Sunday, April 29, 2007

Message Boards
Help Del Sesto's Trip
On to Book Shelves
What leads a reader to pick up a book from an author they’ve never read before? It can be an attractive cover that jumps off the bookshelf or a positive review in the local newspaper. Or maybe an endorsement from a favorite author.

I discovered Nicole Del Sesto’s book, All Encompassing Trip, by hanging out on the message boards at the website of my favorite author, Christopher Moore. Del Sesto is a frequent contributor to the boards. Trip sounded interesting, so I picked up a copy and queried Del Sesto about how she went from message board maven to published author.

Is Afterbirth Books a traditional publisher using Print-On-Demand technology or a self-publishing outfit like iUniverse or BookSurge?
Afterbirth is an independent traditional publisher which utilizes Print on Demand technology.

What led to your decision to publish with Afterbirth?
For a period of about 4-5 months, I shopped my book through various literary agencies. I knew All Encompassing Trip wasn't "mainstream" but I really felt like people would enjoy it. So, I persisted through the rejections. I had some literary agents who were very helpful with suggestions for improvements, and I took them all and applied them to the manuscript. Two literary agents requested the whole manuscript.

During the time I was waiting to hear back from the agents, I'd finally broken down and purchased a book I'd been looking at called The Menstruating Mall, by Carlton Mellick III. I can't say why, but the title really appealed to me.

I'd not considered submitting directly to a publisher until I read that. I looked Afterbirth up on the internet, submitted my query and within hours they requested the manuscript. Twenty-four hours after that, I had an offer to publish All Encompassing Trip.

I asked a lot of questions (my editor can confirm that!) and contacted both of the literary agents who had the manuscript to let them know about the offer. Ultimately, they both very pleasantly declined the novel, and I decided to go with Afterbirth.

What was the process with Afterbirth like?
The best part of working with an indie publisher is the flexibility. Afterbirth was really flexible and willing to try as many ideas as I threw at them. Some of them worked, some didn't, but I was truly pleased with the fact that we tried everything.

Afterbirth operates like a traditional publisher in terms of editing and cover-design. The authors, of course, have input on the cover. My cover was a result of a contest we ran. (One of the ideas that Afterbirth was willing to try.).

Marketing is a challenge. The first thing that Afterbirth told me was that all their authors really try to help each other out in terms of promotion. We try to support each other in that way and share ideas. This is one of the big differentiators from using a service like iUniverse, a collective of like-minded authors trying to get their work into the world.

How long was the book in production before being released?
Feels like forever. Basically the whole process took a little over a year.

What type of marketing are you doing for the book? What has worked best for you? What has been least effective? In general, are you pleased with the results so far? What kind of goals to have the book? What are your long term writing goals?
My motto is: One book at a time. By that I mean, every time I sell a single book, I celebrate that individual success. I'm still sort of waiting to see how this all plays out. I think it would be really cool to sell the movie rights. Marketing? This is the $64,000 question. I've been very active in promotion of this book. It's very consuming and you really have to make the time, and be willing to try (and fail).

Things that worked:

MySpace has been terrific. I've made a tremendous investment in time there, developing relationships and an audience for my writing via blogs. It takes effort. You aren't going to sell books on MySpace by sending out a bulletin every 10-minutes telling people to buy your book. You'll irritate them and get deleted.

Offering personalized pre-orders was very successful.

I was the first Afterbirth author to print Advanced Reading Copies (ARC's) and because of this I was able to get blurbs from two mainstream authors (who I met on MySpace.)

Networking and never being afraid to ask questions—I am of the opinion that it never hurts to ask, and I got a ton of great advice along the way.

Things that didn't work:

Booksense Advanced Access program. Basically, you pay $50.00 to list your book in Booksense's bi-weekly newsletter. You offer up Reader Copies of the book in hopes that the store will like it and want to carry it. Turns out, the stores like free books. Most of the copies I sent out were up for sale on Amazon, and Alibris within hours of their arrival at the store.

My MySpace book giveaway isn't doing much for me. I thought it would be fun and easy, and I'm grateful for the people who have participated, but I thought it would garner some more participation.

