Saturday, January 20, 2007

BookSurge's Ridley
Wears Multiple Hats
Does anyone know more about Print-On-Demand publishing than Richard “R.W.” Ridley?

Ridley has published two books through BookSurge, his latest, Délon City, and the IPPY-award winning The Takers (2006, Horror). He also works as a sales and marketing specialist for the BookSurge.

Ridley recently shared his insights about POD, wearing both his author and publisher hats.

How long did it take you to write The Takers? How was the book edited?
The Takers took about 9 weeks to write. It was a project I had thought about for a long time. In fact, I wrote the first line about a year before I started developing the story. It just struck a chord with me. I am married to an editor. My wife has many years of experience proofreading and developing newsletters and online material. In addition, I had a team of about a dozen readers that gave me input. There were some after market typos that were discovered and easily fixed because of the POD model.

How was the cover design developed?
That was me. I have a background in marketing and advertising so I have experience in Photoshop. I wanted something simple but effective. I love to tinker around with that kind of stuff so it was a labor of love.

What was your reaction to winning the IPPY Award? How has that impacted sales of the book? Has it helped generate interest from traditional publishers or agents?
The IPPY award was just validation that I was on the right track more than anything else. It did generate some sales, and has helped tremendously on the marketing front. I used the "IPPY Award Winning Author" moniker on Book Two (Which is currently available on I will be entering Délon City, Book Two of the Oz Chronicles this year. Librarians love award-winning books, so they have worked me into their budget. I've been through the rejection process with agents and traditional publishers for so many years that I haven't approached them since I self-published. The book's doing okay on its own, and I'm making 25% on sales right now. That would be cut pretty severely if I went the traditional route. I'm not completely closed to that opportunity if it comes along, but I don't feel the sense of urgency I once felt. If it happens it happens. If it doesn't, I'm building a nice little fan base that is spreading the word for me, and my sales should continue to grow.

How many copies of The Takers have you sold?
About 700. Not Harry Potter numbers, but pretty good for a POD.

What other marketing strategies have worked well for you? Have you been able to generate interest in the Charleston media?
I have the good fortune of talking to writers 5 days a week about publishing and writing, so a lot of my marketing strategy has been centered around personal contact. I have a three-year marketing plan put together for The Takers and Délon City and I'll do the same for The Pure (Book Three). I've been invited to speak to classrooms, Book Clubs and writers groups, and the relationships I've developed with other self-published writers have been invaluable. I have shamelessly asked for help. That's what you have to do as a self-published author. I preach this every day to BookSurge authors, and try to lead by example. I have had a few mentions from the Charleston press, and I even had a nice email exchange with the book reviewer from our daily paper. He didn't do a review because they only review pre-publication material, but he did put a blurb in the paper for me. Little things like that help a lot.

What kind of profile does BookSurge have in Charleston? Does the company generate much news locally?
We get a lot of great press from the local media. It's a great company that truly puts the author first. I know the people here, and I know how dedicated they are to putting out the best possible product for the author and the author's customer. I trusted them with my own books, and I didn't just do that because I work for BookSurge. My reputation goes out with every book I sell so my faith in the people behind its production takes precedent over company loyalty.

I see the sequel, Délon City, has just come out. It’s published by Middlebury House Publishing. Is this an imprint through BookSurge or a traditional publisher? How did you come to publish through Middlebury?
Middlebury House Publishing is me. It's still done through BookSurge, but I plan on putting out a compilation of Oz Chronicles books as Advance Reader Copies to try and generate more reviews from mainstream publications.

How long have you worked for BookSurge? How has the sale to Amazon impacted your role with the company and the company in general?
I've been with the company since April 2005. I actually started about two weeks after Amazon purchased the company, so I don't have a pre-Amazon point of reference. I love the idea of being part of the Amazon team. It truly is the great equalizer for self-published authors. They have a lot of great tools to help you gain exposure for your book on their site.

