In Your Corner: Derailed by COVID-19?

Coronavirus, Covid-19 symptoms

Yeah.

That happened.

For many of us, it’s still happening. Even in those states that are moving into Phase 1 of reopening, there’s a lot left to do and a great deal that must happen before a “new normal” settles into place.

The truth of the matter is that, while some people did find a way to turn lemons into lemonade during this most lemony of seasons, it has still been hard. And it has been hard, specifically, for those in the business of wordcraft. The shutdown has not, for many people, been a nice and relaxing break from “real life,” but rather a stressful and busy time in which we’ve had to master new technologies and new routines while also feeding families and homeschooling kids and filtering social media and grappling with new and shifting work resources. Personality conflicts and tensions both within friendships or work relationships or family groups have ballooned. A librarian friend told me recently that while working from home, her library’s staff were expected to do twice as much as usual with half as many resources, and be able to flip their bedrooms into functional workspaces each morning. And every back-room tension she and her coworkers already had was magnified exponentially by the miscommunications made possible by working remotely. A teacher friend also mentioned a doubled workload; her two young sons were at home and adjusting to taking her direction in their learning, while she was still tasked with designing remote classes and assignments for three different high school English courses. A retired friend, whose home life is markedly less busy, still found himself unable to concentrate on anything other than his own mental and physical health under the COVID-19 restrictions.

Some writers, undoubtedly, will still have produced fantastic and profound works of art during this period of unprecedented disruption. And good for them! That’s fantastic! But many writers (and readers, let’s be honest) can’t settle into the business of words when they’re either so busy or so mentally burnt out as we have been, collectively, over the last six to eight weeks.

And that’s okay, too.

Just as the world turns on its axis and we go through our seasons, our writing lies must also leave room for the occasional tilt or turn. Productivity does not always have to be measured in the number of words written. Sometimes, productivity is a state of mind, of being open and receptive to the world around us without a pen and paper or laptop as the medium of record. If you emerge from the COVID-19 shutdown with just a sense of having survived, you did good and important work. If you emerge with a story or two or an experience you’re still mulling over, that maybe one day will inform a book you write, you did good and important work. If you emerge with nothing at all and a bleak sense of having failed at anything writing-related, we’re here for you.

Ninety-nine percent of writing, regardless of genre, is about paying attention.

There’s been a lot to pay attention to lately. Don’t kick yourself for something you haven’t done or think you failed to do (and you didn’t fail at anything, we promise). The past will keep. Together, we will figure out the next part of our story together. And if there’s any way we can help encourage you here on the blog, or enable you in your writing or book marketing journey, please (please!) let us know in the comments below.

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author SeLibraries are a book-lovers paradise.  Unlimited books and resources everywhere.  One of the best resources is the librarian itself.  Your local librarian can provide help with possibly setting up a book reading event to help you market your book, answers to questions on how to have your book stocked in the library and much more.  Librarians are an amazing source of help and information services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

In Your Corner: Get Thy Book to a Bookstore!

Despite the evolution of ebooks and e-readers, as well as other changes within the book publishing industry, a “traditional” bookstore presence should still be a goal for authors who want this. Why? Well, with this brick-and-mortar presence, authors are able to reach readers that are passionate about books. Think about it–people have to leave behind the comforts of their own home to visit a physical bookstore. Most likely, they are there to purchase a book. If your book is on the shelf, yours may just have a chance of going home with them.

Salesman at the checkout in a bookstore

But … how can self-publishing authors work toward getting their books into bookstores like Barnes & Noble and local independent bookstores? Is it a matter of luck? Can we make the cut? What does that even mean?! Well, the good news is that even if you’re not necessarily on a lucky streak, it’s still possible to place your book on the shelves of bookstores. You must, however, have a solid plan in place to do so. You must, for example:

