Micropress ViewPoint

Tired of Summer?

Entry posted on: August 9th, 2011 by annette
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It’s summer in Wyoming. We complain all winter of the cold and look forward to the summer months when we can spend more time outside and less bundled up. We long for the freedom of single layers of clothing, bare feet and sandals and packing away the down comforters. Summer comes and we complain of the heat and the mosquitoes! The freedom of lighter clothing is great but it offers more target area to those mosquitoes and now it’s too hot to sleep! Rosanne Rosannadanna was right…it’s always something!

I whinge about the heat (sorry, the last 3 novels I’ve read were British!) like everyone else. The poor folks at our little post office (fortunately not one scheduled for closing!) have suffered more than a month with lack of air conditioning since their system went down, and are forced to wait for a service man to travel this far to repair it. And of course there’s no way to leave the windows open at night to cool down the building as those of us without AC do at home. By contrast, last winter one of the women at the post office mentioned that when she came in to work one morning it was 30 below outside and 70 inside, a 100 degree temperature difference! As I said, “it’s always something.”

We were fortunate this year and had a beautiful and unusually long spring, one that caused some of us gardeners to wonder if our veggies were ever going to get growing in the cool temperatures. (still, we loved the treat of mild temperatures!)

Somehow this weather has been good for my chili crop, so far the plants are bigger than they’ve been in 4 years and I look forward to a good harvest and a kitchen smelling of green chili in the fall as the freezer fills to tide me through the winter. You can take the girl out of Santa Fe but you can’t take Santa Fe out of the girl! And while my chilies and tomatoes are doing well, my neighbor across the street, a much more prolific gardener than I am, complains that her veggies aren’t doing much.

So the chilies are loving the heat, me…not so much. I’ve recently decided I’d like to live somewhere where the temp ranges between 20 and 80. While there must be a few places like that (maybe in the South Pacific…and I doubt it get’s below 50 out there!) there is another requirement that renders the possibilities moot: No humidity.

I’ve lived in the dry “square” states (Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming) for many many years now and cannot tolerate humidity. I was born in Virginia but moved to LA when I was 11 and grew up with beaches and smog and mild temperatures. I hated the lack of seasons and the air that was so thick not only could you not see through it, it now feels to me—my high-and-dry-plains self—as though it requires chewing. The smog, I hear, has improved. And there are many many great things about southern California, but I could never live there again.

I’ve gotten used to living far away from everything, even if it means driving 50 miles to a larger grocery store, Walmart and the nearest movie theater (I tend to wait for cable of NetFlix these days!) or 140 miles to box stores and small shopping centers, the multi-plexes and live music and theater. I like the simple life in a small town where most things I really NEED are within walking distance. (The things I WANT are, for the most part, available online!)

I miss the arts community and being around creative people, liberals who enjoy trying on different ideas for size and who want to share their experiences. That’s the most limiting thing for me in this part of the world, and I do miss it. It’s a trade off. If I can manage to travel a couple of times a year it seems to be enough, and I look forward to that again when the economy finally recovers.

Meanwhile, we work on the new website and I’m suddenly in the middle of 4 book projects, all to be done before the end of the year. When I need a break from the computer screen I go outside and water the chilies!

Enjoy your summer…the holidays will be here before we know it, even though I wish it was fall all year round!

What are you reading?

Where’s My Vacation Read?

Entry posted on: June 30th, 2011 by annette
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Maybe more important, where’s my vacation? Alas, no rest for the weary…

Whew! What turned out to be my “Self Publishing 101” blogs are finally over. Are you relieved? I know I am! Of course I now have to scrounge around for a topic and there are a lot to choose from when it comes to publishing-related things whirling around in my head.

The economic situation has been hard on everyone, workers and business people alike. And particularly hard on publishers of all sizes, if the conference call I was on last week is any indication! Everything is shifting and the fluidity of the marketing spectrum has confused all of us, I think.

Personally, I was hoping the recession would turn more people to reading but now, if both sales and the readers I talk to are any indication, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Many of my friends—which, by the way, include several librarians—tell me they’re just having a hard time finding books they can really get into. And it seems to be less a problem of available material than one of focus. I know it certainly is for me.

