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Sunday, March 22, 2009

What's in your purse/suitcase?

by Helen Woodall

Recently, courtesy of a bunch of bushfires, I was looking at the possibility of having to evacuate my home with very little warning.

Now I admit I am weird. I own thousands of books and over two hundred ornamental frogs and I decided not to pack any of them. How could I choose just one or two? It would be like choosing one child. I ended up putting my passport and a clean pair of undies in my purse and making sure I was wearing shoes. Well, it is summer here and I usually go barefoot six months of the year.

I am the person who travelled around the world with three sets of clothes – one on, one in the wash and one tidy outfit. Yes, I already admitted I am weird.

So I get quite annoyed when reading a book where, whatever happens, the heroine drags the appropriate outfit or item from her purse/suitcase. A friend agreed with me and called it “a suitcase the depth of the Cayman Trench” syndrome. Her must-haves were passport/ID, money and tampons. Another friend is more the Boy Scout type. Her purse includes a roll of duct tape, a Leatherman multi-tool, meds, spare glasses, Sony reader/charger, cell phone/charger, small notepad and pen, a spool of waxed twelve cord (very strong string!) and a lighter.

Another friend commented, “Purse? What’s a purse? I tend to set those down and forget them in various public places. Wallet goes in one back pocket of the jeans, cell phone in the other. Front pocket has lip balm, a hair elastic, and occasionally a small stash of pain reliever. Keys go on a carabiner clip to the belt loop, with mini Swiss army knife. What more does one need? Oh, sunglasses on top of head.”

So, do you get annoyed when the heroine of the book is sitting on the beach in her bikini, and she is suddenly invited to a party and instantly pulls a sexy ballgown out of her suitcase? Or would there be one in your suitcase too?

Friday, March 13, 2009

A Rose by Any Other Name...

by Raelene Gorlinsky

Okay, this is a pet peeve of mine, and I've seen others (as in, editors and agents) comment on it.

Nowadays, when so much business communication is done via email, YOU MUST HAVE A PROFESSIONAL-SOUNDING EMAIL ADDRESS NAME.

Do you really think any business person is going to want to deal with someone whose email is GypsyFucker or CallMeStupid or TotallyHotTeen or WillWriteForFood? (Yes, I made those up so as not to embarrass real people - they are very similar to but actually tamer than ones I regularly see on manuscript submissions.)

Email addresses are free and you can have as many as you want. It's smart to have separate emails for personal and business. If you don't own your own websiteURL/email domain name, get yourself a business email address on gmail or yahoo. Make it tame and sensible. Simplest and best thing is to make it your NAME - either real or pen. That would greatly increase your chances of people remembering it. PattyPenname@gmail.com or RalphReal@yahoo.com - you sound like a sensible person I might consider dealing with.

Save CrazyCathouseLady for personal emails with your friends.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Barbara's Beyond Her Book Blog Bash

Added Friday, March 13: The Ellora's Cavemen are helping set up and serve food for today's festivities at Beyond Her Book. Stop over to see them, plus put in a Comment to be entered in the prize drawings.
http://www.publishersweekly.com/BeyondHerBook

(The 'B' on my keyboard is now worn off.)

This week is the second anniversary of Barbara Vey's "Beyond Her Book" blog for Publishers Weekly.
http://www.publishersweekly.com/blog/880000288/post/1240041524.html

She is featuring a different genre each day, with scads and scads of giveaways donated by authors and publishers. Saturday, Barbara is giving away a $150 gift certificate for Amazon.com and will pick a winner from all the comment entries for the whole week. Ellora's Cave/Cerridwen Press is contributing prizes on Wednesday and Friday.

Here's the week's schedule:
Monday, March 9th: Paranormal/Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror/Urban Fantasy
Tuesday, March 10th: Thriller/Suspense/Mystery/Adventure
Wednesday, March 11th: Publishers/agents/publicist/editors/bloggers/librarians
Thursday, March 12th: Inspirational/YA/Graphic Novels/Nonfiction
Friday, March 13th: Contemporary/Historical/Erotica/E-books/Audio
Saturday, March 14th: Romance Blow Out (Costume Ball)

Monday, March 9, 2009

Read an E-Book Week

by Raelene Gorlinsky

March 8 through 14 is "Read an E-Book Week". You can read all about it at www.ebookweek.com.

Purpose - Read an E-Book Week is a not-for-profit week set aside to inform the public about the pleasures and advantages of reading electronically. Authors, publishers, vendors, the media and readers world-wide are welcome to join in the effort. We encourage you to promote electronic reading with any event.

