Importance of an Author’s Support Team

With the release of Twisted Webs, the sequel to Webs of Power, just around the corner and my administrative assistant, Kathy Porter, in Las Vegas promoting her own novel, Earths Ultimate Conflict, at the Star Trek convention, I am taking time out to write a blog about something near and dear to my heart–The Importance of a Writer’s Support System. We have a strong community, and most of us strive to help one another. (I write novels, not short stories, so please forgive the length of this blog)

The time of a successful author writing in isolation with a realistic expectation of having a publisher or editor pour over their manuscript until it is just right for publication is as distant a memory as that of the manual typewriters. We all need help. (Writers Conferences, writers meetings, critique groups.. .) Writers (published as well as unpublished) who ignore these networking opportunities are out of the loop and generally make costly errors in time and money. There are all kinds of scams out there for unsuspecting writers. Many uninformed writers have paid to have their manuscripts printed by publishers who do not do their work justice. There are far too many publishers who produce poor quality books, many with unattractive/ ineffective covers: novel backs (and/or the front flap of a hardback) copy which does not hook the reader, interior copy which has not been professionally edited (the kiss of death for a novel). . . . . (Example: Some so-called publishers of novels have posted an author’s bio rather than a story hook. And yet, what buyers of  novels care about is the story, not who the author is or what he/she has accomplished–Nobody buys Grisham because he was a lawyer, Robin Cook because he was a doctor, or Wambaugh because he was a cop. And how many people knows what James Patterson did before he became an author? What novel buyers want is to escape into a compelling story–In Real Estate it’s Location-Location-Location. In Novels, it’s Story-Story-Story. If there’s a compelling story, some novel readers might care about your knowledge, expertise, or credentials) In non-fiction, the reader wants to know what they will learn or gain from your insight–the non-fiction author must establish credentials. Meticulous research can often make up for what the author lacks in past experience. Platform is important and necessary, but Story (in a novel) and Content (in-non-fiction) is King. Without that, the best thought-out platform will neither get your book published or sold.

There are so many good ways to be published today that it is sad to encounter writers who have been taken advantage of. Like it or not, do not ignore the e-Book explosions. It is the fastest growing segment of publishing. Although it accounts for only approximately 8% of the current book sales, it is predicted to grow to 25% by 2012. However, I will not address this issue since Jerry Simmons does it so well–

Major considerations: Why you want to be published and your budget-(available finances and time). Only then can you make an intelligent decision in regard to how you want to be published.

The two main extreme in Fiction and Non-Fiction (with numerous alternate routes):

Writers who just want a book for family and friends or desire a professionally formatted book as a calling card for business (one which can be sold at seminars or other speaking engagements) who are unable or do not wish to go through a traditional publisher and do not want the hassle of self-publishing (which entails getting an ISBN number, cover and interior designer, warehousing, distribution. . . .)  have a number of options. A POD (print on demand) publisher may work well for these authors—Generally this can be done in less time and is one of the most cost-effective since there are no warehousing costs. The greatest disadvantage of PODs are that they are printed one at a time and therefore more expensive to purchase than traditionally published or printed books and are seldom carried in book stores since they must be paid for up-front. (If you are technically adept, there are do-it-yourself uploads available on line which are even less expensive–but if you do not have a great deal of professional expertise, BEWARE, especially when it comes to the editing of a novel–we are all too close to our own work to see the flaws.)

However, if like me, you want to see your books in book stores coast to coast, that is not the way to go. Bookstores do not buy books that are not returnable and without a publisher or some sort of trusted selection process, and a reputable distributor, it is an uphill battle to establish credibility. (It can be done through self-publishing, but you need an extremely strong team of knowledgeable professionals to work with and must have the willingness to act as a publisher as well as an author. This is an easier task for a non-fiction than a fiction writer.)

If you decide to self-publish, check with reputable book Shepard’s, such as Jerry Simmons, Ellen Reid  or Sharon Goldinger  These are some I have faith in but I’m sure there are many others. Know the right questions to ask and get specifics. Hire no one without checking them out and getting references. 

I encourage anyone who is serious about being published to attend conferences, meetings, and carefully selected critique sessions with other writers. Check out the following links: The next conference is at the Hyatt Regency in Newport Beach, CA—September 24-26, 2010. (I will be giving a workshop on “What I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a Published Writer” on Saturday the 25th–My sequel is a year late due to all the things I didn’t know–be better informed) Also at the Crown Plaza in San Diego, CA over President’s Day Weekend, February 18-21, 2011. Their next conference is at the Paradise Resort and Spa in San Diego, CA—November 5-7, 2010.

If you are unable to attend a full conference, attend as many days as you can.

