Category Archives: Writing Tips

Making Time to Write in Our Busy Lives

As a marketing professional and father, scheduling time for writing has always been an area of focus and a challenge.

Every morning, I get up on the early side and begin my day writing over coffee and breakfast to make sure I prioritize it in my day.

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At work, when my schedule permits, I walk to a nearby office park with a view of a sculpture and write while I eat lunch. This happens at least three times a week.

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I am also never without either my laptop or paper and pen (which I even keep in my car). Many times I write during breaks in my schedule, including the twenty minutes it took for my jaw to get  numb during a recent trip to the dentist:

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I have also adopted a daily, weekly, and monthly word count for my novel-in-progress. For the month of February, I’m averaging 250 words a day. I didn’t reach my goal but the accountability helps.

Please feel free to comment and share any tactics that you use to make time in your life for your own writing.

Martin Ott

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To All Those Writing Late Bloomers Out There

Yes, for those of us who have taken awhile to mature as writers these lists can be annoying: Best Writer’s Under 40, Most Promising Debut Writers, Yale Younger Poetry Prize Winners.

Some of us take longer than others to publish a book. Here is by no means an exhaustive list of what I wrote, sometimes with collaborators, before publishing my first book in 2011:

  • 500+ Poems
  • 30+ Short Stories
  • 6 Novels
  • 12 Screenplays
  • 1 One Act Play

It took me nearly 15 years after graduate school to publish a book. But it took less that 5 years after that to get to 6 books published (or soon-to-be-published).

What has been the difference in my recent publishing success? Simple: I have gotten better as a writer.

I have many writing friends who have the talent and material to get a book published, but have yet to break through. I am convinced that they will, but there is some level of luck involved.

My book “Captive” won the De Novo prize, C&R Press, after being a finalist 20 times in poetry book competitions. I never wavered in my writing, my reading, my submissions, or my belief in myself. This is where understanding yourself and what motivates you as a writer becomes important.

I love the process of writing. It is a part of my life. It is my hobby. My passion. My outlet. My greatest love (outside of my family and friends). While I understand that publishing and readership are arrows on the path to becoming a better writer I have also, at times, been motivated by self-competition, external competition, jealousy, accolades, a need to create art, obsession.

One of my favorite self-mantras is that “Writing is a marathon, not a sprint.” Writers at every age should feel encouraged to continue working in their craft. Success, if at all, may not come or may not come to the level we believe. As long as we believe in our work, we will get better and others will eventually take notice.

Martin Ott

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Novel Insights – Road to Publication

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– Guest blog post by Ethan Reid

A few weeks ago Martin Ott asked if I’d share my publication story with his readers. For those who don’t know, Martin and I attended graduate school at USC together and co-wrote a screenplay we pitched to a talent agency. Before that, I had educators along the way who helped foster the idea of becoming an author — and a wife willing to go along with the sacrifices it takes to get there.

In the mid-1990s, I had finished my undergraduate work in English with a Writing Emphasis at the University of Washington in Seattle, feeling like I still had much to learn about writing a novel. My craft wasn’t there yet, and I knew it. It’s been said that while some authors write for the process, others write to get published. I fall into the latter category and knew I needed to perfect my craft, so I entered USC’s Masters of Professional Writing Program. During my time there I met adjunct professors who helped me greatly, worked at a talent agency, and was lucky enough to meet Martin.

After Los Angeles, my path to publication nearly get derailed many times. Saddled with a student loan, I found myself working at KING TV as a news producer. My wife — a reporter at the station – was kind enough to let me shift to part-time work to finish the first novel before we had children. I wrote the second. Took three before one landed.  My son was born somewhere between two and three.

Back then, the trick was still about getting out of the agency slush pile, and as I felt so many queries were not being read, so I began to attend conferences. I volunteered at the Pacific Northwest Writers Association summer conference, working with the agents and editors behind the scenes. I pitched to many literary agents over multiple years, listening to the their reasons for declining representation for the first book, set it aside and wrote the second manuscript based on their feedback. The second MS came even closer to acceptance — by then I was hearing agents tell me I had nearly hit it out of the ballpark, but needed to refine my craft — so I put book two down and started the three novel with their advice rattling about my brain. Book three, The Undying, finally found a home.

