Posts Tagged ‘digital promotion’

Publishing Isn’t for Sissies: Me and Dorchester, the CliffsNotes Version

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

You have to be willing to take risks in this business of ours. Calculated risks that are nonetheless precarious for the careful thought you put into jumping off whatever cliff of opportunity looms before you. Sometimes a marvelous parachute glide awaits you, easing you into your next step forward. Sometimes there turn out to be holes in your plan and you land in the trees–if you’re lucky. Sometimes you crash and burn completely. My experience with Dorchester Publishing these last few years, like many authors, has been more the latter.  But as of last week I can officially say it hasn’t been a crash and burn fiasco, and the trees that were grabbing at my chute are receding farther and farther away each time I look back. Perspective?One might call it that, this ah-ha sensation filling me. Hind sight gives us the illusion of finally seeing things as they were always meant to be. Maybe it’s just dumb luck… You be the judge.


Too often it feels as if I have absolutely NO idea how I got to this moment of deep sighing and appreciation for a journey well traveled and a fight bravely faced and won (Amazon, the publisher who also recently signed a three book deal with me to publish a women’s fiction/contemporary romance series has bought out Dorchester’s list at auction and will not only pay me royalties due from the last three years, but will re-list and potentially buy new titles into my sci-fi/fantasy series).

To be honest, I have some idea. But my mind’s still spinning as I process the twists and turns and decisions and retreats–stopping myself, ultimately, from making several end-game decisions that would have ended this wild ride before I achieved what I’d set out to. What follows is the CliffsNotes version of that adventure, because publishing can be a sucky journey for all of us and I’m happy to share my personal suckage if it might possibly help others finding themselves in their own potentially no-win situations, trying to choose the least objectionable of the unsatisfying options before them.

no win decision

But first, let’s identify what exactly I wanted to achieve from the start. Because the best business decisions are potentially bad business decisions, regardless of the odds in your favor, if you don’t understand your goal. My best advice to anyone when they ask me my opinion of what they should do about a book, agent, publisher or contract is to figure out what you want and determine the best way to achieve that. Beyond that, I got nothing. Because as you’ll see below, the rules are always changing and what works for me or someone else now may be a no-win choice for you tomorrow. You have to be flexible in this business. You have to dodge and duck and know when to jump or stand still.  None of which you can do effectively if you aren’t sure where you’re headed.

My goal with my sci-fi/fantasy series: To establish my mainstream fiction work and to build a series for a broader audience than my contemporary romance roots, into which I could continue to sell future novels. Simple right?

success failure

Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

  • Round about the fall of 2008: Dorchester offers a 2-book deal for my Legacy Series. Dark Legacy to release nationwide in mass market paperback in the fall of 2009.
  • I deliver the book on time, but the advance money isn’t coming from the publisher as quickly as it should. Agent pushes hard behind the scenes, but we don’t pull the book from the schedule. It’s more important to my goal to be established as a mainstream author with bigger stories to sell than my category romance roots, than it is to join in the shrieks of dissatisfaction with the publisher beginning to rumble all over the Internet.
  • Fall, 2009: Dark Legacy in stores, positioned well, I’m signing in the B&N flagship store in New York’s Lincoln Center, and we’re off. Sales are good but nothing fabulous. We can do better, publisher says. My series is repositioned away from traditional romance and closer to the sci-fi/thriller market it’s better suited for.
  • Secret Legacy due to editor in early 2010 for a rushed summer 2010 release because they want to break it out. They’re behind this very different, edgy thing I’m doing with my mainstream work 110%. They’ve also by now paid me the advance I’m owed to date. Agent and I see this as a good chance to shine within a smaller traditional press, so I keep working.
  • Health issues and surgery prevent me from turning the second book in on time. Editor and publisher couldn’t have been more understanding. Deadline for delivering Secret Legacy is pushed to the spring of 2010, with a fall release. It’s the hardest writing period I’ve ever had, and I called my agent to quit more than once, but the book was finished and revised in a gruelingly short amount of time. If nothing else, this experience proved to me that I had to keep writing–if for no other reason than I couldn’t seem to make myself stop.
  • Fall 2010: Serious money spent on my part and committed by publisher to promote the book that should break out, even though remaining advance for the second book on the contract hasn’t yet been paid. However, lots of publisher plans–print and digital promotion. Extensive online blog tour being set up. Again, agent and I are staying focused on the publishing possibilities and my investing in my mainstream future, which means I continue to do my job and play nice while she rattles their cages fighting to get me the money owed.
  • Two weeks before Secret Legacy’s launch: it’s announced on the Internet (not to individual authors) that overnight Dorchester’s pulling their print publishing arm (meaning all my mass market print books are being yanked, never to be distributed retail) and beginning immediately  to shift to a digital first/print on demand business. My break out release: not going to happen. My sizable investment in promoting to mass market retailers and readers: wasted. My remaining faith in publisher: destroyed.
  • (more…)

