Entries Tagged 'WRITE FOR PUBLICATION' ↓

Amazon Bestseller Day Amazon Best Seller or Bust? Part 2

Hop on over to YOUR SHELF LIFE: How Long Will You Last? my blog for writers and authors, for the rest of this post.

Sandy Nathan, award winning author of NumenonSandy Nathan, award winning author of Numenon

I paid for my Amazon Bestseller Launch Day with ReaderViews on November 3, 2008. My Day was December 9th, a month and 6 days later. I was still on crutches after surgery as I leapt into the world of internet marketing.

“Drive traffic to your web site!”

“Drive customers to buy!”

“If you buy my book on February 31st, you will win $34,974,957 worth of prizes. In addition, we will match those gifts by reducing the national debt a trillion bucks!”

Hurrah! Hurrah! Step right up!

See what happens as I approach my Amazon Bestseller Day!

Sandy Nathan, award winning author of Numenon Sandy Nathan, now.

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IT’S HERE––SANDY NATHAN’S NEW BLOG: YOUR SHELF LIFE

YOUR SHELF LIFE  … How long will you last?Sandy Nathan, award winning author of Stepping Off the Edge and Numenon

Hi, everyone! Getting ready for the holidays? I wanted to let you know that the first post on my new blog YOURSHELFLIFE.COM is up.The blog is open for business, so to speak.

The need for this blog came to me the other day when a friend told me about the horrendous trials she’d been going through.

She described her  misadventures and then said, “I kept thinking about that horse show you wrote about where you worked really hard preparing, and you kept losing and losing …”

That could be almost any of them, I thought.

“And then finally, at the end––you won the prize for the best barn in the show!”

Oh, yeah. That one.  I wrote about the horse show on an earlier post on this blog, but its lessons continued to reverberate in my mind.

I realized what motivates my writing: I want to create material that will encourage, enlighten, and uplift people for a long time. I recognize that books by newly published writers are likely to stay on the bookstore shelves for six months, if that.

I also realized that if I need encouragement and to be reminded of my goals, so do my fellow writers.

That’s what this blog is about. Increasing your shelf life in a rough industry. That covers your work and you. I’m going to have how-to exercises and guest bloggers. Maybe podcasts. You’ll be surprised. So will I.

So hop on over and take a peek, YOURSHELFLIFE!

Happy holidays!

Sandy

We’re talking about shelf life. I was 46 years old when the photo above was taken. That’s really me: No nips and tucks, injections, or fancy lenses. That was then. Time is cruel

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AMAZON BESTSELLER BEST SELLER DAY EXTENDED THROUGH DEC. 10TH

SANDY NATHAN’S AMAZON BESTSELLER DAY!

***My BESTSELLER BEST SELLER DAY came and went.
Jump over to my writers’ blog YourShelfLife.com and find out what I really won––and how it can benefit you.***

The article below was my invitation––and you can still check out the prizes and see the slide show.   Enjoy, Sandy Nathan

Want a taste of what’s we’ve got for you?
Here’s a gift from the HOLSTON CONFERENCE GATHERING,
the Native American spiritual retreat that inspired Sandy Nathan’s book,
STEPPING OFF THE EDGE:
Click and see the slide show!

This is the first of the gifts available to you at Sandy Nathan’s Amazon party.

Things just got rolling at my Amazon e-party when it was time to quit. We’re extending it another day to give more people a chance to participate. You have another chance to buy a great book and get amazing free gifts.

This Amazon party is my holiday gift to you. My book, Stepping Off the Edge, is a mind-bending, spiritual adventure–and the gifts you can get today are a treasure trove. I invite you to come with me and step off the edge.

What is an Amazon E-Party?
If you buy my book through the link below, you will be able to receive terrific gifts from a number of very talented people. I’ll list some here, you can see the whole list through this link: SANDY’S E-PARTY GIFTS!

  • 30% discount on the custom interior and cover of a book from Creative Publishing & Design!
  • An hour’s phone consultation on your book’s title and subtitle from Grammy nominated screenwriter Laren Bright.
  • Tecolote Finds a Friend: A Baby Horse Finds His Place in the World An e book by Sandy Nathan. A lifelong horsewoman, Sandy wrote this true photo story from her ranch for this event. It is available nowhere else.
  • A spectacular slide show from the Holston Conference Gathering, the Native American retreat in Stepping Off the Edge and a personal invitation to attend.
  • Special gifts from (in alphabetical order): Lewis Agrell who does pretty near anything with graphic design, Ilene Dillon the Emotional Pro, country real estate experts Linda Boston Franke & Clark Franke, Mary Patrick Kavanaugh very funny would-be author, self-publishing guru Dan Poynter, super editor Melanie Rigney, Brent Sampson CEO of Outskirts Press, Author Marketing Expert Penny Sansevieri, Jeniffer Thompson the Website Wow woman, ReaderView’s Irene Watson. Who else? Why cowboy and horse trainer Jack Vance, who you really want to know if you have a problem animal. And–sizzling romance and more from Santa Ynez Valley’s Sarah Robbie.

