SPAWN Market Update – May, 2003
By Patricia L. Fry
Is Becoming Family coming back? About a year ago, this magazine ran my article featuring two teenaged brothers who shared more than genes. They were both diagnosed with diabetes at about age 6. This was a story of family support and giving back. I liked the flavor of the magazine and hoped to do more work for them. And then I heard that Becoming Family had ceased publishing. I first reported it to you several months ago. Since then, I have read three or four reports that this magazine was being resurrected. Each time, I contacted editor, Peg Short to get the scoop and each time she said that the reports were erroneous. She tells me that they’re definitely working on a plan to bring the magazine back, but for now, Becoming Family is still on the ailing list. Short commended me, however, for bothering to check the facts before publishing them.
According to Samir Husni, a professor at the University of Mississippi who likes to gather such statistics, there were more magazines launched in 2002 than in 2001. He says, however, that 60 percent of those magazines didn’t make it through the first year.
The Red Pen Review is a free quarterly newsletter offered by “Write Way Solutions,” http://www.writewaysolutions.com/newsletter.htm. Within this two-page newsletter, you’ll find proofreading tips, Q&A by editor, Tom Trush, common writing mistakes to avoid and informative articles.
Alternative Medicine is back with a new look and a new focus. If you’re interested in writing about alterative therapies for various ailments such as allergies, back pain, etc, check out this magazine. http://www.alternativemedicine.com
The Believer. They launched their inaugural issue in March. This month they start a monthly publishing schedule. According to editors Heidi Julavits, Vendela Vida and Ed Park, this magazine is unique in that it features lengthy book reviews and in-depth interviews as well as facts about mammals, new applications for familiar power tools and poetry. If ever the advice, “Read a couple of issues before submitting,” was true, it is in this case. Contact the editors at McSweeney’s, 429 Seventh Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11215.
Female Entrepreneur Magazine was launched March/April 2003 with the business woman in mind. You can find out a little about their magazine at their Web site and, of course, you can subscribe there, but they haven’t posted their Writer’s Guidelines or Editorial Calendar, yet. To find out more, you’ll have to contact Keli Swenson at 738 S. Boulder Hwy., Ste. 250, Henderson, NV 89015. http://www.female-entrepreneur.com
Good Music A student in my recent article-writing class at Ventura College writes for music magazines, so I sent her this lead. This publication is a little different in that it’s aimed at the adults who enjoy music. They will only publish two issues this year, but they plan to eventually go bi-monthly. The first issue is planned for September so there’s still time to get your queries in. Contact Alan Light at Media World Publications, 304 Park Ave., S., 8th Fl, New York, NY 10010.
Your Family. This print magazine offers a plethora of togetherness ideas for families, from backyard activities to exhibits they can visit. Find out more at http://www.yourfamilymag.com
Energy for Women. This magazine has been around for only a year. If you love writing about women’s fitness, nutrition, beauty, health and self-help, pitch your article ideas to editor-in-chief, Gretchen Ferraro at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ourselves is an eight-page newsletter for women at the center of life. This publication is the brainchild of Amy Lynch who wanted a platform and informational outlet for women in midlife. Find out more at http://www.ourselves.com. To pitch an idea, contact editor, Susan Chappell at email@example.com
Backyard Living is a brand new publication designed to help folks make the most of staying at home. The editor’s aim is to help readers find new ways to enjoy their backyards with projects for improving the area to ideas for spending time out back. They want your good ideas and your photos. Send these to firstname.lastname@example.org. 5925 Country Lane, Greendale, WI 53129
American Magazine needs 1000-1500 word articles and photographs depicting your views of America. Contact editor Anna Inman at email@example.com. Send photos and illustrations to American Magazine, POB 242448, Memphis. TN 38117. http://www.theamericanmagazine.com.
College Magazine is new. If you can write for college-bound teens and their parents, this may be a match for you. Contact Editor-in-chief, Susan Trebach with your ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org. http://www.collegemagazine.com
Esquire has a new address. They’re now at 1790 Broadway, New York, NY 10019.
Lifetime has also moved. Contact them at: 1790 Broadway, 11th Fl, New York, NY 10019
Golf Digest is moving soon. New address, 20 Westport Rd., Wilton, CT 06897-4522
Scribe & Quill has replaced Inscriptions. http://www.scribequill.com
Tiger Beat has a new address: 6430 Sunset Blvd., Ste. 700, Hollywood, CA 90028
Modern Health for Women. Here’s a magazine for women of all ages who want to become and stay healthy. http://www.modernhealthforwomen. One Park Ave., New York, NY 10016. See their Editorial Calendar at the Web site.
