10 Publishing Trends for 2017

Another year is upon us. We all have a new “to-do” list, a new set of goals, and new adventures awaiting our arrival. Thanks to our friends at Written Word Media, they are making this year a little bit easier on us already. They have compiled a Top 10 publishing trend list for 2017 and I have to say, they are spot on. Take a look at the list below for things you should be looking out for to make this year your most successful yet.

2017

  1. Fiction sales are driven by e-books. The large majority of adult book sales are digital, especially for fiction. So, if that’s the genre you write in you will want to focus most of your marketing power there.
  2. Indie authors and small presses will keep growing. It’s no secret that the “Big 5″‘s market share continues to drop year after year. But, it’s encouraging to know that over 50% of the market share is made up of small presses, indie authors, and Amazon imprints. The good news is that you can drive your own success this year. The bad news is that simply pricing your e-books low won’t alone garner yourself a readership. With all indie authors and small presses pricing their books low nowadays, marketing and visibility is really going to be key this year.
  3. Amazon imprints are dominating. I am getting more and more requests from my authors to submit their work to Amazon imprints. In fact, for many of them it’s the only publisher they would be willing to sign with and I don’t necessarily blame them. In 2016, 7 out of the 10 Kindle bestsellers were from Amazon imprints. If you can’t actually be published by them, Written Word makes a good suggestion- market your books with theirs since they give their own books preferential marketing spots.
  4. Kindle Unlimited will keep expanding. More and more readers are seeing the benefit of the Kindle Unlimited program and Amazon markets the program tirelessly. This will likely affect single unit e-book sales and force more authors to become a part of the program.
  5. Crowding is changing the game. One of the benefits of digital publishing and digital bookstores is that there is endless bookshelf space. Your book can sit up on that “shelf” as long as you want it to. Now, new books not only need to compete with other new books, but with older ones as well. If you have successful backlist books, don’t neglect them- redesign the covers, write new summaries/blurbs, get new reviews, and focus some new marketing dollars/strategies on them too. The more books you have available and easily accessible, the most chances you have at succeeding in a vast e-book world.
  6. Audiobooks will only get more popular. If I haven’t told you this enough already, I will say it again- the audiobook market is continually growing every year. You should always try to make your books available in as many formats as possible.
  7. Marketing will determine success. If you don’t market, then you can’t expect to succeed. The digital age is making it easier than ever for the average person to effectively market their own books. E-mail marketing has always been a popular and effective marketing tool. Also, websites such as BookBub, Freebooksy, and Bargain Booksy are excellent tools as well.
  8. Facebook ads will decline. Facebook ads have become extremely popular in 2016. Their popularity and higher demand has led to higher costs for these ads, which in turn hurts your return on investment. Don’t be afraid to try other advertisement tools this year as well, like Amazon ads.
  9. International audiences are a great place to focus for growth. A great way to expand your audience this year is to reach out to international markets as we are seeing an increased involvement in their readers year after year. International rights can be scary waters to navigate, but the potential is well worth it. There are so many readers outside the US and UK, it would be a shame to not tap into those resources.
  10. Authors will continue to help each other. There is very little in life that can done alone. We are seeing more and more authors banding together and that won’t slow down in 2017. Many authors are starting to co-write books or create box sets together. It also warms my heart to see an author blasting their own social media sites for another author friend. Work on expanding and creating an author support system for yourself this year. After all, we are all in this together.

Here’s to another crazy, but successful, year. Write on!

Things We Wish We Knew When We Were ‘Writing Virgins’

With each word, sentence, and paragraph we write we often learn something new- whether we are writing a book, article, essay, or blog post. We learn something new about ourselves, our writing style, the world around us, and the best part- how to write better. But what if we could go back in time and keep all our current knowledge? If we would write our first words knowing everything we know right now? Although impossible, it sounds enticing, right? Maybe we would all be best selling authors and award winning journalists by now. As it turns out, we shouldn’t relish on things we can’t change. Instead we should be thankful for those lessons we have learned along the way that helped us grow into the writer we are today. Hey, at least we aren’t that clueless ‘writing virgin’ anymore.

