Looking for Publishing Advice? Why Offline May be Better.

On the internet, there is no shortage of publishing advice. You can often find this advice from people who work in the publishing industry (authors, agents, publishers) as well as from people who don’t (fans, readers, reviewers and some marketers or booksellers). While I do sometimes give publishing advice, I try to put that advice into context based on my experiences because when it comes to this industry – I believe that everyone’s experiences may be different.

Regardless of how the advice is given, there is often a reason why the advice is being offered in the first place. Many people try to establish themselves as an “expert” for some reason or another; others, like in my case, provide advice to either “pay it forward” or to help their blog readers get to know them. Regardless of the reason why the advice is being offered, the content of that article or blog post may (or may not) be accurate. By “accurate” I mean that the advice could be outdated, colored by personal experience or stretched a bit for some reason or another. That’s not to say that “all” advice is bad; nor am I saying that people knowingly give crappy advice. In many ways, people provide advice as a means of helping themselves reach their goal just like you are reading the advice to (hopefully) reach yours.

As I mentioned earlier, my goal for providing advice to you – my readers – is to help you think critically about your choices. I don’t expect you to take every word I say verbatim, nor do I believe that you’ll agree with everything I say. It may “seem” otherwise (especially when I’ve had too much caffeine) but I really and truly believe that everyone has their own path.

However, no matter how much advice you read online there is one thing that you’re missing – and that is the 100s of conversations that happen offline. Those are the conversations that, if you’re interested in writing within the publishing industry, you need to be involved with, listen to and watch for. Why? Well, just like you have an online reputation to manage, foster and protect – so does everyone else. As a result, there is a lot about the publishing industry that is not revealed on the internet. From the inside skinny on what publishers are really looking for to understanding which agents not to query, there are a lot of business-facing conversations that happen offline.

I’m sure by now you’re wondering how these offline conversations happen. Well? I can tell you that those conversations don’t happen overnight because often they require a level of trust after you’ve developed a rapport with other people in the industry. While that trust does not come easily, the publishing industry is really no different from any other business. In order to be a part of it, you need to network and approach it like a business (Which means keep writing!). Where can you meet people in publishing? Book clubs, conventions, author signings and critique groups in your area might be a few places to start.

Regardless of where you get your information, I strongly encourage you to take all advice with a grain of salt and be sure to follow up and research thoroughly.

My Article for the SFWA about Personalization

Folks,

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America was kind enough to ask me to write an article about online marketing for their website. After mulling over what I wanted to talk about, I decided to contact a few authors I knew to ask them to weigh in on an aspect of online marketing called “personalization.”

Here is an excerpt from the article:

    Get Personal with your Marketing Efforts

    In recent years, the topic of online marketing has become more of a focal point for several authors. Coupled with the changes in the publishing industry and advances in technology, I seem to have more discussions about online marketing than I do about writing fiction, in part because I’ve been involved in online marketing professionally for the past few years.

Read the remainder of how to Get Personal With Your Marketing Efforts on the SFWA website.

Have a fabulous day!

Write First, Sell Later

Before I ever started working in online marketing, I was a writer. I’ve always been surrounded by words and music, so the creative side to me has always been there. The thing of it is, I didn’t realize that writing professionally meant thinking of it as a “job” until much later — even though I did go to school “to be a writer.” So, there’s a voice in my head that is always trying to figure out what market a short story I’m writing may fit into or whether or not I’ll reach the “right” agent for “Argentum.” While this is a necessary process for an professional to go through, no amount of researching, marketing or selling your work can replace your polished words on the page. In other words, unless you’re writing a pitch, don’t worry about selling a story until it’s finished.

If you follow my blog, you know that Argentum will be my first, full-length novel but not my first published work by any means. Many of my fellow authors have reminded me that I should focus on polishing a finished novel instead of worrying whether or not it will sell in the past, few months. Admittedly, it’s taken a while to sink in this time. Why? Even though I absolutely love to write fiction, it doesn’t pay my bills or keep a roof over my head. I am not a full-time novelist, so my perspectives may be different than someone who writes books for a living. At the heart of my issue, is a question: Am I wasting my professional time by writing a novel that may (or may not) be sold?

That question is part of the reason why I am so concerned about selling my work, because I have to make do with the time I have available to me. Writing a full-length novel that may (or may not) get sold does take a considerable amount of time and energy. In other words, that’s time I could be spending writing for projects that I know have a better chance of getting published. Do I feel the experience is worth it? Absolutely. Would I change my decision? No way! Still, I’ve realized that by worrying about the novel’s “possibilities” I’ve actually wasted more time because I wasn’t spending my time working on the novel.

