Self-Publishing News: Publishers Weekly to Feature “Sleeping Indie Giants” As B&N Launches eBook Service

In the process of preparing to moderate a “getting published” panel this Friday for the North Shore Business Forum (www.nsbforum.org), two pieces of news stood out. My fellow panelists are two authors, Dyan deNapoli (http://www.thepenguinlady.com/new_site/dyans_book.html ) and Gloria Bakst (http://www.zoneperfectcookingmadeeasy.com ), whose books have been published the “traditional” way, through publishing houses like Simon & Schuster and McGraw-Hill. But these two announcements from Publishers Weekly and Barnes & Noble point to the continued growth and changing view of self-published books.

Publishers Weekly has announced that it will begin publishing a quarterly supplement that presents information about self-published books to its readership of agents, booksellers, publishers, distributors, librarians and media. PW President George Slowik said the idea is to find self-published “gems worthy of attention, the sleeping indie giants.” PW Select will feature announcements that include author, title, subtitle, price, pagination and format, ISBN, a brief description of content, and ordering information provided by the authors. To be listed, you’ll pay a $149 “processing fee” that also gets you a 6-month subscription to the digital version of PW.

PW expects to find at least 25 review-worthy works to highlight per quarterly issue. The first supplement will appear on December 21, bound into a regular issue of PW. In addition to a general overview of the self-published books received for review, the supplement will also include features about “the self-publishing world’s explosive growth and the important players,” and interviews with selected self-published authors of the listed titles. The deadline for submitting self-published books for a listing in the first supplement is October 31. For particulars, see www.publishersweekly.com/pw/diy/index.html.

Meanwhile, bookseller Barnes & Noble has announced the details of its PubIt! service, which allows authors to self-publish in digital format. Upload your eBook to PubIt! to sell your content through the Barnes & Noble eBookstore and have it available for sale on BN.com, NOOK eBook Readers, and B&N’s free NOOK eReading software for iPad, iPhone/iPod touch, Android, PC, etc. This add to the roster of ebook self-publishing options offered by companies like Smashwords (www.smashwords.com) and Lulu (www.lulu.com), among others. If you’re not wedded to the idea of selling physical copies of your self-published book, consider checking out these options.

By themselves, these developments aren’t necessarily publishing game-changers. But they are indicators of a rapidly changing publishing environment that offers authors an ever-increasing number of options for getting their work to market. What do you think of these latest developments?

Still Time to Register for Courses on Blogging, Press Releases, and Novel Writing

There’s still time to sign up for the non-credit, continuing education courses I’m offering this fall at North Shore Community College (Danvers, MA campus). Learn a new skill that can help you grow your business, or try something just for fun (drafting a novel in 30 days!).

Be a Better Business Blogger (CSA793)

Customers, clients and the media are looking for you online – and increasingly, they expect to find not just your website but also a blog. This half-day workshop is for you if you already have a business blog and want to learn how to use it more effectively, how to generate an endless supply of topics for blog posts, and how to keep the blogging process manageable. Please note, this is not a technical course on how to set up a blog; however, would-be bloggers are welcome.
Meets Saturday, September 25 from 1 PM to 4 PM
Offered again on Tuesday, November 9 from 6 PM to 9 PM

Press Release Clinic: How to Write an Attention-Getting Media Release (CSA795)

This hands-on workshop will show you how to craft a press release that gives editors and other media gatekeepers the information they want, so your business or organization can get the attention you want. You’ll learn the anatomy of a press release; what to include and what to leave out; and how to get the release out to your target audience. Bring your draft press releases and learn how to improve them on the spot.
Meets two Wednesdays, October 6 and October 13 from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM

Get Ready for National Novel Writing Month (CSA794)

As a three-time National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) participant and “winner,” I’ll share tips and tricks to prepare you for embarking on the journey of a lifetime… (Or at least, the amazing journey of writing a 50,000-word draft of a novel during the 30 days of November.) Here’s what we’ll cover in the workshop that just might motivate you to draft that novel you’ve always wanted to write:

  • How to sign up as an “official” participant (at www.nanowrimo.org).
  • How to prepare without blocking your creativity for the month of writing ahead.
  • What to expect during NaNoWriMo (the highs, the lows, the thrills, the chills!)
  • You’ve written the draft – what’s next?