We don’t only have our own lessons to learn from, but we also have our fellow writers experiences to lean on as well. Recently, Marie Claire sat with author Kate Mosse and talked with her about things she wish she knew before writing her first book. She really seemed to nail down some crucial points and if we can’t take writing advice from a successful author herself, then who can we really trust? Whether you are a veteran writer or a ‘writing virgin’ (go ahead thank me now before you become famous… well, maybe you should really thank Kate), everyone will find something they can relate to or learn from on her list:

  1. You must tackle the blank screen.

As Kate puts it, the blank screen is your enemy. You can’t say you are writing anything until you actually have words on the page. Research, outlines, doodles, and excuses are all part of the writing process but don’t let them keep you from doing the one thing you really need to do- write.

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2. Editing is where success happens. 

Sometimes we get so caught up in the actual writing process because we think that if we have a crappy first draft that we are doomed from ever succeeding. But, editing is really where all the magic happens so let yourself get to that point as quickly as possible. We need time to digest our own stories and often our best ideas come when aren’t really looking for them.

3. Everyone has bad days. 

Every writer has a day (or maybe countless days) when they feel like everything they are doing is wrong and that maybe they never should of started this project in the first place. These feelings aren’t just for you ‘virgins’ out there, everyone has them. Some days you feel awesome and others you may feel completely discouraged. Just know that this is completely normal.

4. Make a plan and stick to it.

You know that feeling when you think you have the best story idea ever and then you get half way through and start to question everything about it? Yes, I know you do. Well, guess what? Don’t do that. Stick it through and keep writing. This is where the editing magic really takes place.

5. Write every day. 

Make sure you are writing something every day. Even if you only have 5 spare minutes one day, write a few sentences. You need to stay in the writing groove to make sure you stay on track.

6. No writer is the same. 

In order to be successful you need to find out what works for you. Every writer has a different time of day in which they write their best or a different writing spot that really gets their creative juices flowing. Just because it worked for one writer, doesn’t mean it will work for you. Stay true to yourself and give yourself what you need.

7. Write on inspiration, not sequence.  

You  don’t need to write your story in order- that’s the beauty of ‘copy and paste.’ If you are itching to write a particular scene, go for it. Writing is supposed to be enjoyable and the more fun you have with it, the happier you will be with the end result. Don’t force yourself into writing something you aren’t into at the moment. There’s always tomorrow for that.

8. Don’t be afraid to fail. 

Every failure leads to another success, so don’t let that get in your way of trying. If your first, sixth, or tenth story completely fails- brush it off (after you treat yourself to a nice big pity ice cream sundae). Something you learned from that experience will help you succeed in the future, I promise (and Kate does too).

Write on.

Making Writing A Priority

If you are someone who is lucky enough to call themselves a full-time writer, its very likely that you have already discovered that it’s not as glorious as it sounds. Is it awesome? Yes! But, every job comes with it downsides. Many people envision writers with amble amount of time on their hands, spending their days “writing” in cute coffee shops, connecting with nature on a picnic blanket in the park, or doing “research” on fun vacations or in fascinating museums. Many people assume that writers have a plethora of time available to them to do other things like errands, house cleaning, babysitting, or fun days/nights out with friends because your schedule is so flexible, right?

These writing fantasies couldn’t be further from the truth. When writing is your full-time job that’s exactly what it is- a full-time job. One of the biggest challenges of having such a free-form job is scheduling.  It’s very easy to let other things get in the way of your writing because we all have other commitments: children, spouses, hobbies, chores, errands, and friends. When you don’t punch the clock for a 9-5 job, it’s incredibly easy to keep pushing off the one thing you really should be doing because you have the whole day ahead of you and there’s always tomorrow. But, if you want to keep writing full-time you need to find a way to make writing your priority. It’s way easier said than done, I know that. But then again, there’s nothing glamorous about not getting your work done.

