Aug 042006
 

it looks like I’m going to beat my deadline, will my publisher move up my pub date?

Probably not. It might happen if there was a compelling reason, a breaking news story, for instance, but for the most part your publisher’s resources are allocated among any number of books, and your publisher has to coordinate editorial, author review, production, and sales and marketing for every title (and staff is finite). Not to mention that the retailer expects to see you on a specific date as well.

It doesn’t hurt to be early: you get a great rep, you have plenty of time for editorial development, but you probably won’t speed up publication.

Aug 022006
 

Young-gun editor, novelist and blogger, Jason Pinter, blogs on agents who can’t keep up with his recent move. Linked.

Ouch. *

I’ve missed some folks who’ve recently changed houses by a hair here or there myself, it happens, but not like this. And I’m the prototypical agent from podunk, so if I can keep track of this anyone can.

With the advent of a little something called the Internet we have all sorts of tools at our disposal, should we choose to use them.

When I started out 16 years ago we kept everything on index cards and charted moves from Publisher’s Weekly. Now, Publisher’s Marketplace has become the gold standard for keeping up with moves, and you can always check Vista Publishing Industry Moves for free (!) updates and a free (!) newsletter.

* a client asked if this was me. No, I don’t know Jason and I haven’t pitched him anything, but I can still feel a little pain for the agent in question. The way I work I almost always send an email query ahead of the actual proposal, so I haven’t actually mailed a hardcopy to someone who was gone already, but I have pitched folks by email who may have just moved. Many agents don’t send queries ahead of time but I find that it saves time and I can focus on the editors who are truly interested in a project. It used to be that email was verboten but not so much anymore. Caution: don’t do this at home, find yourself an agent.

  •  August 2, 2006
  •  Posted by at 8:27 am
  •   Comments Off on Worthless Agenting, from Jason Pinter
  •   Author Tips
Jun 282006
 

You’d think these tips would be obvious but both came up for me today.

1) Please use only one email address, preferably something that sounds professional, ala “yourname(at)yourIsp.com.” It looks bad if your email address keeps changing, and maybe even worse if your preferred email is “hotmama(at)hotmail.com. Try not to confuse prospective agents or publishers first thing out the gate.

Use the same sort of email address you would use if you were applying for a loan. You want people to take you seriously, right?

2) If you’re sending equeries to multiple agents or publishers, please use common sense and add their addresses to your spam blocker ahead of time.

I’m sorry but I won’t fill out the form online just to tell you I’m passing on your idea. And if I’m on the fence, having to jump through hoops will definitely kill any buzz I have for your project.

  •  June 28, 2006
  •  Posted by at 11:40 am
  •   Comments Off on How not to find an agent, part 2
  •   Author Tips
Jun 262006
 

I’m entirely okay with equeries.

Feel free to email me a query any day of the week and I’ll get back to you pretty quickly, though usually with a no, I’m afraid.

That’s our siren song, you can hear agents in the distance whispering “it’s not a good fit for me, perhaps another agent will feel differently…”

But if you Bookblast me, you won’t hear even my no. Here’s why —

1) You just sent an email to hundreds of agents, meaning

2) you have no clue who you’re submitting to, meaning

3) you’re not willing to do the research yourself to find an appropriate agent for your work, meaning

4) you’re unlikely to find an agent who gives a damn what you’re writing about, meaning

5) I’m not going to take the time to send you a personal email either, meaning,

special bonus #6) you’ve probably just wasted $95.

Hey, Writer Beware blogged about this earlier this year.

I think it’s great that writers can use the web to find an agent. Our contact info and preferences litter the web, from Everyone Who’s Anyone, to Preditors and Editors, to Agent Query. Best of all is probably Publisher’s Marketplace.

Lots of these sites are free. My advice is to use them.

Jun 222006
 

The Unconference for Dummies Authors.

Fun idea. It will be great if they can generate some media for the authors in attendance.

