Who Reads YA Novels? Surprising Results.

The classical definition of a Young Adult novel is any in which the protagonist is of high school age.  So, while some may disagree, technically, Treasure Island and Lord of the Flies are YA novels.  Also, YA novels are traditionally aimed at a 15 to 21-year-old audience (not early teens as some like to argue).  Well, check out this latest item from Kirkus Reviews:

 What rational adult willingly revisits adolescence? A lot of us, if a study released by Bowker, a prominent provider of data about books, is any indication—last September, Bowker revealed that 55% of people who read young adult books are over 18 (with the largest segment of those adults aged 30-44!). Young adult books have so captured the public’s enthusiasm that the publishing industry has concocted a new term for books meant for teens that aren’t actually read by teens: “new adult” books. Whatever they’re called, the genre has blossomed so creatively that being a responsible adult caught reading a novel meant for teens is no longer something to think twice about.

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Authors, Wants Some Free Marketing Tips?

If you are the author of a published book (e-book, self-published, or through a traditional publishing company), would you like to eliminate the 10 things that waste the most time and sell the fewest books, and replace them with 10 much smarter ideas that save you time and boost book sales?

Complete the survey from SpeakerNetNews.com about your best and worst ideas for selling books, and you’ll get their entire report – FREE – as soon as results are compiled.

If you have published a book (e-book, self-published, or with a traditional publishing company) within the last five years, you’re eligible to take the survey. It only takes 10 minutes (or less) and will be worth the investment. Go here to answer the questions.

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The Blizzard Is Going to China

With about 20% of the world’s population, it is mind-boggling to consider the opportunities for rights sales into the Chinese market.

Did you know 20 million Chinese people speak English and 300 million more are learning our language?  In a few years, there will be more English speakers in China than in America.

They’re reading English language books, too.  It’s a status symbol for Chinese readers to be seen in public reading English titles.  With no well-established bookstore market in the country, much growth is happening online.  Sites like Amazon China, 360Buy and Dang Dang have extensive reach with Chinese readers.

So, I’ve signed up with ForeWord Reviews (from whom I stole some of the above words and statistics) for The Blizzard to be a part of their booth at the Beijing International Book Fair later this summer.  It’s a big investment for a self-publisher, but with one-fifth of everyone on Earth in that one country, I figured the numbers might be worth the risk!

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I’m Back; Progress on the Sequel

Apologies for the long hiatus from blogging.  I’ve been tied up house-hunting, house buying, packing, moving, unpacking, and all the related work of getting set up in a new home.  I’ll do my best to be a more faithful blogger in the future.

People keep asking me how the sequel to The Blizzard is coming.  Even though I haven’t been blogging, I have tried to keep up on writing.  I have over 97,000 words down so far and like to imagine the book is at least half finished.  (This one will be a full-size adult novel  — the hero and heroine aren’t YA anymore!)  For those who missed earlier tidbits, the story picks up with Chet and Melanie still together four years later, and months from finishing college.  But we all know how rarely high school romances last, right?  Will theirs be different?

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An Interview with Me

Eva Coppersmith interviewed me for her blog over at Eva’s Sanctuary.  She also reviewed The Blizzard and, I’m happy to report, gave it her highest rating.  So, if you want to learn more about me or read her opinion of my book, just click on the link.

Posted in Book Promotion & Publicity, Book Reviews, Characters, Literary Characters, Promotion & Publicity, Writing, Writing Novels | Leave a comment

Why Quality Is ALL That Matters

Author Andy Hollman gave me permission to reprint this important blog entry that any writer worth the name should keep in mind.  The quality of your finished work is more important than whatever you decide to charge for it (even if you give it away for free!).

With the ease of bypassing traditional ink-on-paper books and going straight to ebooks, more writers (notice I don’t call them “authors” – that’s a title that must be earned, in my opinion) are opting to make their writings commercially available through Smashwords or any other outlet that will get an electronic “book” on the internet.  Some of them (dare I say a great many?) should be sent into cyberspace and just keep going.  They may impress your mom, boyfriend, girlfriend, or anyone else who won’t tell you the truth, but LOTS of them just give a bad name to the self-publishing business. 

