How Imprints Differ from the Parent House in Book Publishing

October 26, 2017

With 2018 fast approaching, it’s time to start thinking about your writing/publishing plans for the new year. Technology has allowed so many changes in the book publishing industry that I thought it might be good to get back to basics.

Parent houses are the large entities that publish books. As many of the large houses gobbled up their competitors over the years, fewer and fewer large publishing houses remained, That meant there were fewer places authors and their agents could approach with book ideas.

A solution came when parent houses divided their various (and often unrelated) editorial segments into imprints. Imprints are part of the parent house, but many imprints have their own editorial staff  (and most likely their own budgets) dedicated to the specific area that imprint publishes.

There are several reasons a parent house will have various imprints, but the most common are to keep the genres/subject areas separate from each other and the ability to focus its appeal toward each different demographic group. In other words, an imprint is much like a trade or brand name. Having different imprints allows the parent house to expand the types of books it offers under its corporate umbrella.

One important thing for you as an author to understand is the parent house will most likely not allow its imprints to compete with one another for buying your work. Why not? It’s not good business to allow two divisions of your company to bid against each other for the same item.

A new year is coming, so start thinking about how you’re going to make it your best year ever as an author/writer. Happy writing!

Write Great Leads in Nonfiction Articles

July 21, 2017

One of the best things about being a writer is the variety of choices you have in deciding what to write–articles, books, short stories, etc.

One of the hardest things about being a writer is writing a lead that entices the reader to consider reading your article, then keeps the reader reading past the first paragraph.

Two obvious ways to write leads are (1) offer an anecdote that makes the point of your article, and ( 2) use a quote that grabs your reader and highlights the focus of your article.

When you don’t have either of those options, use these steps to help you write a great lead.

  • Imagine your reader and why he/she might be looking for in an article on the topic you’re writing.
  • Ask the question, “What’s in it for me?” from the reader’s perspective.
  • Answer the question by showing the reader in plain language what he/she will learn from reading your article.
  • Keep a conversational approach in your writing. Remember that your reader is looking for information, but not necessarily a class or complete education on the subject.
  • Respect the reader’s time by delivering meaningful information the reader can use.

You may find you have to write the first draft of your article before you can use the steps above to actually come up with the lead that will work for you. But that’s okay. You’ll know from the first draft what you can offer the reader, then you can write the lead to entice them and deliver what you promise. Happy writing!

Rejection Means You’re Working

June 22, 2016

If you’ve ever submitted a query letter or book proposal to a publisher, chances are you understand what it means to get a rejection letter. If you get one of those, don’t despair or think you’ve failed. Instead, remind yourself rejection means you’re working. You can’t get rejected if you don’t submit your query or proposal, so give yourself credit for pursuing your writing career and send your query or proposal to the next publisher on your list.

Here are some tips to help you remember that failure doesn’t mean your writing journey is done. It just means you’ve taken a detour.

  • Take chances. Doing nothing assures you won’t succeed at reaching your goal of being published.
  • Accept that you (like everyone) will make mistakes. Learn from those mistakes instead of trying to hide them.
  • Learn to endure temporary defeat. And I do mean temporary. Every time we fail, we earn another opportunity to succeed because we gain information, learn what doesn’t work, and get to try again. Every defeat helps us work toward a future victory.
  • Prepare to fail. By that I mean you’re better off to create both best-case and worst-case scenarios, then determine whether or not you can live with the worst case. If you can, push forward. If you can’t, work on a new plan that you can live with.
  • Be open to new possibilities. You may have a particular end result in mind, but another opportunity you hadn’t considered could pop up. Allow yourself to consider the new option.
  • Learn from your failures. If you get a rejection notice, try to figure out why. For example, how well did you research the types of articles or books the publisher publishes? Did you verify you’re sending your query to the correct person? Well, you get the idea.
  • Avoid blaming others for your failures. Taking responsibility for your mistakes isn’t always easy, but if you honestly exam why you didn’t succeed, you might find you dropped the ball or didn’t do everything you could have to get what you hoped for.
  • Fix what went wrong. Going through these tips is helpful, but nothing will change unless you do something to change what went wrong. Start by giving yourself credit to trying, create your plan to correct what went wrong, then move forward by doing something.

