Category Archives: distribution

One Author’s Experiences in Publishingland

This second part of an interview with Kathleen O’Keefe Kanavos focuses on her experiences as an author, and her views on traditional verses self-publishing.

Kathy’s first book Surviving Cancerland: The Psychic Aspects of Healing is being shopped by NYC literary agent at Scovil, Galen & Ghosh. Kathy is currently finishing the second in her trilogy SURVIVING RECURRENCE IN CANCERLAND.

As a two-time cancer survivor Kathy saw the need for books designed to help cancer patients advocate for their successful recovery. She clearly has struck a nerve. In only 8 months on the Internet Kathy has gathered a huge.

Q. Prior to Surviving Cancerland, what was your experience as a writer?

A. Other than writing papers for high school and college classes, none. I never wanted to be a writer, but sometimes life’s occupations are like kittens, they choose you! Writing chose me.

Q. What motivated you to write the book?

A. There is almost always a point in the process of illness where logic, reason, and medical expertise fails. It’s at this point a patient slips through the cracks, sometimes never recovering.

I survived cancer—twice…I survived by using something many in the medical field do not even acknowledge as being real. My innate intuition.

Surviving Cancerland: The Psychic Aspects of Healing is my account of how I used my intuition to self-advocate a course of treatment, often against the vehement advice of my doctors, in my healing process. Always work with your doctors, but never forget you make the final decisions. I wrote my story to help others faced with this ordeal make better decisions. I don’t tell others how to survive I show them how I survived.

Q. Did you self-publish or did you choose a more conventional route? How did you decide which route to take? How long ago did this publication journey begin?

A. I went the conventional route and sought representation by a literary agent who had contacts with the large publishing houses. My publishing journey started with my second diagnosis with breast cancer. I was quite sure that my story of having the medical industry miss my cancer twice was not that unique. This was confirmed when I became a phone counselor for the Bloch Cancer Foundation and heard similar stories to mine. However, the outcome was less favorable because the patient had followed the doctor’s orders to, “Go home and come back for more tests in six months.” I wanted to teach others what tests they needed to find cancer and how to self advocate to get those tests. I also wanted to share the importance of the dream world during crisis. I searched bookstores far and wide for a book that could give me information on the day-to-day needs of patients undergoing treatment that included the dream world of crisis. I could not find any that were from a patient’s point of view. There were plenty of books written by doctors that were full of interesting scientific information, but I found them difficult to read and frankly, scary! So, I wrote one.

Q. How would you advise other writers who are considering self- vs traditional publishing?

A. Although I have not self-published I’ve been active in my husband’s self-published book Pope Annalisa. So I do have a comparison to my conventional route. Here’s the main difference, as I see it. With self-publishing, the author puts money up front to publish the book and then is responsible for the book’s distribution and the PR, and often signs away many of their rights. Most chain bookstores such as Borders, will not put self-published books on their shelves because they sell space by the inches to publishing houses. That is why most publishing houses will not publish a large book that is not written by a big money making author. They would rather place two smaller books on a shelf. Despite the fact that the self-publishing industry is growing, it still has a stigma attached to it. Most newspapers and magazines will not write reviews for it and many traditional publishing awards are closed to them. A positive note is an author planning to self-publish does not need to write query letters, book proposals, or deal with the rejections that often accompany them.

Conventional publishing requires time and money also, but in a different way. My book, Surviving Cancerland: The Psychic Aspects of Healing went through seven revisions by me and another two by a freelance editor and copy editor I hired. Most publishing houses have cut back on employees, and one of the first cuts was editors. Very few editors are kept in-house. Manuscripts sent to publishing houses must be nearly perfect. After I got my manuscript back from my content editor, I sent it and the Book Proposal and the first three chapters of my proposal to a copy-editor who works in a children’s publishing house in New York. She   made sure every sentence was perfect, and every t was crossed.. This all takes time and money. But the biggest difference is that big publishing houses pay the author money up-front in the form of an advance an advance.  They also take care of the printing and distribution to the bookstores. If you are a first time author, they are minimally helpful with PR. That is where a good platform comes into play. If you do not make back the advanced money in sales and begin collecting royalties, chances are very good that your other books will not get picked up by the publisher. Your sales record is your report card.

