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Sunday, January 22–Panel Members:

  • Phil Sexton–Moderator of Panel; Publisher, Writer’s Digest
  • Karen Cooper–Publisher, Adams Media
  • Michelle Howry–Senior Editor, Touchstone (an impring of Simon & Schuster)
  • Donya Dickerson–Senior Editor, McGraw Hill

A. What is the most common mistake writers make in nonfiction proposals?

  • Too much emphasis on the manuscript.
  • Not enough evidence of need. Why does this book need to be in the marketplace?
  • Not enough emphasis on the author platform.
  • Not enough competitive analysis. Need to do research: a) Where will this book go on the shelf in Barnes & Noble? b) How does this book contrast with competitive titles? c) What does this book provide that no other book does? Check publicity volume of competition and occupied shelf space in bookstores. Also check Book of the Month Club offerings and other visible signs of a book’s sales/popularity.
  • Writer is not realistic about competition for books by a “new author.” In proposal/query, presents him/herself as “the next ___________ (fill in the blank with a famous author’s name).” This approach brands the writer as inexperienced and unrealistic. Instead, the writer should answer: a) Here’s how my book fits into the market, and b) Here’s how my book differs …”

The approximate length of a nonfiction book proposal should be thirty pages, not including any sample chapters.

Include suggestions about where book could be sold outside of the trade (ex., Walmart, Costco …) Research should include publishers and where they sell.

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B. How important is the author’s writing in nonfiction?

  • Depends on the imprint, the book idea, and how hungry the editor is for an acquisition.
  • Authors should not have someone else write the proposal. Both the manuscript and the proposal need to have the same style. Editors can tell if they’ve been written by different people.
  • Editors/publishers vary regarding how important the writing is. If the concept is great, the quality of writing is not as important. Writing can always be beefed up through input from agents, editorial staff, or even ghost writers contracted through publishers.
  • The author’s platform plays a role in how important the writing is. The more the author already has in place to help sell the book, the less important the actual writing becomes.
  • Editors differ with respect to the weight applied to a) good writing, b) promotion, and c) platform.

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C. How has the view of self-publishing changed?

  • All three editors said they would enthusiastically look at proposals that included self-published books.
  • Writers should keep in mind that, if an author is doing well with self-published book saes, then there is a strong case to be made for not going with a traditional publisher.
  • However, publishers can offer access to additional distribution channels, unique book promotions, etc.

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D. What is the most compelling proposal you ever received, and why?

  • Wreck This Journal. Original proposal was a mock-up that was intended to be torn apart (as is the final product). Sometimes editors have to do a hard-sell job with odd ideas like this one, when channels like Barnes & Noble and Amazon have decided to passed on a project.
  • The Starbuck’s Experience. Author had gained full access to Starbuck’s operations. (The publisher was instrumental in changing the title from the original.)
  • The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook. Author had secured permission from J.K. Rowling to use the Harry Potter name.
  • Retail Hell. The proposal came in as a self-help book. The publisher reworked it into a memoir.

Editors and publishers want authors who are cooperative and willing to listen, who respond positively to input, and who want to work in a partnership to produce the best quality book possible.

–Cheri’s Note: I’m now studying up on how to write a nonfiction book proposal. I will keep you posted on what I’m learning and how the process unfolds once I actually begin writing the document.–

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Hi! Well, I’ve had one heck of a time getting onto this blog today as I promised I would. First, the wireless connection specifically set up for the conference had some “technical difficulties,” and won’t be live until tomorrow morning (Saturday) at 6 a.m. Then, the room where all the opening sessions were held this afternoon did not get 3G reception–and, of course, I have my new iPad with me, which operates on either 3G or wireless. Finally, there was a “tweet-up” at a club about a block away from the hotel from 7:30-10:00 were I was able to finally get a wireless connection, but for some unknown and highly irritating reason, the iPad wasn’t letting me key in anything except the post’s title (which I ended up publishing just to let you know that I was trying to get to you …)

Otherwise, this has been a great day! For those of you who are long-time followers, you know how significant the first Writer’s Digest Conference was for me in September 2009 (see my blog launch posting on November 4,2009). Consequently, I have been anxiously awaiting this second conference for the last year and a half–and I don’t think I’m going to be disappointed.

