SPAWN Market Update – June 2006

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SPAWN Market Update – June, 2006

By Patricia L. Fry

Going, Going, Gone – 3 magazines have closed

Here’s What’s New – 8 new mags, re-launches and changes to report

Opportunities for Freelancers – 3 ideas for getting work

Opportunities for Authors – 2 publishers and an agent

Opportunities for Screenwriters – 2 opportunities to sell your scripts

Book Promotion Opportunities – 3 ideas that WILL sell your book

Publisher Survey – How important is a Book Proposal?

Bonus Item – Tips for Getting Book Reviews

Publisher Interviews with Rising Star Press and Sterling Publishing

Going, Going, Gone 

Budget Living
Business Traveler
Travel Savvy

Here’s What’s New

Absolute Write Newsletter

Make a note, James Bennett is now the editor of Atlantic Monthly. http://www.theatlantic.com

 Alanna Fincke is the new editor of Body and Soul. http://www.bodyandsoulmag.com

Martha Stewart’s Good Things for Kids has taken the place of Kids: Fun Stuff to Do Together. Jodi Levine is the editor. http://www.marthastewart.com

Denver Woman

Jim Baen’s Universe

Seattle Metropolitan Magazine

Women’s Review of Books

Opportunities for Freelance Writers

Tri-County Woman Online

It’s almost summer. What are you doing to drum up writing business for the season? If your bread and butter comes from writing magazine articles or if you are promoting a book through articles, maybe this is a good time to sign up for an online magazine database. I like WoodenHorsePub.com and WritersMarket.com.

Wooden Horse will allow you to sample the database at a bargain price of $1.99 per day. Or you can save by signing up for a year at $149.00. WritersMarket.com charges $3.99/month or $29.99 annually. Learn more at: http://www.woodenhorsepub.com or http://www.writersmarket.com.

Would you like to get involved doing corporate writing work from home? Go out and collect brochures and other materials from local businesses and see how you could improve them. Visit Web sites. When you see misspelled words and grammatical errors, contact the owner of the site and offer to edit their Web pages for a fee.

Opportunities for Authors

Are you looking for an agent? The Knight Agency is seeking inspirational fiction, mainstream women’s, young adult, romantic, suspense and fantasy as well as paranormal romance manuscripts. Contact Elaine Spencer submissions@knightagency.com

Orca Book Publishers is seeking quality books for children and young adults. Contact the editor, Maggie de Vries at orca@orcabook.com. Learn more about their guidelines at http://www.orcabook.com/AuthorsGuideFrame.htm.

Nomad Press is soliciting nonfiction manuscripts at this time. If you have a how-to, a sports related book, a memoir or one on parenting, Nomad might be interested. Learn more about their submission process at http://www.nomadpress.net.

Opportunities for Screenwriters

The Screenwriting Expo is coming up. October 19-22 are the dates and the cost is just $74.95 for a four day pass. This event will be held in Los Angeles, California. Learn more at: http://www.screenwritingexpo.com.

Are you aware of InkTip’s sister magazine called Players Marketplace? It’s a print publication that contains loglines of writers’ scripts and is snail-mailed to 4,500 agents, managers and producers every two months. Check it out at http://www.inktip.com/scriptlog.php.

Book Promotion Opportunities

Sell your books at the Hollywood 2006 Book Festival on Saturday July 8. The deadline for entries is June 25. For more information, http://www.hollywoodbookfestival.com.

Learn how to speak on behalf of your book. Attend Susan Levin’s Speakers’ Bootcamp July 14 – 18 in Los Angeles. http://www.speakerservices.com

The American Journalism Review lists over 2,000 newspapers as well as radio, TV and magazine listings. Why is this important? These are resources you can use to get publicity for your published book. Don’t miss out on this opportunity. http://www.ajr.org

How Important is a Book Proposal, Really???

Even in today’s competitive publishing climate and even with experts and professionals hammering away about the importance of the book proposal—some authors still refuse to take the book proposal seriously. Many hopeful authors just want to find a publisher through some miraculous shortcut even if they have to pay someone to publish their books. They care little, in the beginning, about their target audience or the market for their book. Many of them believe that if they write it, readers will come. Eventually, they learn that this is not a very smart way to approach publishing.

