Tuesday, June 22, 2010

An Inside Joke, Just Between Us

The day after I gave my presentation at the Jewish Book Council's "Meet the Author" event (still waiting to find out to which cities I'll be invited, I attended a conference for independent publishers at which I learned about some of the many things I need to do to promote The Accidental Anarchist before its October launch.I previously discussed the fact that I needed to create a multimedia press kit, and have just completed the first aspect of it.

As I wasn't forward-thinking enough at the time I gave my presentation at the Jewish Book Council, I hadn't asked anyone to record it. So I restaged at home, with a text card indicating that the presentation was made to the Jewish Book Council, etc. That restaging was done in my son's room, as he had the most neutral curtains that I could use as a backdrop. In much the same way I had rehearsed my presentation while walking around New York City for two days before my presentation, I practiced it again in front of the camera (never my favorite place to be). This time, it wasn't to get the words or pace right -- it was to get the look of it right.

I had to create a klugy alternative to a tripod. This involved an upended (empty) garbage can; an empty box of something that had been delivered by Amazon; and a few very thick textbooks borrowed from my son's table. Until I came up with that height, I had tried to work with less and have a steadier place for the camera (even giving the presentation while kneeling, but that still didn't put me in the right position in the view finder. (There was probably an easier way to figure out where, against those anonymous curtains, I needed to stand, but I had to do it over and over to get it right). In the end, I recorded my presentation (dressed as I had been on that day in May), which came out good, but just a wee bit tilted to one side as the empty Amazon box couldn't easily support the textbooks upon it.

In the end, my wonderful friend, Cissy, edited the video, adding the text identifying where the presentation had taken place, and, I think, though I no longer remember, dubbing in some appreciative applause at the end. (That audio file was a little difficult to find, though it was fun looking. The list of available applause audio files, at: http://www.partnersinrhyme.com/soundfx/applause.shtml, includes such specific applause sounds like 'Smattering of Applause,' 'Rock Concert Clap,' and 'Laugh Applause III.'). This will be up on my website as soon as I provide the designer with the remaining content, which is also on my list, and on YouTube, where I have never wanted to be.

But now I must return to the list that tells me what I need to accomplish today, even though it includes rollover tasks from other days.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Little Knowledge is a Dangerous Thing

Each time I attend a conference on a topic related to self-publishing, I learn about something else I absolutely MUST do. At the recent conference in New York, it was reiterated that every book must have its own website. Now, I know the difference between a website and a blog, though for months, if people asked me if I had a website I replied that I had a blog; to me they accomplished the same thing. Apparently not. A website is more static while the blog is more dynamic. So, explain to me again why a blog isn't good enough?

I haven't gotten a definitive answer other than, "You just need one." I know that the website is a selling tool, with radio buttons and links to sites at which one can Buy the Book (because for reasons that I don't want to have to understand, it's not a good idea for a publisher/author to take on the responsibility of being a downloading site; better to link to someone else who does it).

Having heard this enough times, I realized that it's something I can't ignore any longer. And even though it will be static (God, I hope I'll be able to update it myself, rather than having to pay every time I change my mind or have a new idea), it naturally takes a lot of start-up time. So I'm currently writing the content for about 7 pages of website. Not that it's difficult; not that I can't use material I've already written and used elsewhere, but it's a separate line item on a To Do list that has become a black hole.

But I'm determined to have a little fun with it. There will be one page named "Just for Fun" in which I will post one son's sports writing and the other son's sports schedule, and basically give this proud Mama a space to brag about my children. I can't take full credit for them turning into the young men that they are; I'm too impressed with them to believe that I could have had too much to do with it.

So, watch this site for the announcement of when the website goes live, and then maybe you can explain to me why it's an all-important selling tool.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

"Thank God, I Can't Complain"

"Besides, Who Would Listen?"

It's a line used by older Jewish men that happens to be very appropriate for my topic tonight, which is whining about how much work I have to do -- or rather, the steps involved in pre-promotion of a book.

