Monday, 26 September 2011

The #1 Question: Who is Your Audience? . . . Plus an Excerpt

War has gone on since the beginning of man's creation.  And will continue until the end of time.  This necessary evil brings death and pain not only to its victims, but also to the warriors and their loved ones covering our small planet.  It's not the way we'd like it to be . . . it is the way it is.

Diary of a Vet's Wife, subtitled Living and living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a 96,000 word memoir covering an eighteen year period in the author's life and reads like a novel.  It took sixteen years to write and is the first book to show the day to day struggles of an ordinary family living with the chaos of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; unaware the author will develop this same disorder by association.

The number one question . . . who is my audience?

To think like a marketer is a common sense process that takes place over time.  -Jacqueline Deval

Did you know that it's not unusual for a traditional publishing house to take 18 to 24 months from the time the project is signed on until the finished books are in hand?  They're in the driver's seat, yet they can't put all their chips down on one book like a self-publisher can . . . they're just trying to make a living.

As a self-publisher, you control the timetable and make things happen when you say . . .

No matter what kind of book you have, its success depends on two things:  It must tell a good story, and you must find an audience for it.

Most books fail in the marketplace because nobody ever heard of them.  Only about 1/3 of new titles sell more than 100 copies.

Yet, an author today can build an audience solely through the community voice without leaving their own backyard.  Internet social networking has given authors their most powerful tool since the invention of paper. Word of mouth is the only thing that can make a book really successful.  Online communities allow authors to bond with readers intimately, inspiring deep loyalty.

There is no such thing as overnight success. It might require a year or more of steady work to see appreciable results.

Self-published authors who own the ISBN and online rights for their book can promote it however they please. Trade-published authors must confer with their publishers marketing department for approval.

Sales is nothing more than matching your product with a prospective buyer's needs and desire.  Early on those prospective buyers are wholesalers, distributors, and bookstores. They want to know you'll be an integral part of the promotion process . . . making sure those books aren't hanging around long.

Next are potential reviewers.  You're selling them on the subject of your book and why readers would care.

Final audience is book buyers, whose needs and desires can be met with your book.

Figure out what sets your book apart in the marketplace and drive that difference home - early and often.

Your #1 job is to Build the Demand for Your Book.  Zero in on the key influencers for your target audiences and focus on taking massive action.

Who would be the most likely readers of your book?  To whom would your subject be especially appealing?

Why not put this action item on your to-do-list today?  Start an ongoing list of potential readers that will be there ready and waiting.  Brainstorm!  Give your mind the freedom to wander outside of the box, and write down any ideas that float to the surface.  Never know when something surprising will appear . . .

Business-building is NOT immodesty.  Drawing attention to yourself when you have a good, high-quality contribution to make to the book marketplace, that's why you wrote the book in the first place.  You're an author with a book the world needs to hear about, and you have every right to tell your story.  - Peter Bowerman

I'm posing this question because I'm guilty as charged of being so busy I haven't focused in on this most important step myself . . .  

(Also see:  Marketing in an Electronic World . . . My First Steps - June 26, 2011 and The Marketing Medusa . . . Don't Let It Overwhelm You! - July 28, 2011)
Excerpt from Chapter Eleven . . . Diary of a Vet's Wife, Loving and living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

     Toxic fumes burned the inside of my nose as we merged onto Highway 10, heading out into the country away from the snarl of city traffic.  Soon Lorne turned onto a two-lane road and opened her up.  I hung on tight.  The narrow strip of asphalt dipped and twisted without warning, snaking through the rolling fields while a broken white line blurred beneath us.  Chilling wind beat against my arms, tugging at my hair, pulling strands free to whip my face.  The air smelled fresh and clean.

     I clung to Lorne, my body pressed into his, feeling his warmth penetrating my tee shirt.  He felt good in my arms like he belonged there.  I held on tight, leaning with him on every curve, my eyes squeezed shut.  Brown and white patterned cows that munched on meadow grass lifted their heads to watch the bike roar by.  Intoxicated with a feeling of freedom, I rode the back of the wind aimed at some unknown planet.

