Book Expo America Went Well

All my fears and anxieties were unfounded. We had a great trip to NYC and it was a lot of fun to share our company message with all the attendees at BEA.

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If we do this again I will have a better idea of what kind of decoration to bring. My display looked a little dinky but it did what it needed to do.

 

 

There was a lot of positive response. A lot of people liked our concept of love stories with physically disabled main characters.

 

 

 

We were able to hand out a number of ARC copies of the new novel Crossing The Line.
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When Writing About Disabled Characters, Don’t Do This

When you’re writing a book with a character who has a disability that you don’t have yourself there’s a lot of care and research to put into making sure you represent the disability well and contribute positively to the fight for civil rights that people with disabilities are engaged in.

But today I’m going to talk about something else. I have found that in books with characters with disabilities it has become very popular to put in a single sentence about “creepy devotees” and how your character isn’t one.

A friend of mine shared a few examples (and the fact is you can take just about any book published in the last ten years with a disabled character and find sentences like these)…

He had heard all the rumored reasons for why he never had a date at office parties, ranging from some sort of self-imposed sexual exile out of a dislike of women with strange kinks to the ongoing question of how well his plumbing worked. The folks in the first camp would probably be disappointed to learn that there weren’t hundreds of women lined up outside hotel rooms across America with fetishes for men who couldn’t wiggle their toes. The one woman with such a kink who’d found Micah had been strange in bed. It was not an encounter he wanted to repeat.

Lohmann, Jennifer (2014-09-01). Winning Ruby Heart (Harlequin Superromance) (Kindle Locations 350-351). Harlequin. Kindle Edition.

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Sweet Jesus. Hopefully she wasn’t one of those stump fetish freaks who could only get off with amputees. He’d never been with a woman like that, but lots of guys he’d met at the VA talked about being approached by women—and men—with that bizarre fetish.

James, Lorelei (2009-08-15). Shoulda Been A Cowboy (Rough Riders) (Kindle Locations 1301-1303). Samhain Publishing, Ltd.. Kindle Edition.

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“I didn’t know it then, but there are people who have to take care of someone to feel important about themselves. And there are people attracted to people in chairs because they’re in chairs, like some people prefer blondes or breasts or whatever.”
“That’s creepy.”
“Tell me about it.
That’s one of the things I loved about you from the minute I met you. You don’t pity me or feel sorry for me for being in a chair.”

Richardson, Lesli (2009-03-27). Cross Country Chaos (BookStrand Publishing Romance) (Kindle Locations 4474-4479). Siren-Bookstrand, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

These quotes show a stunning lack of any kind of understanding of what devotees actually feel. The lack of compassion also floors me.

Why is it okay to talk about an entire group of people that way?

Here’s something people don’t seem to comprehend, being a devotee is a rough life. You tend to be extremely isolated, feeling alone and frightened of your own sexuality. When you do start trying to understand it and connect with people, every where you go you hear that you are a “freak, creep, monster, fetishist” and more. You never hear anyone talk about what you are without also calling you a creep. You try to escape to fiction and read books where the love stories match what makes sense to you in your core being and the reward you get is a slap in the face. You can’t escape the judgement even in books and movies.

It’s like this… Imagine you are a gay man. All around you are examples of heterosexual love. It surrounds you constantly and you long to see the kind of love you’re looking for rather than watch movies and read books about hetero relationships. So you find m/m romance and you dive happily in ready to take a break from the real world and enjoy one where a relationship like what you are built for is reflected. But now imagine that EVERY m/m book had the characters insisting that they weren’t actually gay. Yes, they were having gay sex but it was different. They aren’t like those scary, creepy, bizarre gay people. That’s what it’s like for devotees, the vast majority of whom have never done anything scary or creepy in their lives.

If you want to write about devotees even in a single sentence, I urge you to read (W)hole by Ruth Madison. It is a deeply personal and honest account of what many devotees experience as they grow up.

I will never publish a book that talks about devotees like in those examples. It is both lazy writing and cruel to a large portion of your target audience.

I think writers do this for a few reasons.

1) They feel like this is a thing that gets talked about and so they need to address it in some way

2) They think it makes them look cool and sophisticated that they know about it

3) They want to make sure no one thinks their characters are one of those people.

But you don’t have to comment. You don’t have to say anything about people you know nothing about. Just keep your mouth shut on the subject. Write your characters falling in love, caring about each other, finding a deep soul connection and leave it at that. There is no need to prove that you know what a devotee is or to prove that your character isn’t one. Whether they are or not, the point of these books is to see people fall in love and in that aspect it makes zero difference whether your character has any devotee tendencies or not.