What have you learned about publishing by working at BookSurge?
Basically, I gained an understanding of why all those editors and agents over the years rejected my queries and submissions. The volume of writers seeking to publish is enormous, and when you submit a query, you can be rejected simply because you didn't follow their submission guidelines. It's not personal. It's because they have a pile of manuscripts on their desk that they need to get to. I have much more respect for agents and acquisitions editors. I still think they miss a lot of quality manuscripts, but I give them a pass because of the tremendous task they have to undertake day after day.

What are some of the biggest misconceptions that authors have about both traditional publishing and POD publishing?
The biggest misconception authors have about traditional publishing is that once they sign a contract they won't have to do anything but write the next book. A traditional publisher is going to demand a lot of marketing support from the authors they sign. I've even heard of traditional publishers "requesting" authors hire their own publicists. Publishing is a business and you have to treat it like one if you want to succeed. The biggest misconception author's have about POD publishing is basically the same thing. Some author's have an "if you build they will come" mentality. They invest in the publication of their book, and wait for it be discovered on Amazon. You've got to draw attention to yourself, and most authors aren't willing to do that.

What are some of your favorite books that you've worked on at BookSurge and why?
I've really enjoyed working with most of my authors and I hate to leave anyone out, but The Crescent Veil by Judith Sanders is an excellent read, and Point and Shoot by G.D. Baum has been getting a lot of excellent buzz.

Check out Ridley’s website at and his blog at

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Off the Rails
a tribute to late
guitar great

Climbing the charts is nothing new for Rudy Sarzo.

As the bass player for bands like Quiet Riot and Whitesnake, Sarzo put out multi-platinum albums and played in front of massive crowds during the heyday of heavy metal. Sarzo is climbing the charts again, but this time, instead of earning a bullet on Billboard, his latest effort, Off the Rails, is climbing the book charts on

Off the Rails is currently among the top sellers for Print-On-Demand publisher BookSurge. The book has garnered 38 reviews on Amazon from its release date of Nov. 2, 2006 through early January 2007.

Off the Rails chronicles Sarzo’s days as a part of Ozzy Osbourne’s band. The book is largely a tribute to the late guitarist Randy Rhoads. Rhoads was killed in a plane crash during the Diary of a Madman tour.

Sarzo had planned to publish the book through a traditional publisher, Cherry Lane, but when the deal fell through, he turned to the POD option and BookSurge.

“Due to a conflict of interest among the Osbournes, the publisher and my self, the book was dropped and I was left with an edited manuscript ready to be published,” Sarzo said. “So after nearly a year, I decided to go the self-publishing route. Since BookSurge is an company it was the only print-on-demand outlet I considered.”

Sarzo, a self-described computer geek, put the cover together himself and completed the publication process with BookSurge in three weeks. Sarzo credited Richard Ridley, his BookSurge Publishing Consultant, for guiding him through the process.

“Richard Ridley, was extremely helpful with the whole process. There's also an abundance of templates to suit your needs available at the Booksurge site,” Sarzo said.

Ridley, who has published two books through BookSurge himself (The Takers, Délon City), enjoyed working with the heavy metal bass master.

“Rudy contacted us, and I was just lucky enough to get the call. He is one of the nicest guys on the planet.” Ridley said. “The man is part of rock 'n roll history, but he's so down to earth you'd never know it by talking to him. Off the Rails has generated a lot of interest and it's one of our bestsellers on Amazon.”

As of Jan. 11, Off the Rails was listed as BookSurge’s No. 2 seller with a sales rank of 10,923.

Sarzo has been promoting the book with appearances on the Sirius and XM satellite radio shows of Scott Ferrall, Jim Breuer and Eddie Trunk. He’ll be on Rockline Wednesday, Jan. 24. He’s also done interviews for several print magazines as well as web zines.

“This is a book that has been highly anticipated by Randy Rhoads' fans for some time,” Sarzo said. “So there was a high demand for this book to see the light of day. Since I wrote the book for my friend who's no longer with us, my goal is to share memories of him with those who want to find out what Randy Rhoads was like.”

The book has already been translated into Japanese and that version is scheduled for a March 2007 release.

