Writing Advice & Recommended Reading List
I no longer have time to answer individual questions on writing, so have grouped some general advice here. Remember: a career in writing means, usually, years of legwork, research, and above all--practice. If you don't have perseverance, you might as well find another career to which you can aspire, because I guarantee you, you must have a LOT of: perseverance, talent, and resilience, to succeed as a writer.
The Nuts & Bolts of Writing:
The Nuts & Bolts of Writing
Part 1--Advances and Royalties
I get a lot of questions about writing and publishing. A whole lot. From how do you know what to write to how do you get an agent. And that's not a problem. I don't answer them individually because I simply don't have the time and I'm not running a writer's workshop here. But I try to answer what I can in my blog as I can, to reach the maximum amount of readers as possible. Today, I'm going to give you the first in a three part series I wrote about what happens after you make that sale. Some of these things aren't necessarily going to be what you want to hear, but if you want to know what you're facing and help stack the odds in your favor so you keep getting contracts and so you aren't surprised, pay attention.
I was giving a talk one night to a local RWA group and realized how much misinformation is out there about what happens when you get 'the call'...and while some of it makes for high hopes, it can also lead to plummeting gutbombs when you realize just how much of a dinosaur the publishing industry still is-and with the current economic recession, it's not getting any better.
Remember, there are always exceptions to the following, but for the most part, don't count on it.
First, I'm going to talk about how an advance works (and remember, each traditional print publishing house will be slightly different, but this is the general model that most of them work off of):
Your agent calls you and tells you that you're going to be getting an offer for a book/multiple books-she's negotiating with them now. Let's call the imaginary publisher Books Books Books, Inc. This is your first contract, and let's imagine it's a mystery series. Big bucks swim in your eyes, making you salivate. The next day (or two days later) your agent calls you and says, "Congratulations-I got you a three-book contract!" You're ecstatic, screaming in her ear.
And then she says, "You're getting fifteen thousand dollars!"
You scream again and say, "Per book?" And then the bomb drops. Your agent says, "No, for all three." But you're thrilled, even if you have sticker shock. You're going to be published-and that's what counts. And fifteen thousand dollars, well, it's coming at the right time-you need the money! Over the next couple of months you can pay off a few bills, buy that new mattress you need. Right?
Here I present the way advances and royalties work--in general. Books, Books, Books offers you fifteen thousand dollars for three books. But you won't see 15K up front. You'll be lucky to see 7500K up front. In fact, the way the industry's headed now, chances are good you'll only receive one third on signing the contract, and then the rest of the advance will be split in one of several ways.
Two scenarios, both industry models. There are a few others but these are fairly common:
1) On signing (and that means 1-2 months AFTER you send back the signed contract, which may take 1-3 months to even SEE after it's been agreed on): you'll receive a check from your agent for 5,000, minus her standard 15%. Which means you'll get a check for $4,250 because your agent will take out her commission before she sends you the money. Remember-there's been no income tax taken out of here, no social security payments, nothing. This is gross, not net profit. Come April 15th, you're going to have to ante up for the IRS so save all those receipts and stash some cash away. You'll want every deduction you can legally claim.
During the time the publisher draws up the contract, your editor will most likely schedule delivery dates on the books with you. Let's say the actual book they bought was Murder Murder Me-MMM. You've already written it, so (as I said in Part 1) next step is that you'll go into revisions for that book with your editor. You still have two books on your contract to write (Murder Murder You-MMY, and Murder Murder Mugsy-MMM). So your editor schedules delivery and release dates:
MMM-you've delivered the manuscript already as of 3/1/08. Release date 8/1/09
MMY-outline due on 5/1/08, manuscript due on 2/1/09, release date: 5/2/10
MMM-outline due on 3/1/09, manuscript due on 9/2/09, release date: 2/2/11
So your agent sends you the payout schedule. The publisher is divides up the remaining 10K advance this way:
$1000 on acceptance of outline of MMY (5/1/08)
$2000 on acceptance of the manuscript of MMY (2/1/09)
$2000 on publication of MMY (5/2/10)
$1000 on acceptance of the outline of MMM (3/1/09)
$2000 on acceptance of the manuscript of MMM (9/2/09)
$2000 on publication of MMM (2/2/11)
Remember, you'll be receiving those amounts less your agent's 15%.
