Interview with Patricia Wynn

Patricia Wynn is the author of 10 romance novels from Harlequin, Fawcett, and Dorchester, and is the author of the Blue Satan mystery series. She is also the founder of Pemberly Press which publishes mysteries “for readers with eager minds“. Finally, she is the founder of the Texas Lyme Disease Association, which she still serves long distance as a member of the Board of Directors.

Welcome Patricia!

Like many mystery authors, you also write romances. What connection do you find between these two genres?
I’ve always been a fan of mysteries with romantic subplots and romances with mystery subplots. They make for a good combination. Both genres have satisfying endings: i.e., boy gets girl and murderer is caught, which are reassuring messages for an escape reader like me. Otherwise, they have different structures and genre requirements.

Tell us about your Blue Satan mystery series.

The Blue Satan series combines all the things I like best in fiction: mystery, romance, history, and adventure. It draws on my favorite literary traditions: the great romantic adventure classics like The Scarlet Pimpernel and Andre Dumas’s books (The Count of Monte Cristo, The Man in the Iron Mask, etc.); the romance and social satire of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer; and classic British whodunits; but also historical novels that convey social and political issues in times of unrest.

It takes place in the early years of George I’s reign, beginning in 1715, the year of a major Jacobite rebellion in Great Britain. (The Jacobites were followers of James Stuart and attempted several times to restore the Stuarts to the throne.) There’s a lot of political intrigue and espionage along with swashbuckling action.

My detectives are a duo: Gideon Viscount St. Mars, who’s been accused of a crime he did not commit and becomes the highwayman Blue Satan, and Hester Kean, waiting woman to her cousin Isabella, the Countess of Hawkhurst, who has access to court society. Gideon detects at night and using disguises, as well as occasional male force, while Hester pursues her inquiries in the light of day. Their romance develops over the course of the series, and the series plot questions are whether they will marry and whether Gideon’s name will ever be cleared.

You travel to England for research. Can you tell us about your methods once you get to that country? Are you digging through archives? Visiting sites that were around in the 18th century?

I’ve had different goals on different trips, but I’m on the go from the moment I land to the second I leave. The first time I went for research on this particular series, I tried to see every building in London and Westminster that was built before 1715 to get a sense of what the city would have looked like, and artifacts from the Stuart period to see what was in use. The Museum of London and the Geoffrey show furniture and objects by era. Some of the great houses, like Leeds Castle and Penshurst, have smaller museums with collections like dog collars and weapons, and older pieces of furniture, so I can see how houses were furnished, what the upholstery was like, quaint objects, etc.

On that first trip I also explored Kent, the setting for some of the first two books, in particular the villages I planned to use, like Hawkhurst , and the Weald, which was once an immense forest. I visited smugglers’ villages, like Rye in Sussex. At all these places, I bought books of local history with pictures of ancient houses to help me since my visual memory is so bad. I took notes on plants and birds, every detail I could find to give my writing authenticity.

On my most recent trip, which was in January, I particularly wanted to see what the dawn was like that time of year for the opening scene in my next book, A Killing Frost. Then, I spent every day in a library or museum libraries, looking at books and maps from the period, searching for possible cover art (I find the pictures that are used for my covers), and visiting some of the museums I’ve missed, like the Museum of Garden History at Lambeth.

Next trip will have to be after March when the National Trust properties are opened to the public. I want to visit Ham House, which is supposed to be the best preserved and most complete collection of 17th century fashion and power. I’ll visit as many houses as I can, and will hope by that time that the new Galleries of Modern London at the Museum of London will be open, which will cover London from 1666 on. It can be very frustrating to discover that what you’ve gone to see is closed for renovation or, as on my last trip, for the only week of the year that the British Museum Library was closed.

What happens if you can’t find the information you’re looking for? Do you leave the subject out? Or make an educated guess?

I really hate to guess, because that’s when I make mistakes, but sometimes I have to. For instance, there are no records of the interiors of most of the houses I might like to use to set a scene. I can’t even discover the exact layout of St. James’s Palace in 1716, for instance. So I use what has been published and have to be vague about the rest. Many of the churches were torn down and rebuilt, or destroyed in the Second World War, and of course, they go through transformations over 300 years. It may take me three hours to find a detail of an old church I can use, which will only result in three sentences. By and large, I do research and try to weave my story around what is known, but if I need to put a scene in one of the royal palaces, then I do my best to find out what it really was like. So many of the personal accounts for the years 1715-16 were destroyed because people were afraid of being arrested for treason and they burned their letters and journals.