Since I couldn’t get online for the first three sessions, I took notes in the iPad Notes sections and will summarize those for you tomorrow. And hopefully I’ll be able to capture the rest of the sessions as they happen, as promised. Meanwhile, the big deal tomorrow afternoon will be the Pitch Slam where 55 agents will be arranged for us to each have three minutes with as many of them as we can squeeze in to pitch our books/manuscripts/ideas. I’m going to pitch Separation of Faith and will report on my immediate reactions and feedback.

Lots of eye-opening stuff has already been presented and discussed, with plenty of time allowed for our questions. (There are about 450 of us in attendance here.) The publishing industry is changing daily and is now ready to entertain just about any version of the Dream we want to pursue. And quality self-published books are now viewed as far more of a valuable commodity than even two years ago. POD (print on demand) is a business tool now being utilized by the remaining twelve major mainstream publishing houses for traditionally published books. And ebooks are the monster eating everything up at the moment. According to Richard Curtis–longtime literary agent and book publisher (he has his own ebook publishing company)–ebook piracy is poisoning the entire ebook business. He looks for government regulation and stiff penalties to start showing up in the near future. That little bit of information was sort of scary.

Logistically, the Sheraton where we’re staying is on the corner of 7th Avenue and 53rd Street in the heart of midtown Manhattan. Unfortunately, the temperature is hovering around 10 degrees without the wind chill factored. Otherwise, I’d be out walking around this amazing city that I love so much.

Well, I’m going to sign off for the night and will keep my fingers crossed that the conference’s wireless connection is up and runnning by morning. I want to make sure you don’t miss anything.

If you’re a Twitter person, you can follow a lot of the dialogue through #wdc11. Talk to you soon.

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At Last! The Next Iteration of the Writer’s Conference that Changed Everything for Me! (http://www.writersdigestconference.com/)

If this is the first time you’ve stopped by this blog, I invite you to check out the November 4, 2009 blog launch posting (https://cherilaser.wordpress.com/2009/11/04/hello-world/). That original post (and the decision to start a blog in the first place) was a direct byproduct of my attending the first annual Writer’s Digest Conference held in New York City in September of last year (2009).

When I checked into the hotel on the first day of the conference, I had not yet finished my second novel (Separation of Faith, released last month, September 2010), nor did I have a clue about the realities of the publishing business/world today–a reality that changes almost moment-by-moment. Like so many other writers I’ve met over the years, I still believed that continuing to write and send out those “carefully crafted” query letters would eventually get me where I wanted to go on my publishing Journey.

But since I didn’t understand the new realities of the world I was trying to enter with my novels, I also didn’t understand what would be the best way for me to proceed with my second novel, given my personal goals and my stage in life. Well, the blog post on November 4, 2009 outlines the revelations and shifts in my Journey’s direction after I’d spent three days at that conference.

In a nutshell: 1) Everything I’d been thinking/planning changed, and 2) I was shot out of a cannon when I left the conference, with a clearer direction about what I wanted and needed to do than I’d had in decades. I reordered absolutely everything I was doing the day after I returned home.

This blog has followed every single step of those changes and the subsequent unfolding of the Plan, including the things that went smoothly and those that didn’t. In short, though, the second novel is not only finished and released, but there’s already been recognition for editorial excellence, which emerged  in the process of that conference as one of the keys–if not the key–to a successful book. Getting to that level of editorial quality took almost a year, but there wasn’t an option, as far as I was concerned. You can read all about that whole editing struggle, if you feel like perusing the posts in this blog since last November.

