Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Killer Author Endorsement

I had a dream the other night that I asked a famous writer for an endorsement. He said he’d be thrilled, “But ask me when you are awake.”
“Great, will you do it then?”
“Probably not.”
Which brought a whole new meaning to the term, In Your Dreams.

After your book is done and into production one of the best ways to give it a bit of a punch is to have an endorsement (comment, blurb, or fawning remark) by a famous/successful writer to place on your cover and in advertising/marketing material. In the trade it’s called the Killer Author Endorsement (KAE).

Every writer and publisher is looking for the KAE. Writing a legal thriller? “Get John Grisham on the line.” That new romance novel,? “What’s Danielle Steel doing today?” That post apocalyptic dystopian manifesto: “Call Suzanne Collins . . . What, she’s not in? . . . Call her bank, she’s got to be there.”

Every writer wants that one line of endorsement copy; it can seriously help the book move up the food chain. Here are some ideas on how to get a quote.

At the next writer’s conference find your target and follow them all day, take photos, write down everything they do, stand next them in the bathroom (or whisper their name in the next stall). Eventually they or the police will ask what you are doing. Tell them honestly that all you need is one short comment about your new book and you will gladly leave them alone. Every thriller author will understand your meaning and will do anything to get you gone.

Kidnap them – it work for Stephen King in Misery. Hold off on the leg breaking until its absolutely necessary.

Send them the complete Jessica Fletcher Murder She Wrote collection of DVDs. The note should read: I need that line, if not I will have Amazon send you Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman; Diagnosis: Murder; Matlock; and the complete Quincy series. I think by the time Diagnosis arrives you will get that KAE.

Anonymously invite the author to a speed-dating event. When you get your turn, tell them you are an old classmate and that you know what happened that night with Bob, the football coach. You have pictures, but for one short sentence you will send the negatives to them (works for only photos shot before about 2004).

Send them flowers everyday for a week, with notes that say you will love them forever if they just write that KAE for you new novel. Note any allergies or flower preferences from their Facebook page.

Science Fiction/Dystopian
This one is easy. Go back in time to when the target was five or six, place a small tattoo somewhere where only you know where it is. Now contact them and tell them that you know their secret and will blab to the world about that small rude mark they have been keeping from the world. Only a KAE will save them from total embarrassment.

Tell them that you have created a world where they are the absolute ruler of a whole planetary system. You will put their name on the cover if they will kindly write that fawning remark. Something like: Hugh Howey’s Fractured Planet. They might even give you the line to have you not name the book after them.

Or you can write their publisher, agent, or even the author themselves and ask real nice.

More Later . . . . . . . . .

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Waiting Game

For most writers it is a waiting game. We wait to get an idea into our head. We wait for the idea to jell into a story. We wait the requisite month or two to get back to the rewrite. We wait for the editor’s work to be done. We wait for the agent’s response. Wait, wait, wait. And then—when the agent does respond—there’s waiting for the publisher, then the final edits, then the galley proof, then for your name to be announced at the first book signing. Wait, wait, wait.

It’s my take that some of the reasons for the serious amount of dysfunctional mental attitudes as well as bad personal habits of writers is due to this waiting. We are just fine as we write and even rewrite. It is the waiting that eventually takes the toll.

I also believe that is why the self-publishing process is helping the sanity of writers—there’s simply less waiting. At every stage of the process the author has greater control over the steps of writing and production. This control does come at a price. We pay for editors, we pay for formatting, covers, and publicity. We pay for printing, distribution, and travel. But we also can keep up to 100% of the sales (70% at Amazon). Profit is left to the quality of your management.

Consider these:
The Traditional Road
  • Writing the manuscript           6 months
  • Editing             3 months
  • Publisher’s queue        3 – 6 months
  • Publication, pre-marketing, distribution   3 months
  • Total Time                  2 to 3 years

Self-Publishing Road
  • Writing the manuscript           6 months
  • Editing      2-3 weeks
  • Publisher’s queue        none
  • Publication, marketing, distribution    1 week
  • Total Time      7-8 months

I realize that this is simplified and there are a lot of other issues to deal with as a self-publisher. Marketing and publicity are significant consumers of time–but these can happen after the book is published. It is companies such as Amazon and Smashwords that enable the writer to become an author quickly, efficiently, and at minimal cost.

