Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Rejection: Barbara Kingsolver's perspective

Thanks to Alexandra Caselle for posting this quote on her blog:  Alexandra is a native Floridian author and poet.  Her blog, Rhet Effects (,

Barbara Kingsolver quote on rejection:
 “This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it ‘To the editor who can appreciate my work,’ and it has simply come back stamped ‘Not at this address.’ Just keep looking for the right address.”

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Author marketing... a continuous improvement project

Publishers Weekly has an important article on successful self-publishing:
Self-Publish Like a Pro: Finding an Audience, posted July 10, 2014.

In it, Alexandra Fletcher discusses the need to build a base of readers before your book comes out.
Regardless of your road to publishing, her statements ring true, and are a wake-up call to authors who think their book will sell without visibility and following.

"Nothing diminishes an author’s self-publishing dream quite like watching sales stagnate after a title’s release. An author aggressively promotes the book on social media platforms. Her friends, co-workers, and family members buy copies and write reviews to show support. But within days or weeks of the book launch, the author is hit with the sobering realization that sales have dropped off because no one outside of her immediate social circle is looking for it."

Wherever you are in your book promotion plans, take a look at the article and see if you can adapt a few of Fletcher's suggestions.  Here is the link: Publishers Weekly

Friday, July 11, 2014

Platform: An excellent explanation from Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman has an excellent piece about platform on her site. What it is and what it isn't. As she states:

Platform is
  • Visibility. Who knows you? Who is aware of your work? Where does your work regularly appear? How many people see it? How does it spread? Where does it spread? What communities are you a part of? Who do you influence? Where do you make waves?
  • Authority. What’s your credibility? What are your credentials? (This is particularly important for nonfiction writers; it is less important for fiction writers, though it can play a role. Just take a look at any graduate of the Iowa MFA program.)
  • Proven reach. It’s not enough to SAY you have visibility. You have to show where you make an impact and give proof of engagement. This could be quantitative evidence (e.g., size of your e-mail newsletter list, website traffic, blog comments) or qualitative evidence (high-profile reviews, testimonials from A-listers in your genre).
  • Target audience. You should be visible to the most receptive or appropriate audience for the work you’re trying to sell. For instance: If you have visibility, authority, and proven reach to orthodontists, that probably won’t be helpful if you’re marketing vampire fiction (unless perhaps you’re writing about a vampire orthodontist who repairs crooked vampire fangs?).
And, as for what Platform is not, here's her list. Note the first two, which I think clears up many author misperceptions.
  • It is not about self-promotion.
  • It is not about hard selling.
  • It is not about annoying people.
  • It is not about being an extrovert.
  • It is not about being active on social media.
  • It is not about blogging.
  • It is not about your qualifications, authority, or experience, although these are tools for growing or nurturing a platform.
  • It is not something you create overnight.
  • It is not something you can buy.
  • It is not a one-time event.
  • It is not more important than your story or message (but hopefully it grows out of that).
Read Jane Friedman's full piece here

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

How a Contest Judge Views Your Book

How a Contest Judge Views a Book
by Helen Gallagher

Literary merit is a core requirement for any prize-winning book.

After succeeding as an author, book reviewer, and publishing consultant, I was recently pleased to participate as a judge in a national book competition.

If you are or have been given this honor, it is a big responsibility and a whole lot of fun. Each judge must critique the contest entries on a long list of factors, not limited to content, accuracy, editing, and design.
In order to avoid being overwhelmed, I agreed to judge only the three genres I know best. I would not feel comfortable judging categories where I don’t have an informed opinion of quality, such as mystery, sci-fi, or romance. 

Unlike my work as a book reviewer, in which I evaluate writing style and content and consider the value of the book’s theme or message, judging goes much further. Reviewers often discuss an author’s point of view, while letting the reader of the review know pertinent details of the book. That’s why people read book reviews—to determine if they want to invest time in reading the book.

In judging a book contest, the parameters are set by the organization or committee running the contest. They set criteria for entries and sort through all submissions to be sure each entry that is judged fits the standards for quality writing in the category. The biggest job for a judge is remaining objective in order to judge fairly. Frequently, contest entries are read and judged by two different people. The second judge performs the same task as the first: analyzing the book’s worthiness on all the variables, and the combined scores are averaged.

Most contests have very specific categories. As an author it is important to make sure your book is in the best category, or choose multiple categories, such as “Motivational” and “Self-Help,” to give your book a better chance against steep competition. Most contests charge an incremental fee for multiple categories, so be clear about the category that best fits your book.

