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SPAWNews, June, 1997


At his SPAWN presentation last year, well-known Santa Barbara-based publicist Milton Kahn reported that a client "gave me 20,000 books to sell, and I sold 20,000 books," almost as matter-of factly as if the task set before him had been to sell a dozen oranges. Vancouver-based publicist Helen Hecker tells artists to "consider us if you need to pump some life into your marketing and promotion, or if you are just too busy to learn how to do it yourself."

Professional publicists have access to tools that many artists and writers simply do not have, particularly membership in national wire services. These are used to send out information about clients' work to news editors, TV and radio producers, librarians and other volume purchasers, specialty markets, and book and art reviewers at high circulation magazines. Some of these services reach over 2000 major producers. Maximum exposure is the goal.

In addition to wire services, publicists will often have acquaintances, gleaned from years of meeting people in connection with previous clients, that a writer or artist, once again, simply does not have. There is no question that hiring a publicist is costly; most charge at least $2000, and many charge up to $10,000. However, the bottom line is that they do sell books. And yes, hiring a publicist will improve one's chances of getting on Oprah.


by Mary Embree

Suppose you've written a book and want to get it published, how do you convince an agent to represent you? Put yourself in the agent's place and, in your query letter, answer the following questions:

  1. What do you want? In your opening sentence explain why you are writing. State your purpose; i.e., you have a manuscript about (kind of book) and you would like representation.
  2. Why have you contacted me? Show that you have done your research by stating why you chose that particular agent: author recommendation, the agent represents similar works, etc.
  3. What is your book about? Describe your book concisely. Do so in three or four sentences showing clarity and focus on your subject.
  4. What was your reason for writing this book? It breaks new ground; it's a different approach; it's an incredible story you felt had to be told, etc.

What not to do: Never...

  1. say it's a potential bestseller.
  2. be pedantic or use superfluous words. .
  3. send out a query letter unedited.
  4. send a query letter of more than two pages; one page is optimum.
  5. make tiny margins to get more on the page. The agent won't be fooled.
  6. be defensive, apologetic or assume an "attitude."
  7. call three days later to ask if the agent has read your query letter. Do give the agent at least three weeks to reply.
How do agents get new clients?
  1. Through referrals. These may come from existing clients, editors, other agents, published authors or experts in a particular field.
  2. From speaking engagements at writers' conferences and seminars.
  3. Through referrals. These may come from existing clients, editors, other agents, published authors or experts in a particular field. By written queries from authors seeking representation.

If you can find someone who will refer you to an agent—an author the agent already represents, an editor whose work the agent knows and whose opinion the agent trusts, or an expert in the field you are writing about—include the person's name in your query letter. Or, to pave the way, ask that person to contact the agent before you query so that your query letter will be expected—and more likely to be read and answered. Query letters to publishers are similar; they need the same information.

Please see Frances Halpern's article in last month's issue of SPAWNews to find out where to look for an agent.


by Mary Embree

Instead of its regular monthly meeting, the Ventura Chapter of SPAWN is hosting our first birthday party on Sunday evening, June 15. We will begin with a 7 p.m. reception featuring wine & cheese, coffee & desserts.

The program will start at 7:30, and our featured speaker will be Jan Nathan, Executive Director of Publishers Marketing Association (PMA). This is an opportunity to get to know all about PMA and what they have to offer. As most of you know, SPAWN is a PMA affiliate and our members receive a reduced rate to join. Instead of the usual $80 fee, SPAWN members may join for only $54.

We will also have brief reports from our chapter presidents and an update on SPAWN. Afterward, there will be more time for networking and enjoying the party. All of this, of course is free to members. The guest fee is the usual $5.

SPAWN's PMA Affiliation

PMA is a trade association representing independent publishers in the U.S. and Canada, whose interests they advocate and advance by offering cooperative marketing and educational programs. PMA offers seminars and publications addressing marketing, book design, editing, legal contracts and copyrights, sales, finance, publicity, and the looming legal controversies surrounding electronic reprint rights (writers' works on the Internet).

