Sandra Murphy, Editor
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From the President
Welcome to all the new members and subscribers who have discovered SPAWN this month!
I can’t believe it’s already June! For me, May was a bit of a blur because of the third annual Self-Publishers Online Conference (SPOC). SPAWN was a sponsor again this year and the event was a major success. Speakers and attendees raved about the experience:
“I have so many ideas from what I learned that I’ll be busy for a long time. This is the best conference I’ve attended in a long time.”
“This is the #1 self-publishing conference of the year. I learned more in 3 days at this conference than I could in a year trying to figure it out for myself. ”
“I got more than my money’s worth on the first day alone. I will definitely be signing up for SPOC again next year.”
As you’ll read in Patricia Fry’s round-up, the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books was also a major success for SPAWN. Members sold a bunch of books and made some amazing connections.
If you missed out on these events this year, make sure to watch this newsletter. They’ll both be back next year better than ever!
June Teleseminar Announcement!
Teleseminar for SPAWN Members
Who: Maggie Jessup
When: June 14, 2011 1 pm (Pacific)
How: Members will receive an email with call-in details
Title: “”Fame 101 – Powerful Personal Branding”
This month’s theme is niche writing and marketing. Why should you?
- It’s easier to get noticed with an article about the benefits of local honey pitched to a regional magazine than to be stellar among thousands of submissions about alternative sweeteners in food pitched to Redbook.
- If you can write a specific and concise query, it’s the first clue an editor has that you can write a specific and concise article.
- With the advent of blogs, articles are getting shorter and shorter. What used to be 1,500 words has been cut back to 1,000, and 750 is the new 1,000. For publications that pay by the word, it can be a cost-cutting measure. It’s also a sign of the shortened attention span of the reader. A reduced word count also means you can write more articles in less time, once you get used to packing each word with the maximum punch. When writing with a reduced word count, each word must carry the reader forward. There’s still room to add aroma, sound, and texture, but each has to be the best word for the job.
- Niche writing is also a way to break into new markets. If you write the article on local honey, you’ll interview beekeepers. Now you can also write about:
- At what age can children safely eat honey?
- Can using local honey help prevent allergies?
- What flowers attract bees?
- Which flowers make the best flavored honey?
- And you may find out the quickest way to take the pain out of a bee sting.
All of these topics are query-ready for new markets.
Be sure to read Susan Daffron’s article below. She has two niche markets—pets and publishing. Don’t be surprised to find they work well together. Dan Poynter’s article shows how writing what you know can get you work. The Market Update (for members only) will tell you who is looking for writers, artists, and publishers. The book review will help build your online platform—getting known.
What tips do you have for getting more assignments, writing better queries, and finding new markets? We’d love to hear them. I’m always looking for short articles in the 500-word range for this newsletter, which goes out to 1,000 people. It’s like the old connect-the-dots coloring books—who knows where it will lead? If you have a topic you’d like to write about, e-mail me. It must be SPAWN-related (small publishing, artists, and writing), short and Times New Roman, 12 pt. font. See how easy that is? What are you waiting for?
This column is about 550 words, which I expect will be the new 750 soon. Write tight.
— Sandy, Editor, SPAWNews, firstname.lastname@example.org
P.S. Next month’s newsletter will focus on networking.
Recap of the LA Times Festival of Books
by Patricia Fry
You’ve all been reading the hype leading up to the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books (LATFB) in SPAWNews and at the SPAWN Web site for months. The event was held April 30 and May 1 at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. It’s over now. Only good memories and the sweet scent of success remain.
SPAWN reserved two booths in order to accommodate some of our members who wanted the opportunity to sell their books at an event that traditionally attracts around 140,000 visitors. While the competition was fierce—there were 200 more authors’ and publishers’ booths than last year—our persistent, diligent, and enthusiastic members sold about seventy-five books total. But the most exciting news relates to the results of the exposure members got at the book festival. One member donated books to a couple of librarians who visited our booth. A few weeks later, the author was contacted by one of the librarians, who enjoyed her novel so much that she invited her to participate in an upcoming event at the library. She is also recommending this book to patrons.
