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!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Why I'm Not Interested in a One-Hit Wonder

I receive a lot of queries and manuscript submissions. When I like what I see, I am always likely to ask what else the author has written.


Because I'm not interested in a one-hit wonder.

You see, with each book we publish, we have to establish a marketing plan around the book and around the author. We have to reach the audience most likely to buy the book, and we have to do that through radio, television, newspapers, magazines, social media, blog tours, book stores, libraries, and a host of personal appearances and events.

All of that takes a lot of time, effort and money. Sure, you could be the next Harper Lee or Margaret Mitchell. But chances are, you're not. Chances are, your debut book will sell decently or not at all. But your second book will probably sell a little better. And your third, better than the second. And by the fourth book, your readers are asking what else you wrote and looking at your backlist.

You can't grow your fans if all you have is one product, anymore than you can open a convenience store and sell one item.

There are the exceptions - but they are exceptions.

For the average author, you need a line of products - a line of books. You need to market and promote consistently and your readers will get tired of you hawking the same book and they'll turn a deaf ear. You have to stay current, just as musicians need to keep putting out albums and actors need to keep appearing in movies. Your chances of making it is less than one percent. Your chances of making it with one book is less than winning the lottery.

So while you're trying to find the perfect agent or the perfect publisher, keep writing. You'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Who Reads Your Books?

When a person decides to start a business, one of the key tasks is to determine their target market. This holds true whether they're opening a new restaurant, an upscale clothing boutique, a toy store, a movie theatre - or anything in between.

That book you're writing is a product. You, the author, are a product. And when your book is finished and you're searching for just the right agent or publisher, you are putting yourself out there like a new business.

A lot of great manuscripts come across my desk. A lot of times, I have to decline them because I can't get a clear view of the target market and how to reach them.

Before you put your pen to paper (or your fingers to the keyboard) you should know who you're writing for. There's nothing wrong with writing the story that cries to your inner soul to be written. But if you're planning on selling that story, you'd better know who is likely to read the book - and how to reach them.

I hear authors say that their book is for everybody.

Is that so?

I could say a restaurant is for everybody. But ask a dozen people where they'd like to have dinner tonight and you might get a dozen answers. Some like sushi, some like Mexican, some, pizza, others, meatloaf... It's the same with books. No way will you catch me in a sushi bar, and I also don't care about werewolves.

You should know whether your primary reader is male or female. How old are they, right down to a specific generation - teens? young adult? 30's? 60's? What their education is, and why they would be interested in your book.

You have to know these things because when the book is released, you have to know how to reach that audience.

But that's my publisher's job, you say. Well, yes... and no.

It's everybody's job. It's your name on the cover. It's your face in public, signing your books. The author becomes an integral part of promoting the book; otherwise, he or she could be sent to totally inappropriate venues - the wrong age group or to groups more interested in a different genre. Try showing up at a church-sponsored book signing with erotica.

Knowing your audience helps you to grow your audience. You know what they like and don't like. You learn where they hang out. You learn how to reach them. Then stay within the parameters of what they like, and you've got a built-in audience for each book you write.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Establishing Your Genre

I had an interesting conversation with an author last week who told me that she wanted her audience to know that whatever she writes - whether it's a children's book, a cookbook, a suspense/thriller or a romance - would have the quality of her name behind it, enough to cause them to purchase it.

Well, no.

Let's take Reader 1. This reader is single, in his 20's, sportive and adventuresome. He likes the author's suspense/thriller because it's action-packed, contains international intrigue, features exotic locations and takes him out of his apartment and office cubicle. He doesn't have children, he only cooks if it takes a single pan and less than twenty minutes (preferably under ten), and he's into sex, not romance.

Reader 2 is a young newlywed. She still believes in love at first sight, at finding her eternal soul mate (which she thinks she has in her new husband), and she wants to experience that beautiful, giddy, head-in-the-clouds feeling she gets from reading pure romance. Maybe her new husband travels in his job or puts in long hours or works a job and attends school... And she wants a reminder that romance is not only possible, it's an everyday occurrence. She doesn't have children, she's learning to cook, and she might read a suspense/thriller IF it contains a healthy dose of... romance.