The idea is to entice people to ebooks by making a variety available for free during that week. Partners/contributors in the project include a number of publishers, ebook vendors, and authors. A big enticement to readers is that Stanza, the popular app for iPhone/iPod, is making a catalog of the free ebooks available as part of the promotion week.

Cerridwen Press, the mainstream fiction imprint of Ellora's Cave Publishing, is making a contemporary fantasy novel available for free download during this week: Gryphon's Quest by Candace Sams. (Note that we have free short-short stories available continually at Cerridwen Press and at Ellora's Cave.)

So if you are already an ebook user, this week is your opportunity to get lots of free books. Try out an author or genre you don't usually read! More importantly, if you have not tried out ebooks, this is your chance to do it!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Fail: #queryfail

by Raelene Gorlinsky

A couple days ago, several agents and editors (nope, none of us here) decided to have a day on Twitter of trying to help aspiring authors write better query letters by tweeting examples from really bad queries. A good goal, supportive of authors. But warning bells rang in my head as soon as I heard about it, and unfortunately the project went the way I had feared.

Reality: Many authors don't want to hear bad news, don't want to be told they are doing something wrong. A huge percentage react very nastily to rejections, and do not take advice well. It isn't because they are writers - it is because they are people; you'll find the same characteristic in any profession.

It helps if the editor/agent can clearly explain the problem, give supportive suggestions, and include encouragement with the bad news. Which made the venue of Twitter, with its max 140 character messages, not the best place to get into this. Posting out-of-context sentences from query letters, and follow-up very brief comments, does not necessarily provide the needed explanation. It seemed to some like the examples were being posted for entertainment effect, as humor rather than for education. And that can be hurtful to those who may recognize that they made a similar error in a query letter. People started feeling the editors and agents were mocking authors, were being mean-spirited, when I'm sure that was not how they intended it.

The goal and intent were admirable, the actual application was flawed, the results were mixed. Some aspiring authors got a very negative impression of the participating editors/agents, and of the industry as a whole. This is not good for any of us.

You can search for a number of blogs summarizing the #queryfail experiment. You can also find lots of online advice on how to write query letters. There is a list of excellent links at http://jillcorcoran.blogspot.com/2009/03/how-to-write-query-letter-advice-from.html . One of my favorites is the fun "madlib" style letter at http://nathanbransford.blogspot.com/2008/03/query-letter-mad-lib.html (agent Nathan Bransford).

Aspiring author Tara Lazar put a positive spin on the experience with a summary of what she learned about query letter errors, and more importantly, what makes a "Query Win".
http://taralazar.wordpress.com/2009/03/05/queryfail/
First sentence hook
Wordcount/genre
One- or two-paragraph blurb
Relevant writing credits/background
Polite closing
Solid writing sample

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Editors Answer - #4: Promoting

by Raelene Gorlinsky

Question from Diana: It seems like authors are expected to do most of the promotional work for their books. What avenues should I be looking at to promote my upcoming new release and my backlist?

Unless you're a huge bestselling author (or this season's pick at your publisher for pushing as the next big breakout author), then it is indeed up to you market your book. Nowadays, marketing dollars at publishers are very limited, especially for genre fiction. The marketing budget may, in fact, be just enough to cover the cost of cover art. Publishers (from the big boys in NY through the smallest epubs) mainly expect the author to handle the promotion and marketing of their books and their author name.

Have you taken any of the many workshops on self-promotion and book marketing that are offered by most author organizations? If your story is contracted by a publisher, do you have a plan for how you will promote the book?

Here are some basics on what you as an author (or aspiring author) should be doing to promote. So much of promotion these days is online. Do you have a website, blog, e-newsletter? Do you maintain a presence on the social networks - MySpace, Facebook, Bebo, etc, etc? (However, avoid overextending or spending all your time online instead of writing your next book. Pick a few places to concentrate on.) Do you keep all those online items regularly updated? You want people to keep coming back - which they won't do if the content doesn't change. (Tip: It lessens the workload if you share a joint website or blog with other authors who write in your genre. And you draw a bigger fan base that way.) Consider a virtual book tour. Check with your publisher to be sure your book is submitted to online review sites; if the publisher doesn't handle that, do it yourself.