Lessons Learned . . . My Two Cents

     I was headed for New Zealand, standing in line at the airport waiting to go through inspection, when the young woman in front of me turned and said, "You have such beautiful skin!"  I was flattered.  Then I told her my secret . . . "I use apple cider vinegar to remove my makeup at night (not mascara)."  She seemed surprised.

     This weekend at church, another woman made the same comment.  I gave her the same reply.  The next day when I saw her, she said with a smile, "I used apple cider vinegar this morning."  It was then I realized I should share my secret with all of you . . .

     I've used Apple Cider Vinegar on a cotton ball to cleanse my face at night for about 4-5 years.  I read it someplace, tried it and loved what it did for my skin . . . and it's inexpensive.  It acts as an exfoliant, tightens pores, and balances the PH factor in your skin to alkaline.  If your skin gets a bit dry until it gets use to it, switch to Witch Hazel for a few days.  I hope you'll be pleasantly surprised as I was . . .

Let me know how you like it . . .

Monday, 19 September 2011

Ebooks . . . A Contemporary "David and Goliath"

Books are no more threatened by Kindle than stairs by elevators.           - Stephen Fry

But has Stephen Fry seen the research on this anomaly?

This is a sad day for all who love books.  It was announced that our beloved Borders would close forever on Sunday, September 18, 2011.  Rumors were flying like locust, but the starkness of the situation was a jarring reality. It's happened!!

Ebooks are now being viewed as the new bully on the block as they push forward toppling the mega-booksellers in their wake.  Much like these same establishments buried the small bookstores of the past, which was the premise for the movie, "You've Got Mail" . . . if you remember.
Last week, a member of SheWrites brought an article to our attention.  This article noted a decline in the sale of adult paperbooks of 64%, whereas the increase in Ebook sales was 162%.  These figures are staggering!!

Technology has proven Ebooks are here to stay.  We must adapt our writing careers with this in mind.  The entire publishing world is changing like a giant Transformer . . . and no one knows for sure what it will look like in the end.

(Note: Much of this information has been drawn from the article listed below with the author's written permission.)

"I believe there will be a war between the writers who want agents and traditional publishers to "take care of them" and indie writers who want to control their own careers."    - Barry Eisler

Another article mentioned that some publishers attempt to slow the transition from paper to digital by holding back the Ebook release date, or they may authorize insanely high Ebook prices.  

We're the writers.  We provide the content that is printed and distributed. 
For hundreds of years, writers couldn't reach readers without publishers.  We needed them.  Suddenly, we don't.  Publishers don't seem to be taking this into account.

It appears that most publishers offer 25% royalty on ebooks, which equates to 14.9% to the writer after everyone gets their cut.  Now consider there's virtually no cost to creating Ebooks . . . no cost for paper, no shipping charges, no warehousing.  No cut for Ingram or Baker & Taylor.  Yet they're keeping 52.5% of the list price and offering only 17.5% to the author.  Does this seem right?

NYT best seller Barry Eisler turns down $500,000 advance in favor of Self-Publishing.

I mentioned this same article in last week's blog.  I don't know how many of you found the time to read it, but please do your career this favor.  GoogleEbooks and Self-Publishing - A dialog Between Authors Barry Eisler and Joe Konrath."  It's a MUST READ for anyone ready to publish their work.  The article is extensive, but worth the time . . . then decide for yourself.

Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.    - C.S. Lewis

I'm a new kid on the block.  I've spent sixteen years writing my memoir, my first book, and my journey into publishing has opened my eyes to a world I was unfamiliar with.  In my other life, I worked as a Sr. Buyer in Aerospace and Electronic manufacturing, both on an international basis.  That is, until these companies moved overseas in order to increase their bottom-line profit.  Was this fair?  Not for me . . . and the thousands of other displaced workers left behind without jobs in America.  But it too happened . . .

And it taught me a valuable lesson . . . LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP.  In essence, do your research!! 

 "Experience is a brutal teacher, but you learn. My God, do you learn."   -  C.S. Lewis

My original plan was to query agents for one year . . . until November.  Then move into self-publishing, if I wasn't picked up by an agent.  Little did I know what was happening behind the scenes . . .