And: no, I'm not joking. I've had a lot of contracts divided out this way. And often, it takes a month or so when your editor gets the manuscript for them to read it and approve/accept it.
Still with me?
A second industry standard is for the advance to be divided up this way:
Same one-third up front.
$2500 on acceptance of manuscript of MMY
$2500 on publication of MMY
$2500 on acceptance of manuscript of MMM
$2500 on publication of MMM
Again, you're not exactly rolling-in-the-green. For a single title, it will be divided into halves or thirds as well.
As your career grows, IF you sell enough for the publisher to want to keep you on (and trust me, people-I know writers who've written 30-50 books and they're still worried about getting new contracts-there's NO guarantee), your advances should increase. Some writers will never see more than 10K a book. Others will see extremely large advances due to their writing/books/series becoming extremely popular. Promotion is your best buddy to reach that stage, but as always-if you don't write a book that grabs the reader and keeps them coming back, all the money in the world that you pour into publicity won't help you.
Take a deep breath, I know you're crouching under the table, begging me to shut up by now. I know you'd rather ignore all this and just write and get handed a paycheck. I know it sounds dismal and yes, it can be, at least for the first few years. I know this, it's true, but this is the reality of the business and if you want to make a career out of writing, get used to dealing with it and learn, because otherwise you can end up either very disillusioned or potentially screwed over if you don't plan out your budgets. It really helps to have a working spouse who supports your writing habit, folks. If you don't, then you'd better write a lot of books-and a lot of writers I know, do. Including me. I have a working spouse but I have no intention of just making a marginal living off 55-70 hours of work a week.
And yes, there are exceptions to the rule, where you blow away everybody with your first or second book and hit very high on the lists. The exceptions do happen, but believe me, they're rare, and it doesn't always happen a second time. I know a lot of writers. I know a lot of writers who've been writing for years but they don't make a living off of it. And I know a number of writers who make a good or great living off their work, including me, but it took almost ALL of us at least several years to build a loyal audience. It's taken me 14 years of professional publishing to reach this point. I also know a very few exceptions who made big bucks off their first or second book. You can't predict what's going to hit and what isn't.
Okay, so how do royalties work?
In your contract, there will be a stipulation as to how much you'll make in royalties. Now bear in mind, the average book sells less than five thousand copies, especially in hardback. Paperback mass market really is a good way to start off because you are likely to sell a lot more books that way. Trade paperback, well-it's somewhere in the middle.
Say your mysteries are coming out in mass market paperback, for which the stores will charge $7.99 a book. If you have a standard royalty agreement you'll receive anywhere between 6-8% for the first 150K copies sold. Let's say you average out at 50 cents a book-common enough. To make back your advance-because until your work pays off it's advance you won't see another cent on the book-your book has to sell approximately 10,000 copies to make back the $5000 advance per book.
Now, here's where it's a good thing to have a smart agent! They'll do their best to keep you from being slapped with a joint accounting clause in your contract. Joint accounting clauses suck. If there's one in your multiple book contract, it means the publisher can withhold royalties on all books until ALL the advances of the books under that contract are paid off. Get it? If your first book sells 15,000 copies, 10,000 go to paying off the advance for that book. But, with joint accounting, instead of making $2500 royalties after the book's advance is paid off, that 2500 would go toward paying off the advance on the second book, which may not even be out yet. There are some houses that won't let you wriggle out of them, but it's best if you can.
Still with me? I know, I know, it's confusing. So, let's say you have a good agent, you have no joint accounting, and your first book has a first print run of 20,000 (common in romance, not that common for mystery and SF, which usually have far smaller first printings) and sells 15,000-which is good. That's a 75% sell-through rate (very important to keep the sell-through rate high, meaning at least around 65-70%). That means that your book paid off its advance and there are 2500 lovely dollars in royalties there. Does that mean you'll see that much at your first royalty check? Um...no. Not necessarily.
