Taking the Pulse of the Publishing Industry


Every new year, publishing guru Mark Coker releases his predictions for the industry in the upcoming year. How many of them have come true in 2018? Continue reading Taking the Pulse of the Publishing Industry


Book Covers: The Last Thing Writers Think About but the First Thing Readers See


I’m a broken record. Yeah, I know. But let’s talk about the most important aspect of your marketing for a moment: the book cover. I’ve been toying with the idea for a year now of opening a small, regional publishing house, sort of a micropress hybrid… the main reason for this? the amount of really bad book covers that I see on books put out by small, traditional publishers.

The fact is people judge books by the cover. It is your very first opportunity to say something about the book—your first introduction—and it speaks volumes and on a pass/fail basis. Think of a bookstore shelf like a formal party; if you wear torn sweatpants and forgot to shower and do your hair when everyone else is in tuxedoes and evening gowns you are not going to make it past the bouncer. Your book might need to freshen up and see a tailor. Continue reading Book Covers: The Last Thing Writers Think About but the First Thing Readers See

Self-Promotion for Indie Authors


A few weeks ago I started a multi-part series about getting books into bookstore shelves. It was part of an author’s FB thread from my publisher’s private group. One of the authors claimed he did not, and would never, do anything to promote his book… and yet he still held out some kind of hope that it might somehow become a bestseller because fate, or fairy dust, or something like that.

I responded that he could do what he liked but guaranteed he would not have success if he didn’t put in any effort. People with that opinion (that authors can just write a book then let everything else magically work out) are under false pretenses about how the industry works nowadays. He’d cited a fixed income and advanced years, but really, he just didn’t want to do anything but the writing. With no platform, unproven skill, and an adamant denial of how things work in reality, he got so angry with me for suggesting that he use his abundant free time in retirement to try some free methods of self-promotion that he actually left Facebook altogether. Authors can come unhinged pretty easily and I thought he might block me for not agreeing with the echo chamber in his mind, but I thought that was a little cray cray. Whatever. I guess I’ll feel pretty stupid when he calls me out after receiving his Pulitzer… I guess he showed me. Continue reading Self-Promotion for Indie Authors

How to get carried by Bookstores Pt.2


Last week we talked about how to get into bookstores and looked at the things you needed to know before you began actually speaking to stores and asking if they would consider carrying you. I also mentioned some of the basic stuff about making sure that your book was market ready. If you read up on it last week and didn’t think you were quite ready, you might consult my step by step roadmap to Indie Publishing that will walk you through getting your book fully saleable. Continue reading How to get carried by Bookstores Pt.2

How to get carried by Bookstores Pt.1


I belong to a few writing groups. A question came up that often does and is worth looking at again.

“Can anyone help me with info on how to get into bookstores.”

There is nothing as rewarding as walking into a bookstore and seeing your book on the shelf. It’s up there with a random stranger saying, “I read your book.” As an Indie author, until you’ve peeled back this curtain, the process for getting carried on bookstore shelves can remain a mystery. Continue reading How to get carried by Bookstores Pt.1

Be Careful With Facebook Ads


Marketing is important. I’ve been mulling overdoing a blog about this for a while after reading Chris Symes’ article about Facebook ads (Why I Am Cutting Back on Facebook Ads). If you haven’t been following the news, they are essentially running out of ad space for Facebook Ads… this makes them less effective in terms of cost. FB still has some of the most powerful tools to help reach very specific target demographics. However, because the demand for digital real estate has increased (especially given Facebook’s announcement that they will even be reducing what has been available in the past) the cost per conversion is increasing well beyond that of feasibility for the average author trying to sell their books. Continue reading Be Careful With Facebook Ads

What I Wish I Knew About Audiobooks Before Choosing ACX/Audible


Audiobooks are the next big thing, and ACX (Audible) has been a boon to DIY Indies, but not everything is as smooth and shiny underneath the gold-plated exterior. Here are some things you might want to be aware of before/if you’ve already waded into the system.

With audio established as the next big thing, I discovered a bunch of things I wish I knew before I had signed up for Amazon’s ACX/Audible service as an author.

Continue reading What I Wish I Knew About Audiobooks Before Choosing ACX/Audible

The Highly Unlikely Way I Acquired a Literary Agent by David Oppegaard @DavidOppegaard

I met David Oppegaard at the MN Writers Workshop where he shared a super interesting story about how he landed his literary agent several years back. I thought it would be a good, encouraging piece to share for those who feel like giving up. He’s a pretty cool guy with stuff to say, plus Stan Lee endorsed one of his books.

Okay, I always begin this story with a cautionary note-this is indeed how I came to acquire my literary agent, and it’s an interesting story, but nobody should ever take this as direct advice on how to go about acquiring an agent of their own. This story is more of a publishing curio than anything directly instructional.

So. Back around 2003, I started sending out query letters—they were mostly still letters back then, not website forms or emails—to a slew of literary agents, seeking representation for a novel called Knocking Over the Fishbowl. I did some research, wrote a short but sweet query letter, and sent out forty queries in one massive mailing barrage. Then I sat back and watched the “no thank you” form letters roll in, one after the other, until (I thought) I’d gotten all forty of them back.

But then…I received an email one day via my Hotmail account. It was from an agent named Jonathan Lyons at Curtis Brown, Ltd., in New York City. I’d sent a query letter to his predecessor, apparently, who was no longer with Curtis Brown, but Jonathan had read it and was actually interested in reading a sample of the novel (yes, I’d been picked off a query letter slush pile, amazing piece of good luck #1 in this story). Overjoyed, I quickly sent of a three chapter sample to Jonathan.

A few months later, Jonathan contacted me again and said he wanted to read the whole novel. So I sent him the novel, all a-tingle with expectation as I worked at my day job and went to grad school at night. A few additional months later, Jonathan wrote to say he really liked the book, but wasn’t totally in love with it, and couldn’t represent a work he wasn’t totally passionate about. Crushed, I said thank you for your consideration and soldiered on, querying a new batch of agents.

Cut to the following summer, where I attended a week-long writing workshop through my MFA program and received some very helpful editing notes on Fishbowl from the program’s director, Mary Rockcastle, who read my book as a personal side favor (amazing piece of good luck #2). I took her notes to heart and rewrote the novel entirely, improving it a good deal.

Eventually I got close to signing with a different agent, who pulled out at the last second for reasons I didn’t understand. Crushed anew, I thought back to Jonathan at Curtis Brown and how kind his notes on the book had been. Still a naïve publishing newbie, and more than a little desperate, I wrote him a new email stating that I’d rewritten Fishbowl with help from professional writers and asked if he’d be willing to read it again. Jonathan, to my amazement, said yes.

Let that sink in a moment.

A busy literary agent agreed to reread a novel he’d already turned down (amazing piece of good luck #3). This is not the kind of event that happens every day, if ever. This is the sort of luck you want on your side if you’re out walking in a lightning storm, or headed to the casino.

And, on top of this stunning luck, Jonathan loved the rewrite (!) and agreed to take me on as a client. That was back in 2004 and we’ve worked together ever since, even though Fishbowl never sold (our first sale wasn’t until my fifth novel, The Suicide Collectors, which itself made the rounds of some fifty some editors over the course of a year before finally selling to St. Martin’s Press).

Like I said earlier, this story is more of a curio than advice I’d give to anyone seeking representation in 2018. Jonathan’s generosity toward me really was beyond any reasonable expectation. If there’s any tangible takeaways from my story, I’d point out that I remained professional throughout our prolonged email conversation, kept writing and rewriting while I waited for the various replies, and showed a little gumption. You really never do know what will happen if you keep putting yourself out there, again and again.