Sandra Murphy, Editor
For contributions to the newsletter and Letters to the Editor, please email the editor of SPAWNews: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Those of you who are SPAWN members, be sure to visit the Members Only Area to read this month’s Market Update. Go to http://www.spawn.org and click Log In. You will be asked for your username and password. If you are not a member, join now online: http://www.spawn.org/join.htm
From the President
Welcome to all the new members and subscribers who have discovered SPAWN this month!
Today, I have been thinking about four-letter words. No not those four-letter words; I’m pondering the words snow and plan. Almost two feet of snow has fallen in the last week or so. We had a very white Thanksgiving and I’m beyond thrilled that we still have electricity after all these storms!
My more business-y thoughts relate to the word plan. I’d be willing to wager that most books fail to be written because of a lack of planning, not a lack of desire. I had wanted to release a book in 2010, but it didn’t happen. I made plans at the beginning of the year, but many things didn’t work out as I’d hoped. So now I’m revising my plan.
As we approach the end of the year, it’s a good time to ponder “what’s next?” If your plans for 2010 didn’t work out, or you didn’t make any plans at all, I encourage you to step back and think about what you’d like to see happen in 2011. After all, nothing happens without a plan!
December Teleseminar Announcement!
David Garland to Present Teleseminar for SPAWN Members
Who: David Garland, Founder, The Rise to the Top
When: December 9 at 1 pm Pacific (4 pm Eastern)
How: Members will receive an email with call-in details
Title: “Smarter, Faster, Cheaper: Non-Boring, Fluff-free Strategies for Marketing and Promoting Your Business”
Read more: http://www.spawn.org/blog/?p=1414
Thirty-one days left in 2010. A lot of that time will be spend getting ready for the holidays and cleaning up after they’re over. It’s also a time to think about your New Year’s resolutions. Take a little time in the midst of the chaos to decide what you’d like to change or improve in 2011.
My blog is set up and I’ve done a few posts—now to get some readers. Be sure to read Andrea Hazard’s second installment about blogging—she’ll tell you just how to do that. And then read Joel Friedlander’s article on blog carnivals—another way to increase the number of people who know where to find you. Wendy Dager is learning to monetize her blog—follow along in her beginner’s steps to see what works for her.
I intend to get more writing published (and for pay!) this year. Jay Hartman’s article on his publishing company, Untreed Reads, will help.
I’m forever seeking convenience in my life; that’s my main goal this year. Last year I decided to recycle more. That’s done, but now the goal is to recycle it from the hallway to the big blue dumpsters on a regular basis! I was okay with newspaper, plastics, and cans, but now have added cardboard. It’s a tiny change, but one that pleases me and reminds me that not all change has to be huge.
Convenience will be: having the office set up and no wires to trip over, paper where I can find it, a printer that prints, and mailing envelopes, tape, bubble wrap, and boxes all in one place. Cat company will be by invitation only—the first one to walk on the keyboard earns a time-out.
And with all the time I’ll gain following these improvements, I might even get around to painting the rooms I said I’d do this year. It’s a work in progress—just like me.
— Sandy, Editor, SPAWNews, email@example.com
New SPAWN Board Member
We want to thank Mindy Reed for her service to SPAWN as Secretary/Treasurer these past 14 months. We hate to see her resign, but it has become necessary for her to do so. In the meantime, we are most pleased to welcome Donna Lee Anderson as our new Secretary/Treasurer. We look forward to an excellent 2011 with a dedicated and talented board.
- Patricia Fry, Executive Director & Susan Daffron, President
Join SPAWN at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books
The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books (LATFB) is billed as the nation’s largest public literary festival, having attracted around 140,000 people last year.
It wasn’t always this big, and some of us here at SPAWN remember its beginnings. The LATFB launched in 1996, the same year that SPAWN did. SPAWN has had a presence at this now-gigantic event almost every year since.
The LATFB will be held at a new venue this year—the University of Southern California campus in Los Angeles, April 30-May 1, 2011. SPAWN has secured two booths to accommodate our members. The fee for selling your books from our booth is $200 per day.
We will offer those who can’t attend the opportunity to display a copy of their books in the SPAWN booth for $20 each. For an additional $35, members can list their books in the SPAWN Catalog of Members’ Books and Services, which will serve as the brochure for all participants. Everyone visiting the SPAWN booth will walk away with one of our beautiful catalogs.
Watch for additional information in the January 2011 issue of SPAWNews. At that time, we will direct you to our sign-up pages for the book display, booth space, and inclusion in the catalog.
The LATFB opportunity is open to members only. If your membership has expired or you haven’t joined yet, this is a good time to take care of business.