My story may not be your story, but I believe that the moral of it is still the same. Just like I can’t sell a novel I haven’t finished revising yet, don’t try to sell a story you haven’t written or worse — in your excitement try to oversell your work by declaring how “good” of a writer you are. (Believe me, that will only earn you an eye roll rather than a contract.)

My advice for today is this: please remember to finish and polish whatever you’re working on before you try to sell it. You’ll end up looking less like an amateur and more like a professional.

Guest Post: Apex Publishing’s Sizemore on Why Authors Need to Market

Today’s guest post is brought to you by Jason Sizemore of the small press publishing house, Apex Book Company. Apex Books has been embracing both traditional publishing methods as well as new technology through their Apex Book Company e-books on DriveThruSciFi.com. In this post, Jason talks about why it’s important for authors to embrace online marketing and promotion from his perspective as the owner of a small press publishing company.

Are you an author who doesn’t believe in doing your fair share of promotion? If so, I don’t want to work with you. And it’s not just me, but most other publishers, as well.

Trust me when I tell you this isn’t because publishers are lazy and don’t want to do the work to make you (and them) a success. On the contrary, a good small press publisher is a smart, aggressive marketer who will spend late nights on the computer and at conventions promoting their titles. The good small press publisher will wheel n’ deal with magazines, blogs, and websites for prime advertising at a cost they can afford. The good small press publisher will curry favors in return for that half-page ad in the latest Rue Morgue or Locus Magazine. We’re ruthless when it comes to hustling for sales and promotion.

Unfortunately, that’s never enough. Marketing is a hungry beast and most small press owners are working with limited resources (we’re talking the big 3 here: time, money, and people). Many of do what we can with what we have, but due to this lack of resources, part of a successful marketing campaign involves the author.

Here’s something that might surprise some of you—not even my most successful work at marketing can surpass that of an enterprising author determined to sell his/her book.

I’ve had a number of discussions with other publishers and authors about why this is so. In the end, I like to call it the ‘cult of personality.’

Readers share something intimate with a writer that goes beyond the average fan/star relationship. When you read somebody’s book, a connection is built mentally, emotionally that is unique in the retail world. If a reader enjoys your story, they will naturally want to think of you as somebody they’d like, as somebody they’d like to interact with even if it’s remotely through a computer or personally at a convention or book signing.

If a reader meets you and hasn’t read your book, you have an opportunity to earn a fan just by being nice and gracious. If they encounter your blog and you provide something of interest, then they might just pick up your book. I’ve had authors sometimes act like doing self-promotion is a real pain. In reality, it’s little more than being civil and giving the readers a small glimpse into your mind.

Connect with the readers and you’ll do well. Highly successful examples of authors doing this include Brian Keene, Cherie Priest, JA Konrath, Sara M. Harvey, and Maurice Broaddus.

The flip side of the equation is that when I sign an author to a book deal, I consider there to be a ‘bi-directional assumption of trust’ in play. From the author’s perspective, the publisher is trusted to edit and produce a quality product. The author has a fair expectation of review copies being sent, press releases being written, and a reasonable marketing plan being enacted (among other things). The publisher has a right to expect that the author will produce quality edits, they will help promote the title, and to a degree, be a cheerleader for their publisher.

In the end, I’ve never understood the author who refuses to do his/her own marketing. It’s a business, after all. We want to make money. You want to make money. The bookstores want to make money. By not self promoting you’re hurting everybody in that chain of trust.

About Jason Sizemore

Jason Sizemore is the owner of Apex Book Company, a small press dedicated to publishing quality horror, fantasy, and science fiction. Also, he’s a past Stoker Award finalist for editing the anthology Aegri Somnia and his first collection of horror (Irredeemable) comes out in 2010 from Shroud Publications.

For more information, visit www.jason-sizemore.com.

Special Thanks to Author Paul Genesse

One of the things I love about being a writer, is the ability to connect with other authors and professionals I admire. Usually I go to quite a few conventions every year, and in about a month I’ll be speaking at the Writer’s Symposium as part of GenCon: Indy 2009. I’m very grateful to Jean Rabe for allowing me to sit on these panels. Additionally, I’m also very thankful for my developing friendship with author, Paul Genesse who runs the Writer’s Symposium e-zine. In Issue No. 7 of the Writer’s Symposium E-Zine, he had chosen to feature me as an author.

Needless to say, I was thrilled and delighted at the opportunity. I’d like to return the favor by offering a plug for his new book called “The Dragon Hunters.” Be sure to watch the book trailer below for a short synopsis of what his novel is about. For more about Paul and his books, visit his website at: www.paulgenesse.com. Happy reading!

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