Sunday, August 31, 2008

POD - Really NOT a Dirty Word

Last night, while sifting through the week's queries, I came upon one which really intrigued me, but I didn't ask for the material. Why not? Because this person made it clear in the letter that he was shopping for a "traditional" publisher, not a POD publisher.

There's so much information and mis-information about that term, POD, an acronym for "print on demand." At its most basic definition, POD is a print technology, just as is offset, digital and so on. But many people conflate POD with other publisher policies and procedures, and the result is a negative connotation. I get a little touchy about this.

Since early 2003, OTP has printed most of its books at Lightning Source Inc (LSI) which is a print on demand outfit owned by Ingram. Since Ingram is one of the largest, if not THE largest, book wholesaler in the business, some nice perks came with the relationship from day one, and over the 5+ years OTP has been with LSI, I have watched them expand their options and opportunities. OTP's relationship with LSI has played a huge part in stabilizing the business...leveling out the highs and lows where Ingram and BT churned books to the detriment of both finances and sanity.

The negatives attach themselves to POD, I think, from several corners. Many self-published books are done POD, and they are often poorly edited, bear substandard covers, are price wildly beyond market norms, don't abide by standard industry discounts and return policies, just as a partial list.

OTP works against these stereotypes. Our covers are done by a professional designer, and we try hard to root out all the typos, wrong word uses, missing or incorrect punctuation and other copy editing issues. Suggested retail is set as low as possible to cover costs, royalty and leave a small profit for OTP, plus we keep to industry standards for discounts and returns. This all sounds pretty "traditional" to me!

From the viewpoint of the publisher, when traditional means that a huge percentage of your capital is tied up in boxes of unsold books, or worse yet, returned copies which are barely fit to be given away, let alone sold...then traditional doesn't seem so much like a desirable state.

And bottom line...does it really matter to your readers which machinery creates your book? I am betting NO on this one...the reader wants a good story, or instructive information, and production details are not high on his list of selection criteria.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Valuable Sites List

Just a quick note to say I've added a new element to our layout...a spot where we can list valuable sites. Considering all the fine information they list for publishers and authors, plus all their tireless pursuit of reviews, Midwest Book Review surely deserves to be the first name added to this section.

MBR and its editor-in-chief, Jim Cox does a yeoman's task of leveling the playing field for small presses...they consider all review submissions they receive, no lists, no memberships, no caste-system criteria. If you title intrigues them, they'll review it.

Huzzah!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Beyond Self-Promotion

It started with the local newspaper asking me to write a monthly column.
I live in a small town, population 25,000. Everybody knows everybody. I graduated in this town, moved away, came home after 33 years. I'm the local mystery writer.
One of my first columns was about a speaker presentation at the county library. The librarian contacted me to thank me. She said they had a hard time getting publicity.
Publicity isn't as difficult as people make it. Okay, I have a degree in journalism, and I worked as a reporter for a newspaper. But, anyone can learn to write a press release. The media is easy to penetrate. Their business is to fill pages, and the less work they have to do hunting up stories, the better.
I decided to give the library a hand. They needed a local authors program, but didn't have any idea how to flush writers out of the woodwork. Through my own writing, I had connections. I also used the Internet to scout out authors. I write detective fiction and have worked with narcotics detectives in one of my past occupations. If I could find drug dealers, how hard could it be to find authors?
Next, I made a few simple phone calls and created a list of media contacts. They like info FAXed to them, and I have two tricks to get attention. First, I use a letterhead. Always impressive. Next, I make sure I list a specific person as recipient. That's to ensure that it reaches the reporter's mailbox and not the trash can. I also note the timetable each publication has for their Community Calendar. Public Radio likes three weeks notice.
My town has a total of two reporters on the newspaper, and one is the editor. Both are women my age and we know each other. I volunteered to write interviews on the authors I was bringing in to speak. For other publications, I provide contact info for radio and press interviews.
What's in it for me? Name recognition. Community contact. Support and sales for my own books. Endearment from authors for helping with their promotion and sales (I can be very endearing). Oak Tree Press will benefit. Oh, and the Poets & Writers wants to give me a grant.
The point of my blog is this: in the writing world, it pays to go beyond your own self-interest. It takes little time but lots of initiative. Authors who wait for the media to discover them are missing opportunities.
A little generousity goes a long way. The author who suceeds is the one who goes beyond self-promotion.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Beyond Writing: Getting Your Book Noticed

Here's how we authors typically think: We have this wonderful story to tell. We stretch our minds and our schedules, and we spend years weaving that story into a polished manuscript. Finally, five drafts later, it's the best it can be, and we're proud of it. The hard work is done, we tell ourselves.