If you want a major bookselling opportunity and incredible exposure for your book, mark the date on your calendar NOW.
Learn more about the LATFB here: http://events.latimes.com/festivalofbooks
Questions? Patricia@spawn.org. Reserve your space NOW. We’ll notify you once the sign up pages are ready.
SPAWN Market Update
by Patricia Fry
The December 2010 SPAWN Market Update (number 110) lives up to its reputation by featuring fifty solid resources and opportunities for freelance writers, authors, artists, and scriptwriters. This includes thirteen high-paying magazine markets in a variety of categories and tips for writing for the trade market, four large job directories for artists and photographers, ten traditional royalty publishers that you may have never heard of seeking manuscripts, and a generous helping of book marketing ideas and opportunities.
This is typical of what members receive in every issue of the SPAWN Market Update. The archives are available online, as well. This means that members have anytime access to thousands of resources, opportunities, and information about the publishing industry in the member area of the SPAWN Web site.
Ask the Book Doctor:
About pronouns, pet names in narrative, and Canadian punctuation and spelling
By Bobbie Christmas
Q: I’m terribly confused about when it is appropriate to use he, she, or other words rather than the character’s name. For example: If you are in the character’s point of view, she of course would refer to her father as Pa, but would you continue that style until the POV changes?
Here’s an example: Ty reached over and patted Ellie’s belly. “Do you think we’ll get ourselves a boy this time, Ben?” Ellie scowled at Pa. It better not matter to him.
A: Let me clearly state that point of view does not always have to be internal dialogue, and good writers avoid getting into the characters’ thoughts too often. When the narrative is not internal dialogue, it should not include nicknames such as “Pa.” The sentence in which the word “Pa” is used merely shows the scene, not the character’s thoughts. Only this last sentence reflects Ellie’s thoughts: It better not matter to him.
Next, the first part of the paragraph refers to Ty, his actions, and his speech, so I would break into a new paragraph to show the shift to Ellie’s actions and thoughts. I would recast the example above into two paragraphs and change the nickname to a standard noun, perhaps this way:
Ty reached over and patted Ellie’s belly. “Do you think we’ll get ourselves a boy this time, Ben?”
Ellie scowled at her father. It better not matter to him.
Pronouns always should refer to the last stated person of appropriate gender, so using the pronoun “he” in those last two sentences would mean that “he” referred to Ben, the last stated male. “Ellie scowled at him. It better not matter to him” would mean that Ellie scowled at Ben (the last stated male), and it better not matter to Ben (the last stated male). I’m sure, however, that the intent was to say that Ellie scowled at her father, not at Ben, hence the rewrite.
Q: One editor told me that whenever I mention another character, I must use the name of the person in the next sentence, instead of using a pronoun. What gives?
Example: Jean savored the love between her father and her daughter. She smiled when her father pulled Rosie into his lap and bussed her cheek with a kiss.
A: I understand what the editor was trying to say about the names of characters, but perhaps it is clearer simply to remember that each pronoun refers to the last stated person of that gender. In starting a new paragraph, it is better to state the person again, rather than using a pronoun first. In the example above, the pronouns are confusing because two females are in the scene, and the second sentence begins with the pronoun “she.” The last stated female was the daughter. If the daughter smiled, the pronoun is correct, but I suspect it was Jean, not the daughter, who smiled. If indeed it was the daughter, this would be a clearer rewrite:
Jean savored the love between her father and daughter. Rosie smiled when her grandfather pulled her into his lap and bussed her cheek with a kiss.
Since “buss” means to kiss, the second sentence can end with “ . . . bussed her cheek,” and if Jean is the one who smiled, the example could be recast this way:
Jean savored the love between her father and daughter, and she smiled when her father pulled Rosie into his lap and bussed her cheek.
Q: I am Canadian; thus, if I were to be published in Canada, I’d need to use Celsius temperatures and the metric scale for measurements. Similarly, our use of punctuation varies from your use of it in the U.S., and don’t forget our extra “u” in words like “labour” and “neighbour”! I’m not finished writing my book yet, but if I want to try my luck and venture into the U.S. market, would I have to repair all these variances?
A: Chances are good that if the manuscript is irresistible, a larger publisher will accept it as-is and repair the differences, including the punctuation outside of the quotation marks. If a smaller publisher accepts the book, it may ask you to change the Canadian style to American style.
You haven’t finished the book yet, though, so stick to Canadian style while you write it. If, after you finish and polish the manuscript, you cannot interest a Canadian publisher, you have the option of changing the spelling, punctuation, and other details into American style and trying to sell it in the United States.