When I started this blog, I did it because I had learned in a conference that the first and most important thing that someone who intends to self-publish a book needs to do is start a blog, start a following, develop an audience. So tonight I get to have an audience for my moaning about how much work I have to do while also providing what I hope is some useful and interesting information.

When people asked me if I had a website for the book, I said "sure," and provided the blog address. I know that they are different, but I thought one could substitute for the other. The website (which I have now committed to creating) will be more of a static site; most of the information will remain the same, unless there is 'news,' whereas the blog needs to updated with some regularity. (And I apologize to anyone who finds my entries too 'wordy;' you're absolutely right -- they are -- but you should see my text messages).

So I'm about to create a website. I got my domain name: theaccidentalanarchist.com (don't forget to use "the" when you search for it so as not to get confused with a 10 year-old book with a way too similar title "An" Accidental Anarchist). That was step 1. Step 2 is to lay out all my pages, or what those pages will be when I have all the content. (And as you can tell from my logorrhea (per Merriam-Webster: "excessive and often incoherent talkativeness or wordiness," aka 'diarrhea of the mouth') coming up with content shouldn't be too hard. In hearing talk about website content at the recent conference I attended, it seems that I need an online press kit, which should contain multimedia content. I was already going to post the 2-minute (2:10 if we're being picky) presentation that I gave at the Jewish Book Council, and I've basically conceded that I will have to create a book trailer (about which, more later). And I can write all the publicity materials needed; that's the benefit of having done it for some many other people for many years.

Beyond the home page, which I imagine will have links to where you can buy or download the book (in October), there will be some information about me (either in large type or with a lot of graphics since there isn't a lot I need to say), stuff about my grandfather (almost everything I know about him is in the book -- in fact, that's the only way I know him,although my mother has started recording some of her memories of him; maybe some of that content will go up there. A page about my father, who worked on the book before me,and there's a lot more to say about him; loads of links online, most particularly because he had worked on the original Star Trek, and those fans are loyal. At some point, when I have some speaking engagements lined up, like at the Jewish Book Fairs (I hope many of them will invite me; otherwise, I may offer to pay my own transportation to get to certain cities; I've been wanting to see a friend in Birmingham, AL, for a long time, anyway, and Birmingham has a reasonably sized Jewish community: Jim, if you're reading this, call your local Jewish Community Center (JCC), which probably organizes it, and ask them to invite me as a speaker; in fact, everyone who's reading this -- please contact your local JCC and ask to speak to the Jewish Book Fair coordinator and do the same. If Birmingham, AL can have a Jewish Book Fair, your community probably does, too). I'm in Miami several times a year, anyway, to visit my number one son, and will be in NY much more often where I can visit my number two son. There's someone I'd like to meet in Knoxville, TN, as well as people I want to see again in New Haven and Boston. And might as well connect with a friend in St. Paul, MN, and as long as these events take place in the late fall, it's a nice time of year to visit Arizona.

And I don't know if it's appropriate use of a website, but I'd love to devote a page to my boys -- posting one son's sports writing and event management news, and the other's CD releases and tour dates. Did I mention that I was going to ask the younger one to write the score for my book trailer? The older one designed the logo for my publishing company. (And I can get really loquacious when I talk about how proud I am of these boys).

But the point of this entry was that I wanted to complain about how much I've had to do. So there's the planning of the website, which, as I've described it above, doesn't sound too hard (since someone else will be doing the coding and building in the analytics); creating a book trailer, which, now that I have a killer concept, ought to be fun; and writing the content for each of the pages, which I can draw from so many other things I've written in or about the book. There's also an essay I want to write about the process of writing, editing, completing and publishing the diaries that I'm hoping to publish in something with a wide circulation -- just in time for the book's release. I still need blurbs through the back cover; I have one committed, and someone else in mind. I'm sending out the advanced review copies (ARCs, in book publishing parlance) to various publications. I've read that you need to send out 20 copies; I think I've sent out about 8 so far; I take my time in evaluating the publications to which I send them, and craft a 'hook' unique to the particular editor or publication that I hope will get them to pick my book from among the dozens or more vying for each slot in a review publication. At least one thing I have working in my favor -- I can give them the 4 month lead-time that the publications prefer. Plus I need to hit ones representing difference niches: Biography readers, people interested in history, Jewish readers, people who enjoy humor, libraries, and academics who might consider the book for their curriculum in military history, Russian history, Asian history, Jewish history, etc. -- lots of niches, some of which I won't even begin to market to until 2011.