Most publishers pay royalties twice a year-usually in April and September or May and October. The royalty periods run from Jan-Jun, and July-Dec. Meaning all books sold during Jan-June count toward your September royalties. And all books sold from July-December count toward next April's royalties.
But, the publisher has a way of providing themselves a cushion against 'returns'...this is called 'reserves against returns'...and what it means is that-through some complicated equation that nobody in the industry seems to understand and that never seems fair-they withhold a percentage of your royalties in case the bookstores return books. What really seems unfair, though, is that a bookstore can return books at any time. Seven months down the line the bookstore can strip your covers and return them, and bingo, those are returns and they are negatives against the books on your record.
Now, I believe there is some law (don't quote me on this) which states that they have to turn over the reserves after a two year period of holding them. Maybe it's just in my contract. Whatever the case, there should be a timeframe that limits the amount of royalty periods the publisher can withhold those funds. And most publishers don't hold them that long. However, I can tell you that I've seen over half my royalties held in reserves before. Eventually I'll get the money, unless returns are huge, however-meanwhile the money sits in the bank making interest for the publisher. And no, you don't get the interest.
So you'll receive a royalty statement twice a year, and, if your books sell enough to pay off their advance-a check (minus your agent's 15%). Here's where the backlist is golden-as long as your books stay in print and sell, if they've paid off their advance, you'll be getting royalties on them. I still get royalties off my second book, over ten years down the line from when it was published. Not a lot, but enough to make me smile.
Now, I'm sure you know this but to reiterate: you will NOT make any money off used books sales from used book stores.
And your royalty rates will differ for library sales, large-print sales, foreign rights sales, hardcover sales, e-format sales, audio-format sales, and so forth. Which is why, again, you are best served by having a knowledgeable agent who understands this stuff.
To give you an idea of the legalese, my contracts run about 12-14 single spaced, tiny print, legal sized pages. Yes, I read through them before I sign them and it's nice because I can see the parts where my agent negotiated changes on-they do strikethroughs. And trust me, I'd never even THINK to try to argue those points myself because bluntly put, if I hadn't asked her about them, I wouldn't have understood what they meant.
This has been long, so I'm going to stop here and in part 2, I'll tackle what happens in terms of the work after the sale.
I know I've probably left your head spinning. Just remember: this is a business. A competitive one. Publishers aren't there to be your friends-they're there to make money off your work and unless your work sells, you're looking at a bleak future.
You need a good agent or literary lawyer in your corner, looking out for your best interests, and friends who are authors, with whom you've created mutually supportive friendships and connections. Friends who are in the business can help you when nobody else understands what a pain this industry can be, especially when--like me--you're in the "I write to stay sane" camp.
The Nuts and Bolts of Writing-Part 2: After You Get The Contract
Today, I'm going to give you the second in a three part series I wrote about what happens after you make that sale. Some of these things aren't necessarily going to be what you want to hear, but if you want to know what you're facing and help stack the odds in your favor so you keep getting contracts and so you aren't surprised, pay attention.
For the record: no, you do not have permission to forward this via email (you may forward the link to my blog with no problem), nor to print it out other than for your own personal use, and I will be very unhappy if I see anybody's posted this elsewhere on the web. And an unhappy Yasmine is an unpleasant Yasmine. ~smiles~
Remember, there are always exceptions to the following, but for the most part, don't count on it.
1: You may wait up to two years to see your first book in print after they make an offer. Or more.