Shortly before it did, I had a dozen agents who were ready to see my third novel. I sent the MS out in July in 2011 and months later received the phone call from the 212 area code from one of the agents I had met at the PNWA’s summer conference. I signed with Barabara Poelle of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency and she found the book a home at a new Simon & Schuster imprint, Simon451. My editor, Sarah Knight, acquired The Undying as the first novel for Simon451 and it dropped this October. They’ve since acquired the second novel in trilogy to be released in May, 2015.

This last October, the publisher flew me to New York to attend the NY Comic Con. I was lucky enough to sit on a panel with R.L. Stine. I still work with the PNWA, helping run their agent and editor pitches at th summer conference.   I’m currently editing The Undying: Shades while working on the publicity side of things. It’s all oddly familiar to other authors’ path to publication, I’m sure. Expect to sacrifice a lot. Hope for help along the way. If you want to land an agent, I’d recommend attending a conference. Listen to why the novels are rejected. And most importantly, write a kick-ass book.

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About the Author:

Author of The Undying (Simon451, 2014) and The Undying: Shades (2105), Ethan Reid received his BA in English from the University of Washington and his MFA from the University of Southern California’s MPW Program, where he studied under author S.L. Stebel, Oscar-nominated screenwriter Sy Gomberg, and Oscar-winning screenwriter Frank Tarloff. Ethan is a member of the International Thriller Writers, the Horror Writers Association, and the Pacific Northwest Writers Association. He lives in Seattle with his wife and son.

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Literary Blog Tour: My Writing Process by Martin Ott

Thanks to the multitalented Landon Godfrey for inviting me to participate in a blog tour to answer a few questions about my writing process. So Cal misses your many talents, Landon!

– Martin Ott

1) What are you working on?

I tend to work in multiple genres and I enjoy collaboration with other writers and artists.

 Solo Work

  • A coming of age novel about a returning vet
  • A short story collection based in LA
  • A poetry book that is forcing me to explore what matters in my life
  • Editing a young adult novel that hasn’t quite found its final form

Collaborations

  • Assisting a writer/director and agency in developing my novel The Interrogator’s Notebook into a TV pilot
  • Working on my third book with poet John F. Buckley on the subject of superheroes and super villains
  • Assisting a writer/director/producer in developing “Summer Snows” from my short story manuscript Thaw vs. Thor into a short film
  • Developing a TV pilot with my long-time screenwriting partner Keith Kowalczyk

2) How does your work differ from others’ work in the same genre?

This is a difficult question as I work in multiple genres and my influences span beyond literature. Writers aren’t as unique as we’d like to think and each of us has a voice that we don’t probably give ourselves enough credit for.

Don’t dodge the question, Martin, an internal voice is now telling me. OK. Fair enough. Here goes:

  • My fiction projects tend to be lyrical and musky with a focus on placing the spotlight on difficult characters.
  • My poetry is influenced by my fiction and my lyrical sensibilities duke it out with a neurotic need for narrative. It’s a worthy battle and occasionally a good poem emerges from it.
  • My sense of humor comes out more often in my writing for screen and television, often to my own detriment.

3) Why do you write what you do?

Characters and their stories clamor for attention in my imagination. I have always been a daydreamer and inventor of tales, even to myself. The characters who yell the loudest and the longest get written. It’s a messy process, filled with conflict even at the point of inception.

 4) How does your writing process work?

Prioritization

For starters, part of my writing process involves being a bit of a crank and a recluse, and to not get distracted by the many things that tempt all of us humans. For me, that’s meant shelving a few things like cable TV and fantasy sports in order to write. I carve out time between family, friends, and a marketing career.