 

Book Expo America: Need Advice

One of my goals for 2015 (post about my other goals soon!) is to have a booth at a book conference. And that goal is coming true in May of 2015. Dev Love Press will have a table at Book Expo America.

There are two aspects of BEA and we are only going to be at the trade portion this time, but hopefully in another year we’ll be able to also go to the book fair that’s open to all readers.

I’m super excited about this opportunity but I’m also not sure what to expect or how to prepare.

So, has anyone been to BEA before? Please comment and tell me what it’s like, what to bring, what you wish you had done, etc.

By the way, I’m really pleased with some of the projects I’m working on to make the table eye-catching. For example, the most interesting thing I’m doing is modifying Barbie and Ken dolls to turn them into characters from our books.

Here are the works in progress for Stewart, Jake, and Kassie

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Yes, Jake still needs clothes. Going to the store today to get him an outfit and to get a doll for Elizabeth!

Also, Kassie isn’t an alien. Those coffee stirers are to curl her hair!

I’m also going to make little copies of their books for them to hold.

Contest Winner!

I really enjoyed reading the submissions for the summer first sentence prompt contest. We had six entries all together and they all showed a lot of promise! It was tough to pick a winner. Very tough!

Judging was done by me alone. To make it unbiased I had my husband open the entries, remove the identifying information, and print them out. Once I selected a winner, I went back to see whose entry it was.

It’s fascinating to see all the different directions that people went with the same first sentence.

So the winner is…

 Elisabeth Benedict

Visit her at http://ahiruzone.com

(Note: Athira, could you get in touch again? When I tried to email you, the message bounced saying your inbox was full).

Here is the winning entry (all rights reserved by Elisabeth Benedict)

She turned the corner of the ramp and eyed the doorway in front of her, unsure that her wheelchair was going to fit through. “Shit, shit, shit,” Sasha swore out loud and then murmured under her breath, “There  goes my interview.” She presented her design online and has been in touch with the PR department for a few weeks. They have finally asked her to have a dinner with the boss – a kind of informal job interview.

She thought it a bit strange but accepted the invitation. And now she was stuck because she didn’t double check the restaurant’s accessibility. It said on their website they were accessible. She should have known better that what able-bodied people considered accessible and what really was accessible were two different things. So typical. Heavy garbage bins were partly blocking the door that itself looked rather narrow.

“My sentiments exactly,” replied a pleasant male voice behind her.

Sasha slowly turned her wheelchair and forgot all about the stupid door. She was staring into the most breathtaking emerald eyes. There were laugh lines around those captivating eyes. And then he actually smiled and those lines went to work. She’s never seen anything more sexy than those beautiful smiling eyes.

“Do you think we can move those bins and then we can make the manager feel really bad about it and perhaps we get a free dessert?”

She laughed at his suggestion. Not that it was a bad suggestion – she did get a few free things here and there after presenting the trouble she had to go through to access an “accessible” restaurant or a store. She laughed because it was always refreshing to meet somebody who was able to joke about their disability. And Mr. Emerald Eyes surely knew something about it. His wheelchair was like hers – sporty, no arm rests, a clean Z frame, knobby tires to handle the bad Boston weather.

But tonight was mild and dry and he was wearing a short-sleeved Polo shirt that matched his eyes perfectly. His black jeans ended above his knees. Or above where his knees would have been had he had any. She could make the outlines of his stumps. The muscles of what remained of his thighs were well defined. So was the rest of his body. Sasha was afraid she might start drooling soon…

She caught herself staring at him and quickly smiled. “I wish we could but apart from looking quite heavy, there really isn’t a place where we could push them unless we could get them the whole way into the alley and I don’t think the restaurant manager would appreciate it. No free dessert for us if the rubbish ends up in the alley.” She was starting to babble. And there was his smile again. Suddenly Sasha stopped feeling nervous. There was somebody who understood her predicament, didn’t judge her, and didn’t look at her like she was dumb. The latter happened to her plenty. Somehow when one was in a wheelchair, many people assumed that one’s intelligence was quite low. And they would start speaking to her slowly and in a loud voice.

“I’m Ben. Since it looks like we both will have to forgo eating at this place, may I invite you for dinner? There is a lovely and, I assure you, fully accessible Italian restaurant around the corner.”

Sasha extended her gloved hand and the tips of their fingers met before they shook hands. A little bit frustrated, she sighed: “Hi, I’m Sasha. I was supposed to meet somebody here but I don’t have his cell number, so I guess that’s it. I’ll get a message to him in the morning that I couldn’t make it. I guess I could ask somebody who is walking into this restaurant to give him a message but frankly, I would hate to see the pity in his eyes when he realises that I am in a wheelchair and thus can’t get in.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean. My mother set me up on a blind date once. Let’s say the terror in the girl’s eyes and the pity of the people around us were enough that I didn’t want to meet any new people for a year. Please, say you’ll go to dinner with me.”

