Brad A. LaMar is author of the upcoming young adult fantasy series, Celtic Mythos. Book one in the series, The Obsidian Dagger, will be released on February 20. Book two, The Megalith Union is anticipated for Fall 2013.
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It was February of 2012 when I was first contacted by Light Messages about my manuscript, and I have to be honest, I had already been down this road a lot of times where an agent or publisher would give my stuff a once over and then decide to pass. This time felt a little different. The email had the hint of excitement in it and I became cautiously optimistic. I submitted the manuscript and Elizabeth, the Senior Editor, got back to me a week later with the news that I had been waiting a long time to hear: "We want to publish your book."
Excuse me? Really? Are you playing with my emotions? I'm sure you can understand my excitement and nonbelief that something like this could happen to me. This was a dream come true! I signed my contract, and my journey as a published author began.
Since signing on the dotted line I have been enjoying the entire experience that goes into taking a book from a manuscript on my computer to a bound novel on the bookstore shelves, but it has come with some hard work on both my part and on the part of the publisher. I have been a science teacher for 14 years, so I equate the work that goes into the publication of a book to that of the process a teacher uses to plan and carry out lessons. There is so much work that goes into planning lessons, assembling labs, grading papers, and so on that all happens away from the kids and thus the students only got to see the "show" and never the production. I used to walk into a library or bookstore and check the book covers out and read the summary without ever thinking of the production that was behind it. I only saw the "show." I now know that the production aspect is long, arduous, stressful, and incredible all at the same time.
I can't go in to all of it in any real detail simply because it's a year-long process in my case and I don't want to bore you, so I thought I would discuss a few different components here to give you a glimpse behind the book publishing curtain.
I cannot stress enough how important the relationship I have with my editor, Elizabeth, is to me. She has been and will continue to be my guide and my partner on this venture. We are in constant contact through email, social media, and even good old-fashioned phone conversations. My editor has taken the time to explain the process and the steps it takes to publish a book, market a book, build an audience, and everything in between. We worked together to polish the manuscript and get it prepped for printing. She made suggestions about social media, book events, and making connections with interested people. She has taught me so much about the whole thing and I am grateful.
Polishing the Novel
After I write a novel I always go back and reread it. I add details or pieces to it or take some away. I'll go back and change things all in the hopes of making my message more clear, entertaining, touching, and audience ready. After I sent it to my editor, she went through it, too, and then sent me a list of questions and suggestions. It was refreshing to have a fresh set of eyes looking at my work and giving me an unbiased opinion. So, I went back and made some more changes and worked on what Elizabeth had suggested and I feel like the book was improved. I sent it back to her and she sent it on to an editor who then went in and also made corrections and subtle changes that don't affect the story but the aesthetics for the reader. The words of my novel were finally ready.
Art, Sundries, and Summaries
My editor and I had hours of conversation both on the phone and over email about the art that the publisher wanted to put in the book. She felt that this book was perfect for a picture at the beginning of each chapter, and I was thrilled to hear that. So, we went chapter by chapter and discussed scenes that were important but that also didn't give away plot points and ruin it for the reader. She would send our ideas to the artist, a very talented man from Russia named Igor Adasikov, and he would sketch something out and send it back to her. She would share it with me and we would discuss. Sometimes the art was dead on, and other times it needed tweaking. This process continued all spring and right up through the summer until Igor had created some fantastic art! We went through a couple versions of the cover as well, but when we saw the final draft, we were blown away.
The art was just one aspect to think about, but there were others that I needed to complete. The first item was a one to two paragraph blurb for the back cover. Wow, it is difficult to knock your novel down to a couple of paragraphs! You want to make it interesting and tell a little about what's going on, but don't give away too much or not enough. The other sundries were easier. I wrote a dedication, a short biography, and an acknowledgment. The book was nearly ready.
ARC stands for Advance Review Copies. Light Messages sent me ten of them and sent others out for review. I gave one to each of my kids, one to my mom, and the rest were for contest winners and reviewers. This part is a little scary for a writer. Your hard work is being sent out into the world, albeit on a limited basis, for people to judge it. Be still my heart! The good part about it is that a reviewer may give it a good review and say something nice about the novel that can be used on the cover or online in an attempt to help create sales. Tons of these ARCs can be sent out, but you might not get very many people to read it. Bloggers and reviewers for magazines and companies are overloaded sometimes, but you take your chances in the hopes of finding that gold nugget of a good comment.
