Monthly Archives: July 2013

Do Readers Really Love Bad Books?

Michael Krüger, publisher at Carl Hanser Verlag in Munich, recently bemoaned the number of bad books out there. He explained that they are present in such numbers because they sell…and he can’t figure out why.

Let’s put aside judging whole categories as bad and focus on the real issues.

First, it’s about story. The MFA programs have been hammered because they churn out writers who focus on the florid beauty of their words at the expense of their characters. Thus no story. Without story, a book is just a jumble of words.

Second, it’s about story. Readers are willing to buy even poorly written books because the story tells them something they can’t find elsewhere. Look at 50 Shades…panned everywhere for awful prose yet sold oodles of copies because the storyline contained something women wanted to read about.

Third, it’s about storytelling. Bad books might be poorly written or have worn-out plotlines yet they clip along at a fast pace (nearly always, anyway). So storytelling, getting to the heart of the matter through action and forward movement, is present in a way that might not be as obvious in a pretty MFA grad’s work.

What’s YOUR story?

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How Much Will a Written Analysis of My Book Cost?

A written analysis is one of the most popular services authors request. This examines the structural and storytelling elements of fiction and memoirs such as opening chapters, the
ending, primary events, character development/history, point of view, use of narrative and dialog, and other critical components. When the work is nonfiction, the structural and writing elements of that category are considered.
The write-up for a manuscript of average length is usually between 10 and 15 single-spaced pages. This is all narrative text; no tables, charts or graphs are used as filler. The commentary points out major and minor issues that should be addressed. It also makes recommendations for how to correct the issues along with discussions of how specific changes might resonate with other areas of the manuscript.
The usual turnaround time is 3 to 4 weeks.
The rate for a manuscript of standard length is $6.50 per double-spaced page. Short story or article/essay collections have a slightly higher fee if each piece is short.

There is a minimum fee for shorter books; if the project is longer than average, a flat rate is applied because the per-page rate would become prohibitive.

If you decide that you do not have the time to implement the recommendations or would like the work done for you for other reasons, this can be accomplished as the second step. A price quote will be created at that time based on the amount of work to be done. If the work progresses within 30 days of delivering the write-up, 60% of the write-up fee will be credited to that price quote.

Another way to approach this issue is to work with only the first 100 pages, including a synopsis. This allows me to see how you are handling the primary structural elements on the page. Since so often the primary issues appear in those first 100 pages, the mini-analysis can help you take a big step forward in a more affordable fashion. The write-up you receive averages 4 to 6 single-spaced pages. Once you see how certain issues impact those opening pages, you can extend the lessons learned to the rest of what you’ve already written.

Turnaround for a mini-analysis averages 2.5 to 3 weeks. The rate is a flat fee of $985.

Book Giveaway on Goodreads: Last Chance!

Ten copies of my first novel Message Stick are being given away on Goodreads for 30 days in July. The literary thriller won two national awards and a host of smaller awards.

You have until tomorrow, July 30, to put your name in the hat!

Happy reading!

Amazon Dukes It Out with Overstock.com; Indie Booksellers Lose

On Friday, Amazon began offering discounts that have never before been seen even on its own site. The move is supposedly a response to Overstock.com’s full frontal assault, which consists of discounting books to match or beat Amazon’s prices.

Dan Brown’s Inferno is now available on Amazon at a a 61% discount. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini has a 58% discount. Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In is at a 64% discount. A whopping 64% discount is offered on The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.

There are signs, however, that even Amazon is not invincible in this battle. J.K. Rowling’s The Cuckoo’s Calling, written under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, is discounted only 42%. That’s right in the usual discounting area of 40% to 50 percent. Amazon likely doesn’t want to discount something that is selling well regardless of price, and wants to keep the profits involved in that title.

Overstock.com’s shot across the bow of the mighty frigate Amazon is a long-overdue attempt to take some of the wind out of Amazon’s sails. The recent verdict against Apple has already spurred Amazon toward discounting books to eliminate the real competition that is left: the thousands of indie booksellers who together hold more clout among readers than any website ever will.

Unfortunately indies do not yet hold any kind of combined economic clout with publishers and so cannot discount books at the same rate. Thank goodness someone has noticed what’s going on in book publishing and has thrown the economic might of their company onto the battlefield.

