Tag: publishing


Publishing roulette

I spent last weekend at the NY Pitch Conference, working with authors who were pitching their books to publishing agents and editors. Very exciting. Very nerve-wrecking, and very unpredictable! One editor will love a book, the next editor will hate the exact same book, and a third will look just bored. It’s like playing roulette. You just don’t know where you’re going to land. Some years ago I attended the same exact conference, but then I was one of the authors, not a workshop leader. I was hoping to sell my first novel, The Fiction Class. Bad news, better news, good news You can only imagine my trepidation when I approached the first editor. I’d never met a book editor before. This young woman was from one of the big publishing houses. I gave her my pitch. She peered at me and said, “No one will want to read that.” I had one of those moments when time seems to stop and the tips of your fingers go numb. However, I persevered. Met with two other editors who were more pleasant, though not interested, and then finally, on the last day of the conference, I met with the very last […]

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This is my first post on the new, improved, faster, fabulous Miss Demeanor site. It’s much easier to do than I anticipated. But that did not stop me from lying awake for about five hours last night worrying about it. It’s fine. It’s fine.

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This past weekend I was a workshop leader at the New York Pitch Conference. I’m in charge of the women’s fiction/literary fiction/memoir group, so I get to hear many wonderful stories. Many that I hope to read in book form at some point or another. I am continually awed by the diversity of stories out there. Just in my group there were people from India and Ghana and Lebanon and England. Professors and Ph.Ds. People who’ve survived some terrible things and others who’ve survived Hollywood. People who seem very polished and people who are scribbling notes on bits of paper. Mothers and daughters and some really odd people. It’s also fascinating to me how individual this publishing business is. Every editor reacts to each pitch in a different way. The very same pitch will be met with enthusiasm from one editor and blank indifference from another. They like for you to have a large social media presence. They like to know you’ve worked hard on your story–whether by studying writing or having pieces workshopped by beta readers. They like for you to have good comps. They like all these things unless they don’t really care because they like your story so much. Or they like you so much.  Or they like your shoes. It’s a mystery.  But I’m happy to report that almost every member of my group got a request from an editor, and most got more than one. Now the next part of the process begins, the revising and waiting and hoping. Fingers crossed!    

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Promoting… The All Important P In Publishing

