Sunday, August 30, 2009

Morgan Mandel's Basic Guide to Self-Publishing - Day Seven - Downloading, Proof, Acceptance, Publication

I’d set up the publishing company, registered at Lightning Source, finished my edits, gotten a cover together, set up a home for Choice One Publishing Company, and much more. I still had changes and decisions to make. They pertained to the part of the book my readers would spend the most time with – the print pages, also known as the book block.

My manuscript was double spaced, as many are, with one inch margins all around, designed for an 8 ½ by 11 inch paper. Not only did I need to reformat the page to the dimensions of my chosen size, 5 by 8, I needed to single space it, and decide on a font. Although many trade paperbacks used smaller fonts, I chose Times New Roman 12 for the same reason I’d chosen the crème paper – it seemed easier on the eyes.

I also needed to design headers. They weren’t the kind I was used to. These had to alternate, with the even numbers containing my name, the odds, the book title. Fortunately my Word program had templates I could use. The margins also needed to be wide enough, so none of the letters would be cut off in the printing process. That wasn’t all. The fonts had to be embedded, which meant saving the book in PDFX1a 2001 format. My Adobe Acrobat Pro 9, with what was called an add-in for Word 2007, achieved that result.

These rules and others were contained in a manual from the Lightning Source website, which I’d printed out and carried back and forth in my tote bag to work every day, so I could refer to it on the train and on my breaks.

Then, following the website’s guidelines, I set up my title, deciding where and when my book would be published, its price and discount rate. I couldn’t afford to be greedy or I wouldn’t make sales. I had to stay competitive, yet make some kind of profit, so I chose $13.95 with a 50% discount for booksellers.

When the book was all set to go, I proceeded to the downloading phase – first the book block, then the cover. I chose the option for a proof, since I wanted to look it all over before everything was finalized.

Although I couldn’t tell the difference, something was off with the colors and I was contacted by my representative. They looked fine on the computer, but wouldn’t print correctly. Fortunately, the color technician took pity on me and made the changes, which I gratefully approved.

When the proof arrived via overnight mail, instead of looking like a galley, it looked exactly like a real book. That was a pleasant surprise.

The colors on the front and back of the cover looked rich and beautiful, Rascal looked cute as my little mascot on the logo, but what about the interior? I proceeded to read, with my eyes open for mistakes. What I thought was perfect, wasn’t exactly right. I couldn’t allow it to go to press. I made the corrections online and waited for another proof. When I got that one, again I discovered a mistake. I’d forgotten to justify the paragraphs, so I re-sent for another proof.

It cost me $40 for each revision, plus $30 for each proof, but I was determined my book would be as perfect as I could make it. I had to convince people that my self-published book could stand up to the competition of small press and traditional press books. Finally I was satisfied with the result. I pressed the acceptance button. I placed my order.
I waited, but not long. In less than a week, the books arrived on my brother’s front porch. My husband, nieces, and nephews all helped carry the boxes out to the van. Once they sat safely in my dining room, I opened each and every one, checking to make sure I hadn’t received someone else’s books. Of course, I took pictures.

The cover looked beautiful. The pages seemed easy to read. The story was all there. Still, I felt nervous. Now that my book was published, would people like it?

So far, they have. Maybe you’d like to judge for yourself. Here’s an excerpt from the first chapter of Killer Career:

Julie McGuire gazed intently from her table in the filled-to-capacity dining room of the Wyndham Hotel. The Love To Murder Mystery Conference had saved the best for last. New York Times bestselling author, Tyler Jensen, now approached the podium.

His entire bearing commanded attention, from his shoulder length wavy chestnut hair pushed back behind his ears, to his sexy sideburns and piercing hazel eyes. She guessed him to be thirty-five, about five years older than she. Clever, rich, tall, and handsome, Tyler Jensen looked the embodiment of any woman’s fantasy.

“Many of you have killed,” Tyler said, pointing to his audience of two hundred plus.
Julie stared. What did he mean?

“Yes, you’ve slaughtered your creativity. You’ve squashed your dreams in favor of immediate gratification.”
My God, he knew. She ignored the tinkling sound, as a waitress placed a carafe of ice water on the table.

Julie stared, transfixed, at Jensen. His every word spoke to her. She’d taken the easy way out and become a lawyer instead of following her heart’s desire to be an author. The decision ate at her. After six years in the practice, she’d saved enough money to get by. She badly wanted to claim her dream and step forward into the world he described.
All too soon, he’d finished his speech. “Any questions?”

Julie shot up her hand. Jensen’s knowing hazel eyes fastened on her, as if assessing her straight blonde hair and tall, slight frame.

He nodded. “Yes, second table.”

On suddenly stiff legs, she rose. “What makes you write mysteries?”

“I have an urge to voyeuristically experience atrocities. I’ve no idea where the fascination comes from. Perhaps I was a criminal in a former life,” he said with a self-deprecating laugh.

Julie swallowed. His answer filled her with a vague uneasiness, but she didn’t know why.

“I hope I’ve satisfactorily answered your question.”

“Yes, uh, thank you.” She straightened her skirt and seated herself.

Even as she sat gathering her thoughts, she felt the pull of his charisma. Every word and gesture hinted at a barely contained power, strong enough to transform the sturdiest dissenter into a willing robot. His rakish looks dared her to ignore her orderly upbringing. Inwardly smiling, Julie guesstimated at how many other women in the massive banquet hall were as enthralled by the man’s knowledgeable gaze. Did their blood pulse as fast as hers?

The only man who’d ever tweaked her interest to such a degree was her partner, “Dangerous Dade.” He was the one who’d convinced her to become a lawyer, saying it was the best way to escape the poverty of their blighted neighborhood. He was her standard for comparing other men.

More than one female client had cited Dade as a good catch. Julie had to admit they were right. It wasn’t only because he was six feet tall, with wide shoulders and a determined air. Dade also had a special knack for putting clients at ease with his genuine interest in their problems, as he competently protected their interests. He was a sweet guy and would make some lucky woman a great husband. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be her. From the start of their partnership, they’d agreed not to mix business with pleasure, a decision she sometimes regretted.

Jensen’s charisma proved strong enough to break through her long-held barriers of comparison. Was it her imagination, or did he glance at her table more than the others? Was the strange feeling inside of her obvious or even more absurd, could it be mutual?

For such a levelheaded attorney, she’d certainly flipped. It had to be technique. Tyler Jensen was an excellent speaker, adept at eye contact.

“How does writing from a criminal’s point-of-view make you feel,” a woman at a table across the room asked.

An excellent query. Julie leaned forward to hear the reply. In his books, Jensen delved at length into the villain’s viewpoint, as if entering the criminal’s mind. The effect was chilling, but compelling.

She held her breath for the answer.

Jensen stared at Julie instead of the questioner, as if sensing her enthrallment. “I am the villain. I completely lose myself. The animal inside of me rules. I get away with anything and everything.” A tight smile curved his sensuous lips. “You know what they say. The forbidden carries allure. Anyway, when my sanity returns, I’m sated. I’ve undergone a complete catharsis. There’s no experience like it.”