Failure isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Always be aware that you are not a failure, only the effort you put forth failed. You will eventually succeed as long as you keep moving forward. You will most likely fail if you give up. I say most likely because you may make the decision to stop. That’s not failure. That’s a decision. Happy writing!

Write Something Every Day

August 18, 2015

Summer got away from me as I expect it did for many. But a quick glance at the calendar shows school starting soon, fall colors appearing after that, and holidays and year-end coming.

This is a good time to get your new writing routine established, and here are some tips to help you do just that.

  • Writers write and sometimes get published. If you’re not writing, you’re waiting. If you’re waiting, you’re losing time and denying others the beauty of your insights, your observations, and your talent. The best way to hone your writing skills is to practice by writing something every day.
  • Put forth your best effort every time you write. I didn’t say you had to write perfectly. I simply said do your best. Athletes practice to get better at what they do. So do dancers, singers, musicians, quilters, etc. No one practices to get worse. As long as you’re writing anyway, give it your best. You can always go back and work on your project again if you decide to.
  • Keep your faith in yourself and in your writing. Everything you write won’t be stellar, so if your support system loves everything you do, expand your support to include those who will make suggestions for improvement. Those suggestions are meant to show you that you can write and you should keep going.
  • Listen to yourself. If your imagination is taking you someplace you hadn’t expected, instead of fighting the urge to move in that direction, go with it for a while. One mystery author told me she had to rewrite her novel because the character she intended to be the murderer wouldn’t do it, so she had to change murderers and ended up with a better story.
  • Have realistic goals. You may get published (or you may not). You may write literary fiction (but commercial/genre fiction offers a better opportunity for being published). You may write poetry (but poetry is extremely hard to sell). If you’re writing simply to write, that’s wonderful. But, if you’re writing to publish and earn money, study the marketplace and learn what it takes to get your book published and what it takes to sell books once you are published. If you’re writing for the periodical market, learn what the publication publishes, how much of the publication is freelance versus staff written, how payment works, etc. Dreams are super, but have realistic goals.

I hope these few tips help you figure out how to make writing something every day part of your fall routine. Remember that no one else writes what you write, so get busy. Happy writing!

Ten Commandments for Getting Published

August 27, 2014

Authors enjoy more publishing options today than ever. Still, the thinking that being royalty published is the ultimate goal remains for many authors. It is with that in mind that I write this post.

I. Thou Shalt Write. It’s amazing how many authors dream of being published but don’t find time to write. Begin with a writing goal in mind (could be time, pages, character sketches, or whatever), then commit to working on reaching the goal.

II. Thou Shalt Write Well. Like it or not, the English language has standards. Learn them, then apply them to your writing.

III. Thou Shalt Revise. Most things created by humans are not perfect. So it goes with writing. Revision means taking a critical look at the writing flow, the consistency of detail, the word choice, etc., and doing it sentence by sentence.

IV. Thou Shalt Understand the Publishing Business. Publishing is business, not dream fulfillment. As in any business venture, the axiom that one must spend money to make money holds. You may have to invest in yourself as a business by attending workshops, researching, etc. If you expect publishers to invest in your writing, why wouldn’t you do the same?

V. Thou Shalt Understand Submission Rules. If the agent or publisher’s submission guidelines say to submit only query letters, do not send sample chapters. If they say to also submit sample chapters, do not submit only a single-page query letter.

VI. Thou Shalt Take Rejection in Stride. One of my writing professors in college told me that rejections mean one thing–I’m working. How right she was. She taught me to create a list of possible markets, then send off my query to the first one on the list. If my offer (NOTE: I said offer, not me personally) was rejected, check off that name, say, “Next,” then send to the next name on the list. Repeat as necessary.

VII. Thou Shalt Learn Patience. Publishing can be a slow process. If you’ve submitted your offer, instead of waiting by the mailbox every day, get busy. I hope you get busy writing, but get busy doing something.

VIII. Thou Shalt Work Positively with Editors. Join a writers group if you want feedback while writing. Then, after you’ve finished your article or book, find an editor. Editors are there to help you improve your writing, so strive to work positively with that person. Granted, not all editors are good fits for all writers, but when you find one you can work with, you’ve struck writing gold.

