Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Building a Pubishing Team That Wins!

By Kellie Coates Gilbert

Thousands of authors and books exist in today’s publishing environment. With those kinds of numbers, if novelists want to excel in the delivery of great fiction to the widest audience possible, we must develop a certain mindset that positions us for success, especially those of us who are partnering with traditional publishing houses.  Here are five action items I’ve found are essential to this success:

1.               Partner with the best people possible.

Do your research and know which agent and publishing house fits the kind of fiction you write. One of the best tools for accomplishing this is Publisher’s Marketplace, an on-line service associated with Publisher’s Weekly.  You can subscribe for about $25 per month with no contract. Once purchased, you can access a massive database of dealmakers, including agents, publishers and contract deals that will help you research who represents what you write and who they sell to and the advance amounts (in a range of figures, not exact).

2.               Establish yourself as one of the team.

Once your manuscript is sold and the contract is executed, I recommend setting up an initial telephone call directly with your editor and marketing director. Ask to visit the house in person (on your own dime if necessary). You will want to meet your team members, but more importantly, you want people in the publishing house (editors, salesman, publicists) to know you.  There is nothing like a physical meeting to keep you from being just one of the crowd. 

3.               Be helpful…..and never demanding.

Be the kind of author you’d like to work with. Don’t shy away from providing honest opinions and ideas. BUT, never act demanding. Always communicate in a business-like manner and let your team know you understand their business considerations. Try to identify what they care about and approach your team members at the publishing house with that in mind. Eliminate the word MY from the conversation and replace with OUR.

4.               Send gifts.

Often, fellow authors balk when I say this. But, this is another really great opportunity to set yourself apart from the author roster and create personal connections.  These people at your publishing house work hard and when you know they are having a sales meeting, have some cupcakes delivered. The salesmen and retailers will remember you fondly as well.

5.               Don’t play the comparison game

There are a multitude of business reasons why one author gets a certain marketing program different from yours. Don’t compare. Don’t expect to get the same treatment as a bestselling author who brings in tons of revenue. Ain’t gonna happen.  So, be practical in your expectations and you will be a lot more content. That said, don’t have low expectations either. You have every right to expect that your team will do everything possible to build your brand and sell your books.

These are my top five suggestions for building a publishing team who will work hard for you. Employ these tactics and watch how this effort positively affects your sales!
Kellie Coates Gilbert is known for thrilling readers with her fast-paced, highly emotional contemporary stories for women. RT Book Reviews called Kellie’s writing “crisp and deft storytelling.” Her books have often been Pulpwood Queen selections and Library Journal chose A Woman of Fortune as one of their Best Books of 2014. A former legal investigator, Kellie spent nearly twenty-five years working in courtrooms and behind the scenes of some of the largest and most well-known cases in America. Her books not only explore the heart issues that matter most to women, but often allow readers an inside peek into her former legal world. Her book A Reason To Stay released 10-6-15. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Three's Company

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

Everyone knows that if you had a genie in a lamp, he would grant you three wishes.  A fair question would be, Why is it always three wishes?  The correct answer is, Because the number three is magic.

We all grew up on fairy tales and fables that reinforced the number three repeatedly: Goldilocks encountered three bowls of porridge, three chairs, three beds, and, ultimately, three bears. Jack climbed the beanstalk and collected three golden objects. Cinderella had a fairy godmother who evidently attended the same school as the genie, granting three wishes.

The Three Little Pigs matched wits with a big bad wolf who also knew the power of three, declaring that he would do three things: "I'll huff, and I'll puff, and I'll blow your house in."  He didn't include "and by the way, I'm gonna eat you," because that would have thrown off the rhythmic flow and was probably a given anyway.

Before crossing the street, we are taught to stop, look and listen. On the day that the fireman comes to our school, we are taught to stop, drop, and roll.  We are wired to remember things more easily when they come in threes.

No less than Solomon himself offered the phrase. "Eat, drink and be merry." The Declaration of Independence grants us the right to "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" here in the land of the Red, White and Blue. And isn't there romantic poetry in the pledge to "love, honor and obey"? 

Having grown up with an inherent affinity for trilogies, the audience finds reassurance in stories and quotations that deliver the goods in threes.  It took three ghosts to show Ebenezer Scrooge the error if his ways via visions of his past, present and future. Dorothy met up with three companions on her road trip to Oz, seeking a brain, a heart, and courage. The Three Stooges were a virtual three ring circus unto themselves.

The very storytelling structure of beginning, middle and end owes a debt to the rule of three, although it seems fairly impossible to have a middle without having a beginning and an end, when you stop and think about it. Nonetheless, we consciously build stories with the basic formula of 1) setting it up, 2) telling the story, and 3) wrapping it up.

