AWP 2016 The Perfect Self-Released Book

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Mindbuck Media and Friends will be hosting a panel at AWP 2016 in Los Angeles! 

The Perfect Self-Released Book: What Elements Are Essential, and Will All This Money and Work Pay Off in the End?

Scott James Bookfair Stage, LA Convention Center, Exhibit Hall Level One
Thursday, March 31, 2016
1:30 pm to 2:45 pm 

Link to AWP Event Page 

Many AWP participants plan to self-publish. However, a tidal wave of subpar books into the public sphere remains a damning criticism of the practice, making it difficult for readers to sort through new releases for quality, particularly from emerging writers. Self-published books need to be perfected to be part of the literary conversation. However, the reality of poor sales and high expenses needs to be discussed openly so that authors do not get stuck releasing an inferior product.

Moderator: Jessica Glenn is a book publicist, musician, and writer. Her book publicity company of ten years, MindBuck Media, specializes in fiction. Glenn has published short fiction and poetry in PDX Magazine, Mamaphonic, Papierdoll, and elsewhere, and her press releases are reprinted widely.

Kristin Thiel is a professional editor and  helps individuals writing dragon mysteries, universities publishing dialogues on education, and tech companies crafting white papers. Over the years, her self-publishing clients have only grown in number, with good reasons.

Vinnie Kinsella, author of A Little Bit of Advice for Self-Publishers, began his love affair with book publishing in the second grade, when he worked with his fellow students to write and illustrate a story about the adventures of an ice-cream loving giraffe. Since then he has worked as a writer, editor, book designer, journal publisher, workshop speaker, and college instructor. In his current role as a publications consultant, he uses his broad knowledge of the publishing industry to assist and educate self-published authors. Vinnie lives in Portland, Oregon, with his books and his collection of coffee brewing equipment.

Laura Garwood, editor and writer, runs her own business out of Sacramento. She edits books, speaks about editing, and writes the well-known parenting and humor blog,Short-Winded Blog. She has her master’s in book publishing.

Mary Bisbee-Beek, Book Publicist; Agent; Foreign Rights; Marketing Consultant

https://www.awpwriter.org/awp_conference/event_detail/6037

How To Pitch Your Book

Clear forest in glasses on the background of blurred forest

From our friend Joe Biel founder, owner, and publisher of Microcosm Publishing

Microcosm Publishing is celebrating our 20th anniversary on Feb 12 and every day, new authors come to us with their delicately crafted, very personal work that they’ve spent hundreds of hours honing to perfection. Despite all this work, they’ve often completely neglected to figure out how to talk about their book, let alone how to pitch it.

But in the modern publishing landscape, the question of who gets published is less about how polished the manuscript is and more about the fact that publishers, just like readers, need a way to quickly understand what your book is about, who it is for, and most important, what benefits it offers. The book can be a masterwork, but if you can’t compellingly describe it in a single sentence, nobody will ever know.

Every book needs very clear development and language. The first question you need to be able to answer, in a one sentence pitch and at greater length in the book itself, is “what is this book about?” Next you need to investigate that the book you have in mind hasn’t already been written. Then you need to make sure you’ll be able to write it.”

THE PROCESS

If your book is best suited to major publishing houses (i.e. occupies an identifiable and reachable audience of more than 5,000 people), you’ll need to pitch an agency until one agrees to work with you. Then the agent begins the next process, of pitching to publishers. The process of pitching to indie houses is our focus here. Publishing with a client account like Amazon’s is another option, as is using a pay-to-play company to bring in some of the services that a publisher would normally provide for free. While these options do not have any barrier to entry (except money), if you want to reach readers who are not your friends and family, properly developing and pitching your book remains just as vital as it does in pitching to the industry.

THE RULES

Follow directions. It’s the first step to winning.
No matter who you’re pitching, the most important part of the process is: Read and follow all submission directions exactly. You will likely ruin your chances of success if you assume that you are an exception to the guidelines, if you do not follow them correctly, or if you do not put sufficient time into the process. I toss over half of our submissions because they have not followed our submission guidelines and the result is incomprehensible. Some people appear to be “blanket-submitting” their manuscript everywhere without regard to fit, which simply wastes everyone’s time. Others believe that if we just read their work we would be swooning so hard that we would be asking them where we could sign on. I cannot stress enough the vitality of reading the guidelines.

It’s also vital to research the publisher. Read their mission statement if they have one. Look at the other books they have coming out, and what they’ve done in the last few years. What kind of books do they like? What are their bestsellers? If a publisher has not made any children’s books, there is likely a good reason for that. Even if they made an exception for yours, it likely would not be in your best interest. You want your book to fit into the story and fabric of what your publisher does best.