Now all we have to do is find a publisher. We join the throngs of writers seeking the same dream and discover it's a long, arduous journey. But we persist. And we succeed. We find that publisher and we toast to our good luck.
The hard work is done.

Not even close. It's just beginning. The story we tell ourselves about writing and publishing needs to be stretched to accommodate today's reality.
In real estate the adage is:
location - location - location
In book sales it's: promotion - promotion - promotion

Authors today have to be 100% ready and willing to market their work. Like the blogs before this one, I can't say it enough: promotion is the backbone of book sales. Without it, your wonderful story will sit on the shelf, read only by your mother and a handful of good friends. We have to partner with our publisher every day in big and small ways if we want to find our readers. No divas allowed!

Promotion can be simple, but it needs to be consistent. And there are so many ideas for you to choose from. Start small and build. For instance, I have very professional bookmarks and I hand them out to everyone all the time. I pay my restaurant bill, the server gets my bookmark with the tip; I see a woman reading in the doctor's office and I offer her a bookmark. Every time I make a purchase, the cashier gets a bookmark. You get the idea. This gives me a chance to talk with potential readers and they're excited about meeting an author. I order 2500 bookmarks at a time - and they get used! Include them in every bill and piece of mail you send out. Here's a great site for professional printing at great price:
http://www.onlineprinthouse.com/printing.nsf/main?openform&org==oph

All the best,
Patricia Sheehy, author
Field of Destiny - Veil of Illusion - Giving with Meaning
http://www.psheehy.com

Saturday, August 16, 2008

More on Promotion

If you read the comment I made to Billie's post, I'd definitely promote. I promote whenever and wherever I can.

Do I ever get burned out? Sometimes when I'm at a book fair or craft festival, I get tired of standing up and smiling at everyone and might take a short break and sit--but even then I keep on smiling and trying to make eye contact. Recently, I did far better selling at an art festival than any of the arts and crafts persons (not as well as the food vendors who always do the best). The reason? I didn't remain seated behind my table and only talk to other vendors. One person who bought two of my books told me I was the only friendly vendor at the festival and that's why she was buying from me. That proves my point.

Something else I learned at that festival, if it's an outdoor festival and they say you don't need to bring anything, to be on the safe side take along a table, chairs and shelter of some sort. At this last art festival I was told I didn't need anything and that was wrong information. We had chairs in the car, but nothing else. I borrowed a card table from someone I knew at the event and fortunately my spot was under a tree. By moving things around periodically, I stayed in the shade. At any of these events, alwasy bring change. I also have a notebook where I keep track of what I sell. A guestbook is displayed for people to sign up for my ebook maillist. If you'd like to received it just email me at mmeredith@ocsnet.net with Newsletter in the Subject. You can tell me you want off at any time.

I hope you are all signing up for Oak Tree's writing conference as I'm going to be there--and I'd like to meet you.

Marilyn
http://fictionforyou.com

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Boston Possibilities...It's All Good

There's a good chance I might be heading to Boston shortly after the PROSE IN THE PARK conference in September. My friend who has been on an extended visit there would like me to drive her elderly mother to Boston for a family visit.

To be honest, I was looking at the couple of weeks after the conference as a time I could indulge in some sloth...my personal favorite of the 7 Deadly Sins. Things at OTP have been rolling at a frenetic pace since mid-June, which is great IMHO, but still needs to be counter-balanced with some good old-fashioned sloth from time to time.

Years ago, a very wise person told me "a change of work is the best relaxation" and I have found this to be true, so with that in mind I am checking into what possibilities may exist for some OTP promo in the Boston suburb of Waltham.

