Monthly Archives: March 2013

Publishing Principles: Cornerstones of your Writing Career

Most writers I know carry notebooks and take notes all the time. I buy books with heavy weight paper, preferably lined, and interesting covers that hold up to Flair pens and hard knocks, usually from riding in my purse. You might say I accessorize with notebooks, and notebooks are my method of marking time. For instance, it was two notebooks ago that I went to Stanford for a class on getting published, led by David Henry Sterry and partner Arielle Eckstut, and  took my notes in a book titled Lecture Notes with old fashioned iron keys dangling on the front and this quote:

That’s the way it is

with dreams. They scratch at

your door. You see them through

the peep hole. A stray dream looking

for a home. You think it might go away

if you ignore it. Wrong. It’s still

there when you open the door,

smiling. Wagging its tail.

My unpublished novel is baying on the porch. I’m opening the door…and I intend to succeed.

If you don’t know who Sperry and Eckstut are, you should. They wrote The Essential Guide to Getting your Book Published: How to Write It, Sell It, and Market It…Successfully! and their workshop at Stanford discussed and built upon the book.

Here’s a little foundation:

There are three ways to publish—traditionally, independently (through small presses) , and self-publishing ebooks and POD (print on demand) .

Today publishers aren’t going to market or promote your book (unless you’re already famous) so you need to be the “engine that drives the book.”

Authors who are entrepreneurs succeed by following four principles.

  1. Research—find out what books exist that are like yours and get an idea who might  publish and sell it. Who will read your book and how will you get it to them? Go to bookstores and libraries and look through the section where yours would be shelved. Read as many  books in your genre as you can. Talk with the booksellers and librarians. What is selling? Who is reading it? If your book deals with a topic of information, become an expert on that topic. Find the blogs and where your topic is showing up in the media. Follow Publishers Lunch for a daily digest of publishing news. Find out what all the deals are.
  2. Network—”Finding the right  agent and publisher, creating buzz, reaching your readers and selling books are all, in very large part, dependent upon people skills.” (Eckstut, Sperry) You can start now by joining writer’s groups, even your critique group. Talk about your book…ALL THE TIME. Sperry says don’t worry about anyone stealing your ideas. I say, so what? No one can write YOUR book!
  3. Write—I know, this sounds like a no-brainer, but my mind is boggled by the number of folk who talk to me about classes, and even editing, who are shocked to find out they will need to write or revise. If you want a long and productive writing career, you need to write. Every day would be ideal, but write what you can as often as you can. I have a friend who is suffering from cancer and chemo. She promised herself that she would write for 5 minutes every day no matter how awful she felt. She’s almost finished the rough draft of a new novel and has published several short stories. Were I to follow her writing lead, I’d have finish my Narco-trilogy some time ago.
  4. Perseverance—”…most successful authors have all had to persevere against oftentimes staggering evidence that they were complete losers who were bound to fail.” (Sperry, Eckstut) You have to send your work out. And you have to expect and deal with rejection. If you keep getting form letter rejections maybe your query letter isn’t working. (Note: did you open your query with that amazing  jacket blurb you got from that  famous author you met networking at a conference?) Research query letters and see what letters sold what books on agent sites. Keep evolving your material.


Assignment: Start your query letter NOW! And let in that dream…


Filed under Publishing

DIY? Some like Createspace

Now that The Hydra Effect book 1: Zihuatanejo is testing with “beta” readers, I’m thinking about what comes next. I’d love to find an agent and land a three-book deal sweetened with a fat advance, an editor, a publicist and a deep pocketed promotion budget. What writer wouldn’t? But is it realistic to expect my first book to be noticed by the traditional publishing industry? Or is that the right publishing route for me?

There’s a lot of talk about traditional publishing vs.  self-publishing. Agent Nathan Bransford blogged last year, “These days it seems like traditional and self-publishing are increasingly pitted against each other on blogs and forums, as if one side or the other is the bastion of all that is good and pure in the world and the other side is the bastion of all that is horrible and evil.” But it ain’t so. There are pluses and minuses to both.

Self publishing is a viable option for may of us. In our favor, digitally published books are out-selling paper books. I haven’t found a statistic that compares 2012 paper book sales to digital book sales  but Amazon’s 2012 digital book sales jumped 70% over the prior year and trends suggest Kindle  and Kindle aps are expanding into international markets.

Amazon may not be your ideal solution, but their publishing subsidiary, Createspace, may offer you the opportunity to launch your book into the world as it has for Nathan Robert Winters, author of the soon to be released, Omaha Kid. His local Launch Party will be held on April 6 at the Rianda House in St. Helena. We asked him to tell us about his experience using the Createspace publishing tools and he gave us some pros and cons of using this service.


  • you don’t need an agent
  • your book publishes much faster than through a traditional publishing house
  • you control all aspects of your book
  • you control all aspects of your publicity campaign
  • you keep a higher percentage of the profits


  • you don’t get the support of the agent or publisher
  • you find and pay for your own editors
  • there is no advance
  • you will have to maintain your own records

He went on to inform us that when you begin the Createspace process, your manuscript must be ready, corrected, formatted and error free. Although it can be a bit of drudgery, if you do publish with errors in your book, you can take it down and re-upload a corrected version—another possible feature for the CON list. Your book will also need it’s copyright and ISBN number, and a cover either predesigned, or you can use Createspace templates.

If you do choose to publish through Createspace, get a copy of Blake Webster and Steve Boga‘s book, How to Self-Publish Your Book The Createspace Way,  A Step-by Step Guide to Writing, Printing and Selling Your Own Book Using Print On Demand. It’s a nifty little book with plenty of screenshots that point out just what to do to upload your manuscript.

I haven’t made up my mind how to approach my publishing dilemma, but learning about the many options is opening my eyes to what lies ahead. At least I’ve got two of my three jacket blurbs even if there isn’t a jacket yet.

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Filed under Publishing