Your various books have earned critical acclaim, a nomination for the RITA Award, a Silver Medal from PMA , the Benjamin Franklin Award for Best Genre Novel, and a starred review from Library Journal. While the awards are impressive, did these accolades translate into increased sales and recognition of your books?
The Benjamin Franklin Award and the favorable reviews from Library Journal have probably increased my sales to libraries and attention from reviewers. Otherwise I can’t tell they’ve had any impact. Public libraries only buy books that have been reviewed in a major review publication. My accolades have not been of the kind to be seen widely by readers, but they may help me get wider reviews.
You are the founder of Pemberley Press, a charter member of The Author’s Studio and a member of the Independent Book Publishers Association. Pemberley Press specifically publishes historical mysteries. Do your books stand a chance against those released by the larger publishing houses?
Yes and no. My distributor, Independent Publishers Group, has a nationwide sales force and relationships with every wholesaler, chain, and many independent bookstores , so the distribution is good and the books are easily available. I’ve seen my hardcover releases on the New Fiction shelves at some Barnes & Noble stores. That said, the major publishers have the money to pay for placement of their books in stores, like on end caps and at the front of the store. They can also publish in mass market format, which reaches more readers. It would be very hard to win an Agatha Award, for instance, with a book that comes out in hardcover original, for the simple reason that not enough people will buy it and read it in order to vote. And the economies of mass market are such that small presses cannot publish in that format. There is also some bias against small press among institutional buyers, although readers never notice who published a book.
One of my authors, Marion Moore Hill, has impressive sales by anyone’s standards, but she tours widely and frequently. She’s developed the Deadly Past mystery series, which has struck a chord with readers, and she’s an example of how an author can help make her own success by getting her titles into stores.
What were the major obstacles involved in setting up an independent publishing house?
My biggest mental obstacle was fulfillment. I could not imagine storing and shipping out books, but I contracted with Publishers Storage & Shipping in Michigan to fill my orders. That was before I landed such a good distributor. The learning curve was very high on digital typesetting with a layout program. I also had to establish a relationship with every single wholesaler, which was time-consuming, but at least possible when I started. Ingram had opened a window to small press, which they subsequently narrowed, forcing small presses to use a distributor. I believe they did this because processing returns to so many small entities became too onerous, but as I used a fulfillment house, I was never forced out of Ingram. Now my distributor maintains these relationships and handles all orders, and if I were to go back to being my own distributor, I would have to re-establish them. As the book business has become digitized, the technical aspect of the interactions between publisher and wholesaler and even fulfillment houses has become more sophisticated, and I would find learning all that a daunting challenge.
If an author wanted to submit to an independent publisher, what advice would you give her to make certain that the house is reputable?
I would contact the press’s authors and ask them what their relationship is like, what the general terms of their contracts are, whether they are paid on time and if bookstores seem able to get their books. This last can be spotty. The chains have their own internal systems and some independents will only buy from Ingram. That is not the publisher’s fault, but occasionally an author will discover that a certain bookstore cannot or will not carry her book because 1) it’s not in their system yet; or 2) it’s not at Ingram, and they will not buy directly from the publisher or even another wholesaler. This still occasionally happens with Pemberley titles. Ingram now charges a 60% discount on publishers that do not maintain a certain level of sales, which makes them prohibitive for some small presses to deal with. Those same publishers may sell well through Baker & Taylor. One well-known mystery bookstore in PA will only acquire books directly from the major NY publishers and refuses to deal with Ingram or small presses. So there will be variations, but if the books are easily orderable and the publisher pays on time, that should be reputable enough.
Two cautions, however. Just because a book is orderable doesn’t mean it will be stocked in every bookstore. Barnes & Noble, for instance, will order an unknown author’s books for a signing, but will not usually stock them otherwise, even if they are designated as “stock” books. Except for perpetual top sellers, authors’ backlists are not routinely carried, but will only appear in stores for a 3-4 week period upon release, or not at all. There are too many competing titles every month and booksellers must make the decision whether to risk their shelf space on a title that is not by a well-known author. That is why it’s smart for authors to get out and schedule signings – to get their books into the stores.
Also, do not be confused by the difference between a small press and a publishing services company. A small press undertakes all the costs and activities of publishing and has a contract with an author for royalties. The author pays a publishing services company for editing, book design, printing, and fulfillment. Books from publishing services companies are rarely if ever sold through bookstores.
What’s next on your agenda?
I’m working on the fourth Blue Satan mystery, A Killing Frost. It opens in January, 1716, when the Thames River had frozen solid and a fair was held on the ice. St. Mars’s groom Tom discovers a frozen body on the ice, dressed in a most peculiar manner and leaning grotesquely against one of the booths. The dead man was a friend of Harrowby, Lord Hawkhurst, who asks Hester to investigate. St. Mars helps her uncover the murderer, of course, while also attempting to free a Jacobite rebel from Newgate. Lots of fun will be had by all!
You can visit Patricia at her web site and her books are available from Pemberly Press or booksellers such as Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.  

Do Writing Books Help?

There are plenty of writing books out there–books by authors, books by teachers, books by experts. Do they really help? The WinRs have varying opinions.

MK Johnston

Writing requires a balance between creativity, technique, and the realities of the marketplace. Whether books or magazine articles, the sources I find most helpful are the ones that strike a balance between the art, science, and business of writing. Once I defined my goals as a writer, I searched for source material to help me achieve them – to become a better writer, to produce works of quality, to get published, to connect with readers who would enjoy my work.

I generally prefer books over magazine articles because they go into greater depth, though I also favor articles on one specific topic or current issue. My sources range from how to write/write better books to novels with similar themes which I study for technique. Any well written book that is pleasurable to read can be inspirational, too.

There have been several authors whose books I’ve found extremely helpful; the works of Sol Stein and Noah Lukeman would top my list. I’ve learned a lot from them, but I’ve relearned even more. Sometimes I need to remind myself of what must be done and sometimes it takes hearing the same information restated, or stated in a different way, to get through to me.