I’m speaking Saturday, November 4, from 1:15 to 2:15. I’m to explain my “services and answer author questions.”

I’m looking forward to it, I’m born to schmooze. Unfortunately, I’m just there for the day as we’ll have a new arrival here and my “services” will be required at home.

  •  June 22, 2006
  •  Posted by at 8:09 am
  •   Comments Off on The Unconference for Dummies Authors has a web-site
  •   Author Tips
May 242006
 

A murder of crows? An exclamation of editors?

When it comes to collective plurals you can add an “unconference of Dummies authors,” scheduled for November 3-5, 2006 at the Hilton Hotel in San Francisco.

Conference organizer, “for Dummies” author Dr. Alan Rubin, has spearheaded a unique event that will include multiple author book-signings (limited to 45 authors overall) and informational panels (how to land a Dummies contract? What goes with yellow and black?). The schedule is sure to be filled out soon.

I’ll be on the agent panel Saturday November 4 (I’m told the topic is “What are agents good for?!?”).

If you’d like to attend and/or participate in book signings and/or sessions, please contact Alan asap. His contact info is here. Alan has specifics on cost but it sounds to me like they’re only charging enough to book the venue.

I’m told that multiple Wiley execs and editors will also attend.

I like the idea that these authors are banding together to create a sort of media magnet and PR opportunity for the brand. Good luck!

The rough schedule —

Friday, November 3rd
8-9:30 PM No-host cocktail reception

Saturday, November 4th
9-10:30 PM Titles, contracting
10:30-10:45 Teas and coffee break
10:45-12:15 Marketing

1:15-2:15 Agents
2:30-3:30 Breakout sessions-5
3:30-4:30 Breakout sessions-5
4:30-4:45 Tea and coffee break
4:45-5:45 Breakout sessions-5

2:30-3:30 Groups of authors at bookstores
3:30-4:30 Groups of authors at bookstores
4:30-5:30 Groups of authors at bookstores

6:45-7:30 No-host cocktail reception

7:30 Supper

Sunday, November 5th
9-10:30 Ask the Expert
11-12:30 Ask the Expert

  •  May 24, 2006
  •  Posted by at 8:16 am
  •   Comments Off on The “for Dummies” Authors’ Unconference
  •   Author Tips
Apr 262006
 

I left out Amazon Forums yesterday, and most of the forums I’ve looked at recently were relatively quiet, but on listening to Bart Ehrman discussing his Misquoting Jesus on Fresh Air this morning I had to check out the Amazon page, and found a relatively active forum discussion, pretty much what you’d expect for a book that is sure to raise some controversy.

I haven’t seen any authors participating on the forums yet but I’m sure they’re out there.

Apr 252006
 

I spend lots of time at Amazon and I can see that the web 2.0 features keep coming. It’s a good time for all authors to think about what “web 2.0” means and what they can do to foster their own success in a world where user generated content and user interactivity rule the web, and more importantly, the web-store. (Here’s O’Reily’s definition of Web 2.0, link)

Amazon has an increasing number of features that authors can take advantage of to sell more books and create a bigger “footprint” on the site.

Amazon Blogs

More authors are creating Amazon blogs and I’m sure the good ones are generating sales as a result. The main key to writing an Amazon blog is not overdoing it: that is, you have to understand that your readers are here to buy a book not read a blog, and you need to write accordingly. This is not the place for long drawn out entries about your personal life or about the process of writing your next book. This is the place to put your book in context for readers who might be looking at your competition. A great place to start is “Why I wrote this book.”

Noah Lukeman, the literary agent, has a good one for his new book, A Dash of Style: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation.

The Amazon blog really gives you an unprecedented direct connection to your reader. This is your chance to stand next to your reader at the bookstore. The key is to be polite and not screw it up!

Don’t like the cover copy? fix it in your Amazon blog. Feel that you’re seeing malicious or wrong-headed reviews? address them in your blog. But one caution, take your time when you post to Amazon and treat it much more formally and carefully than you do your regular blog. The last thing you want to do is create a flame-war on your Amazon author page.

