Books, Publishing, and the Creative Life

Archive for May, 2014

James Patterson on Amazon

James-Patterson-006This is an excerpt from James Patterson’s speech earlier this week at BEA (Book Expo America), the American Booksellers Association’s huge annual trade show.  In a perfect example of putting your money where your  mouth is, Patterson pledged one million dollars to independent bookstores nationwide.  Thank you, James!

Here’s what James Patterson had to say about book publishing.  The final paragraph covers the Amazon dispute.

“I’m trying to get people to focus on the perilous future of books in this country. And that future is happening right now, this year. There is an evolution/revolution going on and it affects everybody who reads, everybody who writes, everybody who publishes books. Small bookstores are being shuttered, book chains are closing, libraries are having serious trouble getting funding, especially school libraries. Every publisher and the people who work in these publishing houses is feeling a great deal of pain and stress. If we don’t fix those problems, the quality of American literature is going to suffer. Fewer or no more Infinite Jests,Blood Meridians, or Book Thiefs, less of a chance for young writers, like James Patterson back in 1976, to be published — or maybe that would have been a good thing?

Book publishersI’d like you to think about this, and I’d like the press to think about this: Publishers are not terribly profitable. If those profits are further diminished, publishers will produce less serious literature. It’s just a fact of life. And that’s one of the reasons why right now, the future of our literature is in danger. I will say that there are no clear-cut villains —  yet — but there are no heroes either, and I think it’s important that major players involved in publishing, as well as the press, and our government, step up and take responsibility for the future of our literature and the part it plays in our culture.

[Big applause.]

Right now bookstores, libraries, authors, publishers, and books themselves are caught in the crossfire of an economic war between publishers and online providers. To be a teeny, tiny bit more specific, Amazon seems to bookstore openbe out to control shopping in this country. This will ultimately have an effect on every grocery- and department-store chain, on every big-box store, and ultimately it will put thousands of Mom-and-Pop stores out of business. It just will, and I don’t see anybody writing about it, but that certainly sounds like the beginning of a monopoly to me. Amazon also, as you know, wants to control book selling, book buying, and even book publishing, and that is a national tragedy. If this is to be the new American way, then maybe it has to be changed, by law if necessary, immediately, if not sooner. I think that might have been a worthy subject for this BEA. I think it’s a subject that Indie Bound, the PEN American Center, the National Book Foundation, the New York TimesThe Wall Street JournalUSA Today, Huffington, and NPR should latch onto with vigor, with passion, with urgency. Thank you for this generous honor. It means a lot to me, it really does. I’m pretty emotional about it, more than I ever am at speaking engagements. It means a lot to my wife Sue who’s here, and to our son Jack, who has become a big reader primarily because of independent bookstores pushing books at them. Thank you very much.”

FRONT cover final

Sammie Justesen is a publisher and the author of Dialogue for Writers, released in May, 2014.

She is also an artist and president of the Lawrence County Art Association.

A recent review for Dialogue for Writers:

Did you know dialogue matters even for poetry? I didn’t, and I am so glad I do now! This small book packs a punch. It easily and accessibly convinced me of just how and why good dialogue matters, why many pieces could use more of it, and when not to use it. The author also helps the reader learn to plainly identify what makes good dialogue good and what does and doesn’t work through the use of a plethora of useful examples. It is also full of different kinds of useful information for writers of all sorts. There are gems in it such as “Usually the best point of view character is the one with most to lose.” (page 83) If your writing could benefit from some good editing, try this book. If your writing could benefit from some new tricks, try this book. It won’t disappoint. I think of it as a course on dialogue in itself and there are exercises at the end of each chapter.

Find the book on Amazon.com:   http://dld.bz/dngkg

Book Covers: Do They Matter?

YES, book covers do matter.  We should judge a book by the cover—and everyone does. A book cover tells us how professional the author is.  Did she care enough to hire a professional designer instead of using a cheap template?  Is she smart enough to select a compelling cover? Does the cover show what to expect inside the book?

Knocked-Up-Satans-Daughter

This is wrong on so many levels

Do-it-yourself book covers: You’ve seen them. Garish colors, hard-to-read text, a perplexing title, and weird symbolism.  Sometimes I cringe in sympathy for the proud author who thinks he’s going to sell a million copies of an ugly book.

A bad book cover. Don't you agree?

A poor choice, don’t you agree?

