Pub Rants

Category: Marketing & Promotion

A Lesson To Be Learned from Popular Books?

STATUS: It’s late and I have lots to do tomorrow. Still, I had a fun evening.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? WHEN YOUR MIND’S MADE UP by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova

Even if you are a successful writer, you can still just be a fan. Tonight I attended the Stephenie Meyer event (hosted by the Tattered Cover) with my assistant Sara, Ally Carter, and Ally’s good friend Beth. All three are huge SM fans and of course were delighted to meet Stephenie (and Elizabeth, if you are reading this, huge thank you for the backstage passes. I owe you the Gallagher Girl book #3 ARC!)

It’s amazing to attend a book signing where the fans scream before the event begins—to be in a crowd where readers are palpably excited about books. That in and of itself made attending the event worthwhile.

But that’s not what I really want to blog about. While at the event, all four of us got to talking and my author Ally Carter had an interesting observation that I thought was worth sharing.

When books are as successful as THE HOST and the TWILIGHT series (or say, for instance, the Harry Potter books), there is often a focus (by aspiring writers) on whether the books live up to their popularity—whether they are worth all the hype. Writers tend to focus on their own opinions about whether they like or dislike the books rather than what they should be paying attention to which is what they can learn from books that have captured such attention.

Books are popular for a reason. Trying to put your finger on that “why” could potentially teach you a lot about your own writing.

Now of course everyone has an opinion and all those opinions are certainly valid but what I’m getting at is this: Even if you dislike a popular book, try and see past that opinion to the “why” behind why devoted fans love it so much. You might just discover something that could take your writing or your next project to the next level. It might not but that “why” is certainly worth contemplating.

Potpourri of Publishing Tidbits

STATUS: Do you know how hard it is to work today when it’s 78 degrees here in Denver and the forecast for tomorrow is for cold and rain. Sara and I are really making a heroic effort…

What’s playing on the iPod right now? TAXMAN By The Beatles
(couldn’t resist playing this one today)

You guys are all way cooler and hip then I am so I’m definitely behind when it comes to pointing out other cool blogs and stuff. Just recently (I know, I live under a rock), I’ve discovered two new-to-me agent blogs that might be worth checking out—if they aren’t already a part of your daily reading.

Agent Nathan Bransford

And Agent Rachelle Gardner –who I had the pleasure of meeting at the Northern Colorado Writers Conference. She works in the CBA market (and I’m not talking basketball but Christian literature for those of you who might not know the acronym).

So that might be worth checking out.

And here’s an interesting tidbit (that will probably cause controversy) but what the heck, it’s worth sharing and discussing. My author Mari Mancusi participated in an anthology entitled THESE BOOTS WERE MADE FOR STOMPING. Her publisher, Dorchester, did an interesting promotion for this book. They partnered with an actual online shoe selling company so readers who pick up the book, which is about magical shoes granting powers, can actually buy the shoes featured on the cover via a website listed in the book.

This isn’t brand new as I can name at least two other books (one a YA and the other a nonfiction work) that also experimented with product integration.

Future of publishing going to heck in a hand basket or is this the publishing future as book readers decline and new sources of revenue need to be explored to make it viable?

Or is this just a cute concept for shoe lovers who might dig the boots that were made for stomping featured on the cover?

Let the discussion begin!

How A Book Gets A Cover–Romance

STATUS: I’m typing up editorial comments for one of my clients. I was reading all last night. And Sara sent me an email yesterday that a full we requested is hot stuff and I should get reading. Ack!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? CRAZY by Patsy Cline

I don’t know about you but I find the whole book cover process pretty fascinating—especially because I have zero ability in anything artistic.

For example, take a look at the cover for TWILIGHT. I think it’s brilliant but how in the world did somebody come up with the concept?

Well, I’m certainly not going to be able to reveal any secrets there but I can give you some insight into how at least one cover was made.