As an author, what I found most interesting about being a judge is the importance of every detail. That’s right—If you enter your book in a contest, you don’t want to have a perfect book design but fall short on other elements or overlook errors. The lesson here is that when you are finalizing your book for publication, nothing is unimportant. Don’t overlook errors in the Table of Contents, pagination, page layout, or chapter headings, and re-check every word and every reference, from cover to cover.

Give the same consideration to the importance of good cover design and quality printing. Whether you use a traditional publisher, print-on-demand, or a local printing firm, your book must look as good as any other mass-market book to be worthy of an award. This includes cover artwork, fonts, design, proper placement of the ISBN and barcode, and error-free layout of both the front and back covers.

You may have a great story, but if you failed to do that last round of proofreading or checking the layout, another contest entrant may outshine your book by a few points.

Here are some tips to consider, not just when you prepare to enter your completed book in a contest, but before you publish your next book.
  • Is your title/subtitle appropriate and does it generate interest?

  • Does the title truly reflect the content of the book? Don’t fall in love with a quirky title that would disappoint or mislead the reader.

  • Is your book price appropriate for the target audience? Have you done research to determine this?

  • Do your book layout, editing, and design meet the highest standards?
These four sample factors are just the first steps in passing through to the award level in your book’s category. Many contests haves thirty categories by which each book is measured. If any of these initial factors is adequate but not truly professional, entering an important book contest might be a waste of money. 

Before you run back to your manuscript to polish it up, keep in mind that literary merit is a core requirement for any prize-winning book. Books up for award are of course evaluated on the writing, not just the spelling and punctuation, but quality of language, comprehension, and the ability to present material in an interesting way, authored by a person with the qualifications to write on the topic. 

Remember that your confidence in your book when presenting it for any award consideration requires all the up-front effort and attention to detail well before you even dream of winning First Prize in a book contest. The reward, though, when your book is chosen, is increased publicity and increased sales, because of the distinguished honor in winning a book award. 

Helen Gallagher is the author of Release Your Writing: Book Publishing Your Way.
Her publishing blog is at  © 6/24/2014

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Contently: a resource for freelance writers has a portal called "The Freelancer" full of great writing, and a weekly digest. You can create your own profile to promote your freelance writing, to "see and be seen" beyond your desktop and notebooks of great writing.
Read more here.

Today, the Contently magazine has a terrific article by Michael J. Berens of the Seattle Times on investigative reporting, something we should all be doing in our writing, no matter the topic. In the article, Berens discusses the plight of freelancers wanting to get hired to write for editors. He seems to have a clear recollection of the path to success, and offers candid suggestions for freelancers. as we develop expertise in various areas, and discusses ways to stand out in the very crowded world of publication.

Here is a link to the full story, and int includes Berens' notes on what matters most in writing: Finding the Story. You'll find it mentioned in the piece on Contently and also at his site: Watchdog Reporter, along with other resources. Keep in mind, this is from a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, sharing this information with us.

Here's more good news:  You can create your own profile at Contently -Here is a snapshot of mine: Gallagher Ink

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Calling all great writers...

Barnes & Noble sponsors the Discover Great New Writers program, founded in 1990, which highlights books of exceptional literary quality from authors at the start of their careers. 

Their site notes: "A small group of Barnes & Noble bookseller volunteers convenes year-round to review submissions to the program and handpick titles for our promotion, currently featured at 700+ Barnes & Noble and 100 prominent Barnes & Noble College Bookstores, and on"

Current deadlines are shown below... don't delay!
Full details on the many benefits and prize money are here:

Upcoming deadlines for this ongoing program are:
Holiday 2014 (November-December 2014)   June 26, 2014
Spring 2015 (January-March 2015)  September 25, 2014
Summer 2015 (April-July 2015)   December 11, 2014

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Would you want to write like Gay Talese?

From a very old issue of The Paris Review (Issue 198, Summer 2009) Gay Talese reveals some of his writing quirks:

Here is just one excerpted example...

"Usually I wake up in bed with my wife. I don't want to have breakfast with anyone. So I go from the third floor, which is our bedroom, to the fourth floor, where I keep my clothes. I get dressed as if I'm going to an office, ... What I am really doing is going downstairs to my bunker. In the bunker there's a little refrigerator, and I have orange juice and muffins and coffee. Then I change my clothes."

Friday, May 23, 2014

Publishers Weekly launches BookLife, for self-published books

Galley Cat reports today that... "Publishers Weekly is getting into the self-publishing business with launch of a new site dedicated to self-publishing.  The site is a joint venture with PWxyz and Mediapolis, a technology firm co-founded by Pritzkat.

BookLife, which will go live on May 29, 2014 at BookExpo America, will focus on three main subject areas: book creation which includes editing and cover design; publishing which is all about the physical manufacturing of a book; and book marketing, which will include information on distribution, publicity and sales.