Publishers are not immune to bad cover decisions, which is why we use a professional designer to help keep us on track.  For us, a book cover is all about product development, marketing, and making a profit. Isn’t that what you want? As you consider the cover for your book, think about these basic elements:

1.  Your book cover is primarily for MARKETING .  We often struggle with writers over this concept.  The book cover is not  a place to display your favorite colors, explore the inner life of your characters, or show how artistic you can be.  The cover is all about convincing people they must have your book.  The book cover is your number one sales tool.

2. At first glance, prospective readers should be able to tell your book’s genre, the general subject, and the tone of the book. The Color of the Wild For example, you don’t want a New Age title that resembles a history book, or a romance cover with a horror vibe. Our new book  The Color of the Wild is a memoir that focuses on nature.  The cover’s soft colors hint of intimacy and a human story.

  1. Chemo front cover large fileBackground colors are important. You can choose a vibrant, arresting color like bright red, or go with a soft color.  Keep in mind that white fades into the background on internet sales pages.  We chose bold purple for Chemo: Secrets to Thriving from Someone Who’s Been There.  The authors didn’t want the standard pink for breast cancer, and readers seem to love this shade of purple.

4. Your font should be easy to read, even when you shrink the book cover to 25% on your computer screen.  These thumbnail copies will appear online, and the title should still be legible.  Avoid fancy fonts that make people read twice.

5. Avoid clutter.  If you’re writing about home repair, don’t have ten different tools scattered around the cover. Focus on your main idea and avoid distracting images.

  1. Final-ISA CoverYour own photo?  Yes, some authors place their pictures on the cover to good effect.  This works if you’re attractive and the setting helps show readers what the book is about. For example, with our book Community College Success we considered half a dozen cover images and finally decided to use our author, Isa Adney. Isa hired a professional photographer, which is way better than using a selfie!

7.  Unexpected is good, but don’t go too far afield.  Your book cover isn’t the place to be overly cute or use symbolism most people won’t understand. The cover is for your readers, not for your ego. shut-up-skinny-bitches-cover The cover for our book Shut UP, Skinny Bitches! is for shock value, but that may not be the best choice for your book. If you’d like a quick, easy way to study book covers, sign up for a service such as BookGorilla, GoodReads, of BookBub that will send cover images and book descriptions to your Inbox every day.  Just remember to stay within your own genre. I also recommend book designer Joel Friedlander’s amazing web site: www.thebookdesigner.com Sammie Justesen is the author of Dialogue for Writers, a new book from NorLightsPress.

FRONT cover final

Sammie Justesen is a publisher and the author of Dialogue for Writers, released in May, 2014.

She is also an artist and president of the Lawrence County Art Association.

A recent review for Dialogue for Writers:

Did you know dialogue matters even for poetry? I didn’t, and I am so glad I do now! This small book packs a punch. It easily and accessibly convinced me of just how and why good dialogue matters, why many pieces could use more of it, and when not to use it. The author also helps the reader learn to plainly identify what makes good dialogue good and what does and doesn’t work through the use of a plethora of useful examples. It is also full of different kinds of useful information for writers of all sorts. There are gems in it such as “Usually the best point of view character is the one with most to lose.” (page 83) If your writing could benefit from some good editing, try this book. If your writing could benefit from some new tricks, try this book. It won’t disappoint. I think of it as a course on dialogue in itself and there are exercises at the end of each chapter.

Find the book on Amazon.com:   http://dld.bz/dngkg

Memories are Made of This

I recently started working on a memoir, and at the same time I’ve discovered how difficult this genre can be. Fiction seems much easier—just make stuff up as you go along.  Need a villain?  Create one and give him both good and bad traits to make him believable.  Need a handsome hero?  Find a photo and invent a personality and a past.  Need a happy ending?  No problem!  But memoir is another story, with so many things to consider:

  • Who will read it?
  •  Where should I begin?
  •  What should I include—how much detail?
  • Will people be hurt or angry about the things I reveal
  • Will they think less of me?
  • Is my story even worth writing about?

I have many questions, yet I know people have already walked this path and left clear directions.  So I spent an hour shopping for books on memoir writing. I finally settled on one that suits me best: Fearless Confessions: AFearless-confessions6 Writer’s Guide to Memoir by Sue William Silverman.   This book is fun to read and addressed all my concerns about how to dredge up memories and turn them into fascinating (or in my case, at least tolerably interesting) stories that will resonate with readers. She answers such questions as:

  •  How do you identify and combine the voice of your younger, less experienced self with your wiser, reflective voice?
  •  How do you devise plot powerful enough to make the leap from mere story to universal meaning?
  •  How do you sift through thousands of memories to find expressive metaphors?

