The Acquisition Process

While I was meeting with Future Intern today, she asked what our acquisition process was like here at CBAY Books. As I sat there telling her how we did it here in Texas-Small-Press-Land, it occurred to me that others might also want to see our process.

So, in an effort to be very clear (and as an excuse to play with Microsoft Vissio), I created a flowchart of the acquisition process. You can view the PDF here.

It's all color-coded, so you can see that there is a lot that the editor does (green) and very little the author (orange) can do. There are also eleven different times you can be rejected, a minimum of five times you can be asked to rewrite -- after all that process could easily turn into an endless feedback look -- but you have to follow all the little arrows, and in order, if you want to get published.

Now, of course, this is more the Blooming Tree way than CBAY. Since it's pretty much just me, I get to be editor, editorial board, marketing and publisher all in one. But I do make P&Ls, run market analysis, and consider a manuscript's merit. On the other hand, it's just me, not several committees. If I like the manuscript, the market's promising, the numbers work, you complement my house's list, and the money's there, you're probably going to get published. Of course, it's still pretty rare that all those things align. (Particularly getting those numbers to work. Tricky little numbers.)

And these are just the steps at a small press with only 7 people. Imagine what it's like at the large houses. Hopefully, this will help you put any rejection you may have ever gotten in your writing career in perspective.

It also demonstrates just how miraculous it is that anything ever gets published.


This Week's Plan

Often in my professional life I get asked what exactly I do. So, this week, I thought I'd let everyone have a voyeuristic glimpse into an average week of a small press editor/publisher.

Here's the plan. For the rest of the week, I will generally make hourly posts updating the world of my professional activities. (I will not be informing everyone every time I hold the baby or eat or change rooms. I have not yet sunk to that level of twittering.) There will be two places that you can follow this:

or at my Twitter account, Buried Editor.

Then, I'll still do articles about editing and publishing on this site.


Weekend Discussion 10/23/09

For this week, I thought we could all brainstorm and share interesting, different, and creative ideas for release parties. Whether your book is soon to be published or you're still working on the first draft, at some point your book will come out. It's never too early to start planning for its release.

Here are some interesting things some of my authors have done:

PJ Hoover - At both of her release parties, Tricia gave away backpack tags for the kids. More unique than bookmarks, these little laminated cards clip on a kid's bag. When the kid takes the bag to school, other kids learn about the book. Sneaky.

David Michael Slater - is sending kids on a literary treasure hunt around town this year for the release of Book of Knowledge.

What are some successful things you've done at book releases? What good ideas do you have for future parties?

If you are willing to share, join us on Get Me Out of the Slushpile! for our discussion.


Tip of the Week 10/22/09

I completely forgot to post this yesterday. It seems to be true that after pregnancy your brain is never the same again. Sigh. But in keeping with this week's party theme, here's the Tip:

Tip of the Week: Practice reading your book excerpt aloud.

Although not a mandatory part of release parties, many authors choose to read a passage from their book. This is a wonderful way to expose people to your book. However, if you read in a flat monotone, your book, no matter how exciting, is going to sound flat. I have worked in the kid section through to many boring adult events where the author spoke as if his/her voice had no inflection. They could be reading about the funniest or the most tragic thing, and it all sounded the same. This is not going to encourage the random book customer who stumbles upon your event to buy your book.

I once read (I don't remember where - if anyone knows let us know in the comments) that authors should consider taking acting classes. I don't know if I'd go quite that far, but definitely practice. And if you can practice in front of kids, even better. If nothing else, you'll learn if your excerpt is too long if it can't hold the child's attention.


A Little Party Planning

I've been futzing with my camera, trying to get the video onto my computer. Since I don't have a video link here, obviously I've been unsuccessful. I fear I may have to actually read the directions. I know. Horrible.

In the meantime though, I've been thinking of some general advice when planning a release party. Here's what I've come up with:

Hold your event at your home, a bookstore, a church, or some place similar.

Hold your party at a conference center, a park, a bowling alley, or a convention center.

When you have your party, you want you and your book to be center stage. Holding your party at a very public place like a bowling alley or park can be distracting. On the other hand, if you pick a really large venue, then your party is going to look small no matter how many people come. Even with a couple hundred people at a party, it'll look tiny if the place seats thousands.

Have party favors for everyone who comes. People like to get free stuff.

Give away your book to everyone there.

