Push to Publish: Meet the Experts- Miral Sattar

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Today’s expert knows the ins and outs of the world of ePublishing. The interview below is just a small taste of the wealth of knowledge Miral Sattar can offer.

 

Wittle: Please explain a bit more about BiblioCrunch for those who may not be familiar with the company and its benefits for writers.

Sattar: BiblioCrunch helps connect authors and publishers with book publishing professionals to get new books and apps to market. With an exclusive community of professionals who have worked for some of the largest publishing houses, including Simon & Schuster, Penguin, Random House, and Harper Collins, BiblioCrunch authors can get access to resources that BIG SIX publishing have.

We also have a lot of first-time self-publishers. One writer actually suggested we launch a Concierge Service for authors where we hand-hold the author through the process of self-publishing. I’m excited to announce that we just launched this service and it’s doing really well.

Wittle: What are your thoughts on the changing world of publishing?

Sattar: There is so much activity in the publishing space in terms of new platforms and tools because the publishing industry is one of the last industries to go digital. It’s the last man standing and that’s why it’s going through the quickest transition. Digital publishing today is where blogs were five or six years ago. In 2006 writers would tell each other, ‘you started your own blog? Why would you do that instead of writing for a traditional magazine or newspaper?’” We’re seeing a similar shift with traditional and self-published authors. Now you see all the big publishing houses court self-publishers who have succeeded on their own.

 Wittle: How has e-publishing hurt and helped new writers?

Sattar: Because the tools are accessible to everyone there are a greater number of ‘bad’ books being published. ‘Bad’ books are book with poor covers that someone used PowerPoint to create or books that have clearly not been edited well.  ‘Bad’ books have grammar errors and are poorly formatted or not been proofed. This has given self-publishers a negative reputation.

E-publishing is helping new writers in that there is no barrier to entry to publish a book anymore. You can be a relatively unknown author and leverage the various programs out there, like KDP Select, to create your own community of readers. If you have a blog or a twitter following or a community of followers, you already have a potential community of new writers.

 Wittle: What are some of the mistakes a new writer can make in regards to e-publishing?

Sattar: The biggest mistakes I see authors make is publishing without a plan. Writing a book is like launching a business and to make money you have to invest in it and follow a plan. You need to do research to make sure you have your basics covered like making sure you have a well-edited book, an eye-catching cover, and a marketing strategy.

Another huge mistake authors make is spending a lot of money on vanity presses first without doing research. I have had countless authors come to BiblioCrunch who have spent thousands of dollars on vanity presses that didn’t do very much to market or edit their book.

Wittle: What are some of the benefits to e-publishing for a writer?

Sattar: You can publish your book almost as soon as you’re done and get feedback immediately. You don’t have to wait 6-18 months to see it out in the world that you would normally see with a traditional publisher. You also have control – you control how much your book gets edited, you control how the cover will look, and you control the pricing. AND, you get to keep most of your royalties.

Wittle: Does e-publishing take away the need for editors and agents?

Sattar: Another big mistake I see authors make is that they submit unedited books into the various retailers like Amazon and BN. Editing your own work is very very difficult and this is something that you need to spend money and hire someone for.

I don’t see agents going away, but I do see their roles changing. More and more of them are launching small indie presses to support their authors.

Wittle: In what ways can technology help a writer? I’m thinking about apps and social media.

Sattar: We hear a lot about author platforms. Creating an author platform is important because authors who have platforms have an audience to sell books to. Social media is just one way for an author to have a platform. I was able to get the buzz out about the NYC Dessert Guide (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007EFM1F6)  that I self-published through FB and Twitter which helped it rank #1 in its category and helped crack the Top 100. There are so many Facebook groups and Twitter chats that authors can join that provide community and tips for other writers.  Goodreads also has a great community, where you can do giveaways for your book, and Rafflecopter is a great tool that lets you have giveaways and track them for your book.

Miral Sattar Bio:

Miral Sattar is founder and CEO of BiblioCrunch, a platform that connects
authors with quality, vetted book publishing professionals. She has worked
in the media industry for 11 years, most recently at TIME where she
launched several digital initiatives including an iPad and mobile site,
mobile apps, a video and podcast channel, blogs, and SEO. Her writing has
been featured in TIME, CNN, NY Daily News, among other media publications.
She has a MS in Publishing (Digital + Print Media) from NYU and a BS from
Columbia University in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. You
can follow Miral on Twitter at @BiblioCrunch.

