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This Week's Guest Author

Ryder Islington finds success with a small press publisher

Please welcome Louisiana author, Ryder Islington, who’s novel Ultimate Justice, A Trey Fontaine Mystery was recently published by LL-Publications. Ryder shares her circuitous journey to finding the right publisher for her mystery series and some of the advantages of going with a small press. Ultimate Justice is available in print and ebook through LL-Publications and through Kindle and most major ebook retailers. You can find out more about Ryder at her blog.

Publishers and Agents and Editors, Oh My! The Horror Of It All

The winding road to publication of Ryder Islington’s debut novel, Justice, A Trey Fontaine Mystery 

In The Beginning:
I want to start by saying, pitches, queries and synopses suck! I can’t even write short stories, so how can I create an all encompassing sentence, paragraph or even a page? Okay, now that I have that out of my system…

Reeling in the big fish: my latest experience with major publishers
I had this masterpiece, my baby, ready to send into the world. At the Written In The Stars Conference in Shreveport, LA, a pitch to a big time editor won me a request for a full manuscript! She raved about the concept and the characters, so I didn’t blink when she asked for an exclusive. She kept the script eighteen months before sending a nicely written rejection, saying the writing was great, but she didn’t think the pace was fast enough nor was it a thriller, which was what she expected.  I thought she knew it was a mystery, but apparently I wasn’t clear in my pitch.  

Trying something different: the small press
I sent out queries to agents and editors and got a few requests for a synopsis and a few chapters, but no one said yes. So I put the script under the bed, where it set for several months before I pulled it back out for more revisions. I started scouting the Internet for other options.

After some research, I chose an e-publisher and sent a query. The editor contacted me for a full, kept it for three months and then sent a cryptic message regarding drastic changes in the number of characters and more showing and less telling. I asked for more specific advice so I could comply, but never got a response.

Back to the drawing board. Three more queries. Three responses. One person asked for a full, but didn’t have time to read it until after the end of the year (I think this was about June or July), one said he would be glad to publish it, after only reading my query and synopsis. My ego yelled, “Yes!” but my gut said something wasn’t right. He couldn’t possibly be a legit publisher interested in putting out good books.

Success: LL-Publications
And then there was the third one. I received a professional style letter requesting a full, and saying she would get back to me within six weeks. And she did. She explained what needed more work, and what she would require in terms of changes, and offered a contract if I agreed. She kept her word and I really liked that she said right up front what she expected and what I would receive in the way of royalties for my work. So I signed on the dotted line.

I never got an agent. I don’t need one right now. The people at LL-Publications are very helpful, knowledgeable, patient, and willing to help make the end product shine. And so my debut novel, Justice, A Trey Fontaine Mystery, was born. I don’t regret my decision to go with a small press. I have to do a lot of promotion, but the truth is, large publishers don’t spend dollars on newbies. So even if I had landed one of the biggies, I’d be in the same boat.

The freedom of working with the small press publisher
I feel empowered by working closely with the small press publisher. My book is available as an e-book and print on demand (POD). I like the greenness of that. And I like that I have no one pressuring me to put out more books, faster. I work as fast as I can, and I promote as much as I can. The editor understands that I have limited time, as well as  physical limitations, and works with me, even sending business cards and cover plates for advertising. I think she’s pretty cool.

The cover plates are pictures of the book cover, a bit larger than a post card, with a blurb, bio, review and a buy link on the back. I carry both of these items where ever I go and I’m not shy about asking, “Are you a reader?” The cashier, bank teller (I sold her three copies), physical therapist, movie ticket taker. Business cards fit nicely with my out-going mail. So, everyone at the pharmacy, electric company, and satellite provider gets an opportunity to learn about my book. I also post cover plates and business card in libraries, on bulletin boards, and I’ve been known to leave them lying around at the doctor’s office, the hospital, the massage therapist’s waiting room—no one is safe from my littering.

So what’s next? Well, I’m working on book two of the Trey Fontaine Mysteries, while I work on the next horror of it all: promotions—Facebook and Twitter and blog tours, oh my!

This Week's Guest Author

Liv Rancourt talks about promoting her debut novella, A Vampire’s Deadly Delight
I’m pleased to host Seattle author Liv Rancourt, whose guest post appears below. Liv is a writer of speculative fiction and romance. Her paranormal romance novella A Vampire’s Deadly Delight was published this month by Black Opal Books. Liv will share her seven steps to getting known as an author.

Seven Steps to Getting Known as an Author

Liv Rancourt promotes her debut novella, A Vampire’s Deadly Delight 

I’ve heard that people have to see something seven times before it sticks, and my plan to promote A Vampire’s Deadly Delight is built around that principle. I want to give readers multiple opportunities to get to know Liv Rancourt. To make that happen, I’ve taken seven steps to find my readers and help them find me.  

1.    I built a I post two or three times a week, and try for a mix of writing-related content with stories about my life. The tone is generally humorous, because while I’m not a humor writer, I do like to make people smile. I target people who enjoy paranormal fiction, but try to include more general themes to interest a broader range of readers. 

2.     I created a Using® and their web-building template, WebsiteTonight®, I’m building a site with information about me, my books, a link to my blog, at least one sample short story, and a subscribe form so my readers can sign up to receive direct mailings. The website is still a work in progress.