Great Chefs Magazine. If you’ve enjoyed the Great Chefs series on the Discovery Channel, you’ll love this new print magazine. Find out more about this quarterly at http://www.greatchefs.com/magazine.htm
Balance debuted in October and will be published 6 times this year. They want stories that will help others become more organized. See their magazine description and Editorial Calendar at http://www.findbalance.com/balance.html
Want to write for Writer’s Digest? Guess what, they aren’t accepting submissions at this time. I’ve done several pieces for this magazine and, in fact, have an article appearing in either the May or June issue. When I queried them about my latest great idea, however, they responded by saying, “We are currently overstocked. Please try again in September.
Would I suggest that you hold off submitting anything to Writer’s Digest until September? Absolutely not! I will most likely wait because they asked me to. But I recommend that if you have what you feel is a really good idea, I’d shoot off a query to them and see what they say to you. Be sure to read a couple of issues of the magazine and their Writers Guidelines before submitting your idea. http://www.writersdigest.com/wdguidelines.asp
Free writer’s magazine. The premiere issue of Writer’s Apprentice Magazine is out. Request your free copy at http://www.writersapprentice.com. (You may recall reading my interview with Writer’s Apprentice Magazine’s owner/editor, Tina Miller in March, 2003). Now’s your chance to read her magazine. She says it’s like having your very own mentor working with you on a daily basis. It’s also a writing opportunity. Tina pays from $10 to $50 for nonfiction articles and essays of 300-900 words
City Slab, Urban Tales of the Grotesque. If you write horror or erotica, here’s an opportunity for you. Editor Dave Lindschmior is looking for both fiction and nonfiction works and he’ll pay anywhere from 1-10 cents per word. Write or email Dave at 1705 Summit Ave., #211, Seattle, WA 98122 or email@example.com. For more information, visit http://www.cityslab.com
Meridian: A Middle School Computer Technologies Journal is seeking submissions for their summer 2003 issue. Unfortunately, for those of you reading this in June or July, the deadline is May 1. If you’ve missed this boat, consider getting on their mailing list for next season’s call for articles. According to editors, Rita Hagevik and Beth Snoke, Meridian’s mission is to share and expand teaching and learning with computer technologies in middle school classrooms and beyond. Contact Rita or Beth at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Seeking work in the entertainment industry? Visit EntertainmentCareers.Net at http://www.entertainmentcareers.net for news of internships and jobs of all kinds.
Independent publishers are constantly in marketing mode. We’re always on the lookout for promotional opportunities and resources. Here are 25 ideas, tips and resources guaranteed to sell books.
SPAWN at http://www.spawn.org. How can membership in SPAWN help you to promote your book? Let me count the ways.
Books’N Motion http://www.booksnmotion.com Here books actually “come alive.” For a price, artists will film a 30 – 60 second commercial designed to pitch your book.
Book signing information. Larry James has written a pretty good article called, 34 (and counting) Book Signing Tips for Authors. You can also post your book signings here. http://www.celebratelove.com/booksigningtips.htm
Hire a fulfillment Company: Tired of storing your books? Contact a fulfillment company to store and ship. http://www.shipping-and-handling.com
Send press releases http://www.newspapers.com You may recall this listing under the Resource/Reference Site of the month in a previous Market Update.
GetBookReviews.com helps to match books with reviewers. If you have a book or you’d like to review books, go to, http://www.getbookreviews.com for more information.
More book reviews. Here’s another site where you can find reviewers for your book. Research the directory for nonfiction, Christian, childrens or poetry book reviews, for example. There are 70 book reviewers listed just for fiction. http://ebookcrossroads.com/book-reviewers.html
Bookman Marketing sent me some information last month about their new service. They try to help you get your book in independent bookstores. Find out more by contacting Author Consultant Brien Jones at email@example.com. http://www.bookmanmarketing.com
Online Bookselling News seems to have some interesting news items related to the book industry. Check it out at http://www.onlinebookselling.net. Subscribe to their newsletter at firstname.lastname@example.org
Publishing Central at http://www.publishingcentral.com Here, you’ll find just about everything you need to know about publishing, from the history of books to finding an agent to software for publishers, distribution options, censorship, understanding contracts, printers, statistics, awards available to publishers, and much more. They also list associations-and yes, SPAWN is there.
Authors@YourLibrary. Here’s a unique book marketing idea. The Association of American Publishers, Friends of Libraries USA and others have established a database for publishers and authors interested in promoting their books through libraries. http://www.ala.org/publicprograms/authors@yourlibrary
Publishers Cataloguing in Publication. If you want to market your book to libraries-and this is a very good market for many books-you’ll need Publishers Cataloguing in Publication information in your book. Contact Quality Books at http://www.quality-books.com/qb_pcip2.html I understand that the fee is currently $150.
