Book Trailer #2

When I woke up this morning, a second book trailer was the furthest thing from my mind, but I had some free time and — like the first book trailer — was able to put this together really quickly, in less than a half hour (with a little help from my tech guru, my oldest son). As I often discuss in this blog and in my classes, indie authors need to take advantage of whatever tools they have at their disposal to market their books. A little creativity goes a long way in social media circles. So put on your thinking caps! This video was put together using Microsoft PowerPoint and YouTube and cost me nothing but a few minutes of time. Would love to hear your thoughts!

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Cover Reveal!

BabyBailino_digital_final_FINALI’m so THRILLED to premiere the cover of the sequel to BABY GRAND — BABY BAILINO — coming out this fall! I decided to go with a more literal interpretation for the cover this time around, rather than conceptual, like Baby Grand’s. I’m sooooo happy with it. I think it really captures the flavor of the series. What do you think? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Should You Ever Scrap Your Book?

I’ve often heard authors say how thankful they were that their first attempts at novels had never seen the light of day, how happy they were that those books had been rejected again and again by publishers, how first novels should never be read by anyone. I find comments like these to be so curious. If a writer had the diligence and patience to finish a book, even a bad one, I can’t imagine why he or she wouldn’t want to see that book through to the end and have it reach an audience?

I mean, bad books can be fixed, made better, transformed. Can’t they?

And while once upon a time, writers had no choice but to give up on a book when the only pathways to publication were forged through agents and publishers, nowadays, with self-publishing, anyone can publish anything. Is there any reason to leave a book in a drawer?

When your manuscript is rejected — from agents, publishers, beta-readers, creative writing professors — you really have three choices:

1.Scrap it, and start something else.

2. Ignore the advice, and keep querying or self-publish.

3. Fix the book, and then either keep querying or self-publish.

In my mind, authors should always strive for #3. Listen to what agents and beta-readers and publishers have to say, They know their stuff. But YOU know your story. If you have to, chop the manuscript into pieces and put it back together in a new, more creative, more concise way. Don’t let their comments diminish your excitement. Don’t be afraid of some more hard work — and good editing can be the toughest work of all.

So often, publishing a book is compared to parenting: Would you ever give up on a child? Would anyone even THINK about telling you to leave that one behind and start from scratch with another child?

Don’t give up. Make it work, as Tim Gunn of Project Runway likes to say. Remember your passion. Keep it with you as you make the tough choices.

In the end, whatever happens, whether you’ve created a best seller or turned a one-star book into a three-star book, I have to believe it will have been worth it.

I Didn’t Call Myself an ‘Author.’ Readers Called Me That.

Apparently, there’s another controversy brewing in the publishing industry over whether self-published authors should be “allowed” to call themselves authors. According to Michael Kozlowski, editor of digital publishing and device blog Good E Reader, the answer is no. And there have been a bunch of responses, such as this one and this one.

Personally, if I’m being honest, when I first self-published Baby Grand as an eBook in May 2012 I wondered whether I could accurately be called an author. Having been a professional freelance writer and editor for many years, I knew the term author to be an individual who had published a book the good old traditional way, through a publishing house. The rise of eBooks and self-publishing changed the rules, but did that make me an author now? I mean, officially? Or could I only use the term author if the word self-published preceded it?

I probably avoided calling myself an author during those first weeks of having published Baby Grand, until readers started reaching out to me and calling ME an author: “Are you the author Baby Grand?” they’d ask (never knowing how much of a loaded question that was), both online and off-.

In the very beginning, I found myself qualifying my response: “Well, yes, I’m a self-published author.” To which, NEARLY EVERY TIME, the reader would scrunch his or her eyebrows and ask, “What do you mean?”

The first few times I launched into an explanation and watched their eyes glaze over. After that, when they asked, “Are you the author of Baby Grand?” My response became: “Yes. Yes, I am.”

I realized that readers don’t really care how your book came to be, or whether you write full-time or part-time, if you’ve written many books or only one. All they know is they read a book that you wrote and that they enjoyed.

So, frankly, I find this controversy kind of silly. In the end, it doesn’t matter if we in the publishing industry refer to self-published authors as an author.

What matters is that readers do.

