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Saturday, February 27, 2010

San Francisco Write to Market Conference - Realizations and Discoveries

by Writer's Edge Staff

If a writer conference can be considered a success based on the amount of polished manuscripts attendees took home, as well as the high number of pitched novels requested by agents, then the San Francisco Write to Market was a raving success. In truth, there are no better indicators. Writers in attendance were a new generation of up and comers, many of whom, based on the quality of their writing, can be relied on to make a dent in book circles before too long.

All the above aside, and following an extensive pre-conference review of every writer's novel, or work-in-progress, important commonalities emerged--none of which were a surprise given the purpose of the writer conference. First of all, many projects were missing a vital antagonist, or any kind of antagonistic force. Second, titles and opening hooks were in need of a boost. Third, in many cases, the set-up and back story were present, but the core of the story appeared vague or nonexistent. Fourth, a considerable number of genre projects were insufficiently high concept to be competitive in this current marketplace. Finally, a good portion of the writers, regardless of overall experience, lacked the knowledge necessary to properly pitch the project to agents.

The point of the San Francisco Write to Market conference is to serve writers in all stages of becoming, whatever their needs may be, and one expects attendees at such an event to need some guidance, but what became apparent was that most of the attendees, through no fault of their own (95% of these writers were bright, energetic, and very serious), and despite being at the game for many months or even years, were in need of more fundamentals. But why? Given the plethora of writing magazines, blogs, workshops, etc., it was somewhat of a revelation.

Could it be that writer magazines and writer groups (and perhaps even MFA programs) are actually failing as a whole to provide aspiring authors with the most critical and basic facts they need to approach the creation of the novel?

It appears that way ... It's impossible to believe that so many intelligent and tenacious individuals at the Write to Market were generally unable or unwilling to seek out the knowledge necessary to make their considerable labors more fruitful. They were eager for knowledge and more than willing to learn what they needed to be successful. As a matter of fact, at the conclusion of the event, the ten or so agents present sincerely asked to see dozens of projects.


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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Selling Books at Fairs and Festivals

Editor's Note: We thought we would rerun Paula's article on how to prepare for book fairs and festivals since many are held in the Spring.

By Paula Margulies

It's that wonderful time of year when local neighborhoods and specialty organizations begin holding their annual street fairs and festivals. Authors should try to take advantage of the festivals in their areas, as they offer great opportunities to meet readers and sell books. Many festivals attract thousands of attendees and provide excellent selling opportunities, especially for unknown and self-published authors who are not as likely to draw big crowds at book store signings. Selling books at fairs and festivals is also a smart idea for more experienced or well-known writers, who are looking to augment their book tour schedules.

Listed below are some tips if you plan to sell your book at a street festival or book fair this year:

1. Promote ahead of time.

If you plan to sell books at a festival, be sure to do all the footwork that you would normally do for any book signing. Send out a press release, list the event in print and online calendars, and use your email lists to notify readers that you’ll be selling books at an upcoming festival or fair. Be sure to include the date, time, and street address for the festival, as well as the location of your particular booth, in your promotional material.

2. Share expenses.

Some festivals charge quite a bit for booth space. If you find the price too prohibitive, consider splitting costs by sharing space with one or more other authors. If you are going to rent a booth at a specialty fair, invite other authors who have books in the same genre, or share with someone who sells something related to your book. Be creative - if you have a book with a Native American theme, share space with a historical author at some of the Indian pow-wows in your area. If you are a nonfiction writer with a how-to book, you may want to attend some of the local craft fairs and festivals that occur in the spring and summer months. Shop owners and local artists are often looking for opportunities to sell their wares and may be interested in sharing space at festivals. Also, watch for specialty events - children’s book festivals, African American festivals, Italian or Greek festivals, and library events, etc., where your book might fit in.

3. Come prepared.

Make sure you have the following items with you before you head out to man your booth:
Books - consider how many people will be attending the event, and plan accordingly. If you drive to an event, you can always keep extra books in your car, in case you sell those you bring with you to the booth. Be sure to bring "Autographed Copy" stickers if you plan to sign books at your booth, and determine what price and the appropriate tax amount, if applicable, you’ll be asking before the booth opens that day.
Giveaways - like any trade show, you should plan on giving out freebies to attract individuals to your booth. Bookmarks, candy, pens, etc., all work well as giveaways that will attract readers to stop by your booth. One author I know creates small booklets, with the first five chapters of her young adult fantasy novel, as a giveaway to use at book fairs. She hands them out to kids as they pass by, and urges them to ask their parents to purchase the book online or at a bookstore if they want to read more.
Set up items - make sure you have a table, table covering, chairs, canopy, cooler with food and drinks, sunglasses, sunscreen, a jacket for cooler weather, book stands, and signage or posters. Bring scissors, tape, and any other items you might need for setting up displays. Stash set-up items in a piece of carry-on luggage to easily roll them out to your booth. If you're going to be outdoors, bring paperweights or heavy items to hold down any flyers or papers that might blow away on windy days.
Tax permits and change - some festival and fair organizations require that you have a business license or tax permit before you can sell at a booth and will ask that you bring those with you while you’re exhibiting. Also, be sure to bring change with you in correct increments: nickels, quarters, dollar bills, etc., so you can make a sale if someone hands you a $20 bill or higher. If you are set up to accept credit cards and checks, be sure to have the processing equipment with you (if you accept PayPal and have access to electricity, bring your laptop or PDA).
Pitch - plan a quick, one-minute pitch to use with individuals who stop by your booth. Outline your spiel in advance, and practice it so it seems natural and friendly when potential buyers approach you.

