Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Advice For Publishing Idiots

The fifth edition of the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Published by Sheree Bykofsky and Jennifer B. Sander was recently published by Alpha, a member of Penguin Group.  Though I’ve been in the book publishing industry since 1989, I always find myself learning something new or being reminded of things about the industry. This book provided an opportunity for both.

The book covers topics that people are asking about, from:

·         Should I self-publish?
·         How do I find a literary agent?
·         What type of PR is needed today?
·         Which genre is hot?
·         How can I submit  a great book proposal?
·         How do I work with a literary agent?
·         What should I look for in my publishing contract?
·         How will I work with an editor?
·         How can I further my career as an author?

There are some useful resources in the back of the book, including a list of recommended blogs.  Below is an excerpt from the book:

Wonderful commentary on books and reading.

A group of writers on writing.

Lots on publishing deals, writers, and reviews.

Literary agent Vickie Motter shares the inside scoop.

Nathan was a literary agent for many years and has much to say as a result.

For years Jane was the publisher and editorial director of Writer’s Digest magazine. Today, she teaches in the industry.

Interview With Book Blogger Susan Aikens

1.      Susan, I interviewed you in the summer just as your long career with Borders was concluding. What inspired you to develop your new blog, http://susan-aikens.blogspot.com/? After several weeks of unemployment, I was bored out of my mind!  I'd already cleaned my house and organized my new book shelves that I bought at the Borders home office liquidation sale. I was playing way too much Scrabble on Facebook.  A friend suggested that I start a kids' book review blog to alleviate the tediousness of resume writing and job-hunting.  I often recommend books for his kids.  So one October afternoon, I just did it.   I'm still building the content and tweaking the format. I'm having a lot of fun. As I told my readers, what I lack in writing skill, I'll make up for in enthusiasm and discernment. I intend to add  a couple of reviews or comments each week. Most reviews will be for new or not-yet-published books, but sometimes I can't resist writing about my favorite backlist titles.  These reviews ares my way of staying connected to the children's book world. I have modest goals for my blog. I'm fully aware that I no longer have the influence afforded me by Borders. 

2.      What kind of reception are you receiving with the blog? So far, reactions to my new blog from friends, readers and my contacts in the publishing community have been positive.  Last week, I was thrilled when http://warrencountyliving.com, an on-line magazine out of New Jersey linked to my blog for their children's section.  As a Borders Children's Book buyer, I had the great privilege of helping to shape the reading choices of millions of kids for many years.  Now that Borders is gone, I'd like to use my experience to continue bringing good books and authors to the attention of a wider audience. Kids, parents, and teachers can be assured that the books I review will be well worth reading.  Several publishers are sending me advance readers copies and I've joined Netgalley. In addition to my blog posts, I'm adding my reviews to Goodreads.com and to selling sites like BN.com and Amazon.com.

3.      Is it hard to stop caring about books, especially children’s books?  I'll NEVER stop caring about books.  Fiction, science, history, mysteries, children's literature; they are an integral part of who I am. I used to read a book a day; now I manage to get through 2 or 3 a week.  I applied to the University of Michigan and moved to Ann Arbor because I had to live in the same place as the original Borders store.  Thank goodness U of M accepted me since it was the only school I applied to.  A few years ago, my mom and I returned to England to visit my family.  Mom was appalled when I had to leave clothes behind to make room in my suitcase for the 16 books I'd bought on our trip.   I'll always be a bookseller, but it's been 3 months since I lost my job as a Borders buyer and I haven't yet been in another bookstore.  A couple of my former colleagues posted on Facebook that they cried at the register as they made their first non-Borders book purchases. I'll continue to write reviews for my blog to stay connected. I plan to attend BEA in June to see what's new and to catch up with my publishing friends

4.      What do you hope to do in your post-Borders life?  When I lost my job in August, I knew that the chances of my being able to get a job in publishing or book retail were slim.  There aren't many publishers in Michigan and I'm not in a position where I can leave the state.  I've got a family, a house, and my husband manages a small business in Ann Arbor.  Also, there's a lot of upheaval in the book industry caused by the loss of Borders. I know of several people who lost their publishing jobs in the weeks following Borders' demise.  After being put through a wringer over the last few years and surviving 6 or 7 rounds of layoffs, I'm looking forward to joining a stable, growing company.  Just this week, I accepted a job offer from a Michigan-based sporting goods company.     

5.      Where do you feel book publishing is heading? I'm not a publishing expert or insider!  I was a book retailer; worse, I was a book retailer in Michigan, many hundreds of miles from New York.  All I know is that fewer retail outlets for physical books and the ever-increasing growth of e-reading has to result in a smaller publishing industry.  It just doesn't require as many people to ready an e-book for publication as it does hundreds of thousands of physical books.   I am encouraged by 2 things though.  Jeff Kinney, Rick Riordan, and Christopher Paolini sold a ton of physical books this fall.   Also, there's opportunity for smaller bookstores to fill the void created by the Borders and Waldenbooks closings.  Some communities lost their only bookstore.  Several Waldenbooks locations have been converted into independent bookstores, some retained the same general manager and staff. Of course, Books-a-Million also opened stores in former Borders locations.  I have to believe that smaller footprint bookstores can survive.  That being said, I have no plans to open my own store. 
Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

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