The Blizzard in Italy and Spain!

I’m a bit tardy in posting this news, but Kindle users in Spain and Italy can now purchase The Blizzard through Amazon.es and Amazon.it!

Kindle readers in Vatican City, San Marino, and Andorra can use the same avenues.

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Should You Hire a Professional Editor?

In a previous post, I wrote about the necessity of having your work professionally edited.  Of course, if your book has been picked up by a major publishing house, you likely will have an editor assigned to your book.  (Although I have seen bestsellers from major publishers that made me wonder if the book actually was edited.  The numbers of errors in American Assassin was shocking.)  If you are self-publishing, you will pay for the editor from your own pocket, but chances are you will want professional editing before you even send your manuscript to an agent.  As the following author says, “People inside the industry are known for emphasizing the importance of submitting a flawless manuscript.”

 Below is an excerpt from an article I recently came across by Jane Friedman, a professor of media and writing at the University of Cincinnati, and the former publisher of Writer’s Digest.

 1. Most writers don’t clearly understand how an editor might improve their work (or to what extent).  Writers must have a level of sophistication and knowledge about their work (or themselves!) to know where their weaknesses are, and how a professional might assist them. When writers ask me if they should hire a professional editor, it’s usually out of a vague fear their work isn’t good enough—and they think it can be “fixed.” There are many different types or levels of editing, and if you don’t know what they are—or what kind you need—then you’re not ready for a professional editor.

 2. I review “professionally edited” manuscripts all the time, and I see no evidence of professional editing.  And in consultations with writers, I hear about some pretty lousy advice that has been delivered by these “professionals.”

 3. Writers may sincerely seek professional help, but very few are willing to pay for it.  You probably will not receive a quality review on your entire manuscript—that will actually affect your chances of publication—for less than $1,000—unless it’s line editing (copyediting, proofreading).

 Can you benefit from a professional edit?  Maybe.  Your work already needs to be very good and deserving of the investment.  Even the best editor in the world can’t turn a mediocre work into a gem.  But they can make a good work great.

 Tips for Hiring a Professional Editor

  • Look for referrals from your writing friends/network first.
  • Look at the editor’s credentials. Has she worked on books that have been published in your genre?  Do you see evidence of her experience and know-how in New York publishing (assuming your goal is to get published traditionally, by a commercial press)?
  • Are they asking YOU the right questions?  Quality editors will not take any job thrown at them. They look for projects where they know they can make a difference, and feel like they can work with a writer in a meaningful way.  Quality editors turn down projects all the time, and can be choosy in who they work with.

 Ms. Friedman suggests if you have trouble finding a solid recommendation, try subscribing for a month ($20) to PublishersMarketplace. Credible and independent professionals have member pages.

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Getting a Foreword or a “Blurb” from a Famous Person

A great way to attract attention to your book is to get an expert in the field, or a celebrity or media “star,” to write a foreword for your book or at least provide a quote (“blurb”) you might use on the back cover, in a video trailer, or in other print and electronic advertising. 

In a past issue of Steve Harrison’s paid print newsletter Book Marketing Update, he offered the following tips for enlisting such a celebrity or other well-known person.

“Getting endorsed by a well-known name will give you instant credibility.  This is not as hard to do as you might think.  Start by making a long list of celebrities or experts in your field that you would love to get a quote from.  You can get their addresses from their agents or through ContactAnyCelebrity.com.

When writing a request letter, make it as easy as possible for the celebrities you target to respond.  Tell them why you admire them, give them a few examples of things they could say about your book and include a return envelope with your manuscript.  I had a client who took this approach with his tax book and he succeeded in getting quotes from Larry King and Charles Schwab.

Here’s another tip: Ask them to talk about you in their quote rather than your book. For example, “Jane Johnson is on a crusade to help all parents become exceptional parents.”  When you receive blurbs like that, you can use them to promote your talks, workshops and other products, in addition to using them on your book cover.”

Next time I will tell you how I came to obtain a foreword for The Blizzard from Elayne Bennett.

Posted in Book Cover Design, Book Marketing, Book Promotion & Publicity, Book Reviews, Cover Design, Marketing, Promotion & Publicity, Self-Publishing, Trailers | Leave a comment

Getting the Most From Your Press Releases

Whether you self-published your book or are simply trying to further promote your book released from an established publisher, press releases are one way try to obtain media coverage for your book, book signing, speaking engagement or anything else that plugs your book. Here are seven key components that media expert Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases.com, suggests you need to have in place if you want to get results with press release marketing.

