Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Digital First?

I came across an interesting article in The Guardian that I think you might want to click over and read in its entirety. Here are a few snippets from it:
Preparing for the event, I visited most of the French publishers and came to realise how blind they were to the looming earthquake. They viewed their ability to line up great authors as a seawall against the digital tsunami.

Trade blogs and publications are filled with tales of out-of-nowhere self-publishing hits, or of prominent authors switching to DIY mode, at once cutting off both agent and publisher.

At some point … Amazon will "own" the entire talent-scouting food chain.

Despite a dizzying price deflation (with ebooks selling for $2.99), higher volumes and higher royalty percentages change the game.

Again, aspiring (or proven) authors need to cool down when looking at such numbers. The Kindle Million Club mentioned above counts only 11 members to date – and most were bestselling authors in the physical world beforehand.
Link over and read the full article.

Personally, I love my iPad and enjoy reading on it. And I know a lot of authors who have turned to e-publishing. But I’m wondering if the tier of authors will soon look like the tier of print published authors with a very few at the top and the rest trying to keep their heads above water to get noticed. On the other hand, do those authors have a better chance in the e-world than they did in getting an agent to notice them, a publisher to want them and help to promote them? What do you all think?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Book Review: Child of Silence

 Child of Silence is the first in Abigail Padgett’s Bo Bradley Mystery series. I believe there are eight other books out in the series. Child of Silence is very interesting with a lot of action. What most fascinated me was the main character, Bo Bradley. Bo, a child advocate deals with memories of her sister, as well as her own manic depression. Being in her mind brought her to life and kept me turning pages.

She’s called out to advocate for a young boy who’s found on the Barona Reservation tied to the mattress with a clothesline in an abandoned house. Although he’s been labeled as retarded, Bo realizes he’s deaf. She not only advocates for the boy, she sets out to find out what happened to him and keep him from those hunting him. Her efforts to protect him put her in danger, even as she sinks deeper into her own depression since she’s on the run without her medication. Along the way, she breaks rules and enlists others in her quest.

I liked Child of Silence. It took me to places I’ve never been and inside a mind both fascinating and unknown. I will look for more in this series.

Amazon Paperback
Barnes and Noble

I give Child of Silence a rating of Hel-of-a-Character.
FTC Disclaimer: I downloaded the book for free. This did not influence my review. As a writer myself, it sometimes feels wrong to download a book for free, but in this case, since I expect to buy more books in the series, I think in the long run, the author will come out ahead. Of course, it’s costing me money since now I want more of Padgett’s books. At least this one is on my iPad, not causing my bookshelves to sag even more. Yes, I know, I said I was going to donate a ton of books from my shelves. I haven’t done it yet. I will. When I have time. That might be a while since I may download the series and get to reading them. Okay, okay. Y’all are like all the other voices in my head. Constantly telling me to do things. Hush!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Liebster Award

 Lillie Ammann, is a fellow blogger who is generous with sharing her knowledge, advice, and thoughts. She recently gave me the Liebster Blog Award.

The Liebster Blog Award is named for a German word meaning dearest. The only rule for the recipient is to nominate five other excellent bloggers.

So here are five blogs and bloggers that I nominate for the Liebster Blog:
1. Christopher Hudson at Socially Awkward
2. Diane Wolfe at Spunk On A Stick
3. Alex Cavanaugh at Alex J. Cavanaugh
4. Sylvia Dickey Smith at Writing Strong Women
5. Susan Gourley/Kelley at Susan Says

I hope you’ll visit each and leave a comment.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Children’s Books

NPR had a recent post on The Future of Children’s Books. Did you know that “Consumers buy $3.1 billion children's books annually”? Those numbers may go up with the explosion of e-books and apps. The post is a transcript of a conversation between host Mary Louise Kelly and Dan Poynter, consultant and publisher at Para Publishing, and Roxie Munro, an author and illustrator of more than 30 children's books. Before you link over to read the full transcript, here are two snippets:

Poynter: “…11 million parents have purchased an e-book and 19.6 million parents plan to buy an e-book.”

Munro: “I think within one generation - maybe 30 years - very few houses will have bookshelves and few people will have libraries just like they collect art or stamps or fine prints.”

