Thursday, December 21, 2006
Friday, December 15, 2006
Friday, December 08, 2006
Barbara is a wonderful lady, a Holyoke College Phi Beta Kappa from the 1920s who recently told us she's surrounded by too many old people at her assisted living facility in Vermont. She is blind now, and one of her many friends will have to read the book aloud to her. This leaves me a little apprehensive; of course she has never heard me swear or utter anything inappropriate, so I hope my book doesn't shock her.
That is what happens when you put your work out for the world to see, though, isn't it?
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Publishing is a business. Think of it that way, and you'll succeed as a writer.
Key concept: Sell-through. This is the ratio of books sold versus books shipped, so if the publisher ships 1000 copies to retailers and 400 copies are returned unsold, the sell-through is 60%. A minimum acceptable ratio is 60%; a lower rate is very bad.
If the publisher ships 500,000 copies of your book, that sounds fantastic. But if you sell only 200,000 copies, your book is a disaster. You are far better off as a writer if only 50,000 copies ship and 30,000 sell. It may sound counterintuitive, but the sell-through rate is critical. A 50% sell-through will doom a writer's future, no matter how many copies actually sell. What a writer should want is a low initial ship rate. It's much better if the book requires a second printing.
Writers need to know this type of thing, because many publishers will cynically screw over the writers. But if you can speak the language of the publishing business, they are much more likely to treat you with respect.
You need to separate yourself and your book from everything else being published.
90% of revenue is generated from 10% of the titles.
At least 500 titles are published daily.
Develop relationships with decision makers who can help you sell your book. It helps to know someone in the publishing business.
If you are a self-published author, you will be sure to get publishers' attention by selling a few thousand copies.
Publishers also want to be able to sell your earlier published titles--this is the back list.
Visit and observe what's in book stores.
Write on a schedule.
Use small focus groups to evaluate what works in your writing.
Ingram and Baker & Taylor are big jobbers, or distributors.
Writers should look at these independents for possible distribution:
Best opportunities to focus:
- Tap into online sales.
- Specialty groups--organizations, groups, book clubs (Google this). This is bigger than the traditional marketplace. You might sell quantities of your book to an organization at a discount, and let them sell at list.
But don't neglect traditional bookstores.
Jerry Simmons has a free newsletter. See his website for this.
Ways to sell your book:
- Promotion--drawing attention to your book.
- Publicity--by far the most effective--any attention you can get for free. This can be about the author as well as about the book. Find some kind of newsworthy tie-in.
The five biggest weaknesses of publishers:
- They don't think outside the mainstream, so the specialty book market is growing at their expense.
- They don't gather information on who is buying their books. Writers should do this--know who is buying their books.
- They sell to the masses and miss the niche markets.
- They don't sell on the Internet, because they are afraid of alienating Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Internet is the next big platform for writers.
- They tend to hit only the 30 biggest media markets.
Self-published authors should stay away from competition in the major markets.
An author should expect to make $0.60 or $0.70 profit from each sale of a book published by a NY publisher.
Publishers tend to dislike working with writers who write in multiple genres. If you do it, you should consider using a pen name.
Marketing success depends on persistence. 99.9% of authors don't know this stuff.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
The second part featured Bob Sanders, CEO of Mundania Press, which he co-founded to republish the works of Piers Anthony. They publish paranormal fiction. He says that to check the process, he has anonymously submitted work to his own company and been rejected.
It's critical for you as a writer to know your audience. What are their reading tastes? (Genre is a starting point.) What else does the market read? What kind of disposable income do they have? It's not enough to say your audience consists of adult males over 25.
A writer needs a business plan and a marketing plan. The business plan can be brief. Try to write it before finishing your novel.
A publisher looks for a reason to say no. The quickest way to get rejected at Mundania is to not follow submission guidelines.
You should have a critique partner, someone who knows the genre you're writing in.
Market like it's your last day on earth.
The publisher sells the book to book buyers.
The author has to market the book to the reading public.
Use Yahoo groups to set up a small focus group to test your work.
An author's business plan should encompass not just one book, but your writing career. Who will sell your books? Who is your fan base? What media will you use to reach them? What is your vision for your writing career? Answer the Who, What, Where, When, Why, How.
Set your expectations for a given time frame. How much time do you realistically have to write?
Think about why the audience should care about your books? Why should they enjoy them?
Your marketing plan deals with the individual books.
Set objectives--what do you want to accomplish? Three objectives you want to accomplish within a year, for example. Share this plan with friends and family.
Need to set measureable goals--describe the activity required, what will happen and when, and what is the expected financial impact.
An author needs visibility and mystique (referring to how the person appears to the public). Look the part for the type of author you are and the type of business personality that's appropriate for the kind of writing you do.