You need to see this bonanza for yourself.  For all the details, visit:
SANDY’S E-PARTY GIFTS!

What is Stepping Off the Edge?

Are you looking for a book that’s a good holiday gift as well as an engaging read? Join me as I tackle some of the major problems of our day: How do you handle an eBay addiction? Wondering about your roots? As in, do you have any? What is spirituality and where do you get it?

In Stepping Off the Edge: Learning & Living Spiritual Practice, Sandy Nathan loads her readers in a figurative RV and takes off on a spiritual adventure across the United States. She travels to Missouri’s Ozarks to find her roots and takes you to a Native American retreat in Tennessee’s Cherokee National Forest.

This is part memoir, part how-to–lots of easy exercises to try throughout this book–and part amazing. Stepping Off the Edge has won six national awards and garnered rave reviews.

“A fantastic spiritual narrative that is alive with hope and possibility. Sandy Nathan’s journey will inspire you create your own spiritual practice. A highly recommended book for all spiritual seekers.”
USA BOOK NEWS


If you buy my book from Amazon by midnight Wednesday, December 10th 2008, you can get a great book and LOTS more: CHECK OUT THESE GIFTS!

Why Are You Doing All This?

“Your book sounds like a must-read, why are you going to all this trouble to get people to buy it?” an acquaintance asked me, somewhat huffily.

That’s a good question. People don’t buy things automatically, you know. Many of my friends are people who would do almost anything to get a book published. All I can say is, that’s the easy part. People can’t read what they don’t know about. Most people have never heard of Stepping Off the Edge and any number of really excellent books. I want to introduce you to my book and myself.

Stepping Off the Edge
is a book I had no intention of writing. I was busy working on my novels; I had plenty to do. But force I could not resist reached out and grabbed me, hauling me all the way across the United States from California to green Tennessee. I went to a Native American spiritual retreat called the Gathering. Bill Miller, the multi-Grammy winning Native musician, artist & speaker is its spiritual leader. That retreat was such a profound experience that inspired me to write Stepping Off the Edge –which is about lots of things.

I finished the first draft of Stepping Off the Edge on December 22nd. The birth of the holy in this flawed world was very present in my soul. What happened to me that day as I sat at my computer BLEW MY MIND! It’s all there, at the end of Stepping Off the Edge

I invite you to join me in pursuit of the sacred, and the delightful. This book and this party is my gift to you.

Sandy Nathan

“Sandy’s book has got to be one of the most fun to read books about spirituality ever written. She takes the reader along on her adventures with a down to earth approach and style that keeps the reader in touch–with both reality and spirituality. Informative, entertaining, and enlightening.”
Natural Horse Magazine Volume 8 Issue 5

Remember, you need to buy the book from Amazon on by midnight December 10th to get the goodies.
CHECK OUT THE GIFTS! AND THE BOOK!



If you buy my book, Stepping Off the Edge, by midnight December 10th, you can receive some truly wonderful gifts–in addition to a great book.

 

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AMAZON BESTSELLER BEST SELLER DAY EXTENDED THROUGH DECEMBER 10TH––SOME OF THE PRIZES!

Sandy NathanSANDY NATHAN Award Winning Author

My Amazon Bestseller Best seller Book Party was December 9 2008. Things were just getting rolling when it was time to stop––so we’ve extended the event though December 10th. Click here to go to the party! 

Click here to see one of the prizes, an amazing slide show from the Gathering, the Native American spiritual retreat which inspired Stepping Off the Edge.

I’m doing one of those “bust into the Amazon bestseller ranks by providing incentives (bribes) to buyers to if they buy on a certain day.” These parties have been around for a while and have been lauded and condemned by many.

I’m doing mine for a bunch of reasons, one of which is the possibility of moving into the Amazon bestsellers with my book Stepping Off the Edge: Learning & Living Spiritual Practice. 

Stepping Off the Edge is a spiritual companion and guidebook for the modern age. Its a perfect holiday gift and something you can give to people of all faiths. It contains everything worth remembering that I learned earning my two graduate degrees and lifelong personal spiritual practice. These are the self-help nuggets that I grab onto when my life threatens to take a negative turn.

Sharing my book with you is as important to me as any sales rating. I finished the book’s manuscript on December 22, three days before Christmas. At that time, my soul turned toward the birth of the holy on this flawed planet.

