Monday, November 25, 2013

Visual Appeal

My parents grew up in an era in which television did not exist, and I was close to being a teenager when a television set was introduced into our home. It was black and white, had rabbit ears on top, and was about the size of a desk. We got all of three stations when the skies were clear, the winds were low and my brother or I stood with our fingers on the rabbit ears, directing them in just the right way.

Going to the local theatre was an extraordinary event. It meant dressing up for the ladies, and the men were on their best behavior. I still remember the first movie I'd ever seen in a theatre: Gone With the Wind, all four hours of it sitting in a wood chair and peering around the lady's hat in front of me. I only realized later that I had actually been quite uncomfortable.

Flash forward to today, and visual mediums surround us. We experience life not only through television and movies but also through the Internet and streaming videos. Our favorite music is set against action scenes, playing on our emotions, creating anger, love, passion or anguish in the space of seconds.

So when a book is released, it only makes sense that part of that promotional campaign be in a visual medium that will reach its audience in a way that mere words can not. The book trailer is formed much like a movie trailer. In the space of a few brief moments, it paints a portrait of our book, eliciting the emotions and the interest that will cause a potential reader to pick up the book and begin reading. It is, perhaps, ironic that a fast-paced medium is sometimes required to grab the reader's attention and cause them to slow down enough to read and then savor each scene on each written page.

A book trailer can depict movement through actors and sweeping scenes. It can be narrated or the words set in the photographs or paintings projected. Music can heighten the emotional response and project the image of the book's genre - whether it be romance, adventure or suspense... Beside this post are several trailers that are distinctly different. Each elicits different emotions and varying opinions of each uniquely different book.

Our authors are advised to obtain permission for the elements that make up their trailers: the music, narration, film footage, photographs and other works contained therein. By uploading the video to YouTube, they can provide embedded code for websites and/or blogs, providing their potential audience with the flavor of their books through the visual medium we all have become accustomed to experiencing.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Types of Editing

One of our editors had an interesting conversation last week with an author regarding the various types of editing. I've been in this industry for so long that I'd forgotten some people didn't know there was more than one form of editing or what each type provides.

Content Editors

Content editors are the broadest form of editors. They read a work and provide feedback or guidance on whether they believe the book, chapter or scene is working. This can involve taking a close look at the storyline, recommending changes to the plot or characters, commenting on whether the point of view works or doesn't, the pacing (too fast or too slow) and genre-specific issues.

When an author asks a friend or relative to "edit" their work, most often they get a broad form of content editing, which can range from a few sentences on whether the book is good to any or all of the categories mentioned above.

Line Editors

Line editors do everything a content editor would do, but they also perform a much more in-depth service. They look more closely at grammar, flow of sentences and scenes, punctuation, the relevance of text and scenes, adjectives, nouns, and redundancy. This is a slower read, as you can imagine, and often means going through the entire book or certain passages multiple times to get it just right.


Micro-editing, in addition to performing all the tasks in content and line editing, drills even deeper. They analyze the scenes and the characters, making sure each character stays in character, questioning the motive of each character and each scene, and often critiques scenes, paragraphs, and sentences right down to whether the correct word was used -- or the best word in a particular circumstance.

There was a time in the publishing industry in which literary agents and editors performed this type of detailed editing, which often stretched across months or years. It is very rarely found in today's publishing environment except with highly literary works that would rival classic literature.

Technical Editing

Technical editing is used only with certain scenes. It involves experts in fields such as law enforcement, medicine, the law, government agencies or specific vocations - computers, journalism, etc.

Technical editing may also have more to do with culture than a vocation. A woman in 1960's Mississippi is different from a woman in the same place but in 2013... And very different from a woman in Saudi Arabia, South America, the Amazon, or Pakistan. Even differences between the American culture and other English-speaking allies (Great Britain, for example) are more pronounced than one might think.

Technical editing may also be an age: one of our authors routinely sends scenes to teenagers to get their "take" on whether their peers may react the same way as a teenager in his book is portrayed.

Writing is Rewriting

Many new authors have the impression that the first draft is the final, and it's far from it. It's just the beginning. In order to find its audience and do well, the book needs to be polished and perfected, using any or all of the types of editing outlined above. Perhaps the largest disservice any author can do to themselves is attempt to rush their book into the marketplace, often self-publishing or becoming defensive when suggestions are made to change it.