Book Agent Info: Brandt and Hochman

Emma Patterson of Brandt and Hochman is looking for literary and commercial fiction, upmarket women’s fiction, historical fiction, narrative nonfiction, pop culture, memoir, food writing, and YA and MG fiction and nonfiction. 

Book Agent Info: Barer Literary

William Boggess of Barer Literary is looking for fiction with strong voices and a fresh perspective. He loves Southern fiction and story collections.

In nonfiction, he’s interested in literary memoir, popular science, narrative history, and smart sportswriting. 

Selling a Million Copies: Oliver Potzsch an Amazon First

Last month, Amazon announced that Oliver Potzsch, author of the Hangman’s Daughter series, is their first author to have hit 1 million copies in print, digital and audio combined.

Before you hit the submit button for Amazon’s publishing group, consider that 25% of all books are still sold through bookstores.

Another 23% are sold through other retailers like Costco and other big box stores.

If you’re thinking of giving up on regular publishers just because of all the coverage of digitally published success stories, consider that e-books are one of the biggest changes in publishing right now. Of course the media is seeking out their success stories and covering them in larger numbers right now than traditionally published success stories.

You have a lot of options these days. Be sure to make an informed choice to find the best path for your books.

What’s in a Subtitle? The Impact on Book Algorithms

Titles are important. Any author can agree to that. But are subtitles as important, less so, or possibly more important?

One consideration is how subtitles impact algorithms that help readers find a book. Subtitles that seem unwieldy because they are so long can actually boost sales on websites.

A second consideration has been around for a while: a descriptive subtitle tells readers exactly what they’ll get from the book.

Finally, a subtitle can indicate the author’s voice (funny, academic, etc.) or tone (the emotional quality of the work). That can be attractive to readers and thus generate sales.

Subtitles are clearly not more important than titles…but they are equally important.

Opportunity with IndieReader

IndieReader is looking for reviewers. They “welcome people who have published reviews in major news outlets, but are also open to those with less high-profile experience.” Payment is $20 per review. Contact Amy: amy@indiereader.com.

Hope for Indie Bookstores: Quote from Dan Cullen of the ABA

Dan Cullen of the ABA says, “Customers are making decisions to patronize locally owned retail stores because they recognize that where they spend their money makes a difference. They’ve seen the closure of important local stores or institutions and kind of woke up to what’s important from that regard.”

Combined with readers making choices based on supporting local businesses, the failure of Borders means many regional markets are suddenly open to smaller shops again. Bookstores are being opened now by individuals who realize a bookstore is a community gathering place. New models are combining books with other things like workshops, meeting spaces and much more than the usual coffee and cookie.

That means better hand-selling for authors of all kinds.

Book Agent Info: Dunham Literary

Bridget Smith of Dunham Literary is looking for middle grade and young adult novels in a variety of genres, ncluding fantasy and science fiction, historical fiction, romance, and contemporary. She’s also looking for books that bends the rules of genre or any books with underrepresented or minority characters.

In adult fiction, Bridget especially wants fantasy and science fiction, historical fiction, and literary women’s fiction. For nonfiction, her needs include informational, literary nonfiction, especially science or history written by experts for a general audience.

Book Agent Info: Nancy Yost Agency

Sarah Younger of Nancy Yost is interested in romance / women’s fiction: contemporary, historical, Western, sports, regency, inspirational, urban fantasy, paranormal, young adult and any combination. Actively seeking a contemporary military romance, a great/quirky historical, or a fantastic inspirational romance. She also enjoys stories with a strong supporting cast of animal characters: horses, dogs, cats.

Ezekel Alan on the Importance of Voice

When self-published author Ezekel Alan was asked to name the single best thing he’d ever done to help him achieve success, he said, “I wrote the novel the way I wanted.”

While you’re in the creative mode, don’t allow the judge (the logical side) to interfere. The judge will be worried about things like market trends, publisher picks and what agents are taking on right now. Those things can short-circuit the creative flow. Just be with the work until the draft is finished.

Then, once you’ve made the work the best it can be, you can think about those other issues. Logical considerations are important, of course, but write what you want. Adapt your pitch to present the work in the best possible way after it has been written.