Big announcement today, folks. I've joined the blogHOUSTON team and will be chatting it up about Houston. You can find my first post about--what else?--Houston bookstores. If you've a mind to, stop by and say hello.
I'd like to say that life is getting back to normal; however, I'm not sure what normal is anymore. Life at Borders has been busy due to the nearly 2-week interruption by Hurricane Rita, and I suddenly find it's time for the Texas Book Festival and my first appearance on the "author's list" and on a panel. I'll be driving up to Austin Thursday and plan to attend Simon Winchester's talk that evening. Having attended the book festival in the past as a book lover and then as a Borders Books employee, I must admit it's a lot more fun to be on the list of attending writers and being listed as a panelist. I guess it's one of those benchmarks that we sometimes have--but don't always realize it.
Texas History Hits the Road will be on Sunday,Oct. 30th in the Texas State Capitol in Austin, in the Capitol Extension Room E2.014 from 1:30-2:30pm. The signing will be afterwards in the booksigning tent. Lori Moffat is the moderator, and she is an associate editor at Texas Highways magazine. Other panelists besides myself and my coauthor, Elaine Galit, are Mary Jo Powell and Jon McConal. If any of you are up around Austin, I hope you'll stop by and say hello. (Brief bios on everyone is listed at the bottom of this post.)
Recent news includes the success of Houstonian author Deanne Gist whose debut novel A Bride Most Begrudging, published by Bethany House, is currently climbing three Christian bestseller lists. I’ve known Deanne for many years and am delighted to hear the good news of her first novel. This has been a long time coming for Deanne. So for all of you plugging away, keep writing.
BIOS Elaine L. Galit, coauthor of Exploring Houston with Children, Exploring the Arts and Culture of Houston with Children and Exploring Texas History: Weekend Adventures, is an award winning freelance writer. Her work has appeared in anthologies such as Chicken Soup for the Volunteer's Soul, Women Forged in Fire, and Chicken Soup for the Working Woman's Soul. Her more than 150 magazine and photo credits include Writer's Digest, Houston Generation Magazine and Woman's World. Elaine spent several years as a bookseller and Community Relations Coordinator for a local independent bookstore and has taught writing at the University of Houston, Cinco Ranch.
Born in Brownwood to peripatetic parents from a German Hill Country background, Mary Jo Powell grew up in Dallas, attended Trinity University in San Antonio and knocked around the United States for a while before returning to Texas. She settled in Austin, earned a Ph.D. in history from the University of Texas there, and raised two boys and a series of Labrador Retrievers. The boys have gone off to live their own lives and she has retired from the competitive work place to try to earn her bread by writing.
Jon McConal, a Texas native, retired from the Fort Worth Star Telegram in 2001. Before retiring , McConal wrote "Jon McConal's Texas," a three time weekly column about characters and historical places in small Texas towns. His book, Jon McConal's Texas published by Texas Republic Press, is a collection of those columns. McConal has won some 40 writing awards, including being named Star Reporter of Texas by the Texas Headliner Association and three national medical writing honors. His book, My Years with Bob Wills, chosen by Publisher's Weekly in 1978 as one of the top books of this region, is now in its third printing in paperback by Aiken Press.
Vikk Simmons, is an avid reader, writer, blogger, and photographer who is passionate about writing and traveling and loves to combine the two. Co-author of three travel books, including the recent Exploring Texas History: Weekend Adventures, and two young adult novels (Video Magic and Divided Loyalties), Simmons and her co-author, Elaine Galit, were named Barnes and Noble Authors of the Month for their first book, Exploring Houston with Children. She also spent four years coordinating book events and promotions for Borders Books, Inc. During that time she received a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from Vermont College. After a two-year stint as communications director for a local church, she recently returned to Borders Books to work in the corporate and educational sales program. Simmons is a sought-after speaker and often speaks on creativity, the publishing industry and the business and craft of writing.
Houston has an interesting writers group known as the Authors and Publishers Association (AAP), and they want to know more about the blogging life. They have asked yours truly to speak about my experiences as a blogger the past couple of years and how I've integrated them into my writing life. I've known about the group for a number of years and every meeting I've attended has been informative as well as interesting. The group aims to cover as many facets of being an author and publisher as possible. It doesn't hurt that they meet in a great place, either: the Houston Museum of Printing History.
A non-profit association based in Houston, AAP is composed of authors (and would-be authors), editors, designers, artists, printers, publishers, self-publishers, marketers, distributors, booksellers, Internet professionals--anyone associated with the production, development, marketing, and distribution of books. According to the website, APA exists to assist writers, authors, publishers, and tradespeople, in keeping the literary craft alive and seeks to encourage tomorrow's Hemingways, Vonneguts, and Sagans. APA is a Publisher's Marketing Associate (PMA) and a Small Press of North America (SPNA) partner. In addition to the regular meeting, the group also has an informal meet-and-greet at the nearby Cafe Express (1422 W. Gray) from 5:00 pm - 6:30pm. Here's the press release they were kind enough to send out.