Inspiration

I’ve come to realize that inspiration is everywhere, including in my other creative work. I find ideas in day-to-day occurrences, the news, and the stories of the people in my life.

Determination

As a late bloomer, persistence is key. Also, I don’t know how to not write. For me, it isn’t a choice. I try to write a little every day. It adds up.

Who’s Next up on the Blog Tour?

Follow the blog tour on Twitter at #mywritingprocess . Next up is John F. Buckley, a friend who has become one of my favorite writers and a huge influence on my work.

A recent graduate of the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan, John has been writing poetry since March 2009, when his attempt at writing a self-help book went somewhat awry. After a twenty-year stint on and near the West Coast, he now lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan with his wife. His publications include 295 poems, two chapbooks, the collection Sky Sandwiches, and with Martin Ott, Poets’ Guide to America and the forthcoming Yankee Broadcast Network. His website is http://johnfrancisbuckley.wordpress.com.

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How to Be A Star on Wattpad

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Guest Blog Post by Dmitri Ragano

Last spring, I discovered Wattpad by accident. I was having lunch with my boss who told me his 13-year-old daughter had fallen in love with a new online fiction site where she could submit stories and get feedback from users around the world.

Needless to say I was intrigued. I knew it was only a matter of time before creative writing and social media began to intersect in a big way. Now it was finally happening.

A couple weeks later, I submitted the first few chapters of my self-published novel The Fugitive Grandma on the site. Pretty quickly and to my surprise, Maria Cootauco, Wattpad’s Engagement Manager, stumbled across my story and offered to put in on their Featured Story list. This was an incredible, completely unexpected chance to highlight my work on a site with an audience of 30 million readers, a content destination that receives roughly 1,000 fiction uploads every day.

Wattpad’s agreement around Featured Story placement is pretty reasonable: they offer to give your work marquee placement for 6 months. The most important exposure comes when Featured Stories rotate on the landing page for site’s the tablet and smart phone apps, where 85 percent of the reading takes place. In exchange, you consent to make the story available for free during the period of the promotion.

As soon “The Fugitive Grandma” began its Featured Story run in July 2013, interest spiked and I received a deluge of fan comments and followers from a variety of locales including Kenya, Iowa and Brunei. To date, “The Fugitive Grandma” has been read by hundreds of thousands of people on Wattpad. It has also received over 7,000 votes and more than 600 fan comments, both key metrics in the world of online content where engagement is everything.

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My popularity on Wattpad includes no small amount of luck and serendipity. But I can offer a few suggestions for any author interested in finding an audience on the world’s largest social reading site.

Study the Wattpad Community

Wattpad’s audience is diverse and skews young. More than 75 percent of site visitors are outside the United States, showing the growing demand for English-language fiction in developing nations like India, The Philippines and Turkey.

Though I don’t have detailed stats, I can safely say most of Wattpad’s users are under 30-years-old. Many are under 20. Generations Y and Z are discovering their love for fiction at a time when software and smart phones are the dominant platforms for all media. Book stores (along with physical books) are a fading memory, if they ever were acquainted in the first place. This is an incredible opportunity to reach the global audience, fiction’s future, a readership without pre-conceived notions who can challenge you to experiment and think outside the box.

Will Your Story Connect with Them?

Consider whether your fiction is going to connect with Millennials and their younger cohorts born around the turn of the 21st century. And don’t have any delusions. This is a site full of user-generated fiction, mostly from adolescents. Yes, there are a lot of vampires, zombies and ill-conceived teen romances. No, Wattpad is not a paragon of literary excellence and it’s not going to be mistaken for The Paris Review anytime soon.

But from my experience, your work doesn’t have to be shallow, formulaic “YA” to win hearts and minds. On the contrary, young readers are as hungry as anyone for innovative stories with serious themes and compelling characters, which is one of the reasons YA has been such a dynamic niche in an otherwise flat market, carrying authors like John Greene and Suzanne Collins toward critical acclaim and cross-over acceptance.