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Push to Publish: Meet the Experts- Rosemary Cappello

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Today’s Meet the Experts interview was done by KJ Wells and features Philadelphia Poets creator and editor Rosemary Cappello. For those interested in coming to Push to Publish with poetry, Rosemary Cappello is just one one the many poets who will be on hand on October 13 for Push to Publish (http://www.philadelphiastories.org/push-publish-2012-strategies-and-techniques-get-your-work-print-and-online)

Below is the interview:

Wells: Who are some of the poets you think everyone interested in poetry should read?

 Cappello: Poets who are important to me run the gamut from the Italian Renaissance poets, which include Petrarch,  Michelangelo, and others of that era, to 19th Century poet Robert Browning and  20th Century’s William Carlos Williams, W.D. Auden, Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, and contemporaries such as Diane DiPrima. Also, the Japanese haiku masters. However, each poet has to find his or her own favorites while developing an individual style and not be overly influenced by any one writer.

 

Wells: What inspired you to begin Philadelphia Poets?

 Cappello: The year was 1980 and that being the pre-Internet era there was a need for a way of spreading poetry news. One night after a reading, several poets and I were bemoaning the fact that poetry news just didn’t get good coverage, and the others nominated me as the person who should put out a newsletter. Thus, Philadelphia Poets was born. It started out as a three-page newsletter that included some poetry, since there was a great need, as well, for another outlet for publishing poetry.  Also, a need existed for an editor who would not place restrictions on the form or length of a poem and who had firsthand knowledge of the complaints poets had concerning editorial response, and would try to be more understanding of their needs.

 

Wells: For some who may not understand the relationship of poet and editor, could you briefly describe it?

 Cappello: It varies according to the editor, but basically, the poet sends work to the editor and the editor reads it and decides if it is publishable. In some cases, an editor will see a poem that is in need of editorial advice, and will supply it. An editor should never make as much as a simple change in a poem without first going over it with the writer. This includes misspellings, errors in punctuation, and other problems the poem might contain. For more serious problems, such as when the editor sees good things in a poem and yet it needs work in order to be a complete poem, the editor might suggest changes, at the same time letting the poet know that he or she is the final judge of their creation.

 

Wells: What are some of the poetic devices that have become clichés and should be avoided?

Cappello: Rhyming (though sometimes it is acceptable, in the hands of an excellent and skillful poet such as the late Richmond Lattimore); capitalizing the first word of each line even when it isn’t the start of a new sentence; writing three-line poems and calling them “haiku” when they’re not; repetition, although sometimes it can work in a poem.

 

Wells: What are some of your pet peeves that poets looking to be published do?

 Cappello: Main Pet Peeve: not following Philadelphia Poets’ submission guidelines. Some poets send multiple (separate) submissions before I’ve had a chance to look at the first one. Submission here means a manuscript consisting of, according to my guidelines, eight pages of previously unpublished poems. Every year, there’s a poet who sends me two submissions of 15 pages each, and she gets both back, rejected, every year.

 

Contacting me not long after sending poetry to find out why I haven’t responded. Sending poetry that has been hurriedly written and is not their best poetry. Sending poetry they’ve sent me before and I’ve already rejected.

 

Sending poetry they’ve sent me before that I’ve already published.

 

Not advising me of simultaneous submissions, and not letting me know when another publication has accepted it.

 

These last three apply to poets who do not keep good records and don’t even seem to have knowledge of their own work.

 

Failing to include bios.

 

Not staying within my 50-word bio requirement.

 

Wanting their ms returned, but not placing enough postage on the envelope.

 

I, for one, am not impressed with the number of places where a poet has been published, the number of awards he or she has won, or the number of degrees they have. With me, the poem’s the thing.

 

Rosemary Cappello Bio:

 

Rosemary Cappello’s poetry has appeared in a number of publications, including Anthology of Women Writing, Voices in Italian Americana, Poet Lore, Avanti Popolo, and Iconoclast.  Her chapbooks include In the Gazebo, The Sid Poems, and San Paride. Rosemary edits and publishes Philadelphia Poets, which she founded in 1980, and in conjunction with that publication, organizes and presents poetry readings throughout each year and bestows two annual awards. She is a published prose writer as well, mainly of essays and film reviews

Push to Publish- Meet the Experts: Jon McGoran

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Today we talk with Jon McGoran, a crime writer and member of the Liar’s Club. McGoran talks about important organizations for crime writers, social media for writers and ways to find an agent.

When you come to Push to Publish, stop over and say hello to Jon (http://www.philadelphiastories.org/push-publish-2012-strategies-and-techniques-get-your-work-print-and-online)

Wittle: What has been your experience writing in the genre of crime fiction?