PMA has staffed exhibits at the annual Book Expo (formerly ABA) Convention, American Library Association Convention and London International Book Fair in which publishers may participate. They also publish a monthly newsletter covering a variety of subjects of interest to authors and publishers.

To celebrate SPAWN's first birthday, Ms. Nathan is a most suitable choice. The festivities will be held at the Ventura Townehouse on Telegraph Road.

Time To Renew Memberships

Unless you recently joined or renewed, your membership will expire on June 30, 1997. From July 1 on, memberships will expire on members' anniversaries instead of at the end of our fiscal year.

Members who are renewing do not need to fill out another membership application unless there has been a change. If you need a membership application, they are available at all chapter meetings as well as on SPAWN's website, or you may call the office and have one mailed to you.

This year we are offering a special incentive to join or renew:

one free seminar of your choice! This savings, plus the savings on PMA memberships, means that your membership in SPAWN is close to or slightly better than free, if you take advantage of both special offers. And there are many, many more benefits. For a list of them all, pick up a brochure or bookmark at the meeting.


by Virginia Lawrence, Ph.D.

You can publish your articles and books directly on the Internet. Why would you want to do that? Publishing online lets you use a World Wide Web site as the vehicle to bring you to your goals. Just as there are many diverse goals in publishing, there are many different ways to publish on the Web.

You Can Publish For Free - No Direct Payment To You

You can publish fiction or nonfiction on your own Web site or in any of the hundreds of electronic magazines, called e-zines. Most e-zines don't pay anything at all, but a few pay $25 to $50 per accepted manuscript.

So how does that kind of publishing help you? First, it keeps you working on your craft, prompting you to hone your style for an audience. Second, publishing in several places on the Internet puts your name in front of the public. It gets your work and your name into the public eye, opening up opportunities for paying work.

Publishing for free can promote a cause, demonstrate your expertise in a nonfiction area, or showcase your clever plotting of a story. An example of a thoroughly professional serialized novel on the Web is Dead Kelly. The novel is well written, and it is generating business for its creator. Unfortunately, the site has been closed.

You Can Publish for a Fee - Someone Pays You For Your Work

Publishing for a fee can take many forms: articles, newsletters, and books. Although most e-zines don't pay for articles, many sites do pay for specialized information For example, if you are an expert in herbal treatment of menopause, a site built around an herb store may pay for your well-written information.

Just as print magazines repeatedly request the services of dependable, knowledgeable writers, high-quality Web sites continually require new informative articles.


If you are an expert in any area, you can establish an online newsletter without the hassle and cost of weekly or monthly printing. Newsletter publishers offer subsubscriptions both on a Web site and by e-mail. Some publishers require a small subscription fee, while others allow free subscription, but include advertising within the newsletter.

As the number of subscribers increases, fees from subscriptions and the ad rates increase, so newsletter publishers market their newsletters aggressively. Popular newsletters can quickly reach a subscription list of 5,000, and some go on to 25,000 subscribers.


For the last ten years there have been a few publishers offering one or two books exclusively online. Now that group is expanding to include publishers offering 40 books from various authors.

The bookstore at Online Originals is a good example of this new trend. They can be found at A buyer chooses a book and fills out a form, giving e-mail address and credit card information. Within a few hours, the buyer receives an e-mail version of the complete book.

Online Originals makes the process simple and painless. They offer fiction and nonfiction books for only $7 each.

How can they set such a low price? They are omitting most of the biggest costs in publishing: book design, typesetting, printing, binding, storing, and wholesaling.

Publishing online can bring you recognition and income. If you spend some time wandering the Web with publishing in mind, you will recognize an increasing number of opportunities.

Virginia Lawrence, SPAWN's Webmaster, is a Technical Writer and editor who publishes both in print and online.




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