New Author Success Story: Joe Guppy

lo res JG smileYESIn 1979, 23-year-old Joe Guppy was struggling with a bad breakup and existential angst, but a few stomach pills drove him into paranoid psychosis… and straight into a mental ward. He shares his story in My Fluorescent God, a raw, often comic memoir that’s a powerful spiritual and psychological adventure. He’ll be reading from this newly published memoir at Elliott Bay Book Company at 7pm on September 13.

But first, we caught up with the Seattle native, an award-winning writer and performer turned psychotherapist turned author, who shared with us his struggles and successes on the road to publication, as well as some sage advice for aspiring authors.

Tell us about your path to publication.
lo res lMFGcover 3I had had a lot of experience in journalism and writing for theater and television, but I had never written memoir before and knew nothing about the publishing business. My Fluorescent God was a “from the ground up” project. I was lucky to have deep archives for the project, all the medical records from my time in the mental hospital, my own and my mother’s thirty-year-old journals, even a taped interview from 1979 with my psychiatrist and some fellow patients. But I not only had to write the memoir, but also learn how to write a memoir. When it came time to seek a publisher, Jen & Kerry’s class showed me how to get a book proposal together. I started out with the traditional route, discovered Query Tracker, and collected plenty of agent rejections. I ended up landing with a local independent Seattle publisher, Booktrope. It’s definitely not self-publishing but I have had to do more work on the publishing side than a mainstream author. The trade-off is I’ve had a lot more control. As a control freak, I like that. I am very pleased with the quality of the finished product.

Why were you inspired to write this book?
This 1979 journey through delusional psychosis was the most traumatic and most meaningful event of my young adulthood. As a writer, I had known from the moment I recovered that I wanted to write about it someday. I didn’t know it would take me thirty years to get to the project or that the experience of writing it would be so personal and profound.

What professional services did you seek out in the process?
My cover designer had designed the Joe and Nancy Guppy annual comedic Christmas cards for years. I didn’t know if he’d be right for this more serious subject matter, but he nailed it on his first attempt. I love the cover. I’ve worked with two different editors, a couple years apart. The first editor, who had written her own terrific memoir, functioned more as a teacher. By the time I got the second editor, Seattle’s own Karin Snelson, I was able to collaborate head to head. We got into some wonderful and intense literary struggles, which resulted in the book being the lean, crisp, page-turner it turned out to be. Jen & Kerry started me on my road to publishing. The book proposal, and the ability to think in marketing terms—which came out of their class—was crucial.

What surprised you during the publishing process?
The amount of detail work in book design. Page headers, table of contents, placement of graphics, font choice. It’s seemingly never-ending. I’ll never look at books the same way again.

What’s been the best moment/aspect about getting published?
The reaction from readers. The most common comment is that the narrative draws the reader deep into the mind and the experience of a mentally ill person. And people often add that, while my story is fairly extreme, all humans have been there to some degree, and we all fear falling into that place of insanity. Above all, I want to engender more empathy and understanding for mental illness. No one should be dismissed or ignored as “crazy.”

What one piece of advice would you offer to burgeoning authors?
You need to be a bulldog. A bulldog with wings.

What’s next for you?
My wife Nancy and I have a project going, a comedic look at long-term marriage. Right now, I’m too swamped in marketing My Fluorescent God to think much about that.

 •••

Look for interviews with Joe later this month on KUOW-FM, on the Seattle Channel’s Seattle Voices with Eric Liu, and on KING-TV’s New Day Northwest. He’ll be speaking at the “Psychology for the Other” conference at Seattle University the weekend of November 7th. Read more about Joe and Nancy in this Seattle Magazine article.

Find out more about Joe, My Fluorescent God, and upcoming events at joeguppywriter.com and joeguppy.com.

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Wouldn’t you like to have Jen and Kerry in a binder?

art Toolkit cover_265wideDid you know you could get all of our publishing insight and guidance in one crisp white binder? It’s true!

