Sunday, March 27, 2011

This Blog Changed My Life

This is the year of my regurgitating computer. The year I discovered "thar's money in them files."

I have dozens of nearly completed works of fiction languishing in my computer files - languishing because finding and dealing with agents and publishers is such a royal pain I just didn't want to do it for my fiction (I've done it for years for non-fiction and I'm not going to do that again either).

Then I read a blog that finally put paid to the need for agents and publishers for all time. A blog that told me that there has been a paradigm shift in the publishing world and that I can sell my books and get the lion's share of the royalty for myself.

Thank you Barry Eisler for having the conversation I needed to hear, the conversation that says to self-publish to your hearts content and to get those books OUT!

If you are a writer wannabe, wannabe no more. You still need to be professional, but there is no gatekeeper preventing you from having your dream. Even having a high profile on the internet is no longer necessary if you have a lot of book shelf on the e-pubs and on, and B& It's a new world for writers.

Friday, March 18, 2011

To Outline Or Not To Outline

Suzy Prudden and I have written books without complete outlines and we have written books with complete outlines. I can assure you that working from a comprehensive outline that you and the publisher and editor have agreed on before hand is better than working from a verbal agreement with no outline. A good outline guides you. It lets the publisher know exactly what you’re going to do before the fact, so there is no chance of a misunderstanding that could cost you your advance. Without an outline you can go completely off course in your writing. I speak from vast experience.

When in doubt – create an annotated outline. An annotated outline gives the chapter heading, a sample opening paragraph – demonstrating how the chapter will read – followed by an outline of what the rest of the chapter is going to be about. It is truly easy to write a book after you have made a comprehensive annotative outline. One really good piece of information I got from someone was to make each chapter heading interesting. The best chapter heading I ever wrote was for our "Suzy Prudden's One Stop Diet Revolution" which reads "Why Exercise and Sex Are Better In The Morning."

A book proposal for an agent or publisher includes:

* Title Pages
* Table of Contents
* Annotated Outline
* Comparison Sheet
* Synopsis
* One Page Bio
* 2-3 Completed Sample Chapters
* A Realistic Marketing Plan.

By realistic marketing plan I mean you can actually do it because you will be using contacts you really have. Publishers are not impressed with dreams and possibilities nor should you be. Statements like, “I plan to call every talk radio program in the Los Angeles area and talk to the producers until they agree to interview me,” are grounded in what you realistically plan to do – it’s an action plan. “I will receive nationwide radio coverage for the book,” is not grounded in reality. It would be nice, but there’s no action in "I will receive" and your book might not fit with every radio station even those that cover books. If you said you planned to call every talk show producer in America that might be a little better, but it’s still awfully big to get a publisher’s mind around. Even worse is, I will do everything to market the book you set up for me and tell me to do.
The following are some suggestions of places you can do your own marketing and placement.

Your Website – develop a website about you where you make yourself interesting. It can be sophisticated or very simple – what is important is that it be informative, and that you give lots of information away.
My website is simple you can find it at I laid it out, wrote the material and sent it to Nancy Villella at who laid it all out and posted it on line. You can post your own, or have someone do it for you. I chose years ago not to spend the time building the skills to create websites and focus on writing instead.

I have a little store where I sell autographed copies of my paperback books – those which are available on Barnes and Noble and Amazon without autographs. I have a little news page where I announce things that I do. The newspage is filled with reviews and announcements. It is not filled with press releases. You post frequently so that people get to know you if they are wondering who you are. My website is also posted to my blog which I write on two or three times a week - usually I write about writing, sometimes I write reviews.

On my home page I have two good reviews of my latest novel which shows that reviewers (third parties) like what I’m doing. I have only five pages. I connect to my blog and to Facebook and Twitter. Eventually I will contact to YouTube and have a podcast about writing tips. Your site doesn’t have to be big or fancy, it should be interesting and informative. In the next few weeks I will post a radio and television interview that I have done recently. That should give me much more traffic.

I pay attention to traffic and have a website that keeps track of my visitors.
I am in the process of researching key words and I will use those keywords on my site and on my blog. Keywords also position you as an expert in your field.


Create an annotated outline for your book.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

You're THAT Joan Meijer?

Some weeks ago I read about the site for people like me - emerging. Writers who are starting out in one field or another and who would like people to know about their books. My new book is "Tranquillity Initiative" a medical thriller about an anthrax attack on New York City which is getting really good reviews.

I contacted the site and asked how I could get covered. As I have been saying in my blogs, self-promotion is what getting published is all about today. Mike contacted me right back and the announcement of my book and the interview is the result.

The announcement and clips from my reviews came first. Mike has a great template that makes it easy for someone like me to organize my material. I was asked for my bio.... three or four of the best clips from my reviews and a short run down about the book. Those things are very handy to have in your files if you're going to promote a book anyway, so his asking for them made me very aware of what I needed to write.