What’s your question about writing or publishing? Bobbie Christmas, book doctor, author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), and owner of Zebra Communications, will answer your questions, too. Send them to Bobbie@zebraeditor.com. Read more “Ask the Book Doctor” questions and answers at www.zebraeditor.com.
Book Review: Poemcrazy
by Patricia Fry
Poemcrazy, Freeing Your Life With Words by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge
Three Rivers Press (1997) www.randomhouse.com
210 pages, $13.95—paperback
The reviewer at Arizona Republic says it succinctly: “Poemcrazy is, in its simplest sense, a book of ideas and techniques for people who teach poetry. But Wooldridge’s enthusiasm takes it into another realm, in which poetry is a state of mind…”
So what does this book promise the reader? What does it try to accomplish? Mostly, it seems, this is an opportunity for and a lesson in playing with words. The book is light, fun, thought-provoking, and tends to take the reader away from what the author considers her reality and into a world of words in their purest and most outrageous form.
If you like words, you will enjoy this book, as Wooldridge has a talent not only for creating words, but for using them in the most intriguing ways.
I especially enjoyed her anecdotes—many of which were of a personal nature. The author also manages to use her experiences to create meaningful and fun exercises for readers, all in the name of beautiful poetry.
If you are poem-crazy—if you are always searching for new ways to use words and new words to use—you are going to enjoy poring over this little book. And I’m pretty sure it will inspire you to do some writing of your own or at least to spin words around in your mind in ways that you haven’t attempted before.
Want to be part of the Member News? Send us your items and we’ll be glad to include your good news in the next issue. Want to be a Member Interview? It will give you a chance to plug your book, your business, yourself. Just email me and let me know you’d like to be included. The email is firstname.lastname@example.org
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Susan Daffron’s company Logical Expressions is running a 15-day promotion called the “SUNsational Winter Solstice Countdown.” From December 7-21, people who sign up receive a daily email that contains a discount code for a Logical Expressions product or service. Discounts range from 20% – 70% on everything from books to business services. Learn more and sign up on this page: http://www.logicalexpressions.com/solsticecountdown.htm
Barbara Florio Graham is praised in the acknowledgements of a new book by Edmonton author and expert on men at mid-life, Noel McNaughton. A Harley or Your Wife is a guide for mid-life men and the women who love them. Noel writes: “Thanks to Barbara (Bobbi) Graham for her consultation and enthusiastic support in getting this book into print. Her depth of knowledge in all things publishing helped me work my way through the myriad details of getting this book into your hands.”
Bobbi has also been asked to write a blurb for the back cover of Moira Allen’s new book, Starting Your Career as a Freelance Writer. Moira publishes the popular newsletter, Writing World.
AND Bobbie just won the Shojai Award for mentoring new members into the Cat Writers Association. She says, “It’s one of the best organizations I’ve ever belonged to.”
From Susan Alcott Jardine: My new Web site www.GreenDoorEditions.com is now live. There is some tweaking and adding to do, but the old Green Door Web site went to cyber heaven. Green Door Editions features my artwork, original paintings, and limited editions. It also features my book, The Channel: Stories from L. A. It has social network feeds and a blog—now I have to learn WordPress.
Also, this is the time of year that our annual color Green Door newsletter goes out to over 600 people via snail mail. It should go out close to Thanksgiving and contains a Holiday/Winter Sale offer.
From Christy Pinheiro: Finally, after months of work and many, many, many hours of corrections, contacts, and emails, I finally got all the contact information for most of the book reviewers listed on my Web site.
The Indie Book Reviewer “yellow pages” is finally active. I didn’t do it to make money—I did it to help other self-published and small press authors who need free publicity and don’t know where to start. I’ve had a very good year and this is my labor of love. ALL of the reviewers in the guide accept small-press books, and all of them review books for free. The guide lists their likes, dislikes, contact information, Web site information, pet peeves, etc. It’s taken me a very long time to put this monster together.
If you have a blog or a Web site and you agree to post a link about this resource, I’ll send you the PDF for FREE. Just contact me directly at email@example.com.
If you want to see a list of all the book reviewers that I have collected over two years, you can check the Web site (there’s a long list of links, but it does not include all the book reviewers’ submission guidelines).
Here’s the site: http://www.stepbystepselfpublishing.net/
I’d appreciate it if you all could help spread the word that this resource exists.
From Tami Devers: TLC Graphics announces that its logo for the book series Austin and Charlie from Paw Print Publications has been selected to be published in Harper Collins’ new book, Logolicious! It’s an honor to be selected from more than 4,000 worldwide entries by judges who are internationally recognized designers.