Ultimately, learning is a partnership between the writer and reader. We have to be receptive to the information; it has to be presented in a way that gets us to recognize its importance and incorporate it into our writing. That’s why I often restated information in my recent tutorial “Learning the Basics ‘Chapter One’ at a Time”.

Once you establish your goal, seek out source material to help you reach it. Use all the tools available to help you, from blogs like this one to libraries.

Jacqueline Vick

A very good point, Miriam. I had a stack of magazines “this high” at home, and I kept putting off reading through them. Then I picked a subject I wanted to study, searched for articles related to this one topic, and got rid of the rest. I’m sure I’ll soon have another stack to go through with a different topic in mind.

Out of the miriad of writing books that I’ve had, I found a few tips have stuck with me.

Robert McKee’s “Story” has great information about beats.

Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird” let me know that sh#tty first drafts were a good thing.

Walter Mosley reminds me to write every day in “This Year You Write Your Novel”.

Michael Hauge’s “Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds” is a book I refer to often when I’m not clear on what my story is about. Honing a pitch makes it clear where the story is lacking.

I look to Stephen King’s “On Writing” for reminders about writing tight.

I noticed that the books I like fall into two catagories: books by authors and screenwriting books. Maybe authors have better insights on the writing process, or maybe their wordsmith skills make the information more interesting.  Also, novel writers should not dismiss screenwriting books as “not for me”. A good script moves, and your novel should, too. Applying screenplay structure can tighten your story.

The books I’ve found least helpful fall under writing manuals–technical books put out by Writer’s Digest etc. They usually contain dry information that puts me to sleep.

Another great source of information is other writers. Without Jackie Houchin’s advice to “cut 20% in the editing process”, my short stories would be novellas. After reading Bonnie’s shorts, I rush back to my own and ask, “Are my characters  human enough?” Miriam reminds me it’s all in the details, and then Gayle advises, “Does it serve the story?” With Rosemary in mind, I write characters that an actress might want to sink her teeth into.

It’s all good.

Bonnie Schroeder brings us a list of her favorite books.

1. Bird by Bird – Anne Lamott. Far and away the most inspiring and motivating, and once I internalized her concept of the “really shitty first draft” I felt free to create dreck with the assurance it might, eventually, turn into something readable – but only if I got those dreadful words down on the page in the first place.

2. A Writer’s Time – Kenneth Atchity. The back-copy blurb says it all: “[Atchity] shows you how to activate the creative process, how to transform anxiety into ‘productive elation,’ how to separate the vision of a project from re-vision, and how to set up a writing agenda that won’t defeat you.”

3. The Writer’s Journey – Christopher Vogler. A splendid look at how to incorporate classic mythic structure into your storyline. Based on the work of Joseph Campbell. I can’t tell you how many times Vogler has helped me figure out “what happens next” and why one version works and another doesn’t.

4. On Writing – Stephen King. Lessons from the master. I just wish he followed his own advice more closely.

5. 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel – Jane Smiley. I confess that most of this 570-page manuscript was too academic, even pretentious, for my taste. But the two chapters on “A Novel of Your Own (I) and (II)” are spectacular and cover craft and inspiration. And it is infinitely reassuring to know that a Pulitzer-Prize-winning novelist like Smiley struggles with the same writing demons (well, some of them) we all do.

6. The Elements of Style – William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White. Almost everything you need to know about English usage in less than 100 pages.

GB Pool

I have never read a writing book that taught me anything. I read other people’s books, the good, the bad, and the ugly, to learn.

Jacqueline Vick

Gayle brings up an excellent point. Study what other writers are doing. Don’t imitate them, but learn from them. Read the classics, read your contemporaries. Find out what they’re doing right and apply it to your own writing.

Jackie Houchin

One of my favorite books on writing for children is “Creating Characters Kids Will Love” by Elaine Marie Alphin. My copy is well used, with penciled-in notes, underlines, asterisks and arrows.

This book is loaded with ideas, instruction and examples. Each section within the many chapters ends with “Read the Pros,” a suggested reading list of specific chapters in specific books that illustrate what was taught, followed by a “Try it Yourself” section with thought-provoking, idea-stimulating writing exercises. A very accessible book that you will return to again and again.

The other fantastic book on writing for children is “Story Sparkers, A Creativity Guide for Children’s Writers” by Debbie Dadey and Marcia Thornton Jones, who use many examples from their own “Adventures of the Bailey School Kids” series.

This book is packed full of good ideas, charts, check lists and illustrations. It gives the reader many opportunities to try out what they are learning with fun exercises in writing, observing, and interviewing. This is another book that you will want to refer to often.

The two very helpful books for writing adult mystery fiction are authored by two, what else, mystery writers.

Gillian Roberts’ “You Can Write a Mystery” gives practical suggestions for dealing with problems that come up in the writing process, beginning with the “Fifteen Commandments for Mystery Writers Who Want to be Published.” She then covers topics from, your sleuth, victim and villain to POVs to plotting (learning to think backwards) and hiding clues, with a final chapter on marketing.