3.    I launched a Facebook Until two weeks ago, Facebook was the mainstay of my social networking. It’s a great platform for broadcasting my blog posts and for connecting with other writers and readers. 

4.    I started using This is networking on steroids. It’s a huge tapestry of the human experience, with an emphasis on promotion. I haven’t been using it long, but so far I am impressed with what it can do and the connections I can make. You never know who’s going to see and broadcast something you’ve put out there. 

5.    I have organized a series of guest blog appearances, and I’m beginning to host other writers on my blog. Beyond giving readers an opportunity to get to know me, my blog is a networking tool. The reciprocal relationships that these guest posts foster strengthen my ability to reach readers. I appreciate every one of those opportunities, and I strive to create posts that balance information, entertainment and heart. That said, it’s just as important for me to be a good hostess, because wherever I can I want to pay it forward. 

6.    I am submitting A Vampire’s Deadly Delight to reviewers. The publisher, Black Opal Books, submitted the book for review at fifteen websites, and in addition, I’ve compiled a list of book review sites using Google searches, Facebook and Twitter. Over the next two months I will be submitting the book to sites that aren’t on the publisher’s list. I’ve also created an Amazon author’s page and will be encouraging readers to leave reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Since each review correlates to an increase in sales, I’m aiming for at least half a dozen reviews on Amazon, and another half a dozen on Goodreads. 

7.    I’ll take out a billboard on the corner of Hollywood and Vine. Not really, although realistically you might expect me to say, “I’m arranging for readings at bookstores and libraries.” Well, I’m not. Yet. For now my focus is on selling ebooks. But once I sell 100 copies of the ebook, I’ll work with the publisher to do a print version and then I’ll set up some appearances.

Any good plan needs concrete ways to measure its success. Besides sales, I’m tracking my blog hits and website views, and using that feedback to evaluate the effectiveness of my plan. This is my trial run, and I expect to learn plenty about what works and what doesn’t.  

A promotional plan takes time, which means time away from writing. Yet I believe the investment will be worth it. I want to thank Lori for the opportunity to post on her blog. She’s an excellent marketing professional, and I’ve learned so much from her. This is all an amazing adventure. Thanks for sharing it with me.


Countdown to Selling a Christmas Story

Guest blog by Paul Navarro, author of The Gift Giver 

Time, time, time. My biggest sin is time—I have treated it with callous disregard. Let me tell you how. 

I wrote my children’s Christmas story, The Gift Giver, years ago, maybe three. And before that, it had been in my head for about a decade. So that’s 13 years I had to come up with a marketing plan for The Gift Giver. Thirteen years to secure media time, schedule appearances, do a real build up to Black Friday (when most people start their Christmas shopping). But, I didn’t do any of those things.

In my defense, it’s been a hell of a year.
1)    I finished polishing up my middle grade novel, The Incredible Misadventures of Zadora Zane, so my agent could start sending it out;
2)    I finished up an application to a prestigious grad program (getting together all the materials was no small feat); and the biggest thing of all;
3)    I got married.

So, it didn’t appear like the optimal year to release a book, especially when you factor in the fact that I’d never self-published a book before. But I’m nothing if not optimistic.  

Mounting the self-publishing mountain
I came back from my honeymoon at the end of October bound and determined to have this children’s book out by Thanksgiving weekend. Yes, looking back that may have been a little too ambitious. Doing all the illustrations myself and rewriting the manuscript about a dozen times, I finally had a draft I was proud of by the end of November. It then took me several days to figure out how to upload it to Amazon with all the formatting intact, all the while the number of shopping days until Christmas dwindling away—just like the song. (Is there a song for that? Well, there should be one.) Anyway, I did it. I got my book listed in all the major eReaders with a print version on Whew!

But what now? 

Nightmare before Christmas
With only three weeks till Christmas, I’ve managed to squeeze myself into one writer’s fair to sell some books. It was a lot of fun and got me pumped up to really start plugging my book. This was when I realized there’s a lot more to publishing a book than just publishing a book. Somehow you’ve got to let people know it’s there and make them want to buy it. But how?

I turned to my writing friends for help. Some interviewed me for their blogs, some had me write guest posts (like the one you’re reading now), and others suggested independent book stores in which to sell my stocking stuffer. But in the midst of all this pre-Christmas chaos, what I’m struggling with is time. I need time to visit these book stores, time to write blog posts, time to go to book fairs. If I as independent publishers am to be successful in my literary endeavors, I must allow myself time to plan, time to execute my plan and then time to follow up after the execution so I can keep sales soaring. I’m going to assume that this is part of the reason the big ships like Simon & Schuster and Harper Collins buy books so far in advance—to give themselves time to build a strategy. 

I don’t make resolutions; I make plans
I, for one, will not commit the sin of taking time for granted again. Next year will be different. I’m going to start in the summer so by Thanksgiving I will have people lined up to buy my book. I may even create a special edition with more illustrations. In 2012, I will prioritize and give myself the gift of time. You can, too. Your book deserves it. It deserves your full attention and the entire weight of your creative brain. Let my story be a lesson to you and believe me when I say that your three biggest assets when marketing your book are time, time and time.

The Gift Giver is available on Amazon, Nook, Kindle and Lulu for the iPad.