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A few days ago, on Huffington Post’s I NEED COFFEE blog they talked about three really helpful tips for scheduling your writing life:

  1. Find your scheduling method.

You need to find a way of scheduling that works for you. Do you want your schedule to be electronic so you can easily access it from whenever you are? If so, you need to think about what type of tools you want in your scheduling software. There are so many choices out there that if you don’t pick the right one for you, it isn’t going to help. Maybe you prefer to hand write your schedule? Then you need to get an agenda pad that’s easy to use and easy to carry around. You need to find a way to keep it neat and organized or else you will end up missing the very things you started that agenda pad for.

2. Schedule everything, but schedule small. 

If you are getting a scheduling software or agenda to just put down to “Write novel” in it, you are wasting your time. You need to go deeper than that. Maybe give yourself a particular word count to reach, a certain scene to write, or a chapter to complete. Maybe a character or a past event needs more developing, schedule that too. You need to think small when scheduling your day, week, or even month. Anything you do pertaining to your writing needs to be scheduled. It forces you to stay on track and focus on the task at hand. You can worry about everything else you need to do when it comes up on your schedule.

3. Learn to buffer. 

The problem with scheduling is that we can easily get carried away with it. We can become so obsessed with it that we find ourselves scheduling every minute of our lives. That’s why we need to buffer. Leave 15-30 minutes between tasks to breathe. Take a break, get some fresh air, check on your kids, do a few quick house chores, stretch- anything. Going from one task, to the other, to the other will make anyone crazy. You will be much more successful if you buffer your time and take those well deserved breaks.

Write on.

How To Query

One my favorite things about launching my own literary agency has been the flow of query letters I have received from authors. I love hearing from authors about their creative and bold stories (literature nerd, much?) and I love listening to people describe work that they are passionate about. Their energy is inspiring and their optimism contagious. Unfortunately, I haven’t had as much time as I would like in the past several months to tend to the rapidly growing submission pile in my office (insert immense apologies to those still waiting here). One of my main goals going into this spring/summer is to tackle that entire pile head on- let’s not hold our breath here but rather pray some mighty prayers to whatever higher power exists out there.

I started to dig through the pile again after a rather lengthy hiatus from it and it really hit me just how important a query letter is. This might come off as a stupid realization because well, duh query letters are super important. But, it’s not until you put yourself in the shoes of those people reading these letters that the importance really strikes you. Think about it for a second, you are faced with a pile of 100 book submissions- what’s going to make you stop and ask for more rather than tossing it directly into the ‘reject pile’? What sets one letter apart from another? What key information are you looking for?

See the dilemma of the query letter now? Yes, yes you do.

query

Catching an agent’s or publisher’s eye can be at times pure luck. Maybe the agent/editor has a special affinity towards your genre or writing style. Maybe they had good luck with a similar book recently. Or maybe it just sounds so different enough that it’s worth a shot. Whatever the case may be, you are one step closer to getting published and you couldn’t be happier about the opportunity.

Unfortunately, we all can’t depend on luck. Authors and writers need to take their querying seriously if they want to have even the slightest chance of getting noticed. You might feel like you are spending the same amount of time drafting a one page letter as it took you to write your entire novel. It might not feel like it at the time, but that’s a good thing. If your query doesn’t catch, your novel or book isn’t going to either. This morning I came across some helpful tips on GalleyCat that all writers should keep in mind as they are drafting their next query letter:

