Saturday, September 25, 2010
A pen name . . . or nom de plume . . . as some say, is simply a made up name used in place of your real name as author of your work. There are reasons why one might want to do this. And reasons why one might not want to.
Why you may want to use a pen name:
Here are several popular reasons to use a pen name instead of your real one.
-- You want to change your gender. In certain genres, romance for instance, it seems that female authors are better received. This is particularly true if your main character is a female. And in other genres, thrillers perhaps, there is a preponderance of male characters. So you may want your author gender to be male. (These are just examples. I'm not trying to pick a fight.) If you are writing in a genre where readers prefer authors of a certain gender, maybe you want to switch yours if your God-given version isn't right for the task.
-- If this is your first book, you may wish to preserve your privacy by using a pen name. We all know that once our personal information is spread across the internet, it is widely available to anyone with nefarious intent. So privacy might be another consideration.
-- If you are already known for writing in a different genre, or different medium, you may consider a nom de plume either: 1) to avoid confusing your readers as to the type of book they are buying; or 2) to preserve an alternate author image in your previous work. St. Paul newspaper columnist, John Camp, writes as John Sandford, presumably for this reason.
-- If your real name is very common (eg. John Smith), or you share a name with another author, you might consider a pen name so your fans can more easily find your work on a search engine, or to avoid confusion with the other author.
-- If you want your author name to have a certain pizazz, you could spice it up a bit. "Rocky Savage" may sound more masculine to some than "Tracy Ween."
-- Or you may have one of those given names that might be male or female (like Stacy, or Sean, or Jamie). And perhaps you want to make your gender clear for the readers.
Why you may not want to use a pen name:
-- For many self-published writers, their personal name recognition (at least by friends, relatives and community) may be their best initial marketing tool. You might not want to lose that advantage by using a pen name. Community is a great place to start building your following. See my earlier post on The New Prevailing Wisdom - Begin at Home.
-- If you have already established some name recognition with your other writing pursuits (columns, short stories, etc.), you may want to extend your "brand" to your new works. Using your real name as author of your new book(s) is a great way to do this. Hopefully, any goodwill you have established in your previous writings will transfer to your new audience. This is called "leveraging goodwill" in the marketing world. And lots of big companies use it. At one point the Gerber Company was known only for its quality baby food. But they have leveraged the the goodwill of their brand into baby clothing lines, and other areas as well. Why should we think a food packager can make clothing? Who knows . . . but this leveraging works.
-- If your name is recognizable in some non-writing circle -- eg. you're a sports or entertainment figure -- using your real name can be a huge advantage. How many people would have bought "Chelsea, Chelsea, Bang, Bang" if the author were not a famous comedian?
Well those are a few reasons I have come up with.
I am currently trying to balance name recognition, with the potential to confuse (or even alienate) my audience, as I approach publication of a new novel in a completely different genre from my "Beck" suspense/thriller series. I'll let you know later what I decided to do.
If you have other reasons for using a pen name or not, I would love to hear your comments. Maybe we can get a discussion going.
That's it for today.
Monday, September 20, 2010
Many mainstream book reviewers won't consider self- or indie-published books. But here are twenty-five who do.
REMEMBER - Always check the Reviewer's website for submission requirements or preferences.
In no particular order:
Readers Choice Book Reviews
Always With A Book
Book Readers Heaven (drop Glenda an email)
DollyCas's Thoughts (email Lori Caswell at: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Midwest Book Review
You Have How Many Kids?
What You Reading Now?
The Book Connection
The Hot Author Report
Ohio Girl Talks
Night Owl Reviews
Just One More Paragraph
As the Pages Turn (On temporary hiatus)
The Friendly Book Nook
Book Room Reviews
Age 30+ ... A Lifetime of Books
Fyrefly's Book Blog
Review From Here
Obviously, not every reviewer reviews every genre of book. And some get backed up from time to time. But remember, these reviews are free, so don't hassle the reviewers about time frames, or review results. Read their policies in advance. Then you'll know what to expect.
Thanks for stopping in. Cheers!
Sunday, September 19, 2010
This post lists current information about upcoming award competition opportunities. I'm not endorsing these specific competitions as better than others. But this is a good list to start from.
(Advance apologies for the variation in font styles and sizes. Lots of cutting and pasting from other sites.)
Call for Entries – 2011 Independent Publisher Book Awards now open!
Announcing the 15th annual Independent Publisher Book Awards, honoring the year’s best independently published titles. We’ll accept entries until March 19th, 2011 for books with 2010 and 2011 copyrights or that are released in 2010 or early 2011.
