Jun 27 2010

Today’s Recommended Articles

*An accountant and an alligator saving the world from a deranged cosmeticist… with a Heisman Trophy!  While playing Clue!  IN SPACE!

7 responses so far

7 Responses to “Today’s Recommended Articles”

  1. Jessie Macon 27 Jun 2010 at 10:29 pm

    Hey, mucho mucho appreciate the mention, B. Mac.

    If people read the post, they’d think we’re related and you’re just in the next room tapping away while I’m here tapping away doing what families do in the technological age – communicate via comments.

    Oh, and that P. Mac is our brother too. The Internet, keep it in the family.

    See you later…at breakfast. P. Mac said he’ll make us cakes that look like poo ; )

    Thanks again.

  2. Steton 28 Jun 2010 at 6:46 am

    1) Original ideas are rare, and unimportant. The execution matters far, far more than the idea. See: Harry Potter. Also: Twilight. Also: everything else.

    2) I’m old and bitter, but publishing is like that AA serenity prayer. Writers don’t like to hear that we don’t have any real control over the sales of our books, but we don’t. We can mess around at the margins. We can watch in awe as lightning strikes, and then take credit. But the sad fact is, you write the best book you can, and what happens, happens.

    3) Bransford isn’t a superstar agent. He’s a superstar blogger. You need far more impressive clients and sales to qualify for the former.

    4) Agent enthusiasm is overrated, I think. I sold my first novel when an editor ran into my agent, and the editor asked him if he had anything for her. He said, “I’ve got Stet’s novel about blah-blah-blah, but you wouldn’t like it.’ So she asked for a look and made an offer.

  3. Milanon 28 Jun 2010 at 6:49 am

    Nice collection of links! Much appreciated.

    I particularly liked the discussion of having a setting in transition.

  4. B. Macon 28 Jun 2010 at 9:11 am

    “Writers don’t like to hear that we don’t have any real control over the sales of our books, but we don’t.” God helps those who help themselves. (Or, alternately, “God help those who don’t help themselves”). I don’t know what’s typical in this regard, but if I can line up 500 sales without actually having a book to sell, I’d assume that an author with a reasonably interesting book in hand could reasonably expect to sell at least that many.

    One option is making personal pitches to large book-buyers in the niche. For example, teachers for children’s/YA books, librarians for everybody, comic book storeowners for CB writers, etc. One YA novelist in my hometown sold a few hundred copies by convincing most of the English teachers at his former junior high school to assign the book. (I think he gave each teacher a promotional copy of the book, a one-page synopsis of the book and a one-page synopsis of the reasons it would be well-suited for a junior high English class).

    I think there are opportunities like that for most books. There is SOMEBODY out there making large purchases in your field, whether for a bookclub, a comic book store’s shelves, schools and libraries*, etc. If you have a situation like 5-10 grade-appropriate teachers in your area, I’d be surprised if you couldn’t convince at least one of them to to buy 25+ copies of the book for a class. But that sort of sale is FAR more likely if you do the legwork to let the buyer know how well your book fits their needs/inclinations (and work any personal angle, like your connection to the school/hometown).

    *Unlike teachers, I don’t think librarians are particularly likely to buy 25+ books at a time. But they make a lot of impulse buys. Some authors rack up crazy sales at conventions for librarians by renting a booth and/or chatting up hundreds of libarians with concise 30-second pitches about why they might want BOOK X on their buying list this year. Perhaps more importantly than the sales themselves, librarians talk about books with a lot of people, including librarians and teachers and bookstore buyers.

    I think that chatting up your work with bookstore employees is another option. They also talk about what books they like with a lot of people, and at many bookstores they have some control over which books get preferential placement (for example, on a Staff Picks table).

    Also, local newspapers are usually pretty open to doing pieces about The Local Author That Made It.

  5. Ragged Boyon 28 Jun 2010 at 9:52 am

    I really like #8 on Chip MacGregor’s list. I think a lot of first-time writers use spell-check as a crutch. As for commas, I’m just not good with them, but that’s nothing new. Haha.

  6. Steton 28 Jun 2010 at 9:56 am

    That’s all true. I’ve appeared in newspapers, done book signings, chatted my books into Staff Picks sections, my partner’s been on a local news show, and these things sell copies.

    But I make about $1 per book (in theory; in reality, I’ve never earned out an advance). You know how many copies you need to sell at a convention to recoup the booth fee, along with a little something for gas and meals and all the time you spend not writing? How many copies you need to sell from that newspaper article to make an impact on your sell-through? How many teachers you need to corner, who are also being cornered by the authors of the other 3,000 YA novels published that month? Now sure, one of those copies might get into Oprah’s hands, but … that’s not exactly likely.

    Self-promotion for novelists is a lot like buying a lottery ticket. Someone will win. You can’t win if you don’t play. But that still doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a wise investment of time and money. I mean, it’s -completely- a wise investment if you win. And people do win, all the time. Every week. They win big.

    And we hear about the winners. While the guy who spends $100 buying tickets and doesn’t win isn’t featured in the newspaper.

    I know that I’m old and embittered beyond most readers of this website, and maybe I’m biased by my lack of success. But I’ve been writing professionally for fourteen or fifteen years now. And I guess self-promotion might work for some writers, but for me–and other toothless crotchety types–the best approach is this:

    1) write the best damn book you can.
    2) repeat until you die.

    In the end, quality will out. We’ve gotta believe that, even if it’s not true, or go mad.

  7. B. Macon 28 Jun 2010 at 10:44 am

    “How many copies you need to sell from that newspaper article to make an impact on your sell-through?” If it takes 3 hours of work, I’d be satisfied with 25 sales*. (It’d probably take fewer hours if you’ve already prepared some interesting answers to common interview questions and/or a press kit).

    Is 25 sales doable? I think so. If the newspaper has a daily circulation of 7500 or 10,000, I assume maybe 500 or 750 people will read your article and then you’d need to convince 3-5% of them to buy a copy.

    *If you could do two 25-sales events or articles a day, you’ll clear a $7500 advance in five months. You’ll probably get some additional sales through bookstores, Amazon and your own website, but probably not too many.

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