Some authors will reluctantly agree to write an abbreviated version of a book proposal and they’ll ask me, “What is the most important part of a book proposal?” They want to know, “Should I send the publisher a sample chapter or a synopsis? How about my table of contents?”

These questions started me wondering: Do publishers consider one aspect of the book proposal more essential than others? And I decided to launch a survey. Here are the results of my informal survey.

About a dozen publishers of various types and sizes responded to my question: “What is the most important part of a book proposal?”

Target Audience

Roughly one-quarter of the publishers said they want to know, “Who is the target audience and where will you find them?” One publisher said, “I need to know, what is the market for this book? Who will buy it and how can these people be reached?” Another one advised, “Get down to reality and think, who will buy your book?” Yet, another publisher said, “Who is going to buy this book, and why from this author?”

Author’s Platform

Several publishers responded that the author’s platform was most important. Here are their comments: “I want to know, how is the author qualified to be invited on radio and TV shows to discuss his or her book?” Another one stated, “The author’s understanding about the future life of the book is paramount for acceptance of the proposal.” And I was told, “I want to see a marketing plan that demonstrates viability.” Yet, another publisher stated, “We need to know if an author is marketable, especially as we publish how-to books in business and real estate.”

Is the Proposal Well-Written?

Two publishers said that they want to see well-written proposals. “It must have as much voice as the actual manuscript,” states one publisher. He explains, “Too often proposals are sloppily done. There are grammar and usage mistakes.” Another publisher pointed out that, “a concept can be tweaked, but a great idea in the hands of an incompetent or mediocre writer won’t fly.”

What’s the Competition?

A few of the publishers surveyed want to know, first, how this book is different. One said, “I want to see a well-structured, short, solid book proposal that consists of how is the proposed work different than anything else?”

The Cover Letter

Surprisingly, one publisher said that the cover letter is the most important part of a book proposal. She explains, “I can often tell if the book is unique and compelling, if the author has a solid marketing platform, what the book is about, who the book is for and how it stands out from the competition from a simple one-page cover letter. I often accept or reject proposals based on the information I can gather from this cover letter.”

The Sample Chapter

And one lone publisher said that the sample chapter is the most important part of a book proposal as far as he’s concerned.

Isn’t it odd that not one publisher even mentioned the Synopsis?

Well, what did we learn from this little survey? For me, it just drives home the point I keep trying to make through my consultations, my workshops and my writing, that all parts of a book proposal are equally essential and that every hopeful author needs to write one. Here’s one more piece of advice from a publisher. He says that he does not want to see testimonials. Here are his comments: “Endorsements in a proposal are tacky. I do not want to know that a professional from Osh Kosh University read the manuscript and thinks its brilliant.” He also says, “Criticizing a form letter rejection gets the author no where. And writing back to the publisher after rejection shows poor judgment.”

Recommended Reading

Surprise, it’s not one of my books. Here’s an article that gives two perspectives on the book proposal—that of an author turned publisher. The Art of the Book Proposal by Robert E. Gelinas, publisher, ArcheBooks Publishing. http://www.archebooks.com. Click on “authors” and then “Authors Corner” and you will see a link to this article.

Getting Book Reviews

If you’ve been reading SPAWNews faithfully like we suggest, you’ve noticed that we have a new column starting where we will post member’s book reviews. Our policy is to review only books related to writing and publishing. But we also want to honor our members who have received great reviews for their books. Now SPAWN will publish reviews of member’s books for our 200 members and 2,000 subscribers to read. If your book is listed in our Catalog of Member’s Books and Services, we will direct readers to your entry so they can learn even more about your book.