Here’s what Andy had to say:

Quality vs. Price – Why Quality is ALL that matters in eBooks. (IMHO)

When writing and re-writing your book, keep “Quality” as your number one goal.

Here’s a brief thought (aren’t those your favorites?) –  What factors go into determining Quality and Pricing when it comes to eBooks?

Remember the  ”Time Investment” issue  -  When I buy eBooks, my main consideration is not the “price”  but the “cost” of investing my time.   Will my time invested in this book give me a “return” (pleasure) ?   Should I “spend” my limited resource (time)  on this book?

This is the key factor for me as a reader.  Therefore, I try to keep this in the forefront of my mind when I construct a novel.  To me, this is where the “Quality” factor trumps “Price” every time.   Consider that the price for  most eBooks is something that anyone can afford.  Hell, lots of folks spend a couple of bucks a day on much more frivolous items.  That being the case, readers ARE careful to “spend” their time carefully.  Time is a very valuable resource for all of us.  Time is finite.  The number of books that can be read is  infinite (well, almost).

So make your book a quality product.  Entice your readers to turn the page quickly.  Give them characters and plot lines that they can relate too.  Make your story exciting, romantic, thrilling, smart,  surprising, etc.  These are the adjectives that you will want your readers to mention to their friends when they recommend your book.   Get your book edited by a professional (I used two!) [So did I.  The importance of professional editing can't be emphasized enough.] I’m quite certain that if you deliver a quality product, the positive “word-of-mouth” regarding your novel will almost certainly NOT include what the price is.

Posted in Blogs, Book Marketing, E-Book, Editing & Proofreading, Marketing, Self-Publishing, Writing, Writing Novels | 2 Comments

Researching for Fiction Writing

A young writer in a Linkedin writers group to which I belong posted a question asking other members about the need for research when writing ficton.  I posted the following contribution.  I could have given many other examples, but this, I think, sufficient enough to make the point.

A high school English teacher told us, “You can’t write what you don’t know.”  So, if you don’t have first-hand experience, you better learn it from research.  Anyone who is the least bit knowledgeable on something you have written about will discount your credibility in all areas if you show you don’t know what you’re writing about.  [Yeah, yeah, run-on sentence!]  Being a lawyer, I can tell immediately if someone has never watched a real trial (or read transcripts) and all s/he knows about a courtroom is what s/he saw on TV (usually the worse possible source!)  Another example is someone who tries to write about firearms and doesn’t know the difference between a clip and magazine, or a cartridge and a bullet.  (Even if you hate guns, if you are going to write about them, go to a gun range, rent a gun, and take one lesson.  FEEL the recoil, HEAR how loud it really is, SMELL the burnt cordite.)

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The Care and Feeding of Bookstore Staff

Authors need to support libraries and bookstores.  Here is an enlightening article by author and bookstore owner Emma Straub.  Self-publishers, in particular, have an uphill battle getting into bookstores.  If and when you do, here are some tips to increase the chance of a repeat performance.

How to Be an Indie Bookseller’s Dream

By Emma Straub

I’ve worked as a bookseller for almost three years, and in that time, I’ve witnessed a vast number of readings and book parties. The bookstore hosts up to six events a week, and I often stick around, even if I’m no longer on the clock. In my time at the bookstore, I’ve codified a simple list (in my head, until this very moment) of ways in which certain authors get gold stars, and others go down in (sorry, sorry) flames. Follow these simple rules, and you’ll be an indie bookstore darling before you know it!

