to start them, build them, what to put on them. That's a broad topic that we'll cover a lot. So thanks to Linsey @ 7:33, Jodi @7:42, Amy at 7:41, and MaryBK @9:23 for mentioning. And to someone I'm sure I missed.

Jenn M @7:39 mentioned illustration-heavy books and what sorts of things are popping up to enhance their already rich interfaces online. The answer: AWESOME stuff.

RelicDefender @1:48 asked about the way that different genres are reacting to the online world. There are a lot of genre-specific sites and developments. We'll get into those.

The Winners!
  1. Aimee @ 6:58am--short fiction markets are expanding due to the rise of online journals, etc. A lot of writers write both long and short form, so talking about selling your short stuff is of interest to many. And surprisingly pitfall heavy.
  2. ElizaFaith @7:33--Choose Your Own Adventure books. My head exploded. So. Many. Options.
  3. Tracey @ 1:28--Piracy. Obviously, important topic. I think I'll probably have some surprising opinions on the matter.
Winners, email me at the proseblog email! Let me know whatcha want.

Thanks guys!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Few Of My Favorite Things

This is my favorite band! :D They broke up last year. D:

...But wait, you say. That's not a band. That's a scrambled up...something.
But you're wrong, I say! That's a QR code, and it's the next big thing.
To use it (you have to have a smart phone--sorry, luddites!):
  1. Download "Inigma" or search "QR Reader" in your app store/marketplace.
  2. Open that app. You'll see a box or something that says "center code" or something along those lines.
  3. Point your camera at the QR code on the computer screen and center it in the box you see.
  4. In some apps, you may have to click or tap to get it to capture, but Inigma will scan it automatically.
  5. OMG YOU'RE ON A WEBSITE! It's magic.
Well, OK. Not "magic." But it's close. These codes are super easy to generate, and they make it very easy for people to access complicated URLs. No worrying about forgetting or misspelling. Which makes them great for PR and marketing--although they're usually displayed places where you can't click a link (like a postcard or sticker) instead of on a computer. I think their applications in book promo are endless.

More of my favorites!

My sister

My Former Life


Isn't this "knowledge" stuff FUN?!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Blog Selling

Book Bloggers, you may just have been recognized as the integral part of the industry that you are.

It's hand selling 2.0. It's Blog Selling.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

All That "Digital Stuff": The Basics

No, no--wait! Don't leave. I promise to have contest winners announced...before it's the weekend. Come on, stay...

I came across a tweet yesterday from Anthony De Rosa (@AntDeRosa) linking to a sparring match between Macolm Gladwell and Clay Shirky. The basic argument? What is the #$*$%#@ point of social media (SM)?

Gladwell says SM is an innovation but perhaps it doesn't "Matter," so much. Twitter and Facebook don't solve appreciable real world problems. They're nice, but...they did give us Farmville.

I suppose I see the point. But I lean more towards Shirky's argument. Using recent political uprisings as examples, he points to ways that SM and digital platforms (phones, for ex.) have changed the playing field in a lot of games. I think Egypt is a fine example. The protests in London earlier this year made extraordinary use of Google Maps.

Those are extreme examples. But I'd be hard pressed to find any aspect of our current culture that hasn't been revolutionized by SM and its portability on digital platforms. Does that "Matter?"

Yes. I think it does.

Social media is not about what problems it solves/what it can do for you. Mostly, it's just about making friends and utilizing the incredible economies of scale that having thousands of friends create (word-of-mouth, anyone?). But SM and digital content (apps) are also about solving the problems you didn't even know you had. Using someone else's brain labor.

Apps come out and people smack their heads--how did they live before they could Yelp? Before being able to download a flashlight onto their phone! And why didn't I think of that?! Chuck Wendig got a chili recipe off Twitter, for goodness' sake. He COULD HAVE STARVED!

SM puts you in touch with experts you'd never have access to otherwise in an environment where questions and exchange of ideas can be nonthreatening. Noncreepy (I know you can do it). Digital platforms make SM mobile and, through apps, make experts' creations easily accessible.

If that's not revolutionary...