R.R. Bowker. http://www.bookwire.com Here you can contact the ISBN agency, apply to be included in Books in Print or Spanish Books in Print, order or reference Literary Market Place and more.
John Kremer. http://www.bookmarket.com. Kremer lists the top book marketing sites for independent publishers. He also offers a newsletter and he lists his upcoming seminars. He’ll be in Los Angeles at the BEA in May, for example, and in Fairfield, IA this summer. Additionally, he provides a complete list of bookstores in case you’re interested in contacting those that relate to your book topic or region. To go directly to these pages, http://www.bookmarket.com/bookstores.html
Need help choosing a printer? See a list of recommended printers at http://www.spawn.org/printers.htm. Bookzone also has a good article on this topic at: http://www.bookzone.pro.com/insights/publishing.html
Be sure to check out the printers who are offering discounts to SPAWN members. Read all about them at http://www.spawn.org/private/discounts.htm.
The originators of Quiet Poly Writers Magazine at http://www.quietpoly.com bills their site as an incubator for writers and poets. It’s an interesting site with articles, contest listings, industry news, chats and jobs for writers. You’ll even find opportunities for contest judges and potential interns.
Daily Grammar at http://www.dailygrammar.com features daily grammar lesson with archives where you can study over 400 previous lessons. You’ll find lessons in using parenthesis, pronouns, adjectives, punctuation and more.
The Write Page http://www.writepage.com. This site has over 300 pages of information for genre fiction writers. They offer a free newsletter for the asking. They also invite authors to be listed in their author directory. The Webmaster claims that the pages change frequently, so be sure to visit often.
We learn from one another-that’s what networking is. And that’s why we like to bring you the results of interviews with other writers and independent publishers. Troy Corley is a SPAWN member. She is also an author and publisher. Here is my interview with her.
Q: Tell us about your life as a publisher. When did you take on this role and why? Describe your publishing project(s)
A: After working as a writer and editor for 25 years, I took the leap to become the true owner of my work by establishing a publishing company in 2000. For a decade I’d dreamed of the possibility and following a divorce decided it was time to make that dream a reality.
I had been working on an idea for an educational travel title about insect zoos and butterfly houses based on an article I wrote for FamilyFun magazine in 1996. Initially I pulled together a book proposal with the help of a book publicist who introduced me to a well-known Los Angeles agent. After 18 months and no book deal I knew I would fare better by publishing this niche market book myself. Especially after the agent and publicist suggested we publish the book together, sell 3,000 copies and cut a deal with a traditional publisher. I also realized I didn’t want to hand over control of my work to someone else.
In 2001 I was actively researching Let’s Go Buggy! The Ultimate Family Guide to Insect Zoos & Butterfly Houses while soaking up everything I could read on independent publishing. But I still didn’t have a definitive publication date. The destruction of the World Trade Center was the shakeup I needed to really focus my energy. I was determined to get the book finished by the L.A. Times Festival of Books in April 2002.
By mid-March I was still writing and feeding the manuscript to my book designer. With his help the book made it to the printer on time and 3,000 copies of Let’s Go Buggy! were delivered to me just two days before the book festival. Since then I’ve managed to sell the book to museums and zoos across the country from the Smithsonian to the San Diego Zoo. It was accepted by the Publisher Marketing Association’s Trade Distribution Program and as a result, picked up by a major distributor, IPG Books.
Q: What has been your biggest challenge as a publisher and how have you (or do you plan to) overcome it?
A: Time and how to manage it is my biggest challenge. There is a tremendous amount of legwork involved in marketing books and no matter how much you’ve read or learned about the business you really don’t understand it until you actually do it.
I knew that Let’s Go Buggy! would be my test book and I have learned tremendously from it. I now know how to budget my time for both writing and researching my next book and for handling all the pre-publication tasks and subsequent publicity and marketing.
Q: If you had it to do over again, how would you do it differently?
A: Definitely allow more time before launching the book. I was so exhausted from getting the book into print and bringing it to the LA Times Festival of Books that I needed time to recuperate. I was also immediately swept up into the pressure of getting the book to the museum and zoo gift shops before the summer tour season began and didn’t anticipate how much time was involved to accomplish that.
But I don’t regret having done Let’s Go Buggy! when I did. Otherwise I might still be sitting here without a book!
Q: Speaking of doing it again–do you plan to? Tell us about your future publishing plans.
A: Do I plan to do it again? Of course! I want publishing to be my day job! I’m not a one-title kind of gal.
