Friday, July 31, 2009

Authors Behaving Badly: A Bookseller Tells All Part 1

My guest this week is Kris Neri, award-winning author, writing instructor, and bookseller. Kris offers advice to authors from her multi-pronged perspective. And I'm proud to say Kris is my local bookseller.

Welcome Kris! What's it really like being both an author and a bookseller? Now, don't be shy.

As Charles Manson once said, "Are people strange, or am I just crazy?" Call me na├»ve, but as a published author myself, I assumed other authors must interact with booksellers as courteously as I do. I've always believed intelligence and unusual sensitivity to be typical traits among those who write. For the most part I've found that to be true. But I’m also a bookseller now — my husband and I own The Well Red Coyote bookstore in Sedona, Arizona. During my four-year tenure as a bookseller, I've discovered that, for a minority, common sense among authors is not as common as you might think.

So here are a just a few of the no-no’s I've observed that the authors among you, and those who hope to be, might want to avoid:

Don't expect the bookseller to take a sacrifice for you. This advice is directed to the self-published and those published by presses that don't offer traditional terms to the trade. Someone emailed us recently to say she was published by a small press and asked if we could host an appearance for her. I told her to send a copy of the book, and I mentioned if wasn't available through traditional outlets, she would have to provide it on consignment at a 40% discount. For a store to take less means they must sell that book at a loss.

The "small press" turned out to be iUniverse, a self-publishing outlet that only offers a 20% discount and doesn't allow for book returns — two conditions that make it impossible for most stores to carry their books. Still, the book was well written. But when I offered to give her an appearance, she thought it was time for negotiations. "I just bought a $32,000 truck," she wrote, "I can't give you 40%. I need to make money from this book."

Okay, let me take a moment here to laugh my butt off at that idea. I wish I could say this was an isolated case, but it's happened too many times. They always seem to enjoy a more lavish lifestyle than I do and they act as if I'm unreasonable for not being willing to subsidize it (How can one universe have so many centers?) And it's always for a book that people are not breaking down the door to get.

Every spot on a bookstore shelf is a space that could just as easily go to someone else. When it's a book of marginal interest, that's a gift. If they have any issue with anyone, it should be with publishers who aren't professional enough to understand how other books are sold, and price and sell their books accordingly.

Some authors have suggested to me that it’s unfair that bookstores make a 40% profit on every book they sell. Boy, is that wrong. Here’s the bottom line of bookselling finances: 60% of every dollar goes to costs of goods sold; that’s primarily books, but it also includes a few gift items, greeting cards, journal, etc. 40% of every dollar pays for everything else; that includes rent, utilities, taxes, salaries, internet, printing costs, credit card processing fees, advertising, telephone, computers & printers, and on and on. Clearly, even the most math-challenged can see that adds up to absolutely 0% profit.

The American Bookseller Association estimates the average bookstore is losing money. They say the average successful bookstore averages 1-2% profit. So, when authors suggest that it’s no big deal when their book carries a less-than-traditional discount, it is a big deal to booksellers. Which author do you think a bookstore owner would rather carry or host an event for? The one whose book will allow them to make a tiny profit, or at a minimum, break even? Or the one who will cost them money for every book sold?

What can authors do to help?

If the store needs something from you to insure your event will be a success, don't make it impossible for the bookseller to get it. One of our local newspapers will only run artwork that's of fairly high resolution. Often when we manage to line up prominent coverage in the local paper, I have to ask the author for high resolution artwork, because what's on their website is too low. Yet too often the author who was so eager to book the date will say, "Can't you get it somewhere else? I don't have time to do that for you." For me? I could just as easily transfer that coverage to the author appearing the next day.

Every author should actually have a media page on their website, with good quality cover art, photos and easy-to-use biographical information. But too few do. You know who to contact at your publisher, I don't. If a publicist set up the gig, naturally, I would contact her for what I need. But if an author sets it up, who else am I supposed to ask when I need something? Why wouldn't you make it easy for me? Sometimes I suspect their resistance stems from the fact that they don't understand what I'm asking for. If you don't know what "high resolution" means, ask someone. Why cut yourself off from free publicity because you're too embarrassed to admit you're techno-phobic?

I'm looking forward to reading your first paranormal novel High Crimes on the Magical Plane to see how a few years close to the Sedona vortexes has affected your writing. Besides High Crimes and running a bookstore, how are you keeping busy?