Julie sat rooted, feeling another trickle of uneasiness.

If you’d like to read more, it’s available at favorite bookstores, such as Barnes & Noble, at,,, and will soon come to Kindle.

Thanks for letting me share my self-publishing adventure with you. If you'd like to keep up with my self-publishing exploits and more, you're welcome to stop by my personal blog at

You can find a short Book Trailer I just put together on YouTube at

Morgan Mandel

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Morgan Mandel's Basic Guide to Self-Publishing - Day Six - Promo

My book was almost ready. How could I let people know about it? I needed to get my promo started.

Choice One Publishing Co. needed an Internet home, not just a snail mail address. I fiddled with the idea of starting a new website other than my author site at Morgan Mandel.Com, but decided for the time being I'd try something else.

I already had a personal blog, plus contributed to a number of group blogs, which were all Blogger/Google related. Why not try a new look to set me apart as a publisher?

I decided to go with Word Press, picked out a template I liked, and paid a little extra for the .com option. That way, if people wanted to comment they could, but the site would basically be used for advertising Killer Career, with buy links to distributors, book descriptions, news about the book, and other salient information. Later I could use it for my other self-pubbed books, if I chose to continue in that vein.

I bought stationary and envelopes with the publishing name on them and made sure that my postcards, bookmarks, brochures, flyers, business cards, etc., also contained the link for Choice One Publishing Co. Most of you probably know that offers some great deals for promotional materials, but you do need to be careful to order only what you want and not click the wrong buttons.

When you're self-pubbed, your author and publisher personas at times blend. I bought books from Lightning Source at the publisher's discount, but I usually refer to them as author copies.

One thing I needed to arrange was the dropping off point for my books. They couldn't just be left on my doorstep. Not only could they get stolen, but also they could get attacked by the weather. Fortunately, my brother works from home, has an enclosed porch, and didn't mind receiving the delivery.

I made sure to order my author copies to arrive a month before my release date so I could have them in time for the book launch party. It wouldn't be a good idea to have the party without books. Book launch parties are a must, if nothing but for building self-confidence. It's a great rush to know everyone who comes wants to buy your book! Mine was a blast, despite torrential downpours outside.

Anyway, I started out with a 300 book order. A 30% off volume discount program was going on, I needed copies for reviews, family, and friends, plus upcoming events, such as flea markets and craft fairs. Also, I like to have 100 extra of each of my books on hand. That's just me. I'm a saver. It's not necessary to order that many. Order whatever you feel comfortable with.

As soon as I could, I sent out to as many reviewers as possible. The bad rap against self-publishing told me to wait until my product was as close to perfect as possible before I submitted the book. I know I missed out on the big guns like Kirkus, but I didn't feel like waiting four months for the reviews to come back before the release. Other people are more patient, I know. Also, many authors are content to send off submissions to publishers and wait for acceptance or rejection, then if accepted, wait a year or so for publication. More power to them, but I'm not getting any younger. I don't like to wait.

Anyway, I've gotten a few blog reviews back. One's at Unbound, another at The Unwriter Ron Berry. I'm quite happy with them both. Also, I'm eternally grateful for the amazing review Rob Walker gave Killer Career on

On the subject of author books, I used some of them to send out to the booksellers, Barnes and Noble, Borders and AWBC (Books-A-Million), along with letters and forms, asking if they would carry Killer Career in their brick and mortar stores and put it in their database.

I just heard back from Barnes and Noble a few days ago. Surprisingly, I learned that not only would Killer Career be in the database, but it was already ordered for some of the brick and mortar stores! That was a huge thrill for me, since my prior books which were not self-published didn't make it into the chain, except briefly for book signings. I've already gone to the Schaumburg store, signed stock, spoken to the CRM about a book signing possibly in November, and dropped off bookmarks.

Get this - I can't resist a bit of BSP here - I called the Deer Park, Illinois store to see if Killer Career was in stock. The person I spoke with said it was in stock. Not only that, he remembered putting it up. He loved the cover, so he placed my books in the new mystery books bin. When he said that, I felt super good, kind of like how Sally Field felt winning the Academy Award when she gushed all over the place. If you're old enough, you'll know what I'm talking about. I added the link to her name for you to enjoy, but come back afterwards.(g)

What a wonderful feeling to know someone liked my choice. All the hard work of getting my cover together had paid off. Goes to show, covers do count. I'm hoping he'll mention that cover to a few customers and make some sales. I'll be sure to get over to his store to sign stock. I'm doing a book signing there some time between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I know there are copies at the Arlington Heights, Illinois store as well and will get over to sign them soon. I've already got a book signing lined up there for October 17. Next, I'll be doing more detective work to see where else my book is carried.

Presence in a book store is a great promotional plus. Other promotional matters to attend to, whether you're self-published, small press published, or with a big house are: Book signings, not just in bookstores but also at craft fairs, flea markets, wherever someone will let you sign; blogging, including doing a blog book tour such as the one I've been on for the past two weeks; e-mails to your e-groups (you better be on some); messages on social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Book Place, and more.

While you're at it, be sure to help others along the way. I appreciate everyone who has helped me and will never forget them. You better believe, I pay back whenever I can.

What about you? Whether or not you're self-published, what do you do for promotion?

Don't miss tomorrow's post - Downloading, Proof, Acceptance and Publication.

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Morgan Mandel's Basic Guide to Self-Publishing - Day Five - Setting Up Cover Art and Logo

The great thing about self-publishing is you get to choose your own book cover. The not-so-great thing about self-publishing is you get to choose your own book cover. It’s wonderful to get a choice. It’s scary to get a choice.

From blogging, I’d met many capable artists, and had seen the beautiful covers they’d created. I could have approached one of them to do a cover for Killer Career. I may even have done so, if not by chance. By a stroke of luck, I found just what I wanted online at Once I saw it, I knew that was the one – kind of like my wedding dress.

I had more decisions to make. I wanted the back of my book to be striking so it would get noticed. When I’d first spoken with a rep. from Lightning Source, I’d learned that color on the back cover would not cost any more than on the front, because actually they were considered part of the same thing. If you’ve ever seen a cover flat, you know what I mean. It’s all spread out – back to spine to front.

Anyway, to gain attention, I decided to show readers what my main characters might look like. I already had the woman’s image from the front of the cover, but what about the villain and the good guy? I rifled through the male shots at Istock and found one I really liked for the villain. The problem was he didn’t look like the bad guy described in my manuscript. For some reason his image still stuck in my mind and would not dislodge.

I searched for another photo to portray the villain, but none matched up. Somehow in my mind the villain’s features had changed from a guy with clipped, salt and pepper hair and gray eyes to a guy with hazel eyes, shoulder length chestnut hair pushed back, and sexy sideburns. I had no recourse but to carefully go back into my manuscript and make the changes.

For the good guy, he had to look sweet, have kind of messy dark hair which stuck out a bit. It took a while, but I finally found one that fit the description.