The explosion of the Internet gives writers the opportunity to do tremendous online promoting: blogs, social networking, chatrooms . . . and now with digital books, there's no more profitable use of an author's time than writing . . . traveling and book tours may become passe.

The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true.   - John Steinbeck

Ask yourself this question . . . Are you writing for pleasure or money?
Personally, I love to write!  The entire process makes me feel complete, doing what I was born to do.  But it's hard work!  Most people hold a 9 to 5 job, Monday through Friday, where they collect a paycheck for their time and productivity. Writing should be no different . . . but it is! We work in isolation, sometimes for years, creating a piece of work from our very soul that hopefully will touch others. And we too would like to be paid for our work . . . I know I would.

I think Henry Miller has had huge influence not because he wrote about sex, but because the memoir or the nonfiction novel has become such a monumental force in American publishing, if not in literature.       - Leslie Fiedler
There are two major differences between virtual shelves and physical shelves.
  • A virtual shelf is infinite.  A bookstore has a limited amount of space.  Books are crammed spine out, and copies are limited.  A virtual shelf, like Amazon or Smashwords, carries all titles, all the time.
  •  A virtual shelf is forever.  In a bookstore, you have anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to sell your title, and then it gets returned.  A big waste of money. 
But Ebooks are forever.  Once they're live, they will sell for decades.  Someday, long after we are gone, our grandchildren may be getting our royalties.  Forever is a long time to earn royalties!

If you're thinking about Self-Publishing, be sure your manuscript has been refined to perfection, as you would do when submitting to an agent.   

You can make 70% self-publishing!  You can set your own price.  There are reams of data what show how ebooks under $5 vastly outsell those priced higher.  This is a critical point.  Digital books are a price-sensitive market, and it appears maximum revenues are achieved at a price point between $.99 and $4.99.  You set the price, but keep this in mind.  You can always lower it later . . . have an international sale!

Lessons learned . . . my two cents 

If you find you are having trouble writing and nothing seems real, just write about food.  Write about the foods you love most.  Be specific. Details.  Where did you eat it, who were you with, what season was it? 
  - Natalie Goldberg

Think of "Julie and Julia". . . one of my  most favorite and delicious movies!  This movie taught me how to cook mushrooms to taste like succulent bites of fillet mignon.  The secret?  Butter and . . . "don't crowd the mushrooms!"
Welcome to the SheWrites Blogger Ball!

Welcome!! I'm so happy you stopped by during Blogger Ball #7.

My name is Nancy MacMillan, and my blog is My Uncharted Journey into Publishing My First Book, a memoir, Diary of a Vet's Wife, subtitled, Loving and Living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  My blog shares the steps I'm taking towards publishing and what I'm learning along the way, which I share weekly with others.  My first blog on April 9th, In The Beginning, sets the stage . . .

Please share your thoughts on this topic by leaving a comment  listed below in red, and include a link to your blog.  I'll visit and comment as soon as possible, I promise!  Then double-click on the bookshelves to return to SheWrites.  And please visit again. 

Sunday, 11 September 2011

What is a Synopsis and Why? . . . Part Two . . . And an Award!!

"I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor."
Henry David Thoreau                        

Me?  An Award?  I'm speechless, which is unusual.  I never knew this award even existed!

I graciously thank Carol Apple, a talented writer from SheWrites for this Liebster Blog Award.  What an honour!  My very first award ever!  I feel like Sally Fields.  "You like me . . . You really like me!!"

Liebster means "beloved" in German where the Liebster Blog Award is supposed to have started.  This award is designed  to bring additional recognition to quality bloggers with less than 200 followers.  Please show Carol some love by visiting her unique and highly resourceful blog at

The rules associated with this award:

  1.  Thank the giver of the award and link back to them.
  2.  Give the Liebster Award to 5 bloggers and let them know with a comment to their blog.
  3.  Copy and paste the award onto your blog.
  4.  Enjoy the love of some of the most supportative people on the Internet.
  5.  Have fun blogging!