My client Marianne Mancusi (THESE BOOTS WERE MADE FOR STOMPING) is a Producer at Better.TV and she just did a segment on C.L. Wilson’s new cover for her upcoming sequel to LADY OF LIGHT AND SHADOWS.

Click here to check out the video for an inside peek. This cover isn’t even up on yet so you are seeing it here first.

(Cheers to my agent friend Michelle Grajkowski and her client!)

Waiting On A list

STATUS: Why did I plan two writers’ conferences on back-to-back weekends? What was I thinking?

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SOME ENCHANTED EVENING from the musical South Pacific

I really wish I knew the how and the what of when a book lands on the NYT bestseller list. If I did, I would certainly share. It’s proprietary information so any big reveal is definitely not happening any time soon.

I can tell you that here at the Nelson Agency, Wednesday afternoons are met with much anticipation as that is when the next week’s list are announced (before the info is known to the general public).

We jump on that email in about ten seconds.

Ally Carter’s I’D TELL YOU I LOVE YOU BUT THEN I’D HAVE TO KILL YOU spent 10 weeks on the top ten NYT list before dropping off. With much sadness, we were greeted with that news about 2 weeks ago.

And then, rather suddenly (or at least it feels that way as it is not readily apparent to us as to why), the title hit the list again

Now we can’t wait for 3 p.m. each Wednesday to find out if the title has stayed on or not. I’m happy to say that we are still there for the week of April 13 in position number 5. That’s makes 12 weeks total (three months).

That’s an amazing fact to contemplate.

And now I’m waiting eagerly for next week’s list as we might be hearing about another title that has very strong sales right out of the gate but since we don’t know the factors involved (and it may or may not be harder to hit the adult list), we’ll just have to wait on pins and needles for the list announcement tohappen next Wednesday.

Now you know what we are doing every Wed. afternoon when we should be working as the waiting is the hardest part!

Talking Book Trailers

STATUS: Just a heads up that tomorrow morning I head to Salt Lake City for the World Horror Conference so I can’t promise I’ll blog on Thursday and Friday. I’ll try though.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? STAR 69 by R.E.M

I actually tried to post this directly from but for some reason, the post wouldn’t show up. With my luck, after I post this entry, it will show up three different times for all three of my tries.

If so, sorry about that.

Last year when the book THE MANNY hit shelves, there was a fun book trailer floating around blogs and easily spotted on youtube.

I have to say this trailer was uproariously funny. I watched it several times and laughed heartily with each viewing but ultimately, I didn’t buy the book.

There in lies the rub. Book trailers can be great, fun, and generate buzz but do they sell books? That’s the million dollar question. If we could accurately measure the books sales generated by a trailer then that would help quantify whether it has a positive impact or not.

But ultimately it can’t hurt book sales so if you are creative, or have the dinero to hire professionals to make one, I say go for it.

Especially when the trailer is clever or quite funny as that in and of itself might get the link spread around. With that in mind, I give a huge thumbs up to Sherry Thomas’s new book trailer for her debut PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS, which just hit shelves yesterday for all you historical romance readers that have been eagerly awaiting the release.

I laughed outright while watching. No stuffy trailer here. Enjoy and let me know if it encourages you to buy the book. If it doesn’t, well…

2008 RITA Nominations

STATUS: Lots of smiling in the office today. Lots of smiling on the website as well as the new headshots are up if you want to check them out.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? ON THE STREET WHERE YOU LIVE from My Fair Lady

The phone literally rang of the hook this morning as the RITA-award nominees were being announced.

We have, count them, six RITA-award nominations for four of our clients. Huge news here at the agency and I couldn’t be prouder to share the announcement with all of you.

PRIME TIME–double nominee for Best Romantic Suspense and Best First Novel
GAMES OF COMMAND–Best Paranormal Romance

GRAFFITI GIRL–double nominee for Best First Novel and Best Young Adult


*please note that NLA didn’t actually sell this book but Simone is now one of our authors so we are super excited all the same!