Early-bird entry incentives are available – enter today!
The “IPPY” Awards were conceived as a broad-based, unaffiliated awards program open to all members of the independent publishing industry, and are open to authors and publishers worldwide who produce books written in English and intended for the North American market. We define “independent” as 1) independently owned and operated; 2) operated by a foundation or university; or 3) long-time independents that became incorporated but operate autonomously and publish fewer than 50 titles a year.
Thanks and good luck to all participants!____________________________
- Open to independent authors and publishers worldwide
- The largest not-for-profit awards program for independent publishers
- Enter books released in 2010 or 2011 or with a 2010 or 2011 copyright date
- 60 categories to choose from
- Cash prizes and fabulous awards
- Exposure of top 60 books to leading New York literary agent
- Gala awards reception held at the world famous Plaza Hotel in New York City
- Earn recognition and receive other benefits from having an award-winning book
2011 Hollywood Book Festival
LOS ANGELES -The 2011 Hollywood Book Festival is now in the late registration period for its annual competition celebrating books that deserve greater recognition fro the film, television game and multimedia communities. All books must be in our hands by close of business on July 6.
Based in the capital of show business, the Hollywood Book Festival aims to spotlight literature worthy of further consideration by the talent-hungry pipeline of the entertainment industry.
The 2011 Hollywood Book Festival will consider published, self-published and independent publisher non-fiction, fiction, children's books, teenage, how-to, audio/spoken word, 'zines, comics, e-books, fan fiction, wild card (anything goes!), unpublished stories, genre-based and biography/autobiography works.
SAN FRANCISCO _ The 2011 San Francisco Book Festival has issued a call for entries for its annual program celebrating the best books of the Spring season.
The San Francisco Book Festival will consider non-fiction, fiction, biography/autobiography, children's books, compilations/anthologies, teenage, how-to, cookbooks, science fiction, audio/spoken word, history, wild card, gay, photography/art, poetry, unpublished, travel and spiritual works. There is no date of publication deadline.
SAN FRANCISCO_ The 2011 Green Book Festival has issued its call for entries to its annual competition honoring books that contribute to greater understanding, respect for and positive action on the changing worldwide environment.
All packages must be received by the close of business on April 25, 2011. Winners will be honored on May 15 in San Francisco.
The 2011 Green Book Festival will consider published, self-published and independent publisher works in the following categories: non-fiction, fiction, children's books, teenage, how-to, audio/spoken word, comics/graphic novels, poetry, science fiction/horror, biography/autobiography, gardening, cookbooks, animals, photography/art, e-books, wild card (anything goes!), scientific, white paper, legal, business, mystery and spiritual.
In addition to the above, Writer's Digest sponsors several writing competitions annually. These are the 2010 entries. There will be corresponding contests next year. Just watch the site. To read more about their competitions, see below.
Writer's Digest Popular Fiction Awards
Writer's Digest is accepting entries in the Popular Fiction Awards. Compete and Win in All 5 Categories! The Grand Prize-Winner will receive a trip to the Writer's Digest Conference in New York City, $2,500 cash, $100 worth of Writer's Digest Books and the 2011 Novel & Short Story Writer's Market.
Writer's Digest Annual Short Short Story Writing Competition
Writer's Digest Poetry Awards Competition
Writer's Digest 79th Annual Writing Competition The 6th Annual Writer’s Digest Poetry Awards is now accepting entries. Don't miss your chance to win cash, a trip to the Writer's Digest Conference and exposure in our August 2011 issue.
The 6th Annual Writer’s Digest Poetry Awards is now accepting entries. Don't miss your chance to win cash, a trip to the Writer's Digest Conference and exposure in our August 2011 issue.
We are no longer accepting entries for this competition. We are awarding more than $30,000 in cash and prizes. Winners will be notified in October and top winners will be announced in our December issue.
The top 10 winners in each category from the 78th Annual Competition were listed in the December 2009 issue of Writer's Digest. You can also check out the winners of the 78th Annual Writer's Digest Writing Competition here.The Writer's Digest International Self-Published Book Awards
The 18th Annual Self-Published Book Awards is no longer accepting entries.We are giving away more than $17,000 in cash and prizes. Winners will be notified in October and announced in the March 2011 issue.
Thank you to all of the participants in the 17th Annual competition. Winners have been notified and the results appear in the March/April 2010 issue of Writer's Digest.
Every other month, Writer's Digest presents a creative challenge for fun and prizes. We'll provide a short, open-ended prompt. In turn, you'll submit a short story of 750 words or fewer based on that prompt. You can be funny, poignant, witty, etc.; it is, after all, your story. The winner will receive publication in an upcoming issue of Writer's Digest.