It's one thing to give a copy or two as a door prize, but resist the urge to hand a free copy of your book to everyone you meet. The whole point of a release party is to give everyone you know the opportunity to purchase your book and get it signed. Besides, if you give everyone a free book, the expense is going to add up fast. And as you all know, here at Buried in the Slush Pile, we are all about doing stuff as frugally as possible. Having bookmarks, backpack tags, small posters, reading guides, etc. are great freebies. Your book or even readers of your book are not so good.



Today is party day, so I don't have time to do a long post. Hopefully I'll have some video of the party to post tonight, but I don't have anything right now.

But I do have a writing prompt for everyone. At most book release parties, there is a question and answer period, and the following question is almost always asked. So consider your own answer:

What inspired you to write your book?


Review of the Week

Normally I talk about other children's books, but this week I thought I'd tell you about a book specifically written for adults. I know. It's shocking. I've read a book for adults. But this specific book nicely works with this week's topic. I present:

A Survival Guide to Social Media and Web 2.0 Optimization
By Deltina Hay

This book covers everything from blogging to social networks and bookmarking sites. If it can be done to market your book online, this book tells you how to do it. There are all sorts of tips and techniques in this book that you can easily use to quickly enhance your web presence. And of course most of the things are free and only take minutes to create.

Another good thing about this book is that it is accessible to multiple skill levels. Whether you're a beginner that struggles with Facebook or an old pro that does your own coding, this book has something to offer. Personally, I refer to the book all the time.


Tip of the Week 10/14/09

Tip of the Week: Integrate as much of your social media as possible to save time and headaches.

Thanks to all those badges and widgets that I mentioned yesterday, you can now interconnect your blogs, websites, and various social media pages. This can save you all sorts of time.

For instance, when I push the publish button on this post, thanks to the modern miracle of widgets, this post will appear on my profile page and on the sidebar of Get Me Out of the Slush Pile!. It will also show up on my Facebook profile and on the Buried in the Slush Pile Page and on JacketFlap. And finally (if I ever get it to work) it will show up on my redesigned webpage.

Then, after I post this, I will go over to the Buried in the Slush Pile Page and add a status update. This will automatically show up on my Twitter account which will then show up on the sidebar here and on my homepage.

Neat, huh?

With minimal effort I will have created dynamic content for several sites, but I will only have to log on to two. And one of the good things about all this is (with the exception of my website) none of this integration required any knowledge of coding or html. It's all point and click. Anyone can do it.

So, go ahead and try. Save yourself the hassle of trying to post the same content multiple times. Just do it once and be done.


The Beauty of Badges

One of the nice things about social networking sites is that they all seem to come with free badges and widgets. You can use these badges to promote your site. Some of them even let you customize what you place on them or choose the colors so that your badge will coordinate with the rest of your site.

However, with so many badges and widgets from different sites to chose from, there is always the chance that you can place so many badges on your site that they become overwhelming. You don't want to clutter the sidebars of your site or blog. Too many badges are overwhelming for the reader and often leads him/her to not click on any at all. You have to be selective in the ones you choose to permanently display.

For example, on Facebook alone I have the ability to create 7 different badges -- 1 for my profile, 1 for this blog's page, 1 for CBAY Books' page, and 1 for each of CBAY's different books' pages. Now if I place all 7 of those badges on my sidebar, they would just get lost. Instead, I just placed the most relevant Facebook badge -- the one for Buried in the Slush Pile's page.

The only other widgets I have on this page's sidebar all relate directly to this blog. Remember to place your own badges sparingly as well.

Paperback Pages

In case you were wondering, I had planned on making face book pages for the CBAY paperback books too. So (insert triumphant trumpet intro here), I present the Facebook pages for The Amulet of Amon-Ra and The Secrets of the Cheese Syndicate:



Yesterday we talked about writing keyword rich text and practiced writing keyword rich bios. Today we'll discuss one of those places you can use those bios.

Now, I realize that most people are acquainted with Facebook, and that the majority of you already have profiles there. But have you considered how useful the place is for book marketing?

For starters, you can set up a page devoted to your book. I set up the following 4 pages this morning. To do all 4 pages, it took me less than 1 hour. You can see them by clicking on their badges below:

Admittedly, I just set them up this morning, so they don't have a ton of content on them yet. But you can see all the different places content can be added. And there are some great things you can do:
  1. Add your blog using the Networked Blogs app.
    Then, when you update your blog, it automatically updates on your page.
  2. Upload photos.
    You can add book covers, interior artwork, photos from events, fan art, etc.
  3. Upload video -- like book trailers.
  4. Post events.
    Let people know about release parties, contests, or other activities related to your book.
  5. Have discussions about your book.
    Fans can ask you questions about the character or possible sequels or embarrassing personal questions you can then choose to ignore.