Congrats Hank, Linnea, Kelly, & Simone

The Dreaded Headshot

STATUS: Uh, it’s Friday, right? I think I’m going to be working this weekend…

What’s playing on the iPod right now? MRS. ROBINSON by Lemonheads

Trust me, I can sympathize. Every time I sell a client book, I immediately tell the author that it’s time to write the official author bio and to go get the professional headshot done.

This is usually met with a groan (and occasionally with author excitement).

And I know the feeling. Guess what Sara and I did today? Yep, we had our professional headshots taken. I try and do a new photo once a year (but it ends up more like a year and a half and sometimes two between shots). I wait until I change my hair style or have some other reason to endure the process yet again. In this case, it’s grown out so I don’t have super short hair anymore. I’m overdue for a new photo.

Off to the studio we went. It can be the equivalent of going to the dentist. Today I learned the importance of a really great photographer who can make you relax. That ended up being immensely helpful in the quality of the shots Sara and I did.

The first 20 shots could pretty much be thrown out. Then I decided to find out if “moving around” a bit could help the process. Boy did it. I got quite a few decent, more relaxed, normal-looking shots. When I have them to share, I will. (I haven’t done the official choosing yet as I plan to forward the link to all my clients so they can vote on which one they prefer. I figure it’s only fair when THEIR shots have been subjected to my vote and opinion. Turnaround is fair play and all.)

Here are some good tips the photographer shared with us before our shoot. You may find them helpful when that time comes for you!

1. A successful picture will direct attention to your face and not to your clothing so wear sold colors and avoid patterns.

2. Long sleeves are better than short since bare arms compete for attention.

3. Medium to dark tones are best against a dark background (who knew?)

4. Avoid bright colors (as they compete) and stick with neutrals. Also, splashes of bright can draw the eye away from the face.

5. Red is a good color for outside shots.

6. Avoid white or super light colored shirts. (Are you sensing a theme here yet? I think black or brown is going to be your best bet—unless of course both colors don’t work for you.)

7. Avoid shirts and sweaters that completely cover the neck (interesting!). V-necks are fine as long as they aren’t super wide or exaggerated (and I might add, too plunging as they would also compete with your face).

8. Throw out all these suggestions and wear what makes you comfortable. Big smile here.

In general, if you are going to a professional photographer with controlled lighting, make up probably doesn’t need to be too heavy (and I’m sure the guys just breathed a huge sigh of relief there). Lip gloss also tends to be too shiny.

And once there, see what you can do to relax or put yourself at ease. I think it helped a lot that Sara and I went together as we could casually chat and laugh at what didn’t work.

All in all, this was the least painful experience I’ve had doing the shot. I’ll definitely go back to West End Photography so you can certainly bookmark it if you live in Denver/Boulder.

And one last comment. Be sure that when you do the shot, you have the photographer agree to sign a photo release (or copyright assignment). That way you own the picture and can then use it for any type of promotional material without having to get permission, etc.

That’s really important.

Talking Websites

STATUS: I’m working on contracts. Need I say more?

What’s playing on the iPod right now? STICKSHIFTS AND SAFETYBELTS by Cake

I had many interesting chats with editors while I was in New York City this past month but I just remembered one that I had meant to blog about. And then I received an email survey about this very question and that reminded me that I hadn’t yet blogged about it.

The editor and I were talking about not-yet-published writer websites and whether we look at them when we’ve requested sample pages and might be contemplating asking for a full. (The URL is often included in the cover letter.)

For both of us, the answer was “yes.” When reviewing sample pages where we like the writing, we’ll often give the writer website a glance and see what’s there. I don’t bother if the sample pages haven’t caught my interest.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a good website, with solid content, if you are going to have one at all. More on this in a minute.

If you don’t have a website, that’s fine too. I’ll still ask for a full manuscript if I like the sample pages enough. There are pros and cons to footing the bill of a website before you are even published so don’t stress about it or run out and get one right now because I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary.