Publishing Isn’t for Sissies: But you absolutely MUST whine…

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

You hear it all the time, how hard this writing and publishing thing has become. Or whatever else your thing is, you know what’s making your journey impossible. ”Suck it up,” everyone says. “It’s just business.” And they’re right. Life isn’t always easy. Sometimes you have to say, “‘Tis,” and battle on. But other times, you need to whine. If you don’t let the frustration and anger and disappointments out, how will you know what’s most important to you and what’s worth waging your epic battle over?

epic battle cuteness

I mean, you need to have a plan, right? Beginning with a goal, so you know what you’re staying in the fight for. When it gets ugly and you want to quit, your battle plan is all you have to keep you going. Make the battle simple and clear, and about what’s most important to you. And your army must be filled with those who see your vision most clearly.

pez army

How do you give yourself all of that, if you’re  not honest about what you’re fighting for. If you’re not whining with clarity ;o)

My full proof plan for whining with purpose and pride, whatever your battlefield ?

  1. Begin with a tantrum. A completely out of control moment where your barriers are down and there’s nothing left but what’s driving you round the bend and the people who’re willing to stand beside you, calmly watch the meltdown, and be there when the dust settles to help you pick up the pieces.
  2. Dig beneath those real emotions for the core conflict that sparked your freak-out. What’s being threatened that’s so near and dear to you, you can’t let it go, no matter how irrational your instinct to rebel? That’s your nugget. That’s the invaluable part of you that you feel powerless to get/protect/preserve/make thrive.
  3. Now, leave the irrationality behind, and suit up for battle. (more…)

Publishing Isn’t for Sissies: Inside the Barrel

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

The end-all-be-all of surfing is riding inside the barrel, where the wave hollows out and curls over you and you’re riding free inside the monster. It’s a bitch to get there, it’s a dangerous place, yet it’s heaven at the same time. Much like how a writer feels, cruising  toward the last third of a novel’s rough draft. It’s a desperate place, hollowed out and empty, but it’s magic–if you can grit out the ride long enough to get yourself there.

surfing barrel

Most writers are clucked from time to time: a surfer’s term for being scared of waves. Writers, we’re scared of our stories more often than we want to admit. Not exactly what we want the world that devours our end-goal to know. Because it’s not really the story, in the end, that freaks us out. It’s the drop (yeah, this will be a running theme, deal with it ;o).

surfing drop

While surfing, the drop is where a surfer first gets up on a wave, then points his board straight down the face of it, plunging toward nothingness, until he either takes the needed turn and flies, or eats it. (more…)

Publishing Isn’t for Sissies: On the Radar

Monday, February 13th, 2012

I’m an author, always writing and pitching my work to publishers and (hopefully) reaching readers with ever-new titles. Now I’m also an acquiring editor, too, officially reading other writer’s submissions, searching for the perfect new story for Entangled Publishing’s soon-to-debut Dead Sexy suspense line. Which for some has become a, “Houston. We have a problem,” moment.


“What are you thinking?” a few have asked. Let me ‘Splain.

For me, I’m seeing more options than problems these days. And where I see and understand options that are in my best interest, I act.

I’ve freelanced edited for fiction writers for years–private work stemming from the countless workshops and weekend retreats I teach about writing craft and the romance publishing industry. Before that I was an professional editor, in my senior tech writing gig. Before that…well, we won’t get into (again) how my IT training and project management experience prepared me for the type of analysis needed to break story down, understand its parts, and help people learn how to knit it all back together in their own unique way.

Because that’s all backstory. And as I tell authors, backstory is only a place to begin. Me being qualified for the gig isn’t really the point–without primo qualifications, the savvy team at Entangled wouldn’t have hired me in the first place. The real issue I had to face as I decided whether or not to take their job offer, was what did it mean, me officially moving over to the business side of this journey, at least as I work to help other authors achieve their publishing dreams.


And that, that being a conduit for another writers’ hard work transforming into a dream-come-true, IS what matters to me and the other editors at Dead Sexy. (more…)

Publishing Isn’t for Sissies–Conquer Your Fear!

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

What new facet of the publishing business will you conquer this year? With all the changes rushing at us, what’s your greatest fear? How can you turn that perceived weakness into an asset? Small press or indie digital publishing has long been my wishy-washy place.


Yes, I can publishing solo, but do I want to? Yes, there are small indie digital presses out there, but do I trust their ever-evolving business models. In the end, I realized the real question was: Do I trust myself, without the umbrella of a large, established publisher propping up both me and my work?

