Thursday, March 31, 2011

Novel complete: publish, don't or BitTorrent promotion?

Link to BitTorrent edition download

Okay, you finished your book so now what? Authors have so many options now that didn’t exist before yet overall book sales are down.

What did I do?

I started with the crazy normal path of finding agents who represented authors in my genre, sent them a manuscript then read the standard form letter of rejection.

No fun. And very time consuming.

I entered a contest. Amazon partners with Penguin each year to sponsor a new novel contest. They accept up to 10,000 entries globally and the winner gets a publishing contract with Penguin. I made the semi-finals but didn’t win.

That and an introduction got me an agent. I still adore her but she was too big an agent for a starting writer like me. Her other clients were and are giants. I didn’t even qualify as a midget. To make my project worthwhile for her I needed a franchise…which meant another book. Only I was working full time and don’t write chronologically. The first hundred pages would have sufficed but I don’t write that way.

Meanwhile, I’d gotten to know the people at Polimedia, a small publisher expert in online media marketing. As I worked with companies in the digital media space I saw that traditional media (including book publishers) revenues and business models were getting hit; which resulted in less support for new artists. I decided to have Polimedia publish my book as doing so gave me more flexibility online; I also felt that getting real commitment and support from a more traditional publisher was a long shot. While Polimedia didn’t have the might or influence of a larger publisher it did have flexibility, distribution relationships in place and unique marketing capabilities. And, importantly, I retained all related rights and control over Captive.

Marketing fell heavily on my shoulders, with traditional book promotional events, plus Facebook, Twitter, a Captive site and the blogs. Thanks to Amy at Pissant Productions I even made Captive related videos and put up a YouTube channel.

Then I handed a copy of my novel to someone at BitTorrent (Claude). They asked if I wanted to be part of their new artist program (and the first book thus represented). After initially being shocked (books aren’t done that way) I said great!

What I like about the BitTorrent promotion is that we can hopefully connect with a meaningful audience and build a new business model for books…one that is interactive and audience focused. Being a Silicon Valley girl at heart I love the new technology enabled options available in the media world. We aren’t replacing so much as building alternatives. What could be better than being a part of that experimentation? Let’s all see what happens.

My advice?
Find a contest – like Amazon’s – or a new opportunity – like BT’s new artist program (

Go with a traditional, experienced agent if you can find one who believes in your book. My issue with this route is that fewer new writers are being developed so finding that agent takes a tremendous amount of time. But if you can make it happen then do. A big name publisher has more resources and impact on the market (if they are committed to you). Still. Period.

A smaller publisher versus self publishing? In both cases, the marketing falls heavily on your shoulders. Polimedia has marketing expertise which makes my life much easier (and relationships with relevant journalists, bloggers and other influencers). They also have distribution relationships in place (though they decided to avoid Borders and were right in that decision).

I don’t know what I would have done had I followed the traditional “self publishing” thing. It’s an option – which I didn’t explore – that has worked well for many. And the economics, if you’re a good marketer or already have an audience – are much more favorable than is going with a large publisher. (But you have a much larger work load!).

What’s most exciting is that the media world is now open to experimentation and variety. Writers tend to be (hopefully) creative types and we’re now so much less restricted in what we can do and how we choose to engage with our audience.

I really hope to get feedback on Captive. Indeed, I want thoughts and ideas on Escape, the sequel I’m currently writing. I’ve moved the action to Northern Africa and New York and brought in the ideologies and strategies of revolution. Anyone have any character name suggestions?

Thanks to Amy at Pissant Productions for doing my videos.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Don't take input on draft one

I overcame a major (writer’s) stumbling block yesterday: I stopped caring about the quality of my writing as I was writing a first draft. By the way, my first drafts aren’t good (more a sketch of the painting to come…).

When I wrote Captive I just sat down and wrote…no one reading, commenting or adding input. Then, for a while, I worked with an agent who pushed book two. She wanted it on a time table I couldn’t meet and provided suggestions with each new set of pages; the suggestions weren’t, in my mind, consistent. I got confused and lost sight of where the book was going. I ended up trashing most of it.

Not her fault, however. I should have ignored her and done my own thing. I don’t write chronologically…she wanted chronological. I don’t edit the first draft so her comments only got me confused. Instead, I sketch out the book on the page and then revisit what I’ve done after it’s done.

I lost confidence in myself, my work and that book. And much of the time I spent was a waste.

But instead of crying over spilt milk I’ve learned from the experience. I should have just said no. Enamored by her client base and reputation I deferred to her judgment instead of honoring my own. Yet I’m the one writing!