I’m putting most of energy into working on two new books for 2004. One is a Los Angeles travel guide with a twist. Totally written and researched by me. My goal is to use the concept for other major cities with other authors writing and researching those guides.
The other title is a cookbook by a well-known character actor that is being marketed as a culinary memoir. I’m editing and nurturing this publishing project.
I have several other ideas for other travel guides, all regionally based, which I believe are more saleable than national guides such as Let’s Go Buggy!
Q: Do you feel that the industry climate compliments independent publishers or not? Please explain.
A: Publishing is a tough industry no matter who you are. As an independent publisher you have more options as to when and how your book comes out and yet have a harder time getting your books into the brick and mortar stores. At the same time there are dozens of other selling opportunities and when you own the work you get a bigger percentage of the sales. As an author, you have to do most of the marketing and publicity yourself anyway. Big houses only support their biggest selling authors with budgets for book signings and advertising.
I’d like to take a moment to offer my definition of the terms used to describe those publishers outside of the big trade publishers. Self-publishing has a wonderful tradition with authors from Ben Franklin to Mark Twain to Upton Sinclair who all self-published their own work. However, despite the growth of the self-publishing industry, due primarily to technological advances that allows us all to become desktop publishers, self-publishers are often maligned as vanity publishers. Not true of course, but the image remains.
Today, I would call those folks who intend to publish one title only, self-publishers. I’m establishing myself as an independent publisher who will publish several titles, some by other authors. Small publishers then are those who can offer a color catalog of dozens of titles. Even Hyperion is considered a small publisher and Disney owns them!
Print On Demand publishing (POD) is a whole other ballgame and in the end, you do not own the ISBN for your book, which is essential in really being the publisher.
(Editor’s Note: We wondered at the above comment on POD printing and asked an expert in POD for clarification. Our member POD printer, Jeremie Teboul from VolumeOne told us:
“POD printers or on-demand publishers provide a production service to publishers and other content owners applying just-in-time techniques. Most of them will not provide ISBNs. There are self publishing companies that offer packages including ISBNs; however, unlike what their clients tend to think, they – most of the time – are not printers, and outsource the production to POD printers.”)
Q: What has been your most successful marketing technique for your current book?
A: Making calls to the gift shops at all the museums and zoos listed in Let’s Go Buggy! A lot of calling and letter writing but about a third of those contacted have purchased the book.
Q: What is the best part of being an independent publisher?
A: The freedom to pick projects and make the decisions as to content and cover design. I don’t have to shop my idea around hoping someone will publish it. I already know I will!
Q: What would you advise someone who is thinking about publishing his/her own book?
A: Get an education in what it takes to publish and be successful. But first define what successful means to you – selling a lot of books, getting the book finished, becoming a well-known author? Read as much as you can on independent publishing then read everything again. Join organizations like SPAWN and network.
Joel Walton is also a SPAWN member. He has agreed to share with us some of his experiences as an author and publisher.
Q: I understand that you co-authored two books before entering into the world of publishing. What led up to your becoming a publisher?
A: I was thrilled when the editor-in-chief of a major pet book publisher asked me to write my first book. I was thrilled when my first book was very well received by fellow trainers in the Association of Pet Dog Trainers and the general public. I was thrilled when my first book was one of the best selling books on Labrador Retrievers. I was dismayed when it went out of print after 9 months due to one publisher purchasing another publisher.
I was then asked to write Labrador Retrievers for Dummies. My wonderful co-author, Eve Adamson and I then wrote another best selling Labrador Retriever book.
Two of my passions are positive pet dog training and dogs. I was looking forward to writing a book on positive puppy training. Another major pet book publisher asked me to write a puppy training book. It took months for the publisher to finally allow me to start the book, after I answered yes to their request.
When I finally got the go ahead to start writing, I wrote a table of contents (my outline). The publisher then sent me a table of contents to guide me in writing the book.
Their table of contents was unacceptable. When I suggested that my table of contents would produce the best book for puppy owners based on my many years of helping puppy owners manage and train their dogs, the acquisitions editor suggested that perhaps I should find another project.
I had an outline, the desire to write a book, and no publisher!
Q: How did you learn about the process of self-publishing? How would you describe the experience?
A: I bought and read The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing by Tom & Marilyn Ross.
I found the website http://www.booksjustbooks.com
Q: What were some of your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
A: As an author, writing the manuscript was easy, everything else was hard. I thank God for my wonderful wife of 37 years, Janet; who worked as an editor at Coast Guard Headquarters and who is the editor-in-chief of David&James Publishing (our small publishing company).