Analyze each piece of advice you receive and weigh its merits. Then edit, edit, edit and edit.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Growing Your Author Platform

I've mentioned in previous posts that 50% of the decision on whether Drake Valley Press will publish a specific title depends on the author's platform. We obviously consider this to be a major factor because the author will be involved in the promotional and marketing efforts and it's imperative that they be able to reach their fan base.

Who is Your Target Market?

The first step is determining who your target market is. Male or female? Age group? Is ethnicity a factor? Regions? Rural or urban? Single, married, divorced, widowed?

Knowing who your target market is is absolutely vital. If your answer is both male and female, all ages, all regions, all marital statuses, stop and take a step back. You're clueless. Yes, you might have both men and women reading your book. You might have people from 20 to 80 reading it. They might be from New York City, Istanbul or Small Town USA. But trying to reach such a broad audience is like firing an arrow at the stars. You won't hit any of them.

Consider your target market a destination. If you were in a spacecraft and you wanted to visit all the stars, you would begin with just one, wouldn't you? You'd select one, try to learn as much as you could about it, and then figure out how to reach it. Do the same thing with your audience. Select the audience you'd most like to reach, figure out where they hang out and what gets their attention, and then reach out to them.

Don't Wait Until You're Published

If you wait until your book is accepted and published before reaching out to your audience, your book will flop coming out of the starting gate. There is a magic window that can determine whether your book is charted for the stratosphere or will fall to earth as a dud. At Drake Valley Press, we assess the promotional campaign and sales very closely for the first three months, then reassess at six months and again at one year. That isn't much time if you have 1 Twitter follower and only your family as Facebook friends on the day your book is launched.

Reaching Your Target Market

One author who definitely has the system down pat is H. Hansel, found on Twitter at @DanceofRomance. H. Hansel knows his ideal reader is a lover of romance - and of things romantic. Using Hootsuite, he devised a variety of tweets that he schedules at varying times of the day and week. Before his first book is published, he has more than 40,000 followers - that's more than 40,000 potential buyers of his first book on the day the book is released.

So how did he get their attention?

Consider some of his tweets:

"The Dance of Romance is: The way the glow of the candlelight halos your Lover's naked body and makes you lust even more for them. HH"

"The Dance of Romance is: Slow dancing with your Lover in a gentle downpour to only the music of the raindrops on the pavement. HH"

"The Dance of Romance is: Falling in love again every time they absently run their fingers through their hair. HH"

"The Dance of Romance is: When you lock eyes with your Lover from across a crowded room and everything around seems to disappear. HH"

Those tweets obviously got him noticed. When he blogs, he tweets the links, and he gets hits and comments. He also cultivates relationships by reaching out to followers by name, asking them to visit his blog and weigh in. He also whets the appetite of followers because they will rightly assume when his first romance novel is published, it will include elements of his tweets - romance, candlelight, slow dancing, falling in love...

By tweeting snippets that reflect his writing style and romantic leanings, he reaches the target audience for his writing. He does not post things such as what he ate for lunch, when he cleaned off his desk, or when he takes a bathroom break - signs of authors who don't know what they're doing and inaccurately assume people want to know TMI. He instead touches them where they want to be touched - in the heart.

How do you reach your target audience? How did you grow your platform?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Is the Author the Customer?

At a recent Board meeting, one of the editors brought up the subject of the author as a customer. Seems that one of the authors he was working with claimed that he was a customer of Drake Valley Press because we were his publisher. An interesting conversation ensued, as you might imagine.

When a person self-publishes, there is no doubt that he or she IS the customer. They are paying for their work to be edited, the cover designed, and the book formatted for print or a variety of eBook platforms. The self-published author pays for their own marketing and publicity campaigns, and they foot the bill themselves for any advertising.

So what happens when the publisher is footing the bill?

In the case of a traditional publisher like Drake Valley Press, we pay the salaries and overhead for everything pertaining to the publication of a book. We pay for the editor and when a book must go through several passes, each pass eats up potential profits we're gambling on making down the road. We pay for graphic artists and often for photographs used in the covers, book trailers and promotion of the book. We pay for formatters. We also foot the bill for distribution chains and administrative fees associated with each book - fees an author probably doesn't think much about.