Carolyn Wheat’s “How To Write Killer Fiction” discusses the difference between mystery and a suspense fiction (yes, there are clear distinctions!). She lists and describes dozens of sub-genres and crossovers and offers book titles as examples. The book is divided into three parts, Part 1: The Funhouse of Mystery, Part 2: The Roller Coaster of Suspense, Part 3: The Writing Process.

What about you? Do you have a favorite book you’d like to share with us? We’d love to hear from you.

Interview with Incentive Marketer Mary Grant of Enhanced Performance Group

Enhanced Performance Group specializes in Incentive Marketing. Who better to ask about ways to promote writers and their services?
Thank you Mary, for being with us.

Book authors are being called upon to do more of their own marketing, and freelancers have always had to promote their own businesses. Incentives and premiums sound like good tools, but what are they?

Incentives, simply put, are tangible and intangible items that motivate an individual toward the achievement of a goal. Premiums can be both tangible incentive items or branded marketing items. In the incentive industry, the terms are often interchangeable.

Premiums sound like something writers can use to promote themselves and their services at conferences and library events. Can you tell us how this works and give an example or two of some of the more creative items you’ve come up with?

A premium item with a logo or message on it serves as a useful tool to keep your audience engaged in you or your book. They can also be a great traffic builder as I have yet to see anyone turn down a free pen at a convention. Premium items should be useful, appropriate to your market and carry your message or logo to be effective.

There are a number of examples I could site, however, I believe it might be more beneficial to make your readers aware of the power of brand marketing through the use of premiums. As we look around our homes or cars, I guarantee that within 10 minutes you will be able to identify 10-20 branded premium items you use every day. For instance, your travel mug, coffee mug, jacket, t-shirt, pen, notepad, refrigerator calendar, refrigerator magnet, cap, icescraper, ruler, etc. are most-likely all items that carry a logo that you might use in your everyday lives. Each time you use that item, you view that companies’ logo/message. According to the Ad Specialty Industry (ASI), 62% of customers do business with the company after receiving the promotional product. Furthermore, 84% of customers remember the business that provided them with the promotional product. And finally, at $.004 per impression, promotional products have the best cost per investment of popular advertising media. Clearly these items are effective in both building brand awareness and increasing sales.

Incentives are used to motivate, and the first thing that comes to my mind is motivating salespeople to perform. Is there a way that writers could use incentives to increase book sales or promote their freelance businesses?

Of course! The basic principles of an incentive program can be applied to just about any situation where you want to gain a desired outcome from a target audience. Basic incentive elements are: 1) Know what motivates the audience; 2) Clearly state the goal and the award for achievement; 3) Communicate with the audience frequently and let them know their progress toward the goal and, finally; 4) Give the award to those who achieve the goal.

As an example, let’s say you want to get 25 people at a convention to review the first three chapters of your book online. At the convention, you provide an example of a ceramic coffee mug imprinted with your name, the name of your story and your web address. You have imprinted pens with your name, web address and title of the book to hand out to visitors to your booth. You explain that the first 25 people to review the book will receive the coffee mug for their time. You provide the pen which has the information to complete the request. Once your first 25 reviews come in, you follow up by mailing the “winners” the mug along with a catchy message (or another chapter of the book). Additionally, you’ll have others reviewing the book and visiting your site so you’ll have additional opportunities to interact with them.

You also do event planning. In writer terms, this could be anything from a book signing or book launch to a writer’s conference. What are some of the advantages of hiring a professional to handle the details?

There are several advantages to letting a professional handle the details: site selection, negotiation skills, experience in operating other events to know what works and what doesn’t. However, the biggest advantage is that it allows the sponsor or participant to attend the meeting and focus on the content as opposed to the logistics.

What’s the most important consideration that anyone planning an event should keep in mind?

Know your goal or expected outcome of the meeting and have a clear budget in mind.

Most people think of lectures and classes when they think of conferences, but I understand that you’ve arranged some pretty fun stuff to motivate attendees. Can you give us some examples?

Sure. Sometimes it’s fun to “cleverly disguise” a learning event as a game. We’ve done such things as Wii tournaments to encourage teamwork and game shows to test product knowledge. There are many other examples as well that are dependent upon the goal, the budget, the location and the audience. It is, of course, important to remember that while there is a time for fun, there is some content that calls for lectures and classes. However, the utilization of lighting, décor, etc. can have a huge affect on the effectiveness of the presentation.

In your experience, have you noticed a common mistake that clients make when they try to promote their product to clients?

Yes. They look at what most appeals to them and not what would appeal to the audience. When talking about your own business, it’s important to remember that it IS business and while your writing may be very personal to you, the art of promoting it is should be strictly business.

You also help clients put together websites and newsletters by coordinating the talent necessary to deliver the final product. When you first talk to the client, what are the two most important questions you ask that help you understand the client’s vision?

If I have to choose two things, the first would be “What is the goal of the publication” and “What is your budget?” Obviously people are looking for a desired outcome so that’s clearly the top priority. The second question is sometimes an uncomfortable one but a necessary one. However, it’s critical to know when choosing talent and vendors. That way there are no surprises and everyone works toward the same goal. That’s not to say that you will receive an inferior product if your budget is low. It simply means that we may look for other, more cost-effective ways to attain the desired outcome.

You also write copy for your clients. What should writers keep in mind when penning for corporate clients?