For starters. Joe Nowlan calls that area home, and Patricia Sheehy is not too far away in Connecticut. Anne White is in upstate NY, and Monti Sikes, Gus Cileone and Heather Mosko are also easterly situated. So we will see how this shakes out.

This got me to thinking, however, how important it is to look for the promotional opportunity in everything. It's not that you have to behave like an obnoxious network marketing canvaser...it's just to be aware that possibilities show themselves often...and being ready to captitalize upon them to introduce our books to readers is what it's all about.

Monday, August 11, 2008

/and now for something from Gus Cileone...

Many people have heard the phrase, “Everybody loves a mystery.” William G.Tapply, who wrote The Elements of Mystery Fiction, and is the author of the Brady Coyne mystery series of novels, stated in the March, 2007 edition of The Writer magazine the following:

What sets mystery novels apart from other types of fiction and makes them particularly appealing to fans are their whodunit puzzles. Mystery readers want to detect clues, to sniff out red herrings … to finger suspects. In other words, they want to play detective.

Mr. Tapply goes on to say how the readers like to match wits with the sleuth of the story, but they will be disappointed if they figure out the mystery before the main character does. That seems true. You may get self satisfaction from guessing some parts of the mystery correctly, but you get a charge out of a story that fools you, and then you look back and say, oh yeah, there were the clues, and that was clever how the author or filmmaker fooled me. I still can’t believe I didn’t guess the ending of The Sixth Sense.
But I think the appeal of the murder mystery goes even further. Patricia Cornwell said in the same edition of The Writer:

I cannot fully explain my fascination with violence, but I suspect it has to do with my fear of it … my writing is dark, filled with nightscapes and fear. Isolation and a sense of loss whisper throughout my prose like something perpetually stirring in the wind. It is not uncommon for people to meet me and find it incongruous that I write the sort of books I do.

I think what she says speaks to the old idea about why we want to look away from a car accident, but can’t. We are both drawn to and repelled by the horrible, wanting to understand it, fascinated by the killer who crosses the boundaries of society, but at the same time desiring safety from and ignorance of terrible acts.
Patricia Cornwell’s quote also addresses the concept of our double nature, how outwardly she may seem the last person to deal with violence, but inwardly she can explore the dark side of a character in her writing. This aspect brings up the theme of surface appearance versus inner reality. A big influence on me was Thomas Harris’ The Silence of the Lambs. A brilliant psychiatrist, very sophisticated culturally, is in fact a murdering cannibal. This duality may also explain the current popularity of the serial killer character of Dexter in the books and TV show featuring him. He is a serial killer, who only kills killers. (I love that show).
OK, why did I write a murder mystery? Partly for the same reasons stated above. I became interested in mysteries through films. My dad took me to see Alfred Hitchcock movies. I especially liked Psycho, so you can see why I became interested in exploring the dark side of characters. I then started reading Agatha Christie and Ellery Queen novels. I love a complicated mystery because it is fun to try and solve the puzzle and be surprised by the twists in the plot. Two movies that influenced me in this way are The Last of Sheila (written by Anthony Perkins of Pyshco fame and Stephen Sondheim) and the original Sleuth, based on the Anthony Schaffer play. It’s also probably why I am addicted to the TV series Lost, and loved the 1960’s TV series The Prisoner, which may be the most enigmatic shows ever.
In my book, I explore that double concept of good and evil I mentioned above by telling an ironic tale of murder against the backdrop of a Quaker school, where pacifism is a religious tenet based on the respect for the divine in each individual.
But I think there is even more to the appeal of the mystery. My contention is that to classify the mystery as some type of 2nd rate genre is a disservice. The very act of wanting to find out the solution to mysteries is primal to humans: it takes place in science, mathematics, social sciences, psychology, in fact in just about every discipline. It happens in each person’s life every day: How is the best way to avoid traffic problems? How does one get the job done at work? What is the best way to fix a plumbing or electrical problem in the house? People vary on how much they thrive on answering questions and solving problems in their lives: some love it, doing crossword or picture puzzles, while others find questing after answers very taxing. But, we can’t escape it. Murder mystery stories at the very least provide an entertaining outlet for this primal drive; at the most, they help us to explore complex themes of what it is to be human.
In Chapter Two of my novel, the main character, Maxwell Hunter, an English teacher at Eastern Friends School, discusses the poem “The Second Coming” by William Butler Yeats in one of his classes. I have included a number of literary references in my book, because this aspect is an important facet of my life. My undergraduate and graduate degrees are in literature. I like playing the literary detective, looking for clues in a writer’s work to decipher his or her themes. So, I like works that have symbolism and allegory.
I saw the mystery as a way to explore some opposing human tendencies in my book. As I mentioned, the story deals with respect for the individual versus the negation of him or her through murder. Yeats’ “The Second Coming” led me to explore the social struggle between the well-to-do and the less economically fortunate. Yeats believed that history was a struggle between the desires for the spiritual and the material. He saw the birth of Jesus Christ as the most spiritual time and the approach of the 21st century as a time when the worship of a spiritual god would be replaced by the worship of a material deity. He saw the year 1000 AD as the ideal time because he felt that era had an equal mixing of the spiritual and the material. This theme fits in with another reason why I chose a Quaker school as the focus of the story. If there is that of God in each person, then all should be treated equally. But, a quality private school education is very expensive because there are no public funds on which to draw. So, the well-to-do often are the only ones who can afford such an education for their children. This of course, ironically, denies the Quaker concept of treating everyone according to their inherent worth.
So, I wrote A Lesson in Murder because in it I was able to indulge my love for a complicated puzzle plot and combine that with my passion for literature. To that mixture, I added an exploration of themes involving the rich and the poor and the material and the spiritual.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Last Time I Saw Sedona I Went Shopping