While the book has been front-and-center for Sarzo of late, music is always his main mistress. He has been on the road with Dio, a band he has been a part of since 2004. The band has plans to work on a new record this year.

Check out Sarzo's MySpace page at

Friday, January 05, 2007

Folio's Kleinman Discusses
Finn, First Impressions

It’s impossible to get that first novel published.

At least, it seems that way. Of course, some how, some way, a select few manage to get it done. Elizabeth Kostova broke records when her debut novel, The Historian, was picked up by Little, Brown. A few posts back on this very blog, I interviewed Jon Clinch, whose first novel, Finn, will come out with Random House in February.

Clinch’s agent is Jeff Kleinman of Folio Literary Management, so I decided to touch base with Mr. Kleinman to see what first attracted him to Clinch’s novel and to garner some advice for first-time authors on how to overcome the obstacles.

While Folio is just about a year old, Kleinman and his founding partners, Paige Wheeler and Scott Hoffman, are all veterans of the publishing industry. Kleinman was with the Graybill and English Literary Agency before starting Folio.

While putting together the Finn post, I visited Folio’s website at The site contains a step-by-step guide to getting published here: I encourage everyone to check it out. As part of the guide, Folio encourages novelists to seek recognition for their work prior to submitting it. Now, they’re really talking about getting short stories published in magazines and submitting for awards that recognize unpublished work, might racking up some awards and some sales via a Print-On-Demand effort help establish an author’s track record as well? I decided to ask:

Step 1B for fiction says "Publish! Win awards, grants. Try to give the appearance of a writer whose career is really taking off. Bottom line, though: the book, and the writing, must stand on its own. If the book's fabulous enough, you don't need any further credentials."

I assume you’re talking about publishing short stories in literary magazines and the like, but does an award-winning (IPPYs, Foreword magazine for instance) POD book fit into this category as well?

It may, but the problem with POD and self-publishing is that it hasn't been validated by a third-party. So "award-winning" is great, as are great sales figures. You need to give the impression that *other* people are as excited about your work as you are.

My partner, Paige, gets a number of newly published authors who have written smaller books and are looking to ramp up their career. Some of these books have won awards. Also, a number of genres sponsor awards for unpublished authors and we look at those as well--it shows the author is really committed to writing, learning the craft and getting publicity.

What is your impression if an author first publishes his or her work with a POD company (iUniverse, Booksurge, Authorhouse, Lulu)?
If you self-publish your book, then you'll get your own ISBN - which will allow everyone to track how the book is selling. This may make selling the book to a traditional publisher more difficult if the book doesn't do that well; and the sales of that first book may reflect on the publishing chances for subsequent books. So if you publish the book yourself, then you may need to demonstrate that you have the wherewithal to market and sell the book successfully, too - which can be an uphill battle.

Then again, if the book is truly *terrific*, agents and editors will certainly fight for the chance to work on it - so on some level it always boils down to the book itself.

Do you get a lot of queries from self-published authors? Have you ever agreed to represent one and, if so, what type of success did you have with it?
I do get a lot - probably 20 or 30 a week. I've never represented one, though, although other people at my agency did, and did great with them - so it certainly *can* work.

My partner, Scott Hoffman, told me, "I'd say that the majority of queries we get from people whose books have been printed have worked with POD publishers, rather than self-publishing. The only authors I've signed who self-published were John Baur and Mark Summers, the authors of PIRATTITUDE: So You Want to Be a Pirate? Here's How! The book is doing fabulously, and is in its 5th printing since publication last September. I'd say maybe 3-5% of the queries I get are from authors whose books have been in print before. Occasionally, publishers have to see that there's a real market for a book before they'll take a chance on it themselves."

Paige has taken on a few – she handles a lot of genre books, and many genre authors decide to go the self-publishing route as they learn their craft. She represented Kate Wendleton, for example, and sold a five book "career series" for her.

Do sales figures for a self-published book carry any weight as far as whether you would represent it or not?
Yes, to some extent, see above. But we’re all really looking for great writing and are willing to try to get around poor sales figures if we fall in love with an author's work. Conversely, if an author has terrific sales numbers, that will definitely grab our attention.