There are, of course, other numbers that made their mark in literature and lingo, like the seven dwarfs or the Twelve Days of Christmas.  One could bring up the nineteen rings in Lord of the Rings, but technically the elves were allotted three, so there ya go. 

In any event, my observations today are merely a celebration of the number three.  Use its power however you see fit, inspired by its ability to add a little extra magic to the story you put your blood, sweat and tears into.

Speaking of stories: A cowboy, an astronaut, and a politician go into a bar...

Monday, October 5, 2015

Why Submit?

By Sherry Perkins

What is up with submissions?

We write for many reasons: to express ourselves, to join in the creative process, to see if we can actually string words together which make sense, to contribute to something bigger than ourselves, or simply for the love of the written word. Writing means different things to different people. It means something to the writer and to the reader.            

If your writing, whether it’s a novel, memoir, poetry, general-interest articles, press release, or a myriad of other genres, doesn’t mean anything to you, how will it ever mean something to the reader? That being said, put your whole heart into each piece and the end result will resonate, encourage, cause debate, motivate, inspire, sadden, uplift, expose, elaborate, or hopefully cause a thousand other emotions. We all know we should write good copy for the audience, for the reader, but it should also resonate with us…the writer. If my own pieces don’t move me, they will never move the reader. Don’t you feel the same? It’s all about impact.

Speaking of impact. What is up with submissions and why is it important to put yourself out there? As a freelance writer in print over 100 times, I’m constantly putting myself out there. I submit over and over again. Why? I mean, who in their right mind wants to get rejected? Who wants to not see our name on a competition’s short list? Who wishes to go through the agonizing wait for an editor or publisher to say “yes,” or “no?” I do. I do it all the time. I do it because I want to. I do it because I have to. I do it because I have something to say and I want someone to listen.

There is nothing more exciting to me than seeing my name in a byline. Why? Because it is a direct result of my motivation. It is the effect of my diligence, perseverance, determination to give my words life outside my own head. I want them to sprout wings and fly across the world, to experience other cultures, to be read by strangers.

Yes, unfortunately life gets in the way sometimes. But if you don’t make your submissions a priority, who will? No one. You are the only one charged with the task. Don’t let your words stay buried on a thumb drive, in a notebook, on a computer screen. Find the time to share them.

Artists like to share. We do it freely to anyone willing to listen, anyone hungry for information, anyone yearning to know the craft. We offer advice and encouragement. We share our experiences. We want our writer friends to succeed. We are not selfish. We are not arrogant. We share our stories, our publishing journeys, our setbacks, our successes because we’re all in it together.

Now…get to submitting. Stop letting life get in the way of your dreams. Get your byline. Do it.

Nobody is going to do it for you.
Sherry Perkins wears many colorful and crazy hats. As editor, ghostwriter, grant writer, interviewer, playwright, screenwriter, speaker, author of three chapbooks and a book of photography, she is constantly in motion. Her articles appear in over a dozen print publications and on various online sites. From flash fiction to marketing flyers to a blurb on a national tourism website in Ireland, Sherry loves the diverse creativity which writing brings. Visit Sherry’s blog at Her chapbooks of combined poetry, short stories, and flash fiction can be found on Amazon. Book titles include: The Red BookThe Blue BookThe Yellow Book.

Friday, October 2, 2015

A Southern Writer’s View of Go Set a Watchman

By C. Hope Clark

The reviews of Go Set a Watchman have been all over the place, a lot of them tinged by the fact Harper Lee is elderly, in assisted living, and possibly not 100 percent aware of her new notoriety. But I just want to look at the book, the writing, and its effect on me.

I – Loved - It

I am a child of the deep South. Born in Mississippi. Reared in Mississippi then South Carolina. My parents are Southern. My grandparents, great-grandparents, and however many greats were Southern back to the late 17th century. My mother grew up the sixth of six kids in rural Mississippi on a cotton farm. As a small child visiting the farm in the summer, I recall begging for a cotton sack so I could go out with the hands in the field to pick my grandfather's cotton. My grandmother sewed a miniature floral sack that fit over my shoulder, a version of the white ones the adults used. It didn’t take me long to understand the hard work and the work ethic of those workers. I remember admiring them for being so grownup and efficient, yet a tad distraught about watching them sweat once I gave up the effort and sat in the shade.

I had a sweet aunt who lived in Jackson, Mississippi who could've stepped into a character in the book The HelpShe employed a lovely lady who worked for her for decades, in a white uniform. As a child I looked up to her as someone who ran the house and understood what any child needed. We won't get into the pros and cons of that arrangement.

