Thursday, April 29, 2010

My Book is Self Published

"My book is self-published and now I need an agent to take it to a bigger publisher." Or perhaps "Should I take my self published book to show to an editor at a conference?"

I get several self-published books a day. First let me say I have no problem with self-published books, I've done a couple myself. That is, I don't have a problem if it was a business decision to do it and not just because the author didn't want to do the work necessary to traditionally publish.

But is it a viable strategy to circumvent the process and take a short cut to a major publisher? I hate to have to say it, because I know it isn't what authors want to hear, but once a book has been published whether self published or by other means, it is in print and to take it to a larger publisher generally means selling reprint rights. When I say that many respond, "but I retained the rights for it." It isn't about owning the rights to the book, it's about the fact that once a book is in print the first rights are gone, no matter who published it. First rights are what a publisher primarily wants to buy, and a book can only be published for the first time once. That means it's a reprint project or has to be offered as a new book which often requires a major rewrite.

Few publishers want reprint rights, and those that will look at them want to see sales figures up in the four figures that will show them the book deserves further print and promotion. As I said, there are a lot of good reasons to self publish, particularly if a book is aimed at a regional or limited market and the author recognizes that they will be doing the primary sales and marketing. However, as a strategy to get a book out in order to interest a major publisher in it, that strategy very seldom works and those times when it did work it was because of significant sales.

And how is an editor likely to see it if you bring a finished book to an interview to pitch it? A lot of self published books have poor covers or poor editing (which has a lot to do with opinions the industry holds of self-publishing) but let's assume neither is the case. To the editor we are showing them the book has already been done so a lot of editors are going to think we are offering them used goods. Were it to catch their interest their first question would be about those pesky sales numbers.

Most of the time the odds against taking a previously published book and trying to get a major publisher interested are too long for me unless there are some really good sales numbers. Our best means of getting those books in print with somebody else is to get the next one published, do well with it and establish a relationship, and try to get our earlier books in behind it with the same publisher.

Still, the agency has done something with a few self-published titles if there were some decent sales and it was a really outstanding book. But I mentioned that I get a number of them each day. How many have been able to make that next step? A handful. Is it a viable means to interest a major publisher? Very seldom.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Guest Blogger - Client Max Elliott Anderson

As a child, I never liked to read. When I mention this to someone today, I can anticipate the reaction. Their mouth drops open in disbelief, followed by a gasp. “You’re kidding!” often follows. That’s probably because I’m also the author of a number of action-adventures and mysteries especially written for other boys who may be facing similar difficulties.

I used to think that a reluctant reader was simply someone who hadn’t found the right book yet. But the causes may go deeper than that.

At the outset, it’s important to understand our terms. Parents must be certain that, if facing a struggling, reluctant reader, there aren’t any problems with vision, neurological issues, or other medical conditions that might hamper reading. These should be diagnosed by professionals, but here are some things to look for.

Difficulty with vision.

Does he have good posture while reading?

In addition to vision, a child may suffer from ADD (attention deficit disorder), ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), dyslexia, or other learning disabilities.

For the purposes of exploring reluctant or struggling readers, let’s say that you’ve had your child tested, and we can rule out vision or medical problems. What is your next step toward getting him interested in reading?

Start with audio books. In some cases, this is used while also holding a copy of the same book. A child is able to both see and hear the words at the same time, and practice following along.

Select a book that is below grade level. You may also want to experiment with comic books, graphic novels, or magazines like Sports Illustrated for Kids, Ranger Rick, Highlights, and others.

Some have found success by using electronic readers like Kindle and iPad.

Recently a study was released which noted that nearly 80 percent of children 6 and under, read or are read to in an average day. But it went on to say that children spend an average of 49 minutes with books in that same average day, compared with 2 hours and 22 minutes sitting in front of a television or computer screen.

If your child avoids reading in every way possible - choosing video games, or the computer over reading - you might set those activities aside as rewards. You can say, “After you’ve read for thirty minutes, or an hour,” for example, “then you may spend time doing those other things.” Here are some other ideas.

Read aloud with your child.

Get rid of distractions.

Above all, make reading fun.

Have your child try reading to a dog, a cat, a doll, or stuffed animal.

Look for high interest, low vocabulary books called Hi-Lo.

Anytime I’m asked if reading is really all that important, I give several reasons why it is, and add that readers are the leaders others follow.

-Books For Boys Blog

-Author Web Site

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Let's talk statistics

I had a terrible time with statistics in college. I barely passed and even then I think it was the mercy of the professor. But now? I keep logs of submissions I make for my clients, logs of submissions that I have worked, logs of sales, and all of them automatically total up a variety of things. They can tell some interesting things.

One thing I often point out when I am presenting workshops is that 85% of all manuscripts will never be significantly published. People just don't spend the time learning their craft or doing submissions the proper way to be successful. They take themselves out of consideration more than they are actually being rejected. But this also means people that are really in the game are only up against 15% of what is available for sale. The 15% tend to be the people who are agented and being aggressively pitched to editors.

My logs bear this out. I have taken 60 clients out of over 2000 submissions. I am pitching 185 projects on them, or 9.25% of the projects that have been submitted to me. I have 47 proposals pending for me to consider them which means I have turned down 91.88% of submissions. That's a bit more than the 85% but then I'm getting close to my client capacity so the number is going up.

At present I have 221 proposals out and under consideration for these clients. Those are the ones that are still active out of the 746 that have gone out since I've been an agent. I've sold 62, which is 12% of the total proposals I have sent less the ones that are still in play.

These numbers (sales) would be less than a high profile or more experienced agent, but not too out of line across the industry on a percentage success to submission ratio. A large agency would have a number of agents feeding into the process and generating a large number of contacts and submissions but resulting in similar percentage numbers on the number of submissions out into the marketplace per agent.