“Self-published books and authors are having more and more impact on readers and the publishing industry,” stated Carl Pritzkat, the president of BookLife and VP of business development for PWxyz LLC."

Source: Galley Cat article

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Read "The Telling Room"

Flip on over to the Book Review page for a great book recommendation.

Already read The Telling Room? Please add your comments below.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Oh, to write like David Brooks...

In a recent New York Times op-ed page essay, David Brooks wrote about an interesting passage in a biography of Isaiah Berlin. It was in Leningrad in 1945 when Berlin was invited to meet a pre-revolutionary poet, twenty years past his age. The next four paragraphs are a mini-movie, as Brooks teases us to read on and on. Let me just share the beginning line of each paragraph, like so...

Berlin was taken to her apartment, and met a woman still beautiful and powerful, but wounded by tyranny and the war...

By midnight, they were alone, sitting on opposite ends of her room...

By four in the morning, they were talking about the greats...

Deeper and deeper they talked, baring their souls...

In the next seven paragraphs of this thin newspaper column, Brooks discusses how spiritually ambitious people can experience that sort of life-altering conversation, and the "ideal of a certain sort of bond... that happens once or twice in a lifetime."

Please read David Brooks' essay, and enjoy the opportunities for real communication among friends or strangers who become friends, and perhaps capture "the numinous magic of that night" in your own life.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Net Galley reviews get results

For two years now, I've been reviewing books via Net Galley.

Publishers make their books or galleys available electronically and Net Galley        In addition to reading and review the top new books in genres of interest to me, I'm taking the Net Galley 2014 Wellness Challenge, providing feedback to publishers as well as informing my loyal readers.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Introvert? Extrovert?

Introvert vs. Extrovert Writers

In a travel piece on World Hum, Sophia Dembling states:

"Introversion and extroversion are inborn traits, and the difference between them is not that one is gregarious and at ease in the world and the other shy and awkward. Rather, extroverts are outwardly motivated and gain energy from interaction with the outside world while introverts are more inwardly directed and drained by interaction with others. Introverts’ thinking tends to be deep and slow, we require copious time alone, we prefer probing conversation to shallow chitchat, and our social lives are geared more towards intimate one-on-one interactions than “more the merrier” free-for-alls."

Most writers and bloggers share the extremes of introvert or extrovert tendencies in writing as well as in social interaction.

If you love the quiet, prefer to write alone, shun the questions about your writing, and run fast when the conversation turns to critique groups, you're a darn good introvert.

If you're an extroverted writer you probably prefer to hear people tell you their stories, and you write in public, enjoy sharing your work-in-progress, and trading stories with other writers about the craft.

Either way, you're doing what's right for you, of course, but its nice to recognize your tendencies and take comfort in silence or among friends, as long as it feeds your hunger to write and helps you write well.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

A look at traditional book publishing via Scratch Magazine

The second issue of Jane Friedman's new e-magazine, Scratch is now available.

If you're not a subscriber, jump here to sign up.

In Issue Two, Jane has an article about traditional book publishing, explaining the facts many first-time authors forget.

Getting an agent to LOVE your book is one thing. Getting an editor to LOVE your book is another. But .... before you can get a big YES from a publisher, they run a P&L [profit and loss analysis].  Friedman shares a sample P&L. It is rare to see this detail shared, so Friedman's insider-information is worth examining.

  • Before a publisher decides on a book project, they need to get a sense of the costs for editing, artwork, and marketing.
  • Then they figure the manufacturing costs, overhead and infrastructure expenses.
  • Then they set the retail price, deduct the manufacturing cost, the discount given to booksellers, and the cost of returns.

So you see they spend a great deal of time and money investing in an author's book. That is why they need to be certain the author has a platform that can sustain continued sales. They are in business to make a profit, and they use the P&L to can determine an accurate dollar amount of net earnings from the book's sales.

Do the work to expand your platform before you ask a publisher to invest in you.
I have fourteen posts on platform here.
Get your Scratch subscription here.

See book review: "Authorpreneur in Pajamas" by Geraldine Solon

Writers, be sure to click on the Book Reviews for Writers tab or click here, for a review of Authorpreneur in Pajamas. Author Geraldine Solon has published three novels, and this book focuses on what she learned in promoting those books.

If you recall my former Pajama Marketing blog, which resulted in the book: Blog Power & Social Medua Handbook, (published in 2011) you're already aware of some author marketing obligations.Solon's book will give your book marketing an edge by explaining how authors can use social media for greater exposure and sales.

If you're a new author in 2013 or 2014, take a look at Authorpreneur in Pajamas for some good resources. As you'll note in my review, though, her book needed at least one more edit before publishing. That serves as another fine example to all authors. Professional editing and proofreading is an essential step in publishing.