I love my traditional publishers and hope to always have a home in print. I respect most of the inroads these huge corporations are making into digital media, too, though the changes they’re enacting have been slow to come and even slower to implement. Which has left a huge opportunity open for me to make a digital impact with my writing without them… But until lately I’ve been too hesitant to investigate those options on my own.

  • Where will I be without a major press behind me?
  • Will anyone notice if I go out on my own?
  • Will my publisher/agent be less enthusiastic about my work, if I’m also self/indie publishing in the digital market?
  • Will I be wasting a lot of time I should be spending writing, by taking on even more “other” business beyond the hours I need to focus each day on my creative pursuits?

Hard questions, all of them. And each question sprung from a core fear of the change happening all around me. Because the reality is, the playing field of publshing that I thought I’d conquered when I signed my first traditional book contract is gone. A new world with exciting new opportunities and scary pitfalls has arrived. I can’t fly beneath the radar and expect folks to find me, because I have THIS publisher or THAT one backing me.

publishing piles

In this publishing world, a writer is either a brand/entity unto herself, or she won’t be found, period.

  • Traditional publishers expect us to do all the things we have to do to be successful as self/indie published authors.
  • Branding is essential to a book’s success now, regardless of how it was published.
  • (more…)

How We Write Wednesday: Putting the Writing First…

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

I’ve been asked to HoWW blog more about putting the writing first…even when we’re being told (and seeing)  EVERYthing else in the business is more important. Especially the insanity we call social media (yesterday’s topic, where I ranted about writing first, because who knows what’s really making a difference on Facebook and Twitter anyway, no matter what the “experts” say).

Social media Insanity

It’s funny, when you think about it. Blogging about not blogging or tweeting or FB statusing so much that you never groove on your craft. Your art. Your purpose to begin with for dipping your toe in the Internet mustof “connecting.” We try to carve out niche in this great beyond. #weWRITE is a great example, which Jen Talty and I started after a few months of HoWW blog posts, to get writers talking about writing alone on Twitter, not just pimping their books or blogs or promo platforms.

We work to be relevant and plugged in and visible. But why? To support our writing, yes. But we do that best BY writing. To support our career? Better. But many of the folks doing the social media thing most fervently don’t have creative writing careers yet. They’re following the advice of social medial gurus telling them that building a following and pseudo platform (before there’s anything to sell from said stage) is more important to publishers these days than the product of the hard, daily, grinding writing work they’ve yet to do long enough to publish. To connect? That’s more to the point, I think.

We write alone, as I said yesterday, most of the time. And social media is a great way to connect with other writers, those we admire in the business, and, yes, those we trust to advise us about our journey. But it’s the massive scope of that very content we’re daily struglling to take in that, in my opinion, begins to overtake the writing itself, unless we’re very careful.

Because here’s the thing for me–anyone, ANYone, telling you to spend any significant portion of your day doing anything BUT writing, is doing damage to your chances of publishing. (more…)

Publishing Isn’t For Sissies: Social Media’s Taking over…

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

RWA National’s and the Thrillerfest workshop grids were amazing this year. So much variety, you couldn’t keep up. Amazing depth. Still, on nearly every panel one topic reigned. Social Media. Almost like it’s more important now than the writing and the books. How do publishers use it? How do they want their authors to use it? How do wannabe authors and publishers need to use it? You don’t use it??? What’s WRONG WITH YOU!


And no, I’m not exaggerating. I’m not just talking about the panels focusing specifically on the use of social medial for book promotion, though Shelia Clover English’s panel at Thrillerfestwas absolutely the best of the bunch. Check her out. Download her talk, whenever they make the audio available on the TFest website. Get on board the train to your future…

When I say social media’s taking over, what I mean is that everyone was talking about it, in practically every workshop, panel, and meeting I attended the last two weeks. As I said yesterday, no one knows for sure what’s happening to the publishing industry, but EVERYone seems to think that the old way of promoting and reaching readers is evolving into something else, no one’s really sure what, involving social media.

Several times a day, (more…)

Publishing Isn’t For Sissies: The things you see… The things you saw… The things you miss…

Monday, July 11th, 2011

Publishing Isn’t for Sissies is one of my most popular blog threads. Two weeks away in NY, both at RWA Nationals and Thrillerfest, and everywhere I turned writers asked me to post more. So, first day back, what am I prattling about–What is New York publishing looking like/for?

Snoopy strip

Interestingly enough, I’m not sure anyone at either conference had a definitive answer.

There was lots of talk about new digital offerings, for example from Harlequin (Carina Press) and Harper Collins/Avon (Impulse). The major houses are very aware that the digital future of publishing is now, even though they’re still not ready to pay authors an advance for dipping their toes into “traditional” experiments into the medium.