There are getting to be more and more competitions and awards for self-published works every year. Google "Self-Published Book Award Competitions 2011" to find others.
Hope this post has been helpful. That's it for today.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Wait a minute.
Elevator Pitch. Check.
Review request letter. Check.
Press Release. Check.
Media Kit. Check.
Nobody ever mentioned that I needed discussion questions. Oh well . . . one more document for my marketing arsenal.
Today's post is going to help you get those questions ready in no time.
Here are some generic questions you can start from --
DIRECTIONS: While reading a book, a club member should reflect on these questions, and research other supplementary materials. This is most important if you are leading the book discussion.
•Did you like the book? If you have read any of the author's other books, how does this compare?
•What is this book's message?
•How did you feel about the characters? Whom did you like or not like and why?
•What did you think of the ending?
•In a movie version, who would play what parts?
•How did you feel when the character did or said....How do you think the character felt when she did or said...?
•If questions...e.g. If the characters had done this instead, how would the story have changed?
•What do book reviews say about this book or more generally the author, and her past works?
•What did you think of the plot line development? How credible did the author make it?
•What moral/ethical choices did the characters make? What did you think of those choices? How would you have chosen?
•How authentic is the culture or era represented in the book?
•Why do you think the author wrote this? What is her most important message?
•How do you think the main character's point of view is similar or different from the author's point of view or background?
•What is the author's background (her style, stature and focus)?
•How does the setting figure as a character in the story?
•Are the characters' actions the result of freedom of choice or of destiny?
•Is there any moral responsibility that was abdicated?
•Are there any symbols that may have cultural, political or religious reference? e.g. flag, tree, rose.
•What type of vision does the author use with her word choice? Is it optimistic, pessimistic, prophetic, cautionary, humorous, satirical, venomous, cathartic?
•What effects do the events (time, nationality, physicality) have on the character's self or personality?
And you can customize the above with questions tailored specifically to your book. Here are some custom questions from my book, The 19th Element --
Now when a book club asks you for discussion questions for your book, you've got a place to start.
That's it for today.
PS. Thanks to Holly in Plum City, WI for her contributions to this list.
Monday, September 13, 2010
According to Ricky Nelson's "Garden Party" -- "You can't please everyone, so you've got to please yourself." (Okay. He wasn't the first to say that -- just the one with the catchiest song to go along with it. See YouTube link above.)
Regardless of its source, this saying is a good reminder for everyone -- especially for authors. It's too easy for authors to over-emphasize negative reviews of our work. We need to remember that ALL authors receive bitter criticism -- at least all authors whose books get read.
Here's a great article by Michelle Kerns at examiner.com entitled "The 50 best author vs. author put-downs of all time." Give it a read and see examples of harsh criticisms the world's best authors have endured from fellow writers. It'll make you feel better.
Then, after you've perused Michelle's article, I want you to consider how many people you know who have actually published a book. If you're like me, you have more than enough fingers on one hand to count them off. Publishing a book by any means whatsoever is a monumental achievement. You just gotta feel good about that!
If an acquaintance points out to you that you have typos (or other errors) in your book, you could be snide and ask to see their latest 90,000 word error-free work. Or you could do as I do, and say, "Thanks for pointing that out. I'm working hard at perfecting my editing."
And the next time someone offers you their uninvited critique of your book's plot, characters, subject matter, etc., just tell them, "Thanks. I really appreciate your reading my work. You should check out my new book ___________."
Then shake off the negative vibes and get back to writing your book, always remembering that, at a minimum, it's better than theirs.
And here's one more thing you can do as a mood lifter. I've borrowed an excellent life axiom from evangelist Joyce Meyer. I tell it to myself often. You should, too. Here it is (to the best of my recollection): "I'm not where I need to be; but I'm sure not where I was. I'm okay and I'm on my way." Just repeating that phrase to myself ALWAYS picks me up when my self-image is flagging. Saying it out loud has more impact. But just thinking it helps, too.
Hope this post has given you some good reasons to feel good about yourself and your writing.
That's it for today.
But do me one favor, please. Always remember that you're okay, and you're on your way.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Each method of publication has its strengths and weaknesses. The following is certainly not an exhaustive list. But just by way of example, here are a few characteristics of each publishing route that usually apply:
-- Established distribution channels.
-- Established marketing and review channels (e.g. access to pre-release reviews in well-established industry pubs like Publisher's Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, etc.)
-- Established access to brick and mortar book stores.
-- Access to cost-effective printing formats such as mass market paperbacks.
