Monday, May 31, 2010

An Editor's Insight

David Pomerico, an assistant editor or Del Ray Spectra, was the publishing representative I hoped to learn the most from. Don’t we all want to know what they’re looking for? He started with some humorous suggestions about what would be the next big thing in fantasy after vampires and werewolves have their day. There were many laughs about the attempts to make zombies romantic and heroic. He suggested robots but with a grin that suggested he wasn’t serious. He believes plots with a post-apocalypse theme are very acceptable now and likely will be for some time.

An interesting insight David shared with us was his belief of 9/11’s influence on the popularity of certain types or heroes. People like a more human hero who might even be morally ambiguous rather than a super hero. He suggests we include the personal psychological outlook on life as the fireman and police who charged into the World Trade Centers when everyone else was running out. Readers want to believe we can all be heroes when the moment is upon us.

Tie-ins to video games, popular sci-fi franchises are always good such as Halo, Star Wars and others of that ilk. Military sci-fi, the space marine plot, are still popular.

David believes the fantasy, sci-fi fans and publishers are at the forefront of using the new technology available to the industry and readers. He sees more multi-media coming with video, graphics and games being tied to novels. He hinted at a rumor the newest version of the Kindle coming out next year will have video capabilities.

The question came up about how books are labeled and shelved. He simplified the answer saying urban fantasy is a novel where the fantasy is the most essential part of the book. He defined paranormal romance as including the important ‘happily ever after,’ and the focus of the book in on the relationships. He also emphasized how in fantasy and sci-fi, readers love series so it’s best not to write a book with no sequels in mind.

David was a friendly, patient and down to earth speaker. He called himself a nerd numerous times and entertained us with his wit and knowledge. He’s one more great example of the quality of people Pennwriters bring to their conference.

What do you think of David’s predictions and definitions? Do you agree with his idea of what readers want in their hero and heroine?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Expert Promotion Tips from Nate Hardy.

Nate Hardy is one of those people an organization like Pennwriters really needs to be effective. Nate specializes in marketing and promotion. He advises writers to treat their career as a small business. You can still sign up for his class right here.

The APCs of Marketing is Nate’s breakdown of strategic marketing. His plan organizes the steps and process of self promotion in a way to alleviate the horror most writers experience at the idea of setting their main work aside for a short time each day. He emphasizes the need to put your name and your product in front of customers. He quoted a statistic claiming people need to see your product at least six times before they remember it.

Six times can be an intimidating number but Nate also supplied us with lists of social groups and where to find them. Much to our surprise despite all we hear about Twitter, that network in only 45th overall in social networks. Facebook is still number one with Myspace coming in at two, Flickr at three and LinkedIn at four. Nate thinks Twitter will move up but they’re not there yet.

Nate has a plethora of statistics on where the audience is and what methods will put your book and you in front of them. You can learn more about those in his online class or from his book, Know Your APCs: Strategic Marketing Made Easy for Writers.

One common sense thing Nate advised was to be kind and generous to fans and readers as well as colleagues. Collaborate with librarians, booksellers, reviewers, fellow bloggers and people in your hometown to promote your work and theirs.

Nate shared with us his ‘Promotion Pyramid.’ The biggest attention getting for your book and where you should concentrate your time and money is on publicity such as articles, media appearances, press releases, review sites, blog tours and a few others. Visit his website to learn more about his business, Plus Sign Promotions, and about his online classes.

So what do you find is best promotion vehicle for your books? How do you track the success of your efforts?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Alex Glass Gives Advice on Snagging an Agent

Agent Alex Glass works out of the Trident Literary Agency. He prefers to handle literary fiction of many types and narrative nonfiction. He had some great pointers for any author not only those writing for the literary market.

One of the first things he delineated for us was his definition of the differences between commercial and literary work. In his opinion the success and quality of a literary work in completely reliant on the quality of the writing. Commercial works are concept driven and more reliant on the plot and story lines.

He gave three pointers for reeling in an agent. Number one was the right a great query letter. Be concise and short and for literary work you needed include the plot. Explain where your book will fit on the store shelves. Compare your work to other authors but not to the greatest well known ones. Include any specific background you have if it relates to the work. Also mention any awards or recognition you’re received for previous work.

His second point was about building a platform. Alex recommended joining communities of writers and social groups. You should get your name out there with blogs, go to conferences to meat agents and editors, take classes where you’ll meet and learn from others in the business. Network, network.

The third point is one we all know but it never hurts to be reminded. Polish, polish and polish so your work is the best it can be when you send it out.

When it comes to non-fiction writing, Alex thinks those authors who are famous in their field before they become famous as writers are the most likely to be picked up by an agent. In the boiling cauldron of digital publishing, Alex thinks the sales of literary ebooks probably lags behind commercial fiction.

The title of Alex’s workshop was, ‘Tossing the Dice, Why Agents Gamble on New Writers.’ I’m not sure he gave us real insight into that but he was an interesting speaker. He did tell us he takes only e-queries and doesn’t even send a rejection note if he doesn’t want it. So if you’ve submitted to him and he hasn’t answered you should move on to your next choices. He stated numerous times that there were so many agents we shouldn’t wait around for one to get back to us or be too upset by a rejection.