Building Your Brand: Create a YouTube Trailer

On Monday night, in a lesson about marketing, I was discussing with my continuing ed. class at Hofstra the various social media networks out there and how to maximize them when promoting your brand and your work. When I clicked onto my YouTube page, it suddenly seemed so uninviting and, well, unhelpful when compared to my other social media pages. While I’m not a big fan of book trailers, specifically, I do believe videos — of author events, appearances, interviews — can help build a platform. YouTube is kind enough to give you space on your landing page to upload a channel trailer, and it’s a good idea for authors to take advantage of this facet of the page to give viewers a quick glimpse of who they are and what they do. Last night, when I should have been writing — or sleeping — I composed this one-minute video on Animoto that I think does the trick for my needs, at least for now:

Although anything goes with this kind of thing, my advice is to keep your trailer lively, keep it short, preferably under a minute, and keep it professional, showcasing high-quality photos, videos or commentary. You only have a few moments to capture a viewer’s attention, so put your best foot forward.

Do you have a YouTube trailer? If so, post it or the link in the comments. I’d love to see it!

Should Authors Heed eBook Reader Data?

A recent New York Times article discusses how technology is allowing authors of eBooks to see all kinds of reader data:

  • How long does it take readers to read your book?
  • Do readers finish your book?
  • Do readers skip chapters? If so, which ones?
  • Do readers linger over certain scenes?

Some critics argue that having this kind of information will make authors more like pushers of product rather than creators of art, catering to the whims of a fickle consumer. They argue the information interferes with the creative process. Personally, I think the notion of authors writing to the market’s needs/wants is not something new. I have author-friends who have been “persuaded” by agents and publishing houses to write about topics that are “selling” or “hot now.” This kind of nudge or coercion, if you can call it that, is now coming directly from the consumer, rather than the publishing industry and, perhaps, has never been at this micro-level before, although you can argue that it has.

Is this kind of stuff good for authors to know? Sure, why not. Information is good. When I attend book clubs, readers tell me all the time what they’d like to see happen in the sequel to Baby Grand, and I always listen — readers have been very passionate about the book’s characters, which is so cool. But the truth is I already know in my heart how the next book will go, and I don’t think anything anyone says will change that.

I guess that’s the key. It’s like parenting. You listen to what’s being said. You read the information that’s out there. The reviews. You consider the suggestions. But then you do what you think is right. If authors feel strongly about their characters and their books, nothing should sway them from the book they set out to write, whatever the reader data says.

Do you agree? What say you, authors? Would you like to have this kind of reader information? Would it change the way you write?

Hugh Howey: `Every Author Has to Sort Out the Pros and Cons for Themselves’

Today, Hugh Howey, author of the best-selling WOOL series, conducted a Facebook Q&A. Tempted, of course, to ask Hugh “if he were a tree what kind of tree he would be,” I instead decided to pose a publishing question. In the Continuing Education class I teach at Hofstra University, we discuss the various paths authors have available to them, and I asked Hugh what, in his view, publishers were able to offer authors these days that they could not attain by self-publishing? Here’s what he said:

A few things:

1) Better print distribution.
2) A seal of approval (good for asking for professional reviews, interviews, blog mentions, etc.).
3) A team to offload the business stuff.

The question is whether or not what you give up is worth these advantages. Countering each, I would say:

1) You only get 3-6 months in a bookstore, and more and more books are being bought online these days.
2) I’m not sure if these mentions drive enough sales to warrant losing ownership of your art. You are better off writing than worrying about blog mentions and reviews. They follow sales rather than drive them.
3) Hiring your own team, each member based on merit and able to be replaced if need be, might be better than having people you don’t know assigned to work on your book, and only for a very brief time.

Every author has to sort out the pros and cons for themselves.

I totally agree. Frankly, if I had to point to one author today who is successfully “hybrid-ing,” as they say, between traditional publishing and self-publishing, it would be Howey. If you have a moment, check out the piece he penned earlier this year for Huffington Post titled, How WOOL Got a Unique Publishing Deal. It’s a fascinating read, and I think you’ll agree that what separates Howey from the crowd is not just his willingness to embrace new technologies and self-publishing, in particular, but his confidence and staunch belief in his craft and his abilities that allowed him to say no to a deal that wasn’t right — or, as he calls it, “an offer I can refuse.”