The possibilities are almost literally endless. And once you add the badge to your blog and/or website (like I did on the right hand side), people will join the site as fans. For once, you don't have to find them, they'll find you.

And of course, the best part about all of it is that it's free.


Tell Me A Little About Yourself . . .

For the past few weeks we've been discussing tips, techniques and writing trends in children's books. But a writer's job doesn't end with the completion of the novel. Oh no. There is so much promotional writing that authors do -- especially on the internet. There's blogging, Facebook, My Space, twittering, and so many other ways to connect with your readers and other authors on the Net. This week we are going to focus on a few of these. But before we jump into the world of internet opportunities, let's discuss how to write for the web.

Now many of you may already know this, but for the internet newbies, we should discuss the importance of keywords. These are the terms people use when searching the internet. (They are also what spyders use when categorizing pages on the internet.) They are incredibly important. So, you want to write text that is "rich" in keywords. An example of a keyword would be the term "children's book."

Of course, writing rich keyword text is good, but also using the right keywords is better. Some keywords are searched more often than others. For example, the term "children's literature" was searched on Google 110,000 times last month. Not bad. But the term "children's books" was searched 450,000 times. So, in the very first sentence of this post I had a choice of using the term children's literature or children's books. Both made sense in the context of the sentence. You can see which one I chose.

Now how do you know which terms are searched the most? The easiest (and free-est) tool is Google's Adwords Keyword Tool. Type in a potential keyword, and the tool will give you the number of times it was searched as well as the rankings of other similiar terms.

And that leads us to the writing prompt for this week:

One of the great places to place rich keywords is in the biography that you fill out for all those different profile pages. So, write a 25 word and a 50 word keyword rich biography. Remember to write it in 3rd person and to make sure you mention the title of your novel if it has been published or soon to be published. Otherwise, try to pack it as full of keywords as possible. You want your name to come up on search engines even when people don't specifically search for you.

If you would like feedback on your bio, post it at Get Me Out of the Slushpile!.


Weekend Discussion 10/9/09

The discussion on the comment section of Tuesday's post about authorial intrusion got me thinking about writing trends that have gone out of style but that might deserve a resurgence.

For instance, I would love to see the return of the frame story. You know, books like the Cantebury Tales or Arabian Nights. I belive the recent adult book Hakawati does this, but I can't think of any recent children's books that do the same. I love short story collections, but stories woven together in a frame story are even better.

What bygone fictional trope would you like to see make a comeback?

Join the discussion at Get Me Out of the Slush Pile!.


Tip of the Week 10/7/09

Tip of the Week: Write the novel that's in you. Don't try to force yourself into a genre that isn't for you.

I realize that on this blog, I constantly tell people what things to write. I talk about genres that are popular and trends in publishing. We discuss different techniques and the different ways they can be used. And this is useful information to use when revising or trying to decide where to send your manuscript when you are ready to look for publishers or agents.

But, and this is a big but, none of this is remotely important when you are writing that very first draft. Then you need to write the story that is in you -- the one you need to tell. When you first sit down to that computer, typewriter, or piece of paper, you need to forget that editors want Egyptian fantasy, especially if you can't stop thinking about that teen problem novel.

After all, two of the biggest kid series in recent times -- Harry Potter & Percy Jackson -- were not written with the market in mind. In fact, when Harry Potter came out, kid fantasy was considered dead. Just think, you too might be responsible for the revival of a genre.

Remember, what's written for the heart is almost always better than what's written for the market.


Not Everything Comes Back in Style

Yesterday I wrote about the resurgence of episodic fiction in children's literature. Books like The Penderwicks and even The Graveyard Book exemplify this trend. Both books contain stand alone episodes. However they don't include some other traits found in classic kiddie lit. It turns out that not everything found in those works of bygone days is making a comeback.

For instance, omniscient narrators still don't make appearances in modern children's books. The POV these days is almost very close to the main character. Occasionally, there will be multiple points of view, but those are tricky to do well. Instead, most books use a limited narration that is so close to one character's view point, that it almost can be written in first person.

Another thing you won't find in a modern kid's book is author intrusion (or interruption if you prefer that term). In my favorite of the Narnia books, The Horse and His Boy, CS Lewis makes the following statement (badly paraphrased from memory by me): "In Calormen the children were taught to tell stories much the way English children are taught to write essays. But while people want to hear the stories, I've never met anyone who wants to read the essays."