Know the client’s business. I’m not saying that you need to know every part number of every piece of inventory but a general knowledge of who they are, what they do, how they go to business and what their current situation is will certainly give you an advantage in both your writing and your conversation. And, frankly, the client will appreciate your research. Know the audience and know specifically what the mood of the piece is to be. Clearly you will write differently for a training manual than you would an incentive announcement. Finally, don’t try to be something you aren’t. If technical writing is not your forte, let them know and perhaps give them a referral to a technical writer. They will appreciate your honesty, you’ll save face, and you may get an additional referral by the technical writer whom you referred.

Business marketing practices are changing. What direction is Enhanced Performance Group moving?

Unfortunately, in this economic climate, promotional products and incentive programs are the first expenditure to be cut from most corporate budgets. While our service offerings remain the same, we continue to focus on educating our customers on the importance of promoting during a down economy. According to the Advertising Specialty Institute, if you advertise, promote or incent when everyone else stops marketing, your message is more likely to be noticed due to fewer ads in the market and, you or your business are more likely to be remembers when everyone starts advertising again.

Mary is available to arrange conferences, book launches and other events as well as to discuss premium items. To contact her, call 630-263-9300. Her website, www.enhanced-perform.com is being retooled, but we’ll include an update when it’s finished.  

Thank you again, Mary, for sharing such valuable information!

Publicity Responsibilities versus Author Payment

An interesting article appeared in the January 2010 issue of The Writer. Author M.J. Rose suggested that book authors should be compensated for publicity duties. Since the marketing effort is no longer born by the publisher, revenues should be more equitably split.

Read what the WinRs have to say and then let us know what you think!

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Jacqueline Vick self-published her children’s book, Logical Larry. She has several mystery manuscripts making the rounds.

I hadn’t really considered this issue before, assuming that advances were destined to be spent on marketing, but Ms. Rose’s comments made me wonder if I’d been going with an outdated assumption.

Her two suggestions in the article were to allow authors to subtract marketing expenses from their book advance so they could collect royalties sooner and to give athors a highter royalty rate.

I’m a big fan of “buy in”, and if authors saw a benefit to spending those hard earned dollars on marketing (other than possible increased sales) then more authors might be effective at selling more books–a benefit to publishers.

Why not a tiered royalty system to give writers something to work for? This system has been used to incentify sales people for decades.

Would this system keep publishers from purchasing as many manuscripts? I don’t see why. There would be more opportunities to earn revenue.

That being said, publishers are in control unless an author self-publishes. If the current business plan says that authors have to cover publicity costs out of their own pocket, then those serious about a writing career will do it.  I think that’s what defines a successful person–she jumps in and does the stuff that most people complain about and avoid.

Another interesting note from the WD article (paraphrased): If you run into a musician and they’ve hired a studio and musicians and put together their own CD, you don’t automatically thinks it’s sub-par, that if it was good, he’d have signed with a label. Why is it that we assume self-published books are “unworthy?

Some of my favorite books and CD’s have been put together by the artist. I’m smart enough to flip through a book to see if I like the writing style before I buy it, and I’ve bought plenty of traditionally published books that I’ve hated. I’d rather run into a grammar error in a fabulous story than have a perfectly edited book that’s a stinker. I also don’t sneer at hand-crafted goods that aren’t mass produced and sold at department stores. I actually hold them in higher esteem.

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Jackie Houchin is a photojournalist and a book and theater critic. She has written several manuscripts, so she can give us the perspective of one who isn’t actively seeking publication but may do it in the future.

If I ever did anything with the kids’ stories (or the women’s novel) I wrote, I would DEFINITELY self publish, no if’s, and’s, or but’s, about it. That way, I would not have to deal with sharing any of my advance with the publisher over marketing strategies and profits. (Of course, I wouldn’t be getting any advance – ha-ha). Instead, I’d be able to decide just how much effort I wanted to put into the project. I definitely wouldn’t be doing it “for the money”.

Since being in the SinC and MWA organizations, I’ve heard countless authors bemoan the facts of publication:

—that it is very hard to get an agent or publisher even interested in your work…

—that it takes years to publication even after one agrees to look at your work…

—that you don’t get any money to speak of…

—that you are supposed to market yourself or at least come to them with a huge “platform” so they don’t have to do much but reap the benefits…

—that you may not get a contract for another book…

—that you may be dropped if you don’t sell as much as they like…

—that your publisher may go out of business.

It makes me wonder why anyone would want try to break into the fiction industry right now.

All this sounds depressing, I know, but that’s the reason I would go FIRST to a self publishing and/or POD method.

Of course another factor for me might also be that I’ve always worked for myself (in photography and reviewing) and could pretty well set my own parameters. 
As for your original questions, I don’t think authors have much say in what publishers do at this point. They may feel a larger advance is warranted or that they should be able to deduct marketing expenses from their advances – but that is really up to the publishers. I do feel that marketing should be a tax-deductible item…but, isn’t it already for the serious writer?

***
Bonnie Schroeder has finished her first novel manuscript and is shopping it to agents.

First off, from everything I’ve read and heard, nobody earns a living off their books – except for a lucky handful of writers. My biggest gripe is the lack of attention given to new authors, but the reading public has to share the blame. Few people seem willing to invest their time and money in an unknown author not sanctioned by Oprah. Publishers make their money off superstars like King and Evanovich, and it appears from the sidelines like these writers don’t even need much marketing beyond an announcement of their next new blockbuster. It doesn’t seem fair (the “F word” in business) that these writers get free publicity that they don’t even need.