Summer 2007 was the last time I visited Sedona, and it was an exciting experience. As soon as we arrived outside the resort, I discovered a bronze eagle that looked like the one I imagined flying high over the desert in my book, Eagle Rising. That same day we found a beautiful Chico's in the upscale Pinot Pointe Mall. Although I had no intention of buying anything, I went in to look. A dark narrow skirt with an Indian-look fringe caught my eye, and I had to try it on. Then I spotted a bright orange Tee that was perfect with the skirt. I found two pairs of crop pants in prints I couldn't resist and more Tees. But the most marvelous find of my shopping career (grin) came when I espied a belt hanging from a sales rack mid-store. It was the most gorgeous accent piece I had ever seen--three bright beaded medallions highlighting a heavy chain belt. The belt decorating the orange Tee and the fringed skirt would be the perfect outfit to wear for book signings once Eagle Rising was released by my publisher. So much of my novel centers around Indian lore that the look was perfect and made the point I often emphasize--dress the part. My new outfit would show a little of what my book was about. I wasn't going shopping; I didn't need any clothes. But I did need a signing outfit for my new book. Thank you Chico's!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Website Update Marathon

For most of Sunday and a chunk of today, I've been updating oaktreebooks.com ...mumbling and muttering about how much updating was needed....and there's still a bunch to do! However, if you turn that around, it's GREAT how much there is to do because that means we've been busy...busy getting out new titles, and having events and making new deals...

My favorite addition is a group pic of the men who contributed to Bob Cohen and Terry Miller's SCURVY DOGS ... I called them the "manly men" check 'em out http://oaktreebooks.com/Navy%20Book.htm
What crew...and the stories they tell...Whew!

Friday, August 1, 2008

A Gift from Google Alerts

A google alert just popped into my mailbox for Dark Oak Mysteries...not unusual I thought, since the contest deadline was yesterday. However, it turns out it was for a video I did a while back...just to see if I really could!

I get so much meaningless stuff via the alerts, I almost didn't click on the link...but now I am dazzled!

Check it out! http://nz.youtube.com/watch?v=DWWNcYAeOEE

A message from Bob Cohen

"I too was really excited when Billie asked me to post on the OTP blog. So I reminded her that the only reason I use the pen name "Trebor Nehoc" is that "J.D. Salinger" was already taken." - Bob Cohen