Reader 3 is a mother, a cook, a chauffeur, a maid, a nurse, a seamstress, a spouse... all before leaving home. With a full-time job in addition to her busy family, she doesn't have time to read. She will, however, purchase her children books. She won't use a cookbook at this point in her life because food has to be quick, simple and easy - or they go through the drive-thru. Down the road when Little Johnny and Baby Jane are well into their teen years, have their own cars and stay with their friends all hours, she might have time to go back to the love of reading. Then she'll gravitate toward suspense or romance, and possibly both.

I could go on and on with various readers' preferences. The point is: all readers are not created equal. Each of them has distinct likes and dislikes. If you write suspense and suddenly switch to heavy romance, you stand to lose some of your audience - unless you turn to romantic suspense with a heavy dose of the thrill your readers are accustomed to from you.

But to expect your fans to buy whatever you produce isn't realistic. They don't buy your books because they love you. Okay, maybe some of them do but certainly they can't number into the tens of thousands. And that's what it takes to be a success in this business - selling tens of thousands of books.

Your readers buy your books because you offer them what they're looking for. Maybe it's romance. Maybe it's suspense. Maybe it's something for Little Johnny. Maybe it's how to make that perfect cherry pie. But how many readers do you know what want all of those?

Next week: learning who your readers are.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Importance of a Platform

Often authors believe that the only factor in becoming a success is their writing ability. I'd love to say this is so.

However, it's only half of the equation.

The other half is marketing. The current environment is extremely competitive; one only needs to look at Twitter feeds to see scores of authors advertising their books and trying to get the public to buy them.

So when an author submits a manuscript we like, our next question is: what's your platform?

Drake Valley Press commits to a three-month marketing and promotional campaign, centered around the book's launch. We follow that with a consistent effort to get the word to readers throughout the following year. But we know that our efforts will not be enough.

The author must have a way of reaching their readers and their fan base. It can be through Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, blogging, other social networking sites, and a combination of them all.

Years ago, we published a book where the author spent a small fortune advertising it for a month. Then promotional efforts dropped off. Needless to say, the book hasn't done well in the long stretch. It doesn't require deep pockets or paid advertising, but it does require a long-term commitment to reach as many readers and potential book buyers as possible.

When you are writing your book, ask yourself who is your target audience? Then ask yourself how you will reach that target audience over the long haul? Begin while you're writing to connect with those readers.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Why Books are Returned

During the Depression of the 1930's, the publishing industry faced a major crisis. People were desperate to put food on their tables and keep a roof over their heads. Unemployment was rampant and food lines were long and numerous. Those were the days before unemployment benefits, before Medicare, before food stamps and welfare.

Books were a luxury.

In an attempt to prevent the publishing industry from going bankrupt (these were also the days before corporate bailouts) they came up with a plan: they would allow book stores to send back any books that didn't sell, just to keep their books in the marketplace.

It was supposed to be a temporary measure.

The Depression ended and needless to say, the returns did not.

There has been talk throughout the industry at different times but the policy has never changed industry-wide.

Some publishers, however, have decided not to accept returns.

You won't find some of Drake Valley Press' books on bookshelves in every store in the country. To do so would require print runs of 100,000 or more plus the cost of shipping into the market. If the books aren't sold, months later they can come back - resulting in losses both for the publisher and the author.

All of Drake Valley Press' books are available to all book stores and they're carried by Ingram and Baker & Taylor, the country's largest wholesalers. If you don't see a book on the shelf, always ask for it. It can be special ordered and should arrive within just a couple of days.

Meanwhile, we hope this policy of retailers returning books months after they've been purchased will stop. It is an archaic system, and it is uniquely used with books - no other products have ever used this type of consignment system.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

How Books Get to the Market

Getting books into the marketplace and into a reader's hands is a complex process.

It begins when the publisher adds a new title to Bowker Books-in-Print and registers the ISBN.