A few writers I know have waited longer. I was lucky-Llewellyn bought Trancing The Witch's Wheel in April 1996, and the book hit the shelves in the summer of 1997. For my fiction, Berkley bought Ghost of a Chance (and two other books to be written) in August 2002, and Ghost of a Chance hit the shelves in August 2003. I've also seen the downside-Sexual Ecstasy and the Divine was contracted in 2000, along with Crafting the Body Divine. CTBD came out in November 2001, just in time to crash and burn along with the Towers-a lot of books that came out around 9/11 died a resounding death. The book isn't out of print, but the publisher went under thanks to the economic downturn, and by the time they sold to another publisher, the book had been hit by the kiss of death. SETD didn't hit the shelves till March 2003-almost three years after it was contracted.
2: Expect revisions.
They may be few, they may be many-sometimes as you go along in your career, they get fewer and fewer per book as you learn. But the bound, printed volume on the shelf is likely to be significantly different than the one you sold the publisher. Why? Because new authors, especially, make a lot of mistakes-mistakes in pacing, or in length.
When my agent sold Ghost of a Chance, I was amazed when I talked to the editor about revisions. She loved the book, but wanted a couple major shifts in the plot and the villain (more about that in another post-I didn't write the book as a cozy originally), she wanted extra scenes inserted-things I thought would kill a book's chances at being bought.
So you've got work ahead of you. Don't play the diva-do NOT argue unless it severely compromises your vision of the work. If you're cooperative on the smaller stuff, when something really does matter, they're likely to take your protests more seriously. Now, my revisions seldom take more than an hour or two, but I know people who get extensive revision letters. I've usually had about a week to finish revisions.
3: After the book is revised, it goes to the copyeditor, who checks for consistency, for typos, punctuation, all sorts of things.
Most houses send you the copyedits to go through. If there's something that just doesn't sit right (and sometimes the copyeditors do make mistakes), you write STET in the margin by the change, which tells them to leave it alone and not make the change. I've had ms where I was using STET over and over again because the copyeditor tried to rewrite the book in her own style (NOT a good thing). I've also had manuscripts that were a breeze to go through. This is the last chance to make big changes and I've often inserted a few extra scenes here, or re-written paragraphs. Most often, turn around time for me has been ten days-meaning it was due back on the editor's desk ten days from the time it showed up on my doorstep. Meaning until now, I've given Fed-Ex a LOT of business. But now, Berkley is moving to track changes, meaning electronic copyedits and page proofs. I'm not fond of track changes, but you learn to adapt and be cooperative. ~grins~
4: After the copyedits are done, the manuscript goes to what are known as page proofs (sometimes also known as galleys).
The book is printed the way it will look in bound copy, but it's still on single sided sheets of paper. Most houses send you page proofs-I would dread working with a publishing house that didn't. Here it's vital you go through the manuscript with a fine tooth comb. This is the last chance you'll get to make changes-and you can't make many unless the publisher screwed up, because it costs them a lot of money and will come out of your royalties if you're just making changes for the hell of it. The publisher will also have people proofreading through it-but be aware, there's always going to be some slipup, some typo that you don't catch. It's like some unwritten rule of the universe-there cannot be a book in print that's typo-free. And it's like a slap in the face when you see it in the bound copies-sort of that, "oh crap" moment when you realize your eyes jumped right over some stupid, obvious mistake. Turn around for page proofs differ, of course, but for me it's usually a week or so.
5: The next stage won't happen for all books. This is when ARCs (advance reader copies) are printed up for reviewers.
If you're lucky, you'll get some. I get a handful, there are other publishers that give their authors more and some that don't print ARCs at all. These are sent out to reviewers and that's how come you'll see a review for a book that's not on the shelf yet. ARCs aren't supposed to be sold-it's usually plastered right on the front-NOT FOR SALE...but a number of reviewers do, anyway.
6: And lastly-the bound copies of your book come out.
You'll get a certain number (stipulated in your contract). Usually between 10 and 100. These are yours to use for promotion, to give to family, whatever you want to do with them. I usually give a few away in contests, I use them for inclusion in promo baskets and for conference promotion, and I give my sister, my MIL, and my sisters-in-law copies, along with one or two close friends who can't easily get hold of my books. You'll most likely get your author copies shortly before it hits the shelves. If you're lucky.
By the way, during all of the above, you'll be busy writing your second book--so you'll have to learn how to drop work on one to make room for the above process.