Where to find customers:
- Trade journals
Considerations in thinking about your potential customers:
- Purchasing loyalty
- Social class/lifestyle
Think about how you'll promote to the top three categories of readers.
A question he posed over and over: "Is the juice worth the squeeze?" Always consider whether any given effort is worth the expected result.
Make use of Google and Yahoo. Leverage your resources.
List the problems you're facing:
- What's the root cause?
- What needs to change?
- How will I measure results?
Hold online writing workshops, as does paranormal author Michele Bardsley.
Authors can coordinate group ads.
Find and develop a niche.
Plan on the specific actions you intend to accomplish, then do it. ("Plan the work, work the plan.") Say how you'll do something and why--specific tasks that will affect the bottom line.
Think about where your time and attention are going.
Regularly re-evaluate your plans. Treat your writing like a business.
Don't give the public too much information about yourself.
Monday, November 20, 2006
The pitching segment featured a talk by Katharine Sands, a New York literary agent who offered plenty of advice on how to approach agents. She tossed around lots of arcane-sounding terms such as "dysfiction," which I didn't find all that useful, so I didn't write them all down.
She distinguishes between a writer and an author; the latter is a published writer. Writing is solitary, while publishing is collaborative.
A manuscript does not become a book until it is published. Never refer to your manuscript as "complete."
When querying agents for non-fiction (I think she meant for fiction as well), don't just give the facts of your story. You should show your voice and provide a lens that lets us see into the book.
Don't pitch multiple ideas at once. Just one at a time.
A query is a one-page pitch. Nobody reads two pages. The query must "infotain," provide a spark, give the agent a memorable takeaway nugget.
In your query, lead with what is the most interesting. Don't waste your first paragraph.
Elevator pitch: about 25 words to grab the agent's attention.
Your pitchcraft becomes your jacket copy, your hook.
Agents are looking for voice, elements, alchemy.
Good news/bad news: The good news is that talent comes from everywhere, and agents are always on the lookout. The bad news is that the agents are flooded with queries.
Talk about your platform in your query letter, if warranted. If you are a recognized expert in the field you're writing about, for example, be sure to let the agent know. Also, tell how your other writing has been noticed, how you will get readers, or anything that makes your work interesting or different.
Agents do not log submissions. If you don't get a reply, sometimes you can get away with waiting a while and querying again.
Radio sells more books than television.
Categories of published books:
Front List: Books by the very top authors, whose work automatically stands out in the market place.
Mid List: Where most work ends up. This is a very wide range.
Back List: Books that are not ordinarily marketed in bookstores except under special circumstances. They might be specialty books, or they might be earlier books in a series. So if the latest Harry Potter book comes out, bookstores might also trot out all of Rowling's earlier titles to try selling those at the same time. Those earlier titles have been back listed.
Booksellers don't buy books. They take them on consignment.
Book buyers frequently get to retitle a book if they think the original title won't sell.
A good query might wind up becoming the catalog description.
As an author, you must be an impassioned ambassador for your work.
Generally okay to query multiple agents at once.
You can often find the names of literary agents on the acknowledgement pages of recently published books.
The Preditors & Editors website is a good place to learn what some of the shadier folks in the business may not want you to know.
Meanwhile, my friend Bev tells me she just received her copy in the mail. That makes it seem more real.
Monday, October 23, 2006
Here's a promotional bookmark I created, now that I know the price and page count of the book. If you would like to have a free bookmark, send me an email (email@example.com) with your name and address. I will gladly send you one, wherever you are in the world.
iUniverse ran into a couple of production delays recently, but they are working hard to get back on track. I'm still hoping for the book to be available by early December. We shall see.
Saturday, October 14, 2006
Ready? Take a deep breath and hold it...
Seriously, I'm pleased.
Monday, October 09, 2006
Sunday, October 08, 2006
Monday, October 02, 2006
My cover design came in today, and I'm quite pleased with it! Here is what it looks like. People do just books by their covers, and I think this one conveys a sense of humor without appearing to be a children's book.
The next step in the process is to review a proof, which I hope to get soon. I've already gone over the text time and again, so there shouldn't be (m)any typos.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
So why mention it? Because apparently no one proofread the manuscript. Wouldn't you think that if a novel is about a kidnapping, that someone would notice that there are supposed to be two p's in kidnapped? It's spelled wrong dozens of times, because no one thought to look up the word. Frequently the author is too close to catch these errors, but someone should catch them before the reader does. Running a spell-check program would have caught "kidnaped" or "kidnaping." Even the spell-checker is not sufficient, but it should be a writer's first line of defense.
Typos--at least typos in quantity--distract from my enjoyment of a book and from my appreciation of its author.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
This week, an iUniverse graphic artist is designing the cover for When Pigs Fly. My idea had been to show a silhouette of a pig or javelina flying over Arizona's Sonoran Desert at sunset. There are several children's books by the same name, so I stressed the importance of designing the cover to appeal to adults. They referred me to several stock photographs that they could work with.