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Note: To have your announcements included in Member News, you must be a paid member of SPAWN. Please email your news to firstname.lastname@example.org
Blogging to Promote Books, Part 2
If you’ve followed the steps outlined in Blogging to Promote Books Part 1: Creating a Well-Crafted Blog (see the November SPAWN newsletter), you are author of a well-crafted blog. Congratulations! Now that you’ve created your blog, you want to draw traffic to it. Here’s how:
1. Add labels to your posts. Labels are keywords that describe what a post is about, making it easier for search engines and directories to sort it into the right category. Adding labels is easy: in Blogger, just list them in the box at the bottom of the screen when you create a new post. To decide which labels you should use, look at the labels used in blogs similar to your own (these usually appear at the bottom of each post and are sometimes called tags). There’s a lot of debate on how many labels you should use—too many and your post gets tagged as SPAM, too few and search engines can’t sort it into the right category). The numbers I’ve come across range from three to twelve.
2. Make sure people know you have a blog. This might sound obvious, but be sure to include your blog address in email signatures, on business cards, and on other promotional materials.
3. Follow other blogs whose content complements your own. Create a “Blogs I Follow” list that links your blog to these, and request a reciprocal link.
4. Comment on other blogs. Blogging is a social media, so always be nice; make a nice comment about someone else’s blog, and they might make a nice comment about yours. If you do notice a mistake in another blog’s content or have a difference of opinion and feel you need to respond, do so respectfully.
5. Get your blog listed in directories. Visitors to a directory can find a blog on a particular topic by browsing through categories or typing in keywords (also known as labels—see above). There are a lot of directories (for a listing, visit http://www.toprankblog.com/rss-blog-directories/). Some directories will list your blog for free while others charge a fee. Still others have a no-cost option but offer expedited service or other perks to paying bloggers. I do not recommend paying for a directory service unless you have good reason to do so. Some free general directories include Technorati, Digg, On Top List, and Blogarama. There also are more specific directories, like Top Mommy Blogs. I’ve had mixed success signing up for directories; sometimes I’ve had to wait forever for my blog to be reviewed, and other times I’ve run into technical difficulties and couldn’t find a human being to respond to my problem. I’d recommend signing up for directories that are free and seem to work.
6. Promote your blog through other social media. Facebook has a Networked Blog application that feeds each of your blog posts onto your Facebook page, and Twitter can be used to announce each new blog post. Be sure to mention other blogs you like on your Facebook page or through Twitter (remember—blogging is a social media!)
7. Write for online newsletters. Some bloggers publish online newsletters and allow fellow bloggers to submit content. For a good example, check out the Literacy Lava newsletter published through The Book Chook blog (www.thebookchook.com). This newsletter comes out four times a year and all of its content is written by bloggers. Can’t find a newsletter you like? Consider starting your own!
8. Join a Blog Carnival. In a blog carnival, a group of bloggers writes simultaneous posts on a particular topic. On the day of the carnival, each participant sends a link to the carnival host. The host posts a summary of the content from each blog and provides links to each. Typically, blog carnivals are held once a month and bloggers take turns serving as host. Blog carnivals may be set up at no cost through http://blogcarnival.com/bc/, or they may be set up informally by a group of bloggers. Many carnivals are open to new bloggers, but if you can’t find an open one you like, why not start your own?
(Editor’s note: Find out more about this in Joel Friedlander’s article below.)
9. Host a giveaway. Wait, you say, you are trying to make money from your blog. Why would you want to give anything away? Because nothing will draw readers like the word FREE. You may give away autographed copies of your books or peripheral material such as artwork prints or music CDs. If you do decide to give away products that you sell, give away a limited, pre-announced number (say, one copy a week for four weeks). This way, people who don’t win the item by the end of the giveaway might just buy it. Be sure to list your giveaway on one of the many Web sites that provides giveaway information.
10. Be professional. Post to your blog on a regular basis, and be sure all your posts are informative and well written.
If this sounds like a lot to do, it is. But you don’t need to do it all at once. Just do one new thing to promote your blog each week and, over time, your readership will grow.
by Joel Friedlander
When I started blogging last year I kept hearing about blog carnivals—a way to get more readers and spread the message that I was writing about on my blog, www.TheBookDesigner.com. I had no idea what a blog carnival was. Would there be cotton candy? Roller coasters?
Turns out blog carnivals are collections of links to other blog articles across a subject area, curated by the blog owner to bring more articles to the attention of readers, and to bring more readers to bloggers who have something valuable to add to the conversation in that particular niche.
I found a couple of blog carnivals and started submitting my best articles, and it worked! I got links back to my blog, and a steady trickle of new readers who found me through the carnivals.
