Beverly Jenkins strutted on to the literary scene almost 25 years ago, becoming the first African-American woman with a best-selling historical romance novel.
She thought “Night Song,” published in 1994, would open the door for other black women authors.
“The readers were coming through but there no authors behind me,” said Jenkins, who will be in Bowling Green for Researching the Romance, a two-day academic conference on April 13-14 at Bowling Green State University.
“I had the niche to myself for 20 years,” she said. “But now, it’s amazing.”
2015 recipient of the Community Medal of Arts Award, Cathie Weir has written about her journey before, during and after a double lung transplant in 2008.
I’ll See You Later: When actress and comedienne Cathie Higgins Weir was diagnosed with a devastating disease, she approached her recovery with the same zeal and humor she showed on the stage.
As an accomplished actress, Weir has seen many strange things in her thirty years on stage, but ten years ago she encountered an amazing sight while waiting for a double lung transplant. Her father appeared to her in a dream.
This ghost simply told his daughter, “I’ll see you later.”
The phrase would both haunt and comfort her during the demanding times ahead. As Weir recounts in this new memoir, she had been diagnosed with emphysema at fifty-six. Her father died at fifty-nine. She was terrified she only had three years to live.
Was her father’s appearance a warning? In the hilarious, harrowing adventure ahead, Weir would learn the truth.
Weir’s memoir isn’t merely about her personal fight with emphysema but expands its scope to look at the realities of organ donation, the importance of being your own medical advocate, and the bonds that connect donors, recipients, and their entire support networks.
Authors want lots of good media for their books. They always ask me: “How do we get more reviews?” Here’s the answer.
To get book reviews, a number of things need to happen. First, in order to get reviewed by a print media outlet, you will need to follow their instructions. For instance, a publication like Library Journal generally wants to receive a galley (an advance review copy of the book) some three and a half months prior to its publication date. If you send it later than that you essentially undermine or destroy your chances of getting reviewed there.
Second, some publications do not want self-published books for review. If that publication won’t review such books and your book is self-published, don’t bother contacting them.
Third, some publications, such as Publishers Weekly require that two copies be sent to them, not one. Please honor that request.
Fourth, you need to identify which book reviewer or person your book is to be sent to. Don’t rely on someone at the publication to sift through the mail and make a choice for you.
As a girl, I absolutely adored the Little House on the Prairie series. I would wake early in the morning, sit at the kitchen table, and devour each book. I was inspired by young Laura and her adventures on the prairie. What I could have never known then is what an inspiration Wilder the author would be for me as an adult.
Wilder didn’t publish her first book, Little House in the Big Woods, until she was 64. During the earlier part of her life, she had taught and farmed and raised a family. She had written a bit on the side for small local publications in her fifties, but it wasn’t until her retirement investments were wiped out in the 1929 stock market crash that she wrote Little House in the Big Woods. The book was published in 1932, and it was the start of a writing career that has resulted in the beloved TV series, spin-off books, and millions of copies sold. Like Frank McCourt, whose Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir Angela’s Ashes was published when McCourt was 66, Wilder is proof that it’s never too late to write a book.
I’ve previously written about why I believe that it is not only possible but in some ways advantageous to start a writing career after the age of 50 (see “Is it Too Late to Start Writing After 50?”). I am all for older writers taking the plunge, but it is important to be aware that it will be a different process than starting a writing a career at 25 may have been.
Here are a few things that are particularly important in order to start writing after 50.
To be clear, the question really is not should an author an author invest in either book marketing or book publicity, but rather, how much of each?
Book marketing covers sales and advertising, including things like speaking, book signings, website development, and handing out fliers.
Book publicity covers the media, both traditional media (TV, radio, print, online) and social media (blogs, podcasts, FB, Twitter, LI, Instagram, You Tube).
You need not to choose one over the other but to be involved in both – in big quantities of time, money, and effort.
Even though I’ve been involved in promoting authors and books to the news media for nearly 30 years, I will state that book marketing may be more important than PR. However, to succeed at selling your book, you’ll need some help from the news media.
Instead Of Worrying About Book PR, Strategize and Take Action
The other day I was fretting over preparing records and documents for my accountant so he could file my taxes for last year. It’s an exercise I go through annually, often spending weeks stressing over something that I can get done in a matter of days. This is what many of us do – not just with our taxes or life challenges, but with our book publicity.
The idea of promoting one’s book wears each of us down. We put more energy into worrying than in doing something about it. Fear is exhausting – and useless. It just causes us to delay and put off what we really need to attack. My advice to authors is this: Stop thinking about having to promote your book and instead apply that time and energy into actually executing a solid book publicity campaign.