You’ll also read about how I started blogging in the first place, a process about which I knew absolutely nothing, but something else that wasn’t optional for me after that conference. The same was true for my entire approach to the whole social media thing in general. (Again, the November 4, 2009 post will lay everything out for youhttps://cherilaser.wordpress.com/2009/11/04/hello-world/.)

The New Conference–January 21-23, 2011  

Writer’s Digest did not have their second annual conference this year due to scheduling issues, much to my disappointment, but delayed the event until January 2011. I’ve been watching for registration to open for the last month–and needless to say, I’m already confirmed. (Not packed yet, but soon … 🙂 …)

After more than fifteen years of trying to find my way through the publishing morass, and after attending dozens of conferences, I can honestly tell you that this one is differentIf you’re a writer going after the same Dream we’re all chasing–and if you’re ready to hear/learn what it really takes to even have a shot (with an open mind to the realities that will quickly open your ears and eyes as wel)–this conference will leave you a changed person/writer at the end. And by this time next year, perhaps your own Journey will be a lot further along as a result.

If I had not attended the Writer’s Digest Conference in September 2009, none of this would be a reality for me right now:

  • This blog–www.cherilaser.wordpress.com
  • All of my social media connections (see the right hand column of the blog).
  • www.Amazon.com (Separation of Faith under Books)
  • Video Book Trailer for Separation of Faith: www.YouTube.com/cherilaser
  • By the end of October, we’ll also be releasing a Second Edition of my first novel, The Truth About Cinnamon (on Amazon.com too), because of what I learned about the importance of quality editing (as important, if not more so, than the quality of the writing) at the WD 2009 conference.  

If you want the conference experience of your writing life, check out the January 2011 Writer’s Digest Conference at: http://www.writersdigestconference.com/. If you decide to attend, please let me know! I’d really love to meet you there and have some great conversations in person!

Have a Great Weekend!

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A Great Place to Start Organizing Your Thoughts

This will be a quick note to share a post published by Jane Friedman (Writer’s Digest) this morning. If you’re just beginning to consider publishing options for your work, her piece is extremely helpful in organizing thoughts and direction.

There are several “sidebar” links that take you to sub-categories, and I highly recommend that you read each of those as well, in order to get the full picture of what she’s presenting. The link on self-publishing is of particular interest and really points out the realities quite succinctly.

If you’re trying to figure out which way to go on your Journey, or if you’ve already gone one way and would like to consider going another, spend a few minutes exploring Jane’s post in depth: “I Want to Publish My Book. Now what?” http://blog.writersdigest.com/norules/2010/10/05/IWantToPublishMyBookNowWhat.aspx

Hope your week is off to a good start!

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Book Launch Party–September 23, 2010

Thanks so much to everyone who took time from their busy lives to attend my Book Launch Party for Separation of Faith–available on Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/Separation-Faith-Novel-Cheri-Laser/dp/1450232191/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1286991323&sr=1-1), as well as all other online and traditional book retailerson Thursday evening. We had a great time, rolled out the novel in fine fashion, and had some fun raffles for T-shirts, book bags, lunch with me, and then a special 50-50 for my Rotary club’s scholarship fund.

I’m including a few highlight photos–setting up, mingling, signing, etc. You’ll also note one photo with an elderly gentleman and a small girl. That’s my father Jim (who will be 90 in February) and my granddaughter Natalia (who is three), representing the opposite ends of four generations in our family. Pretty amazing for me.

For those of you who are visiting this blog for the first time, the whole mission of the blog since the launch on November 4, 2009, was to follow the progess of Separation of Faith, through the last stages of the writing, through all of the editing and revision phases, through all of the publishing steps and missteps, and now into the promotional phase. Eventually, this blog will become a book too, chronicling the how’s and how-not-to’s of bringing a novel into the world. There are all sorts of tips and links throughout the postings that I’m told are proving helpful to other writers pursuing their own dreams. So if you’re visiting for the first time, I’d love to hear from you.