Another member, who sold twenty copies of her children’s book, has been contacted by the owner of a local restaurant chain about doing some special book signings on the premises.
One member reported that he met a man who is interested in turning his novel into a film script.
You cannot attend an event like this without experiencing some results from the exposure. SPAWN, for example, has at least three new members and several new subscribers who learned about us at the LATFB.
Eleven members sent us copies of their books to display in the booth. These books also attracted quite a bit of interest. We could have sold some of them several times over.
Approximately thirty members had their books or services listed in the SPAWN Catalog of Member’s Books and Services. We handed out over 450 copies of this beautifully done catalog. If you haven’t seen the catalog, be sure to check it out here: http://www.spawn.org/catalogofbooks.htm (The SPAWN catalog was designed by member Tamara Dever and her staff at TLC Graphics.)
The LATFB had been held at UCLA for fifteen years and the move to USC caused concern among many. SPAWN has been a part of this event for all but a couple of years and from our perspective, the transition was seamless.
Here at SPAWN, we are looking forward to next year at the LATFB. It’s always held on the last weekend in April, so mark it on your calendar, save up the booth fee and plan to give your book one of the best exposure opportunities available in 2012.
SPAWN Market Update
by Patricia Fry
This month’s SPAWN Market Update focuses on travel writing—for both the freelancer and the book author—and jobs within the publishing industry. We bring you over fifty opportunities, resources, and news items, plus two publishing directories featuring over 400 publishers of travel books. We offer seven book promotion ideas, over twenty opportunities for freelance writers, leads for scriptwriters, and a resource to help you keep track of your writing/publishing business—even the hours you spend writing or working with clients. As a special bonus, our former executive director, Virginia Lawrence, writes about how to legitimately increase your sales figures and your book’s popularity on Amazon through book reviews by top Amazon reviewers. If you have a book to promote, you do NOT want to miss this article.
If you are not reading the SPAWN Market Update every month, you could be missing out on hundreds of potential opportunities each year. Remember, you joined for the networking opportunity and the information and resources we bring you each month in SPAWNews, the SPAWN Market Update and the monthly teleseminars with publishing experts. Get more than your money’s worth by partaking of all that we offer. If you’re not a member, you’ve only scratched the surface of what SPAWN is all about. Join SPAWN today, get involved and watch your freelance writing or publishing business soar. www.spawn.org/join.htm
Niche Writing and Marketing
by Bonnie Myhrum
Do you know the meaning of this month’s theme? I mean down to the bare bones…what is the origin of the words niche and market? Is it possible that by knowing the origin of words you will be more able to define or focus on exactly what you want to accomplish? I’m just saying…
Niche (noun) – the origin of niche is French nicher: to nest.
- A recess in a wall, esp. for a statue
- A place, employment, status, or activity for which a person or thing is best fitted
- A habitat supplying the factors necessary for the existence of an organism or species
- The ecological role of an organism in a community
- A specialized market
Market (noun) – the origin of market is, among others, Latin mercatus: trade, marketplace
- A meeting of people for the purpose of trade by private purchase and sale
- The people assembled at such a meeting
- A public place where a market is held; a place where provisions are sold at wholesale
- A retail establishment
- The rate of price offered for a commodity
- A geographic area of demand for commodities or services
- A specified category of potential buyers
- An opportunity for selling
- The available supply of or potential demand for specified goods or services
- To expose for sale in a market
- To deal in a market
Ask the Book Doctor:
About Filling a Niche, Spacing after Periods, Minimalist Writing, and Maximum Manuscript Lengths
By Bobbie Christmas
Q: I’m writing my first cookbook. I would like to know if you have any ideas on how to beat the competition and get my book to sell.
A: The short e-mail that asked this question had several errors, so my number-one suggestion is to be certain the writing in the book is pristine. Before trying to sell the manuscript to a publisher or self-publishing it, be sure to hire a professional book editor to edit the manuscript.
My next suggestions are to ensure the book fills a niche, is unique, fits a market not being served, and/or solves a problem.
As for ideas on how to sell a book, the answers are far too complex to answer in an e-mail or a column, but several good books are available on how to sell or self-publish, market, and promote books.