1. Commitment to long-term distribution.  Just one press release will almost never get the job done. Many journalists don’t really trust companies they don’t know much about, so you have to work on building familiarity with them. That’s where long-term distribution can help. By sending out press releases on a regular basis, you earn name recognition and increase your chances of getting coverage.

2. Knowledge of the journalists you’re targeting.  Too many companies take the scattershot approach to distributing their press releases. They send it out to every journalist for whom they can find contact info, regardless of whether or not that reporter is a good fit for the story. Before you send out your press release, you need to have a list of reporters who cover your industry.

3. An actual plan. Don’t make up your plan as you go along. Playing things by ear will get you nowhere fast. You need to come up with a sound PR strategy that includes goals, plans for reaching the goals, and standards for measuring your results. Every press release you write should be designed to help you get closer to reaching your goals.

4. Knack for finding newsworthy angles.  One of the most common complaints I hear is “Our company doesn’t have any news to write about!” Almost always, this is wrong. There’s always a story, you just have to know where to find it

5. Strong headlines that suck readers in.  The headline of your press release usually makes or breaks the deal. A weak headline will land your press release in the trash; a strong one could catch the eye of a busy reporter.

6. No distribution on free websites.  Free press release distribution isn’t really free. Finding the right directories and uploading your press release on each of them takes several hours. I’m from the “time is money” school of thought, so I hardly consider this a free form of press release distribution. What’s worse is these sites just don’t work. Your press release won’t get sent to reporters; instead, it just sits on a low-ranking directory with thousands of other press releases.

7. Follow up skills.  Reporters are a busy bunch. So, even if your press release is truly great, they may wind up looking at it and forgetting about it. That’s why you need to know how to follow up. This helps you remind the reporter about your story, establishing rapport and keeping your company on the reporter’s mind.

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Notes on Self-Editing – Part 2

Continuing on with the notes I took while reading Evan Marshall’s book, Novel Writing, and, as before, with my comments in bold italics.

Simplicity and Redundancy

- Delete redundancies.  While we’re going after redundancies, can “a point in time” be banned from the language until further notice?

- Often you can delete unnecessary possessives.

- Often you can delete thatHate ‘em.  I read somewhere that “that” is the most overused unenecessary word in the English language.

- Clean out qualifiers like a bit, a little, fairly, highly, just, kind of, mostly, sort of.  They’re all weakeners and almost always unnecessary.

- For stronger impact, cut unnecessary articles (a/an, the).

- Delete and at the beginning of a sentence.

- Often you can cut of.

- Don’t use the fact that.

- Watch for circumlocution — saying things in an indirect or roundabout way. 

- Cut unnecessary words.  Not “The smile on his face, but “His smile.”

- Watch for autonomous body parts.  Never have body parts act on their own, except for the eyes.

- When describing the act of looking, use gaze rather than eyes to avoid hilarity.

- Cut began to or started to unless you are describing a character actually starting a task or activity.

- Don’t overuse then.  Remember: In fiction, everything is consecutive; readers expect one thing to follow another.

- Don’t tell readers something twice.

- Don’t tell readers more than they need to know.

- To avoid confusion, refer to each character the same way every time.

- Don’t overuse characters’ names.  Use the name, then switch to he or she.

 Clarity and Precision

- Seek and destroy clichés.  I always enjoy Michelle Kern’s clever and witty pieces in the National Examiner in which she battles clichés.  And while we’re at it, is there no “journalist” in the print or broadcast media who can’t come up with another way to say “rapidly rising” than the worn-out “skyrocketing?”

- To show habitual action, use past tense rather than would.  (“Each morning he walked,” rather than “Each morning he would walk.”)

- Watch it, which should replace the noun that immediately precedes it.

- Don’t use the weakeners appeared to or seemed to.

- Don’t tell readers what you’re showing them.

- Limit the use of there and there were.

Grammar, Usage, and Style

- Watch for and remove inadvertent rhyme.

