Category Archives: Publishing

Author Interview: Wendy Gilhula

Last week, I wrote about Gilhula’s debut children’s picture book, Pika Bunny and the Thunderstorm. This week, you’ll hear directly from the author!

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First, she wanted to share her journey to creating this story and the other adventures of Pika Bunny. She writes:

While tutoring math in my home in Knoxville, TN, one of my students looked around at my small downstairs and innocently asked, “So, what do you do all day before tutoring?”

I just looked at him and smiled. What I wanted to say was, “Oh, I write children’s books that no one is ever going to read.”

But I kept thinking about his question. More importantly, I kept thinking about my answer! I decided to be brave and find a professional to help me in areas where I did not feel confident. That was the best move I could have made.

So, writers, be brave! Follow your dreams. Keep working, and reach out for help when you need it.

Now, here are the rest of Gilhula’s thoughts.

How would your advice for new writers differ from advice you would offer writers who have been in the game for a while?

The advice I would give to a new writer would be some of the same advice that I gave to myself.

  1. Just write. If you have a story to tell, tell it.
  2. Show your work to someone. Notice that I didn’t say, “Share your work.” Share sounds too intimidating. But don’t hide your work in a drawer for twenty-five years like I did, either!
  3. Pay a professional to look at your work on an artistic level, for consistency, and for editing and grammar in general.
  4. Join SCBWI or start networking in your area to meet people and share experiences.
  5. You are never too old to start. (I’m 52.)

When you take a break from writing, is it a full and total break or is your mind constantly parsing the world for fodder? What does that parsing look like? How does it make you feel as an artist? As a human being?

After college, I was a modern dance choreographer and instructor for almost twenty years. My creative brain has always worked while I am sleeping. The minute I awoke, I already had concepts and some of the choreography. Even today, as I have been a math tutor for almost fifteen years now, I will wake up with an answer to a problem that I didn’t have time to finish the night before.

In the morning, I will have my coffee and work on the latest ideas that I have for a book or my current project. After that, it is a total break for the day as I give try to give my students my full attention.

As an artist, I’ve always been told that I don’t think like everyone else. When I was younger, I didn’t like that comment, because I wanted to be like everyone else. Now that I am older, I embrace the difference.

As a human being, one moment I can I feel like I’m freely walking and weaving a path between art and humanity, and the next I feel like I’m tripping on air.

From your perspective as an author, what do you feel is the biggest challenge to the publishing industry today? Is there a way to solve that challenge?

Since I’m just newly published, I do not have a full understanding of the industry. But I can say that money and promotion are probably the biggest challenges.

What books are you currently reading?

Currently, I am reading books by my cousin, Scott Christopher Beebe, who does not believe in editing whatsoever. His writing is exposed and raw. Some of his thoughts progress halfway down the page before you see any punctuation.

These books are not my usual choices, and not my usual choice of words (and types of adult themes). But there is something transparent and crude about how he thinks that is intriguing and sometimes haunting.

Most days I like to read books on topics that I would not typically write about, like mystery.

Which authors do you think are underappreciated in the current market, and why? Which new writers do you find most interesting, and why?

I gravitate to new writers of children’s picture books that aren’t getting the big publishing house launches. Those writers who must create everything to launch their own work into the world intrigue me because of their sheer passion.

Finding the discipline to keep writing can be tough. Which “get writing” techniques are most effective for you?

Since I wake up with the actual drive, my tactics are more of getting the ideas to stop and slow down. Then I can evaluate and experiment. Not every idea is a good one on its own, but it may be the start of something that I want to pursue and explore.

Can you give us a sneak peek into your current project?

The next step in the Pika Bunny Learning Series is to illustrate the second book. Adrianna Allegretti is working on the illustrations now for Pika Bunny Has a Big Question. This one is due to drop in spring of 2018. It will be published by Apollo Publications.

A really different project is also underway. The illustrations for that are by Alexandria Walker. Mother’s Best is a rhyming picture book that is not part of the Pika Bunny series.