My advice to anyone considering self-publishing over conventional is to save self-publishing as a plan B. You can always go that route. Prepare to go the conventional route and do the hard work. Write the best manuscript you possibly can. Keep it between 70,000 and 120,000 words. Anything larger than that takes up too much space on the bookshelves. Edit it yourself many times and then hire a professional content editor to do it again twice. (This will not cost as much as self-publishing.) Most agents will not accept a manuscript that has not been edited twice. Then work on identifying your platform. Who would be interested in my book? How can I contact them? Then look for your competition on bookshelves and see how you can make your book better. Study books on query letters and proposals. Make yours stand out. Then send the proposal and the first three chapters to the editors again to perfect them before sending them to agents. Research your agents. Be sure you submit what they want and the way they want it. As the old saying goes, “Cut wood, carry water.”  Do the work.

Getting a book published is not easy no matter what road you take. But if you try the conventional route first and it just doesn’t work, it is easier to switch to plan B than to have already published and try to go with Plan A. That will be swimming upstream while doing all the work required for conventional publishing.

To read stories of other extraordinary women go to Living in the Heartland.

Read how three women overcame life’s challenges on the way to success: Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories on Amazon.com.

Click Living in the Heartland video preview.

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So What’s My Verdict on Twitter – Is It a Useful Tool for Writers?

My friend Leslie (moondustwriter.com) asked her readers earlier in May to write something in 160 characters. She challenged: “What can you do in 160 characters? A story surely not! I have titles longer than 160 characters for goodness sake.”

Leslie’s a poet, so I playfully sent her an email to ask if 160 characters had become a new form of Haiku. What writer can resist a challenge?  My response:

“Must say it 140 characters on Twitter. Leslie’s poet challenge 160. Ironic, no? Poets typically use fewer words 2 convey more meaning now want 20 more to do so!”

160 characters is a luxury one doesn’t have on Twitter. Although Twitter limits users to 140 characters, if someone wants their message retweeted (RT) they need to reduce their character limit further generally to less than 150 characters.

A good deal can be said within the confines of 140 characters. With the right message and what amounts to an Internet version of the kids’ game Telephone (where the first kid whispers a message into the ear of the kid next to him, who then whispers the message into the next kid’s ear, etc.) a writer has what appears to be a boundless audience. The caveat, as I have mentioned in my earlier posts, is that because of the massive amount of scam, spam, and garbage Tweets the likelihood that a tweet is read is small.

Assuming a tweet is read, how much value is it likely to produce for the writer? That depends on what you goal is. A writer who hopes Twitter will significantly increase sales is likely to be disappointed.  I can state unequivocally that in my first four months of using Twitter, it has resulted in an insignificant number of sales. However, some of the connections I’ve made have been worthwhile. There is a possibility down the road that some of these will become golden.

Early on, I was so focused on building my Twitter following that I had little time to attend to emails, phone calls and other, what I refer to as, old-fashioned networking. Sales plummeted. The lesson for me was that Twitter is a tool, but only ONE tool. Other tools I need to employ are Facebook, a variety of other social media platforms like Digg and Reddit, blogs, emails and more traditional means of getting the word out.

In my next post I will begin a discussion of Facebook. I have asked a SM coach to assist. However, before I end my thoughts about Twitter I want to make a disclaimer. My four posts on Twitter are based on my desire to promote a non-fiction book. I am looking for the best way to spread the word about my book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories. I am aiming at national distribution, and sales well beyond those commonly cited for an indie author and publisher.

I don’t think Twitter would affect sales much different if I were trying to market my book locally, I had written fiction, or the subject matter was about something other than women’s search for identity, self-esteem and happiness. What would change would be the mix of the social media and traditional tools I chose to use. Keep reading. I’ll cover these in future posts. In the meantime:

Click to she how three women overcame many challenges along the way to success: Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories on Amazon.com.

Click to Living in the Heartland video preview to see stories of inspirational women.

Click to view my other blog Living in the Heartland

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What’s Wrong with Book Stores?

Credit for this photo unknown.

Credit for this photo unknown as it was sent to me via email.

I had to take a diversion from my discussion of Twitter so I could share this photograph. It was emailed to me by a friend. I imagine there is a good chance  the picture has been Photoshopped, but whether it has or not I share it with no intention of making any negative commentary on the Chinese. Instead, I am commenting on what many writers and readers, I imagine too, have felt about book stores. In my case, as you will read in future posts, I’ve been frustrated in my attempts to get my indie published Living in the  Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories into book stores. When a writer can’t get her book into brick and mortar stores to share with readers across the country, and readers can’t find the books they want to read we ask ourselves” Am I in the ……?!”


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Social Media or Old-Fashioned Networking: Which is Right for Writers? Twitter Part 3

Wouldn’t you think two lengthy posts about Twitter would be more than enough to evaluate a form of communication that limits discussions to 140 characters? Well it’s not. So here’s my third installment on the subject.

My first two posts were little more than an introduction to Twitter. There were many things I didn’t mention. For example, I didn’t discuss hash tags, RTs, or tinyurls. While Twitter isn’t difficult to use, there is a learning curve especially if you want to use it effectively. So you need to have the time and the desire to learn it.

Every day I realize there are more things I should learn about Twitter. SEO is one of those areas. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Social media professionals use SEO to find words which have been demonstrated to be effective in grabbing the social media audience’s attention.
Twitterland is full of tweets from SM professionals who offer to teach others through free Webinars, etc. how to maximize their Twitter success. There also a shadowy subculture that operating in Twitterland. These Twitter shadows aren’t necessarily bad guys. They do, however, operate behind the scenes so most people aren’t aware of their efforts. These Twitter professionals know how to direct traffic and architecturally enhance the power of Twitter.  I’ve had the pleasure of meeting one (a very nice guy with eight sisters. Now, he knows 😉 I’m talking about him). This guy gave me a peek into the shadows, and I hope he will continue to try and help me.

I am certain there are other things going on in Twitterland of which I am not aware.

The purpose of this series, however, was not to offer a thorough evaluation of Twitter. Instead, my goal was to answer the question: Which is more helpful to a writer: social media or old-fashioned networking?

Yesterday, @patrickcurl engaged me in a conversation on Twitter. I was interested enough to check his Web site. Here’s what I learned from patrickcurl.com.

According to Barracuda Networks, an Internet research company, Twitter may have an image problem. The company says that the majority of first-time or short-term users try Twitter out, don’t understand Twitter’s value, and decide not to use it.

I have personally heard people say they didn’t find Twitter useful. These people tend to be business owners who operate locally. They do better advertising by word of mouth than through Twitter. They don’t have the time or patience for reading scam, spam and other low-value tweets.
Patrick loves Twitter. He values it as a way to reach out to people in his niche. He works with social media consultants and experts. Patrick admits these people have a better grasp on how to use and develop Twitter’s power than the average Twitter user.

Here’s what I find revealing about Patrick’s discussion of Twitter. He cites a report from Hubspot that states 55.5 percent of Twitter users don’t follow anyone, and 54.9 percent have never tweeted.

Here are some more startling numbers Patrick provided on Twitter usage:
•    79.79% of users provided no homepage URL.
•    75.86% of users have not entered a bio.
•    68.68% have not specified their location.
•    55.50% are not following anyone.
•    54.88% have never tweeted.
•    52.71% have no followers.

What these numbers show are  that as little as a quarter of Twitter’s members use the service on a regular basis.

So here’s my question: If more than half the people who try Twitter don’t hang around long, and those that do stay aren’t really involved, is marketing on Twitter really effective for a writer?

The answer depends on a number of things. Anyone who is lobbing tweets out in Twitter space and hoping to reel in lots of new readers isn’t realistic about their success rate. That strategy isn’t any more effective than putting a book up on Amazon and figuring it will automatically be read by millions. Knowing how to target potential followers and developing a relationship with people so they become followers can be a worthwhile pursuit if you aren’t going to find these people otherwise.

Twitter is a high maintenance beast. Content although limited to 140 characters must be provided regularly or followers lose interest.  How much time do want to spend working Twitter?

Find out about my new book which is the reason I write this blog at Amazon.com.

Click video preview to see the YouTube video of my book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories.

My other blog is Living in the Heartland.

Click here for subscription to blog on Kindle Out of the Box Publishing Blog on Kindle

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Social Media or Old-Fashioned Networking: Which is Right for Writers? Twitter Part 2

Just before I started writing this post I looked at my Twitter account. I had 1,621 followers, and was on 131 lists.

I began my adventure with social media by seeking the advice of a social media coach. One of the first assignments was to” follow” 50-100 new people every day.  There were many ways to accomplish this. The easiest and cheapest it seemed was to find someone on Twitter who had lots of followers. I could scroll down their list and click FOLLOW.  It was a fast way to accomplish what I had been instructed to do. Later I discovered it wasn’t an effective method.

Why do I say it’s effective? Some of the Twitter accounts turned out to be inactive. Some of the accounts were rarely used, others were OVERused. I had other issues with a stream of tweets that were scams, spams or garbage.

So, until I knew better, I would scan down a page and click FOLLOW, FOLLOW, FOLLOW wherever I saw a person’s face.  I was sure that in a month I’d accumulate a follow list equivalent to the population of Rhode Island. I got giddy watching my follow list grow. However, when I took the time to think about what I was doing I asked myself: “How is this was going to help me?” I realized I could click “FOLLOW” buttons until my fingers were sore, but it wasn’t going to help me achieve my goal. It wasn’t going to make people aware of my book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories. What I really needed was to have people follow me. That was the only best way to be sure they’d see the messages I tweeted.

Getting followers was a more complicated proposition. Not everyone automatically followed me. My mentor suggested I use Friend or Follow, a free program that identifies who among the people you are following is not following you back.  I considered dumping everyone who wasn’t following.  I realized this wasn’t a great plan. I wasn’t sure how long it had been since  I had starting following some of these people. Unless they had an auto follow program I needed to give people time to follow me. I certainly didn’t want to unfollow someone I had just started to follow. There were also people on the list I thought would be good people to follow even if they didn’t follow me.  I decided to poke these people to see if they simply needed a poke from me before they added me to their follow list.

Of course there are programs for purchase that are designed to increase followers. Some programs target specific demographics. These programs  search for Tweet peeps who are more likely to be interested in what you are  selling. As I was in a hurry to be successful I decided that such a program would be a terrific way to build my Twitter empire. I thought I had nothing to loose by taking advantage of  free trial offers. What I discovered was that some of the programs weren’t user friendly. At least not for this newbie. I didn’t understand the social techie language, and I didn’t need help managing multiple Twitter accounts.

I dumped each program long before the trial period expired. I gave up on Tweet Spinner in less than 24 hours. I emailed the company right away to tell them I was canceling long before their five-day free trial expired. Tweet Spinner still charged my Pay Pal account for a one-year subscription. The company has refused to refund my money! I’m out $14.95. Pay Pal says I have to get a refund from Tweet Spinner, but after my first email exchange with Tweet Spinner they have stopped responding. My suggestion is don’t try any free trial offers if they ask for payment information before the trial expires! Some companies aren’t user friendly!

Adding 50-100 people a day and watching the numbers grow might be the cheapest, least time consuming way to grow a list, especially as most of those tweeps are going to follow you back. It can be addictive watching the numbers grow. BEWARE! There’s a Twitter posse. They patrol for speeders. You can commit a violation by adding too many people TOO FAST. I’ve heard it said that there is also a rule about the ratio between follows and followers. A person can’t be following too many more people than are following them. Otherwise, you could be considered a stalker. I don’t know what these numbers are, because I quickly decided that I didn’t want to play the numbers game.  Adding people for the sake of increasing numbers is in direct conflict with the NUMBER 1 rule social media gurus place on their social media “do” lists. The NUMBER ONE rule is BE REAL.

A person can’t be real if they are only interested in numbers. The number that  is important to me is my tweet count. It’s 2,217!  Those aren’t auto-generated tweets. Some guy a while back called me a conversationalist!

Here’s how I operate. When I get a notice someone is following me, I check them out. I go to their Web site. If they aren’t a bot or aren’t simply selling something I send them a personal tweet. If they tweet back we may continue our conversation.

During my introductory phase in Twitterland I spent more than an hour or more in one session working on building and pruning my list – clicking follow buttons, weeding out non-followers or people with inactive accounts, or viewing mindless tweets. Now I may spend an hour each day, but I don’t do it all at once. Much of what I do now is have conversations. I enjoy most of my time on Twitter. I’ve got special tweeps I look forward to “seeing” every day. I’ve got a tweep who talks to me in French. “Bon jour Martien. Comment ca va?” My French is tres mal, but I still look forward to talking to him. Yesterday, someone I only recently met tweeted me with a possible lead about being on public television.

There are good people out there. But in order for me to find them I had to stop playing the numbers game. I had to think about the people.  Now, I don’t even look for followers, they find me.

So what’s with Twitter? Some say Twitter is IT. Others say Twitter is already OVER. What I say is: Don’t use or abuse Twitter, it’s the people who matter. My Twitter peeps may not be contributing in any direct way to book sales, at least not yet, but I enjoy my peeps.

Find out about my new book which is the reason I write this blog at Amazon.com.

Click video preview to see the YouTube video of my book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories.

My other blog is Living in the Heartland.

Click here for subscription to blog on Kindle Out of the Box Publishing Blog on Kindle

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Social Media or Old-Fashioned Networking: Which is Right for Writers? Twitter Part 1

I decided not to do any promotional work until my book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories appeared on Amazon.com. As I’ve said in previous posts, I chose to independently publish my book after I’d received about two dozen ‘no thank you’ letters from agents and publishers. I thought: “How can I go wrong selling my book on America’s largest online behemoth, a retailer with nearly three times the Internet sales revenue of its nearest competitor?”

Since my book was cataloged among Amazon’s thousands upon thousands of other offerings, it seemed obvious that I needed to focus my marketing energies online. So began my social media (SM) education.

The first step was to build a SM platform. SM coaches tout the importance of starting with a foundation based upon Twitter, Facebook, and a blog. So that is what I did. Twitter was easy. Facebook required more time to set up, because  more information was requested. My blog, even though WordPress makes set up pretty simple, was even more time consuming. I admit I had plenty of frustration. For example, I had to evaluate nearly 100 layouts to choose the best layout for my Living in the Heartland blog. Then I had to figure out how to customize the banner and learn how to install and operate the widgets.

Initially, I hated Twitter. The few people who I started following seemed to have established their own clique. They tweeted predominantly among themselves. Much of what they said wasn’t interesting to me. I began to realize I was stuck in an infinitesimally small Twitter puddle. It was a small droplet in a Twitterscape where oceans of Twitter folk were chattering away. I had no idea how to swim into the deeper water. As I became more confident and competent, I was able to find new people. To my dismay many of the Tweets I received were either “words to live by”, quotes attributable to famous or anonymous people, or outright marketing.

Numerous people told me to persevere. They also told me that the number one rule on the Internet is to be genuine and build trust before trying to market anything on the Internet. My cynicism grew as I wondered about the disconnect between what I was being told were “and what people were doing. The response to my questioning the rules was always the same: give it time. In time I would see the benefits.