Get used to multi-tasking. Now.
So now, your book is on the shelves-release date is here and you're holding your breath. What about promotion and coping with after the book is out? Tune in next month during my writing post for part 3.
The Nuts and Bolts of Writing Part 3: Promotion
And so I come to the end of my little blogging brainstorm here-promo and sales.
I'm glad these posts helped some of you--I sure as hell wish I'd had access to info like this (direct from the author's mouth) when I was starting out. I read about the business, about marketing, but there's nothing like experience to give you the down and dirty.
Once you get a contract, that means the publisher is going to take out big ads in the magazines, get you on Oprah, and make sure they do everything possible to recoup their advance money by promoting you. Right?
Um...once again, nope.
UNLESS...they gave you a damned good advance, and even then it behooves you to get out there and do promo on your own. Most of the time, new authors are tossed to the waves to sink or swim. Those who sink, disappear quietly after a few books. Those who can swim, may have a chance of rising in the business.
First, you have to understand the concept of sell-through. As I mentioned in Part 1-about Advances-sell-through is the percentage of books that sell out of a print run. A print run is the number of books they print at one go. Not all books get the same print runs. The print runs for my mysteries were fairly low-12-20K. The print runs for my urban fantasies...well...I'm not supposed to name numbers but we're talking a hell of a lot more.
You want your book to go to multiple print runs-this doesn't mean that every single book in the prior one sold, by the way-there will be some returns where the cover was stripped (if you're paperback), there will be some books that were returned by readers to the store-those aren't re-sold.
But overall, going into multiple print runs is a Very Good Thing. (For example, Witchling's well into its 6th printing-I'm not quite sure, and Changeling is either in 2nd or 3rd, and Darkling, I think is in 2nd, so are most of the others). Each successive print run won't usually be the same as the first-which most of the time will be the biggest.
Okay, so let's say your book has a print run of 20,000 copies. A good sell through-in today's market-will be around 12-15K. A great sell through is 15K+. A lousy sell-through and your next contract probably won't be much better than your first, if you get one at all. So what can you do to ensure that sell-through? What promotional tools work?
That all depends on your audience...and your budget.
First, the publisher's likely to suggest that you work your butt off promoting. The simple reality is that publishers seldom pay for huge ads in magazines and newspapers for newbie authors.
"Do I need a publicist?" you might be asking. That's a really good question. A good publicist can work wonders, but they will also be expensive. A bad publicist will rip you off royal and probably cause more harm than good. And sometimes it's hard to know up front just who is who. So if you decide to hire one, ask for references and check them out thoroughly. You could end up with a 10K bill for what you could have done free.
Next--determine your audience. Are they a tech-oriented audience? Do they hang out on the net? More and more readers are doing so-and so the internet is a great promo place. However, it's not the be-all and end-all.
I asked my publicist what the top four, relatively inexpensive promo activities
I could do and here's what she told me, in order:
* A good website that you keep up to date
* MySpace-get yourself a MySpace page
* A blog
* FaceBook and Live Journal.
I have all of the above. I have to say, MySpace has been one of the hands-down best places where readers have found me.
I mirror my blog onto MS because there are people at each online community who won't cross over to the others. It's a lot of work, yes, but it pays off, especially if you write books that have a tech-savvy audience (don't discount anybody-your grandma probably gets online now, and chances are she doesn't just use email).
Just be careful what you blog about-blogging about drunken binges may seem funny, but your publisher or agent might see that (yes, they do peek), and think you aren't the most stable person to work with. Or you may have a strong faction of readers who don't like drunken debacles and it makes you look unprofessional.
Once you are in the public eye, consider that anything you slap up on the net is there forever because somebody somewhere will see it, even if you take it down three hours later. And they may save a copy and show it around. So think before you blog. Think about what image you want to project.
As a new author, you might be thinking about book signings and tours? Aren't they the be-all and end-all of promoting?