WRITING THE PITCH

Make the first sentence of your pitch a clear and uncluttered explanation of what benefit the book offers to readers.
For example, you might write, “NONOWRIMO: Your Daily Guide To Not Publishing a Creative Work provides helpful day-planning and activities that a potential author could pursue instead of writing.”

This is the most important part of your pitch, so it should be the most visible. The publisher needs to immediately understand what the book is about before they will be willing to look further. Often, opening a conversation with someone about their pitch results in defensiveness and not understanding why a publisher needs certain questions answered. Again, the plausibility of a project is not related to the merit of the work as much as the merits in the concept of the work.

The second most important part of your pitch is one or two sentences explaining how your book stands out from similar titles. Focus on what is unique about your book that other in-print books do not offer. This requires research on what is in print rather than just speculating from memory or conjecture. Visit some bookstores. Check Google and Amazon, and look at the Amazon rankings to get a general idea of which books have done well and which have flopped. Publishers will do this as well, but your preliminary search will help direct your pitching in the right direction.
When the publisher’s guidelines indicate that it’s the correct time, submit the materials requested. If a specific format is not specified, include the basic outline of your complete work and a sample chapter or two. Most places will also want a list of comparable titles: books from the last five years (preferably fewer) from comparably sized presses of similar length, cover price, and marketing budgets. This helps everyone to better understand how you think about your book and the company it keeps.

PLATFORM

It’s helpful for agents and publishers and readers to understand what you bring to the table besides your writing: your platform and endorsements. Did you create a successful social media page or blog that speaks to the same people that your book does? Are there professional or popular people who are willing to speak excitedly about the book or write an endorsement? Is your best friend or aunt a well-connected journalist who is excited to go to bat for your book? Is your local TV station news host a social acquaintance? Have you written other books or done other projects that gained fans or praise? Share that briefly in your pitch.

Even if you’ve never written a book before and don’t have a strong network already in place, you can include supporting evidence about the potential readership of your book. Most of the pitches that I receive contain a blanket claim along the lines of “books about ice cream are very popular right now.” This is not helpful, but if you include a metric, like “Dentists have found that eating more ice cream reduces risk of cavities.” That level of information opens up new ways for the book to be sold and is helpful (even more so if it’s true!).

Almost every pitch I receive is too long, which causes me to skim for the relevant points. Then I respond if it fits or delete it if it does not (or if I can’t tell what it is about). So make it short and to the point. When you’ve finished crafting the most relevant information about your book, cut the word count on your pitch in half at least once, if not four times.

Above all, really think about who the book is for and what their concerns are, what publications they read, and how they feel about the issues discussed. Your book is for individual people rather than an amorphous “mainstream.” Be respectful to your audience—a prospective publisher, agent, or individual readers alike—and acknowledge what they know. Make them feel welcome. That’s how you succeed.

 

Microcosm is an independent, punk-inspired book publisher. They are about to turn 20. This is their story.  Good Trouble: Building a Successful Life & Business with Asperger’s

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/microcosmpublishing/making-room-for-good-trouble

Poets & Writers Feature

We are so pleased and excited to be featured in the Nov/Dec 2015 edition of Poets & Writers in “A Publicist’s Prospective.”

So impressed with Poets & Writers setting up the ‪#‎pwlive‬ event to go along with the article. Thanks!

Editor Jessica Page Morrell and publicist Jessica Glenn weigh in and give advice to burgeoning self-publishers. Available only in print. We highly recommend a subscription to Poets & Writers as a valuable resource for all writers (and poets!).

 

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Global Literacy is Everyone’s Concern

From our friends at Grammarly (written by Brittney Ross)

Our world today is perhaps more text-driven than at any other time in history. In the Digital Age, the ability to read and write can transform lives, families, and even whole communities. Since UNESCO celebrated the very first International Literacy Day on September 8, 1966, the plight of millions of people around the world has improved through programs dedicated to helping marginalized populations become literate. But there is still a long way to go.

Illiteracy is more than just a lack of reading skills. Around the world, it is a clear predictor of poverty, illness, and disempowerment. It’s not a problem confined to the developing world, either. Even in the United States, there are thirty-two million adults who cannot read, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

To celebrate International Literacy Day and help raise awareness about the importance of literacy, we have gathered the latest literacy statistics from around the world into an infographic.