The Business of Books’ Publishing Toolkit made its debut last year to rave reviews. Chock-full of information on researching your idea, developing the key sections of a proposal, honing your submission list, sending out your proposal, and navigating contracts and the business of publishing, the Toolkit is a resource that can stand in for us and keep you focused and inspired. As one attendee said, “The toolkit has been extremely informative and helpful. It is an anchor that I’ll refer to again and again.”

We’re excited to share this material with other burgeoning authors, namely you. The Publishing Toolkit is $99 plus shipping. This binder provides 100+ pages of insider information and includes worksheets and two actual proposals (rarely seen outside of publishing circles) to guide you on your path to publication. Click here to purchase the Publishing Toolkit through PayPal, or email us at jenandkerry@gmail.com if you have questions. Write on!

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5 Reasons to Attend a Writers Conference

Jen & Kerry at the 2013 Whidbey Island Writers Conference

Jen & Kerry at the 2013 Whidbey Island Writers Conference

To paraphrase Shakespeare, get thee to a writers conference! Conferences are offered throughout the year and in various geographic locations—including charming Whidbey Island, where we’ll be teaching October 24-26 at the Whidbey Island Writers Conference. They offer an excellent way to reinvigorate your writing. Aside from the obvious benefits of working on your craft and meeting like-minded writers, we detailed on the WIWC blog five compelling reasons why you should register for the Whidbey Writers Conference or another writing conference right this minute.

The conference is just a couple of months away, and an excellent way to keep your writing moving into the fall and winter months.

>>> Read the post HERE.

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6 Ways to Effectively Crowdfund Your Book

As more and more authors are turning to crowdfunding to bring their book project to market, we asked Justine Schofield, development director of Pubslush, a global pre-publication platform, to offer some tips on how to make the most of this resource.

Pubslush-LOGOCrowdfunding is a tool that authors now use to raise funds, collect pre-orders and market their book before publication. The number of authors, both self-publishing and established, who want to create a more personal connection with their audiences is rising and crowdfunding is the perfect solution to create and foster this connection between authors and readers.

Deciding to crowdfund your book is a big decision. Crowdfunding is not an easy task and it takes serious commitment to conduct a successful campaign, but luckily there are a lot of resources available to help authors throughout the process. For starters, here are some ways to make sure you get everything that you need out of your crowdfunding campaign, and then some.

  1. Create a marketing plan.
    This can be seen as the starting point for your campaign that will outline your plan of attack. Research and establish who it is that you will reach out to about your campaign, how to get in touch with them and when you will do so. Developing a marketing plan takes a lot of research and planning, but it makes effective crowdfunding not only more attainable but also more manageable. You should be able to refer to your plan throughout the campaign as a guideline and reference point.
  2. Research other successful campaigns.
    Check out campaigns that have already had success. See what they are doing that seems effective to you and notice what you don’t like so you can avoid or improve these points on your own campaign. It also never hurts to reach out to those who have already had success. Generally, people are very open to sharing their crowdfunding experiences.
  3. Create really amazing and enticing rewards.
    To effectively crowdfund your book, you have to offer rewards that will make supporters want to pledge their financial support. Again, research other successful campaigns to see what they offered their supporters. Although offering a copy of the book is always a great reward (hello pre-orders!), authors have the opportunity to create other rewards that supporters will love. Reward levels are your chance to get creative and generally, the more creative, the better!
  4. Secure “inner circle” supporters that will pledge to your campaign right away to kick it off.
    Before the campaign even starts, you should secure your “inner circle,” (mom, dad, grandma, your best friend…you get it) to pledge to your campaign as soon as it starts. This way your campaign funding will be boosted above $0 and other people will see that there’s interest in your campaign out of the gate. This is an essential way to build your momentum on the first day of your campaign.
  5. Execute your marketing plan.
    You’ve already carefully constructed your marketing plan and now it’s time to make it happen. It’s best to build your base of supporters from your own network before branching out. People in your own network are more likely to support you while your numbers may still be low. However, once you build momentum from your own network, other people in your targeted audience will see that your fan base (and book) is really impressive and will want to join in the movement.
  6. Thank supporters and provide updates during and after the campaign.
    One of the keys to successful crowdfunding is staying in touch with your audience and keeping them informed. During the campaign, you should be thanking supporters as they pledge and asking them to spread the word to their network as well. It’s also a nice touch to send out a newsletter or email that highlights the activity and success of the campaign. After the campaign, thank supporters again for their contributions and keep them updated on the progress of the project and the fulfillment of the rewards. Showing appreciation and communicating is necessary when you are trying to build a large and loyal fan base for your book.