4. Practice good booth etiquette.

If you're sharing a booth, it’s important to be considerate and polite to your fellow authors, as well as the neighboring sellers on either side of your booth. When sharing booth space, arrange how you’ll handle customers ahead of time, so that you’re not jockeying for attention when individuals approach, and be sensitive to customers who are listening to your booth buddies' pitches. Try to engage your customers before they buy; take the time to ask them what they like to read, if they read books similar to yours, etc., and really listen to their answers - although people will be interested in your comments about your book, they also like to be heard, so use your listening skills to help make the sale.

5. Have ordering info ready if you run out of books.

Be sure to bring extra info, such as business cards or flyers, to can hand out if you run out of books and giveaways. If sales are slow, you can lower prices, but doing so often means that you might sell out. Be prepared to make use of your remaining booth space time by having ordering information or contact information readily available for those who may want to buy after the event is over.

6. Follow up afterward.

Like any networking event, fairs and festivals provide ample opportunity to network with other authors, potential clients, and readers. Be sure to follow up after the festival: send promised books to customers, get in touch with networking contacts, and send thank yous to festival organizers, so they'll invite you back next year.

7. Book early for next year’s event.

Some festivals are really popular and only allow a limited number of vendors. To ensure that you aren’t shut out of key festivals and fairs, research the ones available in your area and be sure to book them ahead of time whenever possible.

A great list of links of annual book festivals throughout the United States can be found at: http://www.thegritsbookclub.com/Content/Events.html

Happy selling!
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Paula Margulies is a book publicity and promotions expert in San Diego, California. You can reach her at paula@paulamargulies.com, or visit her website at http://www.paulamargulies.com/.
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Monday, February 1, 2010

The Dark Side of the iPad

By Anthony S. Policastro

Steve Jobs has done it again. Wooed all of us with another Wow device with the introduction of the iPad last week, a new color ebook, email and web browser tablet that many critics say will go head to head with Amazon's Kindle.

And Kudos to Jobs for bringing another technological marvel to the market, but there is a darker side to the iPad.
With the launch of the new iBooks app for the iPad, five of the largest book publishers, Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, Macmillan, Penguin and Simon & Schuster had signed up to provide e-book content for the new tablet.

And one of the major reasons they jumped on board so quickly is because the iPad gives them the opportunity to sell their books between $12.99 and $14.99 whereas Amazon limited their highest priced titles to $9.99.

The dark side to all of this is greed. These publishers are going against the natural laws of the market by forcing a higher price for ebooks on an already well accepted market price of $9.99.

One of the major reasons for the attractiveness of the Kindle is the $9.99 price for mainstream book titles. For the price of one hardcover book, a Kindle owner can have three major titles. I know many Kindle owners who have filled up their Kindles to capacity because of this low price and I know of others who easily spent upwards of $300 plus on Kindle titles.

These publishers are following the same path as the music industry – attempting to raise prices beyond what the market has deemed the comfortable price point. And they are using the same lame excuses – the publishers claim the low ebook prices are hurting hardcover sales; the music industry claimed the low price of downloadable songs cut into their CD sales.

Both are false. Many young people do not read books today preferring to get their content on video games, the Internet, ebook readers or on mobile devices. The older generations buy fewer books because of the high price of hardcover titles and wait for the paperback versions.

The trend is clear – sales of ebooks and electronic content are exploding; sales of print books are decreasing. This is the reality of the market, but the book publishers refuse to accept this.

Instead, they see an opportunity with the iPad to further preserve and hopefully bolster their failing business model – to give the booksellers as many printed titles as they want on consignment and allow them to return what they don't sell at no cost to the bookseller.

They believe the higher ebook price will cause people to buy the hardcover version. I don't think so. I believe they will only decrease sales of both versions. The $9.99 and lower price point will prevail.

The iPad pricing model is also bad news for mid list and back list authors because with the higher ebook prices only the major titles by the bestselling authors will sell, again closing the door to many unknown authors with good content.

If Amazon raises the prices of their books to be in line with these publishers, it will turn the ebook business model into the failing print book model – where publishers depend on bestsellers to support their businesses and publish fewer and fewer unknown authors.

And Jobs – he supports the higher ebook price because Apple will make 30 percent of each book sale on the iPad. The following from The New York Times on 1/27 sums it up:

"Mr. Jobs credited Amazon with pioneering the category with the Kindle, but said 'we are going to stand on their shoulders and go a little bit farther.'"

Remember that when you decide to purchase an iPad.


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