Literacy-Day

via https://www.grammarly.com/plagiarism-checker

Guest Post From Grammarly: Common Grammar Mistakes

By Nikolas Baron of Grammarly.com

Every writer makes mistakes. It’s impossible not to do. When you begin a book, poem, short story, novella, article, or writing exercise, you want to get everything down on the page. If there’s a quick burst of genius, you’ll stop at nothing to ride the burst out. Even if you’re the type of writer who edits while you write, mistakes are imminent. However, grammar mistakes are sometimes the most difficult types of mistakes to overcome. There are writers I’ve talked to who still have trouble with who and whom, lay and lie, and affect and effect. Through my research and discussions with editors, writers, bloggers, and English professors, I’ve discovered five of the most common grammar mistakes and how to avoid them.

Owl_Who1) Who and Whom: Let’s first break down the part of speech for each of these words. “Who” is a subject/nominative pronoun (he, she, it, we, they, etc.) and acts as the subject of a clause. “Whom” is an objective pronoun (him, her, it, us, them, etc.) and acts as the object of a clause. When you’re trying to decide which to use, think about if you’re referring to the subject or the object of the sentence. Another technique that works quite well is replacing the “who” or “whom” of the sentence with another pronoun. For example, one can substitute the sentence “Who went to get ice cream?” with “She went to get ice cream.” A person can also say, “You gave the last ice cream to whom?” or “I gave the last ice cream to him.”

2) Which and That: This is a mistake that I see almost on a daily basis. Whether it is in an email, a flyer, a Facebook status post, a tweet, or a newspaper, it’s everywhere. Looking at the part of speech in these instances can really help break down and explain the problem. Simply put, “that” is a restrictive pronoun, and “which” introduces a relative clause. “That” restricts while “which” qualifies. Moreover, “which” can also be used in restrictive clauses. Consider the following examples: a) “I really want that elephant from the circus.” b) “Which elephant do you want?” c) “I want the elephant that only eats peanuts.” d) “Many elephants eat peanuts, which make for an excellent source of protein in their diet.”

3) Lay and Lie: This is by far the trickiest mistake of them all. I had a professor in college who changed his license plate in order to make a point about the use of “lay” and “lie.” “Lay” is a transitive verb while “Lie” is an intransitive verb. “Lay” requires a direct subject and one or more objects while “Lie” needs no object. “Lie” is the present tense while “Lay” is the past tense. The major issue of concern usually comes into play when a writer is using the past tense of “Lay” such as, he laid on the bed. What the writer actually means is, he lay on the bed. Here are some further examples: I lay the book on the floor; Last week, I laid on the floor of the gym after a hard run; The chocolate bars lie between the Sour Patch Kids and the marshmallows.

Proofread4) Whether and If: One of the major qualms with “Whether” vs. “If” is the belief that they are interchangeable. They are not. “Whether” expresses a condition where there are two or more alternatives while “If” is a condition where there are no alternatives. Take the following sentences as examples of proper use: Whether or not I go to class is dependent on the weather. If I go to class, there may be a pop quiz, though.

5) Affect and Effect: “Affect” vs. “Effect” is another daily issue for me. “Affect” is typically a verb where “Effect” is typically a noun. What helps the most is the definitions of these words, though. Affect: To act on; produce an effect or change in. Effect: Something that is produced by an agency or cause; consequence; influence. Some examples: His failure to prove the effects of his science experiment affected his mood. Sarah’s bad attitude affected her coworker, Jane, which caused a negative effect on the amount of work she got done.

There are still many more grammar mistakes, but these are by far the most common among writers. Additional resources can be used to check for these mistakes, as well. Grammarly, an online grammar check resource, can catch errors that Microsoft Word misses and can help you identify your most common mistakes. Save yourself and your editors some time by using an online resource to grammar check and take the time to learn proper grammar so as to avoid these mistakes in the future.

 

Nik-Baron-615x410Nikolas discovered his love for the written word in Elementary School, where he started spending his afternoons sprawled across the living room floor devouring one Marc Brown childrens’ novel after the other and writing short stories about daring pirate adventures. After acquiring some experience in various marketing, business development, and hiring roles at internet startups in a few different countries, he decided to re-unite his professional life with his childhood passions by joining Grammarly’s marketing team in San Francisco. He has the pleasure of being tasked with talking to writers, bloggers, teachers, and others about how they use Grammarly’s online proofreading application to improve their writing. His free time is spent biking, travelling, and reading.

Guest Post from Grammarly: Using Technology to Complete a Novel at Warp-Speed

We at Mindbuck Media are pleased as the proverbial spiked punch to have Allison VanNest of Grammarly.com provide a guest post for us.