Crowdfunding can be really rewarding and effective when one puts thought, time, and effort into it. With these tips and a dedicated state of mind, effectively crowdfunding your book is definitely attainable.

Justine Schofield is the development director of Pubslush, a global pre-publication platform that allows authors and publishers to raise funds, collect pre-orders and tangibly market their upcoming book project. A writer at heart, Justine has received her MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University. She has become a prominent voice in the publishing industry and an advocate for educating authors and publishers about crowdfunding. She has contributed to IBPA’s Independent magazine, Self-Publishers Monthly, Book Marketing Magazine, Business Banter and many more online publications. She tweets for @pubslush.Connect with her on LinkedIn.

 

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Tips for Polishing & Submitting Your Book Proposal

In our experience, burgeoning authors spend a lot of time developing their manuscript. They may even create a strong proposal that covers the business and creative aspects of their project. Then they freeze. They feel as if they make one misstep and don’t follow all the (often invisible) rules, their project will be dismissed, rejected.

We’re here to reassure you. If you’ve put together a solid proposal about a compelling concept with great writing, you will get serious consideration from an agent or publisher. Your proposal won’t be kicked to the curb because you stapled it rather than used a binder clip.

Your submission packet should include your cover letter, your proposal, and any additional materials (if applicable). And for additional tips, here’s a handy checklist to make sure you’ve crossed your “T”s and dotted your “I”s.

  • Include a footer on every page of your proposal that includes your name and page number.
  • Staple or binder clip the pages together.
  • Use your best judgment when it comes to presentation (double-spaced, easy-to-read 12-point type is always a good way to go).
  • Spell check, proofread, be consistent in formatting (bullets, headlines), and enlist a second set of eyes to do a final read.
  • While it’s not necessary, you can use letterhead/heavier stock for your cover letter.
  • Be as specific as you can when addressing your packet. If you have a particular editor or agent to send your proposal to, great. If not, it’s fine; it will be reviewed by an appropriate person (it can be addressed to “Children’s Editor,” for example).
  • Do not give a publisher or agent more sample text than outlined in their submission guidelines. Giving them more than they ask for in terms of other components of the proposal (marketing and competing titles, for example) is always okay.
  • Unless otherwise specified in the submission guidelines, send your proposal via snail mail and be patient regarding a response. If there is an e-mail posted, contact the publisher or agent when the allotted time has passed.

While it’s good to heed the differences of submission guidelines (length of sample text, for example), don’t freak out about over-customizing your proposal. Most proposals can go as-is to multiple publishers and literary agents, as long as you have a complete, robust presentation. What’s most important is whether the CONCEPT is the right fit for that publisher or agent.

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7 tips to picking great sample text for your book proposal

ImageWe’ve reviewed dozens of proposals and it’s always surprising to see what sample text our clients choose to include. Sometimes we’re happily surprised. But frequently, we find that the manuscript excerpt, while well-written, is off base for a compelling submission. Here, a few do’s and don’ts to consider when selecting sample text for your book proposal.

1. Do pick your most representative sample.
This is the most important thing to consider when selecting sample text. Your text should convey the tone and voice of your book, the pace, the information, etc. If you are writing a how-to book, include a chapter that covers all the types of projects or instruction that would be in the book. If you are writing a novel, pick a selection that that captures the essence of the book. Don’t worry about giving away the climax; this is the chance to wow, and whatever part of your manuscript is going to do that is what you should use.

2. Do include examples of all your extra elements.
Along the lines of representative copy, think about all the various elements you envision in your book and include as many of them as possible. If you plan on having sidebars or charts, include at least one of them in your sample. If you plan on featuring your own photography, insert a sample (no originals, though) into your manuscript.

