Saturday, July 26, 2008

Can You Google Yourself to Publishing Success?

If you're interested in making substantial and immediate headway into gaining exposure and what agents and publishers term a "platform," then the Internet should be your weapon of choice.

Here are just two stories making headlines this week that illustrate the power of the Internet.

A recent commentary on by Sramana Mitra reported that Elle Newmark, 56, a former advertising professional who had gone through four different agents on four separate book projects, decided that she "didn't have time for this anymore" and self-published her new book, a historical novel. Once the book came out, she "looked to the Internet to build a readership." Newmark decided to throw a virtual book launch party and sent out 500,000 email invites to agents, editors and reviewers. (The article did not say how she did this without spamming, but that must be another story.) The result? Her book became an Amazon bestseller the day of the virtual book launch, and she secured a William Morris agent and a contract with Simon & Schuster within two weeks.

If you're thinking that Newmark was an advertising exec who probably had a lot of insider friends and experience with Internet marketing, consider the story of Jeff Rivera, as told to Jim via a podcast on Kukral's blog.

Rivera, with no writing or marketing experience, self-published his book and set his mind to building a readership via the Internet. He googled three words that described his target audience and discovered bulletin boards where his potential readers would talk to each other. He joined the discussion groups and with only an email signature, jpeg of his book cover and a link to his website, he was able to drive so much traffic to his site, he convinced an agent and publisher that he had a strong enough following (platform) to ensure a successful book.

A few years ago, I attended a Mystery Writers local chapter meeting and met MJ Rose, the first author to use the Internet to successfully market her self-published book and garner an agent and publisher. She used the same strategy, but she did it by chance. Shortly after she published her book, she adopted a puppy and was having difficulty housebreaking him. She joined an online group for new dog owners and used her name and book title in her email signature. One day, someone asked about it and the rest is history. Rose is considered the poster girl of Internet marketing. Check out her blog, too.

In her commentary for Forbes, Mitra observed, "The trend also tells me that in today's world, aspiring authors stand a higher chance of success if they take more of their destiny in their own hands... Indeed, rules of engagement with agents and publishers are changing because of the power of print-on-demand and online marketing, and in that changing landscape, authors need to reinvent themselves as Internet entrepreneurs."

But you read it here first.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Follow the Trends to Publishing Success

Consider the following headlines from recent trade and consumer publications and see if you can spot the trend:
F+W Publications is Now F+W Media
Young Authors Turn Online Collaboration into Book Deal
Unbound: Publishers worry as new technologies transform their industry
Bowker Reports U.S. Book Production Flat in 2007: Traditional publishing steady, but "on demand" publishing soars as new technologies reduce barriers to entry
Authors Find Their Voice, and Audience, in Podcasts
Book Not Ready for Print? Whip Up an Audiobook for Now
Use Podcasts to Promote Your Books
Why Blog? Reason No. 92: Book Deal
Thumbs Race as Japan's Best Sellers Go Cellular
Penguin Sees Major e-Book Sales Spike

I'm sure by now you get the gist. Technology advances have played havoc on the staid publishing industry and now even the most conservative of the big houses are shifting their focus to include ebooks, interactive media and audio-visual formats. Well, it's about time, considering innovative authors and communicators have been doing it for years.

The good news for aspiring authors is that today you don't need someone's approval to present your message to your intended audience. I believe there will always be the place for the big publishing houses and literary agents, but it's not the only game in town anymore. Please understand that this is not an invitation to put out poor quality work; doing so will result in failure in any market. What this means is that now your voice has a choice.

Don't let age or lack of knowledge stop you. I wasn't born cable-ready (like my children), either. It's no harder to find out how to blog, build a website, start an ezine or create a podcast than it is to learn how to write a query letter, find and agent or prepare a book proposal. If you are open and receptive to the fabulous world that technology is making available to us, you can see your writing career soar.

If you're still intent on securing a traditional publishing contract, remember that today's big houses consider the value of a prospective author's platform as a huge portion of the acceptance criteria. There's no better and quicker way to build your platform than a blog, YouTube and social media. If you don't know what I'm talking about, hire an intern or assistant from your local college, ask your kids or grandkids--but learn how to do it. Do it now.

You can start by subscribing to some of the print and online resources I used to get the headlines quoted in this article. Most of these publications offer free online versions or ezines. They are: The New York Times, Publishers Weekly [PW Daily],,, Communications Solutions, Globe and Mail,, Bowker and Writer's Digest.

Many of the articles I read come to my attention through the use of Google key word alerts. In an upcoming post, I'll cover how I use this free service to track the industry trends and my own progress.

Friday, July 18, 2008

5 Traits of Successful Authors

Do you have a publishing dream? Have you written it down? Articulated and visualized what publishing success means to you? Good! (I'm envisioning you all nodding your heads, "yes.")

So, how's it going? Are you closer than you were a year ago, or do you feel you're spinning your wheels? (My guess is that my reading audience just split into two groups: one group is smiling, the other group is frowning.)

My "guess" is not a random supposition. After 30+ years of working with writers as an editor, consultant and publisher, I've seen many writers succeed while others fail. The difference between the groups is rarely due to talent alone. Successful authors share five traits that separate them from the wannabes. And, here they are:

The 5 Traits of All Successful Authors
1. Successful authors have a personal mission. Their writing stems from a deep need to share their personal passion with the world.

2. Successful authors are persistent. They do not let setbacks or rejection stop them. They develop an attitude of persistence rather than resistance.

3. Successful authors make educating themselves about their craft and the publishing industry part of their plan for success. They subscribe to trade magazines and ezines, attend writers' conferences and workshops, and take writing classes or join writers' critique groups.

4. Successful authors invest in coaching and other programs to get professional feedback on their work. They understand that critique is not criticism and are open to the feedback they receive.

5. Successful authors have an upbeat attitude. They don't have a laundry list of excuses (circumstances) to explain why they are not successful. They understand they have to figure out a way around the obstacles and turn them into opportunities.

No one is born with these traits, but anyone can develop the characteristics of a successful author. It's up to you to decide if you want to do the work. Choosing to put your efforts into other endeavors and enjoy your writing just for the pleasure of it is a perfectly acceptable decision. But, if you are driven to see your name in print or on a book cover, then start developing these traits and you will see your dreams come true.