Tag Archives: Markets

O is for Online

Online is a big word. But what does it mean for a writer? It means ‘online presence.’ What is your online presence? Have you ever tried searching on your name? Hit Google and type it in. You might be surprised. If you have an uncommon name, you might get some interesting results.

Using A Computer For Browsing Internet And Checking Email

More to the point, how can you build, maintain and grow an online presence? What can you do to ensure that this appears the way you want it to? That is a trickier question. We’ll start with the basics.

If you are not on a social media platform, then by all means, pick one. Just start somewhere. Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter. I have only met one author in all my years in publishing who really didn’t need to be on social media. She was 80 years old and had published a book of her mother’s letters. It was more than a personal family project, but not her own work. She needed something online, so she created a website, and was good with email, so that was all I could ask of her. I cannot imagine her zipping along on Facebook. It just wasn’t going to happen.

You’ve already seen my Early Early Early mantra. If you are knee-deep into your book already, it’s not too late. But start as soon as you can. It may take years for you to truly get where you want to be with your online presence. It can be done quicker, though, if you focus and work on it.

The first thing you should do is to synchronize your presence. Make sure that you are appearing as you want to appear wherever you are mentioned. Be mindful about your brand. This may involve some thought, it may involve a designer creating a logo, it may involve a discussion with someone who can help you focus your goals.

Once you get a concrete idea of who you are and what you are trying to do online, you need to cultivate that presence. Be aware of how others perceive you. It takes some work, but then so do most things worth doing. When you speak to someone online, remember that you are speaking to them as that online presence. If this is simply your personal self, so be it. But if you are trying to cultivate an image of being upbeat, offering helpful advice, and coaching people, then it wouldn’t do, for instance, to complain about your neighbor, office mate or traffic all the time. Find somewhere else for that outlet.

This is not to say you should be phony. I know, it’s complicated. Your online presence should not be artifice. But it should be on purpose. I know one author who does an excellent job of engaging with her fans, but she doesn’t mention the names of her family members. And when her father died a couple of years ago, she simply stated that and said she was taking some time off social media (this was all happening on her Author page). This allowed her fans to express their condolences, but not to be enmeshed in her personal grief. This is one of the biggest arguments in favor of having an Author page on Facebook. So that you can keep the personal personal.

I do know some people who simply mix it all together. They would have to be gregarious, extroverted people in order to do this, and that does not describe most authors I know. If those who are naturally private do not separate their personas, it only causes them to be wary of social media and stilts their engagement. An online presence that cultivates the professional aspect of what they are doing will serve to allow engagement on that level, which is better than none at all.

You can engage on social media without giving away all your secrets. You just have to do it on purpose. Draw up some rules, if that will help. What will you not mention? What areas are off limits? Kids’ names? Names of their schools? The name of the town where you live?

On the other hand, if you want to just go all out and be yourself on social media, you can do that too. It’s all about your comfort level and what you are trying to do accomplish. The bottom line is, the more you engage, generally the more your online presence will grow.

Your online presence is about more than social media, though. It includes your website, your blog, and any profiles you may have on any other websites. It includes posts that you leave on other people’s blogs, it includes guest blogs, and it includes information about you on the websites of any organizations you may be involved in. I am a member of several organizations that include member information on their websites, including the Minnesota Book Publishers Roundtable and the National Book Critics Circle. I also have bios on websites for which I’ve done a guest blog, where I’ve taught a class, or where I’ve participated in a reading.

All of this makes up your online presence. If you want to ramp this up, the first thing to do is to sit down and think about what you are trying to do overall. If you can pinpoint that, you will be on your way to a cohesive, professional image that will project your mission to the world.

One last thing: Know that being active online may lead to some conversations you may not want to have. You may find that not everyone online is a nice person. Someone who continually makes nasty comments or who tries to pick fights is called a troll. Be aware of the trolls. Above all, don’t engage them. Just ignore them. They are the schoolyard bullies of the internet.

N is for Newspapers

If you think about having a review published, very often what comes to mind is your book being reviewed in your local newspaper. Oh, of course it’s always nice to be a different city’s newspaper, or to perhaps have something in the New Yorker or the big trade pubs like Publishers Weekly or Library Journal. But the newspaper – that’s where the people you know will see your book discussed in print.


There are other reasons for having your book reviewed in newspapers. I don’t think I have to convince you of this. It sometimes happens that bigger newspapers pick up the reviews of smaller ones. Often a review with accompanying event information will lead to bigger crowds at your events.

As you may suspect, newspapers are inundated with books to review. Laurie Hertzel, the Books Editor at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, is very transparent about her work. She posts photos of the stacks of books that await her whenever she comes back from vacation. She has posted videos of the trek she takes to the book room, where shelves full of books await her. Her standing policy is that she won’t review self-published books, because she has to draw the line somewhere.