Q: Knowing what you know now, would you publish another book? Why? or Why not?
A: Yes. However, it will be a while… After you publish your book, promoting the book must consume you. You can visit my website: http://www.joelwalton.com to see my book tours and other promotional activities.
Q: If you were to publish another book, what would you do differently?
Q: What would you advise someone who is contemplating publishing a book?
Visit Lt. Joel Walton, CPDT at:
Since we’re dedicating this issue of the SPAWN Market Update to the independent publisher, we decided to feature individuals who can help you to create the best product possible. Not only will you learn what these particular designers will offer, but you will learn something about the mechanics of the cover design, what makes a marketable product and so forth. Here are the results of my interviews with Cathi Stevenson, a book cover designer working under the name BookCoverExpress.com in Dartmouth Nova Scotia, Canada and Irene Archer of Archer Graphics in Fairfield, IA.
We talked to Cathi Stevenson first.
A: What Book Cover Express (BCE) offers the small publisher or self-publishing author is a cost-effective way to produce professional-looking books. BCE has designed the front, back, spines and produced bar codes for approximately 400 titles in slightly more than two years. One of the biggest advantages of using BCE is the flat rate policy. Whether the images come from our licensed image gallery, are created or manipulated digitally, or the client supplies them, the price is the same. There are no hourly fees or hidden costs of any kind. The BCE website is located at: http://www.bookcoverexpress.com
Q: What percentage of your business is cover design work?
A: Almost 100 per cent of the business is directly related to book cover design. I am also a writer, but keep the two businesses separate.
Q: What are the elements of a good book cover? Does it vary with the type of book? Could you describe a couple of popular book types and cover styles that fit that type.
A: The cover needs to be effective and appealing. That doesn’t necessarily mean it needs a lot of fancy elements. Sometimes a simple text-only cover will have the biggest impact. Since the primary market for most small publishers is online, simple cover designs will also offer an edge when reduced to thumbnail size.
I think many business-related books work well with smaller, less dominant graphics and more attention paid to creative text. The focus of these books is often more abstract in terms of imagery. With a book about gardening, the photo and illustration possibilities are endless. Books about income tax preparation are more difficult to wrap up in a single visual. It’s like grade school students being told to “draw your summer vacations”.
Romance covers are a different story. People actually collect these covers and will make purchases simply to own the artwork, so that’s a factor to consider. With romance covers there is also an increasing trend with the larger publishing houses to use a simple front cover and have the traditional bodice ripper scene on an inside cover. The books actually have two front covers, the outer one serving as a “plain brown wrapper”.
Q: Not all small publishers plan to sell their books in bookstores, but rather through their Web site and through mail order and maybe seminars. Does the same apply to these books as to those geared toward bookstore sales?
A: I addressed this somewhat in the previous question, when I mentioned thumbnails. Thumbnails are difficult in terms of marketing. The best example I can think of for publishers to look at and learn from are the magazine advertisements for Doubleday’s book clubs. Notice the larger title text, and smaller images on those thumbnail-sized book covers. Obviously, Doubleday has a lot of money to invest in researching this form of advertising, so it’s probably wise for others to take their lead in this respect.
Q: Does color matter? I once heard that it was important to have red among your cover colors? What is your opinion about color choices?
A: This reminds me of my days working as an undergrad in the psych department. Many studies indicate color influences everything from mood to heart rate; whether you can use this to sell books, I’m not sure. Certainly a book on stock car racing shouldn’t be pink and Clockwork Orange has always had an orange cover, even when the publisher updated it a few years ago. Not all colors are suited to all books. Not all colors look good online — a white cover on a website with a white background, for instance. I don’t think there’s any firm answer to the color question, if there was, we’d see significantly dominating colors on book covers, and we don’t.
We do see trends within certain genres, however. In the mid ’90s a large number of diet books had white covers and used red and yellow text. I guess someone decided this was a good combination for that particular market, but it became overwhelming and with so many similar covers, they eventually cancelled each other out; none were very effective in the end.
Q: What should a publisher look for in a graphic designer to design his/her book cover?
A: Samples he or she likes. Referrals from other authors. Not every designer is suited to every author, you need a match on many levels, not just the ability of the designer. Some people suggest getting printed samples, but that’s not always a good indicator of the designer’s ability or inability. If a printer has done a poor job, then the cover won’t look good regardless of who designed it.
Q: What is the most important thing a publisher can bring to you when interviewing you as a possible candidate to design their book cover?
A: A realistic idea of what the cover can do. Many times I’m approached to design covers with far too many elements on the front, too much text on the back cover, or images that don’t suit the book or its market. It might be really tempting to incorporate your son’s photo on the cover, or an image a friend created, but it may not be the best choice for your particular book, from a marketing standpoint.