She laughed as he made puppy eyes at her. “Sure. But weren’t you meeting somebody?”

“I was but I guess I am in the same situation. No cell number and in no mood for pity.”

Sasha put her hands on the rims. “All right then. Let’s go. I am starving.”

They wheeled the half block to the restaurant in silence as the sidewalk wasn’t wide enough for them to wheel next to each other. Ben let her go first, enjoying the view of her shoulder-length wavy brown hair. She was wearing black sleeveless dress that stressed her well developed figure. She was gorgeous. Her arms were strong, breasts full, perfect hourglass figure. Just the way Ben liked his woman.

He liked to touch the softness of a woman’s body. The lifegiving softness. The breasts, the hips. He was thanking the stars for those rubbish bins. And he was glad that he chose to use his wheelchair instead of his prosthesis tonight. He wasn’t planning on it but after the long swim he had, he just didn’t feel like walking. Plus he liked to see a reaction of a potential employee to his amputations. It was always quite revealing. He was a very hands-on boss and if his employees didn’t feel comfortable around him, it influenced their creativity. He understood that the initial shock was normal and that most people forgot about his legs, or rather lack of them, within twenty minutes of talking to him. Ben put most people at ease. He was smart, good looking, and he was told his smile was his most charming feature. He smiled plenty. Life was pretty good to him. For the most part. He owned a successful advertising business, had a lovely apartment on the water, good friends, and a faithful service dog. At 34 he was very active, spending his summer sailing, mono-skiing in winter, and swimming all year long. Yet despite a few flings, the truth was that most women didn’t want to spent their life with a double above knee amputee. And those who thought they did either were curious about his
amputations but that curiosity wore off fast or they pitied him and wanted to take care of him. Ben didn’t need anybody to take care of him. He did just fine by himself since he came from rehab twelve years ago.

His gaze went to Sasha’s legs as she turned toward the restaurant’s entrance. Her dress ended right below her knees and he could see the atrophy on her calves. She had a tattoo above her left ankle, a rose. Ben took a deep breath, trying to dispel the thought of first kissing the rose and slowly making his way up, discovering how much and where she could feel his gentle and maybe not so gentle kisses.

“Yay, no steps.” Sasha pretended to squeal like a teenager who just found out that One Direction was coming to the town. Ben loved this woman’s laugh and her dark sense of humour. As he already loved her body, the moment of truth would soon come, the possible deal breaker. Was Sasha as smart and witty as she was beautiful? Ben wasn’t the typical male who liked his woman beautiful but preferably a bit dumb. He loved a smart woman who would intellectually challenge him, who would argue with him about politics and philosophy, yet would be open-minded. Such woman was a rarity.

As he opened the door for Sasha, she gently nodded her head in thanks and locked her eyes with his for a couple of seconds. She was glad for the few moments when she was wheeling in front of him because she couldn’t ogle him. Her bad habit of staring at interesting and good looking people got her into a trouble a few times. It was hard to explain to people that she loved beauty to the point of doing something socially unacceptable, like staring at them. She would stop if she saw something that interested her. It used to be easier before her accident six years ago. But now when her ootprint was larger, people got impatient with her. She was blocking their precious sidewalk when she would stop and stare at the intricate pattern of the old brick wall or the lone flower on the side of the pavement. Sasha had a degree in design but her love was photography and her mind would take a photo of the intricate pattern or the flower when she didn’t have her camera with her. Which she usually had, right under her wheelchair seat. Except for tonight, so she was bound to stare at her companion because she wanted to remember every detail of his beautiful eyes, the smile lines, the black curly hair, the long, slightly crooked nose, the lips that begged to be kissed.

“Would you like a booth?” the hostess interrupted their companionable silence. Sasha and Ben just gave each other look and started laughing very hard. “No, thank you,” Ben replied once he had control of  himself.

“And we’ll keep our wheelchairs too, so please remove the chairs,” Sasha quickly added.

Ben grinned at his beautiful companion. “This hostess is new here, so let’s hope she will learn not to ask us about the booth again. Though one never knows. Just curious, how often do you get the booth question?”

Sasha made a very serious pondering look. “About once a year, I would say. And about twice a year the question if I am going to keep my chair.”

Once the couple was seated, the wine started flowing and the food was abundant. The thoughts about their butts sitting in a wheelchair were forgotten. They talked about their love of Boston and their favorite places there, they criticised politics and were very pleased that each other’s dinner company tended to think similarly on political issues, they argued a little bit about religion, and over their tiramisu and cannoli that they shared they started talking about art.