Workshop meets on Saturday, October 2 from 1 PM to 4 PM

All classes meet at NSCC’s Danvers campus. Contact me for more information, and register online at www.northshore.edu.

Survey Finds Companies Can Build Trust Through Twitter, Facebook

Here’s something to think about if you’re wondering whether it’s worth your time and effort to do Twitter posts or keep up a Facebook fan page for your company. According to a new survey from Fleishman-Hillard and Harris Interactive, PRNewser (http://www.mediabistro.com/prnewser/) reports that “75 percent of people surveyed said they view companies that microblog — sending short, frequent messages on sites like Twitter or status updates on social networks like Facebook — as more deserving of their trust than those that do not.” (The 2010 Digital Influence Index is a seven-country survey of 4,243 people, conducted between December 2009 and January 2010; for more on the survey, visit http://digitalinfluence.fleishmanhillard.com.)

“Microbloggers [Twitter or Facebook users, for example] trust companies that listen and respond in real time,” the surveyors wrote in a press release. “Users who have adopted microblogging tend to trust companies that monitor their online activity. They seem to view this online listening as a sign that organizations care about their needs and want their feedback.”

Further proof that marketing is no longer a one-way communication, but a two-way conversation. How are you using tools like Twitter and Facebook to have a conversation and build relationships with your customers and prospects? I’d love to hear about your challenges and your success stories.

Should You Copyright Your Book Title?

Aspiring book authors often have questions about how to copyright and protect their material before it’s published. Today’s GalleyCat blog from MediaBistro.com features an interesting article on the subject, with advice from publishing attorney Lloyd J. Jassin on copyright protection for book and series titles. See the full article here: http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/publishing/ask_a_lawyer_should_i_copyright_my_title_164031.asp

Copyright law protects the way authors express their ideas, but Jassin points out that “titles (and short phrases) are not thought to possess enough original expression to warrant copyright protection. So, while you can copyright your novel, you can’t copyright the title of your novel” – or your non-fiction book, for that matter. However, as Jassin explains, trademark law may protect a title that is part of an ongoing series, and he describes how to use the “intent-to-use” application to protect your work.

GalleyCat promises more articles on legal questions authors commonly ask – I recommend you subscribe to GalleyCat’s always-informative blog so you’re sure to see the rest of the series.

New Courses on Book Proposals, Blogging, and Press Releases

If you’d like to brush up your skills or learn something new about writing a book proposal, business blogging, or crafting press releases, come take a course with me this summer. I’m teaching three non-credit courses on these topics, all offered through the corporate/community education division of North Shore Community College.

The Nitty Gritty of the Successful Book Proposal (CSA792)

If you’re trying to interest a traditional book publisher in your non-fiction manuscript, you (or your literary agent) will most likely pitch it using a book proposal. Learn how to develop a book proposal that gets attention. Includes how to refine your book concept, assess the competition and the market for your book, and how to quickly develop chapter summaries and a sample chapter. If you are thinking of self-publishing a non-fiction book, you may also find the book proposal exercise has value, because it forces you to crystallize your book idea. Meets three Mondays, 6:30 to 8:30 pm, June 7 through June 21

Be a Better Business Blogger (CSA793)

Customers, clients, and the media are looking for you online and increasingly, they expect to find not just your website but also a blog. This workshop is for you if you already have a business blog and want to learn how to use it more effectively, how to generate an endless supply of topics for blog posts, and how to keep the blogging process manageable. Please note, this is not a technical course on how to set up a blog; however, would-be bloggers are welcome. Meets Saturday, June 12, 9 am to 12 noon; also offered on Thursday, August 19 from 6 to 9 pm

Press Release Clinic (CSA795)

Learn how to write an attention-getting media release. This hands-on workshop will show you how to craft a press release that gives editors and other media gatekeepers the information they want, so your business or organization can get the attention you need. Covered topics include: the anatomy of a press release; what to include and what to leave out; and how to get the release out to your target audience. Bring your draft press releases and learn how to improve them on the spot. Meets two Wednesdays, May 26 and June 2, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm.

All courses will be offered at NSCC’s Danvers Campus. Find more details online at www.northshore.edu/community/index.html under the Writing & Literature category. In the paper version of the Summer 2010 catalog, the courses are listed in the Business Career Courses section on page 11.

