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How to Create a Buzz About Your New eBook

How to Create a Buzz About Your New eBook

If there is anything I have learned in my many years of professional writing, it’s that a writer must also take the time to work as a marketer – even if he/she has hired a PR firm to handle book promotion. It doesn’t matter if your book has been out for ten years or won’t be out for another ten months, devoting even a few minutes to tell somebody about your work can do wonders for your career. With eBook publishing coming into its own – as evidenced by the boost in digital reader sales this past year – it’s important to get the buzz going about your digital titles so you can enjoy healthy sales.

Having spent about seven years in eBook publishing as a writer, editor, and publisher, I’ve asked numerous authors about their respective book promotion tactics. Their answers pretty much covered the spectrum: some would go all out in their campaigns with everything from trade ads to PPC, while others hardly did a thing and enjoyed decent sales. Still others invested a large amount of money to see little return, which proved frustrating for them. Over the years, I have learned luck plays a large role in the success of your book in addition to the quality of writing, the cover, and distribution. It only takes one reader to light that fire and spread the word of mouth campaign for you. Your job is to find that reader to make it happen.

Needle in a haystack, yes. You could start by asking friends and relatives to buy the book, and hope they pass along the information to friends. However, as an author your reach must expand beyond the familiar to touch those who actively seek new titles in your chosen genre. If your book is available for the Kindle, Nook, and other popular eBook readers you need to take advantage of the resources available to you. Here are just a few suggestions:

1) Start a blog. Well before your book has a publication date, you should have plans in place to promote it. This means working to establish a readership that becomes accustomed to your style. Not only should you have your website up and running before your book launch, but your blog posts should be active and engaging. Not every post needs to be about your book, either. Be yourself – talk about things that interest you and things that inspired characters or scenes in your story. Make sure the blog is readable on mobile devices and feed it into your social profiles. Speaking of…

2) Maintain an active social media presence. Get your Twitter handle and Facebook page set up. Connect the two, along with any other profiles you have (Tumblr, Youtube, etc.). You may have an aversion to such things, thinking that social media can take up too much of your time, but even a few minutes of updating your information and responding to people can make a difference in your sales. Also, you can integrate much of your social media so you don’t have to visit every single account to get the job done.

3) Guest blogs and blog tours. Book bloggers are quite important in marketing titles. Not only do bloggers review books and preview coming releases, but many are willing to host authors who volunteer to blog about their work or related topics. Look for bloggers with impressive followings who have the space to offer, and work out a strategy for a blog tour. Write an engaging piece and even offer a giveaway to a random reader who comments on the blog.

4) Hang out where the readers are. Involvement in sites like Goodreads, AReCafe, Library Thing and others that are geared toward books and readers are where you need to focus some part of your online marketing. Book social networks connect readers to authors, and many of these sites are willing to help authors promote their books. See what advertising and promotion opportunities await you.

Remember, every little bit you put on the Internet can become a search event in your favor. Start the buzz now and listen for the response.

Kathryn Lively is a mystery author and freelance writer specializing in articles on freelance editing services and self-publishing services.

What Publishers Look For in a Query Letter

What Publishers Look For in a Query Letter

Having worked for several years as an acquisitions editor for a small press, I believe I have seen a few thousand, if not more, queries come into my e-mail inbox. That said, I am sure I have seen many examples of how not to write a query, as well as the rare few that inspired me to open the accompanying manuscript. If you are serious about submitting a book to a publisher or agent, and having said industry expert offer you a contract, you need the right hook that gets your book read and evaluated. It is not uncommon for editors and agents to pass on a project based upon a poorly structured query.

This doesn’t mean, of course, that your query letter must be the e-mail equivalent of a knock-down, glittering Broadway finale complete with jazz hands and confetti. The query letter is the very first glimpse an editor or agent will see of you, so it’s important to deliver one that is professional, simple to understand, and to the point. As you invest time in contacting multiple editors you may eventually catch on to certain quirks and red flags that help you determine what certain people like and dislike. I follow a number of agents on Twitter and pay attention when one vents his/her irritations regarding rhetorical questions in a query, among other peeves. This is a good way to tailor a letter to a specific person.

If you aren’t sure how your target will react, though, you should at least hone your “elevator pitch” as compelling reading. Imagine you’re in an elevator with the agent or publisher of your dreams. You have those precious seconds to convince that person to read and love your book. What do you say? This will serve as the heart of your letter.

What do publishers, editors, and agents look for in a solid query?

1) Your correct contact information. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received queries missing this pertinent info. If you attach a document to an e-mail, or if you compose in the body, you must include your legal name, your pen name where applicable, a phone number, and mailing address. Even in the Internet age, some in the industry still contact authors via the phone. It’s always safe to offer somebody more than one option for communication.