Authors and Publishers Association
Thursday, September 15, 2005 Registration - 6:30 pm Meeting starts at 7:00 pm Meeting is free to members, $5 for non-members. Museum of Printing History
1324 W. Clay, Houston, TX Phone: 713-522-4652 See AAP for more info and a map.
THE BLOGGING LIFE Vikk Simmons
Thinking about starting a web log, otherwise known as a blog? Or are you already blogging, but anxious to know how you can get more out of it? Vikk Simmons will talk about her experiences as a blogger -- how she has incorporated this versatile form of communication into her writing life, and has used blogging to further her writing goals. Don't miss this entertaining, informative presentation.
Vikk Simmons, is an avid reader, writer, blogger, and photographer who is passionate about writing and traveling and loves to combine the two. Co-author of three travel books and two young adult novels, Vikk recently learned that she and her co-author, Elaine Galit, have been invited to the 2005 Texas Book Festival. The two were also honored to be named Barnes and Noble Authors of the Month. A certified Journal to the Self instructor, Simmons facilitated Artist Way groups for six years. She spent four years coordinating book events and promotions for Borders Books, Inc. and during that time she received a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from Vermont College.
Vikk often speaks on creativity, the publishing industry and the business and craft of writing. After a two-year stint as communications director for a local church, Vikk recently returned to Borders Books to work in the corporate and educational sales program. She maintains a blog where she comments on the writing life and the publishing industry at Down the Writer's Path and has a web site dedicated to teens at TeensTakeAction.com.
The busy life of an author continues...this week my co-author and I will be at the Barnes and Noble in Town & Country (Houston, TX) on Saturday from 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm. If you're in the area, please drop by and say hello.
The publicist assigned to us by our publisher sent us an email saying she'd received a query about our being on a panel of writers for the Texas Book Festival held in Austin at the end of October. This is a big event and we're happy to be included. Haven't a clue yet as to the topic of the panel but I'll share the info when I know.
The e-book version of Video Magic (VM) is being readied and will be released on August 28, 2005. The print version will be released in September. I'm happy to see this one in print as I hold a certain fondness for the story. The story idea came out of a three-week experience I had years ago working in the camera crew on an independent kid film for a local film crew. The story, a young adult romance, went on to win the national Golden Heart Award from Romance Writers of America. Although VM is the first young adult romance I wrote, it is the second to be published; Divided Loyalties was the second YA novel I worked on. I did some revising of the original storyline so now the setting for both stories is the same high school. I plan to write at least one more story set in the same high school, although--as with the other two books--the characters will be different. Divided Loyalties is set in the realm of environmental activism and Video Magic provides a glimpse into the world of videography. The new book will delve into the legal realm. In addition to the different worlds, I also explore a different emotion. While Divided Loyalties is pretty evident from the title, the different facets of jealousy are explored in Video Magic. So far I haven't determined the emotion to be explored in the next story but I'm sure it's lurking just around the corner waiting for me.
Meanwhile, I'm still trying to make my way at Borders and adapt to a new schedule.
Writers like to think that if only they could get their book published, life would become smooth-sailing. It's a nice thought. The truth is more work and upheavel set in. While writing, you keep your eye on the final goal: publication. With the release of the book, you have a brief nanosecond to reflect and then the reality of this new phase sets in. You really don't just want your book published: you want readers. More than that, you want readers who have bought the book. You want your book to sell.
Oh how writers hate that four letter word: s-e-l-l. Its mere mention evokes visions of retired used car dealers selling their memoirs out of the trunk of their car in Walmart parking lots. With publication, the protective bubble surrounding the writer is broken and the assault of marketing opportunities and sales duties invade the poor scribe's waking moments and cause torment into the night.
I mention this because I am once again under siege. I have a booksigning on Saturday, an online opportunity to review and respond to overnight, a website and blog to complete, and a 4th of July out-of-town weekend book event to consider. I've been working non-stop on the website and blog since Friday because I wanted to get a website operating before an article appeared in yesterday's local paper.
Today's writers are realizing they must develop some kind of promotional opportunity for their book(s). M.J. Rose and Doug Clegg are two writers who have been successful in their marketing efforts. (If you still think marketing is for e-pub or self-pub authors, read this chronicle of Clegg's publishing and marketing history.) Rose, with Clegg, conduct a marketing course, The BUZZ Your Book Online Marketing Class, available through WritersWeekly.com. The course is expensive and limited. Writer's need to examine their goals, their expectations, and their desire for sales in the context of today's real world of publishing and decide if they need to hone their marketing and sales developmental skills. This course is one way writers can get the needed help to develop a book's marketing plan.