When I send books to Laurie, I often will try to entice her coverage with news of events, and certainly news of what else the author is doing. If the book is a real stand-out in its genre, if it has some mitigating factor that might separate it from the hordes, or especially if there is any tie to current events or real news, I will let her know. Laurie gets about a shopping cart full of books every day, and I have to make it as easy as I can for her.

Still, it is not often that she reviews a book I send to her. There are just so many others. I have worked with her on finding other reporters to cover it, sometimes: a memoir by an acclaimed actress and singer was covered by the Theater reporter; a novel that featured baseball was sent to a sports columnist. It’s important for me to know who else does what so that I can take a stab at wooing someone else, and offer their readers something different.

Over the years working with Laurie I have picked up various hints and tidbits. It helped me to know when working with a small publisher that Laurie sorted her books by month of publication. I tried hard to convince this publisher that yes, they really did need to set a launch date, and have a firm publishing month. Maybe the beauty of working with a small publisher is that things can happen more quickly, but the basic tenets of working with the media still apply. Let them know when they can expect your book to hit the street.

In general, newspapers need to have review copies 2 to 3 months ahead of time. I realize that this can be difficult for some people, and that this idea of having the book ready to go, and waiting, is one reason why many people choose to self-publish. But if those same people also want to see their book reviewed in general media, they need to have the patience to produce the advance reading copies (ARCs) and get them out ahead of the launch date.

Send a list of events that have been set up, particularly if this is your local paper. But even if it’s not, that list will let the paper know that there is at least a modicum of demand for hearing you speak about the book, and that there are places willing to have you do so. Of course, highlight anything local.

I always include a press kit. This will include a short press release, which is not just a synopsis of the book but a little information about the author and what they are doing. I also typically include a bio of the author, and a short synopsis of the book. Sometimes, I will include another bit that is created specifically for the book, such as a character interview or a fun list or something. But never, no, never will I include glitter, or anything else that takes up bulk or is messy. When I was a book review editor, I received packets of cocoa (nice thought, that) and assorted other items. But they never swayed me.

Laurie recently had the misfortune of moving offices with the Star Tribune. Apparently to avoid confusion, a rabid publicist sent a review copy to her house via FedEx (that’s just creepy). When Laurie finally tracked down the publicist, she was told that she just thought the ‘super’ would sign for it. Folks, we don’t have supers, not in Minnesota. So Laurie had to go to the FedEx office after work and sign for the package. Do you think this endeared that publicist to her? It would have been far better if she had just sent the book through normal channels. Moral of this story: don’t make the books editor work harder to get hold of your book.

My experience of five years as a book review editor and the short stint I worked on a newspaper (during which I worked for the Arts editor and did interviews and reviews) taught me that the work must speak for itself. Like all the journal editors said during my recent AWP experience: send your best work. And for newspapers, send it early.

L is for Libraries

This week just happens to be National Library Week. How awesome is that? I mean, I love libraries. A week celebrating something I truly love is a wonderful thing. I love my own library, and I love just about any library that I come across.


I have heard many authors say, “But the library lets people read my book for free! How does that help me?” Let me tell you that if that is your concern, you are missing the point. The theme this year for National Library Week is “Unlimited possibilities @ your library,” and I’m here to tell you it’s true.

My area is blessed with a vibrant and thriving library system. I have several library systems within 50 miles of my house. These neighboring systems have thriving Friends organizations, as does my own. The population that uses these libraries is as broad as you can imagine.

My home libraries are my favorites. I am very lucky. I know that. I live in Minnesota, which I believe has got to be one of the library centers of the country. I’m only basing that on the fact that my own system and neighboring systems are so strong, it’s silly. And that everywhere else I go, the library looks pathetic compared to what I’m used to. I frequent two local branches of my library system.

What do these libraries do for me? I have an online account, which allows me to reserve titles that interest me, and pick them up at my local branch when they become available. I also belong to two different book clubs, through two different branches, which allow me to have book discussions that I would have never had otherwise. There is programming that I go to. I have done research there. I have volunteered there in the past, and I know the librarians. It’s a comfortable place to go.

Many authors don’t realize the importance of libraries. Think about it. If a child reads your book at a library, they could be a fan for life. If a single branch shares a copy of your book (or multiple copies) with patrons, they could become the fans that request your subsequent books be purchased by the library. And eventually, you could be one of those authors who has 14 copies in the system with a queue of 152 people who will wait to read it. Not instead of buying it, understand, but instead of reading something else.

If you are lucky enough to have a local library (and I understand that not everyone has the same embarrassment of riches that I have), then you should frequent it. Go there. Go to the library and get to know your librarians. If they have programming, check it out. My local systems have a rich assortment of programming, including many author events, regular reading series, book clubs, and classes. I always recommend the classes to anyone who wants learn anything about computers. It’s a great place to start.