Promotion! I hate it. Some folks may love it. Certainly, most folks are way better at it than I am. So, my question to the MissDemeanors this week was: What is the best thing you’ve done to help promote your book so far? I’ve highlighted some of my favorite bits that I will definitely be exploring with my latest book.   Here’s mine. I had a murder mystery party in my house for The Widower’s Wife. About 50 couples showed up and everyone had a character (most of which I made up). Pretty much everyone bought a book. More importantly, folks had so much fun being part of a mystery that they actually read the book and then shared it with friends. I am pretty sure that each person who came spread the word. At the end of the day, I can’t quantify the sales, but it was fun and it definitely got folks talking.  Michele: The unfortunate answer to this question is I don’t know. That’s because it’s very difficult to tell what works and doesn’t unless you can make a direct connection to your sales. My sense is that marketing my books to people who live in or visit and love the Virgin Islands has worked best. I think that might get filed under “Finding Your Audience.” Susan: I’ve taken part in several Bones and Scones events at the Madison Library, and those are fun because the only people who go are cozy mystery readers. And people who like scones. (This would go to Michele’s point about Finding Your Audience.) In terms of sales, the number one thing I’ve done is take part in BookBub. That causes your sales to jump by thousands in one day. It’s at a reduced price, but if you’re looking to get your name out there, it’s very helpful. Also, Gotham Writers has a newsletter they send out to 40,000 or so people and they’ve been very nice about excerpting my work and promoting it. Paula: It’s hard to know what works and what doesn’t, so the best thing is to do is as much as possible. Social media’s critical, and I do a lot of that. I also do a lot of appearances at writer’s conferences, where I sell a lot of my writing books (as that’s where my audience is). Robin Stuart: I second Paula’s advice. Conferences and social media are good for reaching beyond your immediate circles. So is looking for and jumping on every single opportunity to be interviewed, interviewing someone else, and writing articles/blogs on topics close to your platform or premise. If you’re not already a member of organizations like Sisters In Crime and Mystery Writers of America – do it now. They both offer opportunities for volunteering, panel appearances and organized events to raise your own profile as well as that of your books. I’m also a fan of creative promotions, like our Miss Demeanors webcam covers. Since I write what I know (cyber crime) I have “names” in the cyber crime fighting community ready and willing to help out with promotional ideas and opportunities, too. Basically, book promotion is self-promotion. The key is to throw shyness out the window. Believe in your product (you) and leverage your communities, be they personal, professional, local or international. It’s all fair game and the only limits are your imagination. Tracee: I think I agree with everyone! Particularly on the it’s hard to tell what works issue. I’m with Paula that you have to delve into social media, but I keep looking for the sweet spot – meaning how much and how targeted. I wish I could do it as well as Steve Berry. His social media posts are consistent and reflect the focus of his books – thrillers set around a historical topic. When he is gearing up for a launch the posts focus on historic facts/places/items of interest surrounding that particular theme (for example, tie in to the Templars for the Templar Legacy.) When he’s not gearing up for a launch the historic topics range a bit further but keep the interest of readers who like the history angle. It’s targeted and informative. I think it is a success. I’ve not been as creative as Cate with her mystery party but I do think that in-person helps. I liken it to politics. When you are a new candidate (or a known name going to the next level) you have to meet people. Hopefully these people become your strongest supporters (fans) and spread the word. For me, that means getting out and about: bookstores, libraries, local groups, in person or Skype book clubs and, of course, conferences. I also think these outings are energizing. Meeting readers and talking about books is why we write! I always think what would Paula do/say? She would likely remind us all that the MOST important thing we do is put time into writing the best book we can. So I suppose that’s the scale upon which I weigh the other marketing activities. Have to do them, but don’t let them become all I do. Alexia: My publisher’s sales are mostly online so I’m working on “building my social media presence”. I’ve got an account on nearly everything except Reddit, although I have varying success in keeping up with all of them. I blog, which is not something I did before I had a book deal. (And, honestly, wouldn’t if I wasn’t an author.) I seldom say no to interviews on others’ blogs or podcasts (even though I think my recorded voice sounds weird). I also go to as many conferences as I can afford to/arrange time off from work for. A lot of my book sales are made at conferences, both on-site and to people who meet/hear me and buy later. Conferences help me improve my networking skills as well as sell books. I’ve made contact with people who’ve offered me guest blogs, interviews, and book blurbs. The next time I see a movie or TV show that depicts an author leading the life of a hermit, never connecting with anyone but their inner muse, yet still selling books, I’m going to track down the script writer and bop them over the head with my calendar. (Not really, because I don’t advocate violence but you know what I mean.) On the plus side, I made enough trips this year to get my United frequent flyer status upgraded to Silver. If I ever win Powerball or Mega Millions, I’m hiring a publicist. Alison: As a yet-to-be-published writer, I know where to turn in 2018 when I need advice! I have to admit, it’s not something I’m thinking about yet. (Alison, book mark this blog. I learned a lot from our fellow MissDemeanors.)  

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I am in a waiting phase of my career. I’ve spent five years researching and writing a book, which I have turned over to my fabulous agent. She has said very flattering things about it, and now it is all in her hands. All I can really do is wait and hope and pray and drink. And talk to my dogs. Not necessarily in that order.  Of course I am incapable of sitting around doing nothing, so for me, the waiting period is actually a very productive time. For one thing, I’m reading a lot. I’m gorging myself on all sorts of random books. I just started reading (and finished reading) Mary Higgins Clark’s Where are the Children? That’s a master class in suspense right there. I also just read Allison Pataki’s book about Benedict Arnold. The reading takes me outside of my anxieties and reminds of why I love to do this in the first place. I’m also jotting down ideas. Not big things, because there’s no point in writing a whole new thing until I know where I am with this thing. But mind is percolating with strange thoughts, and some of them I’m turning into short stories. I love writing stories because you can explore all sorts of characters that might wind up in later books.    Then, I’m organizing my office. I have years worth of strange scraps of information tacked on the wall. I know the astrological sign for about 20 characters. Perhaps I should take that down and put it into a folder. There are books I don’t need anymore that I can give to the Attic Sale, and books that I forgot I had, that I now have time to read.                                                              Of course I am also checking my phone, and I can report that Democratic National Committee has called me 5 times. I respect Tom Perez, but unless he plans to sell my book, I don’t want to hear from him.  How about you? What are your strategies for waiting?  