  • … make sure your book is fully returnable. If your book cannot be returned, you are requiring the bookstore to assume a great deal of risk—and many of them simply won’t be interested for that very reason. If they stock 10 copies of your book and only 4 sell over the course of a year and they cannot return the extra copies to you, they lose money. If the books are returnable, though, the store can simply send the books back that don’t sell for you to find better and more successful placements. Think of this return-ability as a type of “insurance” for your book … and as a necessary component of setting up a healthy long-term relationship with the bookstores which will sell not just this one book, but all of your books, present and future.
  • … offer a sufficient trade discount. What’s a sufficient discount? Typically, I recommend discounting your books around 50-55% (or higher) for brick-and-mortar booksellers. Of course this does cut significantly into your profits per book, but a higher retail margin gives the bookstore more incentive to stock your book on their shelves … and sell more books in total. No incentive? No sales.
  • … prove that your book is desirable, and has legs. This is probably the most difficult—though not insurmountable—part of brick-and-mortar sales, as authors often have a biased view of their books. The best indicator of a desirable book isn’t opinion … it’s exponential sales figures! If the amount of books you sell doubles, triples, or quadruples month-after-month, that is something that can work in your favor. If you aren’t a professional marketer, you may want to seek the services of a book marketing consultant. Make sure they are able to help you draft a marketing plan and go forth on planning your publicity.

After you’ve done all of the above, you must put together a proposal to submit to bookstore contacts. But we’ll tackle that in a separate blog post, since it’s a whole other animal unto itself. Stick around next week for my musings on how best to reach out to reach out to the stores, once you have published your book and are on the path towards wrapping up your publicity campaign!

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author SeLibraries are a book-lovers paradise.  Unlimited books and resources everywhere.  One of the best resources is the librarian itself.  Your local librarian can provide help with possibly setting up a book reading event to help you market your book, answers to questions on how to have your book stocked in the library and much more.  Librarians are an amazing source of help and information.rvices for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

ORIGINAL BOOK REVIEW: The Realistic Optimist – A Collection of Essays by Ellie Bushweller

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OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION*:

This book was written by a person who has a full and active life as a wife, mother, grandmother, nurse, counselor and freelance writer. She has been a keen observer of many aspects of human interest.

It is a collection of essays that are concerned with a wide variety of topics. The essays are insightful, informative, humorous and hopeful.

This book should appeal to all those who are intrigued by all the joys and concerns that impact people’s daily lives.

REVIEW:

There are many essays out there in the world, and books like The Realistic Optimist are the best possible kind of persuasion I need to read more of them. Like many readers, my main exposure to the form came in college–first, as an undergraduate learning the basic definitions and structure, and then as a graduate student experimenting with genre expectations and strengthening my sentences. There were essays on supersonic planes, on oranges, on eclipses, on eating unprocessed foods, on shopping every store in the Mall of America, on sports, on hunting, and the list goes on. What there wasn’t, for the most part, was a collection of essays from a single author that captured my interest and felt like something more than a couple of really good works surrounded by filler.

Until now.

For most of a decade, Ellie Bushweller essayed for her local South Burlington’s The Other Paper. Her columns chronicled the daily lives of not just the people she met and the scenes she witnessed, but also the comings and goings of squirrels. Of seasons. Of one’s fellow bench-mates in the park. Of the tools and technologies that pass through our lives. Of time itself. Each of the roughly one hundred essays in this collection were written with conviction and heart, and while the occasional line indicates an essay’s origin in a newspaper column, the collection does not suffer from the change in delivery method.

It is fitting, I think, that The Other Paper would cover this collection of essays which it helped bring into the world with warmth and affection. There’s simply no reading of this book … and no encountering of Bushweller herself … without feeling touched by sunshine. One can easily see why and how she developed a loyal following among the newspaper subscribers of South Burlington.

Which isn’t to say that Bushweller hasn’t walked through some valleys and shadows and maybe even done dark alleys. After a childhood in Brooklyn, she grew into an adulthood as a nurse working to care for children and adults in a dilapidated city housing project. Still, despite life’s hardships witnessed and experienced daily, she clearly never closed her heart to the possibility of doing some good simply by being … a realistic optimist.

IN SUMMARY:

Come for the squirrel stories but stay for the bittersweet authenticity of a life lived with gusto and conviction, gentleness and generosity. The Realistic Optimist is rich with spirit and a balm in tough times. It is also a love letter to a decade of life in a specific time and place–South Burlington–that deserves witness.