Please register online through North Shore Community College (www.northshore.edu). If you have questions about the courses, or would be interested in having this material available through a webinar, please drop me a line at kate@bluepencilconsulting.com.

Time Travel Through Tweets?

Those 140-character messages so many of us send out on Twitter aren’t as ephemeral as we might have thought – in fact, they’ll be saved for posterity and will become a tool for research and the kind of time travel historians do. This week, the Library of Congress announced (via its blog and Twitter) that it will be digitally archiving every public tweet sent out on Twitter since the service’s inception in March 2006. (See the announcement here: http://blogs.loc.gov/loc/2010/04/how-tweet-it-is-library-acquires-entire-twitter-archive/ .)

According to Librarian of Congress James H. Billington, “The Twitter digital archive has extraordinary potential for research into our contemporary way of life. This information provides detailed evidence about how technology based social networks form and evolve over time. The collection also documents a remarkable range of social trends.” (Read more at http://www.loc.gov/today/pr/2010/10-081.html .)

The folks at Twitter blogged about their reasons for sharing the archive (http://blog.twitter.com/2010/04/tweet-preservation.html). Interestingly, there will be a six-month delay before public tweets are available for “internal library use, for non-commercial research, public display by the library itself, and preservation.”

That’s not the only new way that tweets are becoming research tools. Twitter also announced that Google has created a new way to revisit tweets related to historic events. Google Replay “lets you relive a real time search from specific moments in time.” According to Twitter, “Google Replay currently only goes back a few months but eventually it will reach back to the very first Tweets ever created. If you want to understand the popular contemporaneous reaction to the health care bill, you can virtually time travel and replay the Tweets.”

The mind reels at the possibilities for researchers and writers of all stripes, nevermind the equally tempting opportunities for pranksters. I’m curious to know where your reaction is on the spectrum from “Wow, what an amazing social research tool!” to “Just because we can, doesn’t necessarily mean we should.” What do you think?

Authors of Non-Fiction Books Must Build a Sturdy Platform

Thinking of trying to land a non-fiction book contract with a publishing house? Here’s food for thought from an interview with New York literary agent Harvey Klinger (www.harveyklinger.com), featured on mediabistro.com’s GalleyCat for March 31, 2010:

“I realize that it’s very tough to sell a non-fiction project unless the person already has something of a national forum or platform for his/her work. Many would-be authors talk about what they’ll do once their book is published. Publishers want to know what you’re doing now to create a name for yourself in advance of a book’s publication.” (Read the full interview with Harvey Klinger here: http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/agents/lit_agent_harvey_klinger_wants_strong_womens_fiction_155437.asp)

What does that mean for you and your non-fiction book project? Simple: Be sure you’re building your platform as you are crafting your book proposal or developing your book manuscript. What’s a platform? Your platform is about your visibility and what you’re doing to increase it. Are you already building an audience for your book through your current work with clients, media mentions, blog, published articles, speaking engagements and association leadership? Your platform includes your credibility on your book’s topic (why are you the right person to write this book?), your existing “fan base,” and your ability to become more visible to a larger audience of potential fans. These platform elements are a crucial part of any non-fiction book proposal.

For another take on the concept of “platform” as it relates to publishing, read Mark Barrett’s amusing post on Ditchwalk (http://www.ditchwalk.com/2010/01/11/your-publishing-platform-defined/), and his take on the “celebrity” = “platform” equation. He also reminds writers (especially those considering the self-publishing route) that attention to craft and excellent writing shouldn’t take a back seat to platform considerations. Amen to that – but I’ll add that on the non-fiction side especially, a book – even a beautifully crafted one — won’t find an audience unless readers are aware the book exists.

How are you building your platform?

Kind Words

Hi, Neighbor! Pull out your cardigan sweater and be neighborly tomorrow, because March 20 is “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” Day. The creation of Family Communications Inc. in Pittsburgh, PA (www.fci.org/neighbor), this annual event celebrates the late Fred Rogers (known to certain generations of TV viewers as the gentle and kindly Mr. Rogers) and his legacy of neighborliness on his birthday. Neighbors everywhere are encouraged to wear their favorite sweater and promote neighborliness through actions as simple as saying “thank you” or offering a smile, kind word, or sympathetic ear.