So how can the author be our customer if we're putting our money on the line?

In the end, we decided that each project required a partnership.

We are not the author's customer; we don't demand that they rewrite until we are satisfied, or demand that they market and promote relentlessly until we've recouped our investment. And when we publish a dud (which happens to every publisher at one time or another), we don't require that the author pay us back for all our overhead costs - though the typical cost is in the thousands.

Neither is the author our customer. We don't need to suffocate our own professional expertise in order to please the author. If we believe a particular book cover will hurt the chances of a book, we needn't be afraid to say it. If we believe the marketing plan the author proposes will not reach the target audience, we needn't sit on our hands and watch him fail.

It's a partnership. Each party assumes certain responsibilities, and we each enter into this venture (and adventure) assuming that the other party will be willing to work with us. When one side assumes the position that he or she is the customer and the other side must do anything to please them - well, it isn't a partnership anymore.

The loser is ultimately the book itself. When the author isn't speaking to the publisher (or co-authors are not speaking to each other), it hobbles the project so it can not move ahead. The wheels grind to a halt. If the editor requests information and the author chooses to ignore the request, it's the equivalent of running out of gasoline and refusing to replace it. We simply can't go anywhere.

If, however, the author does wish to be the customer and make every decision autonomously, then he or she certainly has a viable solution: self-publish. Hire someone to edit. Hire someone to design and create the cover. Hire someone to format the book for print. Hire someone to format the book for whatever eBook formats are desired. Figure out the distribution channels and enter into the agreements with wholesalers and distributors and retailers. Figure out the marketing plan or hire a marketing or promotional company to assist. In each of these instances, the author is then footing 100% of the bill, and then there's no question: the author IS the customer.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Making the Most of Online Publicity

Just a few short years ago, publicity was fleeting.

Having been in this industry for more decades than I care to admit, I well remember booking radio interviews during drive time - because if potential readers weren't listening at that very moment, we lost them.

I remember carefully analyzing television news interviews to determine whether morning, noon or evening segments were most beneficial, based on the demographics of the audience listening at that particular time.

Newspapers seemed to provide more exposure because at least readers could find the advertisement or article about the author and the book after the day it was published - if they still had the newspaper.

Magazines were considered a boon because they remained on the store shelves for an entire month.

Today Drake Valley Press' first line of marketing involves virtual book tours. Yet, some authors seem to treat them as if they, also, are fleeting. They are not: they can be permanent and as such, they should be used and reused.

For example, we recently booked an author on a high-profile blog. She never visited the blog. Never mentioned it online. Just let it lie there like an orphan, expecting it to get up and grow by itself. When it didn't, she complained about our selection.

So let's take a lesson from this.

When the author is interviewed on a blog, the very least he or she can do is visit the blog. Leave a comment, letting visitors know you'll be happy to answer questions. Then check back and answer them.

Tweet about the exposure with a link to the blog. And don't assume that the blog is only good for one day. It won't magically disappear at midnight. It's still there - and the author can continue to get mileage out of it by continuing to tweet about it.

Did the author believe they said something of importance? Then tweet about it. Try different times of the day, different days of the week. Audiences vary and we've found new readers of some very old posts.

Prefer Facebook? Post about the blog. Ask your Facebook friends for their opinion or feedback. Think of ways to get your friends and followers to talk about it, debate it, discuss it.

You're a Pinterest fanatic? Find pictures of things you envision in your book - and tie it to your interview. You mentioned a scene with a murder weapon? Find one online and pin it. You mentioned a particular city? Pin pictures of it. Or ask your followers to pin pictures. Anything to keep the dialog and interest going.

One of our authors was asked in a guest interview which actor she'd like to see play the role of her main character. Realizing the actor was probably on Twitter, she looked him up - and found him. (Watch for the check mark beside the celebrity's name; it shows you're dealing with the official account and not a fan's version.) When the blog posted, she tweeted about it - and mentioned the actor by Twitter name. He picked it up, retweeted it and within two hours, the book sold over four hundred copies.

Don't assume that the number of comments equals the number of people who read the blog. Most visitors are lurkers; they read but they don't comment. It isn't unusual to get more than 200 visitors on a blog that has only 3 or 4 comments. One blog we used this summer received over 1,000 hits, though only a dozen comments were left.