3. Don’t just include the beginning of your book.
Most writers gravitate toward including the first chapter or two of their book in their proposal. It’s usually the most polished and thought-out text. However, you may not be putting your best foot forward. If you are writing a novel, the first chapter might start out with a bang, but it can often include a lot of set-up and exposition that doesn’t get to the heart of the matter or the action. If you are pitching a romance, your excerpt better have some juicy bits. If you’re writing a travel memoir, there should probably be some travel going on.

4. Do use several excerpts, if it makes sense.
You don’t have to send complete chapters. If it makes sense to give a sampling of your book through several excerpts, go for it. If it’s a novel or memoir, set the scene with a few sentences to explain where each excerpt falls in the plot.

5. Do polish it. And polish it again.
You’ve probably looked at your manuscript a million times. That doesn’t mean that it’s perfect; in fact, it can mean that your eyes are glossing over typos at this point. Read your text over and over again. And enlist someone else you trust to read your proposal and sample text. Give them specific direction: do they understand the plot from the sample text? Do the instructions or recipes make sense? Do they have any questions after reading it?

6. Don’t get too attached to one piece of writing.
It may be the most lyrical, polished, gorgeous bit of prose you’ve ever written. But does it convey what the book is about, does it advance the plot? Step away from your manuscript and look at it with a critical eye, maybe even put yourself in the shoes of the acquiring editor. Ask yourself the hard questions and if this isn’t the sample that’s going to both impress and inform an inquiring editor, choose another excerpt.

7. Do read the publisher’s or agent’s submission guidelines.
We know it’s hard to choose just a few pages to include but be mindful of what an agent or publishing house asks for. If you send 50 pages when they’ve asked for 15, you’re in jeopardy of having your entire submission dismissed. Only send the amount of text requested.

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Who’s on YOUR Publishing Wish List? Honing in on the Right Publisher

ImageWhen you are developing your manuscript and your book proposal, start developing your wish list, those dream publishers or agents with whom you’d love to sign. As you peruse the shelves or search competitive titles online, pay particular notice to who’s publishing each title. Notice if certain publishers keep coming up again and again, which might indicate that they publish regularly into that category or genre. For instance, if you are researching spiritual books, you might find that Hay House or Thomas Nelson crop up again and again. Write them down; they might be the first publishing houses you add to your wish list.

Now, the fun part. Investigate those publishers! Hop online and look at each publisher individually. Note what books they are promoting on their home page, and then search by genre. See if they offer a mission statement or an explanation of their different imprints. Do you like what you see? Will your book feel at home here? This is an easy exercise that you can do in your pajamas or while watching TV.

If you think the publisher may be a good fit for your book, check out their Submission Guidelines. Virtually all publishers offer them online. Here, you’ll find out if they take unsolicited proposals or if you’ll need to work with an agent. They may also indicate how to send the proposal (e-mail vs. snail mail), how many pages it can be, response time, and other pertinent details.

Some other fun ways to compile your publishing wish list:

  • Look through your own bookshelf and make a list of the publishers of your favorite books. Jot down any names that may be on the acknowledgements pages.
  • Write down the sections of the bookstore where your book idea could possibly live, aside from the obvious.
  • Make a separate wish list of the qualities you’d like in your publisher (lots of hands-on interaction with editor, big book advance, prestige, etc.). Now rank them in order of importance. When looking over your list, take into account these priorities.

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New Author Success Story: John Clifford, Graphic Icons

Graphic-Icons_Cover-2When we reviewed John Clifford’s proposal in 2012, we knew we had a winner on our hands. John had a big idea: an accessible, visual overview of graphic design history, profiling the modern era’s most influential designers. Continually frustrated that this book did not exist in the marketplace, John did the enterprising thing—he set out to create it himself. Luckily, he had the tools to do so. He’s an award-winning graphic designer, teacher, and creative director at New York’s Think Studio, focusing on the design of brand identity, websites, collateral, and books. By fall 2013, his book, Graphic Icons: Visionaries Who Shaped Modern Graphic Design was published by Peachpit Press.