McGoran: I enjoy writing in several different genres, mostly in the thriller/crime/mystery spectrum, but also science fiction and other genres. I started out writing science fiction when I was a kid, before turning to a life of crime, so to speak, but I guess I have a hard time letting go of any of these genres. I like to combine aspects of mysteries and crime novels with strong thriller elements, so for me it’s not an either or genre thing, its actually more a spectrum thing, which element does it lean more heavily toward. So while most of my writing has been crime thrillers, I’ve never lost that sci-fi itch, entirely. The D.H. Dublin books, as forensic thrillers, had a scientific edge to them that I really enjoyed writing. My latest book, Drift, along with its sequel, which I am now writing, are both ecological thrillers with a definite mystery and a scientific angle that make them a perfect fit for me,

Wittle: What advice would you give someone looking to find an agent?

McGoran: There is plenty of great advice out there on how to find an agent, but one thing that is often overlooked by writers looking for agents is the importance of looking among the agents who are looking for you. Yes, it is great to approach the agent for the best-selling author who is the top of your genre, and many writers have had great success with that route. But the more successful an agent already is, the less incentive she might have to take a chance on you, and the less likely she is to have room on the roster for one more writer. So another tactic is, in addition to all the other criteria that make an agent a good fit for you, look for the agents who are open to the prospect of taking on someone new. The guides to literary agents are great resources with helpful information about which agents are open to new writers, but it takes a while for a book to come out in print, and often ties by the time it does, it is old news. It can be more fruitful to look for agents who are in some stage of transition: just promoted, just joined an agency, just went out on their own, just left a editorial position to become an agent. Those are the times agents are most likely to be actively looking for writers to represent, and most likely to give you a nice long look. So look at Publishers Marketplace, look at Publishers Weekly, and scour the personnel news. When you see someone promising who is making a move, that’s the best time to make a move of your own.

 

Wittle: How important is it for a writer to have a social presence when trying to market a book?

 

McGoran: It is incredibly important for writers to have a strong social presence at every step of the way, before and after they are published. Once you have a book to sell, it’s extremely important to have an established social presence, both personally, through conferences, conventions, and associations, etc., and via social media. Much more of the burden of marketing books falls on the writer these days, and those social connections are vital parts of that marketing effort. But those social connections can also be a vital support network on your way to getting published. Writing is great, but being a writer can kind of suck sometimes: when you just want to chill out, and everyone else is watching TV or sleeping late or going to bed at a reasonable hour. It is not an unreasonable decision to say to heck with it, I just want to chill out and watch TV. But if you want to be a writer, you have to keep writing, and one of the best ways to keep writing is to be in contact with other writers. You get to share knowledge and talk about craft, to commiserate and share horror stories, but you also get energized and reminded that you are not the only person suffering from this unfortunate disease. That kind of support can also help you maintain the momentum to keep working, or to get back to work, to finish what you’re working on and get it published.

 

Now, the type of support you need once you get published can be very different from the support you needed when you were trying to get there, but it’s a great feeling once you get that deal to know you are not alone, that you already have a network of writers and readers who are your friends and your comrades and that are ready to help make your book a success.

 

For many writers, this social aspect is hard, and for them, it is especially important. When you finally find yourself with a book to sell, you’re not going to get much of a sales boost by sitting at home alone, so you’d better get out there and practice being sociable now.  And once you get over yourself and try it, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is. And not because you have some inner strength you didn’t know you had (although you might), but because book people are awesome – readers, writers, booksellers, reviewers, librarians – they totally rock. Getting to know a lot of them is one of the best perks of being a writer.

 

Wittle: What organizations do you feel I writer should be a part of?

McGoran: Being a member of The Liars Club has been immensely important to me; it has led to some of the most important friendships in my life and has provided me with many opportunities I wouldn’t otherwise have had. It’s a small, closed group, so obviously I’m not recommending other people join it, but there is nothing to stop other writers from forming their own groups, mutual support networks. Writing groups are great, but it’s also great to be a part of a group that’s not about the craft, it’s about the business, and about the life. The Liar’s Club’s Writers’ Coffeehouses also provides a great free venue to meet other writers, and learn and build your network. If you’re writing in a genre, or even if you are not, the genre-specific organizations are hugely helpful. I have gotten a lot out of the Mystery Writer Association and International Thriller Writers. Other genres like science fiction and romance also have very robust organizations.

Jonathan McGoran’s Bio:

Jon McGoran is the author of Drift, an ecological thriller coming out Summer 2013 from Tor/Forge. Writing as D. H. Dublin, he is the author of the forensic crime thrillers Freezer Burn, Blood Poison, and Body Trace. His short fiction, nonfiction and satire have appeared in a variety of publications and anthologies. He is a founding member of the Liars Club. As Communications Director at Weavers Way Co-op, he is editor of the monthly newspaper, The Shuttle.