Q: I am inclined to leave out information that I consider inconsequential. Tolkien did not give us a complete understanding of Middle Earth. Many things were just there. He said to the world, “Accept them. They live in my story.” If tidbits are not critical to the main theme, how do I know how much is not enough and at what point it goes over the top? I’m often accused of the former.
A: I have read terrific short stories that left many things up to the reader. Hemingway, who began as a journalist, successfully carried his minimalist style into novels. When done well, minimalist writing can be highly effective. When done poorly, readers get frustrated and want to quit reading.
Without seeing the actual work, I cannot evaluate how much is too little. I will say this, though: When one reader complains, it’s just one person’s opinion. When more than one person makes the same observation, no matter what it is, it may be time to listen.
Q: The prevailing opinion of writers in our group is that manuscripts should have only one space after a period. Today I read that ALL editors prefer (or demand) two spaces after a period, even if it is considered old hat. What is your opinion?
A: Whoever said absolutely all editors prefer two spaces was voicing an opinion, not stating a fact. Who could possibly presume to know what all editors want? As an editor, I support using only one space after a period, and not because it’s my opinion, but because it is standard in the industry. It avoids awkward spacing when the book is later designed with justified type.
Editors come in many forms. Acquisitions editors at publishing houses that use your electronic file will probably want only one space after a period. I work for several publishers, and the first task they all ask me to perform is to strip out extra spacing and leave only one space after each period. Self-publishers should always use only one space after a period. An independent manuscript editor who works on a printout may want a different style, but few independent manuscript editors work on printed copy anymore.
Regardless of individual editors’ preferences, though, the fact remains that using two spaces after a period was the standard in the past, in the day of typewriters, but computers changed things. Current standard manuscript format for book-length manuscripts calls for double-spaced twelve-point Courier or Times New Roman type, no extra space between paragraphs, and one space, not two, after periods.
Q: I’ve read that most publishers won’t publish a novel over 90,000 words from a first-time author. If I get some short stories published in magazines first, would a publisher be more willing to publish one of my novels, since my books will most likely end up as 600, 700, or 800 pages in length?
A: There is definitely a maximum word count that most publishers set. The figure I keep hearing is a maximum of 100,000 words for a novel from a first-time author, but let’s examine the logic of that maximum.
Publishers must consider all issues, because they want a good rate of return on their investment. Most readers prefer books of 100,000 words or fewer, so length could affect marketability. The lofty cost of producing a large book pushes the retail price higher than most buyers will pay, too, so marketability takes a double hit. In addition to marketing issues and high production costs, large books cost more to ship and can be more difficult to bind. I think you can see why most publishers prefer books that do not exceed 100,000 words.
An 800-page manuscript equates to about 200,000 words, which is double the usual maximum length. Whenever you are tempted to write a book that comes in at double the recommended length, consider breaking it into two books in a series, but be sure each book has a beginning, middle, and end.
Length issues aside for a moment, if you want to sell a novel to a publisher, it’s always good to sell a few short stories first. Those sales indicate that you are a good writer. Prior sales may also help you build a following, as J.K. Rowling did with her first, not-so-long book in the Harry Potter series. Once you have a following, publishers are more likely to accept your longer manuscripts.
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.
by Patricia Fry
The Author’s Guide to Building an Online Platform, Leverage the Internet to Sell More Books by Stephanie Chandler
Quill Driver Books, 2008
ISBN: 978-1884956-82-9 144 pages, perfect bound, $14.95 http://www.quilldriverbooks.com
Chandler announces loudly on the back cover of this book, “Even if you have the biggest publisher on the planet behind you, it is unlikely that they will run your entire marketing campaign for you. You will still be required to do the majority of the work.” She has produced this book to help you develop an online platform and marketing plan, and to make the most of them through strategic planning.
This author comes from a unique background—she is a former bookstore owner. She has been in a perfect position to observe authors and publishers as they have implemented their promotional plans. She knows what works and what doesn’t, and one thing she strongly advocates is using the Internet to establish and build on a platform to get necessary exposure.