Again, no. Be aware that most book signings are usually scantily attended. You'll be lucky if more than 15 people show up, even when you're a bestselling author. The biggest crowd I ever saw at a signing was for Sherrilyn Kenyon-the line snaked out the door and went on for over an hour. I sat there, staring, thinking, "WOW."
So don't make the mistake of scheduling dozens of signings-most of that time is best used writing.
However, you do want to carefully cultivate a relationship with several bookstores around the area (and via email/snail mail).
Genuinely forge a professional friendship with an indie bookstore owner or a bookseller at a chain store and they will handsell your work like hotcakes. Handselling work means that the clerk/owner recommends your work, in the indie stores they may keep it right up front where customers see it when they first come in, it means that they take an interest in your career and they do what they can to boost it. I have forged a friendship with a local indie bookstore who will sell signed copies of my work via the mail, so if people want a signed book they can order it through the store, I drop in to sign it (they also have signed copies in stock), and bingo! I've also forged a good relationship with personnel at a local chain store and I always try to give them priority in book signings.
When you do a book signing-follow some simple rules. Be professional. Show up on time. Show up sober (think I'm joking? No-I've heard a few horror stories from bookstore owners about drunken or rude loud-mouthed authors). Don't play the diva, don't insist on being waited on hand-and-foot, don't blame the bookstore owner for the lack of attendees unless it's like my Signing From Hell that I had years ago, which I'll discuss in a later blog.
Now, I hate my picture taken (I have photo-phobia pretty bad), so I politely demure, but I'm always nice to the readers who make a special trip to see me and get their books signed. I figure if they took the time and trouble to come to my signing, I'm damned well going to be grateful and polite.
I sign books from my backlist, I sign books the reader bought used even though I don't make a dime off them, hell-my favorite signing story was at a nonfiction signing. A man came up carrying a copy of Embracing the Moon, the book was falling apart in his hands and he held it together with a rubber band. It was highlighted all the way through, notes scribbled all over the margins. Howie-the man-was very shy and could barely speak loud enough to ask me to sign it.
I'm not a huggy-type person, but I saw how much he loved that book and I offered him a hug and he walked away with a huge smile on his face. I felt humbled by how much my work meant to him.
Sometimes, if you do reach that uber-popular state (ie: Sherrilyn Kenyon, Laurell Hamilton, Janet Evanovich, etc.), you may not be able to sign more than the current book at each signing-but until then, be flexible.
I also find that I prefer signings where I'm giving a talk or discussion, and I love signings where other authors are signing with me (as long as they're polite). Those seem to have the best draw and hey, it's more fun with a couple people to talk to while you're sitting there.
Most publishers won't pay for your book tours until you reach a certain stage in your career, so if you choose to fund one yourself, make certain to hit key areas that seem to have a wide readership and save all those receipts.
Magazine Ads: I never used to spring for them because they can be so damned expensive. It's hard to tell if they actually work, but like most of the promotion you do, you'll never quite know what's doing the trick and what isn't. I now take out a few ads-Romance Sells, in RWR, in Romantic Times Magazine when I can afford it. If you decide to go this route, pinpoint magazines likely to reach your audience. And ask your publisher if they'll design the ad for you for free-my publisher will design ads for its authors for some magazines and it saves me the fee of having somebody at the magazine do the layout.
Blog Ads: One thing my publisher tried with Changeling-and that they've kept doing for me is to buy an ad on Blog Ads for my books. Do they help? Well, traffic to my site while those ads are up spike in HUGE amounts. Four-six times the usual daily average traffic showed up on my site stats. Again, they're expensive, but if I had a great promo budget-I'd think about it.
Postcards, Bookmarks, Etc: People have varying experiences with these, but I love them. Especially postcards-if you have great cover art, they're a good investment. What do you do with them once you have them? Think: networking. Get on some of the professional writers loops. Ask if anybody's going to any conventions and if so, would they be willing to take a stack of your postcards for the Goodie Tables. I send out thousands of postcards this way each year. Every time I hear of a conference asking for promo items, I send them a stack of postcards and bookmarks. Spring for good quality cards, too. Don't go the cheapie route unless you absolutely cannot help it.