And I have a new draft. This time, Escape draft has moved to Northern Africa and New York; I’ve left a war zone and headed into a revolution. I’m not second guessing what I write as I spell out the words in the draft. So far I like the 130 plus pages!. Should I show it to an agent now I’d have to explain that all of the first three chapters could end up being the real first chapter; or, as with Captive, I may write the first chapter after the rest of the book is done.

And I’ve asked myself, how did I make that mistake? After all, even when taking UCLA classes and discussing my first book I evaluated the comments before making changes (deciding first if I agreed or didn’t). For the most part (and coming from an investment banking background) I analyze things, and while I’ll consider argument, do hold firm on my beliefs. So what happened?

Two factors weighed heavy and the first continues to nag at me. When I wrote Captive I just wanted to finish a novel. Quality was beyond my ambition. With the second book I now have something to prove: that I can write a book as good or better. The flops tend to come with the number two (in most areas) leaving you with the label “lucky”. Second, I deferred to someone with more experience. The agent knows the book world, market and quality. Yet I forgot that she doesn’t write. While I may sound critical of her sometimes I’m not; she taught me about the conviction a writer must have as they create. Revisions come after the initial draft is done and you personally have revised it a few time.

I’ll never write her way again; I plan on continuing to write my way.

Escape is coming along…not as fast as I’d like but isn’t that how life too often works!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Character; or, do you have a moral compass?

Last weekend someone (Parissh) commented to me that while many are capable some are so lacking in moral compass that their skills or polish no longer matter. Wow!

In this day and age of front page scandal are we judged on character or news value?

The picture is of one of our cats. She has many names: Mischief is the official one but I mostly call her Kit Kat (don’t ask me what I yell when mad at her). She looks like an angel and is loving as can be. She is also a magnet for trouble and always finds everything she shouldn’t. If something is broken in the house the culprit is always Kit Kat. But, sweet and adoring, does that make her a bad cat?

How do we define character? We all make mistakes. Which ones condemn us to the door?

I asked someone to define “personal responsibility” and he couldn’t. I judged. Then I spoke to two pastors (inner city ones) and realized that I shouldn’t. And I was aiming for a funny post...

Trust; faith; and watching people over time? I question people and don’t always have the answer. But I do know that I’m willing to cut those I love some slack. I always say that you commit to people and not (defined, always your definition) relationships. I’ve been rewarded with a few disappointments but so many more wondrous surprises.

What’s to Goo Goo Dolls song…?

If you don’t ask too much from me
You may not be let down

Friday, March 18, 2011

AAP announces books ebook sales up 116% while mass market paperback sales are down 30%

The below is from the AAP web site:

E-Books, Downloadable Audio Books Continue Growth
Based on AAP Publishers January 2011 Sales Report
March 17, 2011, New York, NY– E-books and downloadable audio books continue to grow in popularity according to the January 2011 sales report of the Association of American Publishers.

Figures for the first month of the new year show that E-book net sales increased by 115.8% vs January 2010 (from $32.4 Million to $69.9M). Sales of Downloadable Audio Books also rose by 8.8% vs the previous year ($6.0M to $6.5M). As AAP reported last month in its December 2010 monthly report and full 2010 analysis, E-book sales have increased annually and significantly in all nine years of tracking the category.

Among the other highlights of the January 2011 report:

Total books sales on all platforms, in all categories, hit $805.7 Million for January. This was a slight drop from January 2010’s $821.5M sales (-1.9%).
Adult Hardcover category fell from $55.4M to $49.1M (-11.3%), Adult Paperback dropped from $104.2M to $83.6 (-19.7%) and Adult Mass Market declined from $56.4M to $39.0 (-30.9%)
In the Children’s/Young Adult category, Hardcover sales were $31.2M in January 2011 vs $31.8M in January 2010 (-1.9%) while Paperbacks were $25.4M, down 17.7% from $30.9M in January 2010.
Physical Audio Books sales were $7.3M vs $7.9M the previous year (-6.7%).
Sales of Religious Books grew by 5.6%, from $49.8M to $52.6M.
Sales in the Higher Education category were $382.0M for January 2011, a slight drop (-1.4%) from $387.6M the previous year. K-12 sales hit $82.6M for the month vs $97.0M for the previous year (-14.9%).
In Professional and Scholarly Books, sales grew 1.3%, from $51.2M to $51.8M. Sales of University Press Hardcovers were $3.9M in January 2011 vs $4.5M the previous year (-14.0%) while University Press Paperbacks were $6.2M vs $6.7M (-7.8%).
All figures cited represent domestic net sales for U.S. book publishers.