Anything else you think people should know about you, the book, or your process?

If there is a magic formula for writing, it would have to consist of investing the time and effort to write, being willing to display your soul (just a little at a time), trusting others to help you, and believing in yourself.

 

 

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Interview with Jendi Reiter, Author and Cofounder of WinningWriters.com

Winning_Writers_logoToday we have a real treat. Jendi Reiter, one of the cofounders of WinningWriters.com, set aside a generous amount of time to answer some burning questions. The site and its newsletter are fantastic resources for authors of every type. It was great to be able to ask about their mission and how authors can get help just by signing up to their free newsletter.

Best of all, two of her books are currently on sale! So, after reading all about the newsletter and the great resources, you can snap up copies for yourself. Links are at the bottom of this post!

You started Winning Writers back in 2001 with Adam Cohen. Now you have quite a staff, each of whom handle different areas or programs. How do you find such great people?

Thanks for the kind words about our amazing assistant editors and judges. A great thing about being an online business is that we can work with freelancers from all over the country—or the world!

We found two of our Best Free Literary Contests database editors, including our current editor Samantha Dias, through the Western New England Editorial Freelancers’ Network. Sam is diligent, creative, detail-oriented, and proactive about brainstorming ways to improve the database. Find her on LinkedIn for your academic editing jobs, but don’t take her away from us!

Several of our past and current contest judges were prizewinners in those same contests. We invited them because they were already in tune with the contest’s aesthetic, and the skill level of their own work gave us confidence in their ability to recognize quality entries.

Others were local writer friends, such as award-winning poet Ellen LaFleche, or friends of friends—we joke that one of our babysitters is the Winning Writers HR director because she’s recommended several people we ended up hiring. Nearly everyone in Northampton is a writer or knows a writer, it seems!

Additionally, we reach out to subscribers whose work we admire, like 2017 fiction and essay judge Judy Juanita, and contacts that I’ve made through my poetry and fiction publications, like poetry contest judge Soma Mei Sheng Frazier, who was the editor of OSA Enizagam when one of my stories won their contest.

WW offers several contests every year with significant prizes. What is the thought process behind taking on so many contest programs, considering that most arts organizations offer only one?

Something for everybody! We’re always tweaking our contest offerings in response to perceived demand and the gaps we see in the marketplace. The free Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest is fun to judge, generates signups for our email list, and originally also had a scam-busting mission. (The vanity contest that inspired it has since gone out of business—we must be powerful!) There aren’t many contests for parody and humor poems, and the few that exist tend to prefer G-rated light verse that isn’t super original, in my opinion.

Everyone loves a good general-interest poetry and prose contest, so those are consistent earners for us, with over a thousand entries apiece in a good year. The North Street Book Prize for self-published books is meant to signal-boost great books that don’t have the insider connections and marketing budget to compete with major publishers in the marketplace.

Self-published, indie, and print-on-demand (POD) books are often at a disadvantage or straight-up ineligible for prestigious literary prizes. Meanwhile, the book awards programs that do welcome indies have large fees and frequently no cash prize—what are you paying for? We believe indie authors deserve better.

Your section on Contests and Services to Avoid is set up for very good reasons. I have noticed that a number of good organizations are suddenly demanding that authors who submit–whether they win, place, or are simply part of the ones who never make any short- or longlist–give them rights to publish part or all of their work. Often these nonprofits claim that the publications will help support the organization and their contests. What do you think of this approach, when it is taken by an otherwise respectable organization?

I am completely against this approach. No author should have to sign away their intellectual property merely for the privilege of entering a contest. If you don’t win or get published, the work you submitted to the contest is stuck in limbo—you can’t try to make money off it elsewhere, on the off chance that this contest will someday use it. At that point the contest starts to look like a scam to acquire a lot of free work from authors, instead of paying freelancers to contribute to their website or journal.

I especially dislike this trend when the contest advertises itself as “free” up front, and the rights grab is hidden in the long list of rules. I always push back against this when contest sponsors ask to be listed in the database, and I’m happy to report that sometimes they change the rules.