It’s not a long piece, so click over if you’d like to read it. My question for you today is, since kids today are so used to iPads and other e-readers, do you think moving to e-books will be easier for them than it is for the older generation?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ann Summerville

If you follow Ann Summerville’s blog, Cozy in Texas, then you know she wasn’t born in Texas. She was born in London, lived in California, then made her way to Texas twenty years ago. She writes the Lowenna series and graciously agreed to talk about the English language.

Ann Summerville 

 When I first moved to Texas I was shopping in Sears and the sales clerk asked where I was from. When I told her I had moved from England she sighed and said she had travelled extensively, but was concerned with not knowing other languages. She then asked what language they spoke in England. I looked at her for what seemed a full minute trying to judge if she was joking. She wasn’t.

But English, whether written or spoken, can be different, which became even more evident when I started writing my first novel, A Graceful Death.

As the book was based in Cornwall, I wrote it with all the English phrases using words like car park instead of parking lot, windscreen wipers instead of windshield, frock instead of dress, lorry instead of truck – you get the picture. It was when I began to read in front of a critique group that I realized many of the English words and phrases were completely baffling the listeners. I decided to write for an American audience and what resulted was a mixture of English and American English. Hopefully, my English readers won’t be too critical and my American readers will be able to read the story without stopping to try and understand what a bin man (trash collector) or bonnet (car hood) is. Any uncommon words to the American ear, I described or elaborated upon. The word grey was replaced with gray (except Earl Grey tea) and towards was replaced with toward.

Then there’s the punctuation. Again, I used American punctuation. What’s the difference you may ask? In England single quote marks are used and the full stop (period) comes after the quote mark.
And the young sales girl? After explaining that they spoke English in England, she then divulged all the places she had travelled to: East Texas, West Texas and South Texas. Where, apparently, they all spoke English.

Thank you Ann.

Ann Summerville lives with her son, two boisterous dogs and an elusive cat. She is currently working on the third novel in the Lowenna series, Gwinnel Gardens. Her latest novel, The Berton Hotel was published in 2011.

Here's an excerpt from The Berton Hotel

          Welcome to Crystal Wells. Lily glanced at the sign, wondering if her great grandmother, Ermenia, had passed here before leaving and if she’d thought about the young daughter she’d left behind. Vanished, without a trace, disappeared into thin air. Lily conjured up all the phrases used when her great grandmother was mentioned.
          She’d had three days of driving to think about her decision. But what was the force pushing her toward this desolate town? To solve the mystery of Ermenia’s disappearance, to get away from a disastrous relationship, to advance her career? Lily was still unsure.
          The Darth Vadar theme blasted from her bag, and with one hand on the wheel, she fumbled between the lipstick case, receipts, antibacterial gel and credit cards before feeling the smooth mobile phone.
          “Stop calling,” Lily yelled into the phone without connecting to the call. She snapped it shut with a finality she did not feel.
          As far as she was concerned there were two types of men. Deserters like her father and control freaks like Eric. Lily tossed her phone and it fell amongst the jumble in her bag.

You can find The Berton Hotel on Amazon, in both print and for the Kindle.

Before you zip off to Amazon, though, leave a comment or question for Ann – but type slowly since, well, you know she wasn’t born here. And  also, by the magical powers of the Internet, I'm over on Ann's blog today. Drop by and say hi to me, too.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Your Editor is Your Partner

An editor is someone who makes your work more readable, more salable – better. An editor doesn’t change the voice or direction or meaning of your words.

Your editor is your partner. Everyone needs an editor. Doesn’t matter whether you’re going the self-publishing route or signing with a regional or small publisher. At some point, an editor will need to look at your manuscript. Even if you sign with an agent who liked it enough to add you to her stable, she will probably suggested changes or edits. Then when one of the major publishers takes you on, they will have an editor go through it. Getting to that point, though, is a long road. Hiring your own editor BEFORE you send it to an agent or publisher will up your chances of getting your book in the queue with both.