2) Information about your book. This will include the title, the word count, and the genre. As a personal preference I believe it’s important to present this data up front, because it allows the publisher/editor/agent to determine initially if the work does not fit the house’s guidelines. The time an acquiring editor invests in reading queries is precious, and if one has hundreds to read weekly he/she wants to sort through them as quickly as possible. Don’t waste somebody’s time with a pages-long query that ends with little to no information on word count and genre, especially if you query houses where those genres and lengths aren’t represented.

3) A synopsis of your book that is brief and best captures the story. You don’t have to recap play-by-play action or delve into the psyche of your characters, just the facts here. Introduce the conflict and briefly explain what happens to bring the story to conclusion. Remember the elevator pitch.

As a personal aside, you may wish to avoid cliches and guarantees. Claiming that your book is the next “Twilight” or that Oprah will want to add it to her book club isn’t likely to win you a request for a full manuscript. Sell the book on its own merits rather than compare it to something else. Show the publisher/editor/agent you are beyond compare.

4) A short biography. Focus on your writing history, particularly past credits and experiences. If you frequent writing conferences or are a member of an organization like RWA or SFWA, you may wish to note that as well. Show that you are active in the writing community and willing to sell yourself as a published author.

Before you do send off a query, have a fellow writer proof it for you. The last thing you want to send to somebody who may publish your book is a letter full of typos and grammatical errors. Good luck!

Kathryn Lively is a mystery author and freelance editor specializing in articles on self-publishing services and freelance editing services. She also specializes in social media writing for businesses.

Breaking Down Publisher Guidelines – What a Writer Needs to Know

Breaking Down Publisher Guidelines – What a Writer Needs to Know

As November is designated as National Novel Writing Month, I thought this would be a good time to go over with aspiring authors some things to look for when researching publishers. Popular opinion will vary on whether or not one should submit a “NaNo” novel to a publisher – critics tend to suggest that writers who participate in NaNoWriMo will write the book in November and start the agent/publisher search the very next month. I say, if you believe in your book it is worth testing the water to find another person who believes in the story. Definitely put the book through a rigorous editing process first, then make sure you query suitable publishers.

Reading Publisher Guidelines

It is important to note that the submissions page on a publisher’s website is not the “suggestions” page. What you see on such a webpage needs to be followed to the letter if you expect an editor to take you seriously. I have worked as an acquisitions editor, and I do admit many books I have turned away on behalf of publishers simply did not meet the guidelines. The author may have presented strong writing and characters, but a romance novel sent to a house that only publishes science fiction and horror will likely not receive a contract…unless there are sci-fi or horror elements throughout the story.

If you are serious about finding a publisher for your book, regardless of how long you took to write it, pay attention to what the publishers want. Also, here are a few terms you might find in guidelines that you should know:

First Rights – When you complete a story or novel, you own all the rights associated with your work. The business of a publisher involves acquiring these rights for their imprints. When you offer the first rights to a publisher, you verify that your work has not been published anywhere else.

If you self-publish the work through Amazon KDP or Smashwords, or post the work on a publicly accessible website, you have exploited those first rights. A publisher may not be interested in such a work, since the book is available and may have lost sale value. There are instances, however, where a book’s author enjoyed success through self-publishing that a publisher optioned reprint rights, but that is not a common occurrence.

Simultaneous Submissions – When you simultaneously submit a manuscript, you send it to more than one publisher in hopes somebody will bite. It is not uncommon for an author to query multiple publishers at once in hopes of generating interest, though not all publishers accept such submissions. When an editor invests time in reading and evaluating your book, and likes the work, he/she wants to know that the work is available. Some editors will also ask for an exclusive submission which guarantees they are the only ones reading the work.

As you research publishers, learn their stances on simultaneous submissions. If you risk sending to multiple houses against their rules, you could be caught between two potential contracts, and breaking one house’s rules could work against you in the long run.

Subsidiary Rights – You may not find this information on a publisher’s website, but if you research writing and publishing forums you may find information on what rights a publisher wants and for how long. Subsidiary rights refers to the different ways your work may be presented. This includes television and film adaptations, foreign language editions, audio book editions, and more recently eBook rights. Typically a publisher will contract your print and digital rights – anywhere for three to five years, or longer – and either assist in selling the rest or allow you to retain them. Depending on the house you work with, they may have subsidiary branches in place to assist you.

When you are ready to send your novel out to an agent or publisher, be aware of each house’s guidelines. Study what the publishers want and don’t want, and take the time to read what they offer readers. The best way to determine if your writing is a good fit is to know the books they sell.

Kathryn Lively