Next, I needed to figure out a logo for Choice One Publishing Co. I had to be careful not to pick one too similar to someone else’s or I could get into trouble. The possibility of that happening made me nervous. Then, a crazy, fun thought hit me. Why not try it? After all, I could do what I wanted. It was my book. Using photo editing software, I made a cameo close-up of my dog, Rascal’s face and resized it. The logo was unique. No one else could possibly have it. It symbolized the fact that Choice One Publishing Co. was mine down to the tiniest detail.

With my choices made, I loaded everything onto the template. It sounds easy for me to say it now, but it took me days to get everything on there just so. I had to stay inside the lines so words or appendages wouldn’t get chopped off, I had to add a background, and do all sorts of finagling to get everything according to specifications.

First, I inserted the words Fiction/Romantic Suspense, so booksellers, librarians and/or readers could readily know the book’s genre.

Next, I placed the blurbs I was fortunate to receive from Robert W. Walker and Austin S. Camacho. After that, I placed a thumbnail of each major character, next to which I added a comment from that character’s point of view.

I added the publishing house name, website and logo. Lastly, I inserted the barcode which I’d found on the template from Lightning Source.

With the back cover figured out, next came the spine. I had to pick out fonts, figure out the order of the title, author and publishing company, as well as where to place the logo. The lettering had to stay inside those dreaded lines.

With the spine in place, I could load the front cover. That’s when I made a horrible discovery. My heroine wore an engagement ring. It had to go. Although I don’t have the steadiest of hands for tiny editing, I managed to clone her skin over the area of the ring, so it would look as if the ring had never been there. I tried to fit the image onto the template, but it didn’t look right. As a last resort, I inserted a frame. That worked and the picture looked right. Also, the black tied in with the same color background of the spine and back cover.

Those are the basics of what I did. I mentioned some of my problems, but lots of trial and error went into producing the finished product. Without my Adobe Pro 9, Adobe Acrobat Elements an old version of Roxio photo editing software, and Word 2007, I couldn’t have done it. Of course, I could have skipped all that and gone with a cover artist, which many self-pubs do, but I had my mind set on that special cover art. Once I want something, if it’s within my power to get it, I will.

Was it worth the aggravation? Well, I’m planning on doing another book, this time with a photo of Rascal on the front cover. I guess that tells you something.

What about you? Would you consider tackling cover art yourself, or would you prefer to hire a cover artist? Or, maybe you’re a cover artist and would like to share something about what you do. Please join in.
Morgan Mandel

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Morgan Mandel's Basic Guide to Self-Publishing - Day Four - Choosing a Printing House and Getting Familiar With It

It’s important for a publisher to produce a quality product. Since self-pubs are especially scrutinized by book industry members, it’s even more important for a self-published book not to look home made. Bindings, paper, all the things that contribute to the look and feel of a book, need to be just right.

I had a good idea which printing house to choose, but asked around to make sure. Book Surge didn’t seem popular. Lulu fared better, but I heard grumblings that made me pause.

Lightning Source appeared to be the leader. My small press publisher, Hard Shell Word Factory, had used the same printing house for Two Wrongs and Girl of My Dreams, and I was pleased with the result. Not only that, Lightning Source belonged to Ingram, which meant a great distribution base, including not only Ingram itself, but, Barnes &, NACSCORP, Rittenhouse and even the Espresso Book Machine. That was just in the United States. In the United Kingdom,, Bertrams, Blackwell, Book Depository, Ltd, Argosy Ireland, and more distributed Lightning Source books.

I found out that Lightning Source not only distributed books to a publisher’s customers through its Partners program, but it also shipped books at a discount straight to the publisher upon request. If I needed books for book signings on consignment, or for special events such as craft fairs or Christmas bazaars, I could have them shipped to me.

I registered, chose a username and a password. Before long I was accepted into the fold and assigned a representative. Believe me, I needed one. I had no idea what many of the basic publishing terms meant, such as bleeding or book block. I kept getting mixed up about crazy things. One time, I half-filled out the US contract, but needed to look up some answers. When I came back to find it, I didn’t know where it was. An e-mail to my representative told me where to go, in a nice way, that is.

While this was going on, I was finishing up my edits. Once the book was ready in that respect, I needed to make decisions on the printing end. A confusing drop-down list of choices threw me off at first, but I was able to make my selections by thinking of what I would like as a reader. I wanted a book that would not fall apart, so I chose perfect binding. I wanted paper without glare, so I chose an off white, called crème. I knew how many times I would pick up a book, see the small print and put it back down, so I chose one a little larger, everyday 12 point Times Roman. I liked the size of my prior books, so I chose the 5 by 8 size.

I was happy with my selections, but an even more difficult choice awaited me. Readers look at covers before anything else. What should mine look like?

Come on back for Day Five, when my topic is Setting Up Cover Art & Logo.

Before you leave, maybe you can tell us - Does the inside of a book influence your purchase?
Morgan Mandel

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Morgan Mandel's Basic Guide to Self-Publishing - Day Three - Why Use An Editor

I’d gone through Killer Career countless times checking for mistakes in punctuation, spelling, repetitive words, phrases and sentence structure. I’d been confident enough to submit it to a few publishers and agents. None of the feedback I’d gotten mentioned errors in punctuation, spelling or sentence structure.

One agent did mention my novel was too dialogue driven and could use more description. Where and how should I insert it? Were there other problems I didn’t know about?

My novel had to be as perfect as possible to buck the climate against self-pubs. How could I achieve that? What did other publishers do? Good ones hired editors. That’s what I’d do. An editor could objectively scan my manuscript, find weak areas and suggest possible fixes.

Where would I find one? It didn’t take long for the obvious answer to pop into my head. I’m a contributor to a blog spot crawling with wonderful editors, namely The Blood-Red Pencil. Of all the fine editors here, the one I knew best was Helen Ginger. From the start, after I’d joined the blog book tour e-group and begun blogging daily at, she’d diligently followed my posts. She went out of her way to help other bloggers. Her own blog posts were right on the mark. Not only did she have a great reputation as an editor, she was also a nice person, the kind I’d like to work with.

Would she want to take me on? Did she have the time? The only way to find out was to ask. I did. Fortunately, Helen said she was confident of my writing ability and would like to be my editor. To make sure we were both satisfied with her methods, she agreed to a trial edit of ten manuscript pages. After I saw what she could do, I wanted more. We agreed on a price and the edits began.

That’s when I learned it was a good thing I’d hired her. Helen nicely suggested I might want to move the prologue and fit it in elsewhere. She found spots lacking in description and offered ways to add it, often doing so without telling me exactly what to insert. That way I could learn how to do it myself, instead of robotically following instructions. My blog book tour post of August 21 at Helen Ginger’s blog spot, covers some of what I learned on this topic.

Helen also noticed that I’d inserted one space in some spots and two in others after periods. She discovered redundancies, inconsistencies in characters’ thoughts and emotions, unnecessary tag lines, and much more.