The beginning is simple: the people who work at the bookstore the night of your event also sell books all day long, which means they are very, very powerful people. If you are rude to them, guess what?! Your book will not be the first one they try to handsell to customers. If you are nice to them, they will always think of you fondly, and your book is more likely to be one they recommend. This is not bribery, mind you, it is basic human decency. (Note: some authors do bring candy, which is maybe bribery, but also thoughtful and delicious. I am prone to such bribery myself, and would encourage the trait in others.) The morning after your event, when everyone’s names are still fresh in your mind, write a thank you note to the bookstore. This should be obvious, but many authors seem to have been raised in barns.

Now, about the reading itself. I can count the times on one hand—no, make that one finger, and name it Colm Toibin—where an author has read for forty minutes and no one has fallen asleep. Call me dictatorial, but I don’t think anyone should read for longer than twenty minutes, maybe thirty if you’ve recently won a Pulitzer Prize. If you are reading with another writer, then certainly no more than fifteen. If you are reading with several other writers, then no more than ten. I’m waiting for the day when gongs become socially acceptable in bookstores, and everyone lives in fear of over-burdening the audience’s ears and bottoms.

As to what you’re reading, that too depends. Humor helps, as it can be hard to absorb material for the first time hearing it read aloud, but that won’t work for everyone. So if being funny isn’t an option, then at least remember to smile, and make witty asides. This is why the audience is there, to see you, dear writer. If they simply wanted to hear the work read aloud, they would have bought the audiobook, and had someone with proper training recite the words perfectly.

So now that you’ve shaken hands, and read, and thanked everyone for having you, what do you do now? If you live across the country, you might think you are done. You have your own local bookstore, so why would you keep checking in? Because you like bookstores, and you want them to stay in business forever and ever. So you tweet at them, you Facebook them, you send friends in that city gift certificates for their birthdays. This is good not only for the bookstore but also for your karma. Karma points! You’re shopping local, long-distance. We’re all very impressed.

Emma Straub is a bookseller and the author of “Other People We Married,” a story collection. Her novel is due out from Riverhead Books. She is based in Brooklyn.

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Promoting Your Book with Postcards

Believe it or not, color postcards are considerably cheaper than bookmarks.  This is because the paper for postcards (I suggest the 4×6 size) is a standard size and doesn’t have to be trimmed out from larger cardstock like the bookmarks.

Of course, one side of the postcard will be your cover photo in four-color process.  The backside is black and white but limited to the left half of the paper.  Postal regulations (why have postcard if you aren’t going to mail some of them) require a full 50% of the right-hand backside be reserved for the USPS.

On the left side, you should include a synopsis of your story and maybe a little something about you (that’s optional), and then maybe some info about where people can buy the book.

Let’s assume you want to, and may actually get, some of your postcards into bookstores.  Bookstore managers do want to advertise their internet competitors, so omit any mention of Amazon or Barnes & Noble and limit it to generic “internet sellers.”

Likewise, every good author should support libraries.  Libraries, also, may put out your postcards.  Of course, this is more likely if your book is in their collection.  So, you might also consider a plug for libraries on your postcard.  (I didn’t have room but did do so on my bookmarks.)

Postcards are easy to carry in a jacket pocket or purse and easy to have with you at all kinds of events.  If you run into someone you know, somewhere during the conversation, ask them, “Have you read my book?”  After they get over the shock and admit they haven’t, whip out a postcard.  Of course, seeing the photo of the cover with your name on it will prove you weren’t fooling them.  Whether they buy the book or not (and you hope they do), they may at least pass the postcard on to someone else.

Bookmarks are nice to have at book signings or any other event where you might have a table or display.  Unless you have some sponsor who has purchased books for you to sign and give away to their employees, for example, always remember you are not in business to give books away (as one author taught me, “there is writing and then there is the business of writing”).  That’s when postcards some in handy.

I also include one or two postcards in every book I mail out.  Having faith in my novel, I expect people to like it and if they like it, they might want to tell others about it and give a postcard.  Or, even better, if they are reading the book somewhere and another person sees them, or the cover, and asks, “What book is that you’re reading?’’  “Oh,” they respond, “it’s The Blizzard, that new, award-winning novel by Marty Martins.  I’m really enjoying it!  Here let me give you a postcard.”  (Us authors are eternal optimists, right?)