How do you feel about an agent not responding to a query? Do you agree with Alex that the literary marking is lagging behind in jumping of the digital train?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Conference Review: Contracts with Agent Jenny Bent

Jenny Bent, founder of The Bent Literary Agency, graced the Pennwriters Conference with her expertise and shared pages of information with us on contracts. Her presentation was the first I attended on Friday and it was dizzying.

I didn’t keep count but Jenny had a favorite phrase and used it repeatedly when asked a question. “It’s so complicated.”

And she was quite correct. Jenny has over 15 years experience in the publishing industry and has seen many changes but also some things that stay the same. She brought along two thick handouts to help us understand. One was a seven page checklist for contracts written in ‘everyman’ terms instead of legalese. The other was a 19 page sample contract from Simon & Schuster, Inc. That’s nineteen pages of six point font.

I have notes written all over the pages but let me hit the highlights. First off was the granting of rights. I learned publishers always want audio, first serial and a few others. These you can’t negotiate but some you can such as foreign rights and even foreign rights can be complicated by such distinctions as British Commonwealth or World English rights.

Then Jenny discussed separately the digital rights and the scramble of the publishing industry to keep up with expanding technology. As many of us already know or can guess, the publishers try to grab everything they can. Some of them also try to pay the same percentage royalties for ebooks as they do for print. Don’t let them do that. Also don’t let them ask for rights to any future technology that might be used to produce or sell your work.

The other contract item Jenny spent a lot of time on is the option clause. Usually publishers want some type of option to see the next work of an author. It is very important to make sure the wording is as specific as possible to include only one more book in the same genre and of the same length. Also the amount of time the publisher gets for its first look at a new work should be specific and limited.

Jenny briefly mentioned how more publishers are paying advances in three or four segments instead of the traditional two payments.

Many of us working with small publishers plow through the contracts as best as we can and fear to negotiate in terror of losing the sale. Jenny pointed out things we must all consider to make sure a tight contract doesn’t impede our career.

Have you ever negotiated a change in an offer without the help of an agent? Have you ever been stuck in a contract you regretted signing? Do you believe publishers are giving authors their fair share of ebook royalties?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Great Gobs of Writers

I promised a report on the Pennwriters Conference and here is a small piece of it. Throughout the next few weeks I'll be blogging about some of the helpful information I inhaled and about the various writers and other publishing professionals I spoke with, listened to and even pitched to.

Jennifer Jackson gave some great tips on queries and how to select an agent. Nate Hardy, Pennwriter extraordinaire, shared his hints for promotion and getting your name out there. Agent Jenny Bent spoke to us about contracts and I think I can quote her here, 'it so complicated.' Agent Alex Glass defined the differences between commercial and literary fiction. Editor David Pomerico talked about the fantasy and scifi market. I can't wait to speak about that one. Agent Janet Reid had us all laughing and gave us many reasons to use social media and make it work for us. Maria V. Snyder instructed us on 'show not tell.' She is teacher of the year in my opinion.

I have pages and pages of notes to share with you. I'm not even sure where to start but I'll figure it out.

On a more personal note, I met many writer friends I only knew from blogs or loops face to face for the first time. One of them, Jon Sprunk, will visit my blog in early June to promote the release of his first book, Shadow's Son. I can't wait to read it. I love his cover art.

As I've recommended in the past, Pennwriter's Conference is the best buy for the money anywhere in the USA. Join us next year.

Is there a particular author you would go to a conference just to meet and hear speak? This year we were blessed with the generous, entertaining presence of James Rollins. I'll have to do an entire blog on him as soon as I read his YA novel. Stay tuned.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Conference Anticipation

It's nearly here. The annual Pennwriters Conference starts on Friday, May 14th in Lancaster, PA. This superbly organized conference offers not only wonderful hour long classes and panels, it also brings in numerous and varied editors and agents. Many of you know what that means. Pitch appointments.

It was a tough choice. Editor David Pomerico from Bantam Spectra is attending. Fantasy is what I write and what I want to sell. So I could have selected him in the hopes he would want my latest fantasy endeavor. But if he would reject it, I would be right back where I started with all those other fantasy houses closed to me and now way to reach them through their 'agented only' submissions fence.

So I decided to give a pitch to an agent who is interest in YA fantasy. Emmanuelle Alspaugh works for Judith Ehrlich Literary Agency. I putting my money on her. Hold your breath because if I land an agent, it will be bubbly all around. I'll be working on my pitch all week and rereading some of the YA novel to keep up my excitement level. I think it's really good. LOL, if only Emmanuelle will trust me on this.

After the weekend I'll be posting a review of my conference experience. I'm looking forward to lots of things not the least is listening to James Rollins speak at the Friday night dinner. I also get to attend my first published author's luncheon where we have a guest speaker. Then there will be the networking with my fellow Pennwriters, including many of my cohorts from The Susquehanna Writers. We have so planning to do together for promotions and booksignings.

Many of my fellow CPRW members are going to a retreat over this weekend and I wish them well with many words being written. I figure in about two years I'll be able to attend the retreat with them.

What things do you hope to get out of a writers' conference or retreat?