“Okay,” I hear you saying. “I’m all in favor of neighborly behavior, but what does this have to do with editing?” I suppose it’s part of my philosophy about working with clients on their writing. Over the years, I’ve found that it’s important to offer encouragement along with the edits. Whether I’m polishing a blog post or helping a client untangle the ideas in a journal article or book manuscript, some kind words or a little commiseration about the struggles of expressing ideas clearly can go a long way in helping a client understand that I’m working with him or her as a partner in this grand enterprise of communicating via the written word.

When I’m working with you on a piece of your writing, I’ll always let you know what I think is good and what’s working. And if there’s something that’s muddy or that could be improved so your message gets through loud and clear to your target audience, I’ll let you know that too – with kindness and tactful directness. We’ll work together to make those words shine and sing, so you and your ideas make a great impression.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to find my favorite cardigan and most comfortable sneakers before spreading a little kindness in my neighborhood. I encourage you to do the same in yours.

Repurpose Existing Content to Be a Better Blogger

I recently attended a workshop on using social media, and noticed a theme that ran through attendees’ comments: Provided we can find or make the time to blog, tweet, post status updates, and comment on other people’s blogs, how on earth do we generate enough content to fill these spaces? A few practical observations:

First off, the key to business writing for social media is to keep it short, sweet and focused. After all, you’re not writing War and Peace; you’re offering a quick tip or a brief comment that provides readers with some useful information, keeps you in front of your target market, and helps reinforce your expert status in your field.

Second, feel free to repurpose your content. In other words, take something you’ve already written for one purpose and create a shorter or longer version of it for another purpose. How does this work? Today, let’s look at how this strategy applies to blogging. Here are two examples:

  • A client has just begun blogging, and realized that many of the stories he’s shared in his e-letters over the years offer evergreen lessons of real value to his consulting clients and prospects. He’s now choosing the best ones to adapt to a shorter blog-friendly retelling, and is creating a reserve of these “lessons learned”-type blog posts to alternate with more “newsy” updates. Tapping into your “best of” files is also a great way to overcome the common blogging fear that you won’t have enough to write about.
  • What if you don’t have a stash of e-letters or articles to pull content from? Are you a frequent commenter on other people’s blogs or an active participant in discussion groups on sites like LinkedIn? Here’s a great idea from Joan Stewart, The Publicity Hound (www.publicityhound.com), who recommends that you create a Google Alert for keywords that matter to you. Then when you see a blog post that makes you want to add a comment, use that comment as the basis for an expanded exploration of the topic on your own blog. Joan says this same trick applies when you’re answering discussion questions on LinkedIn.

Done this way, repurposing is a form of value-added recycling – and it makes you a better and more efficient blogger. Have a tip that’s made blogging easier for you? Please share it here!

Is Your Press Release A Sinner, Not a Winner?

In his intro to today’s (02/04/10) Reporter Connection email, Steve Harrison made a point about press releases that I thought was worth sharing with you. (Reporter Connection, by the way, is a free media leads service you should subscribe to if you want to know who’s looking for experts to interview and quote; more info here: www.ReporterConnection.com/JoinNowFree/)

Steve Harrison wrote: “Most press releases commit the same unpardonable sin. Last weekend at my church a woman got up and spoke. She droned on and on for ten minutes. I looked around and people were all but falling asleep because she hadn’t done what was necessary to get everyone’s attention. That’s the mistake so many people make when writing press releases, emails and pitch letters. They should start by answering the most important question that really matters to the media and stick to it. That question is “Who cares?” So XYZ Company hires a new manager. Who cares? An author releases a new book. Who cares? Answer that before you write anything more. Got it? Then get to it.”

Amen to that! If you want your press releases to trigger any action on an editor’s part (besides hitting the “Delete” key), you’ve got to overcome the “so what?” factor. In your headline and first paragraph, you must make it absolutely clear why the editor (and by extension, the editor’s audience) should care about your news. A word to the wise: if you are sending a version of your release directly to your market or audience, the same rule still applies.

If you need help turning your press release from a sinner into a winner, contact me at kate@bluepencilconsulting.com.

 

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