I was disappointed that there was no blog carnival devoted to indie publishing. That’s why, a couple of months ago, I started a brand new blog carnival: Self-Publishing, the Carnival of the Indies. The first issue came out at the end of October. It featured articles from twenty bloggers.
I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of reader interest, but I was hoping that bringing together a lot of great content would attract readers, too. After all, if you follow one blogger on the list, you might like one or two of the others.
It’s been three weeks since the first issue went live. As of this writing, the page has had over 1,200 page views. Considering that it takes about one minute to submit an article to the blog carnival, I’d say the bloggers who took part got a good payoff.
If you’re interested in this whole subject of blog carnivals, here are two things to consider:
- If you write about self-publishing, writing, book marketing, or related subjects, think about submitting your best articles and we’ll include them in the next issue of the Carnival of the Indies. It’s easy, it’s fun, and you’ll get traffic to your blog.
- If you write in a specific niche that has a number of other bloggers, think about starting a blog carnival centered around your subject. It’s a great way to get to know other bloggers in your niche, and you’ll get more links from hosting the carnival.
Here’s a link if you want to find out more about the Self-Publishing, the Carnival of the Indies blog carnival, and for all the links you’ll need if you want to submit a post. Go to:
To find out how to set up your blog carnival, head over to: www.blogcarnival.com
See you at the carnival!
Joel Friedlander is the proprietor ofMarin Bookworks, a publishing services company in San Rafael, California, where he has helped launch many self-publishers. Joel is an award-winning book designer and a self-published author himself. He blogs about book design, self-publishing, and the future of the book at http://www.theBookDesigner.com
Monetizing Your Blog: A Beginner’s Experience
by Wendy Dager
I suffer from Lone Writer’s Syndrome. That is, as a longtime freelancer of mostly nonfiction, I’ve worked steadily without much promotion or “platform.” I’ve always just accepted an assignment, completed it, turned it in, and collected the paycheck. As Lone Writer, I’ve generally been pretty good at writing, but not so great at publicity.
I felt I didn’t need to do much self-promotion because I’d already established myself as a newspaper stringer, as well as a writer of magazine articles, ads, press releases, flash animation scripts, greeting cards, and more. Then I wrote a couple of novels and decided it was time to get more exposure.
In addition to joining social networking sites and author/reader forums, I have a business/biographical Web site, WendyDager.com, http://www.wendydager.com, and a writing-related blog, Double You D (Squared) http://www.wendydager.blogspot.com
I also have a just-for-fun blog that showcases my massive collection of vintage purses, Vintage Purse a Day, http://www.vintagepurse.blogspot.com
Of the three sites, guess which gets the most lookers?
Yep. More people want to know more about old bags than…well…this old bag.
With my purse collection, I was providing valuable information, cool photos, and a touch of fun to the world. That’s right: the world. I installed a site meter (http://www.sitemeter.com/) on Vintage Purse a Day, so I could track my hits and see who’s checking it out. I learned that the blog had fans from all over the United States, Canada, Europe, and Asia. That’s when I knew I should find a way to turn Vintage Purse a Day into a moneymaker.
Blogger, my free blog host, is powered (owned) by Google, so there are options within the design template that allow you to “monetize”—potentially earn income through a blog—using Google AdSense. For Vintage Purse a Day, I chose text-only ads in the side column and at the bottom, as well as a full-color, square-shaped ad on the side. I tried to size these ads as unobtrusively as possible, because I don’t want people going to my blog and thinking it’s just one big, fat load of advertising.
I also advertise my e-book, the thriller Thrift Me Deadly (http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/4474) in a prominent position. I created that ad through the design template, which offers the ability to add text or “widgets.” One of the widgets I chose was a news feed, which, using keywords, I limit to news about vintage fashion.
I also created ads through Amazon Associates, an affiliate program offered through mega-seller Amazon (http://www.amazon.com). Amazon Associates provides tutorials that are fairly easy to navigate. I have an Amazon fashion-related banner ad at the top of the page, which I can easily change. My favorite Amazon ad on Vintage Purse a Day is a scrolling slide show. I chose purse-themed items—books, jewelry, vintage handbags, etc.—that are available for purchase through Amazon. The slide show is eye-catching without being pushy.
I put a few Google AdSense ads and a writing-related news feed on my other Blogger-hosted blog, Double You D (Squared), and a small GoDaddy ad on www.WendyDager.com, as GoDaddy is that site’s Web host (http://www.godaddy.com).
Since I don’t get nearly the hits on these sites that I do on Vintage Purse a Day, I don’t expect much in the way of financial compensation.