Meanwhile, I'm sitting at my computer in Houston and trying to figure out why anyone would want to choose my YA books over the hundreds and thousands of other books available, and how I can help my books gain media attention and reader recognition. There are direct sales and marketing methods and there are the more indirect ways. I decided to mine the research I did for Divided Loyalties and set up a website with a blog called TeensTakeAction.com. Although still in development, the site has gone public. If you have a moment, take a look, wander around, and let me know what you think. Over the next few posts, I'll discuss how I came up with the idea and why.
My co-author and I have had two booksignings. The first at Blue Willow Bookshop, an independent bookstore, and the other this past Saturday at Borders-The Fountains in Stafford. We count them as great successes. Next we travel to the Clear Lake-Webster area (think NASA) for a signing on Saturday, June 11 from 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm at the Barnes and Noble in Baybrook Mall. (The last time we had a signing scheduled at this store--in 2001--Houston suffered major flooding from a hurricane and we had to reschedule.)
Booksignings are interesting events. You never know who will turn up, especially if the event has been publicized in the paper. We've had old friends who we haven't seen in years stop by to say hello and buy a copy of a book. I've even had an old friend of my mother's come by. They also offer surprises. This past week we had several store customers come over and decide to buy our book as a Father's Day gift. That's perfect for this time of year, but for some reason we hadn't even thought of that particular gift-giving idea.
On the other hand, signings can also be challenging. Most booksignings, particularly those where the author is from out of town, don't draw many people. The serve more as an opportunity for the author to meet the booksellers, those folks who actually do hand sell the books day after day. Often authors are able to find new fans who are eager to share their enthusiasm for a new writer they've discovered. So even when a signing doesn't appear to have generated one sale, the seeds for future sales can be planted.
Next time you're at a bookstore and see an author sitting behind a stack of books, why not stop by and say hello--even better, buy their book.
With the advent of a new book, booksignings are inevitable and creating press releases is the norm. I spent most of last night emailing press releases to various local print media outlets. I already have bookmarks, postcards and business cards as a result of the TLA and IRA conferences, so that's a major task already out of the way. The booksigning posters in various sizes have already been created, so one more task is marked "done." I'm actually a little late on these local press releases due to my recent traveling. These should have gone out seven to ten days earlier. In addition to my efforts, both Elaine and I have sent out email announcements to friends, online groups, and local event announcement lists to spread as wide a net as we can.
Some of you may be wondering why I'm doing all this marketing. You may think the bookstores should be doing this. In fact, Blue Willow has included our signing information in their monthly newsletter, put up announcements on the website, and graciously sent out 200 or so very nice invitations. (You should know that it's not the norm for stores to spend their money on mailouts, so when they do authors are delighted.) I know Borders has included us in their monthly newsletter and will be putting up a display and signage to remind in-store customers. These are two bookstores that really work at their events and we know that; however, authors should not rely or suppose that the necessary publicity and marketing efforts will be made on their behalf. Sometimes the stores are busy and inventory may fall at the same time as the event; sometimes the staff isn't as up to speed on publicizing their events as authors would like; sometimes there simply isn't enough manpower and/or knowledge to get the job done and done right. My policy is that anything the store does is a plus and will be on top of what I do. I can only control my own publicity efforts, plus, I will publicize the book, the event, and me--the author--in the way I want to be portrayed.
I had the same policy when I was a community relations coordinator for four years and handled the events and promotions for a local chain bookstore. I learned early on not to depend on publisher's--or authors, I'm afraid--to do any publicity. In those rare times when actual publicity was done by a publisher it was to focus on the book and the TV and print media, etc. with, if I was lucky, a mention of the signing. Obviously the store's event was a priority for me; the book was a priority for the publisher. So if the author wants to have any publicity and marketing done for the "author," it follows that he or she must get the word out. An extra plus is that most bookstores are grateful that you take the time to promote. But the biggest plus comes in sales on the day of the event and during the next several days after when your signed stock is available and when folks come in to buy the book after having missed the event.
But isn't marketing and publicizing the book the same as publicizing the author? Not necessarily. I have two travel books published, but I also have a blog on writing and two young adult novels I'm promoting, so it's up to me to get the word out about me.
That said, I have two signings that fall on the next two Saturdays. If you're in the neighborhood, please stop by and say hello.
Don't worry. I'll have a variety of postings next week including a new guest interview. In the meantime, Check out the two main commercial magazines for writers, Writer's Digest and The Writer, and see if you're interested in either of these two contests.