JohnClifford-l Tell us about your path to publication.
I went after a traditional publisher. This book needed to be very visual, so I knew I needed an image budget. I also wanted a publisher’s support and expertise throughout. I was already taking on roles outside my comfort zone—writing, researching, negotiating usage and permissions—so I wanted help with publicity, distribution, and everything else. Graphic design books are a small niche in the publishing world—there aren’t many publishers putting out books like this—so I didn’t think an agent was necessary. I sent out proposals myself, and I was lucky—there was interest right away, and I had to decide between two offers. No complaints.

Why were you inspired to write this book?
It’s all about me: I’ve always wanted this book for myself. It’s an easy reference on history, and provides great design inspiration. When I teach, I want students to have this—I think it’s easier to understand some of the basics of graphic design when there are human stories involved. Mainly, though, I want people to know the names of these designers. Many people are familiar with some of the famous architects, artists, and fashion designers, but nobody knows the graphic designers. I hope my book can change that in some small way. I thought about this book for years, but figured that someone else (who knows how to write) must already be working on it. After a few years of not seeing it come out, I knew it was time to get serious and try to do it myself.

What professional services did you seek out in the process?
I ran the proposal by my friend Nancy Eklund Later, an editor in the design world, and she had some great input. I then hired Jen and Kerry, who helped make the proposal more lively, and also helped me think beyond publication and consider promotion and marketing. The publisher connected me with an excellent editorial team: development editor Bryn Mooth, copy editor Elaine Merrill, and production editor Tracey Croom. I did all the designing myself (because I’m a designer, not because just anyone can do that). While I love the idea of the DIY approach, I’m a big believer in working with people who know what they are doing.

What surprised you during the publishing process?
I’ve been designing books for years, so I knew something about the process already. This book relies heavily on imagery. The expense and hassle of securing the images and permissions was pretty shocking. It took a lot of creativity and time (and an obsessive nature) to find ways to make the book I wanted with a limited budget. Also, this didn’t surprise me, but writing is hard!

What’s been the best moment/aspect about getting published?
It may sound corny, but I think it was seeing my 4-year-old find my book in the bookstore. There they were: my two big accomplishments together.

What one piece of advice would you offer to burgeoning authors?
Only one piece? I guess beyond the “just write” and “keep at it” and all that, I’d say learn everything you can about what a publisher would want from an author like you. Look at your proposal critically and objectively: why would someone want to invest in your idea? Oh, and hire a good designer! And pay that designer. Your book should look great. Don’t put it out there with crappy type on the cover.

What’s next for you?
I hope to write and teach some more about these design icons. Fortunately, my design work is keeping me very busy right now, which is great. That means I never really got to do the “I just wrote a book and now I can sleep for days” thing, so I maybe I can do that soon.

You can learn more about John Clifford and Graphic Icons here:

Book site: http://graphiciconsbook.com/
Think Studio: http://thinkstudionyc.com/
Twitter: @thinkstudionyc
Facebook: Think Studio

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This infographic is perfection. Hang it

This infographic is perfection. Hang it in your writing space! How to Publish Your Book: INFOGRAPHIC – GalleyCat http://ow.ly/sQMNa

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New Author Success Story: Mike Curato, Little Elliot

MikeCurato headshotOne of the issues we continually address in our Business of Books classes is the importance of understanding that publishing is a business. We encourage our students and clients to get to know as much about the industry and their particular genre as possible. We also drive home the value of persistence. You will most likely have your project rejected (repeatedly) and it’s important to be armed with great material as well as a belief in your work when you seek a book deal or self-publish your project.

Illustrator and writer Mike Curato has savvy, sticktoitiveness and a whole lot of talent, a winning combination that led to a three-book deal  (with Henry Holt Books for Young Readers) for his stories of a polka-dotted elephant named Little Elliot. Mike talks to us about how he put himself in a position to make his longtime dream a reality, shares what surprised him along the way, and offers up some advice for burgeoning authors.