Amazon Stats–Separation of Faith

This has been sort of a kick so far. For a brief time yesterday morning (about five minutes), the paperback version of Separation of Faith was ranked 95,000 in Amazon. After checking the graphs I’m able to see as an author, I’m also noticing that the hard cover version is actually ranked higher than the soft cover version, which means that more people are opting to buy the hard cover (an absolutely beautiful product, if I do say so myself 🙂 …). Overall, both versions are consistently hovering in the 100,000s and 200,000s, creeping up higher periodically. The numbers have stayed well under 1 million to date, a range that at least keeps me on the playing field.

I don’t know (and won’t know until the end of next quarter) exactly how many copies this all translates into, and there are other factors involved with Amazon’s rankings, such as how well other books are doing that compete with Separation of Faith. But overall, I’m pretty excited about what’s happening up to this point. Now I just need to keep getting the word out. Thanks so much to all of you who’ve already taken a chance on the novel. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed, although I would love to hear from you one way or another.

Cinnamon Update

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the final Cinnamon galley proofing should be completed this weekend. Hopefully that will mean the newly edited Second Edition version of my first novel, The Truth About Cinnamon, should be available for purchase sometime next month (October). I feel like I’ve been talking about this (and working on it) for a millenium, and I’ll be so very happy when it’s ready for you. You’ll know as soon as I do when that moment arrives. Meanwhile, the original version (which will soon become a First Edition) is still available on Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/TRUTH-ABOUT-CINNAMON-Novel/dp/0595299733/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1285426568&sr=1-1).

Thank you all again for continuing to be a part of this Journey and for letting me be a part of yours. Have a wonderful weekend! 

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“It Was All So Different Before Everything Changed.”

Last night I was scanning through the posts written last spring and in the early summer. At that point, I was deeply focused on edits–doing them myself, waiting for the results of someone else doing them, blogging about the importance of submitting our work to professional editors, reviewing the edited proofs, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera–for both Separation of Faith and the re-edited version of The Truth About Cinnamon (which is still in the final proofing stage, by the way). And my words were directed a few times to the fact that I was growing tired of that part of the writing process and feeling anxious to move on to the next stage.

Well, here I am, in that next stage. And with my book launch party less than a week away (Thursday, September 23), this is what I’ve been doing this week:

  • On Monday, I met with the printer about the T-shirts and shopping bags I’m having made for the book launch party and subsequent book events currently being scheduled in the area. The shopping/book bags (canvas) will have Separation of Faith‘s cover printed on one side. The T-shirts will have the cover on the front and the following excerpt on the back (except the paragraphs will be properly formatted, single spaced, indents on first line, no extra line space between paragraphs, none of which can be done in this blog format): 

… “Chronological order, huh? Well, that might not be as easy as you’d think. But I guess the front end musta been on Saturday, October 23, 1948.”

Isaiah put his fork down on his plate and studied Zeke’s face. “You remember the date and the day of the week?”

“That’s what I said. You got a hearing problem?”

“Is that when you met Abby?”

“Yup. Everybody’s got a fork-in-the-road story, you know. And that was mine. Got up that morning, just like always. Ate breakfast just like always too. Didn’t wear my overalls, though, ‘cause we was going into Charlotte. Put on my go-to-meeting jeans and a clean shirt that I even ironed. Guess I should a seen it coming, but I didn’t. All I know is that nothing ‘bout my life—and I mean nothing, not even the color of the damn sky—was ever the same after that day.”