We’ve all been there: a book we were excited about, one that we worked on earnestly.
But when it hit the market, all that came back was a big yawn.
No author wants to be in that situation, most of all a self-published author. We gamble our own time, money, and commitment to our books, and we really need a positive response sometimes just to keep going.
But there it is: your baby isn’t selling.
What went wrong? Is it something you can fix, or is it embedded in the DNA of your book, a flaw so grave it can never recover?
Take a look at this list and see if you’ve been guilty of any of these oversights.
And don’t feel too bad, we all make mistakes, miss important road signs, get confused on the journey to publication.
Question: I am pondering publishing a book through Ingram Spark and would like the book in bookstores. When should you use ISBN numbers to self-publish?
Answer: Every book you publish, whether self-published or done with a major publisher, should have a separate ISBN number. In fact, each version of the book you publisher should have a separate ISBN number: hardcover, paperback, audio, ebook.
Vying for time in bookstores and other venues is becoming more and more competitive. So authors, especially children’s authors, should keep your expectations in check by thinking of this as a long-term strategy to sell more books.
When it comes to events, introduce yourself to local indie bookstores, retail boutiques, gift shops, craft shops, and even coffee shops and breweries!
Coffee and beer? Yes! Coffee shops are popular with stay at home and work from home moms. They meet friends with other kids there. It’s a great place for an event because for children’s authors especially, your buyers are already hanging out. So you can use it as a great way to sell more books! And if you live in a beer-centric area, I probably don’t have to tell you that breweries are often very family (and dog!) friendly. And parents are always looking for ways to keep the kids entertained while enjoying a brew!
Telling someone you’re a writer (poet, author, journalist, whatever) often gets, um, an interesting response or unwanted feedback. Many thanks to my fellow writers (and Barbara Bos of Women’s Writers, Women’s Books) for sharing these gems:
Trying to solve a problem in your manuscript and you just can’t figure it out? Just say you don’t care and move on to something else.
Yes, really. Stay with me on this one. Let’s say you’ve been working on a problem in your manuscript for hours, days, months, or a lifetime in dog years. You’re trying to write a new piece of it, or you’re trying to solve an old problem in a new way, or you’re working on any scene that requires some creativity on your part. But you’re tired. It’s draft 37 and you’re burned out. You don’t really care how the love interest dies anymore; you just know he needs to be dead in a way that gets to the next plot point and isn’t inconsistent with three other conditions already set up in the rest of the story. Frankly, if you could make him appear to you in the flesh for a moment, you’d hone one of your chewed-up pencils to a super-sharp point and just do the deed yourself. That would feel so good right now.
But that’s not how this works. Now, you’re seasoned enough to know that you can’t wait for your muse to show up before you start to write, so you sit down in your chair, lift your fingers to the keyboard, but…nothing. You can’t figure out the problem. You eat chocolate, and…nothing. You drink copious amounts of coffee. Nothing (except an urgent need to pee). You stare out the window, walk the dog, clean the house… All the usual prescriptions for jogging a writer’s brain add up to you being no closer to accessing the necessary creativity than you were at the beginning of this effort.
So give up. Turn your attention to writing something else.
You’ve got two small kids, two incomes, a decent budget. You’d like something with four bedrooms so you can have room for a home office and/or craft room, a garage for tools and the car, maybe a yard for a dog.
“I’ve got the perfect place for you,” says your plastic-smiling realtor. And she takes you to a decent but otherwise nondescript home. “You have to see this.”
You look around. “Um… the yard’s sort of small,” you point out.
“Yes, yes,” she says, ushering you through the living room.
“Does it have four bedrooms?”
“Sure,” she says, getting a little impatient. “And a garage. Sort of.”
“How’s the school dis…”
“Ta-dah!” She’s standing in the bathroom, and she moves her hands with a flourish… pointing to the toilet.
You blink. “That’s a toilet.”
“It’s a PLATINUM toilet.” She looks proud enough to bust. “And the SINK is platinum, too!”
You’re staring at her like she may be high at this point. “Um… okay. But how’s the school district?”
She is now obviously frustrated. “The kitchen sink is platinum too, you know. So are some of the doorknobs.”
You are really uncomfortable. Apparently platinum is a thing around here. “It’s lovely,” you say, hoping to mollify her. “Can we, er, look at the bedrooms?”
She grudgingly gives you the full walk-through. The house is serviceable, no question, but you wish that the owner had spent the money they’d blown on platinum-plating the plumbing on fencing the yard, or built an actual garage instead of the currently open carport. So this house will definitely be a no.
What does all of this have to do with your writing, you might ask?