I agreed with most of Helen’s suggestions and found ways to incorporate them into the book. A few I disagreed about and explained why. She didn’t insist I change them.

Helen was generous with her time. It took three edits to get Killer Career into shape. When we’d finally finished, I knew I’d done my best. I also knew I couldn’t have done it alone. I was grateful I’d hired a good editor.

In the future, whether or not I self-publish, I’ll still hire one. What about you? Have you ever hired an editor? Will you?

Day Four's Topic Will Be Choosing A Printing House & Getting Familiar With It.
Morgan Mandel

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Morgan Mandel's Basic Guide to Self-Publishing - Day Two - How To Get Started - Legalities, Technicalities, References

Once I’d decided to take the plunge, I had my work cut out. What did I need to do? In what order?

A helpless feeling washed over me. I told myself to calm down and consult the experts. Austin had done it before. If I got stuck, I’d cry to him for help. I did, believe me. He and his wife, Denise, received many a frantic e-mail.

I couldn’t bug them every minute. Luckily, I found this great book for reference, called Dan Poynter’s Self-Publishing Manual. While eating breakfast and every other chance I got, I consulted that book. I still do. It contains more suggestions I still plan to implement when I have time.

Between my common sense, the manual, Austin and Denise, I could make it through. Piece by piece, I’d get it all done. Here are some of the pieces:

Decide on a publishing house name – I kind of liked the name, Gamut, since I planned on writing and publishing a variety of genres. I Googled it and didn’t see any other publishing companies with the name.

Get an address for the company – For promotional material and my public persona, I decided to get a post office box, instead of using my snail mail. After waiting in line, I purchased a box under the Gamut name, including my own name, as well as my pen name, for receiving mail. Well, that wasn’t too bad, except for the waiting in line part and paying money.

About a week or so later, I Googled again and discovered Gamut Publishing Company was very close to Gamut Press, which was already taken. Now what should I do? I’d already rented a box with the Gamut name. I had to figure out a new one.

I needed a name which represented what I was doing, plus it wouldn’t hurt if the first letter began close to the front of the alphabet. I figured that might get it closer up in some listings. First Choice was taken. Lots of other ideas came to mind, but every time I Googled them, someone else had them. It was amazing how many people came up with the same ideas I had.

Then I hit on Choice One Publishing Company, which didn’t come up on Google. I liked what it stood for, which was publishing books on my own. I went back to the post office and asked for that name to be placed on the same post office box I’d already purchased.

I had the address. Now I was ready for the next step, making the company legal. I already had a sole proprietorship status with the State of Illinois under my Morgan Mandel name. Under that capacity I paid sales and income taxes to the State of Illinois, as well as income tax to the Federal government. My accountant said I could add the publishing company to the sole proprietorship, instead of keeping them separate. That was good.

Every place is different, but in Cook County I had to go to the Assumed Name Unit and complete an Application for an Assumed Name to make Choice One Publishing Co. my operating name. I also filled out a legal notice to be published within 15 days in a newspaper that circulated in my county. After that, proof needed to be presented to the Unit within 50 days that I’d done so. That wasn’t difficult, since the clerk offered cards from a few places that handled the publishing and proof part. By April 13, I’d received a nice certificate saying I’d complied with the Assumed Name Act. My company was legal.

I also completed what was called the State of Illinois Service Mark or Trademark Application, which was optional.

If I were to be making money from publishing, I needed to put it somewhere. I already owned business checking and savings accounts at my bank. My representative hinted it would be best to keep a separate account for the publishing aspect, but that didn’t suit my needs. Since I was the author and publisher, the money couldn’t easily be separated. I convinced him to add the publishing name to the existing business and checking accounts. I ordered additional checks for the same account with just the publishing company name showing, plus a new charge card for the company.

Things were moving along, not quite as fast as I’d like, but I was getting there. It was time to focus on why I’d gone through all the legal mumbo jumbo. That meant getting my novel in shape.

Tomorrow’s post – Why Use an Editor

Morgan Mandel

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Morgan Mandel's Basic Guide to Self-Publishing - Day One - Why Self-Publish

I can’t tell you why everyone self-publishes, but for me it was a combination of factors. The germ was planted in my head at the Love is Murder Conference in February, 2009, in the booksellers’ room. Popular mystery author and book promotion guru, Austin S. Camacho, and I were discussing our books and the industry in general. I mentioned I’d made the mistake of spending too much time promoting Girl of My Dreams instead of ensuring a home for my next novel. My present publishing house had apparently stopped publishing. I was stuck. Readers were asking when my next book would be out. I had no answer.

Austin asked me why I didn’t self-publish. He did. That was a surprising admission. I knew he was doing fantastically well at Echelon Publishing. He admitted that was true, but publishing his own books was also netting him great rewards. In fascination I listened to Austin explain the basic fundamentals. It sounded possible, but could I afford it? He ran the numbers by me. The cost was less than I’d thought. I could invest some of my earnings from Two Wrongs and Girl of My Dreams toward a new book. My manuscript was ready. I liked the idea of being my own boss. I could decide on my cover art, my publication date, and lots more. The thought was tempting.

Still, what if it didn’t work out? What if wasted my time and my money? Could I stand up to the prejudice against self-publishing? Could I convince people I had a quality product?

The only way I’d know is if I tried.

Tomorrow, find out how I got started – legalities, technicalities, references.

Morgan Mandel

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Morgan Mandel's Basic Guide To Self Publishing - Schedule

I published my own book and you can, too. The week of Monday, 8/24, through Sunday, 8/30, I’ll share a bare bones description of my experiences with self-publishing, touching on its good and not-so-good aspects. I could expand much more on the subject, but it would take up too much space. Someday, I might write a book about it. (G)

If you have questions, don’t be afraid to ask; or, if you’ve already self-published, your comments and/or suggestions are welcome.

I’ll get right on with the first post after the schedule. I’ll keep them separate, in case anyone wants to print out the list.

  1. Monday - Why Self-Publish

  2. Tuesday - How to Get Started: Legalities, Technicalities, References

  3. Wednesday- Why Use An Editor

  4. Thursday - Choosing a Printing House & Getting Familiar With It

  5. Friday - Setting Up Cover Art & Logo

  6. Saturday - Promo

  7. Sunday - Downloading, Proof, Acceptance, Publication


Morgan Mandel

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Top 9 Things to Do With Review Snips

Welcome back, Elizabeth Spann Craig with Part 2.
~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

You’re fortunate enough to get some good reviews from top industry reviewers, or book review blogs. You’ve got the long snip (“Jane Doe has once again proven she’s a master of English literature. This is an extraordinary book that will be loved and pondered for generations.”) You’ve got a tiny snip (“An extraordinary book,” or “This…book will be loved…for generations.”) You’ve got the perfect, glowing snippets—now what?

Tweet and Facebook it. Wow! Kirkus calls An Introduction to Boll Weevils "An extraordinary book"!

Put it on bookmarks. Bookmarks are especially handy to put in your promo mailings to libraries. Bookstores may sell bookmarks of their own.