“So, Sasha, as a New Yorker, what is your favorite museum there?” Ben was hoping she wouldn’t say MOMA. As much as he loved modern art and learned a lot in MOMA about design, advertisement, and what moves a modern man, Ben was fond of the Old Masters. They were the ones who moved his soul. He would spend hours sitting in front of El Greco, Rembrandt, Vermeer or Caravaggio. He would study the play of light and shadow, he would let himself be absorbed by the expressions on the faces and when overwhelmed, he would go to the impressionist section and let be surrounded by colour. By dots of colour.

“Definitely the Met and I am not apologetic about it.” The fire and passion in Sasha’s eyes were clear. “Until I moved to Boston two years ago, I went to Met at least once a week. Thank God for their suggested donation. Ever since I was a girl, I would go there, give them a dollar or two and say with the thickest accent I could muster: ‘Vun teecket, pleaze.’ I don’t think I ever paid the suggested donation.”

“Vun teecket, pleaze?” Ben was imitating her while laughing. “I should try it one day. I love the Metropolitan Museum. I go to New York every three months or so to see what’s new in modern art and design but I go to Met to recharge.”

Sasha looked at him and understood. After her accident and the stay in rehab, she felt so empty. She craved beauty more than ever. Sitting again, this time in her own chair, in front of the Masters brought her to tears. Tears that beauty is here to stay. That despite the shit that happens to us we can forget about our difficulties and look at a painting and feel bodyless, weightless, absorbed in eternal beauty.

After a few moments of just being quietly with the other person while feeling the deep connection, Sasha finally spoke: “I was supposed to meet my prospective employer tonight but even if I don’t get my design job because I didn’t show up, spending time with you was so much better. Thank you for the most amazing evening.”

Ben pondered her words for a moment. Design, job, employer. His face lit up: “Are you by any chance Ms. Alexandra Petrova?”

Sasha lightly nodded, surprised.

“Well,” Ben continued, “then, Ms. Petrova, I hope I will see you every weekday from Monday on at your new job. I was very pleased with your designs. And I am hoping that I will be able to steal some of your evenings and weekends as well.”

Being an Entrepreneur (Starting a Small Press Publisher)

I’ve always been the artsy type. From a young age I was focused on creating art through writing and I had little interest in anything else. I never considered any career other than novelist. To me business majors and people getting MBAs were slick, untrustworthy, and living in a completely different world from me (forgive me my prejudice and stereotyping!)

Imagine my surprise when I turned into a business person, founding and running my own company!

Even more unexpected, I discovered that I really like the business side of creative writing. Sometimes we think we know ourselves but a surprise is waiting around the corner.

I’ve been devouring books, magazines, and blogs about business statements, marketing, profit and loss, return on investment, personal branding, and all things for the entrepreneur. And I love it! It’s so interesting. I enjoy testing out techniques to reach a wider audience and the more I learn the better work I can do for my authors (myself included!)

I think I really just love anything connected to books.

In my last job I worked mostly with spreadsheets and I hated it. But now I love my spreadsheets. I enjoy seeing how each book is doing, crunching the sales numbers, planning launch strategies. The difference is that my spreadsheets now are for projects that I care about. My spreadsheets at my old job were for projects that I had no personal connection to and they were just numbers without any context.

You may think that you’re only interested in being an artiste and all this crass business stuff is for other people, but I’d recommend giving it a chance and see what happens. You may surprise yourself just as I did!

I’ve given myself permission to expand beyond the limited label I gave myself and now when I hear about an opportunity to learn some aspect of business I’m not shrugging it off; I’m saying yes, that is for me. I am the owner of a company and I can keep learning and growing and expanding who I am and what my interests are.

Book Launch and Marketing for a Small Press Publisher

Once you’ve got the manuscript to the best shape it can be and you’ve formatted and prepared the book, then you have to make sure people know about it. The marketing of books is really about connecting people with a reading experience they will love.

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You’ve got to convince people to give your book a chance and you’ve got to hope that you’ve targeted your message to the right people who are the ones who will most love your book. No book is right for everyone!

Some of these are things that I am already doing for our books and some are new things that I’m going to try on future books.

There are some promotional techniques that never go out of style in book publishing; things like sending out review copies and trying to get the media interested in author interviews and mentions of the book. Then there are new techniques that are growing around the new world of ebook publishing. Those methods and ideas change rapidly and the landscape is always shifting. I find it fun and interesting to keep up with developments.

To learn traditional promotion and marketing techniques I read books about book selling (so meta!) and to learn new ideas I read a lot of author blogs and writer forums.