Just a quick note to remind everyone that I'll be part of SCBWI-Houston's Academy 101 tomorrow. The event lasts all day and you can just show up in the morning. There is still room. If you're interested in learning about writing for children, this is the group to go to for the best information. And, if you're out this weekend and drop by Old Town Spring, stop by Mason's on Main Street Gallery, formerly the MacKenzie Gallery, where you'll find my photography on display and for sale.
This all day event features more of everything you ever needed or wanted to know about writing and illustrating for children. Presentations by published authors will focus on writing, cover letters, plotting, picture books, magazines, non-fiction, fiction and more. Afternoon sessions for illustrators will focus on creating art for children's literature. Portfolio and manuscript critique sessions will give you an opportunity to have your work reviewed by seasoned professionals.
Well, it's a new year and I'm sure we all have brand spanking new resolutions. Perhaps one of them is to wade a little deeper into the realm of writing. If writing for children interests you, then the SCBWI-Houston chapter has a couple of events that range from a solid getting-back-to-basics Academy 101 to a special Editor's Day with five New York editors and a rare opportunity to submit your material t these closed houses to an actual cruise that you might want to try. The Houston group is a great writing group and they put a lot of time, energy and talent into their events. Yours truly will be at Academy 101. Sign up early. I won't be at Editor's Day but I've signed up so that I can submit some manuscripts. :)
It's time to fulfill your NEW YEAR's RESOLUTION--do something for yourself--Sign up for ACADEMY 101: Part 2
SATURDAY FEB. 5, 2005! This all day event, designed to compliment Academy 101 features more of Everything you ever needed or wanted to know about writing and illustrating for children. Presentations by published authors will focus on writing, cover letters, plotting, picture books, magazines, non-fiction, fiction and more. Afternoon sessions for illustrators will focus on creating art for children's literature. Portfolio and manuscript critique sessions will give you an opportunity to have your work reviewed by seasoned professionals.
Kay Olson, Editorial Director, Capstone Press--Educational nonfiction and fiction
J. Elizabeth Mills, Associate Editor, Scholastic, Cartwheel--Very young fiction and novelties
The speakers will explain the focus of their houses and will each accept one appropriate manuscript or proposal from those registered for the event. Submissions in unsealed 9x12 SASE will be gathered the day of the event and shipped to the editor.
Manuscripts are limited to 10 pages regular format, unless specifications of an editor indicate otherwise. Art samples can include 10 letter-size copies. Nonfiction may be in the form of proposals. Catalogs and complete instructions will be provided at the January meeting for those who register.
Seating is limited and has sold out each time for Editor Day. Cost includes a box lunch. Optional dinner Saturday night will be at attendee’s expense.
Where The Sharks Live From Galveston and, hopefully, back,Galveston,TX
Thursday – Monday, April 14 –18, 2005 Deposit deadline is Friday, January 21, 12:00pm
1-800-bring a Life Raft
Carnival Cruise Line sailing out of Galveston on the ship Ecstasy (refurbished October 2004)! Texas style defined = You can eat your weight in lobster and they'll still give you dessert.
The 4 day cruise cost begins at only $495 per person The conference fee: $120 per person for SCBWI members $170 per person for non-members Prices are per person double occupancy/inside cabin, all port fees & taxes included. Upgrades available.
For Writers: 2+ days of writing workshops, small group critique sessions, manuscript reviews, and the opportunity to submit a manuscript to an acquiring Agent and Editor. For Illustrators: 2+ days of craft workshops, a portfolio display, portfolio review, breakout sessions for illustrators, and the opportunity to submit your work to an Art Director and Editor. To register go to http://www.priscillaburris.com SUBMISSIONS Writers: Submit either one picture book, one article, or one chapter from a longer work, in double spaced format. Include a cover letter with a short summary of your manuscript. Illustrators: Submit no more than 5 copies (8”x10” maximum size) of artwork (do not send originals). Include a cover letter with a short summary of your work. Submission deadline: February 15, 2005. SPEAKERS Jane O’Connor, Vice President/Editor at Large, Penguin Children’s Books Priscilla Burris, Illustrator & Author, SCBWI Board Member Sharene Martin, Agent - Wylie-Merrick Literary Agency Robert Brown, Agent – Wylie-Merrick Literary Agency Debra Sfetsios, Art Director, Simon & SchusterFaculty
AWP: Links to Resources for Writers If you like in-depth discussions with authors and about writing and the process, this is for you. This one always provides thoughtful reading on writing: authors, craft and process.
Bellevue Literary Review The journal publishes works of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry that touch upon relationships to the human body, illness, health and healing, and says, "We encourage creative interpretation of these themes."