This is the battle that is being fought between Amazon and Hachette (and by proxy the other big publishers as well). For ninety percent of the writers it’s a battle that doesn’t affect them. But there is one area where the soot from this fire-fight may be rubbing
off – Amazon sales of its ebooks are reportedly dropping. No one knows whether this is due to Amazon’s very open outreach, its hardline stance on the whole process, its arrogance, or just a seasonal dip. Only time will tell.

More later . . . . . . . . . .

Friday, August 15, 2014

I Got A Dog In This Hunt!


For most of the reading public the very public negotiations between Hachette and Amazon over pricing and control of ebooks is a big yawn. The number of readers who use ebooks (iPads, Kindle, Nook, etc.) is relatively small compared to the reading public as a whole. And even though this is the future for most popular fiction and some non-fiction, in general the public just rolls its eyes over the kerfuffle. But there are other more dire and ominous conversations being held in the writer’s universe over this subject that are beginning to develop into serious discussions and finger pointing between authors.

There is a growing and rancorous conversation between writers and authors totally outside the Amazon-Hachette negotiations. This conversation being held in lively conversations within social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. It is also becoming quite divisive.

Last Sunday a full page add was placed in the New York Times supporting Hachette and their stance that the publisher should determine and control the price of ebooks. Over 900 authors supported this ad that sold for more than $100,000. Most Indie authors see this as the continuing battle between the haves and the have-nots of the publishing world. The primary voice is author Douglas Preston and Authors United. Noted authors Stephen King, Barbara Kingsolver, and Donna Tartt are just three of the signers. It was paid for by the authors (nice to have that semi-annual royalty check arrive just a few weeks ago—just saying).

Amazon has made direct offers to the authors under contract to Hachette to continue to sell their work (and they would get to keep all the profits) if they just tell Hachette to settle. It has turned into a letter writing campaign between Amazon telling its supporters to email Hachette and Hachette through Authors United to email Jeff Bezos. Amazon tells its people to mention things like “illegal Collusion” and other tasty bits in the letters. They also reference the coming of the cheap paperback book as analogous to the current revolution with ebooks. Even George Orwell is cited (the Orwell estate was not pleased).

The New York Times wrote this last weekend: Click Here. 

Most of the Hachette authors have taken a hit in both sales of traditional books and ebooks.

On the self-publishing front mega-sellers such as Barry Eisler and Hugh Howey have been able to sign up over 7,600 signatures in their response. All is not well in the publishing business. Click Here for the Guardian's look at the issues.

Eisler says that the big name writers are in it for themselves. The Guardian article says:
He (Esiler) added that "beyond that, maybe the most notable thing about the New York Times ad is that it demonstrates how the top one percent of authors are able to buy their desired media access. For them, a New York Times ad is about the equivalent of a cup of coffee for anyone else, the difference being that the ad leads to a ton of follow-on media coverage."

It’s also a way of paying back homage to the NYT and their advantageous best seller placements.

It would be simple for me to say that the traditional publishing houses are dinosaurs and Amazon is the meteor speeding toward earth and their extinction, but none of this is that simple. Amazon needs traditional publishers and the block-buster novelist that populate the best seller lists and provide a significant number of dollars to Amazon’s bottom line (this may be one reason why Amazon now has it’s own publishing division beyond the ebook KDP and Createspace POD). There’s money to be made in paper and electrons.

There is much to blame for both sides. Neither understands where the world of publishing is going—in fact no one has known since Gutenberg when the written word was wrenched from the cold hands of the religious clergies and nobility. Authors are taking more control of their work and their distribution—even the traditional houses see this and are becoming a lot more flexible in their negotiations with authors—or so I have been told.

More later . . . . . . . .