I usually read a couple of books a month beyond all the manuscripts I read for work. Sadly, that hasn’t happened since the beginning of the year. For the first time in many years I haven’t been able to find a book to dive into that allows me to immerse myself in the experience. There are almost 200 books on my “to-be-read” shelf (plus a few waiting on my Kindle!) and though I have probably started at least a dozen of them, I haven’t stuck with a one, something very unusual for me. It’s rare I start a book and don’t keep reading.

Many of my very favorite authors are waiting for my attention—Pat Conroy is there and Margaret Atwood. Elizabeth Cunningham is there, too, and I’ve always found myself immediately captivated by her work. There are several historical novels I was anxious to read when I bought them, yet they languish along with three memoirs and even a few non-fiction titles that enticed me in the beginning. They all wait, and not without subtle accusations of neglect.

You know, it’s embarrassing to admit, but I haven’t read the Harry Potter books yet. (I HAVE seen all the movies!) My friends love them and from the movies I can tell how brilliant they are. I started the original book when it came out. In those first minutes I found the meter annoying for some reason and quit. Haven’t picked them up since and maybe that would be something to try right now. A whole series to read through, which ought to keep the personal enjoyment part of my mind occupied for the summer.

I miss it, that joy of escape and involvement which creates a mini-vacation from the real world and allows your brain to completely shift into another reality, whether it be Dragon Tattoos, Hunger Games, or the “real” story behind Rumpelstiltskin. Where is the big “summer novel” I can lose myself in? I’m sure it’s out there, but I suspect that even if it were waiting on my Kindle, I wouldn’t be switching it on.

Meanwhile, I slog through manuscripts, red pen in hand and wonder what people think when they write these things and supposedly get them ready for a publisher. And I only agree to look at manuscripts that sound interesting and demonstrate some degree of writing ability through the samples. Sad to say that most don’t come through on their initial promise. I don’t know if it’s the result of instilling too much self esteem in a generation that has this sense of entitlement, i.e. I write therefore I should be published.

I even received a book in the mail the other day that the author had self-published. She informed me via email that she’d sent it. She hadn’t sold many and now wants me to publish it. She obviously hadn’t bothered to check the website and learn that we don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts. She never bothered to query. And I’m not sure why She thinks I could sell her book if she can’t. Still, every once in awhile that diamond in the rough emerges and keeps me going!

Dare I say that I have some writing I want to do myself? I’m about a third of the way through a novel I started quite awhile ago and long to get back to. I’m contemplating releasing it a chapter at a time through the website for those interested in following a work in progress. I figure forcing myself to a deadline to make new chapters available will get me writing again and I’d enjoy some comments from readers as it goes along. Look for that when the new website is up in the coming weeks.

I have been doing a little editing on my French novel, BEYOND THE WORLD, trying to pare it down just a bit before the digital and hardback versions are published. I confess I’ve really enjoyed that process since that book is so close to my heart. It’s unfortunate that Amazon could never manage to get it to come up by title (despite many, MANY MANY complaints on my part!). Barnes & Noble made the correction in 24 hours, yet Amazon remains deaf to my pleas. It will only pop up on a search by by my name…and who can spell that? Perhaps I should re-release it under another title, since so few people have found it as is.

I wonder if the stress of day to day life is having an effect on our concentration. SOMETHING is certainly affecting mine and my friends share my complaint. Time feels like it’s speeding up. Things seem to be changing so fast it’s hard to keep up. Rising gas prices and food prices, natural disasters affecting people in our country and all over the planet, jobs, the economy… We’re trying to juggle things on so many different levels and I know that—for me at least—I seem to be having trouble keeping so many balls in the air. Half of them could simply vanish and I’m not sure I’d even notice. (I might even be relieved!)

I think we could all use a really good book to curl up and relax with! We need to take those little mini-vacations as often as possible so we can return to the real world refreshed and destressed!

I shall make another attempt tonight! I’ll try Harry first and if he fails, I might attempt to fall back into JANE EYRE. And by the way, if you haven’t read Jane since some teacher forced you to in school, give her another shot. It’s a real page turner and there’s a new movie version due out sometime this year. I’m not the only one who has and will be rediscovering her story!