My third Tracy Eaton mystery, REVENGE FOR OLD TIMES’ SAKE, will be out in Spring ’10. And I’m hard at work on my next Tracy Eaton mystery, REVENGE ON ROUTE 66, and my next Samantha Brennan and Annabelle Haggerty supernatural mystery, MAGICAL ALIENATION. That’s quite enough to keep me busy for now!

Kris Neri is the Agatha, Anthony and Macavity Award-nominated author of the Tracy Eaton mystery series, REVENGE OF THE GYPSY QUEEN and DEM BONES' REVENGE, and the forthcoming REVENGE FOR OLD TIMES’ SAKE; a standalone thriller, NEVER SAY DIE, and a short story collection, THE ROSE IN THE SNOW: TALES OF MISCHIEF AND MAYHEM.

In fall ’09, the first book in a new supernatural series will be published,
HIGH CRIMES ON THE MAGICAL PLANE. Kris has published sixty short stories, including two Derringer Award winners. She teaches writing online for the Writers' Program of the UCLA Extension School. Kris Neri is co-owner of The Well Red Coyote. bookstore in Sedona, Arizona.

Watch for Part 2 of Authors Behaving Badly
& more of Kris Neri's candid insider information!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Help Other Writers to Help Yourself

Welcome Kate,
Kate Robinson is an author of children's fiction and non-fiction, a poet, freelance writer, editor, researcher, and PR specialist
Besides her own work as a writer and editor, Kate is the Webmaster and Google loop moderator for PWP (The Professional Writers of Prescott, AZ) a large, diverse regional writers' organization.

Tell me how taking on volunteer tasks have benefited you?

My work with PWP started with a simple desire to give back to the people who gave me a boost. Bear in mind that it's not only the most experienced people who help you - I've found that I gathered bits and pieces of knowledge and wisdom from beginning and emerging writers as well as seasoned professionals. We're all students and we're all teachers, twenty-four/seven.

By putting one foot in front of the other you can give much more to others than you ever dreamed possible. Publishing and the arts thrive on networking, and networking benefits exponentially when writers and artisans volunteer.

I've gained more writing and editing friends than I ever could have had I decided that my writing time was too precious to give up. Another side benefit is learning about book and author promotion and the publishing industry. I've also learned much about technology by butting heads with the computer beast during the course of posting information on the PWP website!

How did you get so involved in your local writers' group?

As I finished working on my BA at Prescott College in the late 90s, a friend who arranged monthly programs for the Yavapai Archaeological Society inspired me to take my writing seriously and to join PWP.

I never felt I knew enough to serve the group and leaned toward trying my hand on the newsletter, but was pushed (shoved incredulously!) by outgoing VP for Programs to take his place. I would never have volunteered to arrange programs. It turned out to be a truly fun and rewarding. I'd encourage anyone to try their hand at a programs position or any position they feel an affinity for! Groups always need volunteers and creative ideas for fundraising and community outreach.

The following year, I had the idea to e-mail writing contest guidelines and writing calls for submissions to PWP members. I was collecting submission info for myself and it wasn't a stretch to collect a few more and mail them out as the e-zine "E-PWP."

I took a class in computer graphics while I worked at the Phippen Art Museum. Two of my ten thousand duties there were to update the museum website and to design, compose, and schedule museum advertising and press releases. Next, I took a technology in the classroom online class and a class in editing and proofreading.

I'm a little obsessive/compulsive about gathering and organizing information and felt the PWP website could offer a lot more to members, so it became a natural place for me to dabble. I had just enough skills and confidence and crazy determination when founding PWP webmaster moved to Arkansas. The site has truly "mastered" me and has taken a lot more time than I thought possible!

After a year of struggling to reorganize the website and to gain new web skills, I revamped the old PWP Google Forum page, into a member listserv that members now use to share writing news and tips and their personal successes. I brought the old E-PWP into the new forum as "Friday Markets," "More Friday Markets," and "Even More Friday Markets."

I'm also a member of the Arizona State Poetry Society and the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators in Arizona, but haven't served as a volunteer in those organizations.

I'm sure that's only because they don't know what a talented volunteer they have waiting in the wings. Have any tasks pushed you out of your comfort zone?

I'm a major introvert and recluse, so anything that forces me to have public contact takes me out of my comfort zone.

How do you balance all your work?

I'm not sure that I live in balance - I'm an inch away from being a workaholic and my kids complain that I spend far too much time facing my computer. My work is fun. I can hardly wait to turn the computer on every day! Ironically, the speed of modern communications is matched by the complex web of time and energy that it takes to produce these "quick" pages and modules of information.