I didn't much care for the pig they found, which looked vaguely creepy. So I found a more suitable one and superimposed it on the sunset. The graphic artist should be using something like the image on the right. They plan to use a Nueva font with a drop shadow for the title and my byline. This doesn't look like a children's book to my friends who've seen it, so that's a relief.
Thursday, August 31, 2006
I've often heard stated as a truism that a writer can't edit his own writing. Well, I just did it, though it helped a lot that iUniverse sent me a report telling me the types of issues to look for.
Soon I hope to hear from iUniverse graphics folks about the cover art.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Sunday, July 30, 2006
Bob Sanchez’s When Pigs Fly reads like it was written with an ice pick, and he drives it right into the heart of the American dream of the Golden Years. A big pay-out lottery ticket, a 300-pound bad guy named Diet Cola, an Elvis Impersonator, and a javelina that flies? No one looking for a smooth Southwestern retirement should have to face what Mack Durgin faces. Part road trip, part crime caper, part love story, this is one cool debut. If you like the dark comedy of Hiaasen and Leonard, you’re going to love this one.
David Daniel, award-winning author of The Marble Kite and Reunion
When Pigs Fly is a masterpiece of comic writing combined with a touching story. Quirky doesn’t begin to describe the characters—they’re sometimes terrifying, often hilarious, and always unique. Robert Sanchez has the perfect touch for comedy, delivering a riotous good time while giving us a well-developed protagonist we’ll want to follow for many books to come.
Kathryn Mackel, author of The Hidden
Saturday, July 22, 2006
Since I took the plunge yesterday, I've reserved the domain www.bobsanchez.com, which forwards to my existing personal home page. Once there is decent artwork and a publication schedule, I'll change that page to advertise the book.
I've also solicited several published writers for cover blurbs and have arranged for a Kirkus Discoveries review. The deal is that for a fee, Kirkus reviews a book they wouldn't ordinarily review, such as a POD. They stress caveat emptor, meaning what you pay for is an honest review. It's worth taking the chance, as a review from them means increased visibility.
The whole idea of Kirkus charging money for reviews raises questions in some people's minds, my own included. Will they go easy in reviews that writers pay for? If you're curious, check out some of the Kirkus Discovery reviews on the link I provided above. It's unclear whether they will carry the same cachet as the traditional Kirkus reviews, but I certainly hope so.
Friday, June 02, 2006
This is day 2 of our trip from Massachusetts to our new home in New Mexico, where we close in a couple of weeks. So break out the violins--we'll be homeless in our Volvo.
We won't do much sightseeing because of our cats, but we did go through the Shenandoah Valley today, which was wonderful even with the cloud cover. This graceful doe posed for us along Skyline Drive.
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
The movers arrive next Wednesday, and we ready as much as we can to minimize expenses. In the basement today, I pitched printouts of old manuscripts I had written with so much enthusiasm and hope. Merciless, I let go of those old dreams. The stories are all safely stored on my computer and backed up on my hard drive in case some day I choose to cannibalize my old work. But now, on paper inside old three-ring binders, those old dreams would cost me seventy cents per pound to transport in the eighteen-wheeler that will pull up in front of my house.
The last time we moved, we did so quickly, with little time to weed through the thousands of reminders of our past. This time the real estate market had turned to favor buyers, and we were slow to sell our house, leaving us with plenty of time to sell, donate, or discard our used-up belongings and ill-considered purchases of the past. The house is emptying, but there is still plenty to do.
Next Thursday, we will drive with our two cats from Massachusetts to New Mexico. Our route will take us through western Virginia and Skyline Drive in the Appalachians. I wish we could stop at a few of the many Civil War battle sites such as Gettysburg and Antietam, but our cats George and Gracie will be restless, asking if we're there yet.
So I am looking forward to the trip, but much more so to the destination, and most of all to settling down again, making new friends, and writing.
Sunday, May 21, 2006
And there were other great friends who couldn’t make it: another Kathy, a couple more Daves—our group is replete with Kathies and Daves—and Judy and Kristi, who have already moved away.
Love of writing is what brought us all together. Some of us have substantial publishing credits, some are still working toward publication, and some, like Kristi, have decided to pursue other interests. Every one is a good to excellent writer and critic, and I’ve learned from them all. Thank goodness for e-mail, which will keep us all in frequent touch.
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
You can find a number of good markets (all with standards) at: http://www.duotrope.com/digest/. The nice thing about this site is that it groups markets by speed of response and percentage of rejections, based on readers' input.