So now, tell me, what are you reading?

Publishing 101 – Part 4 – Now What?

Entry posted on: June 13th, 2011 by annette
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So, here you are, a published author! It’s time to congratulate yourself on getting your book published. I know what a thrill it is to actually hold the book in your hand in which you’ve invested so much love and hard work. It’s such fun to give copies to friends and family, the people who have supported you though the process. (You’ll be really surprised how long it will take some of them to get around to reading it!) So take a moment to bask in the warmth of that feeling of success. Enjoy it!

Alas, there’s more work to be done. What? More? After all the blood sweat and tears, the effort, time and frustration the actual writing cost you, not to mention the harrowing trip to publication, how can there be more?

Consider your journey: Undaunted by the seemingly impenetrable walls of the Great Courtyard of Publishing, you found your way around those walls via the danger filled back alleys that teem with predators anxious to take advantage of an author. With a lot of dedication you found people you could work with and, at long last, you reached the end of that irritating wall. Now you find yourself in the Marketplace.

And what a Marketplace it is! Everywhere you look people are selling books! Books everywhere! There are brick and mortar stores—big chains and corner independent booksellers. There are books on the shelves in gift shops, truck stops, chambers of commerce, convenience stores, grocery stores, superstores, hospitals…they’re everywhere! And online sources seem endless. Tons of specialty sellers can also be found online who focus on particular genres such as vampires or mysteries.

If your head’s spinning, sit down with a café mocha and take a deep breath while I tell you I’ve always found that discovering effective methods for getting the word out about your book is the most difficult part of the process. Even as a small press,( or maybe particularly as a small press!) it has been a struggle to get our titles noticed.

The way books are marketed today is fluid and changing faster than you can imagine for everyone from the top down. As we all scramble to exploit the internet, social media, and Twitter it’s becoming more a matter of “word of mouth” (or text on a digital page) than ever before.

Some of you may be old enough to remember a favorite bookstore with knowledgeable employees who had actually read some of the books they sold, had a genuine love of reading and were happy to talk about books and recommend things you might be interested in. While that level of customer service is very hard to fine these days, the gauntlet has been picked up by Amazon. Have you noticed the amount of email their customers receive these days with recommendations? And when you pull up any title on their website you will get the box with “People who bought this book also bought…”

The reviews from Amazon customers are becoming more sophisticated and some are developing their own following. Customers also receive emails recommending books (and movies and products) based on past purchases. And I admit Amazon seems to be pretty good at this if what they recommend to me is any indication!

Many people set up websites for themselves as authors or for their book itself. If you do this you will have to continue to update your site in some way that will encourage people to return to see what’s new.

Book bloggers and online reviewers are springing up all over the net to fill the void left by many newspapers and magazines who have stopped reviewing. (I suspect the volume of submissions became too overwhelming with the explosion of new titles and they just didn’t want to deal with it anymore!)

New websites for book lovers are popping up along the lines of Shelfari where readers can rate and discuss the books they’re read and can sometimes even get free pre-publication copies from publishers when they agree to review them.

Facebook has become a way to get the word out when you have a new book, but will only be valuable if you have cast a wide net of “friends,” and if you spend a lot of time regularly posting to keep people interested. You can set up a page there for your book but you need to convince others to “Like” it. And again, you will have to “work” it regularly.

Twitter can be valuable if you have followers or can acquire some. I admit I’m only just starting to delve into this so can’t give you any suggestions based on experience at this point.

The online promotional possibilities are exploding and no one (that I can see) has a sure fire solution yet. Everything is very experimental at this point. The bottom line is figuring out how to reach people who have a interest in what you’re offering, and that is a very old key to successful advertising.

There are also the traditional routes of acquiring media exposure on radio and TV and the new venue of YouTube. You need interviews, press releases—any coverage you can manage to get the word out. You can do book signings at bookstores and other venues such as libraries, book clubs, reading groups, writers groups and organizations. Many smaller and diverse groups are happy to have an author come and speak.

From the practical side, if you intend to sell some of books yourself, you will need to get a sales tax license from your state and report regularly and remit the taxes you’ve collected. If you don’t have distribution for your books you will need to set up billing and invoicing to the retailers who buy from you. If you are working on your own with distributors, be sure you understand your contracts and that you stay on top of them to get paid.