If your writing fiction aimed at the over-25 crowd, that’s fine too. Just be aware older readers haven’t migrated en masse to Wattpad. I suspect they will continue to grow in number, just as they followed their kids to Facebook, Twitter and What’s App. I see an increasing number of fan comments for women over 60 who empathize with Stella Valentine, the shotgun-toting “ fugitive grandma” who is one of the main characters of my novel.

Write Your Story in Bite Size Chunks

As I mentioned before, 85 percent of Wattpad’s stories are read on smart phones and tablets. Cognitive researchers have documented that people read differently on electronic screens and mobile devices. The user interface and the context of these gadgets are better suited for narratives that can be easily consumed in small doses with quick payoffs and cliffhanger follow-ons. If you’re book is composed of larger chapters of five to ten thousand or more words, you probably need to break it down into smaller segments.

“Two thousands words is roughly 10 minutes of reading,” says Wattpad CEO Allen Lau. “The makes the story more digestible, something you can do when standing in line.”

Post Frequently

Publish serial chapters in a recurring pattern, typically once or twice a week with a shout-out to followers. Online readers are accustomed to a steady, continuous stream of content through blogs, feeds and apps. Fiction is no different. A serial strategy for sparking interest, building momentum and accumulating fans has been very effective for some of Wattpad’s most successful breakout authors. Anna Todd’s novel After was released over the course of a year through hundreds of episodes, each no more than a few thousand words. By the end of the series, she’d attracted millions of Wattpad readers and landed a major book and movie deal.

Respond to Fans

This may sound like common sense but it can’t be emphasized enough. Reciprocity is at the heart of social networks. And Wattpad is foremost a community.

Therefore, make an effort within the best of your ability to respond to anyone who takes the time to sample your work. You will need to find the right balance for you in terms of frequency and who gets a response. I have over 7,000 followers and there’s no way I can make the time to reach out and thank everyone one of them individually. But I have a system of following up every two weeks to reply to any readers who have left comments, feedback or praised my work. With a demanding day job and busy family life this is the best I can do.

Promote Purchases of Your Book, But Don’t Expect a Big Sales Impact

When you post a book on Wattpad you retain full rights and have plenty of options to promote your titles by cross-linking on Amazon and other retail channels.

My experience is that it doesn’t have much impact at all on sales via Amazon and other outlets. Many Wattpad readers are too young to purchase online or live in countries where it is difficult to obtain credit cards. Besides, it was the specific promise of free fiction that attracted most of them in the first place.

A handful of first-time authors have used Wattpad as a platform to land deals with the Big 5 publishers, but this typically goes hand in hand with a lot of traditional methods of seeking attention from the publishing world.

We all write for different reasons. For me it was important to share my work and see if it resonated with readers I never could’ve reached on my own. My fiction was experimental, combining themes and genres. It was unconventional enough that I felt I’d have to show evidence of reader interest before anyone in the publishing world would take me seriously.

If you are focused on the traditional goals of a professional author, such as sales or attracting the attention of agents and publisher, Wattpad is probably not going to be the single thing that makes your career. But it is a great tool to test out new story ideas, prove they have an audience, and find fans in exotic far-flung corners of the world.

About the Author:

Dmitri Ragano is an author and journalist. His latest novel, The Fugitive Grandma, is available on Wattpad and Amazon.

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Recycled Reads: The Poisonwood Bible

My third installment in a series of recycled reads – a review of books found in my  local Goodwill – is The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.

Published in 1998, The Poisonwood Bible has been widely praised and was nominated for a 1999 Pulitzer Prize. The story follows the Prices, a missionary family, that moves from Georgia to the Congo in 1959. The story is told by the women in the family: Orleanna, the abused wife of patriarch Baptist minister Nathan Price, and their four daughters: Rachel, Leah, Adah, and Ruth May. There is a political undertone throughout the novel focused on the abuse of Nathan Price on his wife and children, and the abuse of the United States and European powers on the Congo, and the entire African continent.