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Saturday, March 25, 2006
We talked about friendship at my writer's group meeting last night. Can you really make friends on the Internet? We all agreed you can use it to maintain already-existing friendships over wide distances, but what about friendships where the initial contact is on the Internet? One person thought no, because it's so easy to disguise one's identity. I'm more sanguine; while it's easier to accumulate a lot of pleasant acquaintances by using only a keyboard, I suspect it's also possible to find good friends here and there. As with traditional friendships, they take time and common sense to develop, and recognition of the limitations of thinking you know someone you'll probably never meet.
Sunday, March 19, 2006
A conundrum. I'm in a writer's group with people I've known and whose opinions I've valued for many years. So now I am reading segments of a work in progress where a young girl has been kidnapped and her captors talk between themselves about how best to make money from her: ransom or kiddie porn? When I got to that point in my reading, my friend made it clear that she would stop reading. Fair comment. Good and decent people have different thresholds for this type of fiction, though, and I wonder if it isn't better to stay with my original direction and see what happens.
I've read and thoroughly enjoyed several books in Lawrence Sanders' hilarious McNally series, so I was quite surprised when I delved into his The First Deadly Sin, which is about as dark and unfunny a story as I've read in a long time. Sections of the book with the point of view of the killer are so hard to take that I've nearly stopped reading. A whole book of that would be far too much. What keeps me going are the terrific writing and the anticipation that I'll soon get to read about the very sympathetic and human protagonist. No doubt my good friend would never tolerate the book, yet in its own way it is excellent.
So I'm inclined to go where I'm inclined to go.
Friday, March 17, 2006
As the Internet age clearly shows, ignorance doesn’t stop us from writing. It used to be that writers wrote on yellow lined pads or hunted and pecked on ancient Royals. They always had to be careful near the end of a page so that the last line didn’t slant away. I used to painfully type a complete page of what was supposed to be clean copy only to look back in horror at a typo on the first line—and then of course my eraser always left a smudge. Or my carbon paper would be in backwards on an otherwise perfect page.
So who wants to keep piles of handwritten or poorly typed work, be it inspiration or dreck? Every few years I threw out piles of my pale efforts, unread and unlamented. Today, through the miracle of modern technology, I never have to throw any of my precious words again. It can stay on hard drive, on CD, or, God bless us, in cyberspace for everyone to enjoy.
But if word processing gives us the means to produce typo-free dreck, and the Internet gives us the means to assault the world with it, we also have the means to learn what we don’t know and to verify the rest.
Sunday, March 12, 2006
Distractions have always come easy to me, so daily-life experiences like lighting fires under real estate agents provide the perfect excuse not to snuggle my butt into my chair and finish my current novel, or, for that matter, to market a completed one to agents.
I've been better than this. I had a groove that produced a modest but steady output of pages over the years. Now my story has a dark plot line involving a child's kidnapping that a trusted friend in my writer's group says would be too dark for her to read. That's actually good news, because even though my writer friends have talked me out of the darkest of the story line, I've discovered that I can write some fairly creepy stuff. So now to go back and add some balance, which may mean giving the villains at least some minimal touches of humanity so they don't come across as cartoon bad guys. I have a lot of notes from our Saturday meeting--and from previous meetings--which will help me a lot in fixing story problems. I'll work on it later, because first I have to find my groove. If you have any information as to its whereabouts, I'd like to hear from you. I will accept its return with no questions asked.
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
Well, I've never been a little girl, so I'll have to read the scene to my writer's group, which consists mostly of women. They will set me straight on the blunders I will certainly make, and then my second draft will be on the right track.
Tuesday, February 28, 2006
So what happened? He found a girlfriend who made him happy, that's what. Life pulled him in a different direction, but love and work still left him with time to write if he wanted to. But one day he explained to me that he no longer had enough pain in his life to make him write. Anger and despair were part of his motivation to write in the first place, he said--in his novels he exacted plenty of fictional revenge on his wife, and now he feels much better.
Maybe that explains why I don't write more than I do. There is largely an absence of pain in my life. Doesn't unhappiness drive most creative writing?
Monday, February 27, 2006
So why keep writing? Well, for me it's the challenge of putting my reluctant brain to work. It's the association and friendships formed with like-minded souls. It's the ego massage that results from seeing my work in print. Once a co-worker showed me what he called a great magazine article and asked if I had seen it. "I wrote it," I said, pointing to my byline. Then he went around the office, bragging for me. An inflated ego and a nice check too--how much better can life get? And yes, the occasional check is nice.
A couple of useful bromides: The key to finishing a novel is "ass in chair," according (possibly) to the most excellent Lawrence Block. And it's easier to fix a bad page than a blank one (source unknown).
Not long ago, I set a modest goal of writing 500 new words of fiction daily, and actually met or exceeded that quota for about a month. Now my enthusiasm for that novel has waned, which I hope is a temporary malady. Maybe the best approach is to just sit down and do it, just as one would treat a job.