-- Established editorial, artistic and promotional staffs to support your book.
-- Front money to take advantage of all of the above.
-- Author advances, many of which will never earn out.
-- Less direct author control over the publishing process (including design, content, print format, etc.).
-- Lower commission percentage on unit sales.
-- Less control over pricing and web availability.
-- Can be very difficult to obtain a traditional publisher, or even a literary agent to represent your book to one.
-- Takes a longer time to publish via traditional route than via self- or indie-publication.
Self- and Indie-Publishing:
-- Total artistic and design control of your book.
-- Fast publication time-line.
-- You can publish your book in eBook formats and sell anywhere on the web.
-- You set book prices.
-- Higher commissions on unit sales.
-- No contracts or commitments.
-- Easy to change/correct content (especially if printed POD).
-- No one to share the financial risk of publishing your book.
-- No one to help with design, layout, editing or marketing. (Either you learn how to do it yourself, or you hire these services.)
-- No established system for credible, independent book reviews.
-- Many barriers to getting your book into brick and mortar stores.
-- No established distribution pipelines.
-- Continuing stigma in many industry and reader minds over "vanity publishing."
-- Very challenging to distinguish your book from the slush pile of less marketable self-publications.
Okay. So those are some of the differences between the publishing approaches. But is there a need for those who have published traditionally to resent those who choose to self- or indie-publish? Or vice versa?
If an author is not successful at getting a literary agent to represent his/her book, does that mean the book wasn't "good enough," or that s/he didn't "work hard enough"? Sometimes. But certainly not always.
If an author is successful at engaging an agent, and successfully publishes via the traditional route, does that mean they were "lucky"? Or that their book is of higher quality? Sometimes. But certainly not always.
If an author leaves his/her publisher to self-publish once the author has become famous or established, is that "disloyal" to the publisher who supported them? Or if a publisher publishes five of an author's previous books, then declines to publish another, is the publisher being "disloyal" to the author?
My understanding about the publishing business is that it is, indeed, a business, not a charitable undertaking. If an author's books don't make money for the publisher, barring a contract to the contrary, I don't see any reason why anyone should berate the publisher when they decline the next book.
Likewise, if a publisher and author have not contractually agreed on publication of an author's future books, I can't see where the publisher has a legitimate complaint when the author decides s/he can make more money in his/her own publishing business. Yes, the publisher took a chance on the author by publishing the first book(s) -- in hopes of making a profit. But the author agreed to forgo a large measure of creative control, marketing control and commission percentage in exchange for the publisher's investment -- also in hopes of making a profit.
In short, it was a business deal. Each party gave and got something.
What happens in the business world if a contractual relationship is not working for both parties, when the contract expires, the parties either renegotiate a new contract with which they are both satisfied, or they part ways. Yes, there can be hard feelings on both sides. But to call one party culpable when a contract terminates by running its course is legally absurd.
My perception of the animosity that exists between some traditionally published authors and some of their self- or indie-published counterparts is that it is partly founded on envy. Each wishes, to a certain extent, that s/he had some of what the other has.
And it is based partly on a perception that the two methods of publication are deleterious to one another. This point remains unproven. The publishing industry is in upheaval. Only time will tell whether either publication method is preferable.
In the meantime, it would really be nice if all of us authors could refrain from vitriolic exchanges between one another about our chosen paths to publication.
My philosophy has always been that writing is a cooperative endeavor, not a competitive one. Writing is stressful enough without having to be abused by other writers. Don't you think?
That's it for today.
Thanks for stopping by.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
On August 23rd, 2010, the revered reviewer of traditionally published books announced that it had opened its doors to the previously-shunned self-published market with a service it has dubbed PW Select.
Yay! . . . right?
Well, hold on a second. Let's look a bit closer. According to PW:
"We are returning to our earliest roots. PW dates to 1872, when it was first known as Trade Circular Weekly and listed all titles published that week in what was then a nascent industry. We have decided to embrace the self-publishing phenomenon in a similar spirit. Call it what you will—self-publishing, DIY, POD, author-financed, relationship publishing, or vanity fare. They are books and that is what PW cares about. And we aim to inform the trade.
"To that end, we are announcing PW Select, a quarterly supplement announcing self-published titles and reviewing those we believe are most deserving of a critical assessment."
Sounds great. Okay, a quarterly Supplement containing reviews of self-pubs and indie-pubs may not be quite the same as including the reviews in the weekly magazine itself. But it looks like a step in the right direction.