These are my picks for the new winners of the Liebster Blog Award:

  1.  Fi Phillips - Fi's Magical Writing Haven  - The writing, thoughts and ideas of a playwright and hopeful novelist @
  2.  Julie Farrar - Traveling through . . . the World, the second half of my Life, and my own Mind @ 
  3.  Becky Green Aaronson - The Art of an Improbable Life - My Twenty Years with an International Photojournalist @
  4.  Lori Robinson - Africa Inside @
  5.  ThelmaZ - Widowsphere: A Circle of Hope @

Enjoy your Award . . . and may this be "just the beginning . . ."

And readers, please take a glimpse at the unique blogs listed above!

Publishing is a business. Writing may be art, but publishing, when all is said and done, comes down to dollars.    - Nicholas Sparks
I sit here, prepared to write Part Two of my Synopsis blog . . . yet something I read this week, keeps knocking on the inside of my forehead.  I guess this means I'm to mention it now . . .
At this point of My Uncharted Journey into Publishing, I'm straddling the fence . . . vascillating between an agent and traditional publishing . . . and self-publishing!  The more I research and study, the more I'm leaning towards self-publishing.
Yesterday, I came across something that took place in March . . . which REALLY OPENED MY EYES!    

NYT Best Seller Barry Eisler turns down $500,000 advance in favor of Self Publishing

A Newbie's Guide to Publishing has an article titled, "Ebooks and Self-Publishing - A Dialog Between Authors Barry Eisler and Joe Konrath, which is a MUST READ for all straddlers like me.  Then judge for yourself . . .  check it out on Google.

Any stragglers riding the fence like me?

And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.  - Sylvia Plath
What is a Synopsis and Why . . . Part Two?
Envision one or two things while you rework your synopsis . . .   
  • Writing a book jacket blurb for your book
  • You must pique the casual browser's curiosity, make him want to buy the book to see what happens.
  • Read a few jacket blurbs to get the feel of how it's done.
Let's say you've seen a great movie . . .
  • You're describing it to a friend . . .
  • You're not saying "Cameron Diaz was chased by this drug addict and the police shot him . . . the end."  Sound enthusiastic?
  • No . . . you say something like, "Cameron Diaz was terrified, this pot-head kept calling her by another name like she was someone else.  He was everywhere.  His phone calls were more scary.  Finally she slips a note in her roommates purse to alert the police where she's going next.  The police are waiting undercover.  There's a struggle, he's killed. Only then does she find out it was the same creepy guy from her old job she refused to date.  (not a terrific example but you get the idea) 
This is how your synopsis is going to sound when you're done . . .
  • Enthusiastic
  • Enticing
  • Tantalizing
  • Description that makes the reader pick up the manuscript to find out what happens!
How can make your synopsis unique and exciting? 
  • Start with main character and his crisis.
  • Include snippets of dialogue from the manuscript itself.
  • Show the character's emotions and motivation that explain why the character does something . . . keep it brief.
  • Only use background information necessary for reader to understand story.
  • Build excitement as you near the end, using short sentences and paragraphs.
  • Synopsis is a sample of your writing.  A flavor of what reading your work will be like . . . give it your all.    
Remember that one or two sentence story line, or theme that you discovered!
  • It should be in your synopsis, or cover letter.  Editors and agents like having this extract as something they can use when presenting your book to the buying board.
  • And it's something you can use when someone asks you, "What's your book about?"
Synopsis . . . to be continued

Lesson learned . . . or my two cents

Did you know that in 1992 chewing gum was ban in Singapore?  In fact, littering of any sort warrants a hefty fine . . . like $700 for a gum wrapper . . . if not jail time.  There are 400 undercover agents always watching.  Thus, Singapore is rated as the cleanest country in the world.  Wouldn't that be lovely?  People who live there know the rules, it's the visitors who have problems it seems.  Check it out on Google.  I did because it was hard to believe . . .

Has anyone experienced this beautiful clean city . . . visiting, or better yet, living there?

Sunday, 4 September 2011

One Writer's Journey into Publishing Cheat Sheet . . .