But what if your book hasn’t been reviewed? Here are a few suggestions for getting one or dozens of reviews:

  1. Contact magazines, newsletters and Web sites related to the topic of your book and ask permission to send a review copy of your book.
  2. Contact book review sites about your book. Generally, they will ask you to fill out an application with information about your book and they’ll get back to you at a later date with either a request for your book or a rejection. Mostly Fiction, at http://www.mostlyfiction.com and Book Review Café at http://www.bookreviewcafe.com, appear to be free. Check them out.
  3. There are numbers of book review sites that will charge you. Allbookreviews.com is one of them. I advise against paying to have your book reviewed—there are just too many free opportunities.
  4. The May 2004 edition of Market Update lists several magazines that review books. You’ll find it in the archives. And then use the Market Update Search feature to find more book reviewers.
  5. Ask a friend or colleague to write a review for your book and post it at your book page at amazon.com, at appropriate Web sites and/or submit it to one or more magazines. Sometimes a magazine won’t actually review books, but they will publish book reviews that are submitted to them. Extra incentive for your book reviewer might be a publishing credit and even a paycheck.

Here are a few tips for locating book review opportunities. Study magazines related to your topic. Do they publish book reviews? What is their submission process?

Locate appropriate magazines in Writer’s Market (available in your library or at the bookstore for around $30.) Research magazines in your library and local newsstands. Of course, use the Internet to research magazines and back issues of your SPAWN Market Update.

For books of poetry, self-help and feel good books, consider reviews in literary magazines, women’s, health, regional (where appropriate) and general magazines.

War memoirs might be reviewed in regional, military or history magazines, newsletters or Web sites.

For works of fiction, check out Web sites, newsletters and magazines related to the genre: horror, science fiction, romance, etc.

Tri-County Woman Online reviews books by women living in the Orange, Ulster and Dutchess Counties, NY. Go to, http://www.tricountywoman.com and click on Book Nook.

If you are at a loss as to how to do the necessary research necessary in order to locate these resources, let me know and I’ll provide an article that will help.

Also read, “The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book” to learn how to conduct research, for lists of book review sites and publications, to learn how to define the genre of your book and so much more.

Publisher Interviews

This month we’re bringing you two publisher interviews. First, let’s hear from Donna Jacobsen, Publisher of Rising Star Press.

Q: Please give us a little background about you and Rising Star Press.

A: Rising Star Press was formed in 1989 by a husband and wife team who were ready to take an early retirement from their high technology jobs. Carl Goldman wrote and published, Help There’s a Computer in the Office! And then went on to compile stories of those searching for meaning in their hectic Silicon Valley lives in Soul & Silicon—Spirits in a High Tech World. Subsequently, they began publishing quality work by other authors whose topics interested them. Of these, Recovering a Life After Brain Injury, by Kara Swanson (Rising Star Press, 1999) and Open Christianity—Home by Another Road, by Jim Burklo (Rising Star Press, 2000). I purchased the press in 2002 following my own “retirement” from Silicon Valley (my retirement was really a choice to have a more flexible schedule in order to be home when my young son came home from school.)

Q: What type of manuscripts are you currently seeking? Is there something that you are particularly hoping to see come through the mail?

A: Initially, I fell into a trap I knew well to avoid—that of being too scattered in focus. The books already in the catalog were quite varied and I only added to that problem. I am incredibly proud of each one, yet the mix has provided an extreme challenge in marketing. Take note small publishers! FOCUS!! You have to market these books and trying to reach too many specific audiences is costly and time consuming.

That said, I am currently looking to focus the press on liberal and progressive Christian authors—those that study, practice and apply an open, inclusive, informed and innovative approach to Christianity. This will build on existing catalog items, The Dishonest Church, by Jack Good (RSP, 2003), Open Christianity by Jim Burklo and the newly released From Literal to Literary—The Essential Reference Book for Biblical Metaphors, by James R. Adams (RSP, 2005), as well as further a working relationship with The Center for Progressive Christianity (http://www.tcpc.org).

Q: Do you prefer to see a query letter first? And then what happens?

A: I do prefer to see a query letter first. Especially now that the focus is changing, it is likely that I will still receive submissions on topics I will no longer consider. Since my staff is limited (in other words, I’m it!), it can take quite a while for me to respond. If approached via e-mail, I will respond with a form e-mail. If submissions are received in the mail, I respond with a form letter and return materials if a return envelope is provided. If the rejection is particularly agonizing for me due to the extremely good quality of the work and/or the lack of available production capital, I will write a personal note.