As I read, I add notes to my master promotional spreadsheet (each individual book gets its own document listing all the promotional ideas I have for that particular title). The beauty with ebook marketing is, of course, that they don’t lose their shelf space so I can always try new things out with them. So this following list is ever evolving and growing…

6 to 9 months from publication date

–> sell to book clubs, reading groups, and catalogs

4 to 6 months from pub date

–> send out print ARCs (Advanced Reader/Review Copies) to  reviewers

* Library Journal
* Book List
* Publisher’s Weekly
* Foreward Magazine
* Midwest Book Review
* The Romantic Times
* New York Book Review
* Rowse Reviews

–> Upload to NetGalley for reviews

–> Mail copies to people you’d like to get blurb/endorsements from

–> Visit local bookstores or call indie bookstores to pitch the book, maybe arrange a book signing

–> Get in touch with the buyers for chain bookstores and other retail stores that sell books (consider hiring a sales rep to include your books in their catalog)

2 to 3 months from pub date

–> Prepare a press release and research where to send it to try to get media attention

–> Contact magazines about publishing excerpts (include a suggested excerpt)

–> Book Sense endorsement???

–> Check into requirements for local newspapers and magazine’s book review sections

–> Mail fliers or postcards to libraries and bookstores

–> Hire a blog book tour company to set up a blog tour

1 Month from pub date

–> Get set up to take pre-orders (it looks like Amazon might be allowing this now, will have to look into)

–> Send out press release

–> Make arrangements for a launch party

–> Email newsletter

–> Offer review copies to book bloggers not on the tour (at least fifty)

Launch

–> Have the launch party

–> Announce book availability on Facebook, Twitter, Message Boards, LinkedIn, Pinterest (make sure you post in message boards where author promotion is allowed and make sure that your forum signature has a teaser and a link for your book).

–> Spread around info about the blog tour

–> Add book to relevant lists on Goodreads

–> Do a giveaway of one paper copy on Goodreads

–> Send book to relevant contests

–> Think about what organizations, charities, or news stories might be relevant to the plot in the book and try to arrange to promote with them

–> Submit to Facebook groups for both readers and themes of the book

–> Tweet good sentences from the book with #novelines

–> Update website’s press kit with all buy links, reviews, media, images, etc. Include an excerpt of the first chapter so people can see if they like the writing.

–> Create a video for Youtube, either a trailer or an author interview or something else creative

–> Share new reviews and blog posts that review the book

–> Create a page for the book at third party sites like Squidoo or Hubpages

 

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Other Ideas…

* Some people gather a “launch team” and offer special incentives for people who buy in the first week or for people who are willing to promote the book to their friends and networks

* We’ve experimented with some ebook giveaways. It can be great for visibility to discount or make your book free and advertise the sale. I don’t like to do that too often, though!

* If you are the author or you know the author is willing, there’s lots of additional things that authors can do, such as blogging about their craft, having their own twitter, doing Q&As, speaking at panels at conventions, do guest posts on book blogs.

* Research places to advertise that are relevant to the book and consider classified sections

Some great people to follow for ideas on indie book promotion:

Since the landscape is changing so quickly it’s great to read about the things other people are trying and the results they’re getting. You don’t have to try to get all the data and do all the experimenting yourself!

And in the end, publish the next book. Promote the next thing and don’t get too hung up on pushing the hec out of one single title. Each title in your catalog will help promote the others. Readers who enjoy what you offer will come back again and again. Give them something new as often as you can!

 

The Time Traveler’s Boyfriend on Sale

Today (August 25th, 2014). Annabelle Costa’s The Time Traveler’s Boyfriend is on sale for 99 cents and it will be going up a little each day until it’s back to its usual price of $4.99.

This is a fun chick-lit style book but at the same time it’s surprisingly moving. There’s an element of time travel, but it’s mostly a love story. It’s like The Time Traveler’s Wife if it were written by Sophie Kinsella!

US link here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00I8T02BW

All other links here: https://devlovepress.com/press-kit-the-time-travelers-boyfriend/

The sale is featured at FK Books and Tips along with other Kindle deals: http://www.fkbooksandtips.com/2014/08/25/free-discounted-kindle-book-offers-312/

Criticism Is Inevitable (Small Press Publishing)

The reviews on books can be frustrating at times. You put so much money, effort, and energy into creating a great reading experience and then anyone can come along and say “this sucked.” In the world of Amazon and book blogs and the Internet in general, every single person has an opinion and they’re ready to share it. As is their right. You shared your perspective by writing the book and now it is their turn to share theirs.

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Let’s take Love In Touch as an example.

  • I went over the manuscript and suggested changes, Lucy worked on those changes and sent it back.
  • I hired an editor to go over the manuscript, Lucy worked on those changes and sent it back.
  • I hired a proofreader to go over the manuscript and those changes were made.
  • I went over it again.