I recall aging a few more years and feeling like Jean Louise does in Go Set a Watchman. My generation was remarkably more modern than the previous one and the one before that, and I recall the differing schools of thought regarding race just as is presented in this book. Some of the beautiful people in my life had quasi-racial views that I recall labeling as outdated, and I recall feeling in my heart that I was glad my generation would move this issue forward to new ground. But after a hard look at my family history I realized that each generation handled that subject differently, with each one advancing a step or two as the culture of the time allowed.  Mine wasn’t the only generation trying to be progressive. Mine didn’t get it all right either.

And this is what makes for remarkable writing . . . chapters that make our own experiences blend in with the fiction until we can hardly tell the difference.

The opening of Watchman wasn’t anything to be excited about if you listen to the how-to gurus of today. Chapters One and Two did little more than establish the time, setting and introduce us to the characters. The disadvantage that Watchman had to overcome, which was not what Harper Lee could ever foresee, was the reader having a preconceived impression about Scout/Jean Louise and Atticus. However, I’d never read To Kill a Mockingbird. I’m reading it now, but I’m glad I read Watchman without any preconceived notions as to how the characters ought to behave. But while the opening wasn’t dramatic, it caught the reader. No word was wasted. Each word mattered. Each sentence built precisely on the one before until we realized we were two chapters in, eager to see where this story went because if the writing was so beautiful with nothing happening, how fantastic would this be when the plot hits the fan?

I’m a dialogue fanatic. Striking dialogue rocks because conversation inserts energy into the players who in turn define the story or plot. In the case of Watchman, dialogue also meant internal monologue, or Jean Louise’s thoughts. We were her. We got angry. We felt the pain in our heart at her disappointment in humanity in her beloved hometown. We felt the conflict of home versus New York, how one didn’t understand the other yet she could not one-hundred percent side with either.

I’m also a strong believer in setting as character. Again, as a child of the South, I’m always on the lookout for the frauds who feign Southern. It’s difficult to write about a region you do not intimately know. But I smelled the biscuits, tasted the too-strong coffee, and choked at the overdone perfume clinging to hair and hats at the coffee clutch. The old-fashioned furniture, the cool water during an evening dip in the lake, cigarette smoke during a time when lighting up was as second nature as tucking hair behind an ear.

Detail after detail. This story was not complicated . . . simple actually. A girl comes home to be disappointed in the experience – the painful changes that occurred atop the ignorant struggle to remain the same. All done with elementary word usage. Deep character, deft strokes of setting, and dialogue to make you almost look up and hunt for the voices. A combination that stirs us into anger or tears, just because we read a page in a book.

Harper Lee wrote this book so intensely as to make people of today uncomfortable. I’m actually happier that she released it now, when its message is being felt differently that it would have been if published during the period To Kill a Mockingbird hit the bookstores. She snared the time period, more colorful when read today than back then. The political arguments were intense and honest. The coffee clutch party was pretentious and stifling, accented by a huge degree of internal monologue that I’d be afraid to use, that Harper Lee used with relish. Loved the aunt's old-fashioned ways of corsets, dresses, and hats in public compared to Jean Louise's slacks and cigarettes – the contrasts subtle when presented, but loud in a big picture way.

And I adored the ending.

No, Atticus was not painted a racist like some profess, but should be considered more of a realist. To me, he was no different than what I’ve read thus far in To Kill a Mockingbird. He was part of change, but recognized it as a difficult and complicated changing of the guard. Change is painful and is never handled with a clean break regardless of what people want, and he chose to remain in the middle of it to better understand and help with the transition. Sitting across the table from a racist did not make him one. Yet the ending rousted readers to challenge their beliefs, quite evident from the reviews on Amazon, and across the blogosphere. As an author, that would just make me quiver with satisfaction.

This book is so real about humanity and change that it stings, yet the words are delicately chosen, the prose stunning. The book’s earned a place on my top shelf of books, alongside Prince of Tides, The Stand, Lord of the Rings, The Paris Wifeand The Lewis Man. It's so refreshing to read something that doesn't fight so hard to be PC.

Now I'm reading To Kill a Mockingbird. I wish Miss Lee had written more. Lee speaks of a subject we're afraid to talk about without yelling and picking a fight, and she enables us to slow down and study it with a more level head because that raw part of our culture took place a long, long time ago. There has to be some omniscient hand in Watchman not being found for decades, as if we needed the discussion now more than ever.

Go Set a Watchman is beautiful literature with a serious message, showing us how life isn’t simple, isn’t perfect, and isn’t readily fixed when broken. But it’s best to remain in that world, amongst its flawed and struggling people, in order to make it better. In other words, I wish I were still in that story. That’s the epitome of great writing.