What happened on that day still blows my mind. It’s all there, at the end of Stepping and throughout the book. This book is a mind bending, true, spiritual  journey. I invite you to come with me and step off the edge.

I really invite you to do it on December 9th 2008. That’s my party day, and you won’t believe what my friends will be giving you if you buy my book on Amazon through the special invitation I’ll send you. (Go to my website and sign up for my mailing list NOW. You’ll be sent an invitation automatically.)

STEPPING OFF THE EDGE cover If you buy my book through Amazon’s site, the first great prize you will receive is my book! Stepping Off the Edge has won six national awards and rave reviews. It’s well worth buying and reading in itself.

You’ll get more. When you buy the book through Amazon, use your receipt number to log into a special web page. That will allow you to download all the prizes my friends and I are offering. What are they?

TECOLOTE FINDS A FRIEND: A Baby Horse Finds a Place in the World The first gift is from me. I’ve written an e book for you. Tecolote Finds a Friend: A Baby Horse Learns the Ways of the World. Tecolote was born prematurely on a freezing night. He battled to survive from his first breath and overcame the worst thing that can happen to any youngster. Will he learn to be a member of the herd or stay an outsider forever?

This is the first of the amazing true stories of Rancho Vilasa, our horse ranch, that I’ve made public. The e book features photographs of the horses taken while the story was unfolding. This incredible tale is available only at my Amazon  Bestseller Party. We may make it available for sale later, but for now––this is it.

ARE YOU A WRITER,  AUTHOR, OR PUBLISHER? Here are some prizes for you. I’m sharing my secrets with you. What a truly professional presentation? Check out these people:

  • Ghislain Viau  of Creative Publishing Book Design has offered a discount on the interior design of a book. The discount will be awarded by lottery at the end of my “Amazon day” and is good for three months. If you are a publisher, owner of a small press, or considering self publishing your book, a beautifully designed interior is absolutely necessary to stand up in the marketplace. Ghislain did the interior of my book Numenon, which you can see by clicking on the book’s Amazon page and searching the “look inside” images. You can also see examples of his work on his web page, linked above. I found Ghislain a delight to work with. He was always on time, has superb technical skills, and can manage your project, submitting it to the printer and keeping track of it.
  • Laren Bright, three time Emmy-nominated screen writer and multi-talented, award winning writer, has offered a one-hour telephone consultation on a book title and subtitle. If your book is judged by its cover, it really is judged by its title. The wrong title and subtitle can destroy your book’s chances of success. Professional copy sings and presents your book in its best light. Laren wrote the cover copy––that’s the back and end flaps––for both of my books. He has an amazing capacity for grasping the essence of a book and expressing it in a few compelling words. See sandynathan.com about the books for examples, or check my books on Amazon.
  • Lewis Agrell of the Agrell Group, has offered what I consider a pathbreaking article on book cover design. Lewis drew the map that appears on the end papers of my Numenon. (Unfortunately, Amazon’s search inside feature doesn’t show it. You’ll have to buy the book to see it.) He also designed brochures for both my books, as well as other sales materials for Numenon. And––he designed the e-book which you’ll download when you buy Stepping Off the Edge on my Amazon day. He’s a joy to work with and totally professional.
  • Penny Sansevieri, The Author Marketing Expert TM, is donating some of her writings, possibly chapters from her new, best-selling Red Hot Internet Publicity: An Insider’s Guide to Promoting your Book on the Internet! When you’ve got your book edited, its interior designed, the copy written and the cover ready to go, you need to publicize it. Penny helped me with Stepping Off the Edge. She’s supremely professional and knows her stuff.
  • Jeniffer Thompson, monkey + C + media = designhaus, will offer several chapters of her writing. Want a spectacular website that expresses you perfectly and optimizes your place on the net? That’s what Jeniffer and monkey C media do. You’re looking at an example of her work: Jeniffer and her associates created this blog and my matching website at sandynathan.com   Jeniffer worked tirelessly to create a site I loved. She does that for all her clients.
  • Melanie Rigney, Editor for You, has more than thirty experience as an editor, writer and reporter. Her company, Editor for You, has provided services to more than 200 authors, publishers, and agents. Melanie spent five years as the editor of Writer’s Digest, the leading magazine for writers, and was editorial director for Writer’s Digest Books. She’s worked for the major publishers and is a well known leader of writers’ conferences. Melanie worked on the editing of my book Numenon and she’s edited, copy edited and proofed everything I’ve done since. Melanie has offered some of her writing on editing and writing, and maybe a Kindle download if the conversion can happen soon enough.