What, in your opinion, is the best part of heritage (i.e., traditional) publishing today?

Access to major distribution and marketing channels is an important advantage that will continue as long as reviewers, booksellers, and other gatekeepers persist in their prejudice against print-on-demand and self-published books.

Best part of the indie route?

More control over the content and book design. Not having to shop your manuscript around for years to an agent or traditional publisher.

What do you enjoy most about working on WW?

People send me free books! I get paid (more or less) to read interesting poetry and prose and to think critically about what makes it work, or not work. This is good for my development as a writer. I also love the opportunity to connect with writers and editors around the world.

What part would you like to see become easier, or larger, or farther-reaching?

We would like to see a more diverse entry pool for all of our contests. Except for the book prize, they’re all judged anonymously, but white ladies somehow end up in the majority in our winners’ lists. We’re working on our outreach to minority writers’ communities, as well as inviting judges from different backgrounds to join our contest staff.

What exciting things are in the pipeline for WW?

By popular demand, we’re adding two new categories to our 2018 North Street Book Prize for self-published books: poetry and children’s picture books. The other categories are creative nonfiction/memoir, literary fiction, and commercial/genre fiction.

Our 2018 final judge for the Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction & Essay Contest will be Dennis Norris II. He is a 2017 MacDowell Colony Fellow, fiction editor of Apogee Journal, and co-host of the podcast Food 4 Thot, a brilliant (NSFW) series with four multiethnic gay poets discussing literature and their love lives.

Jendi Reiter is the co-founder of WinningWriters.com, an online resource site for creative writers, named one of the “101 Best Websites for Writers” (Writer’s Digest, 2015-2016) and one of the “100 Best Websites for Writers” (The Write Life, 2016).

TN C 11 02Jendi’s award-winning books include the poetry collection Bullies in Love (Little Red Tree Publishing) and the novel Two Natures (Saddle Road Press), the spiritual coming-of-age story of a NYC fashion photographer during the 1990s AIDS crisis. Two Natures is on sale for 99 cents in Kindle and iBooks editions through October 15, 2017.

WW Newsletter: Thanks for your interest in Winning Writers! Sign up for the free monthly e-newsletter to receive access to The Best Free Literary Contest database, and join 96,000 Twitter followers.

 

Discount Sale on Urban/Dystopian Fantasy Sparks Price War Between Amazon and Google

So, like many folks, my novels occasionally go on sale. Right now, Reparation’s ebook is on sale until October 3 (links at bottom of this post). Usually, this is where I would give you the book’s slugline, which is:

ReparationEbookHaruki Murakami’s 1Q84 meets Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale as a man battles sinister forces associated with a Native American peyote cult.

I would also inform you that the work has won a national award, and that the usual ebook price is $9.99.

Now, here’s where things get interesting.

The sale price was made available through two ebook channels: Amazon and Google Play. Both provide worldwide distribution, and both offer fast and easy access for readers.

Usually the buying choice is entirely about habits and preferred methods. Some folks like to run all their purchases through Amazon. Others prefer Google, while another set don’t display any particular loyalty.

Today, with Google’s continual efforts to pry their way further into the book market, we see one clear step they are taking to gain more share: beat Amazon’s price. Importantly, this will be done without dropping the revenue earned by the book. So, everyone wins…especially the ecosystem that provides readers with more choice through more distribution channels.

Where will you buy today? Let me know, and we’ll see if the sales figures back you up!

Now, finally, about Reparation!

A beautifully written supernatural story—the work of a master craftsman.”
“Endlessly compelling. A fascinating fusion of forms.”

“Whatever is dangerous, let me do it…I am supposed to die.”

When Aidan Little Boy leaves his ailing mother’s side to visit his sister on a peyote church property in South Dakota, he encounters a religious cult run by an apparently superhuman leader. Suddenly his nondescript life becomes tangled in a world that has grown disturbing and strange.