The following writers groups present professional, well-informed speakers and panels and run credible critique groups as well: Los Angeles, CA at 3:00 PM on the third Saturday of each month, unless it is a five week month–Check the schedule for date and location. First time guest are free. There is no charge for members) Fountain Valley, CA. Meets on the third Saturday of each month. 9:30 AM Networking 10:00 Speakers–Includes lunch. (Members with reservation $25–$30 without, Guests $30 with reservation–$35 without) California Writers Club, founded in 1909, is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to educating writers in the craft of writing and the marketing of their work. CWC has 18 branches throughout California, including Orange County and Long Beach CWC evolved from a group started by Jack London.

There are a number of first-class writers conferences and associations across the nation. However, since I live in Southern California, these listed above are the ones I can vouch for. If the above do not work for you, google writers conferences and writers associations in your area.  

Be an avid readers. Since none of us create in a vacuum, to continue to grow as authors, we must continue to reader the works of other writers–not just your own genre. When life gets hectic, and I have no time to sit down with a good book, I turn to recorded books which I listen to while I am driving, taking a walk on the beach, getting dressed . . . It’s not as good as sitting down with a book, but it’s better than neglecting the works of other authors. The biggest disadvantage to recorded books is having a that inevitable thought pop into you head and having to rewind—a real pain on the Playaways. Recorded books can be rented for very little (about $1.00 per week) from your local library.

Once you are published the real work begins. You have a product which must be sold and no one buys a book unless they have heard or read about it. But that’s a whole new topic.

I am particularly blessed with a fantastically supportive husband (whom I became acquainted with at our high school reunion five years ago) and an incredible assistant who is a good friend as well as an award winning author. Kathy Porter and I have a win-win working relationship. She is the perfect assistant for booking author signings and speaking engagements and has developed a high degree of on-line savvy. At the same time she is learning the ropes of effective book marketing for her own series.  A fellow writer, Brennan Harvey keeps my website as up to date as possible.  Although, I have no intention of turning this into a commercial, I must add that since I switched to EMSI, I also have a fabulous PR firm (contact information in the press room of my website). After investing in a publicist who worked on a dial-a-prayer basis, had a high monthly retainer, and sent books with pitch letters rather than when requested (turning them into junk mail) I so appreciate this fabulous group of professionals. With this group, I now pay for services rendered, and know up-front what to expect (Example: x number of radio shows for x number of $, etc.) with no nickel and dime postage fees. An award winning journalist writes the copy for my pitches, and when I have a question, the specialist in charge of (Radio, TV, or Print) either answers the phone or calls back. I no longer need to communicate with my publicist in e-mail bullets. Oops, I guess this does sound like a commercial, but I love this perceptive group of wonderful humans-beings. No one could ask for more professional or responsive representation. I am also with a terrific publisher who has accessible professionals as each phase of publishing and marketing. (This did not happen overnight. I began writing novels in 1986 with my first novel accepted for publication in 2007.) I have indeed been very fortunate and appreciate the help of so many caring people.

None of us can do it alone, but there is a lot of help out there. Tap into our wonderful community of writers and the multitude of computer savvy kids.

Confession: If you receive our good news more than once, I apologize in advance. I am an on-line novice. Kathy is my on-line expert for spreading the word, but in her absence I began exploring. When she returns I will see if she can remove any duplication since I don’t want to bombard you with repetition. However, Kathy will be working on our next book tour which begins October 8th on the East Coast when she returns, so some things might slip through the cracks. Please ignore and forgive any duplication we fail to remove.

Here goes: Good news which I believe is new to most of you:

An encouraging Google alert came through last week: Although, I consider my novels mainstream fiction, rather than thrillers, they are page turners, and since I am in such good company, I have no complaints, in fact I am thrilled. And for anyone in or around the Long Beach area, we would love to have you join us for the Twisted Webs book launch: Sunday. Sept. 12th at 3:00 at B&N in Marina Pacifica.  Reviews from some who have read an Advanced Readers  Copy of Twisted Webs are on   More will be posted on this and others websites soon. Amazon has not yet accepted reviews on the pre-order site of Twisted Webs, but should any day and will hopefully have my e-books relisted (the Kindle of Webs of Power fell off when they were up-dating their site a week ago, and Twisted Webs has not yet been input). The reviews currently on Barnes and Noble and about 25 others should be posted before the release date.       

The next blog I will personally pen, will be titled, “Drop the filters and write from the heart”. This will be written and posted after I finish the first draft of Irreversible Webs.

Disclaimer – Blogs have not been professionally edited. There may  be, and most likely are, some grammatical, syntax or spelling errors. I apologize in advance.

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