Q: Are you receiving fewer submissions now that so many authors are turning to fee-based publishing services (author mills) with their projects?

A: I seem to be receiving the same amount of submissions—just more over e-mail these days.

Q: Has the quality of the projects you’re receiving improved over the years or declined?

A: There has always been a wide variation in quality. I don’t see a difference with the exception of a bit more savvy on the part of some authors with regard to market information, which is nice.

Q: What are some of the mistakes hopeful authors are making today on behalf of their book projects?

A: Not checking for spelling and grammatical errors in their submissions. Not looking at current offerings of a publisher before submitting their book idea (if it doesn’t fit with the direction of the publishing house, there won’t be much follow-through support on the part of the publisher), believing their mother and best friend who say, “You ought to write a book” – they really may just be being nice.

Q: Describe the author that is your worst nightmare. (Here’s your chance to vent and to educate my readers.)

A: Editor’s note: Here are Ms. Jacobsen’s pet peeves:

  • While I know it is good business practice to call and ask to whom a submission should be addressed, it is really not in the best interest of the author to do so. It is an unnecessary disruption and the submissions all go in the same “in” basket regardless of the name on the envelope.

Editor’s note: This may be true of the small publishing house, but I suggest, in the case of a medium or large publishing house, that you call to ask the receptionist the name of the current contact person. I have actually had my query letter and book proposal returned with notes stating, “This editor no longer works for this company.” Rather than passing my package along to the appropriate editor, they returned it to me. How moronic is that?

  • Constant, pushy follow-up. If I’ve taken too long to respond (over the 6-weeks stated), a simple e-mail or phone message is appropriate, of course.
  • An author who is unable or unwilling to be a part of the book promotion through speaking engagements or interviews is especially nightmarish. I publish non-fiction books. You need to be willing, able and motivated to inform and inspire people about your topic, both in written word and in person!

Editor’s Note: Here! Here! If you are not comfortable speaking publicly, join a local Toastmasters Club. Read more about how to succeed at public speaking in Patricia Fry’s book, “The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book.”

Q: What attracts you to a proposal package and what is an immediate turn off?

A: Attractive:

  • A concise, intelligent cover letter.
  • Knowledge of the reader to whom your book speaks.
  • Life experience/education of the author that matches their topic.
  • Membership in or knowledge of organizations to whom the author might speak about their book.

Turn-off:

  • Sending too much stuff. I just feel bad about it if you don’t include a return envelope and I have to throw it all away.
  • FedEx or expedited submissions. Again, they’ll all go in the same “in” basket.
  • Authors who clearly have not paid attention to the current catalog offerings. I get a lot of fundamental, conservative Christian book submissions, for instance. These would clearly not fit. Check the websites for the publishers you target, just to be sure nothing has changed since the once-per-year publication in Writer’s Market.Q: From your standpoint, what is the most important part of the book proposal?

    A: Number one: the ability to show why your book is different than others out there in the marketplace.

    Q: When a manuscript is accepted, what is the process that follows? I think that many new authors are confused about this and don’t understand why it should take so long from acceptance to publication.

    A: After acceptance, there is usually some dialog back and forth between the author and the publisher about fine-tuning the direction of the work for the intended audience. This is sort of a “pre-editing” phase. Then, no matter how brilliant the author, there is a need for third party editing. Should the book have illustrations? What are the interior design choices and how do they affect readability? The cover will go through many design iterations before a decision is made, if it is to be effective. I involve the author in every step of this, if they want to be included. The shortest time I’ve experienced from acceptance of a manuscript to production of a book was, I think, 5 months. That was a manuscript from a very intelligent, clear, experienced writer, using an interior design that worked in a prior book and a very lucky first or second pass cover design. Printing takes a minimum of another month for production and shipment.

    Q: What is the best and the worst thing about being a publisher?