One number in the log that is not particularly significant except as a matter of interest is the fact that I include the word count in the entry if it was given (everyone should have given it but quite a number of them don't). This column also totals and currently says that I have had 75,474,226 words submitted for my consideration. No wonder I have five editorial assistants helping me read, and of course on a bulk of them only the sample chapters were read or only so far as it took to determine that it simply was not a contender.

What do all these numbers mean? It means this business is very competitive and backs up the fact that most people are not doing what they need to do to meet that competition. Those that are, in fact, are only competing against 15% or less of those making submissions. Unfortunately, instead of doing what they need to do to raise their submission up to where it needs to be in order to be successful, quite a number of them will simply put it out themselves to avoid doing it. There are a lot of good reasons to self-publish but putting an inferior product out to keep from having to do the work to make it competitive is not one of them.

Who would have thought that statistics course would have ever come in handy?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Writing for the Lord

Continuing our series of reporting on conferences that are upcoming or conferences we have attended to help people make decisions about where to go, this is the second time I have gone to this conference and it is an excellent one. ETBU does a most professional job of putting it on, the campus is beautiful, they have a great faculty, all of the conference is in one convenient place and I recommend it highly.

This conference has been held for many years but not last year. I told them that was very considerate for them to not hold it since I had broken my heel and could not attend. Actually, I believe they were simply in the process of moving it to a different date. This move was terrific as the weather could not have been better, shirt sleeve weather, neither too hot nor too cold. The conference runs a day and a half in a very concentrated format. Great regional conference.

I mentioned in an earlier blog that I had changed the keynote I was about to give at the Heart of America conference in Kansas City at the last moment and after I did it a number of people came up and said it addressed a very urgent current need. At this conference I found myself taking my "Using Fiction to Spread God's Word" workshop in a new direction that I had neither planned nor decided in advance to do. It just happened. Again I had a couple of people come up and say it had addressed a very urgent need.

I said, "So you are the one God changed my talk for."

God does that. It has happened over and over. A number of people who have attended any session I give has heard me say I believe there are two ways to write for the Lord, to be called to do it, or to decide to do it in which case it is not a calling but an offering. I don't believe that everyone who would like to write for the Lord has been called to do so any more than I believe that everyone who would like to preach has been called to do so.

This led to a discussion of how to discern a calling and how to tell what the Lord wants us to do. This is intensely personal and not something someone else can decide for a person but there is a way someone can help describe the process, which I did. This brought relief to a couple of people who were distressed because they had not heard this calling and felt bad when they heard people say they should have. There is absolutely nothing wrong with writing as an offering. If it is done right it will be well received and the effort blessed.

Then a couple of people were distressed about how long it was taking and surely it would happen quicker if God had asked them to do it. I pointed out how long God prepared Moses and Abraham and the Apostles, and even Jesus himself before they were actually used. If God has called a writer to a task He will prepare them before He brings the task to fruition. I stressed that He would not only insure that the WRITING was what He wanted it to be, but the writer themself was where he wanted them to be as well. It is even possible that instead of going faster with God's help that it might take longer than it would for a person preparing an offering out of their own abilities and resources. It most assuredly will if the person is not submitting themselves to him and to the way He wants it done because success is not likely to come until that happens.

I love it when the Lord helps me teach.

Those of you that live within range of the ETBU conference should definitely plan on attending next year. Information will be available at

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Library Cat

I’ve recently been working on a project that has had me visiting a large number of library sites. In the process I’ve discovered many of the sites include a picture of the ‘library cat.’ Library cat? What’s up with that? I do know a couple of bookstores that I’ve been in that I was quite likely to be visited by the resident feline who came by to survey my reading preferences.

One library said their particular cat was one of 640 known library cats in the country. I don’t know how valid that number is but from the number of sites where I saw one posted I am inclined to believe it. It caused me to wonder, why cats? In all of my wanderings I did not run across the library poodle. I saw no library parrot. If they had a relaxing tank of fish they didn’t say anything about it. Maybe some of them might have had a rat or two in the musty portions of the basement and I understand no mention of that.

Is it because cats are quiet, tiptoe around on padded feet? Because they eat little and are economical to keep? Not all cats befriend people easily but the ones posted look as if they enjoy greeting and welcoming visitors. Is it because they don’t have to be ‘taken out’, but will go do their business in a litter box hidden in some dark corner? Whatever the reason books and cats seem to go together, or is it just libraries and cats?

Whatever the reason I have no problem with it. Personally, my writing assistant is a Brittany Spaniel that my family felt would keep me from staying in my chair too much at a time but I found that installing a doggie door and keeping a sack of doggie treats on my side table will forestall that strategy nicely.

While I’m on the subject, I love libraries. I consumed more books as a kid than we could afford and the library became a stop on the way home from school most days. I read, I hung out, I played chess, sometimes I even helped them re-shelve books and did some chores there. There is a very special place in my heart for libraries.

As a result the project I referred to is visiting them. I think I’ve been to every library in the US that can be visited online. Those that have online catalogs I look to see if any of my books are shelved. For a genuine library person being shelved in a library is the utmost honor, and I know it helps bring name visibility for a writer in a community. I actually have a list on my site where I have confirmed they can find me in a library. I encourage my friends to recommend my books for shelving. I’m running a library promotion for my new YA aimed at getting kids to read and discuss it, but focusing on doing it through libraries.

Do you suppose I should get rid of this dog and get a cat for my library? If I did who would alert me when neighbors come home or the UPS guy is here? Who would protect me from fierce neighborhood cats, predatory bunny rabbits, and the roadrunner that runs amuck outside? I suppose I’ll just interface with library cats when I venture into their domain.