Wednesday, June 8, 2011

What Every Book Lover Needs to Know Part II: New Ways to Find Great Books

With e-books and print-on-demand (POD) technology so readily available, I mentioned there were two million self published books in 2010. That's a staggering number, and the industry projects it will go even higher this year. This may be great for struggling writers who wants to see their work "in print," but how will readers sort through all the clutter? How will you find good books?

To sort the wheat from the chaff, currently publishers look to literary agents. Agents receive thousands of book submission from authors each month. Agents select books they feel they can sell and presents them to acquisition editors at the publishing houses. A team called an Editorial Board then decides if they want to publish the book. This system of finding new talent works only when publishers drive the industry. With bookstores closing and technology in control, publishers are now focusing mostly, if not exclusively, on sure thing, big name best-sellers. If agents stop looking for new books because publishers aren't buying, is the reader left in the lurch? Not if fellow readers and industry pioneers have anything to say about it.

We're all familiar with Amazon reviews and other sites that offer similar models for customer feedback. There are also a vast number of book bloggers and book referral sites already out there. If you haven't yet, check out,,, and To find bloggers, do a quick Google search for your genre. In addition, and are services used by authors to have their work professionally reviewed. There you will find editor's picks and blogger posts. And making an appearance at the BEA was Book Country, a site sponsored by Penguin. At Book Country writers who want to post their work must review three manuscripts. Readers can check out the reviews and look for emerging talent at

As the industry keeps changing, so will the way we find and rate books. Still, content is king and word of mouth remains the number one way readers hear about a new book. So keep reading and keep talking. The publishing industry is listening

Come back next week for the final part in this series: Exploring New Technology in Publishing. For a preview, watch this great video on the Xerox Expresso Book Machine. It's a basically a book vending machine!

Referenced Links:

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

What Every Book Lover Needs to Know: Part I

Last week was the Book Expo America, BEA, in New York City. Publishers, agents, editors, bloggers, and authors flock to this annual trade show hoping to learn what's next, what's new, and what's dead in publishing. I arrived bright-eyed even after the red eye flight from California and made my way through the maze of vendor booths, meeting halls, demonstration labs, and private chambers. There was a lot to learn and I want to pass on as much information as I can. So this is Part I in a short blog series. Yes, I learned it's best to blog in a series. :)

Part I: What's Next for the Book Industry?

Sitting among The New York Times reviewers and editors from Random House, tyring not gawk or drool, I learned a great deal about what's ahead and what's unknown in publishing. As you can imagine, the E-book is making strides but publishers were quick to point out that the physical book isn't dead. At least not yet. The problem? Retailers and distribution.

BORDERS filed bankruptcy and are closing over 270 stores. They aren't paying their bills and stores in Australia for example aren't accepting any book shipments. Barnes & Noble is trying to sell out, and they just got an offer from Liberty Media Corp. Liberty Media Corp. properties include QVC, Sirius XM Radio, and Starz Entertainment. They are big players and admit they want to buy the chain for the Nook technology so they can compete with the Apple's iPad. Liberty Media would like to turn the B&N stores into something resembling Apple stores. Yikes!

There is some good news. Mid-size publishers are growing. Sourcebooks actually grew 20% in 2010. Amazon announced they are going into publishing and are working on several imprints. And with E-books on the rise, there were two million self published books in 2010. I heard many times..."This is the best time to be an author. The market is wide open."

So with all of this, where are book headed? Enhanced e-books with links to videos & photos? Maybe. Cross platform e-books that follow you from computer to T.V. to iPhone? Could be. Bookstores that offer more coffee and gifts and less books? Likely. Or what about consumers buying books in new locations like grocery stores and specialty shops. Probably. No one really knows for sure, but everyone is watching and jockeying for position.

With all the changes, it's important for book lovers to remember that this isn't the first big industry upheaval. In 1939 readers and industry professionals were in a dither. Paperbacks were going to ruin the industry, lead to chaos, and make us all terrible readers! ;)  

Check back next week for Part II: New Ways to Find Great Books.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

How to Write an Encouraging Letter

Writing a letter to a friend going through hard times is tough. It takes a little practice and a lot of heart. There aren't any magic formulas I can share, but here are a few tips I've learned from years of writing and receiving letters.

1. Tell the Truth
You don't need to exaggerate to show your empathy. Always tell the truth, even if that means admitting you haven't gone through what they have. Your friend will appreciate you having the courage to be honest.

2. Simple is Okay
For this kind of letter you can put away the Thesaurus. Most of the time, a simple "I'm thinking of you" or "You're in my thoughts" is all it takes.

3. Recall Something Funny
If you're not sure how to start your letter, why not remind your friend about a funny moment you shared. Laughter is healing. You can't go wrong with a funny story.

4. Use You Not I
Remember the letter is about them, so try to avoid using "I" as much as possible. Instead use "you." If you find this difficult, write a sentence with "I" and then turn it around. For example: "I know I'd be worried too" turns into "You must be so worried."

5. Write From the Heart
No matter how clumsy the words, if it comes from the heart you can't miss.

And by the way, have you taken my letter writing challenge yet? Today is the best day to give it a try. You can do it!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Letter Writing Challenge

When was the last time you wrote a letter? I don't mean typed a few lines and then ran spell check. I'm talking about picking up a pen and pressing it against a piece of stationery. Can you even recall the excitement of opening the mailbox and finding a small square with your name on it?

In the age of texts and tweets, we've forgotten that letters are a gift with the power to charm and heal. They are sacred mementos and tangible proof, and often serve as a personal memoir or historical reference. After working on an epistolary novel, or a book comprised entirely of letters, I discovered a true passion for this lost art. I'd like to share this passion with you.

So, here's your challenge. Try writing just one letter. You could write to your mom for Mother's Day or to a friend in need of cheering. In your letter, ask them to write back - the old fashioned way - and embrace what it feels like to give and receive something that costs only 44 cents. At first it might seem a bit strange, and likely your hand will hurt just a bit. Still, I think you might unfold something special.