About AAP
The Association of American Publishers is the national trade association of the U.S. book publishing industry. Its 300 members include most of the major commercial, education and professional publishers as well as smaller and non-profit publishers, university presses and scholarly societies. They publish content on every platform for a global audience.

What do the numbers mean to me: a numbers girl who writes?

It means that all content providers - either the actual content providers or the means of distribution - need to focus more on the audience experience than on historical business models.

The world continues to change: my seven year old son declared no more movies today. He hates going to a movie theater and has lost interest in the movies once they come to him. If he wants to watch "video" he does it on a tv or computer (dvr or YouTube).

Book buyers are showing a move to digital from mass market paperback. Ease? Selection? Convenience?

My favorite? On Kindle I read the first chapters of the book before I commit to buying it.

As I write Captive's sequel I hope to stay present in the experience I'm creating. I've chosen to move the action to New York and Northern Africa. Can I educate while still telling a story.

And that story is key. Who wants to put down a novel in which you're fully engrossed?

Anyone who wants to provide insight into improving my readers' experience is welcome to do so. People are still reading. But with more choice they are demanding better content, access to the writer and a better and richer overall experience.

The picture? My backyard and where I thought about this post.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Today I didn't write at all...

So says the “writer”.

I had work to do. Yoga. I wasted hours and wonder where they went. Blogs.

I’ll write for a bit now. The book – Captive’s sequel – is so clear in my head. Why can’t I get it on paper?

My mind has been a jumble: projects, kids, friends and life. How do we manage it all? I really want to just sit down with a piece of chocolate and glass of wine (in front of my fireplace) and pretend I can ignore the pressures.

But I really can’t.

End of the month we have an interesting promotion for Captive. The first time this sort of distribution has been done (legally?) for a novel. I think.

I’ll keep you posted and I’ll try to write more often.

Over and over I keep getting asked about publishing a first novel (mine was with a small publisher that had distribution channels in place … after a bad experience with a “big” agent). So I’ll be writing more on that going forward.

Once you have a book what do you do?

Now I need to at least try to work on the next book.

Happy Sunday evening.

The picture? I used it for a short while ago a just like it.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I sat down to write today

I sat down to write today and I didn't.

So many things I did do. Writing wasn't one of them. Our best intentions... And how do we juggle it all?

I gossiped; shot yet another video for Captive, spent time with my kids, went to yoga, obsessed about a bunch of things and did some actual work.

I didn't write. And I was planning to write so much. Behind on the blogs. Doing well on Captive's sequel Escape (But it really does take serious time to write a book doesn't it?). Last night at Coro I learned about HUD, budget cuts and our recent local elections. Sounds so high brow but I still didn't write.

How do I get everything done in a day? As if I know.

And, tonight, hopefully I'll read yesterdays's paper. We'll see about today's.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Charlie Sheen Fired: More Important than Hosni Mubarak Resigning?

No, I’m not kidding. And, what’s more, I’m not going to take a cheap shot at the media/news industry (or bloggers) and say that they cover Sheen’s escapades more thoroughly than they do Mubarak’s.

I’m serious about the question. What impact did each change have on your daily life?

If you watch Two And A Half Men regularly you might be disappointed. If you were planning a near term trip to Egypt then you’ve probably cancelled. So many of us don’t see the butterfly effect from an event that we read about on or offline.

The butterfly effect is that Chaos theory principle which states something along the lines of a butterfly batting its wings causes a hurricane on the other side of the world. In simple terms, small events may have unintended and large consequences that are hard to trace back to their seemingly unrelated cause.

Mubarak’s resignation and the related protests throughout Africa and the Middle Eastern region, and attempting (seemingly) to extend to China, is showing us how control of news, democracy and other communications has been lost. A government can shut down the Internet, phone lines/connections and social networking sites but the damage has already been done. People have seen that other realities exist and they’ve learned how to seize control of their own communications (even risking their lives).

People don’t like to be controlled. Give them the tools and they will break those repressive yokes.

Iran and China are doing quite a job quelling dissent for now (by murdering and terrorizing ruthlessly). Libya is less effective.

Sheen? How does he tie into all of this? Sheen doesn’t like to be controlled either and he has rebelled against his boss (then there is that bad behavior issue). He lives in a democracy so has been able to find his voice and express it. Warner Brothers exercised their legal rights and fired him. Democracies do work better than repressive dictatorships…in my opinion.

In our country Sheen is on the networks ranting. In Egypt they speak out on Facebook. In each case, the people have found a way to be heard. And we don’t yet know the ultimate consequences. I’m staying hopeful.