WRITING NOT YOUR THING? HOW ABOUT READING?

When you buy my book on Amazon, you’ll be able to download some red hot reading not available anywhere else. Check back. I’ll post what’s coming as details evolve.

WANT A BETTER LIFE? LOOKING FOR SOLUTIONS IN TODAY’S FINANCIAL MESS?

A couple of experts are working on answers to those questions for my party day. I’ll post when I have details.

THE GATHERING: THE SPIRITUAL RETREAT WHERE STEPPING OFF THE EDGE was born.

Head Lady & Head Man at the 2006 Gathering Pow-wowStepping Off the Edge is a book that I did not intend to write. I was doing important work––writing my series of novels––and was plenty busy. Little did I know that the universe had other plans. A force I could not resist dragged me across the United States to a Native American spiritual treat held way out in the Cherokee National Forest of Tennessee.

BILL WAILS!Bill Miller, the multi-Grammy winning, NAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award winning, Native American musician, artist, and speaker, is the Gathering’s spiritual leader.

COKER CREEK MAIN LODGE

That weekend was a soul awakening for me, a turning point in my life. I ended up writing Steppping Off the Edge. Stepping Off the Edge tells the story of my experience at the Gathering, which takes place on old Cherokee ground, the home of the original Cherokee people. The book tells you how I got there and gives you tools to handle the hard times of your life. And the good times.

We’ve got special gifts coming from the Gathering and the people of the Gathering that I’ll post when I get all the details.

That’s it for now!

SANDY & REY DE CORAZONES Happy trails!  Sandy Nathan

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AN ECONOMIST’S LETTER TO YOUNG LITERARY AGENTS: HOW TO SURVIVE IN TODAY’S PUBLISHING INDUSTRY

NEWS FLASH! THE ECONOMIST’S LETTER IS BELOW, BUT I HAD TO TELL YOU ABOUT THIS:
I’m having an Amazon Bestseller Party on
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 9TH!
THAT’S RIGHT: NEXT TUESDAY!

If you buy my book, STEPPING OFF THE EDGE, from Amazon on that day,
you will qualify for some fabulous prizes––CLICK HERE FOR A LIST!
These are some AWESOME PRIZES: 30% OFF the interior and cover design of your book by a real pro, talk to a Hollywood screen writer about your book’s title …
and so many more I’m having trouble keeping up withe them. Check it out!

Stepping Off the Edge: Learning & Living Spiritual Practice has won 6 national awards. It tells the story of a few years in my life when everything went wrong and how it turned out right.
It is a suitable holiday gift for people of all faiths––or none.

TO GET AN AUTOMATIC INVITATION, SIGN UP FOR MY EMAIL LIST WITH THIS LINK: SANDY’S EMAIL LIST SIGN UP!
THE PARTY IS INVITATION ONLY. YOU MUST SIGN UP TO PARTICIPATE.

 

 HERE’S THE ECONOMIST’S LETTER:

Sandy Nathan
SANDY NATHAN Award Winning Author

Greetings! I recently read a blog post by Nathan Bransford, a San Francisco based literary agent.  It “rang my chimes,” as they used to say on Laugh-In in the olden days. Mr. Lansford’s post quoted articles from the NY Observer, an interview with George Jones, CEO of Border’s Group, Inc. on HarpersStudio Blog,  and a video response to the NY Observer article from young literary agent, Jeff Moores. 

The post presented different takes on the future of the publishing industry by a number of industry insiders. I am not an industry insider, I am a retired economist. I wrote this and thought of putting it on the comments form of Mr. Bransford’s blog, but realized it’s a bit long for that. So here it is. I’ll put a link to this page on Mr. B’s Blog.

Dear Mr. Bransford:

Your 10/17/08 blog concerning the state of the publishing industry caught my attention. My first career was in economics––I hold a couple of degrees in the subject and was Economic Analyst for Santa Clara County until the Planning Department was eliminated. (That’s downsizing!)  I also worked in Silicon Valley for twenty years, coaching negotiations at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, among other things.

What wisdom do I have to add to the articles you cite? An adage from economic forecasting applies: The best predictor of the future is the past. Just throw a line on past data (do a regression analysis) and there you have it––the future. The only problem with this approach is that you miss the turning points. This is a very large problem.

We are in a turning point, or major melt down, now.

No one knows what’s going to happen except that what happened in the past won’t apply. The article from the NY Observer was well worth reading, and I loved the Interview with George Jones, CEO of Borders Group. He gets the problem: It’s”not the book business itself that is lacking, but it is the business model that has been in place for decades and is broken.”