At this point I’m pretty confident that we’re in great shape and the typos and grammar mistakes have been caught and corrected.

Then after getting a bunch of glowing reviews, one reviewer on Amazon blasts us, saying that the book is “riddled with errors” and is “unreadable” and “the publisher should be ashamed.”

And it being an Amazon review, there’s not really any opportunity to respond to this criticism.

I am unable to find the errors she is talking about and no other reviewers say this. I leave a comment on the review to ask for examples but she doesn’t respond.

So what can you do about criticism?

Nothing.

A bad review might sometimes clue you in to something you could be doing better with your books, but I’ve found that that’s rare. Usually it is one person’s opinion and it says more about them that it does about you or your book (or your author’s book).

And every person is allowed to feel however they want to about your book. It’s out there in the world making its own friends and enemies. It’s not in your control anymore. If you don’t want anyone to say bad things about it, don’t publish it.

Because tastes vary and there’s definitely going to be people who don’t like your book. There’s nothing you can do about that. Focus on the people who did like it!

The most frustrating part is that that bad review, that opinion, is now connected to your book and other potential readers are seeing it. It’s dragging down your overall rating.

But still there’s not much you can do about it.

It always, always, always looks bad if you respond to a review. No matter how politely you try to approach it, you’ll always look like the big bad guy trying to silence the underdog reviewer (and more than just look it, that will pretty much be exactly what you are). You’re likely to come across as insecure and desperate which is also not a good look.

The best thing to do is to completely ignore it.

Assuming the review is just hateful and an attack on you rather than the book, treat it like your annoying little brother who will get bored and wander away if he can’t bait you. Not to mention if you don’t grace the person with a response, then they’re left looking shrill and alone.

If the review is focused on the book, then it’s not a bad review. It is doing what it’s supposed to do. No matter how much you might disagree with it, negative reviews have an important purpose and it has nothing to do with you.

Trust the readers.

Trust them to read the review and know whether or not it applies to their enjoyment of the book. If it’s just a personal attack, new potential readers will just roll their eyes and buy the book anyway.

If it brings up things in the book that the reviewer didn’t like, then maybe the potential new reader knows they dislike the same things and then they don’t buy it which saves you from a second bad review!

When I’m trying to decide if I’ll buy a book, I start by reading the lowest reviews. I’ll see if the things that bothered those reviewers are things that would bother me. Often they are not and then I feel confident in trusting the higher rating reviews.

I admit that the accusation of typos is a particularly difficult one to deal with. Numerous typos in books is something that I find difficult to deal with so if I see a review claiming a book has them, I might avoid that book (although I usually read the sample chapter, the “look inside” to see for myself).

That’s why for the Love In Touch situation, I attempted to get in touch with the reviewer. What she is claiming is simply not true.

If you’re a reader and a book buyer (which if you’re here, I would assume you are!) please don’t take reviews at face value. Every review is written by a person with his or her own biases and assumptions. There are cases where reviewers will claim there are typos in a book in order to sell the author on their own editing services! Always check out the sample yourself before you believe a reviewer who claims there are typos.

If you’re an author, I highly suggest never reading your reviews. Tough perhaps, but you’ll be saner for it and better able to focus on creating your next masterpiece.

What should you do instead?

I suggest having an email address for your writing that you share on social media. The emails from readers will give you a much clearer picture of your work.

When someone privately emails you that means…

  1. They are highly motivated and not someone who is just going to dash off the first things that come to their mind. They had to put some effort in to find your contact info.
  2. Because it is private, you know that they want to help you and commune with you, not show off their literary criticism skills to the world

There’s nothing more special than getting an email or a letter from a fan telling you how much they loved your work. And when someone reaches out to criticize through email, it is much more often stated in constructive ways.

Respect and value the book bloggers even when they don’t like your book. They are serving readers and not you. Just step away and let that process do what it’s meant to do. And go write another book. Strive to make it better than your  last. But know that you’ll never write the perfect book that every person on the planet will adore.

Check out the reviews for classic books. It’ll make you feel in good company.

Bookstores and Getting Into Them (Starting a Small Press Publisher)

The holy grail of starting a book publishing company: getting your books onto bookstore shelves.

I’ve focused most of my efforts on ebooks and print-on-demand Internet orders for physical books. It’s a great model since it has such low overhead cost. It’s a pretty new model too, with ebooks taking off in popularity only in the last four years or so.

But I have my eye on getting my authors’ books onto bookstore shelves.

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The biggest thing holding me back is the nature of returns. Basically, books go to bookstores on a consignment basis. The books sit on the shelves and if they don’t sell, they get returned to you for a refund. You shipped out a bunch of books, got paid for them (at the steep discount that bookstores get) and then months and months later all that money has to be refunded! It can be a nightmare for a small business’s cash flow.

