Saturday, February 17, 2018

How To Support Your Favorite Author

One of my clients recently gave a talk to a local community group about the romance industry as well as about publishing. Prior to the talk, we were discussing things she would want to cover and we started talking about what readers could do to become more active in publishing. More specifically, how can they help out as readers. I wanted to share with you some of our ideas.

First of all, before we focus on the solutions, we have to remember that publishing is all about sales. When it comes down to it, the fate of an author always returns to the numbers. How much did that author sell? How much money did that author bring in during that last time period? How much well is that book selling? "Show me the money!" When an author does not sell, and those sales figures are below average, this gives the publisher a reason to start looking to someone else who can sell. Publishers are not producing books to just "feel good." It is a business and they, like everyone else, wants to turn a profit. It was this idea we built our answers around. So here are 6 things readers (actually everyone) can do to help their favorite author:

BUY THEIR BOOKS NEW Look, I get it. We all want to save some money. In my family, I have one in college and swims competitively (cha-ching), one who rides competitive hunter/jumper arena jumping (yes horses cost big $$$$), and one who is on a dance team (those costumes are expensive). But, when we want to support authors, we have to buy their books. Buy the hardback copies. Buy the books at full retail price. When we buy those books, the publisher sees the sales figures! The author and everyone makes money! You will see more on this in the next three things to do.

DON'T BUY ONE BOOK AND THEN PASS IT ON TO FRIENDS AND FAMILIES This one always kills me. My mother-in-law loves getting books for Christmas presents. But what kills me is that we hear from her around February that her entire family has loved reading that one book. 8 people just read that one book. How many sales numbers made it back to the publisher? 1! It could have been 8! I know this might sound like a small number, but think of how many other people did that? Those numbers add up fast. The solution is simple! Show them the copy! Recommend they get a copy of that book!

LIBRARIES ARE GOOD, BUT BUY THE BOOK OK, don't kill me on this one. I love libraries. These are needed in the world! But, like that prior comment, getting the latest copy of your favorite author from the library is still only making one sale. The library bought one book, and now we are looking at 50+ other sales that went in-recorded. Now, I do not want you to give up on the libraries. If you are told of this new author from a friend and it sort of sounds interesting, yes, take advantage of the library. Read one of their books. Take that author on a test drive. But, if you love the writing, quit taking the "discount" approach! Start buying their books.

USED BOOKSTORES ARE GOOD, BUT BUY THE BOOK One of my best friends owns a new and used bookstore. But, when we go to her bookstore, I always buy the new books. It's the same mantra here. Even if we are buying the book used, and we are spending that money, the sales are not making it back to the publisher or the author. Like the library, take that new author for a single test drive, and then, from that point on, but the books new!!!!!

WHEN YOU HAVE A BOOK YOU LIKED, WRITE REVIEWS EVERYWHERE If you have read my blog in the past, you know my dislike of reviews. For the most part, readers do not read the reviews. The publishers read the reviews. The authors read the reviews. But the readers don't. Reviews do not dictate sales. BUT, what the positive reviews do is to keep the author in the mind of their editors and publishers. If you read a great book, go to ALL of your online bookstores and write a great review. Copy and paste that review! Just write the best dang glowing review ever! Keep those authors at a 5 star level!

SEND YOUR FEEDBACK DIRECTLY TO THE PUBLISHER AND AUTHOR This might seem silly, but send them a note telling them how amazing their books were. If you notice, there is a way to contact that author. Send the author a glowing review! Tell them they are amazing. You can also send the letter directly to the publisher and their editor! After they read the note, they will pass it on to the author. Being always in the positive spotlight will encourage the editors to put that author in line for new projects.

This doesn't take much, but if you can support those authors more, you might see more bookstores opening up.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Why Are You Sending Your Story To THAT Editor or Agent

Writers are simply making huge mistakes when it comes to the submission process. In simple terms, they have no clue why they would be sending that story to that particular editor or agent. Oh, they THINK they know. They many even come up with all of these specific reasons, but in readlity, those reasons are probably way off the mark.

I thought I would take the time to use myself and the Greyhaus Literary Agency as a model for this discussion today.

For most authors, they start with the simple submission list (or at least they should). This is where I have listed the things I acquire and the things I do not acquire. So let's start there:

The following is directly from the website. I have eliminated all of the specifics for each, but this is the list. As shocking as this may seem, I reject so may authors submitting things on that bottom part of the list.

Greyhaus represents both Single Title and Series romance/women's fiction.
Please note I ONLY acquire these two genres. If you submit something other than traditional romance or women's fiction, expect a rejection letter. 

Word Count should be according to the Harlequin Guidelines 







Single Title Inspirational
YA or Middle Grade
Picture Books
Urban Fantasy
Science Fiction
Authors interested in only e-publishing or self-publishing

For most authors,  

Writers need to go beyond this list. This is where you need to take the time to get to know the likes and dislikes of the agent or editor. Although we might acquire many of the same genres, we really do have different things we are looking for. This is where you have to spend the time following the agent or editor on social media, or even taking the time to visit with those people at conferences. 