Obviously, postcards are for “posting.”  Especially when your book is brand new, that’s the time to mail out postcards to every friend, relative, and acquaintance you know.  Use the proper postage for postcards!  Don’t waste your Forever stamps or other first-class postage.

When The Blizzard made its debut and I sent out complimentary copies to special friends and families, I sent along four postcards with stamps already on them and asked those people if they would be kind enough to address the cards to someone they knew and pop them in the mail.

Postcards are a very handy, and inexpensive, way to promote your book and something you should definitely consider.  If you have any questions, you can always reach me through the Contact page on my website.

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Promoting Your Book with Bookmarks

As I’ve mentioned several times before, if you are self-publishing, and most likely if you have a standard publisher, you will have to personally manage the majority of your book’s advertising and promotion, at least if you plan to sell any books.

One relatively inexpensive way to spread the word about your book is with bookmarks.

Everyone likes getting something for nothing.  Bookstores like giving away freebies and what is a common one?  Sticking a bookmark in customers’ books when they check out.  Where do the bookstores get those bookmarks?  From publishers, including self-publishers like you!  Yep, bookstores like receiving freebies, too.

The advantage of getting a store to hand out your bookmark is it will go home with 1) a reader or someone who knows a reader, and 2) someone who buys books.

If the store already stocks your book, they will be happy if those readers come back and buy your book having been tempted by the “pitch” on your bookmark.  If the store does not stock your book, an increasing number of people coming back to order it (something most bookstores will do for individual customers) might prompt the store to shelve your book.

Your bookmark should be four-color on at least one side, include a picture of your book cover, and a plot synopsis.  The backside should include places where your book (and e-book!) can be purchased.  Bookmarks vary in size, althought 2×7 inches is common. Prices vary widely, so shop around.  I got 2,000 at one printer for less than another wanted for 1,000!  Here’s what my bookmark looks like.

Has this ever happened to you?  Someone asks you about the book you’re reading, you provide a quick synopsis, and they other person asks, “Do you know if it’s available on Kindle? (or Nook?, etc.)”  Maybe the reader of your book will recall the info on the bookmark, take a quick look, and be able to reply, “Yes, it is.”  That is more likely to lead to someone buying your book than a reader shrugging his or her shoulders and replying, “I dunno.”

Libraries

All good writers are readers.  Chances are if you’re a reader, you love libraries.  Most libraries, especially in the current economy, are seeing an increase in traffic and a reduction in their budgets (not to mention shortened hours, laid off librarians, and other measures that are counter-productive in the long term…but I’ll get off my soapbox).  Thus, I can’t imagine a library declining your offer for free bookmarks even if it has a little advertising on one side.  Notice, also, that my bookmark plugs “your neighborhood library” on the side with the sales pitch. 

Libraries (or any book lover, for that matter) hate it when people fold down page corners to mark their place.  Use a bookmark, darnit!  Just like the bookstore, most libraries will stick a book mark in each, or at least one, book when you check out.  In the more modern libraries with the self-checkout system, they usually have bookmarks available nearby in the hope each borrower will take at least one.

The bookmark may prompt the reader to check out your book on the next trip to the library.  (If you local library isn’t shelving your book, why not?)  Yes, you want to sell books but, as an author, don’t you want people to be reading your book, even if they borrow it – from a friend or a library?

Unless you’re rich or just a very generous person, think twice before you stick a bookmark in each book you sell through your own website.  You’ve already made that sale, so do you want to also gift them with a bookmark which may not lead to another sale?  Now, before you say, “Marty, you cheapskate,” let me be quick to add that I do include two postcards in each book I sell.  I’ll explain the difference in a future blog post.

Next time:  Promoting Your Book with Postcards

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