There’s no doubt in my mind that this is an important work of fiction, and it is a book I highly recommend for readers. As a writer, I found myself thinking about a few decisions that the author made that potentially undercut the novel:

Length – The main plot arc is Shakespearean in the way it follows the tragic, headstrong, and ill-advised decisions made by Nathan Price and the escalating danger he puts his family in, leading to the death of his youngest daughter Ruth May. Imagine The Lord of the Flies, if the second half of the book followed the lives of the survivors over the next twenty-five years after being rescued. The politics of Africa shown over the final decades of the novel  are fascinating, but feel like a second story has been tacked onto the first (and more powerful) one.

Antagonist is Abandoned – Nathan Price, at the moment he puts his daughters in the most danger, disappears almost entirely in the narrative, and is not present in the moment when the mother and daughters decide to leave the mission. Nathan turns into a ghost, a rumor. Perhaps this is because it is Kingsolver’s intent to have the larger antoginist to be patriarchal America vs. the family patriarch. For me, the lack of active conflict before the climactic moment of the novel took away from its overall impact.

Author Intrusion – There are times in the narrative when the diary-like voices of the daughters are abandoned for a narrator’s voice giving us the horrific background to the political upheaval caused by Europe and the United States in Africa. This sometimes happens with an occasional paragraph and in other cases, as with the ending, there are longer stretches where the narrator sums up the meaning of the story for us. All of this additional context if powerful, but it pulled me out of the drama of the core story.

As writers, we are always looking to take lessons from every book we read. I have no doubt that others may disagree with my analysis. Please feel free to comment below.

Martin Ott

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Murky vs. Mystery – Narrative Lesson in ‘The Counselor’

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Rarely have I been more disappointed in a film than The Counselor, written by Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Cormac McCarthy, directed by Ridley Scott, and starring a heavyweight cast of actors that included Michael Fassbender, Cameron Diaz, Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem, and Brad Pitt.

The main issue with the movie is not that the studio refused to release the director’s cut or Scott’s contention that Fox’s prudishness negatively impacted the film. The primary problem boils down to the basics of narrative construction: we did not know what our protagonist, The Counselor, wanted and his decisions, and the consequences from them, had no meaning for the audience. Even worse than a movie being boring is when you don’t care what happens.

Beginning writers often mistake murkiness with mystery. This issue was further compounded in the film when the unnamed Counselor is treated like a character archetype, without the sign posts that the audience needs to feel the universality of the main character’s problems. More blood, sex, and moralistic dialogue cannot fix such a basic problem.

The fact that such a glaring issue of storytelling escaped the attention of an experienced director, writer, cast, and studio demonstrates the importance of writers of all levels to understand and apply the basic narrative building blocks in their own work.

Martin Ott

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Writeliving Interview – Kazim Ali

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I have long admired the work of Kazim Ali, and the grace with which he writes in all genres. We’re thrilled to have him shares his insights into his creative process.

– Martin Ott

Who has been a major influence on your writing?

Physical practices (yoga and mid-distance running) and meditative practices as well. Anything to quiet the conscious mind in relationship to the world that exists. Sometimes words and phrases come on walks, sometimes in breath, once a couplet that turned into a whole book (The Fortieth Day) came as I sat in meditation staring at a white wall.

Certain writers have been important to me. It is hard to make a list but Donald Revell, Lucille Clifton, Jean Valentine, Fanny Howe, Jorie Graham, Li-Young Lee, Agha Shahid Ali, Lisel Mueller and Mahmoud Darwish would be a starting point. In painting Agnes Martin, Hans Hofmann and Makoto Fujimura. In music Alice Coltrane, Yoko Ono, Donna Delory and John Cage. In fiction Virginia Woolf, Carole Maso, Bhanu Kapil.

Can you give us insight into your creative process?

I write longhand. Drafts for a really long time. I need time and space between initial writing and trying to see the shape of something. Sometimes I wait three or four months, sometimes I wait a year or more. Often I will end up with a manuscript suddenly because it has been coalescing in scraps for so long. Then I can read it like a book and revise it for almost equally as long.