So, if I did get past all the gatekeepers and obstacles and finally sold a book and then if had to pay for my own marketing and publicity, my first question would be, what the heck is the publisher even doing for me besides (maybe) strong-arming the local Barnes & Noble into stocking a few copies of my book? I’m still looking for an answer.

However, since I guess I understand the realities of the marketplace, and since I’ve chosen to play this little game, I’d swallow my resentment and do whatever I could afford to do, to show the world what a great book I’ve written. It would then make sense that if I do a good job and work up enough interest to generate sales, that after a certain threshold (and I have NO IDEA what that would be), I’d get reimbursed for my expenses and that the publicity for the second/ third, etc. book would be covered by the publisher.

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GB Pool is the author of several short stories which have appeared in Anthologies and penned the novel Media Justice.

The End of the Buggy Whip

Fair? Who said life was fair? Or for that matter, the publishing business.

Publishing came to America around 1800. Many famous publishing houses started back then. By the end of the 19th Century there were hundreds of publishers and a smattering of writers. The vast majority of Americans worked on farms or in factories with no time to write. Today there are five major publishers still in existence, most owned by foreign enterprises, with a smattering of small publishers picking up the slack. Farms have mechanized, factories have moved to China, but now there are thousands and thousands of writers.

What used to be a hard back book business changed into a paperback and trade paperback enterprise. It’s cheaper to make those paperbacks. Then came discount stores and Amazon. Now there is Kindle and the other downloadable reading devices that don’t require paper at all. And don’t forget the self-published author. Even the few name publishing companies provide POD (print-on-demand) books.

As the changes in the publishing business hit, the revenues shifted. No longer are people buying those expensive hard cover books. The trade paperback sometimes comes out six months after the hard cover version. And the downloadable book will soon follow.

As the revenue shifted, so did the perks. Editors disappeared. Book tours and publishing house publicity vanished. (They got rid of the buggy whip, too. Want to go back to the horse and buggy?)

Publishers aren’t making the money they used to, even with the outrageous cost of those hard cover books. Most of the old publishing companies don’t exist. If you are lucky enough to get one to publish your book, show them you will go all out to help sell that book of yours. Your effort will not only help to sell more books, but your publisher will see you as a go-getter and they might be more eager to take on your second book.

With the tremendous number of would-be writers clamoring for their books to get noticed and eventually be published, it will be the writer with the skill and nerve to face those audiences and sell their book themselves who will succeed.

Welcome to the new normal.

Interview with Leigh Rubin

Anyone who’s opened the Los Angeles Times to check out the “funnies” has seen Rubes. We wanted to know about the creative process that joins images and words to make these clever, often hilarious, cartoons. Creator Leigh Rubin generously offered to spend some time with WinRs.

How did you wind up writing cartoons?

I’ve always loved to draw and had wanted to be an artist from a very young age. The first cartoon I ever drew was in kindergarten. I also enjoy a good joke and it’s especially fun making them up so if you put the two skills together you have a cartoonist. Seems like the perfect profession for someone with absolutely no other marketable skills.

As a cartoonist, you both write and illustrate. Do you come up with your commentary first or doodle until an idea strikes you?

There really is no one way. Sometimes I doodle for a bit until an idea hits me just right or I may think of a phrase or hear a comment that someone says. There’s no real magic formula. If there was I’d bottle it and make a fortune selling it to other cartoonists.

Do you consider yourself an illustrator or a writer first?

Sometimes the writing is the main challenge. I really strive to make the captions just right. They have to fit the cartoon without giving too much away and leave something to the reader’s imagination. That’s the important part to me. I want the reader to contribute something to the cartoon. That’s what makes it art. Of course, having a funny picture along with the right words can be a bit tricky but that is the fun and challenging part.
What kind of hours does a cartoonist work? Do you ever get cartoonist’s block?

You call this work? Ha! …But seriously, my boss is a real jerk. He’s not going to see this interview is he? He makes me draw at least one cartoon per day but quite often he’ll make me draw two a day because I’m often out and about the country doing my goofy cartoon presentations and speaking engagements. I am going to be hitting the road even more often this year as I have a nifty new 25th anniversary cartoon collection coming out in March so I am sure my evil boss will be working me extra hard to make sure all my cartoons are drawn before I leave town…Cartoonist’s block?…Listen, I had a colonoscopy when I turned fifty and I guarantee you, after that there wasn’t any blockage whatsoever.

You were originally self-syndicated. What does this mean?

Self-syndication means that in addition to writing and drawing you also have the opportunity to call on editors, make the sales, send out promo material, do the billing, chase down the people who don’t pay you, etc. , etc., etc. It is not for the faint of heart and I did it for the first four years of Rubes. Being self-syndicated gives you a terrific appreciation of what syndication sales reps have to do on a daily basis, only most syndicates represent many features, so the reps have many features they must know inside and out…and there’s a lot to know.

How did you become widely syndicated in newspapers? Did markets approach you after you had built up a following or did you try to get people to take a chance on you?

