Publishing Process

The Role of the Agent

As the publishing industry undergoes tremendous upheaval and change — mostly because of the arrival of eBooks and self-publishing — there has been lots of talk about the role of the literary agent in all of this.

As readers of this blog know, I secured representation for Baby Grand in January 2010. And even though two years later I decided to self-publish my debut novel, I’ve said this before: Having my agent for those two years was invaluable, and Baby Grand is a FAR better novel having gone through the traditional publishing process in the early stages. Why, you ask. Not because my agent helped me to write Baby Grand or gave me ideas or even did “light editing,” as I’ve seen a literary agent’s “role” described on websites. My agent actually did no editing at all.

What she did do — among other things — is similar to what is depicted in this scene from Walk the Line, the 2005 film based on the early life and career of country music artist Johnny Cash and starring Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon. Here, Cash and his band/friends are auditioning for a record label executive, who is explaining to them what he needs in order to sell their music. He’s not asking them to be something they’re not. He’s not asking them to sing the songs HE wants them to sing. What he does is what I think a good agent does for writers — pushes them. Pushes them to dig deep down and find their true voice. Pushes them when they think they have nothing else to give.

So while, yes, there are sure to be changes in the industry regarding agents’ role in the writer/publisher relationship, to me it seems the core of the writer/agent relationship will always stay the same.


By |2012-09-26T14:09:58-04:00September 26th, 2012|eBooks, Publishing Process, Writing Process|0 Comments

3 Tips for Surviving Bad Reviews

Well, it was bound to happen.

After 37 straight five-star reviews on Amazon in nearly four months of publication, and a string of four- and five-star reviews on Goodreads, Baby Grand got its first clunker. A two-star review. Basically, the dude thought that my book was boring, smelly, ugly, totally gross, and that its mother dressed it funny. (I’m paraphrasing.) No, seriously, it just wasn’t for him.

Hey, it happens. I knew my good fortune would come to an end eventually — it’s just the nature of criticism. My daughter, who was reading the review over my shoulder, asked, “Are you okay?” Surprisingly, I was. Stung, of course, but okay. My reaction reminded me of when I was in grad school and I had been getting straight As class after class — something you can certainly get used to — and a professor finally gave me a B+, breaking my streak. I remember thinking for a moment, Oh, darn. But then life went on. I thought that perhaps, being a professional writer, I’ve gotten used to rejection — editors not liking queries or articles, editors requesting changes. After all, Baby Grand was rejected some ten times last year by traditional publishing editors before I decided to self-publish and make a go of it on my own in January. Writing can be a very humbling profession.

But I think it’s just that I know, deep down, that bad reviews happen. Here are three things that I try to keep in mind when I get them:

1. Even universally beloved books –from the classics to contemporary favorites — have bad reviews. Author Ellen Meister, whose new novel Farewell, Dorothy Parker will be published in February, and I discussed this when she came out to East Hampton to appear on The Writer’s Dream recently. Pick a book, any book, that you absolutely loved. Find it on Amazon, and I guarantee you that there will be bad reviews for it. So if Toni Morrison, Haruki Murakami and Stephen King can deal with it, so can you.


By |2012-09-06T11:04:29-04:00September 6th, 2012|Book Promotion, Publishing Process|5 Comments

Kindle Nation Daily Sponsorship: Worth It?

On August 19, 2012, Baby Grand was Kindle Nation Daily’s eBook of the Day.

My goal for the sponsorship was to introduce Baby Grand to readers who have never heard of the book or of me or my blog — to connect with complete strangers who might enjoy a good thriller. And, hey, if I could make a little money too, even better.

Kindle Nation Daily is a popular promotional choice for Kindle authors (when I purchased the sponsorship back in June there were only two dates left for August). KND offers all kinds of sponsorships, including daily and weekly options, as well as packages, that run from about $30 and up, and their newsletters and websites connect with tens of thousands of readers.

The sponsorship I purchased, eBook of the Day, is priced at $159.99. A bit steep. So right off the bat, I knew there was a good chance that I might not recoup my investment since I had planned on selling Baby Grand at the promotional price of $1.99 that day, which meant that I’d need to sell about 270 books (since Amazon offers 35 percent royalties for books priced under $2.99) to break even.


Goodbye, KDP Select

Yesterday was the last day of my three-month exclusivity agreement with Amazon’s KDP Select (Baby Grand made its debut as part of the program on May 23). For those who don’t know about the program, when you sign on to KDP Select, you agree to sell your eBook only in the Kindle format (you can continue selling your paperbacks anywhere you wish). In exchange for this agreement, you are given some marketing assistance, including several free promotional days, where you can basically give your book away, and also your book is included in the Kindle Lending Library — every time an Amazon Prime member (and there are oodles of them) “borrows” your book, Amazon pays you a royalty.

When I agreed to participate in the program, I looked at it as a limited release of my novel, much like an independent film might be first shown in New York and Los Angeles before going wide, and as a way to cultivate a following in the Kindle community while taking advantage of additional promotional help from Amazon.