They can help you learn about ebooks. They rent ebooks! At some libraries, you can even rent an e-reader, if you want to try it out. They can help you learn new computer programs and find out about all kinds of new things. Libraries are also vast repositories of databases. My system hosts many different databases – from series lists to historical information. Great for research. They will also do inter-library loans, which let me get books from all over the state. How great is that?

Friends groups are another component of the library that you should get to know. The Friends groups that I am familiar with are very active, and sponsor award programs, loads of programming, and have gala events every year. They run used book stores and periodic blow-out sales, and raise funds for collections and buildings. They are dedicated groups that work behind the scenes to make sure the library remains strong.

So the fact that libraries loan books for free is a plus, not a minus. If a library sees demand for a title, they will order more. If they see it has won awards, they will include it in displays. If they run a reading series, they may ask you to come be a part of it. It’s all great exposure. Librarians are voracious readers, and are often asked for recommendations. If you are familiar to librarians, you will find this carries a lot of weight. Many times, I have read a book first after getting it from the library, and then later purchased it for myself. It’s a place to discover new authors, to find out about new things, and to go to just be with a lot of books. It’s like-minded people.

J is for Journals

Now, I don’t mean to keep bringing this up, but it just so happens that I was at AWP this week. One of my goals in going to AWP was to find journals that might be appropriate for my work, meet the people involved, and pick up samples. Spend some time getting to know them.

I’ve made a renewed commitment to my writing this year, and this involved a lot of soul-searching, which included finding some things that I was not too happy with. I am, eternally, the cobbler with no shoes (I know, same thing as blogging). I am a writer who does not submit. Or who does not submit enough. For a long time, I worked on the premise that if I saw a good place to publish, or a good contest, I would write something to fit it or see what I already had that would fit. Now I have decided to just write, and then look for places that fit my writing, instead of the other way around. I think it’s better this way.

Oh yeah. And to actually submit. For five years I’ve been teaching a publicity class at The Loft Literary Center, and students always ask how they can get publication credits. Well, I know the answer. Submit. But I haven’t been doing it myself.

So learning about journals is one of the first steps. I always kind of gave them a cursory look, but I haven’t ever really taken a good look. In the past three days I have learned a lot talking to folks and got some good tips in the sessions I went to. One of the people I met is the editor of The Review Review. I always recommend this resource to my students, as it has great articles about various genres, and includes reviews of one journal in every issue. It’s a wide and deep site, and there is bound to be something there for any writer. Sign up for the email newsletters. The subject headlines alone are worth it.

Recently there was an article about AWP in which the writer said that even the publishers and publicists there probably were secretly writers. I have never been secretly a writer – at least in my own head. I’ve always self-identified as a writer. But along the way, somehow I got sidetracked in my outward persona. So it’s time that I was outwardly a writer to everyone else I know.

So when I walked up to these tables that is what I said. And they asked, “What do you write?” And I said, “Creative nonfiction and poetry.” And that, my friends, feels good.

Let me suggest to you that you also consider publishing small pieces before you go whole hog with your book. I mean, keep writing the book. But consider if a chapter might work as a short story. Or flash fiction. I can’t believe how many places had calls or contests for flash fiction. Certainly if you write essays or poems you would do well to send them out singly. The feedback alone could be worth the effort.

Another thing I heard, from both book publishers and journals, was that they liked to see a commitment to submitting and to the publication. For instance, a book publisher would like to see work from a customer who has supported the press. A journal would like to see more submissions from someone who has not been accepted, especially if they liked an earlier piece but for some reason didn’t accept it. The lady at New England Review (NER) told me that if someone received an encouraging comment on a piece that wasn’t accepted, that person should definitely submit again. Persistence and patience. Patience and tenacity.

Another thing to remember is not to discount a journal because it may seem too small, or it may seem like you wouldn’t fit. There is a journal in Marshall MN called Yellow Medicine Journal that deals with indigenous material. The author doesn’t have to be indigenous – somehow when I heard indigenous journal I felt like I wasn’t allowed. But I talked to the editor today and she was all, “No! It’s about indigenous people – all over the world.” It’s a matter of the content, not the author. So yes, I might have something for that.

Also, places like Georgia University and Harvard Review want your stuff. Even if you are not an Ivy Leaguer or from the South. The editors there told me what they were looking for, and the HR editor went so far as to say “It cuts both ways.” (We may think “Harvard” means elitist, but they want all types of people to submit, so they are not getting the submissions they want.) They want all comers, but all the journals want different things.

So study your markets. Be consistent. Try to read what you can. The editor of the Tupelo Press was at a session and he said, “There is a home for a lot of writing. And your job as a writer is to find that home. How you do that is by reading.”

Start with The Review Review website. Go to your local bookstore and check out any local or national journals they carry. Try your library. It can be hard to find some of these outside of academic libraries. If you get a chance to go to a book festival, see if there will be a CLMP (Council of Literary Magazines and Presses) display. Check with your local colleges. And certainly, the journals are a great part of AWP.