C. Hope Clark writes mysteries set in humid, beautiful South Carolina. She adores setting as character and colorful Southern players, and she continues those strongest traits of her writing in her new release, Edisto Jinx, the second in The Edisto Island Mysteries, released October 1 from Bell Bridge Books. Learn more about Hope at and about her mission to assist writers . The Carolina Slade Mysteries, Bell Bridge Books and The Edisto Island Mysteries, Bell Bridge Books

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Writing, Procrastination and Agatha Christie

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

“Write even if you don’t want to, don’t much like what you are writing, and aren’t writing particularly well.” -Agatha Christie 

Dame Agatha said a mouthful in that statement. My issue is never that I can't write. I'm mentally knocking on my head because thankful I've never had writer's block. My issue is procrastination.

How about you, can you identify?

I write better under a deadline. A good thing since I'm always on a deadline with my job at Southern Writers Magazine but throw in a couple of independent writing projects and life, well my procrastination seems to kick into overdrive. For me it works as a huge motivation to get super focused. 

First, I block out time to accomplish the writing goal. That means no chores or distractions. If you write to music by all means put it on. For this project, I popped in a familiar Miss Marple movie for inspiration.

Second, fight the edit gnome in you on the first draft. Get the words on paper then and only then edit. 

Third, block enough time to edit on a different day that you write your first draft. Fresh eyes find all the edits needed. 

Fourth, once edited have courage and hit the send button. 

In words borrowed from J. K. Rowling, "Mischief Managed."

You may be curious my project was a short story of 1800 words for an anthology book. The working title "Dinner With..." I blocked out this past Sunday afternoon and wrote my story, 3500 words. I purposely overwrote the story so the 2nd draft had plenty of room for reduction of words that come with most edits. 

My fictitious dinner subject is with Agatha Christie. She wrote over 88 mystery novels. She remains the most successful mystery writer of all time. 

Who wouldn't want to have dinner with the Dame of best selling Mysteries?  

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Hybrid? We Aren’t Talking Flowers

By Jeri Westerson

Boy, does the writing industry change. While I’m typing this article, about twenty new things will be happening out there. Readers of digital books have tapered off; bookstores who specialize are keeping their heads above water; blogs are out, Twitter is in; Twitter is out, blogs are back…and authors are becoming hybrids.

What does that mean exactly? It means that once upon a time, every author wanted that big New York publishing contract. Heck, we still do. It means prestige, it means getting your book listed in their catalogue, the imprimatur that your book has “made it” even if you aren’t pulling six figures or anything near it for your advance and royalties.

If they couldn’t get that big New York deal, they’d settle for a mid-size publisher. And if they couldn’t land that, they’d go with a small press. But what happens if even that didn’t pan out? Vanity press had a bad reputation that rubbed off on you. Then the boom with Amazon and Kindle, and suddenly self-publishing became respectable. Sort of. And while many of us are still traditionally published with agents working for us and getting new contracts, maybe we had that book in us that we knew just couldn’t even get over the transom with publishers, large or small. We didn’t say good-bye to that manuscript. We said hello to self-publishing….while at the same time continuing to be traditionally published. That’s what we mean by “hybrid.”

It seems everyone’s doing it. At least with a traditional publisher behind you, you get some street cred and your name out there. It’s very helpful to have that. If people like your other work, they are likely to give your indie book a try, and anyway readers don’t care how the book is published, just that it is as good and as polished as the other work they loved so well.

So that means you don’t hit the “Publish” button as soon as you type “The End” any more than your publisher would. It means homework on your part, finding content editors and copy editors, good cover designers and interior formatters. Don’t for one second think it’s all free and you can do it yourself. Unless you have a graphic design background (as I did as an artist and art director) don’t do your own covers. I can spot an indie cover a mile away, and people do judge a book by its cover.

And what’s the rush, anyway? Professionals take their time and only put their product on the market when everything is in place.

When you decide to delve into self-publishing, you need to make a list. I love lists. It’s good to have goals in mind, a direction to move toward. Since you are now the publisher, you need to think ahead. For one, if you want your book to be reviewed by newspapers, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Library Journal, and any other venue that suits your genre, you need to give them a lead time of three to six months before publication. Yup, that’s right. Lots of time to sit on your hands. Well, no. You will have plenty to do. Get a blog list together of blog reviewers, and since you are already published you have probably been networking with other authors. They have blogs, they might offer you a blurb you can use in advertising and press kits (Google “press kits.” You’ll need to generate your own).