Overall, I was satisfied with the results of KDP Select, particularly with a mass email intended for thriller lovers that included my book. Yippee!

But, in the end, I decided to leave the program after my first go-round. Here’s why:


Meet Author Siobhan Fallon

I have wanted to feature this lovely lady and writer-friend in my Debut Author series for a while, and I’m so happy to have her here today. Siobhan Fallon, author of You Know When the Men Are Gone, offers tales of life on a contemporary American military base that have been inspired by her own experiences as an Army wife living at Fort Hood, Texas, while her husband was deployed to Iraq for two tours of duty. Siobhan, whose eight loosely linked stories take readers inside the homes, marriages and lives of a variety of military families, writes with compassion and honesty, and her work has been showered with praise—her collection was featured on National Public Radio’s “Talk of the Nation” and Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review, noting that Fallon writes “with both grit and grace.” So without further ado (and, yes, I know I’m already a day late!), a warm welcome to Siobhan!

Name: Siobhan Fallon

Name of book: You Know When the Men Are Gone

Book genre: Literary fiction/short stories

Date published: January 20, 2011

Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam

What led you to write a collection of short stories rather than a novel? I think the form of a short story collection is actually a metaphor for military life – families, although distinct, have this important thread that connects them, much like your stories. There seem to be so many possibilities with a collection, more leeway with plot and scope, than with a novel. Instead of concentrating on how one character, or how one character’s family, was dealing with a deployment, writing stories allowed me an incredible freedom to go from a completely different world to another, from Fort Hood to Iraq, from the apartments of a military housing complex to an off-post home with a creepy basement. I could focus on a myriad of problems, get up-close and personal, and try to demonstrate how each character weathers the stress of a deployment.

A short story collection also allowed me to have the characters intersect occasionally, sometimes appearing in another story, maybe playing a large role or merely mentioned in an offhanded way, without having to tie every life neatly together the way you’d expect of a novel. And, yes, as you pointed out, the style of a story collection seemed to mirror life on base, the vastness of it all, the chance encounters you might have, the abrupt departures and arrivals that happen every day.


Guest Post: Why I Chose to Self-Publish after Being Published by New York

One of my favorite things is hearing about the publishing experiences of other writers. Today, author Carole Bellacera tells us why she chose to self-publish her novels after having had deals in the past with traditional publishing houses.

I admit it. I was a snob. Back when I finally sold my first novel to a major New York house, I looked down my nose at anyone who’d self-published their books. For thirteen years, I’d struggled to sell a novel, coming close a few times, but always falling short. But even then, after working with three different agents, and suffering years of rejection, I held fast to my belief that if I had to stoop to self-publishing, I wouldn’t be a “real author.”

And now here I am, almost 30 years later, a self-published author. How did that happen? Well, it’s a rather familiar story to many authors. After my fourth book came out by the New York publisher, my editor left for greener pastures, leaving me an unwanted orphan. No one else, apparently, saw in my work what my editor had, and all support dried up. Of course, my sales sucked swamp water, which, I’m sure, accounted for the lack of excitement on Fifth Avenue.

Burned out and discouraged, I took a few years off from the business side to renew my love affair with what was important to me – writing. I wrote two complete novels and then waded back into the quick sands of publishing – only to find that I was starting over from the very beginning. Agent hunting, editor hunting… rejection followed by rejection. Having a track record didn’t seem to make a difference.

That’s when I decided to take back control of my career. I was sick of being told “no, your work is not worthy.” I knew it was worthy. I was the same writer I’d been when I sold four novels which earned raving reviews, if not sales. So I got my rights back from my New York publisher and put my backlist out on Amazon’s Kindle program. But I didn’t stop there. I’m in the process now of reissuing all my backlist in print, too. And then I took the two unsold books I’d been shopping to New York and put them out through Amazon’s CreateSpace.


Meet Laura McCrossin

A Facebook friend of mine posted a great quote that came to mind during today’s interview with featured debut author Laura McCrossin: “The cure for anything is salt water — sweat, tears, or the sea.” My hunch is that Written in Water: An Uncharted Life Aboard a Wooden Boat has all three. :)

Name: Laura McCrossin

Name of book: Written in Water: An Uncharted Life Aboard a Wooden Boat

Book genre: Adventure Nonfiction

Date published: April 5, 2012

Publisher: Createspace

What is your day job? Unemployed meteorologist (send me your vacancies!)

What is your book about? At age 21, I joined a 125-foot wooden ship for my first sailing experience. A few years later, I bought a wooden sailboat of my own, and on a whim and a prayer, I set sail for Cuba.

Why did you want to write this book? It’s a story of overcoming adversity and uncertainty, and of turning ones back on engrained assumptions that result in many of us leading our lives oblivious to the countless possibilities that exist. I wanted to provide inspiration for people in search of positive affirmation to validate their own dreams, and the encouragement to pursue them.

What would you say is the most challenging part of writing a book? The editing. It was never finished. Even though the book is now published, some days I still wonder if I should have included this, or taken out that… I’ve managed to leave it alone so far!