Elizabeth was instrumental in me making my Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest accounts, and I'm glad she did. What a great way to spread the word about my book! As a teacher I come into contact with a lot of people, but without the gargantuan world of social media many of them might not have ever heard that I was even published. It is also a great opportunity to interact with both prospective readers and other authors. The world has been opened up quite a bit and has created some really unique experiences for people.
I had no idea that there were so many events that an author could be a part of. Early on I got to speak at a literacy night at a local elementary school, and it was a great feeling to get to talk to parents and students about my book, writing, and following your dreams through hard work. I hope to have a positive impact when I'm out there at events like that. There are book events, conventions, and fairs that authors can be apart of, too. I'm already lined up to go to a few in this calendar year, but who knows how many others I might end up getting to go to as well. The big event for me is the book launch party. A whole party that celebrates the release of my creation for the world to see! It's humbling and so darn exciting!
Hard Work, Big Reward
Some might think that I'm talking about the book sales, a movie deal, or multiple books in a series, but really I'm just talking about a journey that took an idea that I developed all the way to the bookstores. The reward is seeing it all the way through the publication process. Of course, I hope it is successful and readers really enjoy it and want to read more of my stories, but let me tell you, the process of publishing was a big adventure in its own right, and I wouldn't have exchanged the experience for anything.
Brad A. LaMar is author of the upcoming young adult fantasy series, Celtic Mythos. Book one in the series, The Obsidian Dagger, will be released on February 20. Book two, The Megalith Union is anticipated for Fall 2013.
Writing a book takes more than just a good idea. It takes careful research and planning.
Let's assume that you already have a great idea about a few interesting and fabulous characters who are going on the most amazing journey that anyone ever could and you know for certain that this book will probably be made into a movie that is equally good and both book and film will become instant classics and make you J.K. Rowling rich. Well, you might want to pat yourself on the back for an idea well thought of, but let's slow down for a second. The real work hasn't even come close to starting.
Doing your due diligence is not only a smart thing to do but it may save you time and effort in the long haul. What are you looking for in all this research? Well, for starters you can find out if your idea is a unique concept or in an over saturated market? Here I'm thinking of vampires. When I was looking for agents and publishers to submit my work to I noticed a bunch of them were stating bluntly on their websites that they did not want any vampire submissions. (I have not written anything about vampires yet...maybe once the market on them cools.) This is for good reason since everybody had a vampire book to sell all over the same few years of time. Now that's not to say that your vampire story isn't amazing or wouldn't go gangbusters on the best sellers list, but it's a good idea to get an idea of the competition and interest in the topic or genre. Secondly, you will want to decide which audience your idea is best suited for, so going to the library or bookstore, or doing a search online can help you to decide your best fit audience. There are several genres out there that have some real interesting possibilities, so getting familiar with them before you write may help you decide on a tone for your story.
Frame the Idea
You may recall learning about stories back in school and your teachers helped you to identify certain aspects of the story. That was for good reason. Things like setting (both time and place), characters, conflict, main idea, and whole bunch of other things that you may have forgotten about, help to build a world for your characters to live in. Humans have a need to classify and compartmentalize information and if the information we are receiving is choppy or dramatically underdeveloped then we tend to look at it as messy and hard to read, or for that matter, hard to like. You can help yourself and your readers out by thinking these things through ahead of time. Who are my characters? Why are they involved? What is driving the story or creating the conflict? When and where does this story take place? Answering these simple questions will of course lead to more questions, but that's perfectly fine since that's how you develop and nurture the story and your characters.
Outline and Time Line
Were you one of those people who didn't bother doing the outline prior to writing the paper or essay? I hope that turned out well for you, but if you are planning on writing a novel, then you need to realize that we're no longer talking about a 500 to 1,000 word essay. It's much easier to keep that little bit of information straight in your expansive mind, but when your story could end up being 50,000 words plus, with well developed characters and a rich and deep plot in a well woven setting, then it's a whole different game. Plan out some of the major plot points by putting them into an outline (which can include a division into chapters) or even start by putting it into a time line. Putting the action in chronological order can keep your events straight even as the story grows more and more complex.