  1. Nail the “hook.” What’s the main point of your story? What makes your story so interesting? What makes it so different from other novels already out there? Why should the reader care about what you have to say? What does every word you put down on paper lead up to? Once you figure that out, nail it home in the query letter. Agents and editors don’t have time to read every manuscript in full, so you need to tell us what makes your story so special so maybe, just maybe we will take the time to read it. Don’t try to hide things in an effort to build suspense.
  2. Offer comparative titles. Since the agent/editor has never read your book before and is just reading a short summary of it, it’s helpful to include some comparative titles in your letter that maybe that agent/editor has already read or has at least heard about. It gives us some sort of base line to compare to and conveys the overall feeling of your story perhaps better than you ever could in your own words. Pick the right titles that actually compare to your book- you aren’t tricking anyone if you just rattle off a few bestsellers.
  3. Share your own story. The biographical section of your query letter is just as important as the summary of your book. We want to get to know the person behind the writing because that’s what helps to sells a book as well. Make sure to highlight the most interesting facts about yourself and what makes you, well… you.
  4. Acknowledge what you are looking for. Let the agent/editor know what type of relationship you are looking for with them. Are you solely just looking for a channel in which your work will get noticed? Do you want to work with them in order to improve your writing? Are you an experienced writer or are you looking for someone who will really be able to explain every step of the process to you? Neither of these options are ‘bad,’ you just need to be upfront about what you are looking for so that we can better access if we will be able to fulfill your desires.
  5. Talk about future plans. If you have other projects in the works or have ideas for future projects, include that information as well. It’s helpful to know where you want to go as an author and if we can see ourselves taking that ride with you. It’s always refreshing to hear from a writer with a vision for themselves, so don’t be afraid to share.

Write (or query) on!

Dr. Seuss Turns 112!

It only seemed fitting on this day, Dr. Seuss’ birthday, to talk about writing a successful children’s book. After all, he was one of the greatest (or possibly THE greatest) children’s book authors of all time. His left an unforgettable mark on society that goes far beyond his writing talents. He is and always will remain a household name. Children (and adults too) still lose themselves in his books each night before bed, they still watch movie adaptions of his work each year, and they ride Dr. Seuss themed rides throughout entertainment parks across the country. Dr. Seuss continually makes the impossible possible, even long after he is no longer with us.

Today I found myself thinking about what makes Dr. Seuss’ work so great. Why are we so captivated by his stories? Why do children of all decades continue to relate to his work? What did he figure out about writing children’s books that many authors are still trying to understand? The truth is, we will never really know. What makes a genius, a genius usually dies with them. For us regular folks, we are left sitting here asking why.

I took what I know about writing children’s books and applied it to Dr. Seuss and his work. And guess what? Each and every one of his books consisted of each and every successful characteristic of children’s writing that I could think of. So, I guess that’s a pretty good place to start.

  1. Make your book timeless.

One of the main reasons Dr. Seuss was, and continues to be, so successful is that he found topics to write about that are completely timeless. Be nice to one another, believe in yourself, don’t be afraid to have a little fun, take chances, and honor each other’s differences are all things that children will always be able to relate to. His characters and illustrations are also timeless. They don’t scream a certain time period or ever look outdated. If one didn’t know any better, they could easily believe that The Cat In The Hat was written just last year.

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2. Your  book needs to be visually appealing. 

Half of the children indulging in these books, don’t know how to read yet. They are listening to their parents, grandparents, or siblings read these books to them. The catchy phrases provide a good source of entertainment, but in order to captivate there needs to be a visual element as well. Dr. Seuss’ pages are filled with all the colors of the rainbow and humorous illustrations. They are tastefully crazy and perfectly match the wild imagination of children everywhere.

3. Keep it simple and straight to the point. 

When children are bogged down with detail, they are likely to stop paying attention or just might simply walk away. Less is better when it comes to writing for children. Each page of Dr. Seuss is only filled with a couple sentences. The words are simple, short, and to the point. There are no unnecessary details and each word helps him to reach his end goal-to entertain and teach.

4. Teach a lesson.

When writing for children it’s important to have a purpose. Children’s brains are absorbent sponges and we should take every opportunity we have to teach them something new or reiterate something they should already know. It can be something simple, like to remember to brush your teeth. Or it can be more complex, like recognizing everyone is different. No matter what Dr. Seuss set out to write, he set out to teach. Each book taught a different lesson that every child could relate to.