So, how much am I making on Vintage Purse a Day? Not even enough to buy a tall vanilla lattè. At the time of this writing, I had 1,851 “page impressions” in two months, which lead to total estimated earnings of $2.77. The blog itself gets around forty hits a day. Obviously, not everyone who goes to the blog clicks on an advertisement. But the nice part is that it doesn’t cost me anything to run the ads.
I haven’t had any results so far with Amazon Associates. I’m not sure why, but it probably has to do with who’s visiting Vintage Purse a Day. Perhaps the Google ads are more appealing or “clickable,” or maybe I just have to give it more time and more promotion.
If you plan to monetize your site, a couple of things should be noted: first, clicking on your own ads is a big no-no. It sounds Big Brother-esque, but Google AdSense knows your IP address and will drop you if you try to earn money this way. Don’t be tempted to do even a test click.
Also, some of the advertising opportunities can be confusing. There are AdSense options I haven’t explored, because it gets into more complex areas—“AdSense for Search,” “AdSense for Mobile Content,” etc.—that I need to go over thoroughly to better understand.
The most important aspect of advertising is getting people to go to your site. Via my site meter, I’m able to see how people arrive—what words they put into a search engine to find my blog, or by random Web clicks, or through my photos they’ve found online. Interestingly, for Vintage Purse a Day, a majority of the visitors arrive via a photo of a purse that was lifted—without my permission—from my site and put on someone else’s. Normally, I would be a little miffed about someone using a photo of mine without asking, but the fact that this person was kind enough to include a link to my site makes it okay.
Like anyone who wants to get the word out about his or her site—no matter what the content—I’ve been overcoming Lone Writer’s Syndrome and doing more promotion. For Vintage Purse a Day, this means adding it to online resource lists and other sites related to vintage clothing and accessories. I even contacted a local museum about a possible showing of my vintage purses. If that happens, I can hand out cards or bookmarks with a link to my blog, where visitors will see the ads.
Another very important part of promotion is consistent posting to a blog. I get busy with my regular freelance work, so days or even weeks go by without posting. More blog posts mean more visitors, meaning the possibility of more ad clicks, and therefore more income.
The only problem is if Vintage Purse a Day does start making real money, then I’ll have to resist the temptation to buy more vintage purses!
by Jay Hartman
Twelve years ago on a cross-country trip to visit my parents, I lost my marbles at 30,000 feet. I thought I had been clever by packing six different paperbacks into my backpack so that if I found one to be particularly boring I could move on to another one. Somewhere over Colorado, I realized I had done a REALLY lousy job choosing titles. I couldn’t get into any of the books, and with hours to go I hunkered down and did a very good job of being cranky. It was one of the longest flights of my life.
Upon my return to California, an online friend mentioned a very cool new device called the Rocket eBook. You could load a ton of “e-books” onto it and take your reading wherever you went. Needless to say, I was in nirvana. After I got mine in the mail, I never had a bad trip again.
My online friend, Kelly Ford, and I were convinced we had seen the future. We believed that e-books would one day take off like a shot and everyone would want to do it. We created www.KnowBetter.com, a Web site dedicated to everything e-book and audiobook. I became the content editor, writing reviews of e-books, writing commentary about e-books, interviewing publishers who were making e-books, etc. We became the Internet’s leading provider of information about the new movement.
Around 2004, Kelly and I decided to pursue separate projects. I went on to stage managing, he went on to programming and www.KnowBetter.com remained behind as a testament to a certain age of discovery. Even now you can read my old articles and see what the technology was like.
In November of 2009, as the e-book technology really started exploding, I thought it would be a good time to get back in the game. There was an incredible amount of misinformation floating around, and people were calling themselves “experts” when they actually had only a year or two of industry knowledge. It was time to start an informational blog again. And thus, E-read Indeed was born.
Yep, that’s not a typo. That was the original name for the site. Then, Richard Curtis of The Curtis Agency threatened me with copyright infringement because he ran a publishing house named e-Reads. Although we went back and forth on the issue, I eventually decided to change the name to Untreed Reads; it’s a decision I’ve never regretted.
The one thing that still bothered me is that I couldn’t find things in the marketplace that I wanted to read. There was a ton of romance and erotica, but where were the quirky mysteries and unusual literature? Realizing there was a niche to be filled, I decided to launch my own e-publishing business and focus on under-represented genre. A fortunate meeting at a birthday party led me to K.D. Sullivan, who became the Untreed Reads CEO. She brought more knowledge of the business side of publishing to the table (being an established author herself) as well as excellent knowledge of the print industry. Together, we determined that we wanted to act just like the big New York publishers. We’d read submissions, determine which ones we wanted, pay for cover art, do the proofreading, pay royalties and so forth, but we’d ONLY work with e-books. The difference was, we were going to bring the humanity back to publishing.
