Articles by Jessica Schein

Author Success Story: Valerie Baadh Garrett

While working as a movement specialist at the San Francisco Waldorf School, Valerie Baadh Garrett decided she wanted to write a book that would “support the movements of a kind of modern ‘circus’ for 200 children.” So she and her husband created a character that readers young and old would love: Uffe the Gnome. Nestled deep in the woods, his tall tales are designed to get kids’ minds and bodies moving in The Adventures of Uffe the Gnome.

Once Valerie landed an illustrator she approached traditional publishers but was rejected. No one was interested in a children’s story about gnomes and fairies in rhythm and rhyme. Valerie was not deterred. As she explains:

“Although that was disappointing, we knew there was an audience for our Uffe stories because we saw it every time I did a class or circus program.  Parents and children would clamor for a copy of the story.”

So she turned to Lulu.com, a decision she is very happy with—calling the company and its services “easy to use.”

“We were thrilled to see our little book look so professional so fast.”

Already the book has sold well. Outside of being sold on Lulu’s site, The Adventures of Uffe the Gnome is available as an iBook, through iTunes, and can be found on the website Valerie and her husband own and manage, The Movement Academy Project.

Recently, Valerie took copies to China on a trip that grew out of her movement work. There to lead a workshop, she knew she’d be working closely with teachers and parents and that Uffe would be a great resource for them. So to better serve that market, she updated her book by adding the title in Mandarin and changing it a bit to The Adventures of Uffe the Earth Fairy since gnomes aren’t part of Chinese culture. Additionally, Valerie included a CD she and her husband created narrating the stories in English so that her overseas customers would find added value in this bilingual package. These efforts paid off: By the end of the trip she’d secured a Chinese publisher for Uffe’s current and future books.

“One of my hosts set up a meeting for me with a local publishing house, and right away they loved Uffe. We are still working out the details, but it looks like they will publish six different books, to start, with six individual stories, bilingual in Mandarin and English, in a larger-scale format so the illustrations can be colored like a coloring book.”

Stateside, Valerie mainly promotes the book by hand and on Twitter, through her account that is tied into her movement work, as well as her website. Outside of her online efforts she ordered postcards offered by Lulu after Uffe was published and sent them to select bookstores. A few ordered copies right away!

Her advice to new authors is simple: “Give Lulu.com a try, but try not to rush.” Valerie admits she made a costly mistake by ordering copies with a typo in the title. Although funny now, it was a frustrating lesson that required a reprint and more money.

There are a lot more adventures on the horizon for Valerie, who has several projects in production.  Lulu.com, she insists, will be “a vital part of the process.”

A Look Into Publishing Lingo

Publishing lingo can be tricky. When you’re making the decision about whether to self-publish your work or pursue a traditional publishing house, you may stumble upon some unfamiliar terms. Below we have outlined some of the most commonly used terms in the traditional publishing world to help.

Advance: This refers to the amount of money you receive up front from a traditional publisher. Depending on your deal it can range from a few hundred dollars to hundreds of thousands, though first time/mid-list authors should expect more modest amounts. The structure of how an advance is paid out varies by house but range from half on signing and half on delivery of the final manuscript to a third on signing, another third on delivery, and the final third on publication. One quick note: it isn’t until your book makes back your advance that you’ll see any royalties whatsoever.

Royalties: Once a traditional publisher has made back the money it advanced you to write the book, you will begin earning royalties. Like an advance, the amount you receive per book sold (to a retailer at the wholesale price) will vary based on many factors, although typically it will be on the smaller side–say 6.5% to 10% for print editions (rates differ for paperbacks versus hardcovers) and 25% for eBooks. Payment schedules will differ based on the publisher, but will typically be doled out on a quarterly or twice-a-year basis.

When you self-publish through Lulu, you keep 80% of the profits on your print books and 90% of the profits on your eBook. To understand revenue vs. royalty vs. profit, we’ve written some brief explanations:

  • Revenue: a general term for any money Lulu pays you for book sales
  • Royalty: a specific type of revenue that comes from retail sales and is subject to United States of America income tax laws
  • Profit: the net income for your work after other expenses have been accounted for, including payment to contributors, pre-production, labor, marketing and overhead costs.
For more information on pricing and profit on Lulu.com, check here: Deciphering Retail Prices.