Also, if you write romance, paranormal romance, or anything akin to it-Romantic Times Magazine offers a special service. They have a list of 700 indie bookstores and if you send them 700 postcards, they'll include them in a special mailing, so the bookstore owner gets a look at your new release coming out. Send them out so they'll be in the issue either a month before, or the month of your book release. RT charges under $120 for this service, and that's a whole lot better than postage and time to hunt down all those bookstore names yourself.
I also leave stacks of postcards with the booksellers I've befriended for them to hand out.
Joining internet forums, etc., can be helpful too-just watch what you say, remember that a lot of people can be really nasty on the net-especially if you're doing something they want to be doing.
Join writers discussion groups, make friends with other authors-networking goes a long way. Don't say something about another author or editors, publishers, or agents unless you're willing for it to get back to them and potentially rebound on your own career. Publishing is an incestuous world and it's easy to put your foot in your mouth. If you don't have time to blog consistently, join-or form-a blogging group.
Conventions and conferences are another venue for gaining readers, for making yourself known, and for building your reputation. Offer to do workshops and to speak at writing groups. Just make sure you know what you're talking about.
The big problem with promotion is that it's hard to know what works and what doesn't, so you should approach it with a multi-faceted plan. Begin your promo plans the day you have a confirmed title, if not before.
Have that website ready to go before the ARCs come out.
Do your best to meet other authors but be assured-most authors who've been around for awhile can tell when you only want to know them for what they can do for you. Don't try to pull off the buddy-buddy routine unless you genuinely want to know them. Otherwise, keep it on a professional peer-relationship basis.
And show a little respect for the veterans of the business-as with every career, those who've been around the block a lot of times are a goldmine of information and advice. And they've earned their stripes by staying alive in an industry that can eat you up and toss you out on your ass if you don't perform well.
There are also a number of books about book promotion. Read them all and listen for what resonates. If you aren't good at public speaking, then presenting a workshop may not be your best bet. If you aren't tech-savvy, hire somebody to help you build your website.
Oh, and one little tidbit of personal advice? Remove the music from your MySpace page or do not set the player to begin automatically. Readers who come looking for you may-like me-be listening to their own music on their computer and the minute a second song blares over the top, I'm outta there. Or they may be at work, not supposed to be on the net, and when Monster Rock comes blaring out of their cubicle, that may be the last time they ever venture to your page).
Okay, there's a LOT more about promo that other authors can chime in on-so please do so, in the comments thread.
Promo is vital because A) if your books don't sell, kiss your career goodbye, B) writers want to be read-we write to communicate and without an audience, we might as well be talking to the mirror, and C) there's a vast and interesting world out there, and your readers are part of it.
The woman who wrote me my very first email fan letter (and my second actual fan letter-I got on the net in March 1998, the month my second book came out) went on to become a friend of mine and we still write to each other.
Several other dear friends started out as my readers-and a lot of my acquaintances started out as my readers. You never know who's going to be following the trail of cyber-crumbs to your computer's doorstep.
And as a caveat-be careful. There are some wacky and deranged people out there. I had a cyberstalker some years back-it's scary stuff, so use your common sense when talking to people on the net or revealing anything about yourself that might be too personal...also, it can eat up your writing time to get into too many penpal like relationships--you have to say "no" sometimes).
copyright 2008 Do NOT reproduce
Writing Sites That are Legit:
There are no doubt many more on the net, but these are ones I've dealt with over the years.
Yasmine Galenorn's Recommended Reading List For Writers
Of course there are many, many wonderful books out there, but these happen to be some I've found the most interesting. I will update this list as I continue to read and explore the world of language.