- Don’t use the same “important” word twice on the same page.  On the other hand, don’t be afraid to repeat “unimportant” words.  An important word might also be simply an unusual or at least seldom used word.  You totally delete the impact of its specialness if you use it more than once.  The English language is too rich for you to have to do that.

- Watch for misplaced modifiers.

-Watch for introductory participles that don’t modify the subject of the sentence.

- Don’t use hopefully.

-Watch for “Morse code.”  Do you really need so many unfinished sentences trailing off in ellipses?

- Restrict your use of the intrusive exclamation point almost exclusively to dialogue and feelings/thoughts.  Otherwise, understatement is best.

- Avoid long, blocklike paragraphs.  Break them up whenever possible.  Yes, please!  Besides making the text easier to read, it adds white space to the page, making it more attractive.

- Don’t overload a sentence with too much information.  For example, don’t describe how something looks and what it does in the same sentence.

- Make sure pronouns agree with their antecedents.

Whether you are with a publishing house or are self-publishing, your work will be professionally edited.  (If you are a self-published author who omits using a professional editor, I think you should reconsider calling yourself an author.)  However, the more self-editing you do, the easier and better job the pro can do.  And don’t fool yourself, even the professionals make mistakes.  There must have been at least a dozen misspelled words or other errors in Vince Flynn’s (whom I like and respect) last novel, American Assassin.

After I was finished writing The Blizzard, probably another six months was spent on editing.  I’d bet I re-read it at least 12 times and each time I found a missed close quote, or added a comma, or found a better word or a tighter way to say something.  During the same period I had several other authors or avid readers with good English skills go over it.  Interestly, each would always find a typo or error that the others (and often, I) had missed.  After all that, a 13-year-old girl found a misspelled word in the first printing!

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Notes on Self-Editing

A while back, well before I started on The Blizzard and probably when I was starting on my Hawaiian novel, I read a book titled Novel Writing by Evan Marshall.  Self-help books targeted for the writing industry can be a great source of learning.  Maybe not always teaching you something new but reminding about something you already knew but forgot.  In any casde, I commend them to new and aspiring authors.

I took notes as a read Marshall’s book (he has other writing books, by the way) and am passing them on to you with my comments in bold.

 Story Sense and Logic

- Does time track correctly?  Several times in The Blizzard I had to go back and rewrite entire sections because an addition or change in one part threw off the timelime in other parts.

- Are characters’ goals always clear, whether stated or implicit?  The reader must always know exactly what a character is going after.

- Do characters’ reactions to one another make sense in light of what has already transpired?  Do you have them refer to previous events or interactions when it would be natural for them to do so?

- Do characters behave logically in light of what has already happened to them?  In light of what they know?

 Describing Action

- Use adverbs sparingly.  Delete unnecessary ones.  I know of one editor who hated adverbs and generally cut every one.

- If you use an adverb, use only one, and put it in the right place.  For full effect and if possible, put it at the beginning or end of the sentence.

- Delete unnecessary details.  If the reader knows the mechanics of an action, skip the details.

- Have you written in speaking language that would come naturally to your viewpoint character? 

Describing People, Places, and Things

- Use adjectives sparingly — one at a time, never a string of them — if at all.  Choose a more accurate noun.  Not “a light wind” but “a breeze.”

- Very is one of the weakest adjectives.  In almost all cases you can strengthen a sentence by removing very.

- Scrutinize every description?  Is it too long or even needed at all.

- Spare us the weather reports.

- Don’t use simile or metaphor unless it would occur to the viewpoint character through whom you’re writing.   (SIMILE – a figure of speech in which two unlike things are explicitly compared, as in “she is like a rose.”  METAPHOR – a figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied to something to which it is not literally applicable in order to suggest a resemblance, as in “A mighty fortress is our God.”)

- Whenever possible, focus on details, which add realism like nothing else.

- Don’t describe what doesn’t need describing.  Describe an object only if it differs from the reader expects.

- Descriptions filter through the viewpoint character.  Characters see objects differently, and one character may notice something another does not.

- Use the five senses when you can, though not all at once.  Don’t forget to have your characters not just see things, but hear and smell them, as well.

- Whenever possible, give description in action, not just static reporting.

- Think of walk-on characters as furniture.  They don’t need describing unless doing so would evoke the setting.  And rarely do they need to have names.