Put it on postcards. A pithy review snip may help influence a bookstore or library when they’re considering purchasing your novel.

Put it on your tag line. Might want to make it a short snip, otherwise it could seem over the top.

Put them in your on-line press kit. Review snips are a great addition to your website’s press kit.

Mention them when you call up a bookstore. While the bookstore manager is looking up your ISBN, you can quickly slip in. “Yes, I’ve been so excited. Publisher’s Weekly said Boll Weevils ‘will be pondered for generations!’”

Put them on your business cards where the company’s slogan usually goes. Italicized and centered under your book’s name looks great.

Post it on your website
. It’s always a good idea to update your website, and adding a great review snip is the perfect time to do it.

Blog about it. Nothing wrong with a short, self-congratulatory post about your wonderful review.

Used well, review snips are a great promotional tool to encourage both readers and booksellers to investigate your book. Now how about it, readers - can you make it ten with another tip?

Pretty is as Pretty Dies

Publishers Weekly: "Myrtle's wacky personality is a delight.”
Like her characters, Elizabeth Spann Craig’s roots are in a small, Southern town. She grew up in Anderson, South Carolina, where she spent most of her childhood in the county library, staggering out with books by the armful. Her magazine articles have appeared in both England and the United States. She’s the mother of two and currently lives in Matthews, North Carolina. Between juggling room mom duties, refereeing play dates, and being dragged along as chaperone/hostage on field trips, she dreams of dark and stormy nights beside stacks of intriguing mysteries with excellent opening lines. Visit Elizabeth at Mystery Writing is Murder.

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Book Tours and Book Reviews: When to Give Up Control

Today we welcome guest blogger, Elizabeth Spann Craig. First, a bit about her latest mystery novel, and then her advice about blog book tours and the reviews an author might expect.
No one in Bradley, North Carolina, is exactly crying into their sweet tea over the murder of Parke Stockard. Certainly not retired schoolteacher Myrtle Clover. Upon discovering the corpse, Myrtle is struck—not with grief, but a brilliant idea! Solving the murder would prove to everyone—especially her son, Red, the police chief—that this eighty-something-year-old is still as sharp as a tack. Heck, going from crosswords to crime investigations isn't such a stretch. The old biddies of Bradley can waste away in blissful stagnation, but Myrtle's not ready to be put out to pasture just yet.

The victim, a pretty but pushy town developer, had deep pockets and few friends. Myrtle can't throw one of her gaudy garden gnomes without hitting a potential suspect. Even when another murder takes place, proud Myrtle forges on—armed only with a heavy cane, a venomous tongue, and a widower sidekick.

Available from Midnight Ink

~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~

We all want to make sure our new releases are portrayed in the best light possible. But at what point do we need to stop interfering with the process?

Book Tour: There are different types of appearances on tours. There are guest posts where you write on a topic and add your promo info at the end (i.e.: what I’m doing here today.) There are interviews. And there are reviews.

Obviously, if you don’t like surprises and you want to ensure your book is showcased in a manner you control, you’re going to love the guest post option. However, I think that using only one type of format on your tour gets boring for your readers: particularly if you have a tour with many different stops.

Interview: There are really two types of interviews—one where the blog host has read your book, and one where they haven’t and ask general questions about you, your writing process, and your novel. For interviews where the blog host has read your book, it’s always possible you could get some tough questions if the host wasn’t a fan. If you’re nervous about that possibility, the general interview will be appealing for you. Again, though, you really need to balance this out—yes, you’re making sure that your book is not getting any negative press, but at a certain point readers will notice that no one seems to actually be commenting on the novel’s content. And that, in itself, might be enough to keep readers from purchasing it.

Reviews: If you like to maintain control, reviews will make you nervous. You might consider sending your book to the reviewer with a proviso—if the reviewer doesn’t like your book, don’t review it. Then your readers wouldn’t be the wiser.

My recommendation—don’t do this. Serious reviewers are serious readers. Putting conditions on their assessment of your book undermines their integrity as an impartial reviewer and yours as a serious writer.

Everyone gets reviews that are less than glowing. Some reviews may be lukewarm and some may really slam your book. But here’s the thing---real books get real reviews. If you go to any book on Amazon and read the reader reviews, you can tell right away which books were reviewed by an author’s friends and family. They’ll rate the book 5 stars (even though you’ve never heard of the book or its publisher), and use rampant hyperbole in their review.

Real readers draw on their own experiences and personal preferences to rate books. It’s subjective. My books aren’t right for every reader.

What if you get a reader review that you feel reports inaccurate information about your book? It’s tempting to rebut the post on Amazon or other places on-line. I think that can be dangerous. You might come off as being too heavy-handed or as someone who doesn’t take criticism well. You might appear defensive. To me, it feels best to just ignore it. Let another reader rebut the review, if you’re lucky enough to have someone realize the inaccuracy.

Big Reviews: Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal: In some ways, getting these reviews, good or bad, is a sign you’ve arrived at a particular point in your writing career. Even bad or lukewarm reviews still mean publicity when you’re being reviewed by the big guys.

How do you handle good reviews? How do you handle bad ones? After the Alice Hoffman debacle, I think there’s a clear way not to handle bad reviews. (For those who don’t know, she tweeted a negative reviewer’s phone number and email address, asking readers to criticize her.)

I think we can’t put too much stock in reviews. I’ve had good ones (ForeWord, Publishers Weekly, Mystery Scene) and a lukewarm one at Kirkus (which, I know y’all won’t believe, but I can’t even find on-line anymore.) Kirkus basically damned me with faint praise. My philosophy has been that I treat both equally: I can’t believe my good ones and not believe my bad ones. I try to remember it’s an opinion. I put the good ones on the promo materials and put the lukewarm or negative ones out of my head as I work.

Tomorrow I’m returning to the Blood Red Pencil to talk a little about what to do with those good review snippets that you’ve received.

Like her characters, Elizabeth Spann Craig’s roots are in a small, Southern town. She grew up in Anderson, South Carolina, where she spent most of her childhood in the county library, staggering out with books by the armful. Her magazine articles have appeared in both England and the United States. She’s the mother of two and currently lives in Matthews, North Carolina. Between juggling room mom duties, refereeing play dates, and being dragged along as chaperone/hostage on field trips, she dreams of dark and stormy nights beside stacks of intriguing mysteries with excellent opening lines. Visit Elizabeth at Mystery Writing is Murder.

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Writing for a blog tour vs. writing for a book

Here are five essential skills required to pull off a successful, well written virtual tour. They cover both the planning for and organizing of it, as well as the actual writing for it. Let’s examine them one at a time and compare them to writing a good book.

1. Planning Ahead. Virtual tours don’t organize themselves. You do it. You do all the work. And I do mean work. Lots of it and way before the proposed opening date. I recently went on a blog tour in December, 2008. When did I start planning the tour? In August of 2008. Yep. Four months in advance. I was researching blogs, clicking all over the blue nowhere, networking, looking up lists, Googling, twittering, finding top quality blogs with high traffic that were on topic with what fit the demographics of my intended readership. When I found a good fit, I started visiting often, leaving comments, getting my name and what I do known by the blog’s host and readers.

