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No More "Tuesdays with Marley": Avoid Copy-cating Bestsellers

July 16, 2009

One of our favorite moments of last May’s BookExpo coverage was this one-liner from Bob Miller of HarperStudio: during a discussion on “Stupid Things Publishers & Booksellers Do,” he said, “No more Tuesdays with Marley?” He was, of course, referring to the hastily (and poorly) produced copycats that tend to follow breakout successes in the book world. (Here’s looking at you, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.)

The lesson is to not let market trends alone dictate the book you decide to write and publish. Most of the time, book buyers will see right through a blatant attempt to piggyback onto a successful book that was probably a success because it was a well-written and smartly packaged book—not because it contained special subject matter (boy wizards, emo vampires, etc.) that readers craved in and of itself.

Anyway, if you thought Tuesdays with Marley was clever, you’ll love the fake-bestseller contest put on by Steve Hely, author of How I Became a Famous Novelist (Grove Press). His book includes a mock NYT bestseller list [PDF alert], and he invited others to come up with their own bogus book titles. A personal favorite, from @ami_with_an_i: "Punk Girls Don't Get Fat: The Secrets of Staying Skinny on Just Two Packs of Camel Wides and a Flask of Cheap Whiskey a Day." See them all on Twitter and on Facebook. (PS: This is also near-brilliant social media marketing, obviously.)

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Bookstore Signings: HarperStudio's 5 Tips and More

July 16, 2009

Some of you might remember that for an April Fool's gag, we gave seven "hot tips" for author events. Signing

Over at HarperStudio's blog The 26th Story, they're giving you the good stuff: a great blog post with five important (real) things to remember for authors who are having book signings at local stores.

Those tips include:

  1. We are investing in you. Invest in us!
  2. Don't spread yourself too thin.
  3. Please don't second-guess the bookstore.
  4. Stay calm; do not panic!
  5. Enjoy your big day!

Check out the blog post, "An Author Walks Into a Bookstore (for a signing)" to get the complete information.

Other links to check out on the how-tos, goods, bads, uglies, and mathematics of book signings and author events:

If you have any stories to share about author events (both as an author and as an antendee), let us know!

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Steal This Idea (again): Video Book Promotion

July 14, 2009

Our friends over at the book trailer blog share an insightful way for authors to use video as a promotional tool for their books, appropriately titled, "Steal This Idea."

The video just so happens to feature author Neil Gaiman, which you big bad book blog readers may recognize as a favorite of mine, and an extraordinaire at modern book promotional techniques.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9Dz90e883Q&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Fgreenleaftx...

Authors and publicists, share with us some of your favorite techniques for combining digital tools and marketing efforts for your books!

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Writing for Your Audience

July 2, 2009

crowd“My play was a complete success. The audience was a failure.”
Ashleigh Brilliant

I’ve read many books, ideas, proposals. A small, but shining few are good, and there is a significant trait that define them as such. The authors know who their audience is, and they write for that audience. Knowing your core audience is essential.

I am the first to admit how deeply personal putting words to paper is for me. It has always been subject to my interests, my thoughts, my ideas, my passions. I write because it fulfills me.

Most authors don't write for money or fame (or “fortune and glory,” as pulp fiction screen star Indiana Jones would have put it), but because they have a honest love of what they do.

But the authors who find success (as household names or finding a niche of readers who love their work), they realize that writing a book is about creating something that will find an audience, and moreso, something that finds the right audience. It’s about what the audience will love.

It’s not blasphemy or insensitivity, it’s truth. If a writer doesn’t know who wants to read their work, they won't find an audience. But knowing your audience isn’t the easiest task. There are many considerations, including:

  • genre (what type of book is it? Fiction, nonfiction, memoir, sci-fi/fantasy, women’s fiction, popular science?)
  • subject (light fare or dark? Happy marriages or abuse? New theories or battling disease?)
  • length (short, long or in-between?)
  • language (poetic or straightforward, child’s POV or adult’s, fact-filled or completely imaginative?)
  • current trends (what is selling? What’s popular at the moment?)
  • marketability (can you get this book to your core audience?)

Others arise as well, depending the answers to the above questions.

As an author, it is part of your job to find the answers to these questions, to understand about your core audience. It isn’t enough to write a good book that you think people will like. You have all the fodder you need to know what people like. What’s selling, being talked about, winning awards, popular in social media, or circling through book clubs? (What is most important to you will of course depend on who you’re trying to reach).