So, when it comes to Greyhaus, let's talk about things that I like or don't like. 

HARLEQUIN STORIES: I like this company. I have spent a lot of time researching each of the lines. So, with that said, if you are someone who does not read this genre, then you might want to reconsider submitting stories. Now, with that said, I am someone who will reject a story that is just trying to copy plot lines from other books. The goal with writing category is to know the voice and the nuances, but develop your own voice. 

NEW ADULT: First of all, this genre is not simply teens having sex. This is  not just a tamer version of 50 Shades of Anything. These are stories about people making a transition between youth and adulthood. These are stories about people finding themselves in situations of "Oh S...T, Now what?" These need to be authentic voices. These need to be from the heart. These need to be stories people in this age group can relate to. Do not go over the top and dump EVERY teenage angst situation into the story. 

CONTEMPORARY: I say this over and over again. I want stories of REAL PEOPLE. Does this mean a fictionalized story of someone real. NO!!!!!!! I want to read a contemporary and be able to say, "I know people like this." One pet peeve I have here are stories that dump a ton of baggage on the characters. Not happening here! I will reject. I will also tend to reject the following tropes: wife finds that husband had an affair, stories about band groupies, and stories with adultery.

HISTORICAL: First of all, I have great historical authors so you have to be up to their standard. I can spot a mile away authors who write historicals from what we call "Source Books." These are the equivalent of Wikipedia. You have to know your research. Please also note, that some time periods just do not sell. At this moment, Victorian is making a comeback. Stores set in strange countries are not selling. Civil War is still a tough sell. 

PARANORMAL: I hate Vampire, Werewolf, Shapeshifter and Psychic stories. I think that sums it up well.

ROMANTIC SUSPENSE: I am going to reject stories that are unrealistic. A good example would be when someone being stalked from a sexually abusive husband suddenly is thinking of having sex with the detective. Also, dump those standard tropes of trapped in a remote location and then falling in love. Not buying it. 

WOMEN'S FICTION: Let me just say, this is not just large stories with female protagonists who are older. Women's fiction focuses on the female journey. These are stories that allow us to get into the female psyche. These are stories that any reader can connect with. I always use this as an example, even though it is not women's fiction - the novel, UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN. First of all, I am not talking about the movie, but the book. This story gives us a chance for the reader to relate to Frances Mayes through the analogy of renovation of a house. We get to see culture and others as she comes to understand who she is. 

Like the contemporary stories, I am going to reject stories such as road trips, husbands who are adulterous, overly melodramatic, and stories that are "not real." Please remember, when I use this phrase, I am talking about stories that people can relate to, not memoirs that have been fictionalized.

AUTHORS: I am also pretty picky when I see authors who simply have no clue about the business As an agent, I am here to assist with careers, hold hands in tough times and so forth, but, I am not here to teach you how to write. I am also going to reject a ton of authors who simply cannot follow directions. This would include, but no limited to:
  • Inserting your whole story, or even a partial in the query letter.
  • Using the submission form on the website to include information I have not asked for.
  • Attaching your general query letter you use for everyone as an attachment
  • Telling me how you are going to do things differently
  • Telling me you are the next great author and I will regret passing on your project.
  • Telling me you are currently being considered by major studios, the Nobel Prize selection committee or the like.

The point of all this is pretty simple. Get to know who you are sending the project to and WHY you and your story fits what that agent or editor is looking for in a client. If all you look at is your story matches the genre they have on their websites, you are SOOOO MISSING THE POINT!!!!!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Publishing Is Like The Weather

I was listening to the NPR this morning and they were discussing the sudden shifts in the stock market over the last couple of days. When they were talking about this, I was immediately thinking of liking this to publishing, but then the person they were interviewing gave a better analogy, so I am going to run with this.

What this specialist noted was that the stock market is like the weather. There will be really bad days and really sunny days. Literally, we can have great weather one day and then hit a complete streak of totally sucky weather (or even the reverse). He then went on to note that if we see a massive rain storm coming in, we don't suddenly pack up and run away. We hunker down and ride it out. We know that although the weather may be bad today, it will get better.

Publishing works the same way. You will have good days and you will have bad days. There will be times when those royalty statements look terrible. There will also be times when the statements look better. But here is the thing I want you to really think about. Unlike the weather, you can control a lot of your destiny.

If you find the books are not selling as well as you like, you can aggressively add in a stronger marketing campaign on your side of things.

If you feel you are not writing enough with your current publisher, you can always supplement the work with other projects, self-publishing, proposals and so forth.

So what is my message? Quit complaining. Do something about your career. It may be a bummer today, but tomorrow can better.