For writing a book, planning ahead has some relevance, but not nearly as much as with a virtual tour. A book may require research, but that’s a different type of planning than what I am referring to here. Some authors write books that are on topic with public, political, social, or religious events. In those cases, you may want to make sure your book is published at a certain time of the year to coincide with public interest on your book’s subject matter. But other than that, you just write your book and publish it whenever you have your manuscript finished and can get a contract.

2. Planning the Content. Think of the tour stops as chapters in a book. A book with chapter after chapter of the same content would be pretty boring, would it not? After two or three chapters, you would put the book down and figure the author was going nowhere with this story. Same with a virtual tour. Each chapter should have its own story within the larger story. At the same time the whole story and all its chapters should be cohesive. One stop should lead you with interest to the next. Nothing is worse than a month-long dirge of same old same old “Interview with the Author,” or “Meet the Author” posts. I’m sorry, but I don’t need to read for the umpteenth time what your favorite color is or what your five pets’ names are. Maybe give me that information in ONE of your tour stops, that’s lovely, but beyond that … it’s boring. If you can’t get more creative than that, I don’t want to buy your (most likely) unimaginative book. So two words for you. Variety and cohesiveness.

3. Writing the Chapters. Some authors write books from a detailed outline. Others have a plot stirring in their head and just start writing. Both methods work, depending on the author, but writing for a successful virtual tour demands an outline. Could be as simple as a sketchy idea for each post, but in order to pull off skill #2 above, you better know where you are going with each post and have an agreed upon format with the host. Q & A interview formats can be interesting or they can be real yawners. Know your hosts. Have you read any of their other interviews? Are they creative with their questions, do they draw depth, imagination and valuable information out of their guests? Have the Q & A done well ahead of post date. Read and revise as necessary to make sure the content is a good and worthy read. One of my hosts on my recent tour got online with me in a chat room and we did the interview live. This method adds conversational realness and spontaneity, but it requires lengthy and careful editing. Make sure your host is a good editor. If not, ask to do the editing yourself. A host may ask you to compose an article for his or her tour stop, something that is on topic for that blog. This is your chance to shine. Write the article with all the care and attention you would give to a chapter in your book. Your writing ability is going to be on display and will be judged. Do it well, you may sell some books. Do it poorly, you have lost some potential fans.

4. Change up the voices and pace. When you write a good book, your characters have different voices, with unique personalities. Also in a good book, you change the pace to fit the scene. Same goes with writing for a good blog tour. Have the host interview one of your characters. Or how about this – if some of your hosts are authors, do some scenes in which one of your characters interacts with one of theirs. Have a fight scene. Quick paced. Short sentences. Slam bang action. Or have an in depth discussion. Slow the pace way down and delve into deep psychological, social, political, emotional or spiritual issues. Make sure you have these changes of pace and voice arranged in a well thought out plan. Just as with crafting a good book, too many fast paced scenes back to back with the same voices screaming at you can get nerve-wracking. Conversely, a lengthy run of scenes paced like a tortoise on valium will send your readers into a coma. Mix it up. Make it interesting. Have fun.

5. Interact with your host and readers. This skill is only unique to virtual tours in the way it is done. On personal appearance book tours, you may give a talk about your book and/or some subject that pertains to its content. Then you hang around after and chat with the people, let them get to know you better and visa versa. On a blog tour, the post is the talk. Just as with a personal appearance, you should hang around after and chat with the readers and the host. Plan on visiting the host’s blog multiple times during the day and well into the evening. Ask the host to announce that you will be answering questions and talking with readers in the comments. When done right, the comments gallery goes crazy good bonkers with lively interaction. By evening, people will be revisiting the blog over and over to get up to date on the conversation going on. The host’s page views will go off the hook, making them very happy, and they will be glad to have you back on your next tour.


Marvin Wilson is the author of three books, I Romanced the Stone, Owen Fiddler, and the just-released Between the Storm and the Rainbow. Marvin is a full time writer, is on staff at All Things That Matter Press as an editor, and also does freelance editing.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Book Trailers That Answer the Buy Questions

Today we welcome Lisa Gottfried to the Blood-Red Pencil. She shares her professional advice about book trailers and how you can make yours stand out from the crowd.

I am dangerous in a bookstore. My husband and I have a deal that we will not step through those glass doors to literary heaven unless we have earned enough extra money ahead of time to pay for at last fifteen or twenty books in one visit. I am a serious book buyer.

My general game plan goes something like this. Go to the genre I adore and stand amongst the shelves scanning for titles and covers that appeal to my interests. Zero in on a small section and start reading titles. Pull out a few that draw me in and read the jacketflaps or backcover synopses.

What happens next is the part where I decide to buy or not. I flip open the book and read a few random pages. I decide right then and there whether I like the writing, the illustrations and the essence of the book. From there the book either comes with me or gets quickly placed back on the shelf. I am not alone in buying books this way. Most people use this method in one form or another.

How does this relate to on-line book sellers and book videos or book trailers? Imagine I'm at my computer, looking at books on, or or a local bookstore's website. The browse is a little different, and how I arrive at a possible book is different, but the decision making point, the moment that I decide to buy the book, is the same. I want to know if I'll like the writing. I want to be shown the essence of the book on-line. How do I get to that kind of information about a book as an on-line buyer? Book trailers.

There are many, many book trailers out there on the internet that seemed to have missed the mark on how people buy books. The purpose of a trailer is not to be the jacketflap summary or the backcover synopsis. That part is offered as a paragraph, usually to the right of the video trailer, and is read before a viewer decides to watch the video in the first place. A book trailer, on the other hand, allows the viewer to get a sense of the writing in the book, to delve deeper into the story, and get a quick glimpse of the overall nature or flavor of the book.

Unfortunately, the formula for book trailers these days seems to be the same one used over and over again. "Tim, the forlorn salesman. Janet, his flighty wine-loving wife. A stolen baby. The police are after them for a murder they didn't commit. Find out what happens in XYZ Title." Ugh.

If you are thinking of making a book trailer, about to write up a script, or are having someone create a video for you, use some commonly known writing skills to build interest in your book. Don't tell your readers, show them. Zero in on an emotionally interesting moment in the book. Jump into an interesting dialogue between characters. Steer clear from third person storytelling. Be creative, brief, and don't give away the whole plot.

Answer the questions that are on the mind of the book trailer viewer. Why should I buy this book? What's interesting about it? Will I like the writing? Can I emotionally connect with this story?

Having a book trailer is an amazing way to move people towards decision and action. Use the media to its fullest potential. You want more than just a fancy announcement that your book is out and available to buy. Go the extra step and grab hold of viewers and move them towards actually buying your book! If done right your book trailer can cause people to sit up and take notice, and in the end, buy your book.

Click here for a video example of what works.