The exercises in Silverman’s book are deceptively simple and progressively lead readers to dig more deeply into the past and use richer language to describe it.  As the author of a writing guide, I know it isn’t easy know what, and how much, to tell your readers. Sue Silverman seems to intuitively know what matters most to a memoirist, and she provided all of that in Fearless Confessions.

deanmartin-logoMemories are Made of This

Take one fresh and tender kiss

Add one stolen night of bliss
One girl, one boy
Some grief, some joy

Memories are made of this

Don’t forget a small moonbeam
Fold in lightly with a dream
Your lips and mine
Two sips of wine

Memories are made of this

Then add the wedding bells
One house where lovers dwell
Three little kids for the flavor

Stir carefully through the days
See how the flavor stays
These are the dreams you’ll savor

With his blessings from above
Serve it generously with love
One man, one wife
One love through life

Memories are made of this
Memories are made of this

Sammie Justesen is the author of Dialogue for Writers, a new book from NorLightsPress.

FRONT cover final

http://dld.bz/dngkg

Sammie is also an artist and president of the Lawrence County Art Association

From a recent review:

Did you know dialogue matters even for poetry? I didn’t, and I am so glad I do now! This small book packs a punch. It easily and accessibly convinced me of just how and why good dialogue matters, why many pieces could use more of it, and when not to use it. The author also helps the reader learn to plainly identify what makes good dialogue good and what does and doesn’t work through the use of a plethora of useful examples. It is also full of different kinds of useful information for writers of all sorts. There are gems in it such as “Usually the best point of view character is the one with most to lose.” (page 83) If your writing could benefit from some good editing, try this book. If your writing could benefit from some new tricks, try this book. It won’t disappoint. I think of it as a course on dialogue in itself and there are exercises at the end of each chapter.

The ART of Writing Descriptions

Writing descriptive passages is much like painting a scene. Both artists and writers must decide what to leave in and what to ignore.  Joyce Hicks, my favorite watercolor artist, has this to say about painting scenes:    Joyce Hicks May 20

“The most common mistake artists make, as beginners, is to follow the natural tendency to try to say too much in a painting. Doing so leads to confusion and overshadows the piece’s main message. Remember that less is more, and knowing what to leave out is far more important than how much you leave in. As your skill and experience grows, you’ll learn to eliminate unnecessary clutter from your work and to focus on composition instead. If your goal is to take your work to the next level, you must first understand the meaning of design as it relates to art before you can move forward as an artist. You need to visualize your subject in simple terms so you can paint relationships between shape, color and value instead of painting ‘things.’

“For many who first begin to paint, the tendency is to act as a human camera recording subjects as accurately as possible instead of using time-honored principles and elements of design to produce works of art that are more pleasing and worthwhile. Knowledge is power, and the lack of it is what leads to failure. Fear of failure blocks the way to bold, confident statements and paintings that look as if they had almost painted themselves. It’s not enough to simply want to paint beautiful pictures; you must also arm yourself with necessary skills and knowledge if you are to have any hope of doing so.”

How true this is for writers, including me. I don’t want to be a human camera, yet I do want readers to “see” the things that surround my characters.  This concept is especially challenging as I write a memoir, because as I try and bring memories to life, my heart wants to include everything.  These are techniques I use:

writing hug

1. Ask yourself, “If I wrote this description as poetry, what would I include?” Good poetry is clutter free. Imagine the classic poem “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening” and think how Robert Frost might have written that scene in a novel. He chose to use the most vivid, painterly images in his poem, and they could be transformed into a compelling prose passage.

2. Work descriptions into the plot and combine them with action. This technique eliminates the stress of writing long passages and keeps the story moving.

3. Don’t be afraid to let your readers use their imaginations. Give them the bare bones and let their minds fill in the rest.

4. Since you’re writing from the viewpoint of a character, only include what that person would notice. Avoid having a narrator (you) interrupt the story to describe scenery or background information.  Stay inside one character’s head.  If you’re writing in first person, don’t have the character stray too far from the story.