She seems to cover it all—the author’s Web site, the virtual book tour, Internet radio, social networking, and how to make your Amazon experience more successful. I especially like her chapter on building your expert status. Her suggestions are valid—they work, yet so many authors shy away from getting that involved and entrenched in these activities in order to build greater credibility.
I enjoyed reading the Hot Tips that are sprinkled generously throughout the book, and many of the chapters end with an author interview, when Chandler asks the questions you would like to ask if you were facing these authors.
If you are an author just starting out, or if you would like to sell more books, let Chandler’s book help you to establish that much-needed platform and build your online presence. This is my recommended book for the month.
Beyond Trades and Newsstand Mags
by Linda Formichelli
You know what newsstand magazines are, and you know what trade magazines are. But what about custom publishers?
Custom publishers create magazines for corporate clients and organizations. For example, the magazine you get if you’re a Wells Fargo business customer is a custom publication. The free magazine you pick up at Shaw’s Super Market or Costco is a custom publication.
Many custom publishers exist, and some companies that produce consumer magazines, like Meredith (which publishes Fitness and Family Circle), also have a custom publishing division. Custom publishers often pay on par with newsstand magazines; for example, the custom pubs I write for pay $1.00 per word and up.
Writing for a custom publication is very similar to writing for a newsstand magazine; for example, you need to interview sources and write in a style that fits the magazine. However, you may be expected to mention the client’s products in your articles, interview the client’s customers as sources, or even let the client sources approve their quotes.
You can often break into a custom publication by sending a letter of introduction to the editor. Even better, if that editor likes you, s/he’s likely to recommend you to editors of other pubs the company produces. Making our writerly lives easier is the fact that the Custom Publishing Council (http://www.custompublishingcouncil.com) has a directory of custom publishers with links to their Web sites.
Linda Formichelli has been a full-time freelancer since 1997 and has written for more than 130 magazines and Web sites. In addition, she has co-authored eight books, blogged professionally, and has done copywriting for companies like Pizzeria Uno. Her Web site is www.therenegadewriter.com
Write What You Know—Experience + Research = Great Books
by Dan Poynter
You must have expertise or experience to be a credible nonfiction author. Expertise could mean you have an advanced degree in the field. Experience means you have lived it. You do not need a Ph.D. if you have personal understanding, dedication to do research, and a deep desire to spread the word. The most important question is, “Have you been there?” Experience counts.
“You must have experience to write a good nonfiction book, so please do not write a book on how to get rich unless you are already rich.” – Patricia Clay, actor.
His engineering firm told Bob Bly he needed to relocate from New York City to the headquarters in Wichita, Kansas. His fiancée did not want to leave Manhattan, so he resigned and started a new career as a self-employed industrial writer. He produced brochures and data sheets for chemical companies and industrial equipment manufacturers.
This transition from employee to freelancer was an educational experience—one he knew many others would go through (or hope to some day). This experience became the topic of his book, Out on Your Own; From Corporate to Self-Employment, published by John Wiley & Sons.
A fresh outlook can be an asset. When you are beginning in a new field, you are sure to have the same questions your readers will have. Collect information as you learn, record as you study, and blossom as you grow.
Then run your manuscript by other experts on your subject matter to make sure you have not left out anything or written something you misunderstood. That is your third draft, called a peer review.
For more help, explanation, and direction, see Writing Nonfiction: Turning Thoughts into Books.
Write from experience plus research.
Dan Poynter, the Voice of Self-Publishing, has written more than 100 books since 1969, including Writing Nonfiction and The Self-Publishing Manual. Dan is a past vice-president of the Publishers Marketing Association. For more help on book publishing and promoting, see www.ParaPublishing.com
You Don’t Have to Settle for Just One Niche
by Susan Daffron, SPAWN President
If you have spent any time on the SPAWN Web site, you may have read my article, “Why Freelance Writers Must Niche Themselves.” In it, I point out that it’s a whole lot easier to market yourself if you pick a niche and stick to it.
If you then read my article in SPAWNews last month, I mentioned that I’m interested in a wide range of topics and had trouble settling on just one niche because I get bored easily.