Push to Publish Series: Meet the Experts- Alison DeLuca

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Alison DeLuca is a marketing and social media mastermind, as well as a Steampunk Goddess. Below is our interview where we discuss what the genre of steampunk is to author press kits to blogging.

Wittle: For those who may not be familiar with the Steampunk genre, could you explain a bit about it and give a few examples of books from the genre?

DeLuca: Sure! Steampunk is science fiction that uses steam to power its technology. (As an example, my Crown Phoenix books have a quantum typewriter instead of HAL, the supercomputer.) The genre has been around since the days of Jules Verne, H.G. Well, Mary Shelley, and Robert Louis Stevenson. It languished for a while as writers explored modern tech and outer space, but it is back with a vengeance now, appearing in movies and even Lady Gaga videos.

Modern writers include Paul de Filippo, China Mieville, Cassandra Clare … the list keeps growing. There have been many exciting developments, such as other ‘punks. We now have cyber of course, as well as dieselpunk, sandalpunk – even reeferpunk, as crazy as that might seem.

Wittle: You have a wonderful press kit and it seems like a step many writers may forget to do. Would you be willing to share with us what writers should have in their press kit? And also explain the benefits of having one?

DeLuca: Why, thank you!

My press kit evolved over the space of a year. I realized that bloggers and publicists needed a simple, yet inclusive, kit that would include links, headshots, covers, etc. I made folders for each of those and included the items by book. As I publish more titles I will have to rethink it again – I think a press kit is a fluid that needs constant revising.

As a final step, I shrank my images with this wonderful free site: http://www.shrinkpictures.com/ and condensed my links at bit.ly to make them easier to handle.

Since I blog quite a bit, that gave me a lot of insight into the world of book reviewers. I developed a sense of what they need and designed my press kit accordingly. My new project is to put it all on the internet so reviewers can download everything from one web page.

Wittle: How important is social media to marketing a book?

DeLuca: Vitally important, if you are an Indie author. To get your book out there, you need to develop relationships with reviewers, other authors, illustrators, readers, and editors. Notice I said “develop relationships,” not spam! Kristen Lamb’s blog, http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com , has been a wonderful source of inspiration and wisdom for me as I’ve developed as an Indie author, and her advice is fantastic for  any Indie author. Or, indeed, any author.

If Indies have the resources, I would definitely advise them to do several things:

a)      Invest in a professional editor.

b)      Invest in a professional format.

c)       Hire a publicist for their release.

Wittle: How did you find an agent?

DeLuca: I’m going it alone at the moment. I’m part of an author’s collaborative; we all publish together in a nonprofit organization under one name, Myrddin Publishing. We plan to do several projects to raise funds for charity over the next few months.

Wittle: How important is it to blog?

DeLuca: Blogging is a lot of fun, and I think it accomplishes several things. The blog serves as a writer’s diary, giving daily practice in the craft of writing. It gets the author’s name out there. As well, it creates those vital connections that Indies must have.

Wittle: What do you blog about?

DeLuca: Oh, everything! I don’t want to blog about writing only, because, BORING. I like to chat about my life as a mom, about movies I enjoy, recipes I’ve tried, books that I’ve read and enjoyed. Online creativity fascinates me, and I love to feature people who have started internet businesses from scratch. I have featured photographers, painters, and jewelry designers. From time to time I include my cover reveals and book excerpts, but I prefer to have a chat with my “Fresh Pot of Tea,” as if I were sitting round the kitchen table with a group of old friends.

Wittle: What piece of advice do you wish someone would have given you when you started down the publishing world road?

DeLuca: TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. If something raises a red flag as you read it, stay far away. The Internet is forever, and one false move can create a firestorm that will dog your reputation for years. To that end, I always try to maintain a pleasant and professional attitude online. Writers deal with an industry that is going through constant upheavals and major changes, every single day. As Indies, we also maintain friendships with people we’ve never met face to face. To negotiate both, we need to be very canny about where we place our trust.

Alison DeLuca Bio:

Alison DeLuca is the author of several steampunk and urban fantasy books.  She was born in Arizona and has also lived in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Mexico, Ireland, and Spain.

Currently she wrestles words and laundry in New Jersey. Follow Alison at her blog: http://alisondeluca.blogspot.com/

Push to Publish Series: Meet The Experts- Nancy Viau

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Nancy Viau started a regional marketing group called The KidLit Authors Club to help authors promote their lastest books. Below is our interview in which she not only explains more about the group, but also her own journey to write, market and sell her wonderful books.