Don't just be online - do things "in person" also. Do you belong to writing groups that offer you networking and cross-promotional opportunities? Can you attend reader/fan conferences to get face time with readers and opportunities to promote your book? Booksignings? Presentations at libraries or schools? Submit articles for magazines and newsletters to get your name known and have an opportunity to mention your titles. Place affordable ads in magazines for your target readership.

My favorite promotional advice involves "tie-ins". Is there some special theme or element or topic in your novel - like a hobby or profession or special location? If you write a mystery series about a chef, try advertising in a culinary magazine! If your story is set in a real place, are there promotional or sales opportunities you could exploit? Some bookstores will give featured space to books about their town/state or by local authors. The gift shops at museums and parks and historical sites are sometimes willing to stock novels that are set at their site. Did you write a well-researched and historically accurate pirate romance? There are pirate reinactment groups - contact them to see if they might be willing to review your book in their magazine or on their website, or let you submit an article to them, or come to one of their events to promote your book.

Your potential income from a book is dependent on how much you put into publicizing your book and your author name.

So let's hear from some of you. What promotional efforts have you found most or least effective?

Do you have a question about the publishing process - submission through release and after - that you've always wanted to ask? Send it to RedlinesDeadlines@gmail.com, and we'll give you the benefit of our shared wisdom.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Pirate Bay Pirates

by Raelene Gorlinsky

One of the hottest ongoing topics in the e-publishing world - for both the publishers and the authors - is ebook piracy. In other words, the illegal copying and distributing of ebooks. Some of it is ignorance - readers don't realize that it is illegal to give away or sell ebooks, or make copies of them for others. If you bought one copy of the file (the author received the royalty for one copy sold), then only one copy of the file (excluding your own personal backup) is allowed to exist.

But a lot of the piracy that goes on is by people who know and just don't care that they are stealing. And by people who claim they are against the copyright laws because all information should be available to everyone for free. (In other words, authors and artists and musicians wouldn't get paid for their work.) Uh huh, amazing how many of these pirates make money off their actions.

Anyway, you can find reams of info online about ebook piracy. I'm not trying to cover the topic here. I just wanted to point to an article about Pirate Bay, a Swedish site that facilitates people locating and downloading illegal "free" copies of music, movies, video games, ebooks. The owners of the website claim they are not doing anything wrong because the illegal copies don't actually pass through their site. (Oh, and said site owners have made a fortune in advertising revenue from their site.)

So for a summary of the attempt to bring justice to Pirate Bay, here's a short overview article:
Pirate Bay - Grand Theft Audio? by Bob Rankin
http://askbobrankin.com/is_pirate_bay_sinking.html
(scroll down past the ad links to get to the article)

The Editors Answer - #3

When submitting to EC, how do you prefer the general submissions' salutations to be addressed? Since the author doesn't know to whom the submission will ultimately go, would "Dear Editor" be the best choice?

If a publisher lists specific acquiring editors by genre or imprint, then always direct your submission to that person. However, for houses (like Ellora's Cave) with one general submissins address, "Dear Editor" is perfectly fine.

Do be sure your cover letter/email states the genre of the submission, or the line or imprint you are submitting to, so that it can be routed to an appropriate acquiring editor.

If this submission is the result of something like a pitch appointment you had with an editor at a writer conference, then of course address the cover letter to that person and be sure to mention your past contact.

Do you have a question about the publishing process - submission through release and after - that you've always wanted to ask? Send it to RedlinesDeadlines@gmail.com, and we'll give you the benefit of our shared wisdom.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Books: The Perfect Companion

What a fun analogy!

BookBrowse blog by Kim Kovacs
http://www.bookbrowse.com/blogs/Editor/#Picking%20the%20perfect%20companion

In part:

"Think about it – there are a lot of similarities between picking a mate and picking a book. Your eye may land on a handsome volume at random, or you may hear about a promising one through a friend whose taste you respect. You pick it up and take it home with you to evaluate further. The relationship might be fast and furious, or it may end up being something you savor, or - even better - a love that you return to again and again over the years. Or it may end up being a complete waste of time. You just never know until you investigate what's between the covers.

"Relationships with books actually have some pretty compelling advantages over relationships with men. With books, it's always your choice if the liaison ends prematurely. You don't have to worry about the awkwardness of trying to avoid your discarded book should you bump into it in the grocery store. You can tell it, "It's not you, it's me" or even "You know, it actually IS you" without hurting its feelings. It will also never insist on an exclusive relationship, and no one will think ill of you if you love more than one. You can take one to bed with you the very first night you bring it home without your mother blinking an eye."