Many of the lessons I had learned over the years from the e-book market are incorporated into our house. Where most e-book publishers only went through Amazon or Smashwords, we focused on creating a distribution channel that now consists of about fifty-five retailers worldwide. I wasn’t going to have any part of the cheap, poorly created covers that I had seen at so many other places and I interviewed many cover designers before I found one who would work for our needs. Most importantly, I wanted to maintain one-on-one interaction with my authors. I wanted them to never think they were just one of a big stable. It was important that they found me to be accessible and attentive. I was not going to be the editor who told them they HAD to change something. Everything would be open to discussion. I wanted the writers to be a part of the process so that they could understand the business of writing in addition to the craft.
In December, Untreed Reads will publish its 100th story. Not bad for a company that published its first title in March. Through it all, we stay focused on the two most important aspects: running the company as a business and not a hobby, and ensuring our authors are comfortable, happy, and have everything they need. Absolutely nothing is more important to us than our authors. Without them, we wouldn’t be around, so we make sure we promote the heck out of our titles, come up with all kinds of interview and review possibilities, and keep in touch with the authors on a regular basis so they have a transparent look into how the business runs with no surprises.
In the end, it isn’t about us as much as it is about the amazing talent that comes through my Inbox. I still get a tremendous thrill when I read something that blows my socks off. Success isn’t always measured by dollar amounts. I don’t need to make thousands of dollars on Whit Howland’s Huey Dusk to know that it’s one the best things I’ve ever read or published. I feel success from being able to get the rest of the world to see how talented this author is.
So call us a hippie/feel-good/warm-fuzzy kind of publisher if you will, but we’re pretty happy with that. We plan on being around for a long time, we plan on continuing publishing phenomenal, quality work from new and emerging authors as well as our NY literary agent partners, and we plan on making sure we’re a home and haven for authors who feel left out of the traditional NY publishing caste system.
Twelve years, two sites, 100 books. If a dream is a wish your heart makes, then Untreed Reads, for me, is a dream come true. I look forward to serving our authors into the future.
Jay Hartman, Editor-In-Chief Untreed Reads Publishing http://www.untreedreads.com
James and Lisa Murphy—husband and wife team, write, edit, publish
James J. Murphy III (Writing, Publishing)
My wife and I just published my first book, The Nursing Home, on September 17, 2010. It’s an original horror novel about murders that occur at a nursing home, leaving many suspects.
In 2006, both of our grandmothers were in nursing homes. It seemed like everybody was coming out with a book, and I thought I could come up with an original one of my own. I couldn’t recall a horror story about nursing homes, so I asked Lisa what she thought. She was very supportive and all for it. Originally, I thought of writing just a few short stories, but with The Nursing Home, I couldn’t stop writing. We dedicated all of our free time to it. Whatever came to my mind, I’d write down. I didn’t have a specific a plan of what was going to happen. I’d write a piece here. Oh, this is cool. Let’s see if I could add something else. Oh, that’s cool. Everything just flowed smoothly.
The story took about sixteen to eighteen months to write. We thought it would be so simple to get the book out, but that wasn’t the case. You need to get the book edited and published. We decided to research our options. After reading books from the library and asking questions to organizations like SPAWN, Lisa and I decided to publish the book ourselves. We may need to get a publisher if we decide to do more books, but for now, we want to experience it ourselves.
We registered as a business last year. Learning about starting a small business was the most confusing part. We didn’t know what taxes we’d owe because technically the book wasn’t out at the time. One of the easiest things to do was choosing our artist. Since our book is a novel, we wanted an illustrator to do the cover art. We looked at a lot of artists online and had a few narrowed down. The one that we liked the most was Jill Bauman. We just dug her art work. We contacted her about doing the illustration and she decided to do it. She was very cool about it. ATG Productions designed the book. They were very professional and easy to work with. Malloy printed our story and Book Clearing House is our distributor. We had a lot of questions and many of the people we worked with helped make it a good experience. We are definitely pleased with the final product and everything turned out as we wanted it.
Lisa G. Murphy (Editing, Publishing)
My husband and I worked on The Nursing Home as a team; he wrote it and I read and edited it. We finished writing the book in about a year and a half. It wasn’t until then that we really thought about how it would be published; that is why it took even longer to get it out there.
One thing we did know is that we wanted 100% creative control. We wanted to fully edit our own work and make all decisions, from the book cover and interior design to how it would be promoted. We chose to self-publish before even attempting the traditional route. It did seem like a lot of work, but we wanted to do it our way. A lot goes into self-publishing; we had to handle everything from the writing and editing to the production and publication to promotion. SPAWN was the first organization we joined. With groups like SPAWN, it’s easy to ask for help. So many people volunteer to give advice and it helps hearing from people who have experience. We also have read books by SPAWN members, such as Patricia Fry and Mary Embree. We used resources and read books until we decided what would work best for our novel.