How has teaching impacted your writing?

It’s forced me to read more deeply. If I give enough time between draft and revision I can look at my own writing as if a stranger wrote it. That is why it is good for a student to write something good every week, so they can stay fresh and keep moving forward. What’s wrong with creative writing pedagogy (including, at the moment, my own) is that we then ask students to revise this work in the same semester it is written. That can feel false and forced. Better to keep turning the page, keep moving forward, keep generating material. I am not sure I believe in the “workshop” as a way of teaching. I would rather teach by just introducing and talking about the poems I love the most and then give the students assignments. Then they come back and read the assignment to the class. General discussion can follow on craft and energetic direction of the work.

What is the best advice you can give to a writer finding her/his voice?

Read widely. Do not waste too much time trying to write a perfect poem. Write as much as you can. Expression is important. Vowels are important. Study another language long enough that you are able to read in that other language. Write a poem in English that you think would be impossible to translate into another language. Translate a poem from another language into English. Consonants are important too. You don’t have to read the tradition but you should study the mechanics of prosody. Be very very serious about making time for reading and for writing.

How do you go about balancing the mythic and personal in your work?

I’m not sure I do it. Icarus is me. The myths speak to our true human natures. My poems were filled with boys falling from the sky and boys drowning. So I guess it was because I couldn’t breathe. We are drawn to those stories that speak most clearly about our own nature. Though I am a maker of things, I never related to Daedalus, the father but rather with Icarus, the son.

Can you share an example of overcoming adversity to keep your writing dream alive?

At a certain point you have to choose writing. Like Rilke wrote to the Young Poet, you think about it all the time. You stop getting attached to it as a “dream” and start thinking of it as a biological function. Diego Rivera said, “I make paintings the way a tree makes leaves.” It’s just something you do, it is a way of encountering the world.

What is something about you that writers and readers may not know?

Before I returned to school to study for my MFA I worked for four years as an organizer and was very active in the student movement, serving as the president of the United States Student Association (www.usstudents.org) and as a trainer for the Midwest Academy (an institute devoted to training social justice and union organizers).

About the Author:

Kazim Ali is a poet, essayist, fiction writer and translator.

His books include several volumes of poetry, including Sky Ward(Wesleyan University Press, 2013), The Far Mosque, winner of Alice James Books’ New England/New York Award, The Fortieth Day (BOA Editions, 2008), and the cross-genre text Bright Felon: Autobiography and Cities (Wesleyan University Press, 2009). He has also published a translation ofWater’s Footfall by Sohrab Sepehri (Omnidawn Press, 2011), and (with Libby Murphy) L’amour by Marguerite Duras (Open Letter Books, 2013). His novels include Quinn’s Passage (blazeVox books), named one of “The Best Books of 2005” by Chronogram magazine and The Disappearance of Seth (Etruscan Press, 2009), and his books of essays include Orange Alert: Essays on Poetry, Art and the Architecture of Silence (University of Michigan Press, 2010),Fasting for Ramadan (Tupelo Press, 2011).

In addition to co-editing Jean Valentine: This-World Company (University of Michigan Press, 2012), he is a contributing editor for AWP Writers Chronicle and associate editor of the literary magazine FIELD and founding editor of the small press Nightboat Books.

He is an associate professor of Creative Writing and Comparative Literature at Oberlin College.

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Publishing Spotlight: Interview with John Pitts

Writing has a lot of facets, and one of them is the brand you build as you look to find an audience for your work. The publishing landscape is shifting, and can be confusing. I’m glad to be able to share an interview with one of the best and brightest names in publishing: John Pitts.

Martin Ott

How did you first begin your career in publishing?

They used to call publishing the “accidental profession” and there’s some truth to that in my case.  I joined the Peace Corps right out of college and taught high school level EFL in Niger.  When that ended after two years, I moved to Boston with half an eye to getting a job at one of the publishers there.  It took nearly two years but I got my foot in the door at Houghton Mifflin as a publicist and then moved to Doubleday two years later, eventually making the switch to marketing.  It’s a very rewarding career that I highly recommend to anyone who likes the company of books.