IX. Thou Shalt Not Frustrate Publishers. When you’re selling something to someone, that person becomes your customer. Irritating customers is not good business. If your primary contact at your publisher is your editor, that person becomes your customer.

X. Thou Shalt Manage Expectations. Few things in life go exactly as expected. So it is with publishing. Learn to manage your expectations and reduce your frustrations.

Above all, remember that you cannot be published if you don’t write. Happy writing!

Make Better Decisions

June 19, 2014

Writers constantly make decisions as they write. They decide what to include, when they’ve done enough research, who their characters are, what their characters do and when, etc. Perhaps the hardest decision is deciding when an article, story, or novel is finished.

When the writing is done, writers make decisions about whether to self-publish, royalty publish, or subsidy publish. If they decide to self-publish, they also decide what type of book to publish–hard cover, soft cover, audio, e-book. Then there are decisions about editing, cover design, interior layout, pricing, etc.

Once published (and it doesn’t matter whether an author is royalty published or published some other way), marketing the book is totally up to the author. That means more decisions about publicity, book signings, publish parties, media coverage, web presence, etc.

Here are some questions to help you make better decisions.

  • Is this something you want, or is it something you need? Life is full of wants, but you’re better off to take care of deciding the things you need first. It might help you distinguish between wants and needs if you try to imagine life a year from now and the impact your decision will have on your writing, publishing, marketing, budget, income, etc. in a year.
  • Have you investigated all your options? It’s easy to justify a bad decision with “I had no choice.” As a friend told me at lunch this week, “You always have a choice, but every choice has a consequence. You have to decide if you can live with the consequence.” For example, if you decide to pay to publish, there are consequences involving budget and  decisions on editing and design, etc. But if you decide to find a royalty publisher, there are consequences involving ownership of your intellectual property (you no longer own it) and basic decisions about your book.
  • Are you being honest with yourself? If you’re telling yourself what you want to hear, you may not be completely honest with you. I’ve often told the story about a member of a writing group my husband and I belonged to. It was hard to follow this writer’s writing because it was disjointed, angry, and venting. Finally, after this writer was done with a reading and the room was silent because it was hard to comment on what we had just heard, my husband  asked the writer, “What are you trying to say?” As if really thinking before answering, the writer looked at my husband and said, “Good question.” The writer never came back, but he and I happened upon each other during a business call a few years later. Since we were on the phone, I didn’t recognize his voice, but when he heard my name, he introduced himself and told me to thank my husband for asking the question years earlier. It made him really think about his writing, and he was happier because he moved on to other things in his life.
  • How “right” does your decision feel? It’s hard to define what feels right, but you know it when you feel it. If you’re struggling with a decision, tune into your body. Does the option you’re considering make you feel energized or drained? The answer is a good beginning for determining how right a decision feels.
  • What would you do if you weren’t afraid? If you’re afraid of something, that fear will hold you back whether it’s a realistic fear or not. Just because an option instills fear into you doesn’t mean it’s a wrong option. Do your best to avoid letting fear make your decisions.

Consider the idea that most decisions can be changed with another decision. If you’re a writer, you’ve got lots of decisions to make. Today’s as good a day as any to start making them. Happy writing!


Marketing Your Writing is a Journey, not a Sprint

May 12, 2014

I encourage you to increase your awareness of how many radio and television guests are pushing books. I also encourage you to be honest with yourself about how well you retain the book’s title, author’s name, etc. Most of us won’t recall either one shortly after the guest moves on.

Yet, there are some books and authors we do remember, so what did they do to make themselves “famous”? One word sets those we remember apart from those we don’t–repetition.

Steps to getting famous:

  • Work up a plan for getting your name out everywhere. Consider venues that are both large and small–local shows, local print, local events can serve you, as can national opportunities.
  • Consider all the different types of media available to you in your campaign to be famous. Get quoted in print. Become a guest on radio or television. Write a guest blog post or article for online opportunities. Speak to groups. Appear at events.
  • Expand so you reach beyond your niche. Romance writers cross over into mysteries. Sales experts expand into marketing. Even Stephen King wrote a book outside the horror genre. Maybe something in your personal life will move you into new arenas you never thought of before.
  • Timing is everything. If you’re writing an article, make sure it’s relevant for when it’s being published. I’m writing this the day after Mothers Day, which means I shouldn’t be wasting your time writing about what flowers to get Mom for her day.
  • Expect you, not the media, to reach your audience. Think of the media as vehicles, but you are the driver. Fame is fleeting, but if you keep working at it, readers and editors will recognize your name, and recognition can turn into book sales, article sales, etc.