If you’re self-publishing, either in print or e-form or both, you’ll need that independent editor even more because that will be your one chance to get it right. People may be reading more and more e-books, but they haven’t changed their standards. They still want a well-written book and while they may skip over two or three mistakes, they won’t buy your next book if your first has too many mistakes.

Yes, editors cost money, but they pay off, too. In the short term, you have a much better book that reads smoothly. In the long term, you learn from seeing what the editor did to improve your manuscript. I’ve known authors who have said that hiring an editor was like taking a one-on-one class in writing.

What are your experiences working with an editor?
Disclaimer: I don’t often post about editing. Mostly because, as a lot of you know, I’m a freelance editor and I didn’t want my blog posts to sound like I’m trolling for clients. Now, however, I feel I can write a post about editing every now and then since I’m no longer taking on new editing clients. Since taking over as the Coordinator for Story Circle Network’s Editorial Services, I’m only working with existing and returning clients.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Agent’s Role

What does a literary agent do? What is their role in the publishing process?

I can only answer that from the writer’s POV since I’m not an agent. My list of what agents do would probably be similar to yours. They look for talent. They or their assistant culls through masses of query letters, looking for “saleable” book ideas. They look for manuscripts that are polished and ready or could be polished. They work to get a publisher to buy the book; they are the conduit that connects the writer to the publisher. They work with the writer on edits, covers, and anything that needs a go-between person. They negotiate advances and technical details in contracts. They work to get overseas deals. They help protect the author’s rights, whether it’s your rights to have your book published in Russia or your e-book rights. You could come up with even more things an agent does, but you get the idea.

The agent’s role is changing.

They’re still doing all that. After all, it’s how they make their money. None of them want to become dinosaurs without a means to feed their families. So, with more and more writers turning to self-publishing their own print and e-books, agents are adapting.

Oh, they’re still looking for those breakout, best-selling authors and books, but they’re also moving into the e-book era and helping authors do the work. They’re putting more into helping authors build their brand. Your success means they are successful.

I’m not saying that agents didn’t work to make their authors successful before now. I’m saying they are moving into areas that before were not their responsibility. Just as writers are taking over more of the publishing work and going it alone, some agents are seeing that change is inevitable and are adapting in ways that benefit the writer – and will keep agents in the equation.

What do you expect or hope for from an agent? Are you still hoping for an agent – or are you moving forward on your own? How can agents change to keep themselves relevant and necessary?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Marketing Blueprint

I know a lot of writers, especially those self-publishing, are trying to figure out how to market their books. I came across an article in The Wall Street Journal that might give you a sort of blueprint to follow, even though it’s not about a self-published author.

The book is The Expats, the author is Chris Pavone and the publisher is Crown Publishers, an imprint of Random House. He’s already getting rave pre-publication reviews and the title has been sold to 11 countries.

But … the article noted that mystery/thriller titles are more popular with e-book readers than the broader market and “digital books accounted from 35% to 40% of its mystery/thriller sales last year, roughly double e-books' proportion of total consumer book sales….” So…they’re turning to the virtual world to promote the book, in addition to a traditional book tour.
Crown is already backing the novel with a social-media advertising campaign on Facebook and … The Facebook fan page arranged by the publisher contains blurbs from writers like Mr. Grisham and Patricia Cornwell. There is also an ongoing Twitter promotion via the publisher's Twitter feed and others. A selection of the book has also been posted on Scribd Inc., a social publishing site.
They plan to continue this campaign after the book is published. They’re even thinking outside the box:
Crown thinks the female protagonist in "The Expats" is so well-drawn that the publisher intends to market the book on sites aimed at readers of women's fiction as well as on sites targeting thriller readers.
If the big guys, who have balked at conceding to the digital movement that independent authors have embraced, can turn to digital marketing, you can bet that the independent authors, who’ve been doing e-marketing all along, can do it better.

Are you already targeting all these marketing sites? Do you have any other ideas to share?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Book Review: My Enchanted Life

My Enchanted Life by Laura Eno is a YA Fantasy. For Emma, the main character, it is a rite of passage. At 18 and barely out of high school, she receives a letter from a British solicitor notifying her that she has inherited a house in England. Since the notification also includes money to come see the house, she sets off on what she thinks will be a vacation before college.

It is anything but.