At first, everything was new to us and we didn’t know if we’d be able to understand what we were doing. We got ISBNs, a PCIP, and a PCN and wrote news releases and cover letters. We came up with a timeline. We had advance review copies printed and sent out to get reviews just prior to our publication date.
Using a distributor requires that we give up a lot of our list price, but it’s the only way we could get our book into bookstores. Not having to handle order fulfillment saves time, so we can focus on writing and promoting. Promotion is an on-going process whether you are the author or the publisher.
Jim’s favorite part is definitely the writing. He wrote the story, came up with characters and the plot and I helped him along the way. I helped keep the story close to the original writing and corrected the spelling and grammar, kept the tense consistent, and helped decide where chapters began and ended. We did many rounds of editing.
The least favorite part for both of us was learning the regulations of starting a small business. Through SCORE, we found some local representatives in the writing, but not the publishing field, and some questions we had were a little harder to find answers to.
We are aware there’s a lot of competition for first-time novelists. We try to reach out to the horror fans.
We already feel like we accomplished our goal. Hopefully we can continue to come out with more stories. Publishing our book was a learning experience, and now we have a better idea of what we want and what to look for when going to a publisher. Even though it was a lot of hard work and may not be for everyone, we are very proud of our accomplishments and glad we did it.
If you are interested in checking out The Nursing Home, please visit our Web site, www.LandJPublishing.com, where you can find links to order the book.
Writing Something Different
by Lin Holdeman
Writing crosswords is not something that many new writers aspire to. In fact, most writers have just one goal in mind—the glamour of writing a novel—and I felt the same. I’ve tried writing articles, letters to magazines, reviews of local amateur dramatic productions, short stories and poetry and editing an in-house staff magazine.
However, when I tried writing crosswords and other word and number puzzles, I didn’t expect to find the process so enjoyable and rewarding—nor did I expect to still be writing them many years later.
Around fifteen years ago I was contacted by Henderson Publishing, asking me to tell them why they should publish anything I wrote. I wrote back, enclosing a poem and telling them how their profits would soar if they published my work. Their response was to give me a commission to write a crossword section for a children’s filofax.
For a number of years I wrote various types of puzzles for a weekly charity children’s magazine aimed at seven- to ten-year-olds, and produced some puzzles for a charity fund-raising at work a few years ago.
For those who find the satisfaction of completing lots of pieces of work in a relatively short time attractive, word and number puzzles are the ideal choice. The tools are simple—a really good dictionary and thesaurus, squared paper and a pencil, and of course, patience! The grids, with symmetrical or free-flowing patterns, can be set up whilst you are travelling to work and then filled in as time allows. Before you know it you’ve written a book!
At worst, it’s a very enjoyable pastime. At best it’s a way of making money by entertaining and challenging others, which is what we all aspire to.
When the demands of my day job increased, I put my writing on hold, but like an addict, I couldn’t stay away for long, and now I want to concentrate on writing and publishing puzzles and turn my enjoyable hobby into a business.
Earlier this year I set up my company, Kerilin Ltd., and I recently produced the first book, Easy Peasy Miniature Crosswords. I watched with pleasure as my text and sketchy idea for a cover were transformed into a perfect miniature book, with the printer’s expert help.
The book, which is small enough to fit inside a Christmas cracker or a business card holder, has received some good feedback so far from a Christmas cracker manufacturer, who says the book is “excellent quality.”
Not being a natural sales person, I am learning from scratch how to market my book. I started by sending press releases to the local newspapers and the church magazine. The latter has already led to an introduction to a printer, who I hope will work with me on the next project. I also contacted party planners and cracker companies and am in the process of researching novelty outlets.
I’ve found reading the SPAWN newsletters of great help and I wait eagerly for each edition. It’s good to know there are hundreds of people like me who write for pleasure, each with their own skills and knowledge. The tips and links are great and I can dip into the e-zine at any time during the day.
The articles, written by writers and new publishers like myself, show the size and skill of the writing community, and I am hopeful that with the information gleaned from other SPAWN readers, I will have the skills and confidence needed to run a successful publishing house.
At the moment Kerilin Ltd. is still at the ‘little acorns’ stage, but as the company grows, I hope to take on other writers to work with me. The insight gained into the way printers work, from having published the first book, has been invaluable, and this should make future projects smoother and more cost-effective.
Easy Peasy Miniature Crosswords can be ordered directly from me at email@example.com
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