 

ISBNThis stands for International Standard Book Number. Essentially, it is a 13-digit identifier required if you plan on selling your book in a bookstore or distributing it via a library. It’s often printed on the back cover of a book or the copyright page and every edition (eBook, paperback, hardcover) need its own ISBN. 

Laydown date: Your book’s publication date — as in the day it will go on sale. Large publishers will sometimes enforce a “strict laydown date,” meaning that retailers are not allowed to sell the book before it comes out — and may even be subject to legal action copies be accidentally released beforehand.

Galley or ARC (Advanced Reader’s Copy): These are the copies that authors/publicists send to media for review. A galley will include the cover and the book’s text with the caveat that reviewers check with the publisher before printing a quote, but won’t include any special effects on the cover like foil or embossing (raised print). An Advance Reader’s Copy costs more to produce and tends to include snazzier extras. In Lulu terms, this is called a proof copy. 

OOS: Out of stock. This can apply to either a retailer or the publisher — meaning books are flying off the shelves too fast for the printing press to keep up! In Lulu land, the only time this would happen would be if the author took his or her book out of distribution but a retail partner, such as Amazon, hasn’t taken the listing down from their site yet. 

Mass Market: In addition to hardcover and paperback bindings, there’s also what’s known as a “mass market” edition, which is always paperback and of a smaller trim than the dimensions of a “trade paperback.” However, mass market refers to more than just size. Distribution-wise these books are sold outside of bookstores in the aisles of your local big box or grocery stores. This term is specific to traditional publishing.

If there are other terms you’d like to know more about add them to the comments section below and stay tuned for a follow-up post.

Top Web Resources for Writers (Part 1)

There’s a reason why the Internet was called the “information superhighway” in the 1990s. Although the term itself is somewhat out of date, the significance is not. Today’s search engines pull up thousands of web pages in seconds, so which sites should you be visiting and why? Here are some of our suggestions:

Publishers Weekly: Whether you know you’re going to self-publish or not, you should always keep an eye on the pulse of publishing. It’s helpful to know what genres are hot, how authors got their start, and what self-publishing phenoms did to market their titles. Although technically a trade journal, Publishers Weekly presents everything from industry news and deals to author interviews and the latest on the expanding digital market.

Absolute Write: First, check out the blog, which includes helpful articles such as: how to write good web copy and how to handle feelings of frustration. Then head over to the forum, where you can connect with thousands of writers about anything and everything. Engage in discussions on grammar and syntax, specialty genres, e-publishing, and even the freelance market. The site also serves as a place to take, or teach, writing classes.

Critique Circle: If you’re looking for honest feedback on your work then look no further than Critique Circle, which is a forum to help writers connect with one another. This free service allows writers to submit their work to a select few and garner feedback in a private exchange. According to the site, stories receive on average between 7 to 10 critiques each. If that’s not enough there are other handy tools that will help you bring your characters to life (and come up with their names), track your own progress, and write a paragraph a day thanks to the Paragraph-A-Day tool.

How To Market Children’s Books

Marketing is usually pretty cut-and-dry. You have an audience you’re trying to reach, and you do what you can to reach them. But what if you have a whole segment of people whose attention you want but that don’t have any buying power? Well, that’s a whole different ballgame.

Marketing to kids is made more difficult by the fact that you have to appease not one but two people: the child and the parent. Because of this two-pronged approach, marketing kid’s books can be tricky. So here are some handy tips to consider:

Mind the law: The laws around Internet marketing toward children under the age of 13 are very clear and very strict. Make sure you familiarize yourself well with the COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) laws before you do any contests, giveaways, or other promotions targeting children online.

Build a Robust Website: All authors could benefit from a good website, and children’s book authors are no exception. Make it easy for parents and educators to know if your book is appropriate for a child by outlining the book’s story and themes, providing your bio, and surfacing any quotes from other authors, teachers, or librarians. Additionally, consider putting up downloadable activities, or a reading group guide, that teachers can use in their classroom. Here is a great example: TraceyJaneSmith.com.