Now, that is probably my favorite example of all time of author intrusion. It's funny, witty, charming, and horribly true. However, it has no place in a modern children's book. For one thing, it breaks the fictional dream and pulls the reader out of the story. For another, it takes the story off into a tangent. Modern books are written in a more concise, straight narrative form. Author intrusions these days just seem to stick out. I've yet to see one in a manuscript I've worked on that hasn't needed to be cut.

And finally, the various -isms -- sexism, racism, ageism, etc -- are completely unacceptable in modern literature. Gone (mercifully) are the days of perfectly PC books, but blatant or even subtle -isms that aren't in a book to specifically show how bad they are are unacceptable. And you wouldn't want to read them anyway. Reading the sexism in the original Tom Swift or the racism in the original Nancy Drew made me want to gag. Although instructive from a historical perspective of how bad it used to be, there is no need to duplicate those kinds of stereotypes today.

So remember, regardless of the type or style of book you are writing, try to avoid weird omniscient narrators, author intrusions, and -isms. The editor that has to work on your manuscript will appreciate it.


Everything Old is New Again

Now everyone knows that good writing never goes out of style. And the recent resurgence of classic writing styles and techniques would be a great example of this.

It seems that in all sorts of books these days you encounter the kind of writing that you used to only find in books like Little Women or Anne of Green Gables. I am of course referring to the return of episodic children's fiction. You know the kinds of books I'm talking about -- the ones where each chapter has its own plot structure as part of the overall plot. In these chapters the protagonist has his/her own adventure that can also act as its own stand-alone story. Sometimes the book has multiple protagonists and different chapters are devoted to his/her own individual adventures separate from the group.

Now in some ways this type of book is harder to write than the standard novel. There is the overall story arc for the book, but each episode has its own arc. And just like the overall plot, these subplots have to be satisfactorily concluded. If you have the episodes running concurrently, this can leave you with a lot of loose ends to type up in the end.

On the other hand, this kind of book can be great for those people who like to write in bursts. Each episode should generally be able to stand alone. Yes, it's part of the overall plot, but it also is complete on its own. So, the different episodes can be written at different times. In fact they can even be written as short stories. During the revision stage the stories (if they are not to different or separate in time) can be combined into an overall plot.

And so that leads us to the writing prompt for the week:
Write a 500-1000 word chapter that could be a stand alone excerpt. (In other words something that works both as a short story and as a chapter.)

Remember if you choose to participate, post your chapter directly on the site at http://buriedintheslushpile.ning.com/forum/topics/episodic-exercise.


Weekend Discussion 10/2/09

All of the CBAY books coming out this year are based on some sort of mythology. In a weird (unintentional) symmetry both paperback books -- The Amulet of Amon-Ra and The Secrets of the Cheese Syndicate -- are based on what I call inactive mythologies while the two hardcover -- The Navel of the World and The Book of Knowledge -- use active mythologies. I consider an active mythology to be the stories that modern, mainstream religions base their beliefs on.

Obviously, using an active mythology makes your book more controversial since you are working with (and often contradicting) some people's religious beliefs. What do you think about using an active mythology in a fantasy?

Go to the Buried in the Slush Pile Forum to weigh in.


Review of the Week

I took a "sick" day yesterday, so I didn't get the Tip of the Week posted. However, it was less than stellar. I occasionally lack inspiration, and this tip was a great example of that. It was "Don't limit yourself to Greco-Roman Mythology." So, instead of talking about that, I'm just going to go ahead and skip to my Review of the Week. (Insert dramatic trumpet intro here.)

The Night Tourist
By Katherine Marsh

This book is one of my favorite books to handsell. I give it to the older kids who have finished the Percy books and still want to read books based on Greek mythology. Still, I'm still surprised by the number of people who are unfamiliar with the book.

The book is an inventive retelling of the Orpheus myth set in modern New York City. Most of the Greek characters aren't mentioned by name, but the astute child reader (and pretty much every adult) picks up on them. And that's what I like about this work. All the books that I've mentioned previously this week blatantly use the mythology. In this book, it's generally more subtle. (Although one of the characters does call herself Eury - which is an abbreviation of the female in the Orpheus myth. However, the average child is not so familiar with the Orpheus myth that they can name every character. It doesn't give away as much as it does to an adult reader.)

I think writers should read both types of works - those that use the mythological characters and those that hint at mythology or use a theme or story arc without screaming, "Mythology!" Supposedly there are no new story ideas, and if that really is true, then learning to rework traditional literature, whether it's a myth or a fairy tale or a classic work of public domain literature, is one of the greatest skills an author can master.