- Describe only what’s essential to what’s happening.

- Write in the positive.  Tell what is, not what wasn’t.

Next time: Simplicity and Redundancy, Clarity and Precision, and Grammar, Usage, and Style

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First Place Badge from You Gotta Read Videos

The folks over at You Gotta Read Videos sent me this ”badge” in recognition of the romantic trailer (as opposed to the deamatic trailer) taking the top spot in their September contest.  Thanks again to all of you who helped make it happen by voting on-line.

Speaking of which, have you taken the poll of which of the two trailers you prefer — the dramatic or the romantic?  Watch them again one more time and pick your favorite.

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Getting Your Book in Libraries

A week or so ago, I was in my neighborhood library on another project but I decided to jump on one of their computers and look up my book.  I knew The Blizzard was part of the library’s collection and, sure enough, there it was in their computerized catalog. 

Yes, I admit feeling a certain sense of pride.  There is something about a library shelving your book that seems to make the writing and publishing process real.  Authentic.  Official!  Akin to, but not that same as, when I saw my book on the shelf of a real brick-and-mortar bookstore.

As far as I know,  the only libraries currently lending The Blizzard are San Diego and Cincinnati.  (If you are aware of others, drop me a line and let me know!)

As self-publishers know, and those contemplating the move should understand, you are always spending time on marketing.  I try to make sure a portion of each week (if not every day) is spent on pushing, publicizing, promoting, and selling my book.  You don’t have a major publisher with a publicity agent and a huge promo budget to hawk your book.  If you don’t do it, it doesn’t happen. 

By the way (and pardon the digression), I’ve know authors who were published by big name publishing houses — can you say New York — who told me that although they did get an ”advance,” they received no publicity budget.  If they had a publicity agent, they paid for it themselves.  Most handled all their own publicity and promotion.  Fact: only the NY Times Best Selling authors are going to get those big promotion budgets.

S0, how do you get your book in a library?  Here’s a few ideas.

  • First and foremost, make sure it is available through Baker & Taylor.  They are the major U.S. wholesaler through which most libraries buy their books.
  • Ask your local libraryif they will carry your book.  Have a postcard or other piece of promotional material ready to leave with them so they can make an informed decision.  Follow up with regular phone calls to check if the decision has been made.
  • Suggest to people you know that they donate their copy of your book to their library when they’ve finished reading it.
  • As much as your budget allows, send promotional material — for me it was simply my postcard with the color cover on one side and a story synopsis on the other side — to libraries.  Include a note on the back, but not so big as to upset the Post Office by “trespassing” too badly onto their half of the backside, that the book is available through Baker & Taylor.

I’m sure at least one person is asking him or herself, “Why do I want my book in a library where people borrow it for free, thus reducing my new book sales?”

Did you write your book and go to the trouble of self-publishing only to make money, or did you do it because you had a story to tell?  People with library cards are readers!  They might read your book and, assuming they liked it, will tell others about it.  Some of them will buy a print or electronic copy of their own, who, in turn, will tell others.  And, there is a certain cachet, which money can’t buy, that comes from being able to respond in the affirmative when some publisher, agent, or fellow author asks if your book is in any libraries.

Posted in Baker & Taylor, Libraries, Marketing, Postcards, Promotion & Publicity, Self-Publishing | Leave a comment

The Blizzard Wins September Trailer Contest

The “romantic” trailer (as opposed to the “dramatic” trailer) captured 36% of the total 584 votes cast in the September trailer contest over at yougottareadvideos, to win the first place, coming in ahead of the second place finisher by 37 votes.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to vote!

Which of the two Blizzard trailers do you like best?  Look at them again and vote in the column to the right.  Post a comment to share what you liked or disliked about either.

Dramatic Trailer:

 

Romantic Trailer

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Vote in the National Trailer Contest – Ends 9/26!

The “romantic” trailer for The Blizzard is one of the entrants in this month’s trailer competition at You Gotta Read Videos.  Please go over there, mark #2 in the right column, and click on the “Vote” down at the bottom.  The contest starts today and ends at 11:59pm on the Sept. 26th.  Thank you!

You may recall that the “dramatic” trailer was in this competition back in April and came in fourth.

If you haven’t previously seen the “romantic” trailer, it’s posted below.

Watch this blog for the results next week.

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