The bookmarks I spent $200.00 on are sitting on the floor beside me aren't doing much for me. But that could be my fault. :-)

I've posted a blog on Amazon Connect about word of mouth. I'm just trying to get people to talk about my book, and tell their friends about it. I'm getting to the point where I feel I've sort of done all I can do on my own.

You're a frequent poster to the message boards on Christopher Moore's site (that's how I first became aware of the book). Were you able to see him on his latest author tour? Has that been an effective marketing tool for you? What other sites do you contribute to on a regular basis?
First, yes, I am a huge fan of Chris's both as a writer and as a person. He's a great guy and been a tremendous resource for me. I was able to see him on the You Suck tour (along with several of my friends from the board) which is always entertaining.

I try to be respectful of Chris's space, in that I'm not there to try to generate book sales. A good portion of those people I consider friends. A good portion of those people bought my book because they are friends. I've been posting there since before the completion of the book, through publication. They've seen my highs and lows about it, and been there to offer advice and encouragement along the way. I'm extremely grateful to them. In fact, I only found Afterbirth because of the Chris Moore Board. Chris blurbed Foop! by Chris Genoa, which was published by Eraserhead Press, which is run by Carlton Mellick III, who wrote The Menstruating Mall. So basically, I found my publisher as a result of a suggestion on Chris's board and a Listmania list on Amazon.

I drink my coffee with the Boardello every morning.

I've already mentioned MySpace. I belong to several book groups there, and I also post in the 50 Book Challenge at LiveJournal. I'm also a member of Bookcrossing. I love to be places where people are talking about books. Not because I'm trying to sell books, but because I love them.

Who are your biggest influences as far as writing goes?
This is probably going to sound so hokey, but every book I read influences me in some way. I think it's my reactions to certain books which compel me more so than an individual author's work. Chris Moore makes me want to write laugh-out-loud passages, and Tom Robbins makes me want to write fabulous sentences. Chuck Palahniuk makes me feel OK about being dark and edgy and weird, and Janet Evanovich makes me realize that there's a place in the world for writing that isn't brilliant, but which is entertaining.

I recently read Black Swan Green by David Mitchell , and it depressed me because the writing was so good. A week later, I read The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst and her beautiful writing inspired me to write more beautifully in the future.

I hope I am a sponge ... soaking up all the good and improving with each book I both read, and write.

What's your latest writing project?
I've got two projects in the works right now. Actually, I've got two projects sort of stalled right now. But they are out there awaiting creation ... Another Bizarro novel which is as yet untitled about a woman with a calendar addiction, who is being stalked by the Moon. The second is a mainstream collaboration with another author that I am unable to divulge any information on.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Online Bookshelves
Offer Captive Audience

Readers are everywhere, but finding an avenue to reach this diverse group has always been a huge challenge for authors trying to market their books.
Author websites are a good outlet, as are web 2.0 sites such as MySpace and Facebook, but it's still difficult to pull people to sites unless they’re already looking for them. New social networking sites geared toward book lovers may help authors find a captive audience. Among the new sites are Shelfari, LibraryThing, BooksWellRead, MediaChest and Shelfcentered.
Shelfari recently landed a $1 million investment from
Founded by former RealNetworks employees Josh Hug and Kevin Beukelman, Shelfari allows people to list book titles, write reviews, recommend books to friends and find like-minded bibliophiles. Check out this story from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer when the site launched.
LibraryThing is an online service to help people catalog their books easily. Because everyone catalogs together, LibraryThing also connects people with the same books, comes up with suggestions for what to read next, and so forth.
You can check out the PubGuy’s bookshelf on Shelfari here: You can add a widget to your blog to display your bookshelf. Scroll down the right side of the page for an example.
I’ve started a POD group on Shelfari, so come check it out and offer up your opinions.

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Several former iUniverse authors have traditionally-published books hitting the shelves soon. Jennifer Colt’s third book featuring the McAfee twins, The Vampire of Venice Beach (Broadway), actually came out a few weeks back.
Brian Wiprud’s Tailed is due out May 29 and is available for pre-order at Amazon. Laurie Notaro’s There’s a (Slight) Chance I Might Be Going to Hell drops the same day. Notaro is stretching out a bit. The new book is a novel, while her first five books were collections of columns and essays.