Small publishers often use distributors to get their books into the distribution channels, so the books first go to the distributor from the publisher.

The distributor then sells the books to the wholesalers, such as Ingram or Baker & Taylor.

Book stores usually order through the wholesalers. In larger chains, the books go first to the retailer's warehouse or distribution center.

Then the books go into the stores, where readers buy them.

Small and mid-size publishers will often have their books stocked at the wholesalers' warehouses so when a special order is placed for a book, the retailer often just has to order it from the wholesaler. Larger publishers have the clout to have their books stocked in the retail stores.

If a book stays on the retailer's shelf for six months without being sold, the retailer can send it back to the wholesaler. (More on this next week.) The wholesaler will often send unsold books back to the distributor, and the distributor eventually sends it back to the publisher. If the publisher can resell the book, it goes right back out the door. If not, it shows up as a "return" and a negative number on the author's royalty statement.

The publishing industry is changing rapidly, however.

Ingram now reports that they are carrying virtual inventories - which means the books are not stocked in their warehouse, but they are in their database. When an order is placed by the retailer, the wholesaler places the order with the distributor or direct with the publisher (if the publisher is large enough).

Publishers are also moving toward more virtual inventories. The old business model was to stock warehouses with all their published titles. The new model allows the publisher to print some titles on demand, reducing the overhead of inventory space. It also eliminates the guesswork and complex mathematical equations used to determine print runs and how often to reprint books.

Drake Valley Press uses a hybrid model - both traditional print runs augmented by print-on-demand, which reduces the guesswork and allows books to remain in print longer.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Why Publishers Use Rejection Form Letters

The editors at Drake Valley Press receive a large number of queries each week. We can usually tell by reading the subject matter and seeing the author's style whether we'd like to see more. If we do, we will often ask for the first fifty pages and one of the author's favorite scenes. If we like what we see, we'll request the entire manuscript.

Sometimes the submission just doesn't grab us. It can be for a variety of reasons. The top reason is poor editing. When the author doesn't know the correct spelling of the word "query" it doesn't bode well for their manuscript. When there are fragmented sentences, punctuation errors, and poor grammar, it means a lot of time, energy and money would have to be spent to get it in good shape for publication.

Sometimes the story is a good idea but the execution isn't. In an industry where 85,000 words is the norm for new or relatively unknown authors, writing a book that comes in at 200,000 words - and insisting the book is perfect - can set the road to disaster.

Other times, the authors simply don't know enough about the industry. We will always ask for the author's marketing plan and their background. We want to know why they were the best person to write this particular story, and what is in their background that will enable them to sell it. When they think the first draft is the final and it's the publisher's job to rewrite it and then the publisher's job to do 100% of the marketing, their expectations are unreasonable.

So why do publishers often send form emails or form letters instead of telling the author what they need to work on?

The number one reason is The Author's Ego.

99.9% of authors, when told what they need to improve, will try to argue their case:

I've been told they use fragmented sentences because it's their "voice".

I've been told the book doesn't drag in the middle chapter that comes in at 100 pages - I just simply didn't understand it.

I've been told the facts they cited are absolutely correct - even though there exists scores of evidence that argue otherwise.

I've been told they didn't have to follow standards for their genre because their book is "special".

I've been told they won't have to market it, because their mother/ father/ sister/ brother/ spouse said it's the best thing they ever read. The book will sell itself.

The list goes on and on.

The bottom line is: publishers don't sit around all day, twiddling their thumbs and checking their inbox to read submissions. They are busy. Ultra busy. Weekends, evenings at home, holidays and vacations are often non-existent. They don't have the time for an author to telephone them in a vain attempt to convince them that their book is the best thing since sliced bread. The fact is, it isn't. None of them are.

Publishing is a business. The three things every author can do to help their own career soar are (a) write the best book you can possibly write; (b) listen to professional advice on improving the book so it has a better chance; and (c) learn everything you possibly can about the publishing business.

It's no longer acceptable to be a writer only. You have to be a stellar writer and know the business in order to be successful in this day and age and in this competitive publishing environment.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Why Publish Traditionally?