The business model no longer fits reality. To address this, Jones says Borders intends to “know our customers and select those titles that resonate with our unique shopper.” And, “speaking directly to an engaged population of customers is absolutely the way to go and we’re leading the way on it … the sky’s the limit!”

This is a new way of doing business. It’s personally engaged business, its smart business, and it points to niche buying, with suppliers listening harder to customers––in the case of Borders, anyway. I also liked what he said about their doing “very little if any traditional advertising.” I’ve never seen it pay in any business in which I’ve been involved.

What’s going to happen in the publishing industry? I have no clue. No one else does, either. I do know publishers that made a lot of money in the 60s & 70s are groaning and have been for a long time.

How to address this? On the supply side, looking at large publishers, I would expect cut backs and increased conservatism. The financial people and investment advisers I’ve talked to recently are in lock-down mode. They’re traumatized and very tight. Turtled up, you might say.

That speaks to less innovation in buying by publishers and a tendency to hang onto what’s proven, which is what the NY Observer article pointed to. I can’t speculate as to what change in overall share in the GDP publishing the coming years will bring.

Many small publishers will fold, which is sad, because they tend to be the innovators. But many more will rise, including micro-presses. These businesses are fluid and can find and fill niche markets. With distribution open to them (and it is) and companies like Borders open to buying from really small publishers if they prove they can sell, the small and micro companies could flourish.

Such micro-publishers might be built around a single author who uses his/her books as large business cards, creating a platform for some other endeavors: consulting, coaching, or speaking. This includes the “out of the bookstore sales” that don’t get counted in bestseller lists.

What young agents and everyone else need to remember is that what is happening now has never happened before. I’m 63 years old. My dad was a major developer in Silicon Valley before it had that moniker. I’ve imbibed business since birth and studied business and economics academically. I’ve seen many economic cycles, with their “Whee!” and expectation of endless growth on the upside, and their black gloom after the inevitable bust.

The current situation is new and massively ominous.

Within recent weeks, a half dozen of the largest banks in the country have been bought out by other banks under duress or government orders and/or have disappeared. This includes both of the largest investment banks. Hundreds more, less prominent banks have closed, with many more to follow. The collapse of the housing industry is well documented and the national debt is beyond anything I could have imagined. China as been buying US government paper for years, financing our spending binge on Chinese goods. Read the financial pages, literati.

Are we heading for another Great Depression of the 30s? No. That will never happen again. We’re heading for What Happened in the 2000s and Beyond. Unknown territory. Hope our leaders are up to it.

Speaking to the young New York literary agents shown by video on Mr. Bransford’s blog––if I were a young literary agent what would I do? I’d keep my eyes open, read the Wall Street Journal as much as Publishers’ Weekly, watch my back, and learn new skills.

A friend of mine, an English major from one of the prestigious eastern colleges, is now taking a 16-week course allowing him to become an ambulance driver. Smart guy.

The more tools in one’s belt, the more likely one is to survive. Changes in job description are good; they provide material for a more interesting memoir. If one has been fortunate and deserving enough to attain a prestigious job title early on, that’s great. But it’s not who you are. Life can be brutal in ripping away illusion.

If I were a young literary agent shopping for new clients, I would look at the demand side of the book market, and markets generally. What are recession/depression proof products? Drugs, booze, and psychotherapy. Things that make people feel good and hopeful sell in bad times.

Find their literary forms. Look for books with titles like: “You can make it through the next five years …” Though I wonder if the spate of “You can get rich like me, activate your inner entrepreneur” books aren’t part of the problems we face.

Political extremism and agitation flourish in hard or changing times. Look at the 30s and 60s. One side blames the other for the history of humanity and plots revenge. This is a fertile, though repulsive, area to mine for top selling books. Hate books. Blame books. Incendiary books.

Still another and very important area of demand are books that offer people meaning and hope in a shifting universe. A philosophy professor emphasized how hungry people are for meaning. He said that his wife (then an undergraduate at UC Berkeley) spoke of the subjects we discussed in our philosophy classes. After her classes, people followed her around the UC campus, wanting to talk about meaning, existence, values, anything that feed their souls. In an age of sophistication and materialism, our spiritual (sorry to use the word) needs remain.

We can’t help it. The search for meaning is hardwired into our brains. We are purposive creatures that seek meaning almost as soon as we seek air. See the writing of Andrew Newberg MD on brain science and religious experience. The need for meaning isn’t an add-on.

People seek meaning harder when they feel shaken. Feed that need, and you’ve got a hit.

Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love” is a brilliant example of this. It combines all the most basic human needs in a beautifully written package that let’s people vicariously go on her search for MEANING. (Everything I’ve seen from Elizabeth on this subject says, “Find your own meaning, don’t use mine.” That’s the idea.) “The Life of Pi” is another brilliant example: existential anxiety in a rowboat. Author Yann Martel was a philosophy major.