Q: Tell us about some of your most successful cover designs and what made them so.
A: For me, the cover is an advertisement and any effective cover is a good cover.
On the BCE sites right now I would have to say the covers I get the most positive response from in terms of people’s comments are Living in the City, Reagan vs. Qaddafi, Hello Gorgeous, Anxiety Disorder Workbook and Westward Eden. In all four cases the authors let me go in the direction I wanted and it seems to have worked out well.
Why do people prefer these covers? Color is often mentioned, especially for Living in the City. Reagan vs. Qaddafi gets mentioned for its overall design and with Hello Gorgeous, it’s the humour of the image most people remark on.
Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada
Irene Archer‘s interview
Q: Irene, please tell us a about your business and what you can offer to the independent/small publishers.
A: I have been doing graphic design for 12 years but in recent years have just focused primarily on book cover and book interior design. I offer an affordable but high quality product for the independent small publishers and the know-how that they may lack in producing a beautiful book from their raw manuscript. Providing the files to their printer in a form they can use is part of that process that I can help with
Q: What percentage of your business is cover design work?
A: Actually most of it is book cover and interior. Very seldom will I do a business logo or card etc etc. So I would say 95% is book design. However I do a lot of general volunteer graphics for non profit groups such as the local animal shelter and others. I like to help out in this way.
Q: In your professional opinion, what are the elements of a good book cover?
A: The elements are really the typeface and the graphic(s) used. I would say a good cover needs to have some magic to it. It needs to inspire and attract. It should be balanced and pleasing to look at and also very importantly it should convey the books title and contents in a glance. The book design should reflect the type of person or market that it will be sold to. Business books are common or self-help and each would have its own style. I seem to do a lot of self-help or spiritual books.
Q: Does the same apply to books that won’t be displayed on bookstores shelves?
A: Yes except the ones that will be mostly displayed on the Internet should be designed so that the colors and style stand out on the computer screen.
Q: How much does color matter?
A: Color is really important but the overall composition is the most important and harmonizing the colors is part of that. I do not think you have to have red for example but it does stand out if the colors used are rich and complementary.
Q: What should a publisher look for in a graphic designer to design his/her book cover?
A: Well he or she should like the samples of work they see and should be able to afford the price of the different designers and check to make sure the designer can meet their deadline.
Q: What is the most important thing a publisher can bring to you when interviewing you as a possible candidate to design their book cover?
A: Coherent information about the book. They should know the size they want and if it will be hardbound or soft etc. They should hopefully have a printer all picked out. They should know the page count of the finished designed book interior in the case of a book cover. They should know their time frame for getting the finished product to the printer. They may or may not need an ISBN number depending upon the designer (I provide that as part of my services). They need to have their back cover material totally written and ready to submit including the price of the book and the category and any logo they want to go on the spine or back.
Q: Tell us about some of your most successful cover designs and what made them so.
A: My personal favorites are: Awakening Soul, Been there Once/Aint going there Twice, Dance of A Rich Yogi, Body of Time Soul of Eternity… I really do not follow up to see how well the book sells. I just liked the way those turned out.
Q: Is there anything you would like to add?
A: The client should not try to design their own cover using the graphic designer as a technical person only. This is difficult to work with and does not usually yield the best cover. Some edits and feedback are natural but the publisher should not try to control the creative process and should therefore pick a designer that they can surrender to so to speak. Generally the designer knows best what looks good!
Here’s a real treat for those of us with books to sell. I was able to get in depth interviews with national publicity consultant Lyla Foggia and Canadian publicist, Merle Jones. Read and learn.
First, my interview with Lyla Foggia:
Q: Would you tell us a little about your work and how you came to become involved as a publicist?
A: I’ve been a national publicist since the late 1970s, after starting out as a freelance journalist, specializing in covering the visual arts in Seattle. I shifted to publicity in 1977, and spent the next ten years in the film industry in Los Angeles, working on over 70 major motion picture campaigns, including as the Vice President of Publicity for TriStar Pictures. In 1987, I quit Hollywood and moved to Mt. Hood, Oregon, and for the next decade handled the publicity for the 1987 Titanic Expedition and a number of television shows, including “LIVE With Regis & Kathie Lee” and “Babylon 5.”
I took a break for several years to write a book, called Reel Women: The World of Women Who Fish, which chronicled the history of women and fishing for the first time. The hardcover was published by a major independent (Beyond Words), then released in soft cover by Three River Press (Random House). After spending six weeks on an extremely successful 13-city tour (naturally, I handled all of the publicity, using only my publisher’s publicist to make the pitches), I started doing campaigns for other books. Four years ago, I returned to Los Angeles and began taking clients in a range of industries – publishing, technology, and entertainment primarily.