That said, I ATTEMPT to live a life in balance. I take time out for meditation and contemplation and exercise and entertainment - sometimes these happen all at once. As in a jog through my neighborhood, surrounded by scenic state land, I never know what I'm going to encounter. One evening I'll see a pair of deer, the next a big buck pronghorn, and some nights, a group of javelina or baby cottontails. Other times I'll meditate and read before bedtime, or watch a movie with the kids. The conundrum with teenagers is that when you make yourself available, they make themselves scarce!

What advice would you give to writers who are considering volunteering their valuable time to help other writers?

Do it! The loss of personal time is compensated by the metaphorical riches of giving. I don't think we advance far in our own endeavors until we share our skills with others. Accumulation of good merit is the fuel injector treatment for our personal aspirations and for even greater service. Spiritual teachers from all philosophies say that serving one another is the essence of life.

Thank you, Kate, for sharing your path. I hope writers at all stages consider volunteering with local writers groups and chapters of national organizations, both general and genre specific.

Kate Robinson is a K-12 sub teacher and the author of two middle-grade nonfiction books. Her poetry, short stories and creative nonfiction appear in a variety of anthologies and journals, including Literary Mama and Absolute Write. Her most recent published work is a slipstream sci-fi story anthologized by Elastic Press..

Her works-in-progress includes a novel, a group of linked nature essays,
flash fiction, and children's picture book fiction and nonfiction. Her second children's nonfiction book, Lewis and Clark, is slated for October 2009 release. She lives in Chino Valley, AZ.

Visit Kate at her website. Learn about Kate's Starstone Literary Services.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Creating Book Videos Betty Sullivan La PierrePlus a Contest to Win One!

Welcome Betty!
Betty Sullivan La Pierre, author of the Hawkman mystery series, creates book trailers for fun. I was lucky to win a trailer by Betty for my short novella,
Christmas on Wherever Island. In a few days Betty made a delightful trailer. Needless to say I'm proud of that contest win and impressed with Betty's talent.

How many trailers, or more correctly, "book videos" have you made?
I haven’t really counted, but around 25 or 30... I’ve done all my own, then revised many of them as I became more acquainted with the programs I have on my computer. I’ve done several for friends of mine, Amber’s included. I’m particularly proud of one I did for Howard Hopkins, Horror Writer, “Chloe #2”. View the book trailer.

I can see why you're proud. It's gorgeous and scary.
Lots of authors talk about sources of free photos and music, but I'd like to know about the other parts of creating a video. Where do you start?

First of all, I ask for a short synopsis of the book so I can follow the events in order. (I could also do one for people’s vacation using the same information.) Then I need .jpg pictures of the cover and any other photos the author might have describing the book, or the author could tell me what they’d like and I can usually find photos, as I did with Amber’s. The music is very important for your book trailer, it needs to catch the mood. I have several sources I use. However, if a person wants a special song, let me know the title and I can usually find it.

Betty found great photos for mine and when I asked for a steel drum version of Jingle Bells, she found it!
Do you also use the book's blurb?
That all depends on what the blurb tells me. I might use parts of it for some of the text with a picture.

What about timing?
You usually want to keep a book trailer under 2 minutes. Timing between images is very technical, depending on the clips, audio, text, and transitions.
And the amount of text on a page?
Text is not a problem, but it has to be readable. I might try several different colors, sizes, and methods to get the right effect.

What other steps are important in making sure the video grabs the reader?
It’s like your book. You need a hook to make the viewer want to buy the novel, so it’s important to make the trailer so intriguing they can’t stand not reading the real thing.

Last week Dana Davis talked about authors and audio. Have you ever considered using voice over in videos?
I tried it on one of my earlier book trailers,
The Silent Scream, which I’ve since redone. I don’t have the right voice to be effective, so I won’t do them anymore. However, there are many I’ve heard that are great. It's an option for those who have the intriguing vocal cords.

Besides creating videos for fun, what's new with you and Hawkman?
I’m in the process of writing #12 of the Hawkman Series, titled "Shadows In The Night". The setting is an Independent Living home for the elderly. Yes, murder happens.

Thanks Betty, for sharing your tips and videos!
Betty Sullivan La Pierre author of mystery/suspense/thriller novels, enjoys the challenge of plotting an exciting story. Her Hawkman series is developing quite a fan base. BLACKOUT, Betty's story about a bingo hall (Hawkman Series), ranked in the top ten of the P&E Reader's Poll and won the BLOODY DAGGER AWARD for best Mystery/Suspense. EuroReviews picked THE DEADLY THORN, her stand-alone mystery/thriller, Book of the Month.