5. Use strong, active words and concrete details instead of  vague, hazy descriptions.

6. Remember, knowing what to leave out is far more important than how much you leave in.

We artists sometimes cram too much information into a story or in a painting. Joyce Hicks says, “Doing so leads to confusion and overshadows the piece’s main message.”  As authors, we need to recognize the most vital message within each passage, then check to see if our writing supports that message without confusing, boring, or distancing readers.

PAINTING WITH WORDS HEADER

We are painting with words, are we not?

 

 

Sammie Justesen is the author of Dialogue for Writers, a new book from NorLightsPress.

FRONT cover final

http://dld.bz/dngkg

Sammie is also president of the Lawrence County Art Association

Joyce Hicks’  new book is available for preorder on Amazon:

Enjoy her blog at: http://jhicksfineart.com/blog/ 

Joyce Hicks book

 

 

Will Trade Mice for Whipped Cream

Captain NemoCaptain Nemo, our gray tomcat, has trained us to do another trick. The last trick we learned involved chasing live mice around the kitchen, buying an expensive trap for the ones that got away, and releasing mice into the wild so Nemo could catch them again.

Not one to rest on his laurels, The Captain recently devised a new training regime for us. We needed a few nights to catch on because we’re slow learners and, in our defense, we were half asleep.

The first night, Nemo brought a dead mouse into the bedroom and meowed in a piercing voice until my husband Dee got up and moved the mouse to the bathroom waste basket. We thought the episode was over. But this was only Step One.

The next night Nemo brought a dead vole, called for attention, and objected in a loud voice when Dee headed for the bathroom. Nemo ran to the bedroom door and looked back, asking to be followed. He led Dee into the kitchen, where Dee placed the mouse in the trash and refreshed Nemo’s bowl with cat food. Not quite what Nemo had in mind, but it was a good start. Step Two accomplished.

The third night brought another mouse and more demands from the cat.  He led Dee into the kitchen again. This time, after Dee refreshed the cat food dish, Nemo guided him to the refrigerator and waited near the second food dish, Nemo and whipped creamwhere we hand out his favorite treat – a squirt of whipped cream. At last, the light bulb came on in Dee’s brain. He tossed the mouse into the trash and gave Nemo whipped cream.

Now, almost every night The Captain brings a mouse to the bedroom, awakens us, and runs for the kitchen to exchange it for whipped cream.

“You guys can eat the mouse if you want,” he seems to say. “I like this whipped cream a lot better.”

Anyone for stewed mouse?

Have you been trained by a cat?  I’d love to hear your stories!

Sammie Justesen is a publisher with NorLightsPress and the author of Dialogue for Writers: Create Powerful Dialogue in Fiction and Nonfiction

FRONT cover finalhttp://dld.bz/dngkg     

 “Dialogue for Writers” is a writing course with a cover. This is a fantastic resource for all genres.”

Branding Basics for Small Business: this week it’s yours for $0.99

Story-to-tell

 

 

 

 

If you’re a writer with aspirations to be published, then you need to brand yourself.

BB3_Front Cover.jpg FINAL

If you’re a business owner, you need a brand.

If you work for a business, your company needs a brand.

Branding Basics for Small Business: How to Create an Irresistible Brand on Any Budget will show you exactly how to do it.  This book is worth far more than the 0.99 cents we’re charging this week.  Here’s what Fabulous Female Network says about Maria Ross and her new book:

Branding Basics Book: Must Read for all Business Owners

Targeted to small business owners, entrepreneurs, non-profits and other time-starved and cash-strapped organizations, Maria walks readers through a ten step process to create a strong brand strategy.  Having a clear brand strategy enables your organization to do more with less, attract just the right audience with just the right messages and prevents them from wasting time and money on “random acts of marketing.” Her book includes real-life case studies from small business brands plus expert insights from author Mike Michalowicz, known as “The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur” and others.

Find the special price on Amazon.com, Kindle edition.  

MariaRoss_AuthorPhoto-21-240x300Who is Maria Ross?  I’ll let her tell you:  I’m a frequent guest writer for Microsoft Small Business UK, Sharp Skirts, Entrepreneur.com, AMEX Open Forum, CRAVE and I’ve been featured on MSNBC, ABC News, NPR and in Entrepreneur,Seattle Business, and Columbus CEO. I’ve offered practical and punchy insight on talk radio shows and delighted live audiences at BlogHer, The New York Times Small Business Summit, Puget Sound Business Journal, Chamber of Commerce, Small Business Administration, Ladies Who Launch, CRAVE, and Savor the Success, just to name a few. I earned a B.S in Marketing and a minor in Spanish from Indiana University. And among other philanthropic efforts, I’m a brain injury awareness advocate and I let my dog-fanatic freak-flag fly, with pro bono branding support to the Seattle Animal Shelter Foundation.