PW goes on to say: "The first supplement will appear in our year-end issue in December. Each quarterly will include a complete announcement issue of all self-published books submitted during that period. The listings will include author, title, subtitle, price, pagination and format, ISBN, a brief description, and ordering information provided by the authors, who will be required to pay a processing fee for their listing. At least 25 of the submitted titles will be selected for a published review."
So not all submitted titles will actually be reviewed -- only listed. Well that's better than nothing, right? And maybe your title will get reviewed.
Oh . . . did I mention that it costs $149.00 to submit your title to PW Select? Please note that, according to PW, this is not a "reading fee" or a "review fee." It is merely a "processing fee" -- presumably to cover their costs involved with this process of "listing" your book in the quarterly supplement.
I don't know about you, but something about this arrangement smacks of big business -- once again -- taking advantage of the dreams and aspirations of writers. What's the difference between charging a review fee and a "processing fee"? Oh that's right . . . you probably don't get reviewed.
Why not pay Kirkus Discoveries the low, low price of $425 (up from $350 earlier this year) and get a guaranteed review? You know the review will be a good one, too. Otherwise, no one would pay $425.00 to submit their book. (This is, of course, the problem with paid reviews. If the reviewers don't give positive reviews, authors will not hire them in the future.)
So what are we to make of PW's statement that "We are returning to our earliest roots"? Is charging for the possibility of a review really any different than charging for the review itself. In my humble opinion, it's not. PW Select seems to be just another play for the author's money to help bolster a flagging balance sheet in the traditional publishing sector.
I wish it were otherwise. But sadly . . . it's not.
Maybe more cheerful news in my next post.
All the best. And thanks for stopping in.
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Here you go:
-- Twitter now drives 38% of all visits to my author website and 37% of all new visitors. Try to be active on Twitter in ways that show your personality. RT worthy posts by other authors.
-- Google Analytics tells me that my website has a zero percent "bounce rate." If you are unfamiliar with the term, it means that no one leaves my site from the same page on which they enter. In other words, they look around. So I'm happy with my website design.
-- Kindle now accounts for about 30% of my book sales by number of books, and about the same percentage of my gross profits from book sales. These percentages are growing. I like Kindle -- especially because it costs nothing but time to have your book available there.
-- Having your paper books available through multiple online channels will encourage Amazon to discount your book. This is great, since all of the discount comes out of Amazon's share. Make eBooks available through Smashwords. BN will pick them up.
-- Local book clubs are beginning to ask for group discounts on purchases of my books. I can easily accommodate, since retailers take 40% of gross selling price. NOTE: Circumventing your local retailers may cause challenges, though. So you have to make a call. Also see New Prevailing Wisdom -- Begin at Home.
-- I'm excited to be exhibiting at a regional book fair in October. Fellow authors tell me it is great exposure for my books -- especially if I engage the patrons in a positive and friendly manner. I'm good at that and looking forward to the opportunity to pitch my books. See Exhibiting at a Book Fair.
-- I have been invited to speak to a medium-sized discussion group in my area in February. It's not a group that's just about books. They want to hear about my publishing journey. I am confident that presentation will generate book sales on the premises, as well as increase my local author profile.
-- Two regional newspaper reviewers have confirmed to me that they presently have my latest book in their to-be-read piles. If you don't know a lot about newspaper reviewers, they get bushels of books every day. Making it out of the slush pile and into the to-be-read pile is HUGE. Now, if they like the book, I should get some significant new exposure -- total circulation of 1,000,000 plus. (Of course, if they don't like my book, they probably won't review it. Most reviewers don't waste their time and ink telling readers which self-pubs NOT to buy.)
-- I have a standing offer at my local radio station to do a ten minute interview whenever I have something to announce. I'm saving that option for something special.
-- I have acquired my very first endorsement from a well-read author. I emailed to see if I could send her my book, received her permission, and sent it. Don't know yet how much this will help immediately. The quote is on my webpage. But I need to update the book's print files to include it on the book cover or in the front matter.
-- I've joined the Association of Independent Authors (AiA). I believe the cost was $50. There aren't many organizations I will pay to join. But the information, contacts and exposure at AiA are well worth the fee. AiA has lots of current news items and suggestions, not to mention tons of valuable discussion forums.
-- When I published the second novel in my suspense/thriller series, sales of the first novel increased substantially. I am convinced that there is a synergy in having more than one novel published. So keeping working on book two (or three or four).
-- A number of people have commented to me that they like the way my book interiors look. "It's easy to read the words." I used an 11 point Georgia font style and 1.2 line spacing to make for easy reading. It costs a little more to have the extra pages. But I think readability is crucial.
Well . . . hope you are able to make use of the above tips that seem to be working for me.
All the best!