Well, that seems to be the end of this mini course of self publishing. I wish I had a solid multi-step program you can follow to success but, unfortunately for all of us, it just doesn’t work that way. Like the rest of us, you will just have to step out onto the marketing path and see what you can learn. Work hard and you’ll find a path that works for you book! And don’t forget to enjoy the trip!

Publishing 101 – Part 3 – Becoming Your Own Publisher and Going All the Way!

Entry posted on: May 2nd, 2011 by annette
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This time around I’ll continue sharing information on self-publishing. Some of you may be wondering why I would give away this “secret” information and help people cut publishers out of the book supply chain and take their books direct to the customers. Isn’t that a threat to my own business? The answer, of course, is no. There are “too many books and too little time” for publishers, just as there are for readers. As previously discussed, most new books these days are self-published. Aren’t those books in and of themselves competition to Pronghorn Press titles? Again, no. Just as Eat, Pray, Love is not in competition with Harry Potter, your book is not in competition with Pronghorn’s titles. Even books on the same subject—say a biography of George Washington—will stand (or fall!) on their own merits and the readers’ feelings about the information they contain. One scholar might favor one author over another, while a lay-reader might feel differently.

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Publishing 101 – Part 2 – Why Do You Want to Publish?

Entry posted on: March 28th, 2011 by annette
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We left our befuddled author standing before the imposing gates to the Great Courtyard of Publishing and wondering how to gain admittance. Since then she’s spent a great deal of time with queries to agents and publishers and is disappointed by the responses—the very few she’s received for her many attempts. She can’t seem to find a wedge to open that gate and have someone seriously consider her work. So now she is ready to think about self-publishing.

The array of reasons for wanting to publish remains the same for most writers. Most dream of that big advance that will allow them a chance to write full-time. Most have spent years trying to work their writing into a schedule with the work that actually pays the bills. They long for writing to pay the bills so it IS their work and so they can write all those things that have been swimming around in their heads for a very long time. Oh, to have the opportunity to get them down on paper (or into the computer!) while still keeping a roof over their heads!

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Publishing 101 – Part 1 – The Writing Life

Entry posted on: March 3rd, 2011 by annette
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Yes, I stole the title of this blog from one of my favorite Annie Dillard books, but it suits my topic and Dillard fans may smile!

So…I’ve been thinking this week about the challenges writers are confronted with every day. I’m a writer myself and my biggest challenge is finding time to write as I scramble to keep Pronghorn Press moving forward in this mystifying market.

But for most writers I think the actual writing (and finding time to do it) is the easy part of the equation where—when all the variables fall into line—ends with a sum of success. Don’t get me wrong. I know many writers struggle for ideas, for ways to express them, through many revisions and endless questions about characters, plots and decisions that tie them all together. But once that painful process is complete—and it may take years as many of us know—once a writer is satisfied with what she’s created, she then finds herself standing before the formidable fortress of publishing which is surrounded by a high wall. It’s a wall many of us visualize as always in the construction phase, adding height, brick by brick!

The wall is thicker than writers can begin to imagine when standing on the outside for the first time and there are very few entrances to the “courtyard of consideration.” I liken it to the structure of any ancient monarchy: a series of minor bureaucrats whose notice you must somehow attract in order to work your way up to someone with the power to assist you. Come to think of it, this seems to be the business model these days in many areas of commerce. Have you noticed? Everything from computer troubleshooting, to online ordering, to your local shopping center seems to have adopted this method.

But I digress.

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By Way of Introduction…

Entry posted on: January 25th, 2011 by annette
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It’s difficult to decide where to begin this blog. As I’m dragged kicking and screaming into the digital age, I recognize it as a necessity, but I can’t quite bring the bigger picture into focus. I’m unclear about who might be interested in my thoughts from the lower end of the publishing industry. Google-ing the definition of micropress it says: “a publisher that produces chapbooks and other small books on a very small scale” and yet the publishing group I belong to defines micropress as “publishing less than 25 new titles a year.” Apparently before I even begin I’m in the middle of an identity crisis!

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