Start by brainstorming the things you’re willing to do to market your writing, whether marketing your book or selling articles. Avoid being a “also-ran” television or radio guest with a book. Work up a plan and follow it. Happy writing!

5 Tips to Writing Copy to Sell Your Book

April 28, 2014

One of the biggest lessons authors learn is writing their books is the easy part.

Authors who publish their books independently soon learn that today’s technology and resources make publishing easier than it’s ever been, but publishing is only one step in getting the book to the customer.

Perhaps the most difficult thing authors learn about book publishing is that authors (whether published by a royalty house or published independently) are responsible for selling their books once published.

Here are five tips to help you write copy that can turn your book into a best seller.

  1. Think like the customer, not the author/publisher/seller. Most authors write their marketing materials from their point of view instead of thinking about what the customer wants. To think like a customer, answer these questions. What does my customer need? Entertainment? Information? How would I describe my customer? What issues could my customer face? How can my book help my customer face those issues? When you start to think like the customer, you can begin drafting ideas on what to include in your marketing materials.
  2. Offer benefits, not features. Benefits help while features describe. Customers are interested in getting help and solving problems. People buy groceries because they need food. They buy gas so they can drive their cars. They buy books to be entertained, to discover answers to problems, to pursue interests, to escape the rigors of a hectic world. Think of how your book can benefit your customer and focus your marketing materials on benefits, not features.
  3. Grab attention with benefit-oriented headlines. Effective headlines typically come in three varieties: (1) Ask a question, (2) Create a list (typically with numbers in the headline), (3) Appeal to emotions. For this post, I could have written “Do You Want to Sell More Books?” or “5 Tips to Writing Copy to Sell Your Book” or “Write Great Marketing Materials and Sell More Books.” All of the choices are oriented toward the benefit of reading my post.
  4. Tell a story. People love stories, especially stories that engage them emotionally. What kind of story works in marketing your book? Offer an example of success of someone applying the principles in your book. Provide a testimonial. If you’re marketing a novel, write your story synopsis so your reader simply has to read your book.
  5. Research articles and books on copy writing and book marketing. The Internet provides more resources and information than you’d get in a college course, but you need to be the self-starter and do your own research, then practice. Hey, you’re a writer, so you’re used to research!

There you have five tips for writing copy to sell more books. Remember, people buy the author, not the publisher, so no matter who your publisher is, selling your book is your responsibility. Happy writing!

Can You Call Yourself a Writer Even if You’re not Published?

January 30, 2014

When I taught my Writing for Fun and Profit Series, one of the first questions I asked on the first night was, “Who here has told someone you’re a writer?” Amazingly, only one or two hands went up.  I’d focus on those who raised their hands and say, “If you tell someone you’re a writer, you typically get two questions. What are they?”

The answers came without hesitation: What do you write? Are you published?

The implication is you can’t call yourself a writer unless you’re published. But that’s so wrong because the truth is you can’t be published unless you write.

Thus, I maintain a writer writes and sometimes gets published.

Still, most writers want to be published, so here are some tips for getting someone other than yourself to publish what you write.