What is the biggest challenge facing the publishing industry today?

I would say eBooks are challenging in a number of ways.  The downward pressure on price threatens the profitability of publishing for both traditional houses and for authors.  Just as journalism as a career is being threatened by the expectation that news and similar content be basically free, so are author/publishers threatened by the expectation that eBooks be very inexpensive.  Also, for obvious reasons, self-publishing an eBook, or publishing directly with a retailer such as Amazon, is a much more viable option for writers these days.  I still firmly believe that publishing houses offer a tremendous amount to authors in the form of editorial, sales, marketing and publicity value.  A lot of resources and “man hours” go into the successful publication of a book in a very competitive market.  All that said, we are selling a lot of eBooks.

What attributes are most helpful and least helpful in an author when you are working with them to market a book?

These days, authors have to do more than just write the book and turn it in.  It helps tremendously if they understand and embrace social media, if they have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, GoodReads, etc.  Plenty of the older authors don’t have any interest in playing this game, and that’s fine, they’re established.  But up and coming writers can really benefit from being a player.  It really enhances the marketing process if we feel that the author is our partner in the effort, working with us to solve the problem of reaching the right audience.  Least helpful?  Some writers come with the pre-conceived notion that publishers don’t know what they’re doing and I can sense that right off.  Not at all helpful.

How do major publishing houses look to capitalize on eBooks?

We publish eBooks right alongside print books and we’re selling a growing number.  One of the great things from the author/publisher perspective is that readers of eBooks read more books, in part because they’re less expensive but also because they’re so easy to acquire.  So we welcome the challenge, and it appears that, at least for the moment, we have risen to it.

How has the decline of the brick and mortar bookstore affected publishing and marketing trends?

The #1 problem is “discoverability.”  The common assumption is that as much as 1/3 of book sales have traditionally come from people browsing through a bookstore and making unplanned-for purchases.  So as the number of physical stores declines (for example, Borders went bankrupt a few years ago and, poof, 500+ stores disappeared, and nearly 20,000 people lost their jobs) the opportunities for serendipitous purchases also declines.  We spend much less these days on point of sale material, for obvious reasons.  Additionally, much of marketing and publicity takes place in the digital space because that’s where the audience is. We still take out ads in newspapers and magazines, run TV spots and send authors on book tours, though less and less.

How has the popularity of young adult titles with mainstream audiences affected the book industry?

I don’t handle young adult titles, so I don’t have first-hand knowledge, but I have seen anecdotal evidence of this sort of cross over.  For example, I market John Grisham’s adult titles, but not his Theodore Boone books, which are aimed at the YA audience.  Many of his adult fans also enjoy the YA novels and they’re quite vocal about it on Facebook.  I’m so impressed by the quality of YA literature these days and my assumption is that it nurtures good readers who will continue the habit as adults.

Any advice to writers looking to publish their book?

Persevere. Believe in yourself. Write every day. Work on your craft.  Get an agent.

Bio

John Pitts photo

John Pitts is Vice President, Director of Marketing for Doubleday, a division of Random House. Inc.  He has being plying his trade for more than 25 years, marketing the works of John Grisham, Walter Mosley, Gore Vidal, Chuck Palahniuk, Thomas Cahill, and Margaret Atwood, among many others.  He lives in Manhattan with his wife and daughter.

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Authentic Interrogations in Fiction

Interested in how to create a memorable interrogation scene? Please check out my guest blog post 3 Ways to Make the World of Interrogation Ring True from the blog Novel Rocket.

Martin Ott

3 Ways to Make the World of Interrogation Ring True
As a former US Army interrogator, I have explored the subject of the interrogator in numerous short stories and poems. My biggest challenge was in creating the world and the main character Norman Kross for my debut literary suspense novel The Interrogator’s Notebook published by Story Merchant Books in February of this year. MORE…

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