How to Market Mysteries & Thrillers

Knowing who your targeting is half the battle when it comes to marketing. In 2010, a Sisters in Crime survey found that when it comes to mystery and thriller readers, 68% are women, 35% live in the south, 48% are suburban dwellers, and 26% are 65 or older. While this doesn’t mean you should target all of your efforts to 70-year-old women living in the outskirts of Atlanta, there is a point: know where to find your audience. This also means deciding whether your book falls under any of the sub-genre categories, which include: general mysteries, thrillers, police procedurals, and the like. Once you have a sense of who your reader is you should be able to identify the bloggers and publications you’ll want to reach out to.

That said, there are a number of general tips for marketing mysteries. Here are just a few:

Attend a Conference: More so than any other genre, mystery readers and writers have the chance to meet others at various meet-ups. From the large, annual Mystery Writers Conference to the smaller “Love is Murder” convention, find out what’s going on close to you and consider attending, exhibiting, or even applying for a panel. To cut costs, consider getting a group of local writers together to jointly sponsor a table. While there, don’t shy away from others; make connections and friendships that will improve your writing and your ability to promote.

Increase your social media presence: Whether it’s Twitter, Pinterest, blogging, or all of the above, it’s important you have a presence online. Readers want to connect with writers and all of these mediums are an easy (once you get the hang of ‘em) way to do so.

Author Success Story: Timber Hawkeye

A longtime student of world religion, Buddhism, and psychology, Timber Hawkeye yearned for a less complicated depiction of the Buddha’s teachings than what the Tibetan temple had to offer, so when the Lama suggested he try Zen instead, Timber took off his maroon robes and moved to a Zen monastery far from home. While he liked the simpler message, he still felt the teachings were full of the same dogma that sent him running from religion in the first place. Believing that people are more interested in positive inspiration and motivation than in ceremonies and rituals, he conceived of a book that would empower readers to not necessarily be a Buddhist, but a Buddha, through gratitude and the consistent message to “be kind.”

“There are many incredible books out there that cover all aspects of religion, philosophy, psychology, and physics, ” he explains, “but I was looking for something less ‘academic’, so to speak. I was looking for something inspirational that people today would not only have the attention span to read all the way through, but actually understand and also implement in their daily lives.”

Thus, Buddhist Boot Camp came to be.

How to Market Romance Novels

Rice, fish, squid and lamb by Miriiam Isa. “The book chronicles the first love encountered by the main character, Liz. It follows her observations from a tender age of 5 to present day, 2009.”

Romantic reads are hot. Literally. The genre had an estimated $1.368 billion in sales in 2011, and accounted for 13.4% of the consumer book market. Additionally in 2008, the last year for which this data is available, 74.8 million people claimed to have read a romance novel. Given the popularity of eBooks (29% of 2011 readers preferred digital), these stats are likely to go up in the coming years.

So where are these voracious readers, and how do you find them? Here are a few tips:

Join the Romance Writers of America Association: If you want in on this community, this is where it’s at. (Remember, writers of a genre are often heavy readers, too.) Formed in 1980 to help romance writers achieve success, there are now more than 9,000 members and numerous regional chapters. By becoming active within the organization you’ll not only meet others, either locally or at the annual conference who love and write within the genre, but you’ll also have an outlet for feedback and potential contacts in the blogging world.

Consider an eBook price cut: As mentioned earlier, there’s an eager market for romance eBooks so entice readers with a deal. At Amazon and other online retailers prices for an eBook can be as low as 99 cents. At Lulu, you even have the option to offer your eBook completely free to build your following. If you’re not comfortable at that price point, think about offering your novel for $2.99 or $3.99 for a day or a week. Under $5 is enough of an impulse buy that a customer will feel comfortable taking the plunge without any guilt. More purchases mean more discussion, which is ultimately what you want. Friends and family are the number one way readers discover new titles. Additionally, once your book starts selling, it will be paired with other similar titles at top retailers, which will give it more exposure.

Seek out book clubs: A Google search for “romance book club” brings up pages of results for clubs that solely read print or eBook romance novels. Reach out to the owners of these sites and ask to do free giveaways or call-in for a book club chat. Alternatively, team up with other romance novelists you know and pitch a gift basket giveaway and big video event.