I’m not suggesting that your writing becomes impersonal, because that will alienate an audience as surely as will a book they’re not interested in reading. It’s about finding a balance, about shaping your work as you write it and molding it to the needs of your readers while still creating something that you love.

It won’t work every time. Not every idea is meant to be embraced by your readers, as popular and niche writers alike know well. At times, you will always fail to connect. Some writers feel the need to blame the audience, but it is not their failure for having preferences. It just means re-learning your audience, and writing something new.

While you write, the consideration should be that your book is for other people. It’s hard to remember that at times, in the heat of writing, lost in another world. But it is a core component of authorship. You mean very little as an author without a reader—and in the end, why write if you cannot share it with the world?

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It’s a Big, Bad Book World: This Week in Publishing

June 26, 2009

nerdgirlreaderI like to Twitter. Really, I do. But sometimes I have these dark, nightmarish moments that the little Twitter bird is going to peck out my eyes and feed on my soul. And in these dark, nightmarish moments, the Twitter bird looks like this.

Literary agent Rachelle Gardner knows that selling your book is as much the challenge, pleasure, burden and fight of authors as of publishers. And this is why.

Titling is key for any book, but methinks these celebrity memoirs were much more focused on memorable kitch value then brilliant book names.

The Abbeville Manual of Style presents a wonderful interview with Ed Champion, host of The Bat Segundo Show and book blogger. And because he likes Victorian literature and mint juleps, I’m automatically a shameless fan.

Maybe Chris Anderson of Wired shouldn’t have named his new book FREE (subtitle: The Future of a Radical Price). He was certainly thinking ‘free’ when he cribbed several of his ideas from Wikipedia and then did not edit or change them, leaving word-for-word passages in the final copy of the book. Whoops.

With the recent debacle regarding J.D. Salinger’s attempted copyright of his character to prevent J.D. California’s publishing of a sequel at a standstill (a federal judge has placed a restraining order on publication of the sequel), people are asking… who cares? Apparently, Holden Caulfield is not quite as captivating to today’s teenagers as he was in yesteryears.  Yes, I thought he was angst-filled, snobbish jerk too.

Just when you thought book censorship was becoming a pastiche, angry citizens demand books be pulled from a summer reading list… or burned at the stake. In Illinois, Sherman Alexie’s THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN is remaining on the summer reading list for freshman at Antioch Community High School despite protests from several parents, while in Wisconsin Francesca Lia Block’s BABY BE-BOP nearly got a library sued over its accessibility, which has LGBT groups and free speech committees fighting to keep it from being burned.

Erin Miller of About.com gives us the first half of her “Best Books for 2009.” Agree? Disagree? I’m happy, but that’s because Guillermo del Toro’s THE STRAIN is sitting happily on said list.

Dick Cheney has just signed a deal with Simon & Schuster to write his memoir, which is anticipated to be published in spring of 2011. One might be curious if certain news-making incidents involving hunting companions will be included, but that doesn’t exactly fall into the realm of Washington politics.

Please don’t talk about sex… write about it. Times Online asks us: Who writes best about sex? Discussed? Taboos, full-frontal, the Kama Sutra, fantasies, the erotic lexicon, and more.
And not only that, but provides some tailor-made articles:

My new favorite agent-blogger, Chip MacGregor (what a name!), gives us an overview of ten items detailing where the publishing industry will be in 5 years. I don’t know about you, but I’m willing to put money on most of these.

The Royal Society is offering a £10,000 prize to writers of science books, proving that popular science is, well, popular. The shortlist is out, so if you haven’t started already, illuminate your mind.

A blog we recommend for all you comic, graphic novel and manga readers, one of the best resources out there is Publishers Weekly’s The Beat, the News Blog of Comics Culture by Heidi MacDonald. Chock full of news, links, YouTube videos, comic reviews and recommendations, this is an excellent resource for the casual reader and avid collector alike.

Perhaps it is not quite literary, but in an age of democracy, there are still kings. And when those kings pass, the elegant ways in which we remember them are worthy of any book. The King of Pop is dead, and TIME presents a beautiful article on the glory, the revulsion, the sadness and the eccentricity surrounding the rise and fall of Michael Jackson by means of a literary reference—the endearing but heartrending man-child, Peter Pan.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8VASYhabHkM&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.time.co...

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