Friday, June 22, 2012

Do You Read The Labels?

I'm sure that, if you are like most consumers, you generally read the labels on items before making a purchase.  On food items, a label may not only list the ingredients but instructions on how the food should be properly prepared.  A clothing label will list the fibers the item is comprised of as well as how to care for it.  Labels are everywhere and on most everything.  But, did you ever stop to think that books have labels, too?   They are better known as book jackets or covers.

Book covers serve as the 'label' that readers will use when deciding whether or not to buy your book.  As with most other products, the more attractive the label, the more appealing it will be to the consumer.   What artwork or photo is on the front cover of your book?  Is it brightly colored, does it contain bold lettering, or does it give a clue as to what the story might be about?   Besides listing the title and author's name, the front cover should stand out enough to create a desire for the reader to pick it up to learn more.  A dull, drab cover or one that is a 'cookie cutter' of others won't hold the same appeal as something unique.

Now that you've created an interest with the front cover, will the back cover do the same?  Will the book 'blurb' and author bio cause the customer to want to read what's inside?  The best blurbs are those which accurately describe the plotline of the story without giving too much away.  They 'tease' the reader with information just enticing enough to make them want to know the rest of the story.  One or two paragraphs is really all you will need for a good book blurb.  The same holds true for an author bio--the reader wants to know a little about you--not your entire life's story!  One or two paragraphs, along with a current picture (if you desire) will generally suffice.

It's been said that books shouldn't be judged by their covers, but in reality, they are.  Be sure yours is one that will not only attract the customer, but the sale as well!  Happy writing!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The UN-truths of Self-Publishing

One of the biggest, and probably most difficult, decisions for an author is whether or not to self-publish. Unfortunately, there are still many in the literary world who feel that self-published works are sub-standard and that the writers of these works will never achieve any sort of success. As an award-winning, self-published author with sales in the thousands and an ever-growing fan base, I'm here to tell you that much of what you are hearing from these sources simply isn't true. While I always encourage an aspiring writer to choose the path to publication that best suits his/her situation and desires, I would like to help those still in the decision-making process by debugging some of the un-truths about self-publishing.

UN-TRUTH: Self-published works are primarily poorly edited, sub-standard pieces of literature.
TRUTH: While there will always be some authors who do publish poorly edited material(and make a bad name for the rest of us!), it is by no means the norm for self-published works. Most self-published authors spend their hard-earned money to hire professional editors who will examine their works with a fine-toothed comb. Some go through two or three complete edits--including rewrites, deletions, and self-edits--before submitting their manuscripts for publication. Yes, it is true that an occasional error will go unnoticed and wind up in print, but I have witnessed this in traditional works as well. After all, editors are only human!

UN-TRUTH: A self-published author will never sell more than a few copies of his/her book.
TRUTH: I personally know many SP authors, myself included, who have sold thousands of copies of their books, and not just to family and friends! Knowing one's niche market, a willingness to participate in book signing opportunities, and having the dedication to regularly market the work will go a long way in gaining a strong reader base and book sales.

UN-TRUTH: Self-published books don't have a wide distribution.
TRUTH: Many self-publishing companies offer their authors distribution through thousands of online outlets as well as availability through Ingram, Baker & Taylor, and Bowker's. Authors who choose not to go through a SP company can still gain wide distribution by signing up with various online outlets. Query letters, phone calls, or better yet, personal visits to libraries and book stores are often all it takes to gain a spot for your book on their shelves. My books are distributed worldwide and can be ordered through 25,000 online retailers. They are also available in many libraries and book stores, including some stores in a national chain.

UN-TRUTH: Self-published authors can't get reviews, awards, or recognition for their works. TRUTH: There are now many online review sites and publications who cater primarily to self-published books. ForeWord Magazine is one of them, and I have two awards through their Book of The Year contest. Several contests invite and encourage self-published authors to participate, including USA Book News. Many self-published authors have had their works turned into movies--"Legally Blonde" by Amanda Brown (published by 1st Books (now Authorhouse)) is one of them. Again, a willingness to seek out and participate goes a long way to getting there!

UN-TRUTH: Authors self-publish only because they can't get a traditional contract.
TRUTH: Authors self-publish for many reasons, and rarely, if ever, is it simply because they are unable to get a contract. Some of the reasons I have heard for self-publishing include, but aren't limited to: a desire to get the work to market quickly; desire to retain all rights to the manuscript; complete control of content, word/page count, etc.; ability to work on one's own schedule (no deadlines); and freedom to market in the manner of one's own choosing. Also, many SP authors who have gone on to land traditional contracts--John Grisham, Christopher Paolini, and Nicholas Sparks, to name a few.

UN-TRUTH: Traditionally published authors make higher royalties on per-book sales than SP authors.
TRUTH: In many instances, it is the other way around! While royalties will largely depend on one's publisher, sales volume, etc., I know many TP writers who make significantly less per book sold than some of my SP friends, including myself. (Six or seven cents per book sold (TP) as opposed to a few dollars per book or more(SP))  Again, this depends largely on the publisher and the contract they've established with the writer.

Again, choosing a publishing format is a personal choice.  Before making a decision, be sure to thoroughly research all the options available to you.  I hope this post has helped you on your path to that decision! Happy writing!

Can You Relate?

I have a confession to make. I'm in love with a man who isn't my husband. It started off innocently enough; we met one morning almost eight years ago over a bowl of Corn Flakes and a cup of Lipton decaf tea. As I sat alone with him in the dim glow of the computer screen, he promised me a future I had never imagined was possible. He told me that if I would only believe in him--if I would only allow him into my heart--that he'd be with me forever. That was all it took. My life changed that day, and I've never looked back. He's become such a part of me that I could never imagine life without him. The best part is, my husband knows about our relationship; in fact, he encourages it. How can one woman be so lucky?

Now, before you get your feathers in an uproar, I'm really NOT cheating on my husband. The man I'm referring to is the hero of my Forever Love Series, Mitch Tarrington. On that fateful day in September, 2004, I was introduced to Mitch, his future wife, Dana, and a cast of their family and friends through what I describe as divine intervention. Like my own children, I was given the responsibility of breathing life into them, of shaping their personalities, of making them who they are and playing a role in who they are to become. I speak to them, I scold them, I laugh and cry with them. They are a part of me and I am a part of them. They fill my life with an indescribable joy that only another writer would understand. After all, it's a writer's duty to know his characters so intimately that they become like real people to him. Only then can he make them appear as real people to his readers. I've spoken to many aspiring writers about the importance of creating credible characters who will jump off the page and into the hearts and minds of their readers. The author has to understand how each character thinks, feels, reacts to situations, his likes and dislikes, what makes him happy, sad, angry, or afraid. He has to know how each character walks and talks, what he likes to eat, his favorite passtime and occupation. Just like a family member or good friend, the author must know the characters intimately. Once he does, he will be able to write them into his story with such passion and accuracy that readers will love them just as much as he does, and will continue to read his works for years to come.