Being trained as a scientist I wanted evidence on which to base my hopes that Twitter was going to help me make people aware of my book. What I heard on Webinars and through Twitter were merely testimonials. Needless to say this was not a good introduction to the Internet for me. I was overwhelmed by all the SM tasks I needed to do, and wanted concrete evidence that all my hours of work building a Twitter following was going to pay off . In otherwords, show me some book sales.

The sales figures I saw that first month were UNBELIEVABLE. I couldn’t believe my eyes. There HAD to be a mistake! I could have sold more books door to door on my block!

Doubt began to flood in: Had I made the wrong decision? Should I have waited longer for a publisher; after all, I had received some handwritten letters. Maybe I shouldn’t have chosen to publish independently. Should I have sent out more manuscripts?

As you can see I’m still working with SM. I am more positive than I’ve ever been. Come back soon for the next installment. As I discuss my experience you will understand how I arrived at my answer to the question: Social Media or Old-Fashioned Networking: Which is Right for Writers?

Find out about my new book which is the reason I write this blog at Amazon.com.

Click video preview to see the YouTube video of my book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories.

My other blog is Living in the Heartland.

Click here for subscription to blog on Kindle Out of the Box Publishing Blog on Kindle

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Time to Shop My Book? Advice from Three Who Know

With more than a half dozen great reviews of my book up on Amazon and a successful book signing last weekend, I wondered if I should take John Austen’s advice to shop my book. I have had increasing evidence that I have produced a quality product. People appear to connect with Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories on a variety of levels. Maybe if I put together a press kit with book reviews and newspaper articles my book would be well received by a publisher. Having the assistance of a established publisher should make it easier to get Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories into bookstores and gain greater attention by national media outlets.

I queried Jane Friedman at Writer’s Digest. I was interested to hear her opinion? Can you guess her answer?

She recommended I keep focused on my indie route. Friedman’s counseled it wouldn’t be time to shop the book until I could claim a couple thousand copies sold.

Question: When I sell a couple of thousand books should I consider a publisher? It seems too much like the story of the Little Red Head. Remember the story of the farmyard shebird who planted wheat, nurtured it, harvested and then baked it into bread before any other farm animal was willing to help. When the bread was baked they all volunteered to help the hen eat the bread.

Surrendering my book to a publisher after I’ve sold several thousand copies on my own doesn’t make sense. The primary reason is that many books are considered a success if they generate a couple of thousand sales. If that’s the expected limit why would I want to share any of the profit with people who haven’t done any of the work?

Kathleen Okeefe Kanavos, author of  Surviving Cancerland: The Psychic Aspects of Healing, pointed out: “Big publishing houses are not in the business to publish books. They are in the business to make money. Until the day that you become an author of Dan Brown’s caliber, you will be required to show the steps of how you plan to market and sell your book beyond what the publishing houses can or will do.”

Okeefe Kavanos says authors need a business plan in order to interest an agent or land a publishing contract. One of the first steps in developing the plan is to identify the audience. Authors need to identify their target market and demonstrate that they are equipped to capture that audience. Those are the two most important components of a successful marketing platform.

Friedman responds to the obvious question: “Why don’t publishers market and promote the books on their list? According to Friedman the answer is that publishers don’t have enough money, time, or staff to target books to a variety of audiences. Publishers are good at putting books into physical and retail distribution. Once there the hope is readers will find the books.

In October I made the decision to pursue indie publishing. I believed in the power of the Internet, digital publishing, and the value of the message contained in my book. I hadn’t bargained on the amount of work and time it would take to make a success of Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories. I admit I was naïve in this regard. In the first two months after the book appeared on Amazon.com I experienced a number of frustrations with little success. I have just finished the third month. As I said at the start of this post the book has received good reviews, some media coverage, and I can attest to forward movement.

Marketing is HARD work. There is a LOT more work ahead. However, I see only two options: digging in for the long haul or shelving the book.

Find out about my new book which is the reason I write this blog at Amazon.com.

Click video preview to see the YouTube video of my book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories.

My other blog is Living in the Heartland.

Click here for subscription to blog on Kindle Out of the Box Publishing Blog on Kindle

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