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March 2012

The Role of an Agent in the Book Publishing Process

Once your manuscript is complete, it is time to decide how you wish to publish it. Here are your options:

  1. approach a large publisher,
  2. approach a mid-size publisher,
  3. hire an literary agent,
  4. contract with a vanity press (not a good choice), or
  5. publish it yourself.

Everyone's situation is different, and the solution for one person may not be the best solution for another. If you are looking for an agent or a publisher, research and learn what types of books each have represented or published in the past.

Savvy authors, looking to attract a major audience, sell their idea for a book often before they have finished it. They draft a proposal and send it to agents and publishers. Even self-publishers should draft proposals to help them assess the size of their market, uncover the competition and plan the direction for their book. Use the proposal to sell both you and your idea - and make your proposal irresisitible.

Specifically regarding agents, here some things worth considering.

In some instances, agents can play a key role. Many larger publishers prefer to have manuscripts filtered through agents. This filtering improves the quality and reduces the quantity of proposals they receive. The agent, acting as a counselor, also provides a buffer between the author and the publisher.

Agents provide three primary services.

  1. They find a publisher by matching your manuscript to the best fit.
  2. They negotiate the contract.
  3. In some instances, they may help develop the manuscript.

Most agents today will require you to draft a book proposal for submission to the publishers.

Finding the right agent is an important and critical decision. Some literary agents have a passion and a track record of success for certain kinds of books (i.e. cookbooks, travel, children's books, business, parenting, etc.). To connect with the right agent for you manuscript, you'll need to match it to the agent. Research various agent directories. Ask anyone you know who you think might know of a resource. Locate and call authors of works similar to yours and ask who their agent is. 

Once your manuscript is complete, how you approach the decision of how and who will publish your manuscript is the next critical hurdle.

[This post was created, with permission, from excerpts taken from Successful Nonfiction, written by Dan Poynter .]

10 Tips to Finish Your Book

by Karen Hodges Miller.

A recent survey showed over 80 percent of Americans would like to write a book - but most never will. Think you don't have the time? Here are a few tried and true techniques to help you find it.

1. Develop your vision. Ask yourself these questions. Why do you want to write a book? What do you want your book to do? To inspire others? To build your business? To build your reputation? There is no wrong answer.

2. Don't wait for inspiration. If you going to write that book, you must schedule regular writing time every week - and then make that time sacred.

3. Write about your passion. If you are not passionate about the subject of your book, you are not going to spend the time needed to write it.

4. Set your goals. A book is a big project, so set some interim goals for yourself - things like completing your outline by the end of the month, writing one chapter per week, etc.

5. Give yourself rewards. Now that you've set your goals, reward yourself when you accomplish them.

6. Manage priorities, not time. Make a list of your priorities, then divide these tasks into four categories: Urgent and Important, Urgent and unimportant, Not urgent and Important, Not urgent and unimportant. Using this quadrant will help you see just how you are using your time.

7. Block your time. Now that you know what your most important priorities are, take out your calendar and start blocking in times. Once you've blocked in your book writing times, make them sacrosanct. Only real emergencies should keep you from working on your book in those time periods.

8. Find the right place to write. Writing takes concentration. Find a quiet corner where you can keep your work organized and easily accessible. Make yourself a place where you can work without distraction.

9. Find an accountability partner. An accountability partner is someone who supports, nudges, and nags you into completing a difficult project. The relationship works best if each person has the opportunity to be both the naggee and the nagger. Just make sure that you and your partner have clear rules about the structure and type of nagging that will occur.

10. Why projects fail is failure to start. This is the number one reason why projects fail. So pick a topic. Pick a time. Pick a place. Pick up a pencil. Pick out a file name for your new document and write.

[Karen Hodges Miller is the founder of Open Door Publications and the co-author of Finish Your Book! A Time Management Guide for Writers. Her second book, Sell Your Book, Think Outside the Bookstore, will be available in mid-April 2012.]


Introducing Karen Hodges Miller

Book1Blog is extremely pleased to introduce Karen Hodges Miller, who will be joining us as a feature guest author in future posts. Karen has over 25 years of experience as a writer, editor and publisher, working with entrepreneurial authors who want to realize their dreams of writing and publishing.

Her experience as a freelance business reporter gives her a fresh outlook on the creative world of writers and the practical world of business owners - something she brings with her in the variety of workshops and seminars she conducts each year.