A taxi ride from the airport to the middle of nowhere is just the beginning of her enchanted life.

Laura Eno has the most vivid imagination and is a most adept teller of fantasy. My Enchanted Life moves quickly with twists and turns and wonderfully thought out characters, some deadly, some loveable. My Enchanted Life is not only a fantasy, it is in part, a love story. In the magical town, there are gnomes, dragons, Sentinels, and villagers, but it is a demon who captures her heart.

My Enchanted Life, like most books, presents the reader with a book question. In this case: Will Emma survive the new world she enters? But unlike other books, it also asks the question: Will she stay in the fantasy world or will she go home to the aunt and uncle who love her and raised her?

I would not be at all surprised to see Laura Eno write another book set in the magical community of Wode Gate. And I would not be surprised to find myself reading it.

Barnes and Noble

I give My Enchanted Life a rating of Hel-of-a-Story.
FTC Disclaimer: Laura Eno not only sent me My Enchanted Life, she signed it. That did not influence my review. It will, however, ultimately influence my library. My library is my office closet. The shelves are overflowing and beginning to sag from the weight. Books are stacked on the floor, both in the closet and my office. So, sadly, I set it on the donate stack in the corner of my office. When I went to write this review, I looked for the book … and finally found it on one of my autographed books shelf in the closet. Uh-huh, you read that right. Apparently, Emma’s life is not the only thing enchanted. Where do you think that book is now? Uh-huh. On the top autographed books shelf. Uh-huh. Mama didn’t raise no fool.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

The Month of Love

Yep, it’s February and the month of love. And who doesn’t think of love when they read the words: The Blood-Red Pencil? Okay, that’s probably just me. But today, it can be you because over on The Blood-Red Pencil, I’m interviewing author Morgan Mandel about how love plays a role in her latest suspense book, Forever Young: Blessing or Curse.

In her book, the protagonist Dorrie Donato reverts from the age of 55 to 24. Over the course of the book, Morgan addresses several “love” issues, like does Dorrie’s love of her deceased husband change as Dorrie reverts to a younger age and is love different at different ages?

I hope you’ll link over and read her answers to my questions, leave a comment and, of course, share on Twitter, Facebook, and Google.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Power of Amazon

The big news starting this week off was Barnes & Noble’s declaration that it would not sell in its stores books released by Amazon Publishing. A lot of authors publish their e-books via Amazon – probably a lot of you. This even affects some imprints, like New Harvest, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

According to Jaime Carey, B&N’s chief merchandising officer, “… Amazon’s continued push for exclusivity with publishers, agents and the authors they represent … has proven they would not be a good publishing partner to Barnes & Noble as they continue to pull content off the market for their own self interest.”

Would it stop you from publishing via Amazon if you knew you could not have your print books sold through Barnes & Noble? For most writers, despite the prestige of having your books displayed in Barnes & Noble stores, the decision comes down to where you would make the most money? On Amazon or in a B&N store and in their online store?

According to literary agent, Elyse Cheney, “If you’re doing a print book, you kind of have to be in Barnes & Noble.” The article agreed and said that it seemed unlikely “that many of the 1,900 independent bookstores in the United States would be willing to stock Amazon books.”

To me, this sounds rather like a line being drawn in the sand -- Amazon on one side, bookstores on the other. At the moment, authors are poised on the line itself and having to make a decision what to do. What do you think is best for you?

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Book Review: The Pig and Me

You might be wondering what a memoir called The Pig and Me is about. Well, it’s not about a pig – not a real one, anyway. It’s about the author, Lindsay Frucci, and her idea, drive, commitment, and work to start a company. ‘Course, she’s not the pig. The pig is a cute little pink pig with a tape measure around its waist – and it’s on the packaging of her product – No Pudge Brownies.

She literally starts with nothing except a desire to help the family. Then she begins learning what it would take to start her own company, testing recipes to come up with a fat-free recipe, and getting her product into stores, hopefully all over the U.S.

I found it fascinating to learn what she went through to start the company and promote the product, all while she’s not just a woman starting a company. She’s a mother, a wife, housekeeper, head cook, chauffeur, and all the work hats that come with being married with kids. But she is absolutely committed to building the company and helping support the family.