What’s a creative person to do?
The beauty of the Internet is that you can create multiple Web sites to showcase your multiple niches. Now, you don’t have to limit yourself to just one niche if you have a wide range of interests. My niches are pets and publishing.
Years ago, when I was doing a lot of tech writing, I thought I’d lose my mind if I had to write “Choose File|Open” one more time. Because I was also volunteering at an animal shelter, I was talking to a lot of pet owners. So I started writing pet articles, which you can find on my site Pet Tails. Although it’s been online for 11 years or so, the site still gets thousands of visitors every month.
In a very roundabout way, years later, Pet Tails also contributed to my National Association of Pet Rescue Professionals site where I now blog regularly about rescue and humane topics. I am asked to speak on these topics at conferences and Webinars.
Meanwhile, I also run a book publishing company. I write about book writing, publishing, and marketing on The Book Consultant, offer author and publisher training, and put on the Self-Publishers Online Conference.
You might think that my two niches — books and pets– have absolutely nothing to do with each other. But that’s not the case.
Pet rescue groups have to market their organizations, just like authors and book publishers do. Many of them are just now getting online and trying to figure out how to position their particular non-profit organization in the marketplace. They are trying to get noticed and get publicity just like we book authors. Although the end goals may be different (adopt more animals vs. sell more books), the tactics are often quite similar. I have reslanted articles and ideas that I orginally wrote about book publishing to the rescue world and vice versa.
I even included dog-training information in a guest post I wrote for Copyblogger:
(Showing that you never know where your knowledge might come in handy!)
So if you’ve felt like there’s something “wrong” with you because all the advice on selecting a niche feels too limiting, don’t stick to just one niche. I’m proof that you don’t have to pick just one. Write about things you know and love, and you might discover there’s more cross-over than you expect!
Susan Daffron, aka The Book Consultant is the President of SPAWN and the designer and Webmaster of the SPAWN.org Web site. She owns a book and software publishing company called Logical Expressions, Inc. that is based in Sandpoint, Idaho. She spends most of her time writing, laying out books in InDesign, or taking her dogs out for romps in the forest. Susan also teaches people how to write and publish profitable client-attracting books and puts on the Self-Publishers Online conference in May.
Proving the point of her article, SPAWN President Susan Daffron will be participating in a panel discussion called “Publishing Options in Today’s Digital Environment” at the BlogPaws pet bloggers conference August 25-27 in Tysons Corner, Virginia.
Patricia Fry will sit on a self-publishing panel at the Ojai Writers Conference at the Ojai Art Center in Ojai, California, on June 4 from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. http://www.ojaiwritersconference.com See her Calendar of Events at http://www.matilijapress.com/activities.htm
From Joel Friedlander: Two of the books I designed last year are finalists in the IPBA’s Benjamin Franklin Book Awards, which will be presented just before BEA in New York City. Although I can’t be there for the ceremony, I’m sending congratulations and good luck to both authors: Tom Millea, (Tom Millea, publisher), for The Book of Palms, in the Art category and Suzanne Saxe-Roux, Ed.D. and Jean P. Roux, Ph.D., San Rémy Press, for Courage and Croissants, in the Self-Help category.
From Dallas Woodburn: I just found out last night that my short story “Woman, Running Late, in a Dress” won first place out of 600+ entries in the Ninth Glass Woman Prize! The story is published here: http://www.fictionaut.com/stories/dallas-woodburn/woman-running-late-in-a-dress
Bill Benitez is in the midst of publishing a mystery book. Look for more details in coming newsletters. A. William Benitez, Positive Imaging, LLC http://positive-imaging.com/
Member Barbara Florio Graham is both the managing editor and a contributor to Prose to Go: Tales from a Private List, a collection of thirty-four first-person stories from eighteen professional writers in fourteen locations across Canada. Bobbi’s Web site has links to the front and back covers, the Table of Contents, Contributor Bios, reviews, and the Foreword, which explains the Private List. All are linked from her home page at www.SimonTeakettle.com.
Note: To have your announcements included in Member News, you must be a paid member of SPAWN. Please email your news to email@example.com
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