My first paper was the Antelope Valley Press in Palmdale, California. I had met the entertainment editor when he wrote a feature story about a book signing event I was doing. We became friends and he, as well as a couple of the other editors at the paper wanted to know if I’d like to draw a daily cartoon for them. That was my first “big” break. After I drew about one hundred cartoons I started contacting all the major, as well as some of the smaller syndicates, but they all turned me down. Looking at their reject letters now makes me laugh. I’m a firm believer in persistence. I don’t easily accept “no” for an answer, so I started calling on newspapers myself….Big papers, little papers, weeklies, college papers, it didn’t really matter. Within a year or so I had built up a client list of around 160 papers…all while I was working a full time job. I only wish I still had that kind of energy! I did have a couple of papers approach me but as my dad used to say, “Don’t wait for your ship to come in, row out and meet it.” He was right. If I hadn’t made hundreds of phone calls and sent out an equal amount of letters I’d still be standing on the dock.
You give cartoon workshops and presentations all over the country. Do you find there are a burgeoning number of cartoonists out there?

Yes, it’s amazing how many closet cartoonists are out there are of all ages. From little kids, to teens to adults and that includes senior citizens. People really do love cartoons and cartooning and not just for financial reasons. They enjoy the fun of just being creative for the sake of being creative, which is absolutely wonderful.

Are the markets shrinking for cartoonists as they are for writers?
The newspaper market has definitely shrunk. There used to be many two or more newspapers towns but those days are gone. Still, newspapers will be around for a long time and with the internet it’s wide open. The trick will be to see how to get paid for your writing and cartooning on the internet. Some people have figured that out and I am certain that there will be new avenues that no one has even thought of yet to make a living writing and cartooning so I do remain optimistic.

If someone wanted to get into cartooning, what advice would you give them?
Stay in school, study hard, become a doctor or a lawyer because I don’t need the competition!

What’s up next for you?

I’ll be hitting the road in a week or so bringing the Rubes cartoony show to San Antonio. In between private speaking engagements I have lots of public events lined up. With the new book, The Wild and Twisted World of Rubes coming out this March it will be extra fun. It’s wonderful sharing laughs and connecting with a live audience. Nothing beats being a sit down comedian.

Thank you so much! You can pre-order The Wild and Twisted World of Rubes at Amazon, and you can learn more about Leigh at his website.

Interview with Professional Coaches Tony and Andrea Voirin

Tony and Andrea Voirin are the professional coaches behind AVA Coaching , a company dedicated to assisting clients in finding the tools and practices they need to move toward success and remain focused on their goals.

I had the opportunity to work with Tony on my writing career. I was stuck. With a plate filled with projects and an aversion to marketing my work, I had difficulty organizing my time and making concrete steps forward. Tony helped me to recognize my blocks and find ways to overcome them. Since working with him, I’ve placed several short stories and articles, have a serious marketing plan for three completed manuscripts, and am putting the finishing touches on a fourth.

At first I thought my problem was organization. If I could only get my paper piles under control, I’d have several published novels! Coaching helped me see that my ineffectiveness had more to do with my values and commitments–something I’d never considered. Clarity came in small steps, but boy, did it make a difference!

I admit I first thought that professional coaching was created for people with a certain self-help mindset. I’m a pragmatic Mid-Westerner, and this sounded like an introspective celebrity-type trend. But Tony was born in the US and Andrea hails from Germany, and you will see they embrace the same coaching concepts. And since the client brings her own values to the process, it can work for anyone. It’s an exciting process, and one I wanted to share with other writers, but I’ll let the experts explain how it works! Welcome Tony and Andrea!

You’re both professional coaches. What exactly are you coaching people through (besides authors trying to be more effective)? Weight loss?

Andrea: Most of my clients wanted to make changes in their life-style – meaning – going to bed earlier, working out more, drinking less, eating healthy, working less and sometimes the plan includes a weight loss. A very common topic that I coach my clients around are relationships. How can they be improved, how can they handle difficult conversations or conflict, etc.

Tony: I predominantly work with people taking on large projects or change and people having difficulty balancing their personal and professional life. Some examples are a person having difficulty completing their doctoral dissertation, a newly graduated student trying to start her own chiropractic clinic, an author wanting to focus her efforts and a surgeon wanting to improve the quality of his family life.

When I first heard of professional coaches, it brought to mind an analyst or a bully! What is a professional coach?

Andrea: A professional coach has had professional training and is holding a certification. Coaching is a profession that is not regulated yet. If I were to hire a coach, I would make sure that they had formal training, are holding a certification and belong to one of the professional organizations, like the ICF (International Coach Federation) and have some references.

Coaching is non-therapeutic and therefore no threat for counselors and therapists. There is a place for all of them. Coaching is about setting goals and having someone assist you in figuring out what your barriers are and how to overcome them, so you can reach your goals. A coach’s perspective is to hold their clients as capable. There is no need to “fix” the client.

People say I give great advice. Does that qualify me to be a personal coach?

Andrea: Coaches do not give advice! In fact, giving advice, if you think about it, leaves the client possibly thinking that they are not capable of handling a situation themselves. As a coach, you pre-suppose that your client is whole, healthy and complete and perfectly capable. Advice should only be given with permission – and that counts for everyone.