The upside of demand in bad times is that readers exist; some people will always like to read. Some people like to read interesting stuff, and will buy it. We’ve got new technology to help us get it. (But really, how can holding a Kindle compare with experiencing the elegance of a high quality book?)

If I were a young agent wanting to survive, I would notice that the model is broken. I would notice that profitable sales are and will be what allows the large publishers to survive and that as a literary agent, I need go where those who provide my income go. Publishing is sales driven and so am I. (Which you already know.)

I would also notice, by the long hours I work if nothing else, that the query system doesn’t work. It’s a cumbersome, labor-intensive process for you which doesn’t pop out likely prospects reliably enough for this market.

If I were an agent, I would scrap the query system. It’s too much work and misses books or products that might be very profitable. “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” for one. The Kiyosaki’s self-published to get their start. [Oh, my God! Don’t use those words!] The NY publishing establishment shunned the entire Chicken Soup Series. Big mistakes, which were later rectified. The querying system doesn’t pick up the most important point in today’s publishing industry: Can this author sell?

I’d scrap queries entirely and have anyone wanting me to represent them send me a: (1) resume and a (2) position statement: why I am the person to write this book. I’d sift through those and get the candidates that might be able to succeed in the marketplace.

I’d interview them. You can do interviews by video, but most people look lousy on video unless they’ve been coached. So they can come and see you in your office. If prospective clients want your representation enough, they’ll come to you. Don’t pay for it either.

“The author’s persona is most important element in the success of a book,” Victor di Suvero told me. Victor is a poet who used to hang around City Lights Bookstore with the great San Francisco poets in the 50s and 60s. It’s charisma and ability to transmit it that makes people plunk down their bucks.

Get your prospective client in your office and talk to him or her, silently asking yourself the questions: “Would I buy a pair of socks from this person? A used car?”

The possible answers are, “Yes,” “No,” and “Maybe, with coaching.” (Make them pay for it.) When you have those answers, you’ll have trimmed the seekers to a manageable herd. Then talk books.

Remember: You can hire someone to fix a book, but you can’t make a platform or a selling personality.

With my method, your client candidates will have proven they can sell before books are mentioned. Many really good writers will probably get screened out, as well as those who can’t afford to come to you, but literary fiction doesn’t pay the corporate debt.

Sound radical? Sound crass? Yes to both. Would you rather drive an ambulance?

Just a suggestion,

Sandy Nathan …

Cutting this post here would be mean. I have a story for you to round this out. My daughter, Zoe Nathan,  recently won her black belt in karate at a competition in Seattle. (If you click the link you’ll see after pictures. I understand she was mostly airborne in the “during competition” phase.)

Like you young literary agents, Zoe is an under thirty, gorgeous, multi-talented, sensitive and really smart, liberal arts graduate of a very good east coast school, Sarah Lawrence. She had to miss the Santa Barbara opening of an art show featuring one of her paintings because she was in Seattle winning her black belt. You relate? She’s like you.

She’s studied karate religiously for many years. combining it with her ballet to be the most beautiful and graceful karate woman in the world. Winning this belt meant a lot to her. The process was “extremely intense.” This is what she said of the process of winning (via text message):

I’M NO MORE BRUISED UP THAN USUAL!

She spoke of all the drills and other things aspirants had to do to get the belt. (I didn’t know what she was talking about.)  Then she told me about a difficult part, sparring with an opponent in front of a small mob of judges. I’m paraphrasing:

“The woman I sparred with was the daughter of a tournament orientated black belt in our school. In his dojo, they train to compete in international tournaments. His daughter has been competing in and winning such tournaments for years. She’s a phenomenon.

“When she was throwing me, I kept thinking, ‘Why am I still in the air?’ And then I realized that she was placing me so that when I landed, I wouldn’t get hurt.

“Both of us advanced to the belts we were testing for. When they gave us the belts, the judges complimented her on her control.  I.e., for not beating up a less experienced contender while illustrating that she could ––and easily!

“They complimented me on my spirit in keeping going through it all, and the fact that I was still standing at the end.”

That’s my message: The goal is to keep going and be standing at the end, no matter what. Everyone has to find out what that means and do it.

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READING & WRITING LESSONS

Â

Trying to do some search engine optimization, I discovered that this article about writing skills and literary prowess was one of the most popular on my blog. It’s also ancient, probably morphing onto the net from my handwritten pages from the 1980s. I hadn’t even published any books when I wrote this. And the article’s programming is so old it’s messed up. I’m announcing this right now: If all of this comes out as one big paragraph, I tried to fix it. Many times. I’m done with trying to fix. Let the blog  begin!