Now it’s time to get that cover artist because you will likely want that done before you send out the advance reader copies (Arcs) for review. Investigate publishing platforms. Createspace is the easiest and cheapest but it may not be the best choice for you. IngramSpark charges fees but includes Ingram distribution which offers returns, making your book attractive to independent bookstores. There is always give and take, but none of it is free. You have to spend money to make money. How much money?
·       Editing, both content editing and copy editing. If you have been published for a good long time, you may not need content editing (the storyline, how do the characters shape up, pacing, etc), but you will most certainly need copy editing (grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, fact checking). This can run you anywhere from $200 to $2000, depending on what you need.
·       Formatting for the inside of the print edition and for the digital edition. From $50 to $1500
·       Cover design, from $200 to $2000 (and please don’t skimp on this.)
·       Marketing—bookmarks, postcards, Google Adwords, advertising—expect to shell out anywhere from $200 to $6000. This is where networking is most important. Ask your author friends what worked for them and what didn’t work. You will save yourself a lot of grief and a lot of money.
·       Website—does it need sprucing up? It should certainly have a domain name at this point:
There’s still booking yourself for your launch at bookstores or other venues pertinent to your genre and book, libraries and women’s auxiliary organizations in which to make presentations. You need to let people know you have a book coming out!

Bottom line, it may not fill your bank account, but something will come of it and your name will still be out there in new and different ways. Newer books sell older books.

Last year I released two indie books. One was a prequel to my medieval mystery series called CUP OF BLOOD. The six previous books of the series were published by powerhouse New York publisher St. Martins, but they declined to publish more. While searching for a new publisher (Severn House picked up the series), I decided to publish a prequel, something perfect to fill the space between publishers and publication. Then I pulled a historical novel from my “vault” of novels I never tried to publish or that were rejected. First up was THOUGH HEAVEN FALL: A Medieval Parable, a Quixotic tale of fantasy and faith. And this year, I pulled another from the vault, reworked it, and recently published ROSES IN THE TEMPEST: A Tale of Tudor England, inspired by the lives of two real people weathering the storm of Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries. By following the guidelines above, I am experiencing the fruits of my labors and slowly expanding my audience.   

Maybe you want to test the waters of another genre like me, something your agent has no interest in. Or maybe you just have a book that doesn’t fit into any category, but it’s too darned good to leave in a drawer. Whatever your decision to add “Indie Author” to your title, now you know it’s under your control. Authors have to find multiple ways to bring in income because God knows most of us won’t make a living at it.

What it means to be a hybrid comes down to this: options.
Jeri Westerson writes the critically acclaimed Crispin Guest Medieval Noir novels. She just released a standalone indie book, a historical novel entitled ROSES IN THE TEMPEST: A Tale of Tudor England. Set amid the onrushing storm of Henry VIII's break with Rome, obsession opposes faith in this tale of a wealthy knight and the last prioress of Blackladies convent. See excerpts and more on her Website:
Twitter: @jeriwesterson   Pinterest:

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Are You An Influencer?

By Susan Reichert, Editor-in-Chief, Southern Writers Magazine

Don’t you wish everyone took your word that your information you have is worthy for them to sit up and take notice?

Well you aren’t the only one. We all wish that during some point in our lives. Think back to when you were in school. Did you try to convince a friend to do something, and did they do it?

Are you able to convince others, now that you are older, to do things you want them to do? To convince them your idea is worth trying. Or maybe to convince them they should read your next book?

Everyone is always putting on their social media things about their books and other books in hopes it will stir people to read these particular books. That’s good. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. You have to go deeper.

One way would be to pick out three people that have influence over others. Particularly the ones who you know would have an interest in what you’ve written. You want to get them to notice your work. A good example: If you wrote a book that would make a great TV movie then research the producers/directors that make these types of movies (you could even find the film companies that make them and the heads of these). Make a video/book-trailer –60 to 90 minutes and send this to these producers/directors, with a short note.  

Think out of the box. If you are going to locate the influencers and approach them then you can’t be shy. Give it all you’ve got. The worst that can happen is you don’t hear from them. Then move on to the next set of influencers.

Now, I want to suggest one other important thing. Put this book-trailer and/or video on You Tube, your website, your blog and your social media. Create your own buzz around it. Draw attention. You can list the links to these sites and send the influencers so they can see what is being said about the video/trailer. (It also should protect you from someone using your ideas.)

Take this a step further, and have some friend interview you and ask questions about the book, the background, etc.,  while another friend records it, and puts it on You Tube, website, blog, and social media. Ask your friends to put this on their website directing people to see it on You Tube. The more buzz you create the bigger draw you become.

Good luck! Hope to see you in the movies.