WHERE TO BUY?

You can find The Realistic Optimist wherever good books are sold, including Amazon and Barnes and Noble. You can also find out more about Ellie Bushweller’s work on the book’s Outskirts Press author page.

WHAT NEXT?

I’ll be going back to one of my wheelhouses, which is to say novel-length works of memoir and nonfiction. (Although frankly, I can fall in love with any genre if the writing is strong.) I’m working on a memoir of combat in Vietnam: God, Me and the Blackhorse by Barry Beaven. I tend to be deeply affected by stories of war, so I’m taking it slow and checking in and out of some other, lighter works … but I think Beaven’s will be the next book to make it into my reviews. You can catch those thoughts on Beaven’s book in two weeks here on Self Publishing Advisor.

 

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

* Courtesy of Amazon book listing.


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ABOUT KENDRA M.: With nine years in library service, six years of working within the self-publishing world, as well as extensive experience in creative writing, freelance online content creation, and podcast editing, Kendra seeks to amplify the voices of those who need and deserve most to be heard.

Self-Publishing News: 2.25.2020

February concept. stationery and notebook, business background

And now for the news.

Highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing:

We love these monthly lists from Publishers Weekly! Not only do they serve as a critical discovery tool for those of us who read self-published books regularly, but they also help authors and the industry, too, by raising awareness of new titles and subjects of interest percolating through the wider cultural consciousness. Those behind the monthly lists make a real effort to represent the fantastic work being done across genres from romance to thriller to nonfiction and poetry, and this same even-handedness is shown in representing titles from big-name self-publishing companies to those offering full-service options like Outskirts Press (this month it’s Asking the Moon to Leave by Johnny Randolph Hunt) to those books which are published under only their authors’ names. As Publishers Weekly puts it,

Booksellers, publishers, librarians, and agents are encouraged to look at the 54 self-published titles below. Each appears with a list of retailers that are selling the book and a description provided by its author. Some of these writers are waiting to be discovered; others have track records and followings and are doing it on their own. If you are a self-published author interested in listing titles in this section, please visit publishersweekly.com/pw-select for more information.

This list comes out each month in both print and digital versions of the magazine, and we can’t recommend it highly enough!

We couldn’t resist talking about this article by Erin Grace of the Omaha World-Herald chronicling the further adventures of the inimitable Robin Reed-Poindexter, an Omaha native whose years fighting fire in California in part fuel her work as a writer. Reed-Poindexter has published two semi-autobiographical children’s books based on her experiences, as well as a lengthy 660 page (!) memoir titled Now I See Clearly. Having made history as the first black woman hired onto the Richmond Fire Department in 1987, Reed-Poindexter “scrapped her way” (Grace’s good word choice there) through some tough times and retired in 2019. Writes Grace, “Robin said she wants the stories to remind students who get in trouble that they should never write themselves off. While grateful for the support she said her North Omaha network of friends, family and educators gave her, ultimately she had to prove her worth on her own.” Her children’s books set out to render this ethos accessible to kids. In a year that has already seen much conversation about fire and the power of civic engagement, we can’t think of a better self-publishing story to feature here on our blog today.


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As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry.This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog each month to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

 

Ask the Book Doctor: Are There Special Rules When Using a Pen Name?

Question: I am simply a hobby writer. I do get the occasional “how-to article” published in magazines; however, I want to write some western fiction novels. One problem, as I see it, is my surname. It is of eastern European origin and sounds strange to most Americans. If I write under an alias, are there any special rules that might apply to using a nom de plume, like getting paid under the assumed name, copyrights under that name, et cetera?

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Photo by Download a pic Donate a buck! ^ on Pexels.com

Answer: I’m not an attorney, but as I understand it, pseudonyms are not a problem in the publishing business. Your publisher will know your real name and send your checks to your legal name. Once you produce a written piece of work, the copyright automatically belongs to you (under your real name) until and unless you sell those rights, and the rights will belong to you no matter what pseudonym you choose to use when publishing your book.

What would you like to ask a book doctor? Send your questions to Bobbie Christmas at Bobbie@zebraeditor.com. This article republished from the Self Publishing Advisor archives.