Small Publishers versus The Big Five

A recent article in Writers Digest (http://dld.bz/dpZge) discussed the pros and cons of working with a  small publisher.  As an editor, then a literary agent, and now a publisher, I have unique experience with this topic.

The Writers Digest article hit the high points, but I want to add more.  About one third of the books I sold to large publishing firms ended up languishing in limbo-land.  The authors complained about no support, poor MadCatcommunication, and no feedback on how to improve sales.  In many cases, the original editor left the firm and the book became an orphan—a fate worse than death.  Here’s an overview of the topic:

The Downside of a Small Publisher

 When we sign new authors at NorLightsPress, I always start by telling them what we cannot do when compared to one of the big publishing firms.

  • We don’t have a huge marketing reach. We do not employ a sales force, pay for front tables at Barnes and Noble, or purchase ads in magazines and newspapers.  We depend on our authors for most of the marketing. However, talk to any new author who published with a large firm and you’re likely to hear a sob story about no marketing support.  The large firms spend 90% of their marketing budget on 10% of their authors.
  • We can’t book you on national television.  Say goodbye to your dreams of Oprah.  Sob.
  • Our sales goals are modest compared to the Big Guys.
  • Bookstore sales are harder for a small firm to achieve, although most of us do work with booksellers.
  • Most small publishers can’t afford to pay advances. However, that means you start earning royalties much sooner.
  • Well, that’s about it!  Marketing is the biggest issue, as you can see.

Our experiences with large publishers helped us forge NorLightsPress with author satisfaction in mind.    

happy-catThe Upside of a Small Publisher   

 I’m speaking for NorLightsPress here, but most indie publishers offer these same advantages:

  • We accept un-agented submissions.
  • Your book won’t be self -published.  You have a publisher who believes in your work and is willing to invest time, energy, and money.
  • We charge no fees.
  • We will keep your book in print for years, not drop it into oblivion after 90 days. Our backlist keeps selling year after year, and we continue supporting our authors.
  • We offer better royalties than larger publishers because we believe authors deserve a fair share for their efforts.  Since our authors help more with marketing, they earn larger royalties.
  • Our royalty statements are detailed and state-of-the art. The large publishers send statements that give no real information.
  • We offer a substantial discount on books you purchase. You can buy books for resale and make money that way.
  • Yes, your book will be available in all eBook formats and online with the major booksellers. We especially work hard on the Amazon pages.
  • Your book will be available to bookstores if they choose to order from our distributors. Barnes and Noble will order books for selected stores.
  • Professional editing, a professionally designed book cover and a well formatted interior. You get plenty of input during this process, although we have the final say.
  • We can have your book on the market within 60 to 90 days, as opposed to a year or longer for large publishers.
  • We provide review copies and a professionally designed media kit. You find the reviewers for us, and we’ll send out the books at no charge to you.
  • We do not withhold part of your royalties to pay for returned books. This can be a huge issue with some publishers, who will keep several thousand dollars of your royalties.
  • We provide an online splash page for your book with a look-inside feature.
  • We’re available for phone calls and you’ll work with the same people for years. Your book won’t be orphaned because an editor moves on.
  • If you’re able to hire a publicist, which we encourage, we’ll work with that person to maximize book sales.
  • We do not have a restrictive option clause in our contract.

ladder-of-successMany unhappy writers have discovered that the Big Five in New York City are not the holy grail of publishing.  Having your book disappear into a black hole and then finding you aren’t allowed to sell your next book to a different publisher (read the option clause!) is a painful wake-up call. On the other hand, if you’re fortunate enough to find a Big Five editor who will champion your book, then enjoy the roller coaster ride!  If you’re like the  other 99% of authors, publishing with a small press is a great option for those who are willing to work their way up the ladder of success.

See our submission guidelines at: http://norlightspress.com/authors.htm

Sammie Justesen is a publisher with NorLightsPress and author of the new book Dialogue for Writers: Create Powerful Dialogue in Fiction and Nonfiction   http://www.dialogueforwriters.info

FRONT cover final

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: