1stNews from 1stBooks
October 15, 2003

This newsletter is sent to you on the first and third Wednesdays of every month by 1stBooks, http://www.1stbooks.com

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Table of Contents

Editor's Message

We're starting a three-part series on Small Steps to Big Book Success—the first two parts are by Carol Kern, and the final installment by Ellen Rubinstein. Both, I'm proud to note, are 1stBooks authors.

Since much of a campaign like this involves planning—thinking well about how to find small opportunities, make the most of them, and parley them to more significant ones—it's appropriate to run a writing article on the importance of planning in fiction. Note that every writer has a different style; some, like Jennifer, need a roadmap; others build the roadmap after they've already charted the territory. Either way, make sure you get a good outside edit when you're done.

And read the "News from 1stBooks" section. Good info about the Miami Book Fair as well as a reminder about our innovative Personal Media Valet service.

Small Steps to Big Book Success, Part 1

By Carol Kern, cowgirlcarol@hotmail.com

Many authors tend to think big...as if big is best. Thinking big hasn't been part of my marketing strategy, whereas thinking small always has been. For me, a lot of small adds up to big.

I have been writing for small publications for many years. I avoided trying for the big guys, and that has been a very good strategy for me. I don't get rejection slips and editors call me regularly with assignments, or ask me if I have an idea about a particular subject that I can do in about 1500 words. Thinking small has meant success rather than frustration and failure.

That's the same approach I am taking with marketing my first novel. Here's a few examples...

I was recently asked to judge a writing competition for a 4-H show at the Maritime Fall Fair in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Judges for such competitions are usually paid an honorarium, but in lieu of payment I asked the organizers to mention my book and ordering information in the fair's program. They were only too happy to oblige, so instead of receiving a token amount for my services, my book will be promoted in a program that will be available to over 80,000 fairgoers—and be announced when I am introduced in the show arena for the presentation to the winners of the writing competition.

The following week, I'll be interviewed on a small radio station. However, the station is part of a network of stations, and the noon informational broadcast goes to about 200,000 rural households. That's the program I will be on, since my book is of interest primarily to rural people. But I took things one step further. These small stations like to have prizes to give to listeners, so I asked if they would like to give away a copy of my book. They were delighted, so for the price of one book I will have an interview, followed by a week of daily promotion, as the 5th caller or the 10th caller, or whatever, calls in to qualify for a draw at the end of the week to receive an autographed copy of my book.

I approached the editor of a new magazine for pet owners and offered to let him publish a relevant excerpt, at no charge, in exchange for a promotional blurb. The editor was delighted with the idea, and will be running the 6000-word story as a serial in 4 issues, with book promotion and ordering information in each issue. Oh, and I will also be getting half his usual payment too. He didn't feel comfortable not paying me something for the story.

(to be continued next issue)

Success Profile #1: Linda Evanchyk and Carol Mendenhall Sell 200 Copies at One Event, 1000 in the Next Two Months

Linda writes,

"Carol Mendenhall and I published our first book with 1stBooks in March. Those Who Teach Do More: Tributes to American Teachers is a compilation of stories from celebrities about their favorite teacher.

"Here is what happened at our first book signing in May, at our local high school library. Bookmark invitations were distributed to all local schools, as well as local press outlets. Prior to selling/signing books, we told the story of how the book happened and shared some of our favorite celebrity teacher stories with the audience. Despite a major thunderstorm that hit about the time the event got underway, more than 100 people showed up and we sold over 200 books! We had invited the local television station, which showed up about an hour into the event! We were featured on both editions of the local nightly news! That event kicked off the sales of our book, and to date, we've sold nearly 1000 copies!"

Preview the book at http://www.1stbooks.com/bookview/12432.

Success Profile #2: C. B. Murray Wins Another Award

Congratulations to 1stBooks author C. B. Murray, whose novel, A Pox On You, won second place for fiction in the National Federation of Press Women annual contest. This is the second award that C.B. has won. In April, we announced that she received a first place award for fiction from the Delaware Press Association (DPA) Communication Contest 2003.

"A Pox on You" is, in Murray's words, "a mystery dealing with the threat of a smallpox mutant used in bioterrorism." Preview her book at http://www.1stbooks.com/bookview/9568

News From the Publishing World

Writers' Support Group starting in Orlando, Florida
1stBooks author Marian E. has organized BettMarr Literary Foundation, a support network for published and unpublished writers. The first meetings will be held November 1 and December 6, 1-3 pm, at the Herndon Library, 4324 E. Colonial Drive, Orlando Fl 32803, 407 228-1410. Potential members may bring their manuscripts. Contact Marian E., mizwrite@earthlink.net, or co-founder Shelley Parri, 407 699-6603, IppublishingGrp@aol.com.

16th Annual Minnesota Book Awards
For a title published in 2003, "written or created by a Minnesota author, editor, or primary artistic creator, such as an illustrator or photographer whose work is central or integral to the book." Entry: $25.00. Deadline: Accepting submissions through January 9, 2004. http://www.minnesotahumanities.org/Book/guidelines.htm

American Library Association's Coretta Scott King Author/Illustrator Award
Recognizing "authors and illustrators of African descent whose distinguished books promote an understanding and appreciation of the 'American Dream.'" Deadline: December 1.

There's also a related award for a first book of strong interest to the African-American community. Click HERE for more.

American Library Association's Schneider Family Book Awards
Honoring "an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences. Three annual awards, each consisting of $5000 and a framed plaque, will be given annually in each of the following categories: birth through grade school (age 0-10), middle school (age 11-13) and teens (age 13-18). (Age groupings are approximations)." Deadline: December 1. Click HERE for more.

Note: There are many other awards on the ALA award page. Click HERE to visit and see if you qualify for any of them. While you might not want to bother with any of the super-prestigious awards that tend to go to authors who are household names, you're bound to find something—and any award from a major literary institution, like the American Library Association, can bring a great deal of interest to your book.

Paris Review Poetry Contest
From one of the premier small literary presses around. $5000 advance and publication. Entry: $25. Deadline: October 31st, 2003. http://www.zoopress.org/zoo_fallcontest.html

2004 Independent Publishers Book Awards, (a.k.a. the IPPYs): 55 categories, deadline: April 15, 2004; entry fee: $60 before November 15, $65, November 16-January 15, $70, January 16-April 15, 2004. Details at http://www.independentpublisher.com/ipaward.lasso

ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards. Deadline: January 15, 2004. Entry fee: $50. Details at https://www.forewordmagazine.com/photos/botya2003.pdf

Writer's Digest International Self-Published Book Awards. Deadline: December 15, 2003. Entry fee: $100/1st entry; $50/additional entries. Details at https://www.writersdigest.com/contests/self_published.asp

How I Almost Lost My Sanity by Writing Without a Plan

By Jennifer Minar, jminar@writersbreak.com

I was anxious to write a novel. And I was tired of putting it off. Spend time creating an outline? No way! I despised outlining in college. Write a synopsis? A what? No, I wanted to begin writing—actually writing. I'd waited long enough.

I took the project by storm. Committing to spend at least an hour a day in front of the computer, I tackled the project. Week after week the manuscript grew thicker. I had my good and bad moments.

I didn't write the book in a linear fashion. Instead, I let the characters decide what scenes to show me on a given day. The words flew across the pages. Hey, this novel writing isn't so difficult, I thought. It just takes motivation, some time, and voila!


Six months and 85,000 words later, I sat at my cluttered desk with a cold mug of coffee, and typed the last sentence. You'd think I'd be elated and want to make copies for my friends to read. But I was miserable! I loved my characters, the story, and several of my scenes. But many were loose and disjointed—not to mention useless. The novel was chaos.

Nearly two years later, I'm pretty close to my final draft. But it's been a very difficult two years. After—sometimes during—each edit I've had to put the manuscript aside for a while. It made my eyes (and mind) bleed. I wanted to scream at it. It was killing me. The story just wouldn't come together. There were so many pieces, and they were everywhere!

This time, after more than a fair share of heartache, frustration, and time, the scenes are tighter, the characters are better developed, I know my characters' features down pat (Carrie no longer has blue eyes in some scenes, green eyes in others), and the plot (though the novel is primarily character-driven) is clear of holes. Most importantly, all my loose ends are finally tied.

So...what lesson did I learn? Not to write another novel?

Not at all. I learned there's no substitute for planning. I've already begun planning novel #2. I have a partial outline, a synopsis, character work-ups, collages of their homes and the cafe where my protagonist works.

I know the characters better than I know some of my friends. The plot is defined and strong. And I'm doubly excited about sitting down to write it because I have a trusty roadmap that will guide me through the creative process.

I will never again get lost inside my own novels—or spend nearly two years editing any of them. It's unnecessary. Though some writers are comfortable writing without a plan, I'm not.

Besides, the synopsis has been kind of fun. I know...I know, that sounds absurd. But really, all the brainstorming I've needed to do to write it has taught me a lot. And it sure beats the endless process of editing. Of course, I'll still need to edit—editing is terribly important. I just won't need to spend two years doing so.

Jennifer Minar is a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer and the founder and managing editor of http://www.writersbreak.com.

Seasonal and Topical

The Bonus and Sister Planet Tara: The Complete American Stories-Edited by Jeneen Diane Sterling
Two books in one; read as one story or two separate stories. The story starts with the fall season and a holiday (Halloween) party and follows a year-long calendar. Adult contemporary, fiction, non-fiction, Sci-Fi with true elements of American life, politics, relationships (families, couples), many twists, and concepts.

News from 1stBooks

Join 1stBooks at the Miami Book Fair
1stBooks will have a large presence at the Miami Book Fair November 2-9, with a stand of six adjacent booths. We're keeping one booth for ourselves and will be joined by 15 of our authors who will share the other five booths. If you'd like to discuss publishing your manuscript in person, we'll have 5-6 1stBooks representatives there to answer any questions and to walk you through how we can publish your book. No need to tell us that you're coming…just show up!

Something different from 1stBooks—The Personal Media Valet

  • Personal follow-up calls to a minimum of 50 members of the media to promote your book
  • Personal inquiries to a minimum of 15 bookstores, retail centers, and other venues regarding book signings or personal appearances
  • Professionally written sample letters that you can send to literary agents, booksellers, or members of the media
  • 100 pieces of custom-designed, professionally printed full color letterhead featuring your book cover and contact information
  • Immediate contact, in four hours or less, regarding media requests and weekly follow-up reports

The Personal Media Valet is priced at $3,000, far less than the cost of a traditional publicist and printing service.

Put your Personal Media Valet to work today! Click HERE and then call us toll-free at 888/519-5121 to get started.

About 1stBooks

Since 1997, 1stBooks has helped thousands of authors become published. We offer you complete control over every aspect of the publishing process while working with you to produce your manuscript in paperback and/or hardcover formats. Because we print books only as they are ordered using print-on-demand (POD) technology, neither you nor we have to invest lots of cash in unsold inventory. This, in turn, allows us to provide very affordable and prompt services. Visit http://www.1stbooks.com/getpublished/1stnews.html to request our free publishing guide.

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