Sandy Nathan

I’d read my way through all the books in the house. In withdrawal, I found myself in Rite Aide, the literary capital of the universe. Helpless to stop myself, I gravitated to the book display.
I found myself facing a wall of book covers bearing major muscle displays. Pects. Abs. Other muscle groups that I’d never seen. Men with long wavy hair, women who had lost most of their clothes.
I’ve never read a mass-market book. Unbelievable, but true. Even as a kid I never read such down-scale writing, though I do admit reading the Tarzan books when I was ten. They might qualify at mass market.
But I was hungry for a read . . .
Rationalizing my behavior as research, I told myself I was just checking cover design. I was examining rear covers to see how the Big Publishers’ Copy Guys wrote copy for fiction. (Yes, my first novel was nearing production. I wanted to make sure that it was tricked out properly.)
I bought two books. I’m three-fourths of the way through one. The other sits on my dining table. If I get through the first one without puking, I’ll read the next one.

I soothed my conscience by labeling what I was doing research. I analyzed the socioeconomic group/personal needs of the books’ intended audiences by examining the content of their covers. The culture represented by the books on Rite Aide’s shelves was attracted to large pectoral muscles and flowers. Also the words “Menopause relief.”
I’d say their readers leaned toward women of a certain age––which could be almost any age.
I bought two books based on cover attractiveness and the best looking set of pects . . . No. That’s not true. My upcoming novel was dark and scary. I wanted a particular look. I selected volumes that might be models for what I wanted.  One book I purchased was Gothic, or goth, as it is known in urban centers among teenagers. The other book had zowie, powie colors that my eye couldn’t release.
The books had interesting rear cover copy in different styles. (Copy is the writing on the book’s front & rear cover that sells the book. It includes stuff about the author and book and can appear anywhere: on the author’s web site, on postcards, in the front or back of the book. Tattooed on the author’s forehead . . . Writing copy is an art, and expensive.)
The goth book turned out to be a vampire thriller.
What a hoot. I’ve never read a vampire book, even the original Dracula or the contemporary Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I am not interested in vampires, they remind me of those other blood sucking monsters, government entities that collect taxes. The subject is too scary. But this book had a certain, very badly written, charm. The author created a compelling alternative world, like many good authors do. But it was written so poorly . . .
The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy

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As a writer, I’ve done my time. I spent nine years in one writing group, a couple more in another. I’ve worked with several editors (they are not all sadistic monsters). Been to really big writer/author workshops. I’ve learned punctuation, and I even know how to diagram sentences. (I understand that they stopped teaching kids how to do that in school. That is really stupid. Diagramming sentences was one of the most useful things I learned in school, next to typing. Calculus never helped me at all.)

I’ve paid my dues: I’ve gotten vicious, humiliating rejection letters all the way down the scale to chummy and respectful rejection letters. I’ve had people try to scam me for big bucks, and scam me for big bucks.

I read this goth, vampire story and thought, “How the $@##! can she get away with it?” The bad English. The clichés. The convoluted sentences. How? How? She’s being published by a major, major publisher. I thought they wanted quality. Everything I’d learned in my writing groups flashed before my eyes.

So here’s this book, written by a New York Times Bestselling author and published by a major house, that defies all the rules.

How did that happen? I couldn’t stand reading it. “The swirling opacity of the mist that enveloped him as he tore his cloak from his beating breast”  (and pects) got to be too much. I pulled out a pen and edited the book as I read. Much better.

The most important maxim in the Chicago Manual of Style: “Remove unnecessary words.”

Pen in hand, I read/edited the book and had fun. It did display a quirky charm and wild, relentless imagination.

The text mentioned a web site. I explored it.

Holy macaroni! The thing was amazing. Every character had his or her (mostly his) own page. It was a huge site with a supermarket-sized collection of stuff to buy. Everything from mugs to T shirts to actual [Delete that actual, Sandy! Redundant. No––I included it for teaching purposes.]

You could get lost in the site’s chat room, guestbook, post your pictures, blog, forum, new books about to be created, and old books still available. For starters: Each page had more headers and stuff to explore.

I mean . . . [Writing tip: If you mean something, you don’t have to say that you mean it. Just say it.]

Okay, finding that site and that author hurt.

She’d written not just a lousy vampire series; she’d written many other romance series, too. Her books, pectorals, bad English and all, will have sold probably fifteen million copies by the time you read this. She receives truckloads of mail every day, has adoring fans panting for her words, image and news. She has a staff to help her. I expect she’s made some money with her writing.

And, she dresses up with goth clothing for her wildly popular book signings.