Lisa Gottfried has been in the video and marketing field for over 15 years. She owns DigitalWeavers, a website and book trailer company in Napa, CA. She is available for speaking engagements around the San Francisco Bay Area and for national events around the country as an expert on book trailers. She's also an on-line social networking junkie and consumes books like candy bars. At Facebook: Lisa Gottfried

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Promoting on the Internet

I received a review copy of Penny C. Sansevieri's revised Red Hot Internet Publicity: An Insider's Guide to Marketing Your Book on the Internet so I could review it on -- which I will be doing soon, honest.

Penny Sansevieri is with Author Marketing Experts and her book is chock full of good tips and advice , as well as giving links to Web sites with more good tips and advice. It is a wonderful resource for any writer, and I am already highlighting points to use when I start promoting my next book.

The author uses bullets and lists, which makes it easy to pick out the points to highlight, and this list really caught my attention:

Golden Rules of Social Media and Internet Marketing
1. Listen: listen and observe, see what's being said online and how you can participate.
2. Participate: join in, share stuff, be helpful.
3. Give first, ask later. The best rule of thumb is to give more than you take.
4. Dialog: communicate (don't join and stand in a corner, which is something I have been known to do)
5. Don't try and do everything: it's not always a great idea to have 35 social networking sites. Join only as many as you can manage.
6. Leave your wallet at the door: don't show up online wanting to make money. Show up ready to share and enlighten. This will take you much further.
7. Don't be afraid to share your opinion.
8. Be honest: it's tempting for some to embellish or lie. Who's gonna find out about it, right? Wrong. The Internet has a way of sifting out the fake stuff and embracing the real messages.

To this list I would add:
Be professional in all your posts and comments, especially on social sites and lists where you get comfortable after a while and are tempted to post a rant about your publisher or editor. Don't put something out there on the Internet that has the potential to come back and bite you in any part of your anatomy.


Maryann Miller is the Managing Editor of, an online community magazine, and a reviewer for and ForeWord Magazine. Her latest books are One Small Victory and Play it Again, Sam. Visit her Web site for information about her books and her editing services. If you have a good book, she can help you make it better. When she is not working, Maryann loves to play "farmer" on her little ranch in the beautiful Piney Woods of East Texas.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

What Kind of Promotion Works Best for Authors?

That’s a question that is asked a lot, but the better question might be what promotion will you be the most comfortable doing.

When approaching a publisher these days, most of them want a marketing plan submitted along with the manuscript–and the plan plays a part in whether or not the publisher accepts the manuscript. Probably you, as the author, will put everything down you can think of as part of your plan: bookstore signings, library talks, appearances before service and social groups and all the online venues you can think of.

Doing book signings is what most authors used to do and some still successfully plan and go on book tours. Though I do a few book store stops when a new books comes out, for me, that’s not my best promotion effort, unless I can give a talk along with the signing.

Anytime I can give a talk along with a signing, I know I’ll be more apt to sell books. That’s also why authors like to be on panels at writing conferences and conventions because if they can interest those in the audience in their book, it’s more likely to be purchased. However, going to cons and panels are not so much about selling books as meeting people, making new reader friends and getting your name known.

I like to do book and craft fairs too–but you must be brave enough to talk to the people who come by your table or booth or you won’t be successful.

With the Internet, there are many things for the more timid to do. Every author must have a Web site and the Web site needs to change from time to time. It should offer something to readers as well. Because an author should also have a blog, the Web site should be connected to the blog. Like the Web site, the blog’s content needs to change often.

A virtual book tour is one way for an author to promote that is really lots of fun. You can set up the tour yourself by finding blogs where you’d be a good fit as an author and asking if they’d like to have you for a guest during the time of your tour. If you don’t want to go to all that trouble, there are various blog tour professional you can pay to set up your tour. In either case, you must let people know when you’re visiting each blog which takes me to another thing to do, signing up for yahoo lists. It’s important to be a participant on the list though, not just pop in and out when you’re promoting something. Two good sites to visit and join are run by Dani Greer, our founding member here. Visit her Blog Book Tours blog for loads of information, and join her Yahoo!Group, the BBT Cafe, to chat with seasoned blog book tour veterans.

Twitter and Facebook are great places to pass the word about your latest book and what you’re doing.

There is so much available nowadays for promotion, even if you are painfully shy, there’s no reason you can’t find many ways to promote yourself and your book(s).

Marilyn Meredith is the author of over twenty-five published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, the latest Kindred Spirits from Mundania Press. Under the name of F. M. Meredith she writes the Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series, No Sanctuary is the newest from Oak Tree Press.
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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Thank you!

We officially have 400 followers today. We are thrilled spitless and blushing as red as our pencils. Thank you all, over and over, for visiting us every day. We love it!

Dani & editors

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Weekend Wisdom

It usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.

— Mark Twain

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Public Speaking for Authors: Giving the Talk

So far in this Public Speaking for Authors series, we’ve covered Organizing Your Talk, Practicing Your Talk and Preparing for a Reading. Now it’s time to actually give the talk.

You’ve done your preparatory work. You decided what to speak on and the points you want to cover. If you’ll be doing a reading, you’ve brought your book with the marked pages. You’ve put your talking points or keywords on note cards or a single piece of paper. You’ve practiced and timed your talk.

Now, the day has arrived. It’s time to actually talk to an audience.

1. Dress comfortably. Look nice, but you don’t have to wear high heels or, for men, a suit, unless you’re comfortable in them. One time I was emceeing an awards event. When I got to the venue and saw the stage with its stairs, I did a U-turn, went back to my car, and changed my heels for flats. Very, very glad I did.

2. Get to the venue early. If it’s at a bookstore, introduce yourself to the CRM or booksellers. Thank them for hosting the event. Offer to sign stock after the talk. Check the staging for your talk so you’ll know where it will take place and whether you’ll have a podium, a microphone, etc. Make sure you’ll have a glass or bottle of water handy.

3. When it’s time for your talk, take your notes and your book and go to the podium. Smile. Keep your head up. Don’t stress out. You’ve done your preparation. You don’t have to rush. Set your notes on the podium where you can see them. No podium? Set them on the table and be prepared to half-sit half-lean on the table, if you can. If you can’t bring yourself to do that, sit behind the table, but be aware that puts a barrier between you and your readers. No table, no podium? Bring up a chair (or have one brought up when you were checking out the stage earlier). Standing is best, though, so everyone can see you and you can see them.

4. Stand up straight - on both feet. (Sounds silly, but putting most of your weight on one foot can result in fatigue.) Make eye contact with the audience. Relax and smile. They’re not going to bite and you’re not going to pass out.

5. If you weren’t introduced, tell them about yourself and your book. Speak clearly. Don’t rush through your words or your words will run together. Think about what you’re saying and make your voice fit the words. Don’t speak in a monotone. If you need to glance at your notes, do it. That’s why you brought them. But don’t stare at them. Your eyes should mostly be up, looking at people in the audience, even those on the back row. Looking at a person makes him feel you’re talking directly to him. It makes her a part of your talk, establishes a relationship and makes her invested in the shared experience.