 

Wittle: What books influenced you to become a writer?

Viau: I’d often read a children’s book—a picture book or novel—and think, Oh, heck, I can write a story like that! Some of the books that influenced this (really ignorant) attitude were:  WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE by Maurice Sendak, GOODNIGHT MOON by Margaret Wise Brown, FROGGIE GOES TO SCHOOL by Jonathan London, and TALES OF A FOURTH GRADE NOTHING by Judy Blume. It wasn’t until I joined The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (http://www.scbwi.org) and started learning about the industry that I discovered how hard it is to create an outstanding children’s story.

Wittle: What are some of the challenges a new writer may have in trying to get a picture book or middle-grade novel published?

Viau: A challenge I believe all writers (not just new writers) face involves finding the courage to seek out professional, unbiased opinions of your work. It’s hard to look beyond comments from friends and family or critiques from your writing group. If you’re at the point where you are submitting things, you may be lucky enough to gain feedback from an editor or agent. Even if this feedback is paired with rejection, consider it carefully. Is there something in there that makes total sense? A more proactive way to get a professional opinion is to attend a conference and pay for a critique. And the biggest challenge of all, in my opinion? Revision! You want to remain true to your original idea, but make the necessary changes that will push it to a new level.

Wittle: What is the most difficult part in revising a novel?

Viau: I worry about keeping each character’s voice intact as I make changes to the plot. Even though the character grows, I want the voice on page seventy to be the same as page one.

Wittle: What advice would you give another writer who is struggling with a particular passage in his or her work?

Viau: Let the passage sit a while. Return to that sticky place in a few weeks and look at it with “fresh eyes.” Try rewriting it from scratch. If it still bothers you, ditch it. If you’re struggling with it, maybe a reader will struggle, too.

Wittle: How do you come up with an elevator pitch?

Viau: I take a thirty-second ride in an elevator and hope it comes to me. : ) Seriously, I ask myself:  Who is the star of this book? What does she want most in the world? What is keeping her from getting it and what lengths will she go to in order to succeed? After I get that much down on paper, I shorten it to five sentences (or less) and memorize it.

Wittle: How did you find your agent?

Viau: I wanted to find an agent who represented both picture books and middle-grade novels, so I signed up for Publishers Marketplace (http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/) to see who was selling what. An agent I liked only accepted submissions through referrals from clients, and after viewing the agency’s deals on Publishers, I realized I knew a client. I contacted that person and asked if she would put in a good word for me. I still had to send a formal query to the agent, but she loved several things and offered representation. By the way, another great resource for researching agents is http://www.agentquery.com.

Wittle: What was the best advice given to you about writing?

Viau: As I gained success in getting pieces published in newspapers, magazines, even top children’s magazines, I still felt unfulfilled. I didn’t understand why until a writer friend reminded me of my goal:  to become a children’s book author. She told me to forget about getting work acquired by miscellaneous publications and instead focus entirely on the children’s book market.

Wittle: Are there any unusual ways you’ve promoted your work?

Viau: In 2010, I began a regional marketing group called The KidLit Authors Club (http://www.kidlitauthorsclub.com) where authors band together to sign, sell, and promote their books. Signing alone at any event can be daunting and disappointing. Unless you are well known, chances are there’s not enough buzz about your book to bring you the attention you deserve or the buyers you need. Within our group, we investigate signing opportunities, present panel discussions and keynotes at conferences, share Facebook and Twitter announcements about our books, and generally get the word out any way we can. Once we are at an event, we create a party-like atmosphere that’s hard to ignore. We bring balloons, hold party bag giveaways, and involve kids in activities, readings, and more. Once, we formed a 20-person Conga Line and danced throughout a Barnes & Noble store!

Wittle: What work are you most proud of and why?

Viau: I am very excited at having finally cracked that tough nugget known as the rhyming picture book market. In the spring of 2013, LOOK WHAT I CAN DO! and STORM SONG will be published. It’s the realization of a dream!

Nancy Viau Bio:

Nancy Viau is the author of SAMANTHA HANSEN HAS ROCKS IN HER HEAD (Middle-Grade Novel/Amulet Books, 2008), LOOK WHAT I CAN DO! (Picture Book/Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2013), and STORM SONG (Picture Book/Amazon Children’s Publishing, formerly Marshall Cavendish Children’s, 2013). Her stories, poems, and activities appear in Highlights, Highlights High Five, Ladybug, Babybug, and many other magazines. Please visit Nancy’s website:  http://www.nancyviau.com.