Monthly Archives: May 2010

Deluxe V.I.P. Editions of Books?

The New York Times has revealed it’s now commonplace for rock and roll acts to offer a V.I.P. to rabid fans with deep pockets. For $1000, you get front row seats, an exclusive catered party invitation, merchandise, and perhaps a chance to hob nob with your favorite rocker and get your photo taken.

“If you call something deluxe, if you call something unique,” said Jon Landau, Bruce Springsteen’s long-time manager, “this is America — someone will buy it.”

What if you could buy an e-edition of the Jane Austen collection which was loaded with all the best commentary on her works from all the greatest scholars, all the movies, a link to her fan club forum, and a chance to win a date with Jane? (OK, the latter wouldn’t quite work, but you get the idea).

Publishers are chasing after A-, B-, and C- list celebrities on any old topic that halfway fits with what they’re famous for, and ignoring their backlist and the opportunities for synergy (I remember that word from back in the early 90s, when megacorporations gobbled up independent publishers and insisted that this would be beneficial because every division would work creatively with each other–that didn’t seem to happen anywhere).

What about nonfiction that would easily hook into other nonfiction and be searchable in e-form? Those of us who would buy the 3 top books on a subject anyway would be willing to pay a little more to be able to cross check topics, get links to outside resources, and directly email the authors through a simple link.

Book publishers need to recognize they are not in the book biz but in the creative assembly and distribution of information biz.

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Filed under deluxe book packages, eReader, iPad, listen to the customer, Uncategorized

Hay House now has a self-publishing arm

Hay House has announced it has a new imprint for self-published (or shall we say independent?) authors: Balboa Press. Authors that choose to publish with Balboa Press authors will have access to Hay House publicists, for a hefty fee, and will presumably be screened for the possibility of someday getting a real publishing deal (as in they pay you, you don’t pay them) down the road. Read about it here.

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Do you have headers in your nonfiction manuscript?

If you’re writing a nonfiction book other than a memoir, you’ll need to break up your text with headers. Good headers are like signs on the highway that reassure you that you’re going in the right direction (“Chicago/O’Hare”), orient you (“Chicago 45 milesj”), and tell you when you need to switch roads (“Exit for Dundee Road”). If you’re going to start a new topic, you’ll want to signal that with a header that gives the reader a good sense of what the next section is about. Ideally, your headers will be somewhat provocative without being too mysterious, clear without being boring. “Recite Affirmations to Focus Your Mind” is much better as “Power Mantras for Overcoming the Monkey Mind.” (Of course, if you use the latter, you have to be certain that you explain what a “monkey mind” is.)

You’ll want a header to appear every three pages or so, sometimes more often. You’ll also want to mostly use A-heads, meaning, headers that all have the same weight and are styled the same way.

A Typical A-Head Style

Quite often, I style A-heads in boldface and italics, in the same size font as the type, with two spaces before it and one after it, as I’ve done here. If I wanted secondary heads, called “B-heads,” I’d make them look subordinate to the A-head by not using all the many tools for emphasis. If my A-head is boldfaced and italicized, and the the first letter of each significant word is capitalized, my B-head might look like:

Centered, Boldfaced but not italicized or capitalized B-head

OR

Centered, italicized but not boldfaced or capitalized B-head

Keep in mind that the subjects you encapsulate in B-heads have to make sense under the A-head. Think of the old college outline with its multilevel heads:

  1. Introduction and theme of paper
  2. Jane Eyre as an independent woman
    1. Her rebellion as a child adopted by another family
    2. Her defense of Helen at school
    3. Her refusal to teach at the school and pursuit of a governess position
    4. Rejecting Mr. Rochester’s “deal”

Adding a third tier of C-heads is often confusing, so try to stick with just A-heads and occasional B-heads. You can also use bulleted and numbered lists for material. In general, bulleted lists are in no particular order whereas numbered lists have items that must  be addressed in a specific order, such as Step 1, Step 2.

Spend some time looking at other nonfiction books in your genre and get a feel for how the books you find engaging and well-organized use subheads and lists effectively.

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Filed under grammar, headers, structuring nonfiction, styling your manuscript, Uncategorized

How to Find a Literary Agent

People often ask me how to find a literary agent. Because literary agents work entirely on spec (meaning they don’t earn a dime until they sell your book AND the check has cleared their bank account), they’re not always easy to procure. This is my basic advice:

1. Check the Literary Market Place (LMP), latest edition (it comes out annually) in your library and submit a query letter to agents that are listed as representing your genre. The top tier agents are listed in LMP so this is a great place to start.

2. Check, too, The Writer’s Market and Jeff Herman’s Guide to Literary Agents, the latest editions. The second- and third-tier agents are listed here as well as some first-tier agents. Do not bother sending your query to anyone who does not list your genre as one of the genres they represent.

3. Check the acknowledgments pages of books that are similar to yours for the names of agents (whom the authors often thank) and even editors (it helps to have an editors’ list for when you do submit–keep track of which editors bought which books that are like yours). You can do this by looking at the physical book or through Amazon.com’s Search Inside This Book or Google Books (search for Thanks or Thank you or Acknowledgements or agent).

4. Go to Publishersmarketplace.com and subscribe to Publishers Lunch for one month for $20. Research agents, and editors, and deals made, in your genre like crazy all month long.

5. Read Publisher’s Weekly, the publishing industry’s trade magazine which is now online. Check outany  round up articles on particular genres. Notice who is quoted. The editor or agent quoted may specify what types of books they are currently looking for.

When you approach an agent–or if you’re daring and decide to approach an editor sans agent–mention WHY you chose to submit your query to them.. Including statements such as  “I know you represented Marianne Williamson on The Gift of Change” and “Like that book, mine is a poignant coming-of-age tale featuring a woman of mixed ethnic heritage/an erotic science fiction novel/a self-help book based on sound psychological principles and the latest neuroscience” will go a LONG way toward piquing a potential agent’s (or editor’s) interest if he (or she) has already shown an interest in that type of book.

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Big Brother Is Watching You on Kindle

My fellow ASJAer, Damon Brown, wrote a blog piece on a disturbing new practice. Apparently, if you choose to highlight a passage in a Kindle version of a book, it is transmitted to Amazon which then may post it as a “popular selection” from the book. Do we really want this much invasion of privacy?

As an author, I would find it helpful if my publishers had my books in eReader versions that would allow readers to respond to passages, email me directly, click on links, etc., as I noted in an earlier piece. But such revelations should always be voluntary.

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