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5. At the end of the book, your audience should feel good. 

It’s important that children walk away from books with a good feeling. If the book is too sad or scary, they aren’t going to want to pick up another book anytime soon. We want to encourage reading, not discourage it. This doesn’t mean you can’t deal with some heavy topics, you just need to find a way to make it ‘alright’ in the end. Dr. Seuss knew just how to do this. No matter what you are dealing with, you are guarantee to feel even just a tad bit better after reading one of his books. The rhymes, illustrations, and story lines encourage smiles to form on every reader’s face.

Do yourself a favor and pick up your Dr. Seuss favorite today and give it another read. You deserve to be a kid again every once in a while.

Write on.

Writing To Finish

I’m not sure what the whether is like where you are today, but here it is dark and rainy. If I didn’t have anything I needed to do today, I would welcome the gloom with open arms. There’s no better excuse to snuggle in bed all day with a good book. But in reality, on most rainy days, we all have stuff we need to do. We all have jobs we need to attend and goals we need to meet. Bad weather is just another thing to add to the ‘excuse list.’

Writers… you know what I’m talking about.

Some days we look for everything and anything to avoid picking up the pencil or sitting down at the keyboard. The ‘scaries’ become ever more prominent the closer you get to finishing your current project, book, or novel. It’s like there is some extraterrestrial force pulling you away from the very one thing you should be doing or working on. Procrastination is one of the biggest obstacles for writers. Writing is a long process that takes a lot of stamina and determination. It’s very easy to get distracted or discouraged after months of writing, especially if you feel like you aren’t getting any closer to the end product. You aren’t alone in this feeling and it’s something that everyone of us struggles with at one point in our lives (or maybe a few points). The good news? It’s a fixable problem.

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The Huffington Post published an article this morning about some helpful ways to combat our unlucky procrastination. Of course, it’s easier said than done. Nothing worth having comes easy. That’s why it’s called an accomplishment. If we want to reach those accomplishments, we need to find ways to work through those hurdles. We need to find a reason to pick up that pencil on those rainy days. Here are some of the suggestions from The Huffington Post, maybe one will work for you:

  1. Plan a reward. 

Give yourself something to look forward to. You would think the gratification of writing an awesome novel would be enough, but in most cases it’s not. It’s not something tangible and it’s in our human nature to thrive on physical gratification. Plan a treat for yourself once your book is completely ready for publication- take a mini vacation, get that yummy dessert you have been eyeing for months at your favorite restaurant, or buy yourself a new outfit or pair of shoes. You deserve it.

2. Make a list of benefits. 

Take a break and make a list of all the benefits to finishing your book. You’ll get to finally publish it, which brings in book sales. You get to move on to your next big idea. You can focus on other leads for the project- such as a possible audiobook or movie deal. So many more doors open when you have a finished product. In fact, no doors are open until that finished project is in your hands.

3. Completion avoids failure.

Every new sentence puts you that much closer to actually finishing. It might sound like common sense, but think about it. Every day you don’t sit down to write another sentence, paragraph, or chapter increases your chances that you are never going to finish. And we don’t want that now, do we?

4. Ditch the perfectionism. 

Having polished work is important, but you don’t want to overthink it. Once it prevents you from progressing then it has become a problem. Editing, rewriting, and revisions are good but we need to do them tastefully. As soon as you find yourself questioning how other people are going to react to a certain sentence or the tiniest of details, you have gone too far. Write the story you want to write and people will either love it or hate it.

5. Imagine the worst. 

Imagine the worst thing happening to you upon completion of your book. Is it a bad review? No sales? Nasty comments? Whatever it is, picture yourself surviving it. Because guess what? You will. If that’s the thing that is holding you back from finishing, just know you will survive (and yes, the Destiny’s Child song is now permanently stuck in my head for the night).