In a series of remarkable events, the ancient beings of Native American folktales are manipulated by people with strong connections to the parallel world of spirits. Soon Aidan uncovers evidence that his sister and the rapidly growing congregation are in danger. He must understand these unknown powerful forces before the Reparation, a ceremony that will slaughter thousands of innocents.

This complex and surreal novel merges folktales, history, and contemporary lifestyles with magical realism in a hypnotically addictive original tale.

Honorable Mention, Writer’s Digest 2016 Ebook Award

Currently discounted on Amazon and Google Play. At the time of this post, Google is beating Amazon’s price by $0.48!

Grab it now, because these deep discounts won’t last long!

Audiobook Toolkit

Today, we have a fantastic guest blog post from Becky Parker Geist. She’s been working on audiobook software and interesting options for audiobooks for a very long time. Now all that work has been distilled into a webinar authors can benefit from. Here’s what she has to say:

Audiobooks are the fastest growing segment of the publishing industry, with industry leaders projecting 40% growth over last year, following an unprecedented 31% growth 2015-2016. This is prime time for making sure your book is also in the audiobook distribution channels!
But many independent authors are uncertain about where to start. Should you narrate the book yourself or get a professional to do it? What are the challenges with doing it yourself, and how could you prepare yourself for success? What options are available? How do you figure out if it will be worth the time and cost and effort? Where can you turn for guidance and answers to all those questions that keep you from moving forward and getting it done?
Audiobook expert Becky Parker Geist, who also serves as President of Bay Area Independent Publishers Assn, will be joining Joel Friedlander, an independent publishing industry leader, for a live, information-rich webinar on Wednesday, 3/16, 1 pm PST, 4 pm EST. Spaces are limited and they fill up fast! Claim your spot at bit.ly/aubkwbr.

Interview with Christopher Zoukis, Author of Federal Prison Handbook

Interview with Christopher Zoukis, prison rights advocate and author of Federal Prison Handbook: The Definitive Guide to Surviving the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

How would your advice for new writers differ from advice you would offer writers who have been in the game for a while?

When it comes to those new to professional writing, I would say that you need to read what you want to write and also read a lot about how to refine your craft and market yourself. It’s hard to get going in this industry. But with a lot of time and effort, it is certainly possible to make a name for yourself. The key is in understanding the type of writing that you want to write and how to market your brand within that arena.

As for those who have been in the industry for a while, the game is changing. It used to be that if a book wasn’t published by one of the Big Six that it didn’t stand much of a chance. Now, even if a book is published by a large publishing house, it still might not stand much of a chance. New technologies and avenues of connecting with readers are the wave of the future. Harness these tools, think outside the box, and figure out how to get your expertise (or flavor of fiction) to the end user in a manner that they want. The current era is that of the hybrid author — an author both traditionally published and self-published. There is a strong argument for pursuing the hybrid path in today’s market.

When you take a break from writing, is it a full and total break or is your mind constantly parsing the world for fodder? What does that parsing look like? How does it make you feel as an artist? As a human being?

As a writer I feel that I’m an odd sort. I’m all on or all off. So, when I’m all on, I write like my life depends on it. I outline, create a self-imposed quota system, and muscle to the finish line. I’ve found that when working this way it is important to take time off. This is why I try to vary my tasks, and to cycle whenever I can. I go from books to articles to book reviews to interviews and so forth. I also try to build in projects that aren’t writing-related. I work out, play Ultimate Frisbee, and try to schedule a little time each evening to hang out with a friend to decompress.

One word of wisdom that I would offer aspiring book writers (and those who have already published their works) is to really think about what type of book the world really needs. I always have five books in the back of my head. They are all worthy, at least in my not-so-humble opinion. But when it comes to devoting a year of my life to something, I need to select a project that is going to succeed. So, when deciding what to do next, a writer should really think about the reader and the industry. What is missing? What do readers crave? And is there a book that readers don’t even know that they want, but won’t be able to live without once they have it? This is the book that you need to write next.

From your perspective as an author, what do you feel is the biggest challenge to the publishing industry today? Is there a way to solve that challenge?