Visit Betty

To watch Betty's trailers
then click on ‘Bookshelf’ for a list of all her books. Under each
mystery cover is a link that will take you to the book trailer.

Betty's Contest!
You can win a book trailer made by Betty!
Go to Betty's site, watch the book trailers, Pick your favorite.
Email your choice to Betty

A name will be drawn on Sunday July 26th.
Betty will notify the winner
(Not an author? Betty will figure out a good substitute like a vacation video.)

Contest Closed!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

How Authors Can Use Audio for Promotion & Publishing

My guest this week is Dana Davis, award-winning author of speculative fiction for teens and adults.

Welcome Dana! I confess to being an audio addict and creating an audio interview for my first book. The project was a huge amount of work and fun.

Thank you for having me, Amber. Yes, creating audio files is a time-consuming process. But I also love doing it. And you don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure it out.

In what ways can authors use audio?
There's really no limit to what authors can do with audio. I think it's just a matter of what you can come up with in your imagination and making time to do it. We've become such a fast-paced society, I think creating audio files can only enhance written work. I have made audio book commercials, as well as entire audio books. And once I got the bug, I even started doing my own video book trailers. I also plan to create audio interviews to help promote future books. Right now, it's just a matter of finding the time to get them done.

What types of fiction adapt best to the audio format?
All types of fiction can be turned into audio books, and they can be as simple or elaborate as budgets allow. Think of the old books-on-tape. Many genres were put onto tapes and CDs for the audience's listening pleasure and are still sold in bookstores today. Not only are they great for workouts or long car trips, but they are also wonderful for the visually challenged. This is a boon for the writer, as well, to get the work to those who otherwise might not have access to it.

My mother is visually impaired, so she really appreciates audio books. In fact, she goes through mine faster than I can make them and is always on me to create more. Guess I better get to work on the next one.

Please share how your acting career in stage, television and film helped with recording, editing, and the overall creation of your audio books?

It's nice to see all those acting lessons finally paying off. Seriously though, I spent the majority of my youth in the theater, television and film industries, so I have a lot of experience with vocal work. My basic knowledge with stage sound equipment prompted me to set up a mini sound studio in my office. It was just a matter of researching what kind of equipment I needed in today's computer market.

And most of all, my days in the entertainment industry helped me learn patience with technology. Setting up film shots takes a lot of waiting on the actor's part. If you record in a home office, like I do, you'll have to consider those pesky planes, air conditioners, phones, kids, animals, and other noises that will cause you to have to re-record sections of your work. You don't need experience to create audio files, but you do need practice.

What advice to you have for the author considering audio publishing?
Production suggestions? Equipment? Software?
If you have a decent voice and basic computer knowledge, you can create your own audio files. The equipment I used was fairly simple. Rather than spend a lot of time and money purchasing separate pieces, I bought a Behringer Podcastudio kit from an online music store. It contained everything I needed to get started, a microphone with desktop stand, sound mixer, headphones and audio interface. The USB version costs about $100. Since I was planning to spend long stretches recording, I also bought a set of Bose headphones to use in place of the ones that came with my kit. But that's a personal choice.

Some authors use only a microphone or digital recorder to do their files. While this may be fine for commercials or interviews, I suggest spending a little more on equipment if you plan to do entire books. And I also suggest either buying or creating a pop filter to soften those popping p, k, t and s sounds. This will save you headaches when it comes time to edit. I made mine out of an embroidery hoop, a clamp and pantyhose for about $8. There's a great video on youtube that shows you exactly how to create one.

As for software, I still use Audacity to record and edit my audio, and it came free with my computer. I downloaded free Levelator software to level the sound quality. And finally, I used free iTunes software to convert the audacity files to the formats I wanted and put tags in for the various audio devices people would be using to listen to the books. I suggest creating a sample audio file as a way of teaching yourself these basics.

What about music and/or sound effects to enhance the reading? Can authors use any music they like?
No. Music, like books, is copyrighted and you must have permission to use it.
The best way is to go with royalty-free pieces. For a one-time payment, royalty-free music can be used for audio books, videos, commercials, and just about any other media. Be sure and read the terms of agreement before making purchases, but there are many companies who create royalty-free music for the entertainment industry, so you can find a lot of it out there.

I was able to listen to samples on websites to help me decide which music to purchase. I paid $40 for two CDs from and $5 for a single music download from an independent artist. As an extra thanks, I always give credit to the artist or studio, whether or not they require it.