  • The T-shirts and bags will be for sale at a very nominal fee, but I’ll also be giving a number of them away in raffles at the book launch party. And anyone who buys three or more books will automatically get a book bag. (I’ll also be giving away a lunch with me, so we’ll have to see whether or not that’s a particularly exciting prospect for anyone. 🙂 …)
  • At the local Party City store, I bought rolls of raffle/50-50 tickets. In addition to the T-shirt/book bag/lunch giveaways, I’ll also be holding a special 50-50 at my book launch party to benefit my Rotary club’s scholarship fund.
  • While at Party City, I picked up a helium canister to fill the 50 balloons that will be anchored at each table. So, of course, I also had to buy the balloons and balloon anchors. The anchors are sort of a sea blue, shiny with ribbon fringe on top. The balloons are powder blue, cobalt blue, and white, all of which coordinate with the book’s cover. Three balloons (one of each color and secured with white ribbon) will be tied to the anchors on the eleven round tables plus the reception table, the book sales table, the T-shirt/bag table, and the table where I’ll sign autographs. (There will also be a podium where I’ll do a couple of quick readings at some point.)
  • I picked up a big container of glitter too, to sprinkle over the white tablecloths. At the book launch party, which will be from 4:00-7:00 on the 23rd, we’ll be serving cocktail appetizers. There will be a cash bar, but every book purchase will get a free drink. The video book trailer (www.YouTube.com/cherilaser) will be playing in a loop on a huge laptop screen at the book sales table. There will be other music as well throughout the room. My current music phase is doo wop, but we’ll see how I’m feeling on the 23rd. 🙂 Pictures and videos of the event will be posted on this blog by the 25th or 26th.
  • About seven hours this week were spent sending out announcement emails containing links to the video trailer and this blog. Because I’ve lived and worked all over the country and have only been here in the New York Metro area of New Jersey for ten years, the majority of people that I know personally all live somewhere else. And they’re all getting their own announcement emails, because that’s what the “experts” suggest is the best and most appropriate approach (versus a blanket email that goes out to everyone at once). Guess we’ll learn eventually if that approach turns out to be the most effective. But I must admit that it’s been giving me an opportunity to say hi to lots of folks I don’t get to talk with very often.
  • Today I have to meet with a new client about an editing job (oh yeah, that make-a-living thing too) that I’ll be doing for her, and then I’ll come back to my home office to do more emails. I also need to make several signs and posters for the book launch party–and I want to make them generic enough to use at other book events. Then there will be a few phone calls to managers/proprietors of various local establishments where I want to hold events over the next month. And, finally, I’ll need to start booking my travel arrangements for the trip to San Francisco and Kettle Falls, Washington that I’ll be making in October (the first stop for an IBM reunion, and the second tied in for a book event, because Kettle Falls is a key locale in Separation of Faith).

So, last spring I’d grown itchy about moving on into the promotional elements of publishing a book, impatient with the seemingly endless process of shepherding a book through production and into print. But you know what? I haven’t even held my first event yet, and my next book is clamoring to get out of me.

True, as writers in this new age of publishing, we are all responsible for promoting our own books whether we publish traditionally or not. But, in the end, the process of writing–the nuts and bolts of our craft where we pull ideas from our imaginations and weave them into stories that bring hours of reading pleasure (hopefully) to those who take a chance on us–simply will not accept second billing beneath promotion for very long.

The next challenge will be figuring out how to create a balance than enables me to create a brand new book from scratch while selling another (actually, while selling two others) at the same time. And you’ll be in the front row while we see how all of that works out. 🙂

Have a terrific weekend!  

 

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New Posting on Scribd.com

As many of you know, I’ve been using Scribd.com for some time now to post my short stories, articles, and a serialized ten chapters of The Truth About Cinnamon (original version), all of which are available for free viewing and downloads. This is a terrific site for all writers to use to get their work “out there” and to get a feeling for how something you’ve written will be received, in a competely penalty-free environment. I encourage you to give the site a try.

Meanwhile, a few minutes ago I uploaded a pdf of the opening credits and the first chapter of Separation of Faith, for those of you who might be curious. Enjoy. http://www.scribd.com/doc/37208052/Separation-of-Faith-A-Novel-1st-Chapter-for-Free-Download.

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