My point to night is that there is a lot to do in marketing a book. I think of it like a Presidential election. There may be national advertising (well, not for me) but basically a candidate has to earn each vote one at a time.

Thanks for being the audience for tonight's rant. If I don't quit now,I won't be able to get up in a few hours and start the process all over again.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Oh No, Mom; Now is When the Hard Work Really Begins

My mother thinks that, now that I’ve written the book and spoken at the Jewish Book Council, the hard part is over and I can get back to my writing. But if anything, things only get harder. Now is when I need to do the pre-marketing of the book.

Since I don’t have a huge (read: any) advertising budget, I need to find ways to get free attention for the book to build the buzz and establish an audience before it goes on sale. There are a few ways to do this. As each of these bears lengthy discussion, I’ll address one at a time. Today: Book Reviews:

Book Reviews:
There are the professional reviewers, and then there are the ‘new’ professional reviewers.
Review publications like The New York Times Book Review and Publishers Weekly are the classic, influential reviewers. But they’re not interested in self/independently published books (despite the fact that an independently published book, Tinkers, won this year’s Pulitzer Prize), and woe be it to anyone who tries to slip one past them!

While, historically (and still), there has been no vetting process for self-published books, it is also true that many people who might otherwise submit their books to publishers through agents have decided to sidestep the traditional/old-fashioned process, which involves a lengthy cycle of application-rejection (rinse-repeat). That process can only have gotten more drawn out with half the editors in publishing houses in NY having been laid off during this recession. And if your book doesn’t offer blockbuster promise, then the economics simply don’t work for the publisher. Plus, as even authors with NY publishers behind them have to do all their own publicity and marketing, why not save time and do it yourself? (I’ll give you one reason why: The learning curve is steep; after more than six months of learning how to self-publish effectively, I still get a stiff neck from looking up at what I still need to learn how to do).

But as it happened, my former Writing group, which was on hiatus for several months, was no longer a writing group once we got together again; it had turned into a Publishing group as each of us, independently, decided that self-publishing was the right way to go with our respective projects, each of which has a well-defined niche. Now we meet every few weeks to share what we’ve learned that can help someone else.

Another reason to pursue a non-traditional publishing process is out of concern for time, as was the case in my situation; when your 83 year-old mother says she wants to see this book published “in [her] lifetime,” you don’t want to waste a lot of time. Apparently, once a publisher accepts a manuscript, it can take eighteen months until it is actually published.

Back to the main topic: Before I went to New York, I sent my book out to five review sources, two library review journals (supposedly a good review in one of these publications is a virtual guarantee of an order of 500 to 3000 books), two Jewish book review publications, and one history publication that had expressed interest in reading the book. There’s no guarantee that any of them will review them, but they have the desired four-month lead time to do so, and all I can do is write a compelling cover letter that will encourage them to take a look; the writing will have to speak for itself after that.

At the recent independent publishing conference I attended in New York, I also learned about an online review source; in fact, the reviewer is so prominent, I don’t know why I never heard about it/him before: Jesse Kornbluth, aka Head Butler. He is/has been an author, journalist, and entrepreneur, co-founding bookreporter.com, “the hub of the Internet's most successful non-commercial book network.” He was also Editorial Director of America Online. It was very refreshing to hear him speak, in marked contrast to the traditional reviewer who emphasized the many types of book they didn’t want to see (such as self/independently published books, as stated above). Kornbluth’s answer to what he wanted or didn’t want to see was, “I don’t care. If I like it, I’ll review it.” It was that simple. I wrote to him to see if he was interested in reading The Accidental Anarchist. Now I’m waiting to hear back from him. And from the others. And see what they have to say. And continue to look for other publications that I might be able to interest in reading/reviewing the book.