It's true: anyone can publish a book these days. eBooks can be uploaded and formatted to fit any eReading device, and paperback or hard cover books can be printed on demand, which means no costly inventory and no large outlay of cash.

So why even consider traditional publishing?

When a book is self-published, the author is starting their own company, whether they realize it or not. No lines are going to form automatically at your door, no one is going to be clamoring to book you for a signing or event, and you won't rise miraculously to the New York Times bestseller list. Most new authors who believe their books are the savior of all mankind are disappointed to find that most people outside of their close friends and family, aren't eagerly awaiting their book's publication.

Those are the tough but true facts.

To effectively get your book in the hands of the reader and earn enough money to make the writing worthwhile, requires a team who knows what they're doing.

Polishing and Editing

In today's competitive environment, a book must be edited and polished in order to stand a chance. While Drake Valley Press, along with most publishers today, only accepts books that the author has already edited and polished so it shines, it doesn't mean we don't read it, polish it further, and make suggestions. Our editors look for grammatical errors, punctuation errors, technical flaws, consistency, plotline, character development, pacing, and many other factors. The result is the book is better by the time it goes into production than what the author thought possible or necessary.

If you self-publish, in order to stand a chance you need to hire a competent editor.


Drake Valley Press generally publishes in eBook format and in trade paperback, though we occasionally will print hard cover copies. That requires professional formatting.

If you are using word processing software, you might think you've formatted the book as well as it can be formatted - and you'd be wrong. Publishers use professional software such as PageMaker, Creative Suite or Quark for laying out pages. This software permits professional kerning and page layouts that standard word processing software doesn't do. You can squeak past by using word processing software for eBooks, but there is a massive difference when you are printing a book.

There are also things that can throw off a book's acceptance by eBook readers - many of which are invisible, like extra spaces at the end of paragraphs, soft returns instead of hard returns, the use of the space bar or tab instead of indentation, etc.

Publishers also will have professional fonts for the printed book. You can spot a book that was formatted in Times New Roman or another standard word processing font - and it won't look like those from a larger publisher.

Cover Designs

We all know that we do judge a book by its cover. It's easy to spot a book that was self-published, because most authors are not graphic designers. The use of clip-art, free images, low resolution graphics, and a poor placement of the title and author's name shout to the world that the book was self-published.

You can hire a graphics designer to develop a professional cover for you, and you can also hire someone to use professional formatting software to make the interior what it should be. All of this costs money.

ISBN's and Bowker

You can also purchase an ISBN whenever you publish a book, if you go through a reputable source. But most publishers buy them in bulk. Most have accounts in which they can assign the ISBN's so their information goes right into the databases used by retailers.

The Distribution Channel

Once the book is printed, the work is just beginning. In order for anybody to find it, it must be in the distribution channel: that includes distributors, wholesalers, online retailers and brick-and-mortar stores. It must also be available for readers to find and purchase.

So far, if you're self-publishing, you'll have had to find reputable sources for editing, formatting, cover design... and now figure out how to effectively get it into the distribution pipeline. This can take research, a lot of time and effort. Reputable publishers already have this figured out.

You also have to know how long it takes for the information to filter to the reader. For example, though you can print a book today, it doesn't mean anyone can walk into a book store tomorrow and they can find it in their database. Maybe some day everyone will be connected to instant information, but in today's environment, it means the information has to be in the databases that are sold to the stores. Most stores have subscriptions and the information is updated perhaps on a weekly or monthly basis. But that information has to flow through the wholesalers and distributors to the retailers. If you don't know this, you could encounter a great deal of frustration when your friends and family try to find it through any source other than you personally.


There are two methods of selling: one is to sell to the retailers and the other is to sell to the reader. Both take effort and time. Assuming you want your book in the hands of more than just your family and closest friends, you'll need a marketing plan. It should include mainstream media, online publicity, book signings, personal appearances, and/or virtual book tours.

Have you identified your target market? Do you know how to reach them?