The same strategy can be applied to the author's own blog. If the subject was worth writing about, it's worth tweeting, Facebooking, pinning or using other social media to highlight. And remember: it has no expiration date. Keep mentioning it, long after it has initially posted.

Do you have any blog strategies you'd like to share? Leave us a comment below!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Why I Need to Love Your Book

I pass on a lot of books that I liked but didn't love. And as I near the end of the process in getting yet another book into the marketplace, I am reminded yet again why I must love an author's work before taking it on.

Each book is a product line in and of itself. To sell it, the publisher and the author must make sure it is the very best book it can be. The writing must be tight. Grammar errors, spelling errors, typographical errors, consistency errors - among others - must be non-existent; or at least as minimal as we can humanly make it. All of this takes time and money.

An author does not get paid for writing the book, unless their platform is so large or they are so proven in the marketplace that they receive an advance. Even then, I'd venture to say that less than 1% of authors receive an advance that truly pays for their time in writing and editing their work. They must do it because they are in love with the story, the characters, or the process of writing.

All of that changes on the publishing side.

Once we decide we want a manuscript, we must prepare a presentation for every department that will be involved in producing and marketing it. Every person in that chain must "buy into" it: the editor, the text production staff (for determining the layout, the fonts, the size, the internal packaging), the cover design staff (art work, layout, colors, and branding) and the marketing staff, who is involved before the book enters the market in determining the target market/ audience and how best to reach them; through the launch and initial entry into the marketplace, as well as positioning when the book becomes backlisted. The accounting staff and managerial staff must make certain the money is spent wisely and staff and resources are utilized wisely.

If everyone is in agreement (and one department can shelve an entire project) then we begin with contract negotiations. Once the contract is signed, the project is scheduled and the people are scheduled. None of these people work for free. They require salaries, overhead, and benefits. They need tools to do their job - hardware, software, access to art work... Then there are contractors we utilize, particularly with virtual book tours... There are printing costs, hidden costs the author may not consider like the procurement of an ISBN, proof copies, mock layouts, etc. There are meetings that occur at least weekly during the entire project, not to mention the phone calls, emails and other correspondence taking place.

The author sees very little of this.

A traditional publisher like Drake Valley Press is taking a gamble. The gamble is that this particular work will generate the sales required to reimburse the publisher for all of those up-front costs, plus make a profit - because the publisher, like any commercial business, can not be in business simply to pay costs and nothing more.

At the end of the day, twelve months after the book's initial entry into the market, we must be able to look at that book - that specific product and cost center - and know we made the right decision.

So when an author is querying publishers, it helps for them to understand what they are really asking of us: to commit people, money, time and resources to their work.

That's why I must love your book.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Monday Marketing - Revenue Streams

We're starting a new series of blogs for Drake Valley Press authors. On Mondays, we'll be sharing marketing and promotional secrets. Half of DVP's decision-making process in selecting authors and titles hinges on their marketing plans, and we're finding that they vary significantly. Each author has great strengths in reaching their target audience, and there is a lot to be learned from their unique strategies.

One such author is Aedan Byrnes. Aedan's first book will be released in December, but he is already generating buzz - and revenue - from Through the Oracle's Mist, a fantasy/paranormal romance that is Book I in the Vengelys Series.

On Friday, November 1, Aedan launched a cover reveal and the opening of his CafePress store for Through the Oracle's Mist. He licensed photographs that depict his mental images of Cyrenna and Tynan, the main characters in the book. He is offering their likenesses as well as the book cover and Cyrenna's Erian crest in his virtual store, on such items as clothing, cups, wine accessories, and even iPad covers, totes, luggage tags and more.

Within two hours of the store's launch, Aedan excitedly reported that his fans were flooding the store with orders. In less than two hours, he'd sold pajamas, mugs, journals, and t-shirts and his fans were spreading the word to their friends.

DVP allows the authors to keep all rights to their books except the trade paperback and eBook editions (English versions) which are licensed by DVP. This means that any other sources of income - such as items from Aedan's store - are completely his.

Having a store is a great way to promote an upcoming release, and it also opens up a separate revenue stream for the book itself.

Check out Aedan's store and see for yourself what he has to offer. Then please friend him on his Facebook page!