Tony: Coaching assumes that you are the expert of your own life. You know better than anyone how things work in your life. My advice comes from my view of the world which includes my past experience, objectives and values. A coach works to assist the client in coming up with their own best “advice”.

As someone who is undergoing the coaching process, I’ve already seen marked results. When I make a discovery that moves me forward, it seems so obvious in hindsight. Couldn’t you just tell me what to do? My career could move much faster that way!

Andrea: This is very simple. What works for me, might not work for you. You have all the answers within you. It usually makes the client also feel a lot better if they come up with their own solutions.

Tony: Trouble is that before going through the coaching process with my client, I wouldn’t know what to tell you. Each coaching call is truly a discovery process. Coaches are trained to “peel the onion” by asking the client powerful questions.

Are you ever tempted to “lead” your client to the right answers?

Andrea: Yes! That is why it is so important that a coach has had formal training and has learning to be neutral. Sometimes with my clients we touch on areas that I have not worked out for myself and it is hard to stay neutral and not give advice or lead your client into your direction. As a coach, you learn to “self-clean” and stay out of your client’s business. Those are all things you learn during a formal coach training.

Tony: I agree with Andrea, that part of the formal training a coach goes through is focused on unlearning this desire. If you are looking for someone with experience in a field that can tell you what to do, you want to mentor, not a coach.

Your website focuses on family/relationship coaching, but my experience has been individual/career coaching. Am I the exception to the rule, or do you take on career coaching as well?

Andrea: I simply do not want to coach business clients. My areas of coaching are Relationship, Leadership and individual coaching. All those areas could include a change of career as well but that is not what I am focusing on.

Tony: I have recently completed training as a leadership coach which focuses on individuals.

Sometimes a writer can’t focus because of what’s going on in the household. For those with family/relationship problems, how can coaching help them? Does the entire family have to be involved?

Andrea: I think coaching is a great way to assist families in getting better results. Traditionally, if one of the family members are “not working” the whole family is out of balance. For one family member to go to counseling, hoping that they will be fixed and things will be changing is usually not working. Counseling is a great way to figure out what went wrong in the past and why…coaching is a way to plan for the future having that knowledge.

In cases where they family includes teenagers, I would absolutely include them…if the kids are under 10, it might be more effective to just coach the parents.

What led you into personal coaching?

Andrea: My 13 year old son that had counseling for 7 years went out of control and we looked for help. That is when we were introduced to coaching.

I’m sure I’m not the only writer who could use help discovering effective methods to advance his or her career. If you could give one piece of advice to our readers, what would it be?

If you are interested in being coached, ensure the coach has completed formal training. Most coaches will also offer a session at no charge which can allow you to experience coaching before you commit to a contract.

Thank you Andrea and Tony! If you’re interested in trying professional coaching, you can contact the Voirins through their web site .

Guest Blog by Laura Childs

It’s no surprise to anyone who read our Christmas blog that the cozy readers among us love Laura Childs. We are happy to start the New Year with a few words from that author, and we are especially pleased with what she has to say about women over forty!

Known for her Tea Shop and Scrapbooking Mysteries, guest blogger Laura Childs paints a cozy portrait in her New York Times Bestseller, Eggs Benedict Arnold, a Cackleberry Club Mystery.

I’m a big fan of women over forty. Not just because I am one, but because “women of a certain age” have a certain type of sassy smarts. Before I sold my marketing firm and took up mystery writing, I had occasion to work with an awful lot of high-test forty-plus women. These were women who ran companies, served as communications directors, and knew their way around the media. They were savvy, forward thinkers who didn’t get rattled by deadlines, details, and decisions.

Those are pretty much the same attributes I tried to imbue in my characters, Suzanne, Toni, and Petra, the major protagonists in my newest mystery Eggs Benedict Arnold. At their cozy café, the Cackleberry Club, eggs are the morning specialty – fluffy omelets, slumbering volcanoes, toad in the hole, and foggy morning soufflés. But my entrepreneurial ladies also work a double shift as amateur sleuths, because in this go round local mortician Ozzie Driesden is discovered on his own embalming table!

I had a great time writing pulse-pounding scenes that feature a mortuary murder, car chase, terrible discovery in a deserted cemetery, and hostage situation. Of course, the ladies of the Cackleberry Club also managed to pull it together and hold a Knit-in for charity, serve afternoon tea, and stage a cake decorating contest.

I made a special effort to intersperse pulse-pounding action with the genteel art of tea and scones, because I think we all crave a little comfort right now. With all that’s going on in the world, a lot of folks long to return to basics like homemade breakfast, cake and cookie recipes, and neighbors who are quirky but pull together when they have to.

And, of course, I had such great fun celebrating women over forty. They possess such caring souls, entrepreneurial spirits, and have such rich life experiences to draw from. You really can’t find a better model for an amateur sleuth!

Have a wonderful New Year!
Laura Childs

Eggs Benedict Arnold, which just spent two weeks on the New York Times

Bestseller List, is available everywhere for $7.99.

Laura Childs writes the Tea Shop Mysteries, Scrapbooking Mysteries, and
Cackleberry Club Mysteries, several of which have made the USA Today and New York Times Bestseller Lists.