Okay. My books have not sold fifteen million copies, but they are written in proper English, except when I ignore convention, as writers are allowed to do these days.

What’s the problem?

I’ve got a great life, a dream life, but I didn’t get it by writing.

I want my writing to give me a bigger dream life. I want the perks of a successful author. I want the fan mail. Adoration. Staff. Money. I want all of that. Why? Because it looks like fun. Also, I’d like to be God.

I’ve been to the major uplifting, transformational seminars. I’ve meditated for thirty years. Why haven’t I sold fifteen million books? I’ve gone to school . . .

Where’s the justice?

Right there: I GOT IT! I HAD A HUGE TRANSFORMATIONAL EXPERIENCE THAT CHANGED ME FOREVER.

I read that the author in question had spent eight years trying to get a publisher to look at her work. Eight years. All you out there ready to quit––EIGHT YEARS. That’s even more suffering than Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, the Chicken Soup guys. They were rejected by hundreds of publishers before one bit. And they didn’t even have a vampire story. (Chicken Soup for the Vampire’s Soul? Chicken Soup for the Undead?)

The author of the book I’m talking about chose a topic with that interested LOTS of people. She hit that market right on. Her team skillfully marketed her work and she worked like crazy. I’ve written drafts for eight or nine novels. This gal has published twenty, thirty, who knows. She works, that one . . .

LITERATI, LISTEN UP:

We intellectuals get so impressed with ourselves. Our verbal riffs, our penetrating insights, our camaraderie and intellectual sparring. Our sense of superiority not only to non-writing humanity, but our own kind. It’s a minefield, being smart. And writing.

Here’s a story that pertains to this: Years ago, I worked for a professor at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. At the BIZ School, they teach using the case study method, which means that rather than reading boring textbooks about decision sciences and accounting, students read case studies of REAL problems encountered by businesses.

One of the case studies at the Stanford GSB was about Mary Kay Cosmetics. You’ve heard of Mary Kay? One of the most successful women in business, ever. If a woman can make that much money, I’m positively inclined toward her from the get-go.

The women who wrote the case study weren’t. They filmed the process of writing that study. I’ve seen the film. It involved a major socio-economic clash. Mary Kay got where she was by creating exceptional products and knowing her market, and her sales force. She lived and looked the life that many of her followers wanted. Eye shadow, fake lashes, pink suits and all.

The team of female Harvard PhDs sent to investigate her company did not look like Mary Kay or her clients.

To say that they looked like linebackers was unfair. Usually, linebackers do more with their hair. The gals leaned in that direction, some might say. They went out to interview Mary Kay and check out her company like a team of vampires sans all the sexy bits. Mary greeted them politely in her flouncy pink International Headquarters. She blinked as she noticed “the Doctors” lack of make-up and their clothes.

That’s all I’ll say, except that they did not get her at all. I did.

Hey, baby, you’re the most successful woman in business ever? I want to learn about what you did. I want what you got. (Though if I ever was a Mary Kay representative and earned a car, I would not want a pink Cadillac. I’d like a pink Rolls Royce.)

We intellectuals do the same thing in the literary world: Dis the folk who are making it. Do the snotty-nose thing to them who got what we want. (And really want it, don’t we? Book signings where somebody shows up? Fans who are willing to look past our failings? And those of our books? Readers who like us so much that they copy our hairstyles?)

Or are we too snobby to even want that, preferring to live alone in our glorious superiority?

The year that Stephen King won a lifetime award from the National Book Award people, he chided them for their lack of recognition of popular writers. “You’re denigrating your own culture,” he said (or something like that).

The winner of the National Book Award that year had sold something like 2,500 copies of her magnificent work before she won the award. And how many millions has Stephen sold?

I’d still like that goth author to clean up her prose. But it may be the jiggles and wiggles and odd turns of phrase that her readers’ like. Maybe she knows her market better than me.

My husband suggested that I send my edited copy of her book to her. How rude. I wouldn’t do that. She might wave her royalty checks at me. Or her millions of fans might attack me . . . once it got dark and they could come out.

This research project has been a turning point for me. My writing will change as a result.

Ponder what’s here. How does it apply to you and your writing? Or your book promotion?

Let me know, huh? I’d like a thoughtful response from someone.

And to all those spammers who have been sending their nonsensical and revolting messages: Knock it off!

Or I’ll not just delete them––I’ll use my Supernatural Powers. Out will come my fangs . . . I’ll send my minions to smite you and carry you to the Dark World.

I will, really.

Sandy Nathan, winner of 13 national writing awards. And yes, I did really look like this once. 😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I’ve got a blog for writers That’s full of stuff like this article: Your Shelf Life


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