Bickham, Jack: The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes
Bishop, Leonard: Dare To Be A Good Writer
Block, Lawrence: Writing The Novel
Block, Lawrence: Spider, Spin Me A Web
Bower, Donald E.: The Professional Writers Guide
Browne, Rita Mae: Starting From Scratch
Buchman, Diane & Groves, Seli: The Writer's Digest Guide To Manuscript Formats
Burack, Syliva: The Writer's Handbook
Casewit, Curtis: Freelance Writing
Cook, Clair Kehrwald: Line By Line
Crawford, Tad & Lyons, Tony: The Writer's Legal Guide
Fredette, Jean: The Writer's Digest Handbook of Short Story Writing Volume II
Garrison, Roger: How A Writer Works
George, Elizabeth: Write Away
Levoy, Gregg: This Business of Writing
Maass, Donald: The Career Novelist
Maass, Donald: Writing The Breakout Novel
McCutcheon, Marc: Building Believable Characters
Merriam Webster: The Merriam Webster Concise Handbook For Writers
Polking, Kirk: Writing A to Z
Provost, Gary: Beyond Style
Strunk & White: The Elements of Style
Writer's Digest Books: The Writer's Digest Guide To Good Writing
Beinhart, Larry: How To Write A Mystery
Bintliff, Russell: Police Procedural
Chase, Eliane Raco & Wingate, Anne: Amateur Detectives
Grafton, Sue (Editor): Writing Mysteries
Lyle MD, D.P.: Murder and Mayhem: A Doctor Answers Medical and Forensic Questions For Mystery Writers
Page, David: Body Trauma
Ramsland, Katherine: The Criminal Mind: A Writer's Guide To Forensic Psychology
Kenyon, Sherrilyn: The Writer's Guide To Everyday Life In The Middle Ages
Benedict, Elizabeth: The Joy of Writing Sex
Le Guin, Ursula: Dancing On The Edge of the World
Le Guin, Ursula: The Language of the Night
Ochoa, George & Osier, Jeffrey: Writer's Guide To Creating A Science Fiction Universe
Williamson, J.N.: How To Write Tales of Horror, Fantasy & Science Fiction
The Psychology of Being a Writer:
Asimov, Janet and Isaac: How To Enjoy Writing
Bradbury, Ray: Zen in the Art of Writing
Brooks, Terry: Sometimes the Magic Works
Brouhaugh, William: Just Open A Vein
Dillard, Annie: The Writing Life
Els, Susan McBride: Into the Deep
Epel, Naomi: Writers Dreaming
Friedman, Bonnie: Writing Past Dark
Goldberg, Natalie: Long Quiet Hightway
King, Stephen: On Writing
Lamott, Anne: Bird by Bird
Rosenbaum, Jean & Veryl: Writer's Survival Guide
Sarton, May: Journal of Solitude
Ueland, Brenda: If You Want To Write
Interviews With Authors:
Murphy, Stephen M: Their Word Is Law
Drury, John: Creating Poetry
Jerome, Judson: The Poet's Handbook
Moyers, Bill: The Language of Life
Magill, Frank: Masterpieces of African American Literature
Merriam Webster: Encyclopedia of Literature
Canfield, Jack: The Success Principles
Canfield, Jack: The Power of Focus
Covey, Stephen: The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People
Culp, Stephanie: How To Get Organized When You Don't Have The Time
Ayto, John: A Dictionary of Word Origins
Bartlett: Bartlett's Familiar Quotations
Oxford University Press: The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations
Oxford University Press: The Oxford English Dictionary
n/a: Roget's Thesaurus
n/a: Webster's Unabridged International 3rd Edition Dictionary
Blanco, Jodee: The Complete Guide To Book Publicity
Gaughen, Barbara & Weckbaugh, Ernest: Book Blitz
Howard-Johnson, Carolyn: The Frugal Book Promoter
Kremer, John: 1001 Ways To Market Your Books
Levinson, Frishman, & Larsen: Guerilla Marketing For Writers
Warren, Lissa: The Savvy Author's Guide To Book Publicity
How & Where To Find Publishers & Agents:
Herman, Jeff: Writer's Guide To Book Editors, Publishers, and Literary Agents (Current Year)
Writer's Digest Books: Writer's Market (current year)