That's the job of the publisher's sales and marketing team.

In Essence...

In essence, you need a TEAM to be successful. You need a great editor, professional book interior, professional cover design, well-printed books, a distribution plan, and a sales and marketing plan.

We'll talk more about each of the factors above in upcoming weeks, as we continue to post on Wednesdays.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Welcome to Drake Valley Press

Drake Valley Press is a traditional, royalty-based publisher. We began the business in 2000 and adopted the Drake Valley Press imprint in 2002.

So why, you might ask, haven't you heard of us?

Our management team has been busy researching the publishing industry's changes, determining its future, and making decisions on where our corporation should fit in the mix. We have been publishing a variety of authors and genres but effective 2013, we completed the business and marketing plans and strategies that will move us into the future.

The management team's experience dates back to the 1970's, which feels like the dinosaur age of publishing. Back then, authors could submit entire manuscripts to publishers. They often ended up in the "slush pile", which was anything from an area of a small room to several rooms, depending on the publisher's size. Anyone who worked at that publisher could pick something out of the slush pile and read it. It he or she liked it and thought it would do well as a published work, they could recommend it to one of the editors, who might or might not read it and follow through.

The slush piles have been almost completely eliminated. The largest publishers will primarily accept submissions only through literary agents. Small and mid-size publishers such as ourselves don't have the time or resources to house hundreds or thousands of unsolicited manuscripts which may or may not still be available when we get around to reading them.

So how do we operate? And if you're an author who would like to submit your manuscript, how do you do so?

You begin with a query addressed to Senior Editor Don Freeman (at) dfreeman (at) What should be in this query:

(1) An opening paragraph that states your manuscript's title, your name and pen name, the word count, and the genre.

(2) One or two paragraphs about your manuscript. We want to know what it is about your manuscript that made you enthusiastic enough to write it, why we should be excited to read it, and why retailers and readers would be enthused about buying it. The subject, plot and characters should grab us and make us want to know more.

(3) One or two paragraphs about yourself. If you've been published previously, tell us what you've published and how many copies have been sold. Tell us what experience you have that makes you an expert in the type of book you've chosen to write. Today's audience is sophisticated, smart and savvy; "write what you know" has never been more accurate.

(4) Provide us with links to your website, your blog, and any social networking that is geared toward your writing career. Give us contact information including a physical address, phone number and your email address.

(5) Tell us what your marketing plan is. We're looking for authors who understand that in today's marketplace, they are expected to actively assist in the promotional campaign and consistent, on-going marketing efforts. Your marketing plan tells us how much you understand about this industry, what your goals are, and how you intend to help us sell your work.

If we like what we see, we'll ask for the first fifty pages of your manuscript plus your favorite scene in the book.

We are looking for work that has already been professionally edited. Today's market is competitive. Authors are hiring professional editors at a rising rate. When their work is submitted, it is 99% toward being ready for production. If you submit manuscripts with misspelled words, grammatical or punctuation errors and badly formed sentences, you are doing yourself a disservice. Your competitors will be more prepared, and your manuscript will be rejected.

If we accept your manuscript, we will edit your book - but we're not going to accept anything that needs large chunks rewritten or heavily edited. Micro-editing books in which the author should know the basics of writing but doesn't is a waste of everyone's time.

If we like the excerpts we've requested, we'll ask for the entire manuscript.

And if we like the entire manuscript, we'll offer a contract.

We do take simultaneous submissions, but please indicate you are submitting it elsewhere when you query us.

We do not accept queries that are not addressed to us, and which are clearly broadcast to every publisher on an extended email list.

We do not publish children's books, coffee table books or books requiring a large number of illustrations. Please do not send your query by snail-mail without a stamped, self-addresses envelope for our response.

What can you expect from this blog?

We'll be posting information about our company and the publishing industry in general every Wednesday. Topics we intend to explore include the various types of editing; the publishing process from acceptance through production; the distribution channels; what it means when a book goes out of print; the "numbers game" all for-profit publishers are engaged in; how the publishing industry is changing, and more.