Making money as a writer is a challenge. Most of us will never be New York Times bestselling authors. That’s the truth of it. So, we need to find a way to make our writing work for us and pay the bills. As a nonfiction author, one way to do this is to use your book as a business calling card, which draws attention to your primary product — which may not be your book. Writers who want to live a comfortable life need to plan on not making a whole ton of money on their books, but to structure their books and businesses in such a way that a revenue channel can be capitalized upon.

What books are you currently reading?

I tend to read a lot of school books these days due to being a graduate student at Adams State University. So, typically I’m reading a lot of business textbooks. I just finished a book on organizational behavior last week and am about to start a book on managerial finance shortly.

I also engage in a healthy amount of non-school reading. Right now I’m reading the Magisterium series of novels by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. These are phenomenal books. They remind me a lot of Harry Potter. I’m also reading Journalistic Writing by Robert M. Knight to help hone my craft a bit and Bigger Leaner Stronger by Michael Matthews to upgrade my fitness knowledge.

Finding the discipline to keep writing can be tough. Which “get writing” techniques are most effective for you?

I try very hard to cycle my projects, because I find that I get burned out very easily. So, the best “get writing” technique that I have is to vary my projects. A close second is to outline and implement a self-imposed quota system. If I’ve outlined a 20 chapter book, then I might push myself to complete a chapter every week or two. Then, after the rough draft is down on paper, I might set a quota of polishing one chapter every week. This quota-based system helps me push myself to project completion. In this respect, I’m very business-like with my writing projects. I like to think of myself as a project manager who needs to ensure that the writing project is done on time, at an appropriate level of quality, and that it fulfills my readers’ needs.

Can you give us a sneak peek into your current project?

Sure. If you swing by PrisonerResource.com you can check out my Federal Prison Handbook. In this book I’ve tried to answer all of the questions that a new or seasoned federal prisoner, as well as their loved ones, may have. You can also use the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon.com. This provides readers with a sample of the book prior to purchase.