Q: Do you work mostly (only) with authors? Any particular type of books?
A: I don’t work with authors exclusively, but they are a major part of my practice. I prefer to represent non-fiction books, because frankly it’s so much easier to get press coverage than fiction (unless, of course, you’re John Grisham, or on that level). Even so, the subject and timeliness of a non-fiction book is critical to whether media will be interested.
Q: Who are your clients? Self-published/independent publishers?
A: So far, I’ve always been hired by the author. On their behalf, I do work closely with their publishers, which have included such majors as Random House and Simon & Schuster and such independents as Harvard University Asia Center and Brassey’s. In the past, I did represent two self-published authors, but no longer do, because media simply won’t take them seriously. And that’s because some 400 to 600 galleys land on every book review editor’s desk each week (seriously!) from established publishers, all vying for a tiny amount of review or feature space.
Q: What promotional activities do you find are most difficult for authors? (public speaking? traveling for book events?)
A: The most difficult are book signings, because rarely do these events produce a single warm body. It takes a heap of local publicity to make them successful, unless of course you’re already a big name. What I recommend to authors is to book themselves into speaking engagements with clubs and organizations that are interested in your subject matter – then sell books right after you’ve spoken. To find these groups, simply surf the Internet and send them an email or letter. Groups are always looking for speakers for their monthly programs and annual banquets.
Q: What promotional activities are most popular with authors?
A: The most popular with first-time or newer authors are book signings – simply because there’s this big myth about signings, and what no one talks about is that these things are rarely successful. For veteran authors, who’ve been through the mill of signings, they’d rather stay home and concentrate on doing interviews by phone or satellite radio tours.
Q: Of course, the next question has to be, which are most effective? Does it depend on the type of book?
A: Speaking engagements, where you get to sell books afterwards, are the most effective – unless you’re already a major brand name. And, of course, publicity (including positive reviews) is the most effective of all – whether it’s a feature in your local newspaper, an appearance on “The Today Show,” or radio interview by phone with some show elsewhere in the country.
Q: Can you give us an anecdote or two demonstrating the success an author can experience with a good publicist?
A: An excellent example of a campaign that really worked for me was Dr. Kenneth Ruoff’s The People’s Emperor: Democracy and the Japanese Empire, 1945-1995 from the Harvard University Asia Center in late 2001. I hooked the campaign to the pending birth of the next likely royal heir to the throne in Japan, and got Ken everything from Time magazine to “ABC World News Tonight,” the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Associated Press (multiple times), Reuters, etc. One of our goals was to establish Ken as the leading authority on the Japanese monarchy in the English-speaking world. It worked. He continues to be interviewed by the New York Times, etc., pretty much every time the royal family is back in the news. I just heard from him the other day, saying that he’s received a very prestigious scholarship to do research on his second book in Japan – plus he’s now the book reviewer for a major newspaper there.
Another example is Tami Ashcraft’s Red Sky in Mourning about her harrowing account of survival at sea for 41 days after living through a major hurricane, which swept her fiancé overboard. Her publisher, Hyperion, had gotten her on “Today Show” and in one major magazine. Tami came to me about two months after the book came out, when all media interest seemed to have evaporated. I wrote a quick media kit and pitched outdoors editors at major newspapers across the country, and the book got a second wind – with lots of radio interviews (including NPR) following. She now spends a lot of time on the road as an inspirational speaker.
Q: Would you share with us your greatest success as a publicist so far?
A: That would probably be as the publicist in charge of the four-year national campaign that established “LIVE With Regis & Kathie Lee” as a daytime ratings institution. When I started, the show had just debuted into national syndication and neither Regis or Kathie Lee had ever had even a feature story done on them. Within a year, we had a dozen major magazine covers in 15 months, including People, McCall’s, Ladies Home Journal, and Good Housekeeping.
Q: What would be your best advise to someone who is thinking about writing a book? Why do authors need publicists?
A: Authors need publicists, because without them, you won’t have much of a chance of garnering press. Campaigns are extremely labor-intensive and publishers simply don’t have the staff to do the necessary work – including writing the kind of meaty press kit that can get editors and producers committed to doing an interview or review. So my advice to non-fiction authors in particular is get as high an advance as you can, and plan to delegate a percentage of it to marketing your career. That is, unless this is a one-time book and your real career is doing something else.
Q: Please add anything else you think is important and, of course, your contact information.