So you can’t count on any of the bookstore money until there are actual sales.

Okay, once I’ve got some money saved up so cash flow isn’t an issue, what is the process to actually get books into bookstores?

Who Is Your Distributor?

Createspace and Lightning Source both use Ingram as a distributor which means that working with them your books will show up as available for bookstores to order. The only trouble is, they set the terms not you. And they tend to set terms that aren’t attractive to bookstores. If you want bookstores to stock you, you’ve got to be willing to accept returns and give them a significant discount so they can maintain their profit margins.

I had a friend who works at a bookstore look up our books in her system and they are marked as unreturnable. That means the store is not going to take a chance on them.

Lightening Source may claim that with a fee you can make your books returnable, but my friend said in practice they are still effectively unreturnable.

The reason why? Because it is literally “print on demand” they don’t have a warehouse for returned books. The book is created when someone buys it so there is no inventory sitting around. I’m told that you may be able to tell bookstores that they can buy through Ingram but return directly to you. I’m going to try that out before I start looking for a non-POD printer, but that is probably in the future for this company.

Book Reps

Book Sales Representatives are people who travel to bookstores and present various potential books to the bookstore buyers. You can hire them to add your book to the list, but the issues with that are:

  1. Your bad terms still show up if the bookstore is interested in buying some stock
  2. It’s very expensive
  3. Your book is just one of a bunch they are representing and if it isn’t as flashy or exciting as another book they’re repping, then yours might not get much attention

More on hiring book reps here:

http://blog.bookmarket.com/2005/02/hiring-book-sales-representatives.html

http://www.andrewsmcmeel.com/for-the-trade/find-a-sales-representative

Talking To The Manager

It seems like the best way for a small press to start getting into bookstores is through the local route. Get to know the book sellers in your area. Go in and talk to them.

If you are the author or you are nearby the author, present your books as local. A lot of bookstores have a special section to highlight local authors.

Just ask if you can do a test run of books on their shelves. If they stock just five or ten copies, that’s a start!

Once those books are on the shelf, make sure they sell. Tell your friends and family, ask for help. The most important thing for bookstores is that the books sell. No matter how small the first run is, if it sells out than they will be interested in getting more copies in.

(Here is a great description of how an author did exactly that: http://www.selfpublishingadvice.org/selling-self-published-books-in-bookstores/)

Ask if you can do a test run on a consignment basis where the bookstores don’t pay for your books up front but they pay you back a percentage on sales. (Here is a list of examples of different bookstores and the terms they offer for self-published authors [which are going to be at least very similar to the terms for small presses particularly if they’re using POD technology]: http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/how-to-sell-your-self-published-book-into-bookstores_b51732 Note how important it is to be up to date on industry pricing).

You can also call bookstores and speak to the manager about your book. Here is one author’s advice on how to get them to carry your book:

But … if your self-published POD book is not picked up by Barnes & Noble corporate (the dream, as it saves plenty of time), you can still get it in the stores. How? By calling the stores individually, or hiring a salesperson to work on commission. This is what I do. Though several hundred Barnes & Noble stores still need to be called (ugh!), the book has been ordered by nearly 100% of the stores individually contacted.

Here’s the spiel. First, you give them the book’s title or ISBN number. Then, as the bookstore staff person is looking it up in the computer, say, “Though it is POD, it is through Ingram and fully returnable with regular terms.” If you do that, nine times out of ten Barnes & Noble will at the very least “short order” the title, that is, order two or three to see how it goes, before they place a larger order. This is assuming, of course, that you can sell the virtues of your title.

Shouldn’t be a problem, though, if you add, “Could you just short order a few and see how it goes?”

You’ll be surprised at your results. –http://www.absolutewrite.com/novels/how_to_get_your_self.htm

Just, check and make sure that it is fully returnable and if not, remember to say it can be returned to you directly.

Set Up A Signing

Ask your local bookstores if you can do an book signing at their location and offer to supply the books yourself.  Bookstores like events that will draw people in and if your book is selling well, they may consider stocking it.

Make sure that you get lots of people to your signing. Again, call in any favors you’ve got! If you bring the bookstore traffic, they will be interested in working with you.

Ask Fans To Request the Book

You can also create demand for the book before it is on shelves. Ask your fans to request them. If a bookstore doesn’t have the book, it can be special ordered for a customer. Tell your fans to ask at the customer service desk. Enough demand and the buyer at the store may want to stock it.

Networking

Up next for me are to look into getting a non POD printer and hiring my own distributor. I plan to make some connections to help me do that when I go to Book Expo America next May!

I’m super excited to have a booth at the trade show. This will allow me to present my books to bookstore buyers, library buyers, big chain buyers, as well as distributors.