  • Write nonfiction. Periodicals publish nonfiction. Newsletters publish nonfiction. You can still write fiction or poetry, but your chances of being published increase if you write nonfiction.
  • Focus on smaller publications. My first published piece was in a local newspaper, but over the years I was published by national women’s magazines, wrote a syndicated newspaper column for fifteen years, and wrote or contributed to numerous books. It all started with a smaller publication. Don’t overlook niche publications that focus on special interests or organizational newsletters. If your goal is to collect publishing clips, these are good places to start.
  • Match what you’re offering to what the publication publishes. That may appear obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many writers don’t take the time to do this step. I sold my first query to Victoria magazine, my first query to Woman’s World Weekly magazine, and my first query to Mpls/St.Paul magazines. How? By studying what types of things they publish, then offering articles that fit.
  • Expect little or no payment. Small publications pay less than large ones–that’s just a matter of budget and fact. But they are  good places to start, just as local theater is a good place to start or local opportunities to play music are good starting places. Payment may be small or non-existent, but you’ll achieve a different goal–that of being published.
  • Shoot for the larger publications as well. All of these steps are not meant to encourage you to think small, Quite the contrary. If your idea fits what the large publication needs, you may get the assignment, so go ahead and try.

Can you call yourself a writer even if you’re not published? Absolutely, yes! Remember, you cannot be published unless you write.

Happy writing!


Magazine Writing Basics

November 19, 2013

With so many options available for writers to get published today, I thought I’d get back to basics regarding magazine writing. As one award-winning magazine editor once said, “If there’s a subject out there, there’s a magazine for it.” Granted, some niche publications pay very little, but if you’re looking to establish your publishing credentials, consider writing for magazines, even if the magazine serves a small readership.

Consider these tips as you research your market.

  1. Perception is everything. You want to present yourself the best you can, so use professional letterhead for your query letter, for example.
  2. Success spawns imitators. If a magazine is successful, you can be assured imitators will follow, so why not offer additional (not the same) ideas to the rest of the magazines in the field?
  3. Look for new twists on old ideas. When I took a semester-long college class on writing for magazines, the one nugget I’ll always remember is, “If you’re not getting at least three different angles for articles out of every subject you research, you’re not working effectively.” I interviewed an antiquarian bookstore owner once and sold four articles to four different publications: (1) what used book booksellers look for when buying books, (2) what improper storage does to antiquarian books, (3) a literary event (an Emily Dickinson poetry reading) held in the store, and (4) a personality profile of the bookstore owner.
  4. Try to plan at least six months out. This post is written in November, which means you should now be thinking about sending query letters pitching summer vacations, lawn care, summer safety, home remedies for insect bites, sun hazards, honeymoons, keeping kids busy when school’s out, etc.
  5. Request writer’s guidelines from each magazine you want to write for. And, even more importantly, once you get those guidelines (many are available online, by the way), follow them! Don’t make it easy for the editor to reject you.
  6. Consider the magazine’s audience. You can often find this information without too much difficulty, but if you can’t, do your own analysis to determine the obvious such as percentage of readership that’s female or male and the primary readership age group. Then, think psychographics as well demographics (urbanites, suburb living with its associated commuting to work, country lifestyles, collateral interests readers may have, etc.).
  7. Care about your topic. You write better if you’re genuinely interested in the topic rather than just researching an article simply to make a sale.
  8. Tune into the news for ideas. Granted, magazines have a longer lead time and can go into more detail than the news media, but I still got an idea for an article by simply watching this morning’s news. The story noted the word of the year for 2013 is selfie and it beat out twerking. I think magazines would buy articles on how words make the list, how new words get into the vernacular, who decides the yearly winner, and how language/dictionaries/word processing programs/etc. are impacted with the addition of new words each year. I haven’t given it much thought, and you can have the idea if you like, but my point is to underscore how the news can get your ideas flowing.
  9. Go through the past six issues (if possible) of the magazine you want to query to see if it has recently published an article on the topic you want to write about.
  10. Send your query letter  to the managing editor. If there’s no managing editor listed on the masthead, try the articles editor. If no luck there, send it to the third name down on the list because that  person most likely has some decision-making authority.
  11. Be sure you let the magazine know how to contact you. Some still want to hear from you via the postal service until they’ve established a relationship with you because they don’t want their email flooded. However, you always want to include your email so they can get right back to you if they want to.
  12. If you include samples of your published articles, make sure the samples are relevant to the topic you’re querying. I almost lost an assignment to a national magazine because my “clips” weren’t relevant. Thankfully, the editor decided to offer me the assignment anyway and it worked out, but I’ll never forget that lesson!

Whether you’re a seasoned magazine writer or just beginning, it never hurts to review the basics. But you can’t get published if you don’t write, so get busy. Happy writing!