Here are the people, aliens, animals, robots or whoever they are that are driving your story and hopefully drawing in your audience, so you are going to want to get to know them pretty well. What are their interests, their hopes, or their dreams? Who do they want to be? What motivates them to be involved in the events of your story? You owe it to these characters to know them intimately. After all you are giving others a peek inside their lives so you better get it right.
I hope these few tips help you to get a good start on your fantastic story and make the process a little easier. Getting bogged down while writing is a bummer, but with a little planning and preparation you can take your story all the way to a happy ending...or at least an ending that you're happy about.
Are you sitting down? I have some news for you: Not everyone is going to like your book. When they don't, you have two choices: 1) Move on or 2) Move into a cabin in the woods.
Nobody likes a bad review. Not you. Not your publisher. Not even the reviewer who most likely feels she wasted her time. But bad reviews do happen.
So what's the best way to handle the inevitable bad review? Do nothing. Seriously. PR experts across the industry agree that the best thing to do is absolutely nothing. Move on and keep working.
If you can't do nothing, then your other option is to take a deep breath, step back, and glean what constructive bits you can from the criticism. Learn from the reviewer and consider if there's anything you can apply to improve your work.
What you absolutely must not do––not ever, ever, ever––is lash out at the reviewer. Yes, he may be a an ignorant son of a you-know-what. And yes, she may be a witch with a capital B. But you don't get to tell the reviewer that. It is quite possible he's illiterate or she has no literary taste whatsoever. Keep it to yourself.
Answering defensively (or especially offensively) to a bad review will simply add fuel to the proverbial fire. It will make you look petty, insecure, angry, and will justify all the ugly bits the reviewer said. The best way to get a bad review to go away is simply to ignore it.
If you feel you absolutely must correct a factual error in the review, then do so with the utmost tact and care. Thank the reviewer for taking the time to read your work. Point out something you appreciate from the review. Correct the error. And thank the reviewer again for the honest commentary. Do this only to correct factual errors, not to justify why you did something the reviewer didn't like.
Remember, while it's quite possible that everyone should love your book, it's also certain that not everyone will. So when the bad review comes in, remember to open a bottle of wine, call a few friends to shower you with love, and do nothing.
As the Senior Editor for a small publishing company, I see a lot of potential books pass through my hands. To be honest, most of the manuscript submissions Light Messages receives have great potential. The themes are creative and timely, the information is engaging, and the characters are colorful. But more often than not, the books are simply not ready yet.
The single biggest mistake I see new authors make is to publish a book too soon. And I understand how it happens: You write the final line, share the manuscript with a few close friends and family, receive adoring reviews, and then proceed to submit the manuscript for publishing because you think there's nothing more to be done. Then, you wait. And wait. And wait some more. But the call never comes.
Undeterred, you decide that if editors can't recognize the next bestseller you just submitted, then it's up to you to proceed. So you self publish immediately. Your book doesn't sell more than a handful of copies and you can't understand what went wrong.
You published too soon. And, most likely, you submitted your book for publication too soon.
Though my official title says "Senior Editor," I view myself more as a "midwife for books." I help stories be born, working with authors to coax the best book possible out of the lovely, but incomplete, manuscripts they've submitted. Together, the author and I are able to come up with a far stronger book than either of us could have realized on our own. But it takes a lot of editing. And then a little more editing. And then, when we've finally sent out the ARCs (Advanced Review Copies), one more round of tweaking before the books hit the shelves. It's months of effort. But at the end of the day, we have a beautiful book that's been born for the public to adore.
I am surprised at how many of the manuscripts we receive have been previously self published. While we do publish books that were once self published, it makes my job so much harder and messier. Now, not only is the book competing against other books in its genre, it's also competing against itself. We have to not only fix the errors in the manuscript and make the necessary (sometimes drastic) edits, but we also have to re-educate readers and convince them that this time the author really did get it right. It's not impossible, but it is harder.
So, if you're working on a manuscript and have submitted it for publication but haven't heard anything back, don't despair. And, above all, DON'T PUBLISH THAT BOOK. Edit, re-edit, and edit some more. Get professional help. Work out the kinks and coax the best possible writing from yourself.