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Writing: It’s A Team Sport

I mentioned people yesterday. Let’s talk more about that. We’ve all heard what a singular endeavor writing can be, shuttered away in a dark corner with just your imagination and your preferred implements for putting thoughts on paper. I bought into that image for a while. Then I asked a friend with an impressive list of non-fiction credits to her name for advice. What should I do once I had a completed manuscript that I thought was pretty good? “Test it out. Workshop it at writers’ conferences,” she said. That turned out to be darned good advice. Life-changing, in fact. Finding the right conferences introduced me to the difference between writing for myself and writing commercial fiction. Both are fine, of course. But the latter was my goal and there’s nothing lonely about it. Yes, it’s my butt in the chair creating characters and weaving their stories. However, I learned very quickly commercial writing is a team effort. Agents, editors, publishers, publicists, mentors, writing groups, and, the crown jewels: readers. At writers’ conferences, you get to meet and mingle with them all. Take a look at the photo in this post. I snapped it while attending a recent conference. It illustrates my point. Agents dance with writers they may or may not have previously known or represent. Aspiring authors chat with best sellers. My favorite part is the table in the foreground. An author pitches an editor over dessert. She’s a writer after my own heart. I know she got some great advice. This photo reveals the beauty of writers’ conferences. They’re what you make of them. Finding your tribe. Meeting your heroes. Being mentored by industry professionals. All opportunities of a lifetime. If you’re serious about writing for the commercial market, go. Period. This is the perfect time of year to start planning your conference schedule for 2017. Which ones are you most interested in attending?  

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The Developmental Edit

Today is my birthday. It was also the initial due date for my developmental edit. As a birthday/Christmas present to myself and my family, I finished the second draft a week early. And, it was one of the most difficult things I’ve done in my life.  Novel writing is the long distance running of careers. You have to maintain a pace and get to the finish line, which is typically months, if not years, away.  People take a year or more to pen a first novel. It then takes months–if not a year–to secure an agent and several months to secure a publisher. (Obviously, some books never do. But I learned from the experience of NOT getting an agent for a few novels in drawers that it takes about a year to give up on them too and start something else). If you have a publisher and a contract for a next book, you still have six to eight months or so from the publication of the last novel to the delivery of the next one.  However, writing becomes a sprint during the editing process.  I got back my latest novel from my editors on December 3rd. I had until today to add fifteen to twenty thousand words to it (some parts were cut during the initial edit), make my protagonist have more agency, add a few more red herrings (can’t add all those words without new twists and turns), change some personality characteristics about another character, and rejigger a pretty significant plot point.  I finished the rewrite on Monday December 19th. Sixteen days from when I first received the novel back. It took me a day to just digest the editorial letter and my kids were out of school for three days during that time period (I am a stay at home mom, sans babysitting).   But I knew I had to finish it then because my daughter’s birthday is on the 22nd and I was hosting Christmas and a party for her. And, I needed a day to shop for Christmas and birthday presents, wrap them, and make the house look festive because it’s the holidays, darn it! I finished the developmental edit by working the six hours when my kids were in school and then, after putting them to bed, working another six hours until 3:30 in the morning for two weeks. But, I did it. And I got to spend the whole holiday week planning in-class Christmas parties, baking with my kids, taking care of one kid who got a stomach bug, writing Christmas cards and making my daughter’s 5th birthday pretty cool.  So, I am feeling pretty awesome on my birthday today. Turns out that I can run fast when I need to.      

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What's New in Social Media

One of the perks of being a Random House author is that you get invited to webinars where various publishing folk tell you about things they think you should know. I love going to these webinars. You don’t know who else is sitting in, of course, because you’re just looking at a screen with a picture on it, but I like to imagine Paula Hawkins sitting across from me in the void and thinking, “What if Maggie Dove met The Girl on the Train? Why don’t I call Susan and ask?” Anyway, yesterday the topic was “What’s New in Social Media.” The speaker was a young woman who handles all the social media at Penguin Random House and she had a lot of interesting tidbits. Here are some of them. 1. Share content you enjoy. (Yes, it’s okay to post all those pictures of dogs!) Readers want to know who you are and what your interests are. Social media is about getting across your personality! 2. You don’t need to be on every platform. Pick the one you like. But. If you are only going to pick only one, go with Facebook. That’s the big one, with more than a billion users. She advised authors to set up a fan page because while there are limits to the number of friends you can have, there are no limits to the number of fans you can have.  3. Twitter and Facebook tend to attract older users. The newer platforms, such as Snapchat, tend to draw younger ones. She said young people tend to colonize the new platforms and then the old people move in.   4. Because it’s the internet, there are always going to be some haters. Don’t respond. Don’t get upset. Don’t dwell. (But don’t forget. Never forget! 🙂 )   5. One of the most exciting new platforms is called Litsy. It’s an app for your phone, and it’s all about books. When you go on, it’s a little like instagram, except that there are only pictures of books. You can take pictures of books you’re reading and post them and write blurbs about them. I posted a picture of my fellow Miss Demeanor Cate Holahan’s book, The Widower’s Wife, against a red pillow, since it’s a domestic thriller.  Best of all, it’s a new platform and only has 28,000 or so users so far, so joining Litsky gives you chance to get involved with something on the ground floow. (Imagine if you’d joined twitter when it had only a few thousand users!)If you do decide to join, let me know and I’ll follow you. There’s another platform that’s similar called Reco. I haven’t checked that out yet. Probably her most important advice is to have fun with it. Social media really is about connecting. What about you? Which platforms do you like?  