My Uncharted Journey into Publishing My First Book has been quite exceptional, to say the least.  Little did I know the hard work and wonder that lay ahead when I started this blog on April 9th . . .

In utter loneliness a writer tries to explain the inexplicable.        - John Steinbeck
Summer is waning like a melting ice cream cone dripping on the sidewalk.  We in California know scorching days still lay ahead as Fall brings golden school busses filled with chattering children back on the road.  And once again, it's time for serious adults to venture back to school, tackling classes to further their education, or quench their utmost passions.  I know I am!  Too bad there's so few days in the week . . . there are half-a-dozen more classes I'd love to take.  Guess that's what I get for being a Gemini . . .
My journey becomes more challenging . . .

This fall I continue my Write From The Start class on WRITING / PUBLISHING at Santa Barbara Community College each Thursday morning.  I long to be back with my peers and stimulating new writers.  On Thursday evenings, I start a Public Speaking class offered at a nearby church, where I hope to get over any shyness that may stand in my way.  And one weekend a month for 3 months, I'll be attending a Counseling Class at my church. Once I complete this 30-hour requirement, I'll be a certified NANC Counselor with skills needed to talk with readers and others who have shared my experience, or something similar.

Nothing like being visible, publishing one's work, and speaking openly about one's life, to disabuse the world of the illusion of one's perfection and purity.            - Joyce Maynard

This week I've chosen to take a break from my normal blog . . . look back over my shoulder and share my journey with new comers . . . there are so many of you!  I'm thrilled!  Your interest is humbling, yet gives my work meaning.  May I say, "Thank you so much!"

If you joined in the middle of my journey, you probably haven't had time to go back to the beginning where it all started and why.  I wanted to make it easier for you to find specific areas of interest.  Therefore, I've provided, shall I say, a cheat-sheet of each blog and it's content.  No need to hunt for it.   

Once my book, Diary of a Vet's Wife, subtitled Loving and living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is published and things settle down, I plan to turn this blog into my second book . . . aimed at those of you on their own journey.  Maybe it will help eliminate some bumps along the way . . .

Below is a list of my blogs for those who might be looking for a specific topic: 

     1.  In The Beginning                                                            April 9
          How my book came to be . . .
     2.  This Closet Writer . . . Goes Public                             April 16
           My first writing class - posting my blog
     3.  I Never Planned to be a Writer!                                   April 23
          Blogging - my writing class - my free-lance editor
     4.  Publicize Your Book . . .                                                  May 1
          Publicizing - blogging - writing class - book query
     5.  Write Your Heart Out . . .                                                 May 7
          Blogging - why I wrote my book - book proposal excerpt
     6. Q is for Query Letter . . .                                                 May 15
          Posted my original query letter
     7.  B is for Book Proposal . . . Part One                             May 21
          Elements of a book proposal - my proposal table of contents
     8.  B is for Book Proposal . . . Part Two                            June 12
          More elements of a book proposal
     9.  What Next? . . . Time for an Agent                               June 19
          Some basic agent information
    10.  Marketing in an Electronic World . . .                         June 26
           First steps to marketing my book
    11.  Will Self-Publishing be My Only Option?                      July 3
           Posted excerpt from Chapter One of my book
    12.  A Platform . . . Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone   July 11
           Start to develop a platform for my book
    13.  The Marketing Medusa . . .                                           July 28
           JK Rowling's success - more marketing
    14.  2011 Agents . . . What Do They Really Want?           August 7
           Identify agent's most asked for requirements
    15.  What is a Synopsis and Why? . . . Part One             August 27
           Details to begin synopsis process

What stage are you at on your writing journey?

Lesson Learned . . . or my two cents

There is a voyeuristic appeal to readers of memoirs.  Since many memoirs are traumatic in nature, the reader will feel that someone had had it worse than they could imagine.  The reader can read about surviving poverty, drug addition, a lost love, or a father who sexually abused his young daughter.  As publishers say, "Agony sells."  Reading a memoir is like stepping into another person's life.                                                         - Cork Millner, Write From The Start