But if you do have a website or blog and you are currently looking for an agent, or to make your first sale, or what have you, I can offer a couple of words of advice.

Don’t have a website/blog unless it can be a professional one. The homemade sites look it and just make me cringe. It won’t keep me from asking for your full (or if I like the novel, offering representation) but it’s not putting your best foot forward and that’s never a benefit.

What content should it have? Well the standard. About you, what you are working on, any cool interests you have that might inspire your writing, workshops you are doing, critique partners or anything about the writing process.

What you might not want to include is a whole play-by-play of your current editor, agent, or publisher search. This could backfire. I have seen sites where an author has clearly outlined all the rejections (sometimes the letters are posted there verbatim!). It would make me think twice about asking for the full (although the one time I encountered it, I did end up requesting the full as opinions can vary widely) but think of the psychology impact of that. If lots of people are saying NO, maybe I’ll think twice about saying YES.

Now once you have that book deal or agent or editor, I think it’s okay to write about it after the fact.

For blogs, remember that the writing you have there needs to be representative of you and your good work. It doesn’t have to be perfect but you shouldn’t blog if the writing doesn’t represent your “usual” quality—if you know what I mean.

In short, if it shows you off to an advantage, then have a website. If it can’t at this point in time, I wouldn’t worry about it.

New Rules For Promotion

STATUS: Boy, I’m not off to a good blogging start in this new year but I promise that I’m not flaking out either. I still plan to blog M-F like normal. I just need to get control of the chaos first!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? WHEN IT’S SLEEPY TIME DOWN SOUTH by Louis Armstrong

Last week I spoke on a panel at the Boulder Bookstore with publicity expert Bella Stander where she outlined for the audience 5 new “rules” that soon-to-be published authors need to know. In fact, we had lunch a week or two before then and that’s when she first unveiled them.

The minute she spoke them aloud, I knew I had to share with my blog readers because I hadn’t thought of this before but she’s spot on.

Most of you already know this but if for some reason you don’t, I’ll tell you the number one rule right now. If you are a published author (or about to be), you need a website. And not some do-it-yourselfer page by the way. You want to pay someone for his or her expertise in this field because that does make a difference.

But here’s what most authors don’t know. That website needs to be up and ready before the book is actually published. In fact, that website should be up and running when the catalog copy is being done for your book.

Why? Because your publisher is going to be sending out ARCs to reviewers and to other terrific people who have the power to give you a plug, and it’s at that moment in time when they might want to find information about you and the book quickly and easily. What better way than through your website?

Darn straight! Consider this a new rule to live by and if you want to check out the other four, click here.

Author Camaraderie

STATUS: Finished up a deal negotiation and continued work on the accounting upgrade. I’ll be so happy when that is complete and all the reports are in order for my Tax CPA.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? I STILL DO by The Cranberries

There are some authors in this world who view themselves in competition with other authors for the ever-shrinkingbook buying dollar slice of the pie. And then there are authors who know and understand that this is a unique community, that book buyers will buy a range of authors if they are interested enough, and there is no reason not to support each other.

And let me tell you, it’s the latter authors who I want to work with. And nothing proves that good karma goes around and comes around more than what has happened for debut author Patry Francis.

Here’s the story if you haven’t heard it. Patry is ill with a cancer and knew she would not be able to promote the release of her debut as most authors do.

So what did the writing community decide to do? They decided to pitch in and promote it for her since she was unable to. Over 300 bloggers committed to participating in THE LIAR’S DIARY blog day.

Check this out by clicking on some links. Here’s an article in the Sun-Sentinal about the effort. Here’s some more at Red Room, Lit Park, and Backspace.

Look at all the links on Technorati!

Wow! And of course some of my authors joined the party, but here’s what I want to say. Don’t ever let anyone convince you that publishing is “an every person for him or herself” industry because it’s not. There is a real community of writers and if you haven’t got connected, ask yourself why not?