By Allison VanNest, Grammarly.com

Over the last decade, technology has changed just about every part of our lives. From smart phones and tablets to ever-present Wi-Fi and HDTV, the list of incredible technological advances goes on and on. However, one area that technology hasn’t seemed to touch is novel writing. A proper novel will always require a dedicated author working tirelessly to develop a story and to bring compelling characters to life.

Technology doesn’t really figure in to the novel writing process.

Or does it?

GrammoWriMo LogoIn November, Grammarly debuted GrammoWriMo, a spinoff of National Novel Writing Month. As part of this project, hundreds of writers signed up to co-write a single 50,000-word novel. While this is would be a daunting project for any single writer to complete in 30 days, Grammarly’s writers knew that they were up for the task if they did it together.

And they were right. Although more than 300,000 people signed up for NaNoWriMo in 2013, only 41,940 novels were actually completed. Clocking in at a total of 130,927 unedited words, the GrammoWriMo group novel was among them!

Over the next few years, technology will drastically change the way that we communicate in writing. Grammarly is at the forefront of this change – having already created a project to make the writing process both social and democratic.

The response to GrammoWriMo was overwhelming:

  • Thousands of people participated in surveys to determine the plot of the group novel and submit potential cover art; 287 writers ultimately contributed to the project
  • Writers from 27 countries – and 44 U.S. states – contributed an average of 580 words each to the group novel
  • 70 percent of GrammoWriMo participants have a personal blog, and an impressive 55 percent have been published online at some point

Naturally, there are some hurdles to clear when trying to bring together a project of this size in such a short amount of time. Two of the biggest challenges that the Grammarly team faced were organization and cohesion.

WriteOnNaNoWriMoGetting organized

To make GrammoWriMo work, Grammarly divided writers into groups (around 25 people per chapter) that were assigned to work simultaneously on each of the novel’s 30 chapters. Each writer within each group was assigned a specific day on which to write. Writers built on the work of those before them until the chapter was finished and each author has applied his or her own touch to the manuscript.

Technology played a large role in making this kind of organization possible. A Google Doc was assigned to each chapter-group, so writers could easily access the growing document without having to pass around email attachments. Also, individual Facebook groups were established for each chapter so they could quickly and easily communicate and problem-solve along the way.

lonely wishgiverCreating a cohesive novel

Each of the 30 chapters was written simultaneously, so writers had to pay close attention to the outline created for their own chapter, as well as the plot points introduced in chapters before and after them. For this to work, the entire book had to be outlined in advance of the project so writers working on later chapters would have an idea of what would be appearing in the earlier pages of the novel.

A very specific and detailed plot summary was provided to all writers, highlighting the purpose and direction of each individual chapter. This document was continuously updated by the Grammarly team and established the main characters and storyline while allowing for some freedom of creativity for the writers themselves.

What do you think?

Is this project likely to change the way novels are written from this day forward? No – probably not. However, it is an exciting demonstration of how technology can bring people and ideas together with a common goal. No longer is the process of writing a novel limited to a solitary writer banging away on a keyboard until the story is complete. Projects like GrammoWriMo prove that innovative thinking can bring new solutions to age-old challenges.

Would you co-write a novel with 300 other people? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

AllieA self-proclaimed word nerd, Allison VanNest works with Grammarly to help perfect written English. Connect with Allie, the Grammarly team, and more than ONE MILLION Grammarly Facebook fans at http://www.facebook.com/grammarly.

 

Secrets, Inspiration and Indulgence with the Sexy Grammarian

I had a virtual sit down with San Francisco based teacher and writer Kristy Lin Billuni also known as The Sexy Grammarian.  What follows is our conversation from grammar to robots for your enjoyment.

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Jessica G: Off the top, what’s so sexy about grammar? Hmmmm?

Sexy Grammarian:  One the most important sex education lessons I know is that sexy is different for everybody. Grammar is sexy for me for a lot of reasons. I like strong, clear communication. I like juicy, meaningful self-expression. That stuff turns me on. And I can geek out on the grammatical structure of a sentence too. For a lot of people, even writers, grammar is the least sexy thing in the world, which makes it hard to learn. I cut my educator teeth on sex education, so I use a lot of the same principles when I teach grammar and writing. I’m nonjudgmental about what turns you on as a writer. I emphasize the drive of active verbs and the beauty of a well-placed comma. And I use naughty language in my example sentences.

JG: What advice do you have for someone who has just finished their first book length manuscript?

SG: Readers! Before you pay for a professional line edit or start looking for a publisher, get a few trusted friends to give you their opinion. Because editors charge by the word, you will save money by cutting unnecessary sections. Or you might realize that your ending doesn’t work. And you will definitely gain more devoted supporters and future readers by getting the people you love to invest time and love into your project.

