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30+ Ways to Show Your Favorite Author Some Love

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30+ Ways to Show Your Favorite Author Some Love

So do you really love the writing in that book you're reading? Are you so engrossed in the story that you forget you are actually reading? Has this book challenged you to live a better life? Give more? Work harder? Go the distance when you first thought you should quit? Take that leap of faith? Yes? Well, you need to get off your duff and show some love!

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6 Things Writers Should Not Say to Editors or Agents at Writers Conferences

In light of my going to a couple conferences this month, I figured I would put into writing a few things I hope writers will not say to the editors and agents (or maybe just to me) they schedule one-on-ones with. This may be selfish. It may not be. It may actually help someone more than it saves me from having to smile and say my favorite noncommittal word, "Interesting!" Yes, I am being way more tongue-and-cheek here than I would ever be in person, so don't be scared to come talk to me. :) But this space, this blogspot, is kind of like my home, where you have entered in on me being myself and where you get to be... well, whoever you want to be, I guess.

But here are some things I've heard from writers in the past that I hope to not hear at this year's round of conferences. Although, some of them make for great stories.

1. "This is my first draft, but I just wanted to see what you thought."

Huh? No. Do not bring your first draft to a conference. This could be your one shot. Have you seen the movie 8 Mile, or maybe you've just heard the song by Eminem. If not, go listen to it now and then think again about bringing your rough draft to a conference. Now, if your main reason is to attend a conference for a learning experience, that's a whole other story. But still do not show your first draft to an editor. You can consider counseling with an editor, asking questions about the industry, maybe share your idea, but please do not ask us to read your first draft. We are not attending the conference to review manuscripts or to do any conceptualization or development. We are looking for ideas to publish. Well, at least that's why I want to do one-on-ones.

2. "Before I tell you about my manuscript, I just want you to read the first few pages. No, no, just read..."

Umm... Excuse me? Yes, this has happened to me. The writer practically put their one index finger to my lips as I began to talk and said, "Shhh... Just read this. I know it's going to blow you away." Do I really need to say what's wrong with this? Let's just say this writer is not publishing with me.

3. "I know this isn't the kind of book you are looking for, but I just wanted to talk to you anyway."

Yeah, about that. No. I really need to use the little bit of time I have away from the office (on office time by the way) maximizing on meetings that may have some kind of ROI for me and the company. What happens in these meetings is that, fifteen minutes after the author's spiel, I still end up telling them that this is not the kind of project I am looking for, but perhaps XYZ publisher or agent will be better suited for you.

4. "I have never heard or known of a book like mine. It is so unique."

Really. This seems like a good thing, but it's not. If there are no other books in the market like yours, there may be a reason for that--the market (i.e., readers) does not want a book like yours. So saying this is not a selling point. Perhaps you could show how your book is similar to other books along the same lines (same genre or category) and then you could show how your book is different. Saying that you know of no other book like yours in the market says several things: 1) you don't read much, 2) you don't understand the book market, 3) you don't know the job editors have to do to sell book ideas to their sales and marketing team who sell books to distributors based on comparison, 4) you did not do your research.

5. "I don't have a proposal, but I just wanted to see what you thought about this idea."

Great, but not during the one-on-one. Meet me at a meal. I could be off here, but during one-on-ones I expect to meet with authors who are ready to be published. If you are still just learning and seeing if the author's life is right for you, let's talk over a meal.

6. "You guys publish the weird stuff, right?"

Cute. But no. Try not to say anything about the publisher you are meeting with that could be taken negatively. In this case my thoughts were on my defense, not the author's pitch: We publish verifiable genres and recognized BISAC categories--at least in our minds. So that is a little off-putting to say our stuff is weird, but then again maybe you're also saying your stuff is weird and that we should all get along because we're all weird. I guess that's OK. But come to me showing me that you understand what we are publishing and perhaps what we publish sets us apart from what other publishers are doing in our same market. That would be nicer to hear. I don't want to be working for weirdos (although sometimes I question if I am or not, but only I get to say that).

While I may have been taken aback by many more surprising statements during these wonderful editor-writer encounters, these are the ones that come to mind right now. Maybe more will come later. While I am probably the nicest editor you'll meet at a conference (I will still enjoy our meeting as if you have done nothing wrong even if you come to me with any of the intros listed above), I do think it shows an author's thoughtfulness and seriousness about their career when they take these one-on-one meetings and use them for what they are for--to get a publishing deal. If you are not ready to be published or you've found an editor or agent you'd like to just network with but don't have a manuscript ready, you should plan to share a meal with them--sit at their table. Please sit at my table. I love to have a full table. I am there to be exploited and to have indigestion for those three or four days. I love this business, the readers, the authors, and the whole bit that much. And then if I do request your manuscript, please, please send it to me. If you have problems hitting "send," read this.

That is all. Thank you.

What are some interesting things you've heard people say at writers' conferences?

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The New Author Platform Is About Building Community


Like everything else in the book business these days, things have changed and all bets are off.
Alan Rinzler

Every so often on my blog, I capture a bit of data about the publishing industry from secondary sources for my archives. I do this to mark things about publishing that feed my passion for the work I do, give me rare perspective or insight, highlight a significant paradigm shift, help me view the industry through someone else's eyes, or allow me to further support the authors I work with every day.

Today, I share (and archive) the following:

Veteran editor Alan Rinzler blogged about how publishing's view of author platform has changed—past tense. So if you're still operating and thinking in terms of the old model, it's time to upgrade.