    A: The best thing about being an independent publisher is that you are in the position of promoting talented authors who may not otherwise have had the chance, and the books have a positive effect on thousands of readers. It’s an ultimate “facilitator” role on both ends of the process. Working with creative types for editing and design is icing on the cake.

    The worst is that you really don’t make any money at this without spending a significant amount. Authors typically complain (although mine don’t, thankfully) that they don’t get enough in royalties and the publisher makes all the money, but it doesn’t take long with a calculator to figure out that there is not much left for the publisher, either. Here’s a rough example (using some averages).

    Retail price of book: $16.00
    Wholesaler pays Publisher: $ 6.80
    Publisher pays shipping: -$ 0.80
    Publisher pays author: -$ 1.02
    Cost to print (I print in 1k to 5k qty): -$ 3.00
    Initial cost of editing and creative: -$ 1.60 (this figure is a one-time cost, but is shown because not all books get past the first printing)

    Publisher’s “profit”: $ 0.38 (to pay the phone, electric, storage, advertising, etc. bills)

    Luckily books can be sold directly at speaking engagements and via the website. Then the author’s royalty and the publisher’s profit both go up significantly, or we’d all be out of business.

    Donna Jacobsen, Publisher
    Rising Star Press
    http://www.RisingStarPress.com
    Editor@risingstarpress.com

    *****

    Let me introduce Charles Nurnberg, CEO of Sterling Publishing Company.

    Q: First, a little background about you and Sterling Press. When and why was this company formed?

    A: The company was formed in 1949. The initial books were all nonfiction, on subjects such as coin and stamp collecting, crafts and hobbies, sports and nature.

    Q: What types of manuscripts are you currently seeking?

    A: A full range of the nonfiction areas. We publish such a huge variety of subjects across both the adult and children’s areas, that it would be almost impossible to limit or define us. Sterling has over 6000 titles in print. What we do seek are books of continuing interest, that have a point of view or are entertaining, edutainment (not educational but entertaining informational types of books) and are either new or unusual or different twists on what is already out there. For children’s we look for innovative, entertaining and informational.

    Q: Is there something that you are particularly hoping to see come through the mail?

    A: No. It is across the range and we welcome unsolicited manuscripts.

    Q: Speaking of mail, I see that you do not include an email address in your Writer’s Market listing. So you accept submissions through the mail only? Why is that?

    A: Not true. That is an error and we will correct it. You can get the correct details from Leigh Ann Ambrosi on that.

    Q: Do you prefer to see a query letter first?

    A: Yes.

    Q: And then what happens?

    A: Somebody will respond reasonably quickly.

    Q: Are you receiving fewer submissions now that so many authors are turning to fee-based publishing services with their projects?

    A: No. We are still receiving a great number of submissions.

    Q: Has the quality of the projects you’re receiving improved over the years or declined?

     

    A: Same.

    Q: What are some of the mistakes hopeful authors are making today on behalf of their book projects?

    A: Sending them to the wrong publishers. For example, we get a number of submissions of fiction, and we publish no fiction at all, except for a series of the classics (all reprints obviously). Authors need to research what publishers specialize in, and send the proposals to the appropriate publishers. And they should always include author backgrounds, especially in the areas of expertise that the book might be in, reasons for the book coming into existence, illustrations if they are to supply them, or at least, in the case of a number of craft, hobby, science titles, sample photos of the finished projects.

    Q: Describe the author that is your worst nightmare. (Here’s your chance to vent and to educate my readers—mainly authors.)

    A: One who believes that they are the world expert on the subject, that no other point of view is ever correct, that they are able to write, edit, design, illustrate, market, publicize and advertise and sell better than all the publishing professionals in the world. And that they exist in a universe of one—that the publisher is not publishing any other book, and that the entire company is dedicated to the one book for all time. It is, of course, a team effort, and the good authors recognize that and work within the publishing system.

    Q: What attracts you to a proposal package and what is an immediate turn off?

    Attract:

    A: That’s easy. The subject of course. Or the visuals that might come with it. Or the author.

    Turn-offs:

    Long-winded introductions to the proposal that take pages and pages to get to what the book is about. Subjects that are wrong for our company. Manuscripts that are hand-written (yes, people still do that). Stacks and stacks and scraps of paper without organization of any kind. A manuscript without any documentation as to the author’s expertise or background.