Karen is the founder of Open Door Publications, LLC, a company that has helped dozens of authors bring their own ideas to market. She is the author of "Finish Your Book! A Time Management Guide for Writers," published in 2010 and will be releasing her latest book, "Sell Your Book, 100 Tips and Tactics," in April 2012.

We look forward to the wonderful information Karen will be sharing with us in the months ahead. Her first post, titled "10 Tips to Finishing Your Book," will be published early next week. Karen, it's great to have you with us.

How to Obtain Powerful Endorsements for Your Book

If you are trying to generate a large buying audience for your book, there are a number of things you can do - months before your book is finished. One of them is to seek out and obtain book testimonials and endorsements. It can take some work, but can be well worth it.

It is quite possible that during research you conducted for your book, you may have identified several people who could give you an endorsement. Once you have names, find out how to contact these people through web searches, listings in various Who' Who, or the special reference organized by profession, available at your public library.

If it's a famous author you're trying to reach, check out the author's website to find out who his or her publisher is. Then call or write the publisher. Often the publisher will deal with these requests directly, or they may refer you to a separate agent that may handle this.

Another option is to send your request directly to the Author's Guild. If the author is a member, the Guild will be able to hook you up with current contact information.

Once you have a short list of potential candidates, here is how to proceed.

  1. Send the endorsement candidate a riveting cover letter introducing your project, your bio, and a brief but powerful overview of your book. Include some sample quotes from your book.
  2. Explain why you feel this person would find the material interesting, and ask if they will look it over and share their comments.
  3. To facilitate their request for a copy of the book, include your email address and a toll-free telephone number, if you have one.

If a candidate favorably responds, immediately send a manuscript to them. In  addition, craft several custom "endorsements" from which they can extrapolate. In short, may it as easy as possible for them.

But keep in mind, endorsements and testimonials from well know people don't come easily. Expect delays, hesitancies and nos. Now is the time to drag out your pleasant persistence. Stay in touch - over and over and over again.

Send everyone who provides an advance comment a gracious handwritten thankyou note. And be sure they each get an autographed copy of your book when it comes off the press.

Yes, obtaining high impact book endorsements can be challenging and require digging along with great persistence. But can it be successful? Absolutely!

[This post was created, with permission, from excerpts taken from The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, 5th Edition, co-authored by Marilyn Ross and Sue Collier.]

Creating Your Book Marketing Plan - And Reasonable Expectations

[Valerie Douglas, an extremely talented fiction author, recently wrote an excellent piece regarding what she has learned about marketing her books. She has graciously given us permission to republish some of her thoughts. Below is an abridged version that we definitely recommend for any author planning a book marketing program and a book writing career.]

It takes time for your book to become known. It takes time to build a reputation. To accomplish both, you need a book marketing plan, and far more importantly, reasonable expectations. Here are some rules to follow:

Rule #1: Create a marketing plan. And not a short one. You need a plan for at least a year.

Rule #2: It will take a least three months, if not longer, to make even a few sales. Schedule days to market/promote, days to blog, etc. Consider writing book two. If there is no book two, sales of your book will plateau and then drop off.

Rule #3: Set a reasonable release schedule. Readers need to know that another book is coming. Anticipation is a good thing. And when book two is published, it will bump sales of book one.

Rule #4: Don't spam promote. When using social media, be respectful. Join writers and readers groups. Learn the rules and follow them.

Rule #5: Don't load up on five star reviews by asking friends and family to write them. Most readers will suspect what you're doing. Solicit reviews from legitimate sites.

Rule #6: Be professional.  It does matter. Readers are watching how you act and how you talk to them. So are reviewers, editors, etc. They will be much more inclined to work with you if you act professionally.

Rule #7: There are sites, blogs and people willing to help with interviews, blog posts and even marketing. Many are free. Use them!

Rule #8: You have to do the work. Marketing is a learning processs and, remember, you have a year. There's time, and you can't rush it.

Rule #9: Be realistic. This one hurts. If your book isn't in a standard genre, if its quirky or really different, it may be difficult to find an audience - or it may take months longer.

Rule #10: Write because you love it. If you write from the heart, nothing else matters. Passion will get you through. Not the money, but the joy.

One of the first and best pieces of advice I ever read - and one of the most ignored - is don't stop. When you finish with book one, write book two. Then book three. The list of one hit wonders is pitifully small.

[To read Valerie's article in it's entirety, click on Marketing - A Novel Experience. To learn more about the books Valerie has written, go to Valerie Douglas books.]