6. Aim for your best effort. 

Rather than focusing on perfection, focus on creating the best version of your book that you can. Aim to make each book of yours better than the last. Focus on growing as an author, learning from your own mistakes and triumphs. Don’t strive for someone else’s perfection because you will never get there. Become the best writer you can be and then next time, become even better.

7. Please yourself.

Make sure that once you put that last word on the page, your story is exactly how you set out for it to be. Sometimes people’s opinions and criticisms along the way change the course of our writing. Most of the time we don’t even notice it, or we think it’s the best choice at the time. At the end of the day, you need to be happy with your finished product. There’s no guarantee it’s going to sell. The only guarantee you can have is that your proud of it. And plus, if you are writing something you want to write it’s much more likely you will finish it.

Write on.

Why Writers Read

One concept that I have mentioned frequently throughout this blog is that in order to improve your writing you need to be reading. Your best learning tool is other authors. The key to successful learning through reading is to venture outside your writing genre. There is so much to be learned from writing that is different from what you normally indulge in and most importantly, what you typically write. I have offered up this advice many times before, but I never really explained why it’s so important. In order to reap all the potential benefits, you need to know why you are doing what you are doing, what the benefits are, how it’s going to help you improve, and what you should be looking out for. It’s easy for me to spit out ‘meaningless’ advice to you, but understanding the advice and how to take full advantage of it is going to make all the difference. Since 2016 is the year of change, we need to start understanding our own writing and why we do what we do on a whole different level.

I have to be honest, I love Bustle. They always seem to have the right advice for me right when I need it the most. The advice they offer up is very accessible and it’s actually fun to read. Once again, Bustle came to my rescue with a recent article about… wait for it… why we should read outside our genre and its benefits. It sums up, for me, the three major reasons we should all diversify our reading list a bit more.

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  1. Reading outside your genre is a form of priceless research.

Successful research takes a mediocre book/story line and turns it into a masterpiece. We all want to believe what we are reading. We all want the story to seem possible- either in our world or in some extraterrestrial universe. Research brings reality to your writing. Just because you write romances, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t read some medical non-fiction books or medical thrillers to bring that heart wrenching hospital scene to life. If you write science fiction, try your hand at some romances to learn how to take that budding relationship between your two main characters from platonic to sexual. Learning how other authors describe and present certain areas that you are struggling with is a priceless tool. You can read countless articles on how to make a steamy hot sex scene, but immersing yourself in the literature yourself is the best thing you can do. Not only will you learn things that you should do in your own writing, but you will also discover things that you shouldn’t do along the way as well.

2. Reading outside your genre will reveal your strengths, as well as your weaknesses. 

All authors have their signature writing tone that many of their fans identify with. Having a distinct style that readers can rely on is part of successful writing career. Readers are drawn to your writing for a certain reason and you need to make sure you give it to them every time. Reading outside your genre can put you more in tune with your signature tone, you will quickly realize which authors are similar to you and which must be writing on a completely different planet. You learn what’s working for them and perhaps try to incorporate it into your own writing. Most importantly, you also learn what your own writing is lacking. You likely aren’t going to change your tone completely and I don’t think you should, but incorporating different styles and tones into your stories leads to more layered and entertaining writing and reading. Varying tones can take a one dimensional piece and convert it into a three-dimensional piece of glory. Spice your writing up a bit and throw your readers for a loop every once in a while.

3. Reading outside your genre will teach you different ways to captivate your audience.

As important as a signature writing style is, we never want to become predictable or boring. We don’t want to start every chapter the same way or end each book with the same resolution. Reading different genres teaches you how different authors create exciting scenes, introduce new characters, create tension, and demonstrate emotion. You know, all that important stuff that makes for a great story. There are a million ways to do exactly the same thing, which is what makes writing so awesome. You can essentially read the same scene by a thousand different authors and feel like it’s fresh new content every time. Reading outside your genres teaches you to diversify your writing in a way that will never be coined as predictable.

Write on. Or perhaps this time, read on.