A: I’m always happy to answer any questions for authors who have a book coming out within six months. They can either e-mail me at email@example.com or call (661) 259-6561.
Here’s my interview with Merle Jones
Q: Please tell us about your business and how you came to be a publicist.
A: I was asked 9 years ago by a Calgary publicist to escort an author to his Edmonton media interviews. That author was Lawrence Martin with his biography of Mr. Chretien.
The Calgary publicist, Marilyn Wood, received feedback and called me to ask why I was not a full time publicist! The idea of being self-employed providing preparation and escorting for touring authors greatly appealed to me after 25 years in business offices.
I accepted the challenge and the rest is history!
Q: Who are your clients? Do you represent certain types of books?
A: My clients are publishers, mostly Canadian, but have included U.S. and British publishers who are touring authors across Canada. I have set up publicity for all types of books; non-fiction, young adult, children, poetry, cookbooks, fiction and biographies.
Q: What is the most important thing a budding author needs to know about promoting his/her book before writing that book?
A: The author needs to collect their ideas and write the book to the best of their ability. Should they be lucky enough to have a publisher interested at the onset, the publisher and publicist will take it from there! An enthusiastic author with a well written book is much easier to “sell”.
Q: What do you expect from clients? Must they be prepared to travel? Give speeches?
A: The authors travelling through Edmonton are usually on a tight timeline so with three weeks advance notice including books/press releases released to the media is essential. It is easier to get media on board allowing ample lead time to prepare and set up enough time to satisfy their agenda. Regularly authors have a reading event built into their Edmonton schedule, which again involves coordination. Media is notified of the reading event so they can advertise it to the public.
Q: Do you treat every book project & client the same? Or are there different tactics for different types of books?
A: Cookbooks generally require demonstrations so coordinating with a Food Stylist is essential. The recent car show in Edmonton coincided with the author tour of the Lemon-Aid Guides so knowledge of media located at the Edmonton Car Show was essential. The media outlets remain constant, however knowing which journalists to contact is essential to getting good coverage. A mutual working rapport with all media and journalists comes with experience.
Q: What kind of books are easiest to promote?
A: I do not play favourites with books, they are all easy to promote if ample time is provided for preparation and the book is of current interest or newsworthy.
Q: What is the most successful marketing ploy you have used with a client?
A: It was quite thrilling to take Alberta’s great cowboy, Andy Russell, to some media interviews at the just opened “Montana’s Restaurant” …the staff gasped and said “a real cowboy” when Andy was sighted wearing cowboy hat, cowboy boots, huge belt buckle and a white fringed buckskin jacket – quite the sight.
Also, a book documenting adventures of native canoe routes across Canada was co-authored by a native land claims lawyer/navigator and a pilot/journalist/story teller. The media were invited to journey into the past from a unique window – that of a Cessna single-engine plane viewing down onto part of the ancient canoe route in Alberta established by native Canadians.
Q: What are the biggest mistakes authors make in promoting their books?
A: When authors have numerous interviews over the course of the same day, they often make the mistake of reading the same passage or relaying the same story out of the book. They must vary the content of the interviews, making sure not to disclose any surprises ahead for their readers…I have often reminded authors of these facts when I witness them providing interviewers with carbon copy answers.
Q: How much money should an author set aside for promotion?
A: The amount of money set aside for book promotion should be discussed in detail with the publisher. I charge by the hour for set up and escorting…if I happen to set up a 12 hour media day & it has happened, obviously that will cost more than a 6 hour day…but the 12 hour day should most certainly sell more books in the long run! The tour will definitely be promoted more extensively say for instance if a first time author has relatives or friends in certain cities to cut down on accommodation costs. In some cases, renting a vehicle would be advantageous, for instance one author last fall drove himself from Calgary to Edmonton (I escorted him to Edmonton interviews); directions were provided to depart our city for Regina/Saskatoon and I assume the same would have been provided for final auto trip to Winnipeg. These cities might have been omitted from the tour if this offer to drive and stay at friends had not been coordinated by the author.
Q: Please add anything you think is important.
A: The author tour is a grueling experience – being met by a complete stranger at the airport and whizzed around a city to appointments at a dizzying pace is not easy on any author, at any age! The author should try to get ample sleep every night and be fresh and ready for the day no matter how early it starts. They should also be well prepared to answer all questions as television and radio interviewers do not like l-o-n-g periods of silence while the author is thinking about articulating their answer.
All authors should attend their local bookstore readings. First of all it is free and it might give some insight as to how bookstore readings are conducted. It will also help them become familiar with local owners and staff of bookstores in their own neighbourhood!
Send your ideas to Patricia Fry at Patricia@spawn.org