What impact, if any, has POD made on your business?
I think POD has had virtually no effect on our business, but it's been successful for authors whose books are commercial, but appeal to a fairly limited or specialized audience.

Moving away from the POD questions, how did you discover Jon Clinch and Finn? What attracted you most to the book? What do you look for from a first-time novelist?
Jon was a referral from another client of mine, who runs Backspace, a fabulous writers’ website. She emailed me and told me that the site was “buzzing” about the opening pages of Jon’s novel, which he’d posted online. I read the first few pages on my TREO phone, sitting in the middle of a conference (OK, it wasn’t that exciting a conference), and emailed him immediately, asking for the rest. He hadn’t written the rest, but he emailed me what he’d done. I read the material immediately and sent him a retainer agreement within seconds – and then sat around biting my nails waiting for him to sign it.

The novel starts out with a bang: not only a gorgeous, surprising opening, but a wonderful, unique voice and an unstoppable premise, and characters that were familiar and new all at the same time. What attracted me most about the book? No clue. I think it was all of those things, wrapped into one luscious package, that had me on pins and needles from the get-go.

From a first-time novelist I guess I’m looking for precisely what Jon delivered: great writing, fabulous premise, dazzling characters, and a wonderful, wonderful read.

What other upcoming releases are you most excited about?
Brendon Burchard's Life's Golden Ticket is going to be Harper SF's biggest new author release. It's already broken records for 1st novel advances in several territories (with sales in 16 countries), and Harper's planning a HUGE first printing and a big author tour.

Also, Brent Ghelfi's Volk's Game is going to be Holt's biggest novel of the summer, with a 10 city author tour, a big british and german sales, and lots and lots of potential for a debut novel.

Pam Jenoff's The Kommandant's Girl is also generating tons of buzz, with starred reviews all over the place.

We have a number of mystery series that have taken off--Casey Daniels’ second book, following Don of the Dead, called The Chick and the Dead will be out in March.

Kate Kingsury, who has been on the Independent Mystery Bestseller list for the month of December with Slay Bells, will have another mystery out next Christmas.

USA Today bestselling author Julianne MacLean will have her next book, Surrender to a Scoundrel, out this January and it has already garnered fabulous reviews.

Charles Shields’ New York Times bestseller Mockingbird comes out in paperback in June.

Finn expands or elaborates on an established storyline. Anything in particular that attracts you to this type of material either as an agent or as a reader?
It’s certainly an area that interests me, as a reader. I love the idea of taking a familiar setting or characters and going somewhere new and special with them – giving me a new perspective not just on the new work, but on the original work, as well.

I stumbled across this post from UK author Christopher G. Moore about how his novel, Chairs (Heaven Lake Press, 2000), received a recent sales boost when You Suck, the latest novel from Christopher Moore (my favorite author) became available for pre-order.
Makes one seriously consider choosing a pen name like Jack Evanovich or something.
Riding the coat tails of a bigger name is an excellent way to get noticed and generate sales. My very brief study of Amazon's Buy X, Get Y program led me to conclude that it will sell books, but will it be enough to cover the cost of the program? To link your book to a Top 250 seller is $750 for a month, while a book outside the Top 250 goes for $500. Here's a link from iUniverse about the program and another one from BookSurge (an Amazon company). BookSurge quotes a price of $1000 for the program, but I think that includes an administrative fee if BookSurge sets it up for one of their authors.
Bottom line—you have to sell a lot of books in a month to cover the cost of the program.

The Vampire of Venice Beach, the latest from former iUniverse author Jennifer Colt, is now available for pre-order on Amazon. The book will be released March 27, 2007.
Colt published her first two books, The Butcher of Beverly Hills and The Mangler of Malibu Canyon, with iUniverse. Those books, along with Vampire, were picked up by Broadway Books.
Colt has an interesting article on her website about how the cover design evolved from her own Microsoft Word-generated efforts that she submitted to iUniverse to the splashy neon colors of the Broadway editions.