It takes time to bring people to life––whether from the womb or from an author's imagination.
If you'd like a midwife for your book, I'd love to read your proposal. Click here to submit your manuscript.
Pinterest is the fastest growing standalone website ever. And while recipes, dream travel destinations, style tips, and adorable photos of cats seem to dominate the site's content, there is plenty of room for authors. If you are a published author or want to become one, you should be on Pinterest.
While Pinterest is a visual way to share online content, there are a surprisingly large number of readers and booklovers on the site. While images drive the pins, Pinterest is about so much more than pictures––it's about sharing your favorite things, finding inspiration, and building knowledge.
As an author, there are countless ways you can use Pinterest to promote your work, and we'll discuss a few options here. But Pinterest can also serve to help your creative process. You can glean inspiration for your writing while you're marketing yourself. Now if that's not win-win, I don't know what is.
Pinterest posts are called "pins" and they're organized around "boards." Essentially, this is just a virtual way of organizing information much like how you could use bulletin boards and magazine clippings in "real life." Effective boards on Pinterest have concise, catchy themes to organize the information.
It's important to give your boards fun descriptive names and to make sure they're categorized properly because Pinners follow boards. And you want followers.
Here are a few ideas of the types of boards you could create as an author:
Do you write women's fiction? Suspense? Romance? Fantasy? Cookbooks? Financial planning books? Create a board that celebrates your favorites from the genre you write. For example, "Tips to Make you Financially Savvy" or "Best Romance Covers Ever" or "Nail Biting Suspense" are some genre-based boards that would attract potential readers.
Theme boards are similar to genre boards, but they're a little broader. For example, if you write cookbooks with healthy recipes, you could create a theme board around sharing healthy recipes. You'd include some of your own recipes as well as new ones you come across in your research. Or, if you write mystery novels, you could create a "whodunnit" board and pin about the things every good sleuth needs to find the culprit.
Travel photos are huge on Pinterest and you can build on the exisiting base. For example, create a board about the places in your book. Does your book take place in Ireland (like the upcoming novel, The Obsidian Dagger by Brad A. LaMar), then create a board all about places in Ireland.
Another idea is to create a board about the dream places you'd like to visit on your book tour. Or even the places you like to write or read.
Favorite Authors board
Create a board dedicated to your favorite authors. Or books you've read and loved. This will let readers see into what influences you as an author. Social media is all about creating connections online with people. You want to connect with readers, so let them see who you are and who you read.
"My Books" board
Not everyone on Pinterest will automatically know you're an author. In fact, the vast majority won't. So make sure you put in your bio that you are an author and list the titles of you books. But also create a "My Books" board. It's ok if there's only 1 book listed at first. Everybody starts with 1 book. Build from there. This won't generate huge numbers of repins, but it will inform your readers about your work, which is essential.
Now that you've created your boards, how do you find content?
The most common way content is shared on Pinterest is through "repins." And it's ok to repin material on your board. In fact, that's sort of the whole idea––sharing content with your followers. But you also want to generate new content. Bring something original to the conversation.
Repins are good, but new content is better. When writing on your blog, make sure you always include a nice photo with each post. Remember, Pinterest is image driven. So you want to use catchy images to link to your content. Be a resource for your readers. Go to your favorite sites online, gather information, and pin it. (Pinterest has a handy button that lets you do this with a single click from just about any website.)
You've created your boards and filled them with super useful information and superfluous cat photos. The next step is to spread the word.
Use your exisiting social networks through Facebook, Twitter, and your blog or website to share your pins. Again, Pinterest makes this super easy through a handy sidebar that pops up with every pin.
On your author site or blog, make sure you include a "Follow Me On Pinterest" button. Tell people to follow you, and they will.
For more information on using Pinterest as an author, check out these resources:
Virtual Book Tours, also known as blog tours, are an excellent way for authors to promote themselves and their books.
- – Blog tours seem to use all the advantages of social media, plus the "tour stops" are recorded on the blogs and last far beyond the event date, so there's some real staying power involved.
- – Good tour hosts are kind to the authors and their books, but they are also honest, so readers know they can trust the blog host. That lends credibility to the tour stop and the reviews.