6. When the talk is over, thank the audience and your hosts. If you’re also doing a reading, now’s the time. Keep it short. Tell the audience what page you’re reading from - if they already have the book in hand they often like to turn to that page to follow along. And look up at the audience - don’t bury your nose in the book. Use whatever tone is appropriate for the section that you’re reading - be it funny, tense, sad, whatever. There will be times when you read first, then talk. If the piece fits what you’ll be talking about and you want to read it first as an example, it’s okay to read first.

7. After the reading - or after the talk if you didn’t follow with a reading - open the floor for questions if there’s time. Relax. The hard part’s over. Now you can answer questions, then sign books. After the questions, let everyone know you’ll be signing books and urge them to sign your attendance sheet to be notified of your next book’s debut or to receive your newsletter, etc.

8. If you’re part of a panel, don’t hog the floor. Before the panel starts, stand your book in front of you, slightly to the side, cover facing the audience. Once you've done a few of these, you'll probably bring your own book stand. If you're at a bookstore, you can ask to borrow one.

When it’s over, you’ll most likely be surprised by how quickly the time went by. And looking forward to doing it again. Remember, a reader is more likely to buy your book if they have one-to-one contact with you. Much more likely than if they just see you sitting at a signing table. You want to become comfortable talking to people, doing readings and giving talks.
Helen Ginger loves to talk and do public readings. She teaches public speaking as well as writing and marketing workshops. When she’s not writing, she edits for other writers and blogs. Her free e-newsletter for writers has been going out around the globe for 10 years.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Public Speaking for Authors: Preparing for a Reading

Welcome to Part 3 of Public Speaking for Authors. We started with Organizing Your Talk, then moved to Practicing Your Talk. Today, we discuss doing the prep work for a reading.

Sometimes you’re asked to do a reading, either as part of a talk or as strictly a reading. Even though you know your book - you wrote it, after all - you still need to practice.

1. Find out how much time you’ll have for the reading. Deduct time for someone to introduce you - or for you to introduce yourself. Deduct time for questions and answers. Now, you have an idea of how much time you’ll have for the actual reading.

2. Choose a passage from your book that’s appropriate for the expected audience. If it’s an open audience or children might be there, choose something G-rated. I remember an author reading from a book as part of a Writers’ League event. He was hooked up to a microphone in an open space at Barnes & Noble, our host for the night. Everything was going fine until he got to a tense part of the passage. The more tense it became, the louder he spoke, until he was almost yelling as he read the F-word three times: Fxxk! Fxxk! Fxxk! Those of us with the League almost choked. The CRM’s eye got huge. And a man got up and dragged his kid out of the area.

2. Choose a passage that has a start and an end (especially if the end is a hook that will make your listeners want to buy the book and discover the end for themselves) and can be read in the allotted time. Choose a passage that’s moving or funny or scary or tense or … you get the idea. But it shouldn’t reveal the actual end of the book.

3. Practice beforehand. Record yourself and listen back. Are you reading in a monotone voice? Or are you using inflection and pacing to fit the piece? Are you rushing? Are you remembering to breathe?

4. Mark up your piece. If you don’t want to mark in your book, then type up the passage and print it out to read from. Mark where you want to pause for effect. Put an accent mark over words you want to stress or give a special tone to - or highlight them. Think about the words. What do they mean? How can you use your voice to convey that meaning? If this is really stressful for you, mark where to breathe. Seriously.

5. Practice some more. Make sure as you practice, you stand up, as you will during the actual reading. Look up, look up, look up - don’t train yourself to look down and read in a flat, lifeless voice - or you’ll do it at the reading. Pretend you have an audience and move your focus from imaginary person to imaginary person. Use your eyes and words to pull each person into the story.

6. If you decide to print out the passage, print it out in a large font so it’s easy to read.

7. When you finish reading, pause, look out at the audience. Hold for a beat. Smile. Wait for applause. Then open the floor for questions. After questions, let everyone know you’re available to sign. And point out that you have a sign-up sheet and would appreciate it if they’d fill out their name and email. Promise not to spam them, but let them know if signing the sheet signs them up for a newsletter or an email announcing the next book or what the list will be used for.

You’re done. The first one is always the hardest. But it gets easier. And easier. Trust me. I’m not a doctor and don’t play one on TV, but public speaking and oral interpretation are my specialties. That and knowing how to eat a banana underwater.
After three years of swimming in a mermaid tail with Ralph the Pig, Helen Ginger graduating with a Master’s in Speech with a specialization in Oral Interpretation. She taught Public Speaking at San Antonio College and supervised student teachers for Incarnate Word College. Now, she teaches public speaking as well as writing and marketing workshops - and blogs, tweets, edits and consults with other authors on their books.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Public Speaking for Authors: Practicing Your Talk

In the first part of this Public Speaking for Authors series, we covered Organizing Your Talk. Now that you’ve made your notes and have decided on the points you want to cover and have tied it all together, you’re ready to start practicing.

Remember, don’t write out your talk. Or, if you absolutely must write it out, then now’s the time to set it aside and work from your notes.

1. Sometimes, instead of giving a talk, you’re simply doing a reading. You probably won’t need notes for that, but practice what you’ll say about yourself (in case there’s no one there to introduce you) and what you might say about your book. Be sure you bring a copy of your book with you, with the pages marked that you’re going to read - the starting point to the ending point.

2. If you are giving a talk, you still need to know what you’ll say to introduce yourself and your book - even if someone is supposed to introduce you. You never know what might happen to delay that person. So be prepared.

3. Now that you know how you would open your talk and you have your notes about the talk, it’s time to Practice. Out loud. Scribble notes on your “outline” as you practice. Run through it several times. Once you think you have your talk down, put your main points or keywords on note cards or on one sheet of paper. (If using note cards, number them.) Then practice some more. Stand up and practice. Then record yourself. Play it back. Time the talk. There’s not much worse than thinking you’re talking for fifteen minutes, only to find people walking out of your talk because you’ve droned on for thirty minutes.

4. Type up your notes or put them on clean note cards. Do not use full sentences. Use keywords - just enough for you to glance down and remind yourself of what your next point is in the talk. Having one- or two-word notes is a crutch you can turn to if you need it. Writing full sentences or, worse, writing out the speech is a body cast that will end up making you stiff. If you’re reading your speech or searching sentences to find your place, you’re talking to your notes not to the audience.

5. If you’re not sure how to start and end the talk, remember the sage advice:

Tell ‘em what you’re gonna tell them.
Tell ‘em.
Then tell ‘em what you told them.

Next time in this series on Public Speaking for Authors, we’ll talk about Preparing for a Reading.
After graduating with a Master’s in Speech with a specialization in Oral Interpretation, Helen Ginger taught Public Speaking at San Antonio College. Now, she teaches public speaking as well as writing and marketing workshops - and blogs, tweets, edits and consults with other authors on their books.

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