Personally, I don’t like the fact that they’ve emailed any blogs, I think it’s better that blogs stay where they belong, on the customer page and out of the customer’s in-box.

Who’s your competition?

Amazon has a relatively new feature that tells you what your customers are ultimately buying, although it’s not enabled on all pages. Joe Wikert blogged about this recently and I think he has a good point: this feature may work to the greater benefit of bestsellers as shoppers may instinctively buy the book that others have already purchased with the feeling that other shoppers have some better info, and otherwise act like lemmings. (Here’s Joe’s post, Amazon’s “What Do Customers Ultimately buy…” Feature link)

Customer behavior info also gives you a good sense of what you need to address in your Amazon blog. It’s critical that you look at the books that your lost customers are buying and try to figure out if you’re losing customers for reasons intrinsic to your book (your book really isn’t the right book for that person) or reasons due to presentation (your blog might be able to address those issues, deal with malicious reviews, etc.).

Listmania, and “So You’d Like To”

This is one place where Amazon was an early Web 2.0 pioneer. By allowing their customers to post reviews, lists and essays on the site, Amazon enabled a huge source of free content and free advice. Likewise, except for maybe wanting to avoid appearing too mercenary, there is nothing preventing you from creating your own lists or “So You’d Like To” essays on Amazon. The more impressions your book makes, the better you’re going to do. Again, the trick is to transcend sales and marketing hype and give customers information that is ultimately useful.

AmazonSpace?

Okay, this one is kind of cheesy and Amazon isn’t about to overcome MySpace as a social networking site anytime soon, but I’ve noticed an increase in “AmazonFriends” and I note that AmazonFriends often review the same books or albums. If you find a tight community of AmazonFriends that review in your category it might not be out of line to reach out for a review.

AmazonShills

There are plenty of these too, reviewers that review for the sake of free books, paid PR programs, and the like. Sure, they can boost your stars and most readers probably don’t notice them for what they are but as customers become more educated I think they will. I almost always check a reviewer’s background to get an idea of where they’re coming from, what else they’ve reviewed, etc. and you should assume your customers are doing the same. it’s great to start out with five star reviews no matter what, but long term reviews from relatively disinterested reviewers are the best.

Amazon Shorts

I don’t see these taking off yet but again this is another way to improve your footprint and presence at Amazon and certainly ebook sales will increase at some point. The tech market at least is seeing an increase in ebooks and pdf beta books and this is a good sign of things to come….eventually. (I consider this a 2.0 feature because you don’t really need a publisher or agent to get to your readers through Amazon shorts, you can publish here directly.)

Wikis and Tags and Bears, Oh My

Areas where I haven’t seen much activity yet but they bear watching. I’m still confused by tags but it won’t surprise me if Amazon comes up with some sort of cloud view soon, and I do tend to surf clouds when I see them. The wikis seem underpopulated and underutilized so far, but this also could change again too as customers become more accustomed to wikis (and consider the ramp up to blog usage so far).

Added after my post: this link will take you to Amazon’s “most-edited” wikis.

  •  April 25, 2006
  •  Posted by at 8:57 am
  •   Comments Off on Amazon 2.0
  •   Author Tips
Feb 212006
 

I don’t know what makes me do it: An intrinsic need for order? My undergraduate job at the library? My former job as a bookseller and clerk? Or the fact that I’m your agent and want your books to sell?

Whatever the reason, if I rep your book and it’s currently in stock at the Borders in Folsom, California, it’s definitely sitting FACE OUT on the shelves today.

Not only that I probably tidied up the entire section. Heck, I do that anyways. I worry that the clerks are going to ask me to “step away from the books.”

What struck me yesterday, some wonderful backlist placements: about 25 copies of The Elegant Universe, and about the same for Into the Wild. I love both books and think that’s just great.

Tell all your friends to visit your books in the store often, and if there’s room, take advantage, shelve them face out!