- – The biggest quandary for the modern author is deciding which is the biggest perk: how budget-friendly viritual book tours are or the fact that you can do them in your bathrobe and slippers.
In this month's industry interview, we spoke with Trish and Linda from TLC Book Tours. Here, Trish and Linda share all you need to know about the inside workings of a blog tour.
You bill yourself as a blog tour agent. What exactly is a blog tour agent?
A blog tour agent arranges the blog tour – from scoping out the blogs to making sure bloggers post on their scheduled date to fielding questions from the author.
It seems everyone is doing a "virtual book tour" or "blog tour" these days. What happens on these tours?
It is similar to a “real life” book tour in that the author is getting out there and marketing their book to potential readers/buyers, but in a 21st century way, on the internet rather than in book stores.
The author virtually ‘visits’ blogs rather than book stores. Each blog has its own unique audience of readers. This audience won’t be sitting in chairs, listening to you read an excerpt of your new book at their local bookstore. Instead they’ll be reading reviews of your book and learning more about you on their laptops/desktops/tablets/phones, etc., wherever they happen to be, all over the country.
What are some of the advantages, especially for new authors, of a virtual tour?
They can reach a wide audience without going out on an expensive book tour. The virtual book tour helps jump start the word of mouth recommendations that are so critical to book sales. Readers of blogs trust that blogger’s recommendation, and even if a blogger didn’t like the book, readers know the blogger well enough to decide whether the book might be a good match for them.
How can authors get noticed by bloggers and score an invitation to their blog?
Bloggers rarely invite an author on to their blog, but the best way to get noticed by a blogger is to become active on their blog – comment on their posts, engage with them in a way that a regular reader would. Do it without expecting that you’ll get anything in return.
Along the same lines, what's the best way to approach a book blogger? Give us a few do's and don'ts.
Be personable. Take a look around their blog and get a feel for who this blogger is. Be genuinely interested in the blogger as a person. Don’t send them a form email and don’t ask them to review your book via Twitter. Realize that cultivating relationships takes time and no one like to have a product continuously pushed at them.
What would you say are the 3 most important elements for a successful blog tour?
An engaged author, an engaged author, and an engaged author.
One of the disadvantages of a virtual tour is that authors don't get to actually interact in real life with their readers. What are some ways to bridge the gap between real life and virtual life while on tour?
We encourage authors to engage with the readers of the blog in the comments. You can address everyone personally by using their name, making things very personal. I’ve seen bloggers comment on Twitter when an author is engaged in a positive way in the comments, and not only does it make an impression on the blogger, it makes an impression on everyone the blogger tells about how the author is engaging their readers.
What are some of rules and expectations for author etiquette on a virtual tour?
The only expectation that we have is that an author won’t berate, name call, or harass one of the tour hosts. It’s inevitable that someone isn’t going to like the book, and nothing good ever comes from being defensive.
How can authors maintain a good relationship with bloggers after the tour?
Continue to visit their blog and interact. It means a lot to bloggers to have authors find them interesting and relevant.
Let's get down to some pragmatics. What is the typical cost of a blog tour?
The cost of a blog tour can run the gamut, but our prices are mid-range at $549 for a 10-blog tour and $699 for a 15-blog tour. The cost of a blog tour can run the gamut, but our prices are mid-range at $549 for a 10-blog tour and $699 for a 15-blog tour.
Does this translate at all into additional sales?
We know tours translate into sales because bloggers frequently tell us when a reader buys a book based on their recommendation. However, we're unable to quantify specific sales numbers for individual authors as we don't have access to that information.
And about how much time do authors typically have it invest in each tour stop?
There is no set amount of time that authors should invest per tour stop. Some bloggers will request special content (guest posts/Q&A's) which an author would need to spend time on in advance of the tour- and I can't say how long it might take an author to write a guest post or answer a Q&A as that would depend on the author. As the tour is happening, we recommend following along, dropping by the blog stops, thanking each blogger for the review in the comment section of the blog and responding to any questions/comments from readers. This might take perhaps 10-20 minutes on the day of each tour stop.
How can our partner authors reach you if they want some help with their tours? What are some of the services you offer them?
They can check out our website at tlcbooktours.com and email us at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. We offer the 10- and 15-blog tours, a Book Club of the Month contest, and packages with Book Club Cookbook.