It’s expensive to attend but it has fantastic potential to grow my business. Later on we’ll talk about booth set up because it’s important for both trade shows and bookstore signings!

One of the nice things about doing ebook first is that I have a sales record to show buyers and reps. I have books that have shown their market potential already. That’s a big benefit!

As the publisher, you’re going to be thinking about sales and proving your book’s sales potential. That’s a big part of the job or a publisher.

Keeping Track of Money (Starting a Small Press Publisher)

Once your books start selling you’re going to have a business bank account with a big (or maybe not so big) pile of cash in it. You know you want to use some of that to pay yourself, some to pay your authors but then you also know you want to use some of what’s left for advertising or for saving up for future editing and cover design. How do you keep track of how much money you have for each thing and not overdraft your account?

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I have tried a number of different systems from Excel spreadsheets to Mint.com to the “envelope system.” Then I found the YNAB program:

YNAB stands for You Need A Budget. And you really do! Let me show you some screenshots of my YNAB budget and take you through a little bit of how it works:

YNAB1

So first, every time money comes in or goes out you record it on the account page (number 1 above). Then the balance that you have appears in “available to budget” (number two above). You divide that into each category (the first column) as you desire until the “available to budget” is zero. This way you know what every single individual dollar is doing for you! The third column (circled above) are like your envelopes. Any money you put into them stays there and builds up as each month goes by and you add more to that category. If you spend it that’s recorded on the account page (number 1 above) and it shows up in the second column, automatically updating your “envelope” to how much you have left.

You can also put a note to yourself when you set up the categories if you want to have a particular percentage of your income go to each category. For example the “Cover Artwork” category could also say “Cover Artwork 2%” and each time you get money in, you put 2% of it into that category. The YNAB does allow you to be flexible, though, since you can always see how much you have in each category and if you need to pull some from something you don’t use as often for an immediate need, you can.

YNAB2

Eventually you get to a point where you’re recording your money in as income for the next month. So when you get money for, say, July, you record it as available for August and it shows up in August’s “available to budget.” This way you are always working from and paying bills from money that you earned already the previous month and is in your account. There’s no speculating.

It will take a few months of sales to get you there. Many sales channels, as with most businesses, will pay you in March for money earned in January. So there’s going to be a two month lag to start seeing money for your first sales. (This is called Net-60 and it means that the business has 60 days from the time you earned the money to get you paid. So for money earned in March, April first they know the full amount of March’s money and then they have 60 days so they will likely pay you at the end of May. Some, like Smashwords, only pays you quarterly and that based on how much of your money they have managed to collect from their sales channels. So there can be a bit of a wait for your cash).

You can also save for yearly or irregular bills by adding a small amount to the category each month, such as paying for this website which happens annually.

Here you can see some of the categories that I have. There’s also payroll, taxes, and paypal fees and a “to invest” category. I figure I can save a little bit each month until I have enough to put into a high-yield savings account and start generating some interest to put back into the business. But I’m not even close to that yet!

Membership fees are for professional organizations like Romance Writers of America and small business guilds.YNAB4

I completely adore YNAB. I use it both for Dev Love Press and for my household finances (you can easily create another budget and switch between them). It gives me a lot of peace of mind knowing exactly how much I have that I can spend on each thing and allows me to switch amounts around if I really want to buy a thing or a service that I haven’t budgeted enough for.

That said, I have not tried many official business softwares like Quicken. In the future I may need to upgrade to a system that has payroll included in it (Right now I pay my authors through Paypal and I have a category of money just for the Paypal fees).

I highly recommend trying out the free 30 day trial. Also, sign up for the web seminars teaching you how to use it. They are free and plentiful!

The cost to buy it is a one time $60, however you can save $6 by buying it through my referral link here. I bought it for $54 through another person’s referral link (after the trial period I went back to her website, which is where I first heard about YNAB, and bought it through her link). You get $6 off and I get $6 for you buying it through me, so it’s a win-win.

Whether you use this system or another, you’re going to need something that helps you manage your money!

There’s a lot of advice on this in the book Publishing for Profit by Thomas Woll. He has a ton of information about money management for publishers and some of it is a bit over my head, but I’m processing it piece by piece and integrating it into my business. He also has an appendix with recommended software for publishers that integrate sales, inventory, royalties, etc. I’ll be looking into some of those to see if they will be better than YNAB paired with a whole lot of Excel spreadsheets.

The book also has a number of suggested spreadsheets for things like Profit and Loss statements (to determine if a manuscript you want to acquire will be worth the cost to produce it) and Editorial Plans, Comparison of Books Sold, etc. I highly recommend picking up a copy. It will give you a great sense of the business side of publishing!