The main difference between the old model platform and the new model, Alan says, is that the new author platform now focuses on "developing an unobstructed back and forth between authors and their readers, with the authors—not the publishers—controlling the flow....It's the author, not a publicist, who inspires readers to buy the book."

The new author platform is about the author personally building a community or a tribe around their books—loyal followers, raving fans, engaged evangelists. The middle man (publishers) can't create this kind of synergy on it's own on behalf of the author anymore. Technology and social media have ruined that concept—and I love that they have.

Alan says that an author who masters the following four traits can expect to be successful:

1. Personality

2. Authenticity

3. Expertise

4. Subtlety

He goes into much more detail about all four of these and even provides examples of books and authors who have effectively used them. I urge you to read and bookmark his post for your personal and professional benefit.

Studying these attributes and implementing them in your publishing strategy will keep you ahead of the game. Seeing something behaving in a way you aspire to behave, causes you to take on a portion of that behavior.

"By beholding, you become changed."

I encourage you to get into community with some authors who are doing it right. Follow their blogs, subscribe to their RSS feeds, visit their websites. Take on one new trait or best practice at a time, mastering it before moving to the next. You won't be left behind.

What new methods have you had to adapt to regarding your author platform that have shown positive results?

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Publishing for African American Audiences

The question of the hour is, “How do we reach African American audiences?” But it seems that the question is far too infrequently directed at African Americans. Or if it is asked of them, it seems the answers aren’t good enough. As if somehow the majority knows what’s best for the minority. Answer is given, then “experts” say, “No, that can’t be it. That won’t sell.”

What if publishing for African Americans really is about smaller niche audiences within the larger audience? What if it really is about book clubs and independent reviewers, magazine featurettes and book signings/readings? What if African American audiences don’t trust or rely on mainstream/traditional methods of book marketing? What if it really is about accepting African American views on race, sexually, religion, and politics? And then not just accepting it, but realizing that it may be different than the mainstream and being OK with letting that voice speak out. Is that OK with the publisher asking the question? Are they ready to engage and develop relationships with the channels that would best position African American titles? Can publishers accept and handle the unique demands, expectations, and felt needs of African American readers? I think those are the better questions, not that I can claim to have any of the answers.

I’m not going to even touch the topic of where to place these books in the bookstores—do they get their own section or should they join the rest of the books on their particular subject? Nope, not going there. But here’s what I want to know from African American readers, reviewers, authors/writers, and publishing professionals:

What do you think are the best-selling trends in African American literature both fiction and nonfiction, especially, but not limited to, those with Christian themes? Then, what are the best ways for publishers to market those titles to African Americans? What publishers are doing it well?

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What the Marketing Behind JayZ's Decoded Teaches Me About Author Platform


I am a fan of hip-hop. I am influenced by hip-hop. I could totally be Sanaa Lathan in Brown Sugar. I grew up during the time when people were saying it was a fad and wouldn’t last. I recall the East Coast vs. West Coast beef. The battles. The violence. The utter shock, genius, and necessity of it all.

I wouldn’t be categorized as a hip-hop head anymore, probably because my tolerance for shock value, language, and violence has changed tremendously since my teens and twenties. Not to mention my spirituality. But I respect it as a music genre, and you will still find some of my favorite hip-hop artists on my iPod.

My point is not to argue for or against the goodness, artistry, or cultural implications of hip-hop, but to simply make a case for why it is still the top responsibility for authors to build platforms for their book projects, second only to writing an incredible manuscript.

I bring JayZ into this scenario not to make any writers irritated by his apparent global celebrity, but to point out the simple fact that even he with his insane iconic image still has to build a literary platform around his new book, Decoded.

Yes, it would seem that he could tell a million people, “Jump,” and that every one of them would ask in unison, “How high, JayZ?” But it can all change when it comes to them flocking to read a book by someone who is in an entirely different industry that is not known in the mainstream for being especially bookish.

His very actions this week prove the validity of my statements. JayZ has sought an intellectual posse and marketing strategy to wrap himself in to be positioned as a worthy member among bibliophiles. This is very smart, and I have loved following it.

He is shifting his platform so that his book will sell. So now he’s saying, “I’m not only rapper, mogul, and CEO but also thinker/writer. Here’s why you need to hear from me in this way.”

Not only did he set a new standard for engaging in social media with his websites and partnership with the search engine Bing, but he has also been on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross, interviewed with Cornel West and Paul Holdengräber live from the New York Public Library, and spoke with the Associated Press about some political matters. I am not a PR person and certainly not on the inside of JayZ’s crew, but I can see his calculated effort to build a literary following.

I can predict that people who don’t necessarily listen to his music will most certainly buy his book because of this genius promotional repositioning plan.

Another thing that strikes me is that he and his team are working hard to keep the “memoir” and “autobiography” categories from pigeonholing his book even more. Personal memoirs, autobiographies, testimonies can be a hard sell, even for famous people.

So if he, with all his fame and fortune, is doing all this strategizing and working very hard to be “seen” in literary circles as an intellectual and creating innovative ways to leverage social media, why would any other author with less fame think that somehow they would not have to work to promote themselves and build an audience for their book? That the publishing company would do this for them? While his access to media and various venues is very different from the average writer, there is no reason to think that it is easy for him or that he just loves to promote himself. It’s his job to make it look that way; he’s a hustler (and I mean literally a hard worker).

What are your thoughts on the rapper-turned-author? (Only nice, objective, and observatory comments allowed, please.)

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