Tor’s New Novellas

Tor moved into publishing novellas. Here’s the press release listing brief descriptions of their first ten books:
New York, NY – Tuesday, February 3, 2015 Last summer Tor.com announced the formation of a new
publishing program, dedicated to publishing the best novellas and short novels from emerging
writers as well as established authors. Following an extensive period of reading and
commissioning, we are excited to announce our inaugural list.
All of the books published under the new program will be made available in ebook, print on
demand, and audio formats via online retailers. Your local brick-and-mortar store will also be
able to order these for you.
We will be publishing three to four books a month beginning in September 2015, and these
include:
The Last Witness
by K. J. Parker
When you need a memory to be wiped, he’s the one you call. Transferring unwanted memories to
his own mind is the only form of magic he’s ever been good at. But now, he’s holding so many
memories he’s not always sure which ones are actually his, any more. Some of them are
sensitive; all of them are private. And there are those who would kill to access the secrets
he’s trying to bury…
A classic Parker tale with a strong supporting cast of princes, courtiers, merchants,
academics, and generally unsavory people.
Every Heart a Doorway, Every Word a Prayer
by multiple Hugo winner Seanan McGuire
Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under
a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging
somewhere… else. They have their adventures, live out their stories, and – if they’re lucky –
die before they reach the end. Because magical lands have little use for used-up miracle
children, and those who win find themselves spat back into a world that isn’t theirs anymore.
But what happens to the children in fantasy stories, when their tales inevitably end?
Sorcerer of the Wildeeps
by Kai Ashante Wilson (DEBUT)
The Sorcerer Demane bears the bloodline of the long-departed Gods, granting him the strength
and grace to pass through a troubled world. Still, he longs for more, for the love of his
Captain and the freedom to express it. Horrors stalk the road they travel in this dark—but
joyous—epic fantasy from an exciting new talent. Tor.com has been proud to publish Wilson’s
short fiction in the past, and we are delighted to have the opportunity to bring his work to a
commercial audience.
The Builders
by Daniel Polansky, author of the Low Town series
A missing eye.
A broken wing.
A stolen country.
The last job didn’t end well.
Years go by, and scars fade, but memories only fester. For the animals of the Captain’s
company, survival has meant keeping a low profile, building a new life, and trying to forget
the war they lost. But now the Captain’s whiskers are twitching at the idea of evening the
score.
Of Sorrow and Such
by Angela Slatter
Mistress Gideon is a witch. The locals of Edda’s Meadow, if they suspect it of her, say nary a
word—Gideon has been good to the community, and it’s always better to keep on her good side.
Just in case.
When a foolish young shapeshifter goes against the wishes of her pack, and gets herself very
publicly caught, the authorities find it impossible to deny the existence of the witches in
their midst; Gideon and her like are captured, and tortured, bound for a fiery end.
Should Gideon give up her sisters in return for a quick death? Or is there a way to turn the
situation to her advantage?
A tale of loyalty and betrayal, of hope and everlasting damnation from a World Fantasy Award
finalist.
The Drowning Eyes
by Emily Foster (DEBUT)
When the Dragon Ships began to tear through the trade lanes and ravage coastal towns, the hopes
of the archipelago turned to the Windspeakers on Tash. They could steal the breeze from the
dragons’ sails and save the islands from their wrath. But the Windspeakers are gone, leaving
only the young apprentice Shina to bring their magic back and save her people. The Drowning
Eyes is the debut release for Emily Foster, who we discovered during our open submissions
period.
With additional stories from:
Paul Cornell
Mary Robinette Kowal
Alter S. Reiss
Scott Harrison
Sylvia Spruck Wrigley
David Tallerman
Guy Haley
Michael R Underwood
Matt Wallace
and many more…
Senior Editor Lee Harris said, “We’ve been working hard to find some great novellas to launch
our line, and we’ve been delighted by the quality and breadth of the stories we received. We
can’t wait to share them with our readers.”
The Tor.com novella program is headed by Publisher Fritz Foy and Associate Publisher Irene
Gallo. The editorial team is led by Senior Editor Lee Harris, with Carl Engle-Laird, Editorial
Assistant, and support from a team of commissioning editors, which includes Jonathan Strahan
and Justin Landon.
About Tor.com
Tor.com publishes original fiction, art, and commentary on fantasy, science fiction, and
related subjects across all media by a wide range of writers from all corners of the field—
including professionals working in the genres as well as fans. The aim of the site is to
provoke, encourage, and enable interesting and rewarding conversations with and among our
readers. Tor.com debuted online July 20th, 2008 and currently reaches 1.5 million readers a
month.
Tor.com’s novella project acquires worldwide English rights in print, audio, and ebook formats.
All other rights are retained by the authors.
Note for Editors
Every Heart a Doorway, Every Word a Prayer by Seanan McGuire was acquired from Diana Fox of Fox
Literary, along with an as-yet unnamed second book.
The Shootout Solution by Michael R Underwood was acquired from Sara Megibow of KT Literary
Agency, along with a sequel, The Absconded Ambassador.

Agency Pricing: Good for Indie Publishers and Heritage Authors

The Bookseller and Publisher’s Lunch reported recently that HarperCollins is returning to agency pricing on ebooks.
Agency pricing means that the publisher has the right to set the price for its ebooks. This means no deep discounts on Amazon…or anywhere else. It’s likely that ebook prices will remain high generally, with publishers experimenting with sales and promotions either through their own channels (the direct-to-buyers channels they’ve been opening up over the past year or so) and through third-party distributors.
This is good for them because it allows them to experiment with different release windows, different pricing structures, and even bundling to find out what works best. That’s great news for heritage-published authors. The stronger publishers grow, the more likely it is that advances will rise.
The same approach means that indie authors can continue to reach readers directly through pricing that is lower than the average price point of the big publishers. And because it’s expected that traditional publishers will keep prices high (at or above $9.99), this means that indie authors will be able to boost their own prices to as much as $8.99 and still be viewed as a bargain.
So, hurray for agency pricing!