I think if you’ve ever started your own company, you’ll want to read The Pig and Me and will probably identify with Lindsay Frucci. And if you haven’t, like me, you’ll be amazed at all she does and the cost it takes on her and her family. Frucci takes what could have been a step-by-step how-to for starting a company from nothing and taking it nationwide…and writing it in such a way that it becomes a personal story of hard work, triumph and will.

I really, really liked The Pig and Me, even though I’d never heard of No Pudge Brownies.


I give The Pig and Me by Lindsay Frucci a rating of Hel-of-Writer.
FTC Disclaimer: The author Lindsay Frucci sent me the e-book. That did not influence my review. I could have given this a rating of Hel-of-a-Story, but I decided it was Frucci who make the story compelling and one I wanted to pick up each morning and read. The one thing I regret is that I’d never heard of No Pudge Brownies and wish I had. I’d give them a try. I’m thinking they didn’t make the shelves of my grocery store. I definitely would have bought a fat-free Raspberry Fudge Brownie Mix or a fat-free Cappuccino Fudge Brownie Mix. Okay, raise your hand if you’re thinking any kind of fudge brownie mix cannot be fat-free. I would agree, except she had her recipe analyzed by a Food Laboratory. Snort. She could have just asked me, I would have been very conscientious in my testing. It may have taken me a while, though. Say, two or ten or fifty batches.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Book Review: Raven

 Raven by Laura Eno is a sci-fi book (or, as Eno calls it on her blog – a Sci/Fi Space Opera). (I’m reading more and more science fiction lately – and liking it.) Raven is the captain of her own spaceship. She even has an implant that hooks her up to the ship’s navigational system. Other than her co-pilot, Ben, she’s pretty much a loner. That’s about to change though. She’s picking up a client, Mikael, for transport. She thinks it’ll be an easy job. But Mikael comes with a bit of baggage, and I don’t mean suitcases. ‘Course, Raven has her own past – at 19 she was sold at auction to be a breeder.

The three of them join forces to find the Oracles. They’re not the only ones looking, though.

Eno keeps the action going with enough pauses to let you catch your breath and for Raven and Mikael to develop their relationship.

All three of these main characters are interesting. I liked Raven because she’s something of a loner who realizes she needs to connect with someone. And she’s a strong person. Mikael is the person through whose eyes you get to see the ship and the empty space they travel through. Ben is interesting because he’s not human and may be the key to finding the Oracles.

The story moves quickly with action and questions. Raven and Mikael are attracted to each other, so there’s a bit of a love story included.

This is not the first book I’ve read by Laura Eno – and she hasn’t let me down yet.

Barnes and Noble

I give Raven a rating of Hel-of-a-Story.
FTC Disclaimer: Here’s my admission/disclaimer, folks: I’ve got to start writing things down. I can’t remember whether I paid for this book or downloaded it for free. I think I paid for it. But whether it was free or cost me money, I was not influenced to write a review on it, let alone a positive review. Some of you may notice that lately I’ve been reviewing more books than usual. That’s because I have an iPad. Never thought I’d say this, but I like reading on the iPad. It’s so easy. I get up in the morning before the sun wakes. I can sit in the dark living room and read by the light of my iPad. I can increase the font size, if I want. The iPad remembers the page where I left off. The iPad, I’m beginning to believe, is a cousin of Ben, Raven’s co-pilot. It just isn’t as animated or tall as Ben. And, like Ben, it’s not human. Or…is it?

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Book Buying Habits

Would it help writers to know the book buying habits of readers? Maybe. If you think it might, you can go see (it’s a slideshow) the stats and info posted by Verso Advertising.

Here are just a few of the things they noted:
30.2% of avid readers purchased 10 or more books within the previous 12 months
Avid book buyers skew older … and female.

Total estimated U.S. avid book buyers – 70 million

The #1 principal way of discovering new books? – Personal recommendations 48.2%

You’ll even find a slide that breaks down the genres and gives stats on which genre is bought most for an eReader.

There are 41 slides, so you’ll probably find something interesting or revealing. Let us know in the Comment section if something catches your eye or surprises you.
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