Next Mike asked me for interview questions. I wrote 13 of them - and answered them and he selected the ones he liked. It's increasingly fun to be interviewed because I discover things I about my writing that came naturally and that I hadn't actually thought through as technique during the process.

The interview was posted today.

If you are a beginning writer be prepared to talk about yourself as you have never talked before. As the family introvert, I have spent my life walking behind my self-promoting mother and sister wondering how they do it. When I was a teenager my mother, Bonnie Prudden, was very famous for having conducted a physical fitness test which resulted in the formation of The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. Within 30 seconds of meeting someone she would have them down on the floor to be tested - and I would be pretending I came with someone else. My sister Suzy Prudden has never missed an opportunity to get up on a stage and I've been in the back of the room selling our books and product. I can't tell you the number of times I've heard Suzy say, "I'm famous...." and fully a third of a room full of people will have indeed heard of her... "You're THAT Suzy Prudden?"

I'm not at the stage of "You're THAT Joan Meijer" yet, but I walk into rooms announcing myself as a novelist now instead of sitting in my chair wondering if I should say something. I contact people who might interview me regularly. And the great surprise for me is how much I'm enjoying it.

Monday, March 7, 2011

My Radio Interview

As the daughter of a famous person, Bonnie Prudden, and the sister of a famous person, Suzy Prudden, I spent a lot of time being support sitting in the back of the room listening to them be interviewed.

My interview for my new book "Tranquillity Initiative" the medical thriller about an anthrax attack on New York City has just been posted at The Author Show. It's really fun to be the one being interviewed. I hope you'll listen and give me feedback.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

To Get An Agent Or Not To Get An Agent

You don't need an agent to self-publish. You generally do need one to get a major publisher. Sometimes publishing companies approach you if you have established yourself as an expert in your field. Here's where agents come in handy.

Agents are useful to negotiate your contract with a big company – they usually can’t sell your how-to book much better than you can. Contrary to popular belief agents don’t sell books. Subjects, recognized expertise, great proposals, great writing and connections sell books, but if you don’t use agents in a negotiation there’s a good chance you may lose money – you can bet that publishers come to the table with lawyers.

Because she was so famous that publishers were coming to her with offers, Suzy Prudden’s and my mother, Bonnie Prudden, sold most of her books herself. She didn’t always make the best publishing deals but she made millions on her books. Suzy and I have had both good and bad experiences with agents. One agent I worked with killed a book deal I had gotten by myself. She killed the deal over recording rights, an issue I didn’t remotely care about - she never asked me if it was important to me. The result was I didn’t do business with a company that would have published four books for me. Agents have, on the other hand, gotten more money for us than we would have made for ourselves.

The way to work with agents and lawyers is to make certain they know what YOU want going into a negotiation so they don’t kill deals you don’t want killed for the wrong reasons. If you’re going to self-publish you don’t need an agent. You do need a good editor.

There are books on how to get agents. I have used the Guide to Literary Agents: Where & How to Find the Right Agent to Represent Your Work to great advantage. There are also agents listen in The Writer’s Guide. If you are going to use a book to get an agent, you have to write a zinger of a query letter that lets them know that (a) you have a book a publisher might buy and (b) you are ready, willing and able to self-promote. Self-promotion is the thing that all writers have to be willing to do. That's setting up book signings, that's active back of the room sales, that's creating a high on-line profile, that's speaking wherever possible. Don’t forget, agents get 15% of your income if you sell to a publisher.

The most important thing that I can tell you about agents is that they know their fields and they have contacts in the publishing world. If you are going after an agent make certain to research what they specialize in because that will be an indication of their contacts. They generally say what they specialize in and you can also tell if you have a fit by looking at the books and authors they have represented. If they are working in the field you are writing in, they know what will sell. They aren’t always good at telling you what is wrong with your book, but you can ferret out the information if you listen carefully and objectively. The absolutely most self-defeating thing you can do is get mad at an agent for giving you honest feedback.

I recently worked with a client who got so angry at an agent for telling him the truth about his book that he had to drop the project. If an agent spends time telling you things, figure out how to use that information and make your project better. One of the reasons that self-publishing has such a bad rap is that authors (a) do not get feedback and (b) do not listen to feedback. If you need to, step back from your project for a month or two before re-reading it. Once you are away from the project for a period of time you get more perspective on it. As a general rule, when you are up close to a project you like it so much you can't see its flaws. Giving yourself detachment is the best tool you can have to see where you can improve your work. Seek feedback even if you have to pay for it. It's important. As a general rule, giving yourself time so that you can get your book published is better than rushing your book through and having a product that either won't get published, or won't get sales.

There are agents who will charge you to read your book. I have not had a great deal of success with them. They have taken my money and given me nothing of value in return. I don't mind people no liking what I write as much as I dislike people who take my money and give me nothing valuable in return. I would highly recommend that they are rip offs and to avoid them. If reading your book is their only profit center, they have no incentive to improve it so they can make money getting it published.

This blog is taken from my book "How To Write A Book That Positions You As An Expert In Your Field" available on Kindle.