    Q: From your standpoint, what is the most important part of the book proposal?

    A: The subject itself and whether anybody will want to buy it. We can edit a book, design it spectacularly, price it perfectly, but if the subject is not of interest, the book will fail.

    Q: When a manuscript is accepted, what is the process that follows?

    A: We make an offer for the book. But your question, I believe is really why it takes so long. Publishing is not an exact science. It is a combination of instinct, experience, intuition, previous results, and the combined thinking of a group of people with different interests and thoughts. Although I make all the final editorial decisions here, I make sure to involve as many of my editorial acquisitions committee as possible, to pool their collective intellect into the decision-making process. As many as 10 people might see the proposal before we make an offer, which is why the time frame is often quite long. There is no Eureka moment instantly, although sometimes it is obvious we are going to do it right away and it just becomes a matter of having a couple of people take a quick look to make sure you are all thinking the same way. I think that many new authors are confused about this and don’t understand why it should take so long. The process here typically takes about 4 weeks. I wish it were faster, but have never figured out how to do so without making it a complete dictatorship rather than a benevolent one.

    Q. What is the best and the worst thing about being a publisher?

    A: The best, picking the books. The worst, picking the books. When you realize how many people you tend to disappoint in the course of a week, month, year or career, you realize how much disappointment you spread along with the joy of the few who get selected. We probably turn down around 7500 proposals at the very minimum per year. And publish about 800. The fun is in picking right, in finding a book that just soars. The sadness is in picking a book that you were wrong about, or at least the public thought you were wrong about and proved it by not buying it. And that may have nothing whatsoever to do with the author. It could be price, format, timing, publicity, the wrong sales pitch. Any number of things can go wrong and ruin a book’s potential. For me, the ultimate joy is in the fact that because of our publishing program being so broad, I can specialize in being a medical expert for one moment, a sports hero the next, an artisan, artist, a child, or science superstar. For somebody with a short attention span, this is a dream job. Or who is very inquisitive. Or for a dreamer, it is an even greater dream job. I’m all three, which is why I love being a publisher.

 

is another recent re-launch. This magazine focuses on the issues of women in three New York Counties: Orange, Ulster and Dutchess. Editor Felicia Hodges is interested in original articles and reprints of interest to women in this tri-county area related to health and wellness, parenting, relationships and careers. They also review books by local writers. Contact Ms. Hodges at tricountywoman@hotmail.com. Visit the Web site at: http://www.tricountywoman.com. has re-launched after a two year hiatus. This magazine is now published bimonthly and Amy Hoffman continues as editor. Women’s Review of Books publishes in-depth reviews of nonfiction, fiction and poetry by and about women. They also publish essays, poems and author interviews. Contact Amy Hoffman at ahoffman@wellesley.edu. Web site: http://www.wcwonline.org. is new. The managing editor, Ariana Donalds welcomes articles about the arts, food, fashion, gardening, humor politics and anything newsworthy. There seems to be numerous opportunities for freelance writers, but I can’t determine from the Web site if they pay or not. I suggest that you email Donalds at writers@seattlemet.com and ask for clarity on that. You’ll find basic guidelines on the Web site. http://www.seattlemetmag.com. Click on “About Us” and then on “Contact.” You’ll see “Writers’ Guidelines” listed to the right. is a science fiction/fantasy online magazine and they will pay as much as 25 cents word for your first 5,000 words plus royalties. Check them out at http://www.baensuniverse.com. Contact: Eric Flint, submissions@baensuniverse.com. is the relaunch of Zenith Woman. This magazine will publish profiles of successful women in the Denver area. They also welcome articles on local lifestyle, health and other things of interest to women in Denver. Contact Judy Taylor at judy@denverwoman.com for Submission Guidelines. Visit their Web site at: http://www.denverwoman.com. no longer reviews self-published or subsidy published books. It’s a shame that editors don’t have the courage to review a book based on merit, quality and value rather than by how the book was produced.

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