Tips for Successful Book Signings

Reality Check: Unless you are on the New York Times Best Seller list, don’t expect book signings to bring in a ton of money.  So, if not for the money, why should the average Joe participate in a book signing?  Exposure.

Books don’t sell themselves.  If you are self-published, that also means self-promoted.  Small-time and self-published authors will likely sell less than 10 books at a book signing.  Many of the people who attend the event won’t even buy a book, they are curiosity-seekers, tire-kickers, and sometimes, just looking for a bathroom.  However, all the marketing and promotion that occurs prior to the event will help you reach new readers who may buy the book, even if they don’t come to the signing.

After hosting several book signings, I’ve created a list of tips and tricks for eager authors to help make their next book signing a success. Continue reading


Book Cover 101

We’ve all heard the admonishment, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”  Whoever said that clearly wasn’t trying to sell books in the 21st century.  Regardless of whether it’s consumers, bookstore buyers, or the folks making nominations for the Worst of Amazon, everyone is judging books by their covers. Why? The simple truth is, a great book with a horrible cover won’t sell, but a horrible book with a great cover will.

Authors and self-publishers need to put as much thought into their book’s cover as they do the content between the covers.  The smartest thing to do is hire a professional cover designer.  This is because every book requires multiple cover files, how many depends on how the book is distributed.  The best recommendations for cover artist come word-of-mouth.  If you attend an author event and see someone with a cover that catches your attention, ask for the name of their artist.  Most authors are happy to share that information. Continue reading


Building an Author Website

This is the second part of a workshop I hosted for the Palouse Writers Guild on Saturday, July 28, 2018.  To see the first part of the workshop, click here: Building An Author Platform.

ESTABLISHING YOUR AUTHOR PERSONA

Even introverts publishing under a pen name need an author website and that’s why it’s absolutely vital to contemplate your author personal at the onset.  Some people are wholly themselves online, while others may use a pseudonym and have an online persona different from who they are in real life.  It is essential that authors figure out their persona BEFORE beginning to build their website; the website becomes the author’s identity.

 When editors, agents, and publishers receive queries from prospective authors one of the things they do is Google the author because they want to see the size and scope of platform, prior works, etc.  Readers also look for author websites.  The whole point of a website is making yourself and your work easy to find. Without a website the author simply does not exist. Continue reading


Building an Author Platform

I presented the following information at a workshop hosted by the Palouse Writers Guild on Saturday, July 28, 2018.  The second part of the presentation will appear in a separate blog post.

WHAT IS AN AUTHOR PLATFORM?

Author Platform Definition: The ability to sell written content (books, short stories, magazine articles, etc) because of who you are or who you can reach.  Simply put, a platform is your visibility as an author in the communities in which you participate. Continue reading



ISBNs, Copyrights, and Barcodes, Oh my!

At the Palouse Writers Guild Build-a-Book Workshop I presented the following information on ISBNs, copyright, and barcodes.  The workshop was a success and we plan to host another one in the future.

Presentation PowerPoint: ISBN Presentation

What is an ISBN?

An ISBN is the International Standard Book Number.  It uniquely identities the book, publisher, and edition. The purpose of the ISBN is to establish and identify one title (or edition) from one specific publisher, allowing for more efficient marketing by booksellers, libraries, universities, wholesalers and distributors.

Parts of the ISBN

Each 13 digit ISBN consists of 5 elements separated by spaces or hyphens.
The five parts of an ISBN (13) are as follows:

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Guilt-free Writing

I recently had a conversation with Moscow Poet Laureate, Tiffany Midge, about cultural appropriation in writing.  While she, a Native American, decried the act when white authors wrote Native American point-of-view characters, she claimed it was acceptable for her to plagiarize the work of Luna Leigh, a white woman living in England.  Then she went on to berate Terese Mailhot, a Tecumseh Postdoc Fellow at Purdue University, who brought the plagiarism to light.  It seems that theft of language, culture, and ideas is only a bad thing when it happens to you, and not when you do it to others.

What Ms. Midge refused to understand is cultural appropriation goes both ways and has been occurring since man first learned to walk upright.  Evidence of it is everywhere.  It’s human nature, and it’s not going to change.

I stumbled across a blatant example of cultural appropriation at Saint Gertrude’s Monastery in Cottonwood, Idaho.  The nuns host a workshop on understanding Sacred Celtic Landscapes.  I could point out that the sacred Celtic landscapes they reference predate the coming of Christianity by hundreds, if not thousands of years, that Celtic religious life originates from the Indo-European religious traditions, not the Judeo-Christian tradition, and that by appropriating those landscapes they have deprived a people of their heritage.  Instead, I decided that the post-Christian Celtic narrative is just as important as the pre-Christian narrative.

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Why Write Book Reviews

Recently, a number of people have told me that book reviews are a waste of time.  One person said, “If you’re not writing, you’re procrastinating.”  Another said, “Why waste time promoting someone else’s work when you should be promoting your own?”

The answer is really very simple.  Book reviews are highly valuable, not just for the one receiving the review, but for the one writing it as well.

Every book a writer reads gives them insight into what’s trending in the market, which aids in determining the commercial potential of their books.  Market research is vital for finding a publisher.  Many writers finish their books and turn to places like Writers Market, Publishers Marketplace, and Query Tracker, then spam all the editors, agents, and publishers they can find.  A more successful approach might be turning to your bookshelf instead. Continue reading


The Writing Process

I’m often asked when my novel will be published, or why it isn’t published yet.  Many people don’t realize that the writing process is a lot more involved than simply sitting at a keyboard and writing.

Before deciding which publishing options to pursue or beginning to search for editors or agents, a writer must first have a high quality product to offer.  Many writers overlook the importance of the writing process in their eagerness to get published.  Not adhering to the process actually kills a writers chances because, without it, they are unable to produce a salable manuscript.

The writing process involves four phases: prewriting, drafting, revising, and editing.  Following these steps will help, but experienced writers know that problems which arise during drafting, revising, or editing, can send them all the way back to step one, where they must develop and expand an idea.  As my NaNoWriMo ML is quick to remind me, “You will enjoy the process, God damn it!”

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The Dreaded Cover Letter

I just finished my novel: 112,632 words, 381 pages, 21 chapters, 5 appendices, 3 maps, a calendar, and a family tree. All that’s left to do now is finish my cover letter and mail it off. I have never been so terrified in my entire life. I’m more nervous than when I defended my thesis. Then again, my thesis was only 80 pages long, so maybe anxiety is directly proportional to word count.

Now, about that dreaded cover letter.  Whether or not a novel will ever be read depends entirely on that letter.  In that single sheet of paper I must summarize all 112,632 words, define my genre and target audience, provide some kind of proof that my writing is worth reading, and include a pithy author biography.  It’s a lot to accomplish in a single page.

Some of the information, like the genre and summary, is straightforward.  Other information, like writing credits, can leave an author feeling confused about what they should and should not include.  After a bit of research I created a list possible writing credits, ranked them from best to worst, and provided a list of what authors should avoid mentioning if they want taken seriously.

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