At the Avon spotlight,the editors were talking about quick turn around and prolific authors and getting excited about how quickly they could get your content up on their websites. Lots of assurances that you’d get great editing and covers and face time on a publisher site they say has heavy traffic, plus the books will be out there on Amazon, etc. But with so many titles going out the door, and the covers they were raving about honestly looked like something my teen could photoshop on his laptop, and talk of fast writing and editorial and revisions that sounds pretty close to flash fiction at times, you have to wonder how anything but their lead authors’ books will get enough attention to sell well.

They do have a great plan for using the digital publishing of novellas and such to promo mass market paperback releases of the star authors. Those ebooks should get promoted out the ying yang, and it should help both the digital and print sales of the corresponding mass market releases. But the rest of the books, it seems, will pretty much be on their own.

Let me do the math for you, if this is the case. No advance. No heavy online promotion. No digital sales to speak of. No money. (more…)

Publishing Isn’t for Sissies: Tim DeYoung–Creating a Bridge Between Print and Digital Publishing

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

Dorchester’s abrupt shift from a mass market publishing model to focusing on digital and trade paperback releases has been dissected and discussed and bandied about for kicks and giggles by just about everyone. Mostly by folks not involved in the ongoing change. But was it so abrupt? Was it Dorchester’s choice alone? Was the story really simple enough to be covered in a tweet or a Facebook update?

The emotions running high then and now were real enough. The circumstances weren’t great for anyone involved, either before Dorchester’s move or since. The publishing industry itself, never a source of enduring security for most who challenge it, was has been in a very public tailspin for the last few years.

Exactly how much of Dorchester’s move was about one publishing house’s floundering dynamic? How much of it was industry trends playing out on a small enough stage for us to dissect every bit of it and hopefully learn something new?


From the start, I wanted Publishing Isn’t for Sissies to be about seeing the bigger picture. There’s a larger story here. Every publisher and author is playing it out, in various arenas, trying to find their place in what we’re all about to become. I applaud the brave approach Vice President Tim DeYoung and the rest of Dorchester’s staff are taking to innovate and pioneer an uncharted path they’re determined to make work for their authors.

To see a bit more of that bigger picture for yourself, spend a few minutes looking at our publishing world through Tim’s eyes…


Some people have asked me why Dorchester turned from mass market centric publishing to a digital and trade model.  The response to this question involves an understanding of the marketplace and the changes within. 

I don’t think anyone will disagree with the statement that the biggest trend in the publishing industry is the extraordinary growth of the e-book.  Articles, blogs, and editorials are everywhere you turn, trumpeting the demise of print.  There is no question that e-books seem to be the future, what with all the new platforms springing up, some that feature interactive participation or even the use of color.  Still, even with the fantastic growth in the last couple of years, e-book sales are far overshadowed by the sales of physical books.

Several years ago, the wholesale marketplace started going through very real upheaval. (more…)

Publishing Isn’t For Sissies: Chris Keeslar’s Changing Landscape

Friday, May 6th, 2011

Dorchester Publshing’s gotten a lot of press in the seven months that I’ve waited for Secret Legacy to release. The Dorchester staff has made some tough choices about their business, as have I. PIFS has been about the story behind the drama playing out on social media’s myopic stage. Tough realities and decisions must be faced once emotions cool. I wanted this to be a place where we could share experiences and take those next steps together.

Our industry is a lightening-fast spiral of change at the moment. We’ve talked here about challenging things. We’ve kept things honest but positive and forward-thinking. We’ve already heard from a PR professional and an industry-leading agent. Now let’s dig a little deeper.

My personal impression observing Dorchester Senior Editor Chris Keeslar in my six years as a published author is that he’s widely respected by professionals in every corner of our industry.

chris keeslar 2

Every author I know who’s worked with him loves how much he loves working with story and the minds that craft it. With Dorchester’s shift in publishing model, I suspect Chris is more involved than ever with the management of getting books to market. But reading his thoughts below, it’s clear that story and nurturing an author’s voice and career are still Chris’ ultimate focus.

He’s put a public face on each issue Dorchester has encountered. He’s handled these complex situations as best he could as quickly as he could, providing whatever information and action and answers were needed. I can’t imagine the journey’s been any easier for him than the authors he continues to champion. But he’s never publicly reacted in anger or frustration. I find it inspirational, his brand of integrity and optimism in the face of these challenges.

I’m thrilled that Chris is sharing his thoughts with us today on how a traditional publisher can help a digitally published author…


“I’ve been thinking about the changing landscape of publishing recently. Here’s what I’ve decided: (more…)