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Copy Edits

    This is my week for going over the copy-edited version of my new novel, Maggie Dove’s Detective Agency (which will be coming out on November 8.)  It’s my last chance to make changes before it goes into publication, which means it’s my last chance to get everything right. On every page of the draft, there are notes from the copy-editor. Sometimes he just wants me to think about a word. Other times it’s more substantive.  Here are some sample questions: 1. Timing is very important in mysteries, as you can imagine. At one point I say that something happened two weeks ago, but actually it happened 20 days ago. Fix that! 2. Early in the novel I refer to a cat as having green eyes, but later on he has yellow eyes. Fix that! 3. I keep misusing “further” and “farther.” 4. Maggie has a conversation with her nemesis, Walter Campbell, and she feels badly for him. But soon thereafter she loses her temper. Take more time, the copy editor cautions. Wait a beat before she yells. 5. I tend to use the word “dumbfounded” a lot. Which I frequently am. But I shouldn’t use it too much. 6. I refer to a book of magic spells. (There are witches in this book!) But I got the title wrong. I fixed it. And so on. None of these things are onerous, but it’s important to get it all right. There’s nothing worse than finding a mistake in a book. Completely damages the author’s credibility. In my first Maggie Dove mystery, the copy-editor found a real doozy. I was referring to a psalm and got the number wrong. Maggie Dove is a Sunday School teacher and that would have been an embarrassing mistake. One of my favorite things about this process is that it does give you a chance to fix mistakes, which is not something you always get in life. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were someone walking alongside you saying, “Just a minute. Are you sure you want to do that?” (Maybe that’s my husband’s job.) Anyway, only 100 more pages to go through and then my new mystery will be as fresh and shiny as I can make it. Then I can get going on a first draft of a new book and make whatever mistakes I want! Have you ever found a mistake in a book? Or have you made one? (In a book, or in life?)    

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What scares you?

  So much of writing is scary. Should you write down those thoughts? Will your family think you’re crazy?Should you send your work out to an agent? What if she thinks you’re crazy?Will anyone buy your book? What if all the reviews are one stars? So much of publishing makes me nervous, but I vowed to myself, when I turned 50, that I would try to say yes to everything people asked me to do, which is how I came to take part in a reading at the Parkside Lounge last Thursday night. This was an event fraught with anxiety. First of all, it was in the East Village in NYC.  Once I get south of 14th Street and the numbers go away, I just have to accept that fact that I’m going to spend an hour lost.  I carefully mapped out subway directions. Dragged my sister-in-law and a friend into a subway, which wound up being un-airconditioned. It was 100 degrees. My make-up dripped onto my lap.  Then there was the place itself, which was, exactly as I feared, much cooler than I am. (I’m not speaking of temperature here, but of a state of mind.) The walls were red (I think). There was a pool table in the bar. The emcee was a very cute young man who reminded me of Lin-Manuel Miranda. And there was I to read about the Sunday School teacher who is the protagonist of my cozy mystery. But not yet, because first there were three hours of other people reading. (I was the headliner, either because I’m that good, or because I harangued the most people into going.) First up was a man writing about his first time using a condom. Then came various other intense and very moving pieces. Then came a woman describing an intimate relationship with an ice cream cone, and then came me, talking about Maggie Dove. I went up to the stage and the light shone right into my eyes. I’m a teacher and used to relying on visual cues. When people start looking down at their cell phones, I know it’s time to move along. So it was weird to be in a cocoon of light.  Anyway, I started to read the first chapter of Maggie Dove. Suddenly everyone got quiet. You know that feeling when people are really listening to you? It’s a nice feeling. When I was done, everyone applauded. Sincerely, I felt. Afterwards I got an e-mail from someone who had been there who had been one of my students several years ago. She was so excited to hear about my book, had written one herself. Wanted to reconnect. The next day I got this group photograph, and as I looked at it, I thought how much fun the whole thing had been. Writing is about saying yes.   But now I think I’d like to stay curled up in my office for a bit. At least until Thursday, when I have a reading at Bryant Park. How about you? Have you ever done anything scary? 

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