Tell us about your path to publication.
I’ve wanted to make children’s books for as long as I can remember. I tried the traditional route while I was still in college, mailing out book dummies and postcards to publishers. One transcript actually garnered some attention, but all the editors agreed it hadn’t found its groove yet. Self-promotion was a lot of work, and a lot of the time I was busy just trying to pay the rent. I established myself as a graphic designer to make my bread and butter, but I daydreamed of being in children’s publishing.

Many years later, I was asked to illustrate a book by an author who was self-publishing. I’ve been asked to do this many times, but Amy Jones was the first one who actually offered to PAY! It was called Mabel McNabb and the Most Boring Day Ever, a very cute rhyme story about a sassy little girl who got into a bit of mischief. It was a great experience actually taking an entire book to finish and collaborating with an author. Meanwhile, I also attended a Business of Books seminar and put together a show featuring all new work. All of these things gave me confidence to start fighting for my dreams again.

LittleElliot_coverThe story behind my debut title Little Elliot, Big City is a bit nontraditional. For years, friends who were in publishing urged me to attend SCBWI meetings (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators). I finally attended several local meetings in 2011, which encouraged me to attend the 2012 Annual Winter Conference held in NYC. The conference features a juried portfolio show, and I entered knowing that many of New York’s children’s publishing editors and art directors would be there perusing. I thought it would be a great way to get more visibility. Maybe someone would take my card! Well, I ended up winning the show, which was not necessarily in my plans. Talk about 15 minutes of fame! Within 24 hours, I was receiving phone calls and emails from different publishers and literary agencies. Everyone wanted to know about the little polka-dotted elephant in my portfolio, and about his story. The answer was that there was no story! I had some seeds of ideas, not a completed manuscript, but that didn’t seem to matter. People were enamored with this character.

I was absolutely overwhelmed. Though I had been researching the children’s book industry for over a decade, I felt I lacked the insider knowledge to navigate the new terrain by myself. So, I decided to meet with several agents who introduced themselves to me, and ended up going with the fabulous Brenda Bowen of Sanford Greenburger & Associates. It was such a relief to know I had someone in my corner with experience not only as an agent, but also as an editor, publisher and author.

Once I had a story that was “good enough” to show editors, we met with several houses to pitch the idea. The book sold at auction, and I decided to go with Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, who offered a three-book deal! The first book comes out September 2 in the US, and will be coming out later in several other countries (as of now we’ve confirmed Israel, Germany & China).

Why were you inspired to write this book?
Book one deals with feeling small and unnoticed. Little Elliot has a challenging time living in the big city. I think a lot of children can relate to feeling invisible or unimportant in the rush of the grown-up world. Although Elliot is small and can at times feel helpless, he learns that size is relative, and he can still make important contributions in a big way.

What surprised you during the publishing process?
In today’s modern age, I am surprised by how long everything takes! It’s my understanding that large book buyers like B&N and Amazon want to see hard copy proofs of the final book at least half a year before shelf date. That pushes production far away from release date. So, my first book is finished, and nobody but buyers will see it for the next nine months!

What one piece of advice would you offer to burgeoning authors?
Read ten times the amount of books that you read right now. I know that I still don’t read enough, and it’s so crucial not only to learn craft from others, but to be plugged into what is current, and to have a deep knowledge of what is classic.

What’s been the best moment/aspect about getting published?
I think the best aspect is just feeling validated for all the years of work and pining away. I’m glad that my dreams were not in vain. I pinch myself quite frequently these days while chanting, “This is happening, this is happening…”

What’s next for you?
Well, Little Elliot received a three-book deal, so I have plenty of work cut out for me to finish the series. I’m always collecting little ideas for other books as well. I am also still doing freelance illustration and graphic design, which keeps me busy and helps pay the bills. I plan on attending the SCBWI Winter Conference in New York this coming February, so hopefully I will see you all there!

You can find Mike all over the interwebs:
www.MikeCurato.com
Facebook
Twitter: @MikeCurato
Blog
Order prints

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