Did any other locales besides Cuba provide the material for this book? Yes, indeed. I traveled by sea to Cuba, Mexico, the Windward Isles of the Caribbean, Bermuda, Azores, Denmark, Scotland, Bahamas… to name just a few.

What motivates you to write? New experiences. The book (the unedited version) was written as I traveled. If something terrifying, inspiring, or otherwise out-of-the-ordinary occurred, I couldn’t wait for my next opportunity to pull out my writing materials and get it on paper.


Meet Author Kimberly Brock

A warm welcome to today’s featured debut author, Kimberly Brock, whose novel, The River Witch, has garnered a whopping 21 five-star reviews since its publication in April. Way to go, Kimberly!

Name: Kimberly Brock

Name of book: The River Witch

Book genre: Women’s fiction/Southern lit

Date published: April 15, 2012

Publisher: Bell Bridge Books

What is your day job? I’m a full-time mom to three kids, and I teach occasional Pilates sessions.

What is your book about? The River Witch is a Southern tale set against the backdrop of the Sea Islands. When ballerina Roslyn Bryne loses her career and suffers a tragic miscarriage, her grief sends her into a desperate exile to the mystical Manny’s Island where she rents a lonely house that once belonged to a conjure woman. But instead of solitude, Roslyn is confronted with the audacious, motherless Damascus Trezevant. What follows is an unforgettable summer and a look at the profound choices we all make in the name of love.

Why did you want to write this book? I wrote this novel over a period of five years, so my reasons for writing it changed along the way. At first, it was a story about marginalized women and children, but it also became a look at how family and heritage influence our choices for good and bad. How they define us. And what we stand to lose of ourselves if we don’t cherish and find peace with all that means about ourselves.

What would you say is the most challenging part of writing a book? Getting lost along the way and tangled in your attempts so that the book is never finished.

Did you conduct any kind of research in order to write this book (visit certain locales, etc.)? I had at least limited experience in most aspects of the novel, but I did read a lot of books and do a lot of searching online to fill in any gaps where my own experience in dance or the Sea Island and southern Appalachia culture and environment fell short. I listened to tapes of alligators roaring and also watched documentaries on Sacred Harp music.


By |2012-06-19T19:19:18-04:00June 19th, 2012|Debut Author Q&A, Publishing Process|0 Comments

Meet Author Tamara Ward

Well, I’m back from Book Expo America, and, boy, are my dogs barking! Lots and lots of walking and excitement as always, and I’ll be posting all about it in the days to come, but today we have our featured debut author. A big welcome to Tamara Ward!

Name: Tamara Ward

Name of book: Jade O’Reilly and the Ice Queen (A Sweetwater Short)

Book genre: short story, mystery

Date published: March 2012

Publisher: Amazon

What is your day job? Stay-at-home mom with two young boys, freelance journalist

What is your book about? When a priceless vase disappears during the fanciest party of the year in the fictional town of Sweetwater, NC, it’s up to private investigator Jade O’Reilly to recover the family heirloom. As Jade tracks down the vase, she juggles pressures from her ex-fiancé, Dale Pickles, and hard-core co-worker Mack Blackmon. This Sweetwater Short story is about 40 pages in length and originally was published in the WG2E All-For-Indies Winter Wonderland Anthology.

Why did you want to write this book? Fortune and glory. Just kidding; I’m not Indiana Jones or his sidekick, though I wouldn’t mind wearing the hat.

Seriously, though, I enjoy writing fun, fast-paced mysteries, so when an opportunity to write a short story for an indie writers’ anthology arose, I jumped at the occasion. I was in the process of writing a novel with the same characters who appear in the short story. I’m surprised at how much I learned about those characters in the process of writing the short story.

So the story was published in the anthology. A few months later, my publisher, Peak City Publishing, ran a promotion for Storm Surge, my first novel. When it hit the Amazon bestsellers lists, I wanted to offer something more for readers. Since the Ice Queen had been professionally edited, and since it was ready to go, I decided to self-publish the short story. In the meantime, I’m finishing writing the novel with the same characters.


Let the BABY GRAND-palooza Blog Tour Begin!

One of the most important — and challenging — aspects of publishing a book today, whether you self-publish or traditionally publish, is marketing. Getting the word out. I just came across a sobering article that says that half of all self-published authors earn less than $500 a year. Holy cow!

That’s why when my novel was published last week on Amazon, I revved up the marketing machine immediately and reached out to bloggers to see if they might need some help writing posts this summer (as a blogger, I know how difficult it can be to come up with new material regularly) and would like a guest blogger or an eager interviewee. The response has been wonderful.

Today is the first stop on what I’m calling the Baby Grand-palooza Blog Tour. Thank you to Belinda Frisch, who was kind enough to interview me. You can check out the interview here and here. Of course, while I’m looking to promote my debut novel, I also want to be able to provide useful insight into the writing, editing and publishing process. Hopefully, I succeeded. :)

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