Have you ever written a book review?

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Hello all

I will be gone from June 1 through June 9 in Belize (Central America) diving with my son and 25 others from Fisheye Scuba in Folsom, California. We are staying out on a small island at a place called Banana Cove, and I won't have cell or email service--the first time I will not be checking in daily to my office since 1999 when I hit the Dominican Republic.

I have longed to hit the Yucatan  Peninsula since I was a kid. On the second to last day we fly to the mainland to hit a pair of Mayan sites and then raft back down a jungle river through caves, etc. Should be a good time, and a trip I am very much looking forward to. As those of you who know me can attest, I don't take vacations. It is time.

So back on once I return. Have a safe early June. And remember--Maps of Antietam hits our warehouse right when get back . . .

-- tps

Diving the arch in the Blue Hole. We will not be doing this, as it is very dangerous and is called the Diver's Cemetery. I would do it if my son was not there, but he is not experienced enough--yet.

This is the Blue Hole from the air. It is deep, and often home to Hammerhead sharks.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

This is probably better suited for Sarah's blog, but I want to share what I am thinking these days (in a relatively short post) about working with authors a second time--especially in this environment.

As we all know, the economy is not healthy, the entire Borders chain is history, the majority of independent bookstores have closed their doors, and those that are left have limited shelf space, questionable balance sheets, and little appreciation for how to actually SELL a book.

Into this environment steps two SB authors. Mollie and "Robert." Mollie is real. Robert is a fictional name, and his story below is a composite of events and times spread over two or three of our titles, but the main point remains accurate.

Each of these folks has published a book with me, and each has pitched a second project onto my desk.

MOLLIE: She learned how to master social media, maintains a vibrant blog with an equally vibrant email database, schedules one event after another from county fairs to service clubs to you name it (and has for years--YEARS), checks Amazon and every time it says "only 10 copies left" sends out a blast to her base, constantly asks for feedback. She sets Google alerts, writes articles for magazines, newsletters, etc. She never goes anywhere without a copy of her book, and she never fails to mention it when she meets someone who converses with her. Her book is still in hardcover in its fourth (and maybe fifth) printing. Total returns year over year as a percentage: about nine percent. Industry average: about 35%.

ROBERT: His first book was well received critically speaking, won a prestigious history award, and is just now selling through its first printing after years in print. And it is a DAMN fine study. In fact, I have never heard a negative word about any of it.

So what's the difference? Yes, the topics are different, but the real constant is promotion. Robert does not maintain a blog, and won't despite request after request. He did a slim handful of signings when the book came out--and quit. He is not writing for magazines, newspapers, or historical society newsletters. He does not pen anything for other blogs (many of which would love content). He does not maintain an Amazon author page. He does not jump into bookstores to see if his book is present (and then sign any copies), and if they are not there, ask the manager to stock it.

Both have pitched another book project. One is a no-brainer for a publisher. I KNOW in advance what support I will get from the author. The other? Well, that's also a no-brainer.

Authors, if you choose to go the independent trade publishing route, support your years of research and writing by helping spread the word about YOUR book.

-- tps

Friday, May 11, 2012

How Important is the Publisher's Style Sheet?

As strange as this might sound,  it is not uncommon for some authors to complain about having to scrub their manuscripts according to a house style sheet in preparation for publication. (No, I am not joking.) These are often the same authors who also complain when an editor has spent untold hours trying to format previously inscrutable footnotes and makes mistakes doing so.

Then the phone rings: "Ted! On page 16, your editor inserted the wrong  . . . "

Submitting a manuscript that matches a house style sheet is important on many levels. First, it means that in most cases, editors will have to do less work fixing relatively simple issues like passive voice, run-on sentences, rank presentation, and so forth. The less time spent on these things means she can spend more time on developmental and substantive details.

Second, less minute detail work means there is a lower likelihood of an editor making a mistake trying to interpret or alter an author's work. Given the nature of our publications, citation format is critically important. No one knows his sources better than the author, so getting your footnotes in line with the house style sheet means makes it easier all the way around for everyone.

Imagine, for a moment, the room for error when an editor has to dig into hundreds of notes to change your "creative" citation of the Official Records . . . . OR, part I, Vol. 21, pages 232-233  . . . to match the preferred house style of OR 21, pt. 1, 232-233. Or "One O'clock" to "1:00 p.m.", etc. At first blush this might seem a small issue. I can assure you that, compounded over hundreds of pages and citations, it most certainly is not. As an author, do you really want an editor taking a spade to your work, or would you rather do it yourself to make sure it is done (and interpreted) correctly?

And those were simple examples. Cites to Internet articles, essays in anthologies, multi-volume works, and so forth, arrive here in a multitude of permutations, and many times within the same document are cited very differently. Trying to figure out the identity of the editor, the author, the volume number, etc., is simply a waste of time, money, and often leads to other problems.

Finally, another dirty little secret: an author's willingness to cooperate and help polish his own manuscript is indicative of his ability and willingness to cooperate later when a publisher decides where to dedicate precious marketing dollars.

So my advice is simple: The next time you get a style sheet, FOLLOW IT.