Any final tips for authors wanting to try their hand at audio?
Yes. Audio production is time-consuming, but in today's techno-society, it’s a great media tool for writers and a way to reach those who otherwise might not pay attention to your work. And most of all, it's fun! So, relax, warm up that voice, and give it a try.

Thanks, Dana, for visiting and sharing.

Special Note to Authors: Explore Dana's website for some great ideas. Like a list of places where she has donated books.

Dana Davis is the award-winning author of the paranormal fantasy Desert Magick: Superstitions and the teen novel The Mask of Tamirella.Her fantasy novels Breach of Worlds and Deadly Fate: Book One of the Teadai Prophecies are due out soon from SynergEbooks.

Her audio book Quest for Freedom is currently being revamped for future release with another publisher.Dana lives in the Arizona desert with her husband and two crazy parakeets, where she is writing another novel. She invites readers to visit her website

Win a free signed copy of Desert Magick: Superstitions, a 2009 Next Generation Indie Book Awards Finalist. Simply go to Dana's website homepage at, click on the email icon in the left column, and send your name and email address. All who enter will go into a drawing for the prize and a winner will be chosen at random. The winner will be notified to send his/her mailing address to receive the prize. One email per person, please. Good luck!
ontest ends August 10, 2009
Contest Closed. Winner Notified.
Thanks to all who entered.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Fairies 101 and the Paranormal Author!

Welcome Ronni Ann Hall, artist, & psychic teacher!
Known for her talent for deep communication with animals, nature and the invisible world, my guest this week is the Designing Fairy. An artist, teacher, author, and animal communicator, Ronni teaches online classes about the spirit world and fairy healing.

First, what is a fairy?
Before I ever started my research, my idea of fairies was taken from Disney movies. I expected floating beings with tiny wings wearing clothes! After working with the plants and flowers, I've come to realize the Fairies more as little guardian angels connected to the earth and Nature. They are simply spirits. I see them as little lights around plants, and as authorities on joy and healing. If you are able to tune into this energy, there is much information on healing yourself or simply helping your begonia to thrive.

Tell me about your online class "Fairies 101."
This class is a compilation and sampler of all my Fairy School classes, which is based on my two year of research putting together The Fairy Field Guide book and Fairy Online School. All my online classes are illustrated PDF lessons which combined my lessons, my love of story with my artistic background. In the class, students learn about Today's Fairies, how to communicate with a plant, how to see Fairies and communicate with this energy.

Would this class help writers get in touch with fairies and perhaps help them get closer to the entire spirit world?
I am sure that by taking this class or one of the Fairy School classes, a door will open to possibilities and believing, which always awakens a bigger perspective in seeing the world (which of course leads to better writing!)

Once you can recognize the spirits of the flowers, you will then easily recognize the helpful spirits around you, the voice of your animal, and even bring you closer to your own soul and spirit, which we are all trying to do whenever we write! There is such a big spiritual world around us! Just because we can't always see it, it is there.

Any tips for paranormal writers (writers who write about paranormal) about writing about the supernatural in a realistic way?
Get rid of the fantasy images we all grew up with. The more cartoonish, the faker the read for the reader, unless of course, you are writing for small children. Write more authentic and the reader will experience the story. Include all your senses and emotions, and your observations and disbelief/belief. The paranormal is all about discovery with the wonder of a child, and of course, believing when your head tells you are crazy, but your heart tells you something else.

And what about talking dogs, a popular literary genre (IMO)? As an animal communicator, what advice would you give an author who wants their animal characters to speak?
Please don't dress them in clothes. Make your animals as emotional and as aware as possible. They are different than humans in behavior and in body, but the same emotionally. I've talked to many animals and what is constant is their awareness and consciousness is the same as ours! Many even higher. They have a higher perspective than we do, are able to love easily and be in the moment. Also, be sure to write from their visual perspective. A tiny mouse will see the world from a very low perspective on the ground, while a huge elephant will see us as very tiny.

Besides your classes and art, what are you working on?
My c
urrent book projects are The Fairy Field Guide and Letters From Lucy.

Ronni, thank you for visiting. I hope readers check out your whimsical art as well as your classes. And those lucky enough to live in northern Arizona consider your in-person Animal Communication classes.

Learn more about Ronni's Fairy classes and animal communication work, books, art and her artwork and book projects.

Ronni's Contest:
Leave a comment on Ronni's blog with your email address
for a free .pdf download of
"How To Use Flower Essences."