JG: Do you recommend people edit as they write or that they wait until the story is a full draft?

SG: I absolutely believe in separating your composition time from your critique time. I know a lot of writers do it, but I think it’s tough to expect yourself to be expansive and creative while also being self-critical and detail oriented. I like to write with abandon, focus on quantity, then let the manuscript rest before I return to it for editing and polishing for quality.

JG: Robots or dinosaurs?

SG: I rely on robots for everything from boiling water to running my social media, so I have to be loyal to them.

JG: How long have you had your Sexy Grammarian website?

SG:  In 2013 I celebrated 10 years in business, but I haven’t always called myself The Sexy Grammarian. I launched the Sexy Grammar blog in 2008 to experiment with social media. People loved it, so I embraced it. Now, it’s my service mission: Arouse the writer.

JG: Would you consider a pit match with Grammar Girl?
(For the record, JG is an ardent Grammar Girl fan, too and has considered tattooing a QR code for the Affect V. Effect post on the back of her hand. But who would say no to Grammar Celebrity Pit Matches?)

SG:  Well, I don’t know what a pit match is, but I wouldn’t want to go up against Mignon Fogarty in any kind of contest. I love what she does and go to her website to review grammar guidelines all the time.

JG: Do you have any current projects you are particularly excited about?

SG: I’m about to start editing a graphic novel for the first time, and I’m excited about entering a new genre. I’m helping a psychic brand her services, which is a totally fascinating process. And I’ve got four of my own dirty stories coming out in collections from Cleis Press this year. I’m really proud of that.

JG:  Tell us about your workshops. Are these available online to those outside of SF?

SexyGPostSG: I think that writing requires attention in three major areas: You have to learn some of the secrets of writing, the rules and guidelines. You have to embrace whatever inspires you. And you have to indulge in a writer’s life, whatever that means for you. So writers in the Sexy Grammar Workshop explore secrets, inspiration, and indulgence, and we have a lot of fun moving our projects forward. I like to mix genres in my workshops so that poets are helping real estate agents write marketing content, and academics are giving novelists feedback on their plots. This works because no matter what you’re writing, the process matters. We focus on finding the process that works for each writer. You can bring the Sexy Grammar Workshop to your organization or writing group right now, and we’re launching the online version at the end of 2014.


You are encouraged to find out more about The Sexy Grammarian on her website SexyG.co and to flirt with her on Twitter  @SexyGrammar

Editing Rx

Editing_Tools_2By Kristin Thiel of Indigo Editing

Just as a therapist may be able to prescribe medication or not, may counsel the physical or the mental side of a person, or may have a certificate or a medical license, an editor may perform any number of different editing tasks and have a background distinct from other editors. Editor is a broad term, so it’s important for authors to ask editors questions and see samples of their work to understand what they do and what perspectives they bring to their work. Two very different editors can both be wonderful—but not equally wonderful for the same writer.

As a group, the editors of Indigo offer a variety of skills and experiences, but here’s the framework within which we all work. For each project, we:

  • Provide a free sample edit so that the author can see the editor’s individual style and so that the editor can offer a clear estimate on time and cost
  • Make suggestions while encouraging the writer’s own style and voice—the author always has the final say on a project
  • Keep a style sheet of all style decisions, variant spellings, and fact-checked proper nouns
  • Write an editorial letter to summarize our edits and explain what the author should do next

We take these steps in each stage of editing. Some projects need all stages, some just one—the editor and the author work together to determine what level of work is needed.

  • Developmental editing digs deep, addressing content, presentation, and documentation. The editor works closely with the author. Because this may continue for several rounds, for the sake of a client’s budget, Indigo tries to keep this contained in a single round. If we notice in a sample edit that a project requires deep structural work, we suggest a Reader’s Response first to help alleviate the heavy lifting required in multiple developmental editing rounds. (For a Reader’s Response, an Indigo editor reads the manuscript at a reader’s, rather than an editor’s, pace and then prepares a letter of reply, highlighting what the editor sees as the manuscript’s strengths and what could be done to address the less successful patterns.)
  • Line editing includes editing for grammar, syntax, and consistent formatting among similar elements, cross-checking across the text, and fact-checking.
  •  Proofreading may happen before design, after design, and after the printer has provided proofs, the editor at this stage catching lingering errors in spelling and punctuation through awkward line or page breaks.

Email info@indigoediting.com to talk with Indigo about the editing you want for your writing. (We can also help with project management of your independent publishing project as well as book design.)

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