Author Archives: Jen Talty

Getting Lost in NJ on the way to Thrillerfest in NYC

I had some interesting travels this past week.

womanwalkingIt started off with some issues flying out of Rochester to LGA. I had the right dates but somehow I had booked myself from LGA to ROC instead of ROC to LGA. It happens. Not often, but it does. Now this is why I heart Delta. Because I booked it through their site on my business AMEX CARD from Delta, Howard at the Delta counter worked his magic and got to NY and back without any extra charges. How awesome is that? But this was the start of a Planes, Trains and Walking movie. The emphasis on walking. Oh, and I broke my favorite black sandals that are insanely comfortable because off all the walking I ended up doing…

Bob and I decided that since I was heading to NJ to visit with one of our contract editors that it would be a good idea for me to head across the Hudson and spend a day at Thrillerfest, so instead of driving (I don’t drive in NYC) I flew. I managed to get from LGA to Penn Station via a bus, then walked two blocks to the Path and get on the train. Of course when I got to the Path I had to pick between two trains. Well, I had to make sure I got on the right train, which I did. I even got off at the right stop. All by myself. See, I don’t generally travel alone, anywhere. If its work, I’m with Bob. If its fun, I’m with Hubby. So, this is all their fault. Just saying.

Fast forward to Friday and I had to make my way back into NYC via the train. And walking. Well, not as much walking. I managed to take the Path to 33rd and transfer to the D train and then off at 42nd and then walked in the RIGHT direction to the Grand Hyatt where I was able to get into my hotel room at 10am! When does that happen? So perhaps the travel Gods are no longer frowning on me.

I didn’t actually attend Thrillerfest, so I can’t report back on any of the panels or workshops, because I didn’t attend any, but I did sit in the lobby and meet with authors as well as one of our contacts from Amazon and also got to meet face to face (even if for a moment) our contact at iBooks.

My first meeting was with Amy Shojai, one of our authors. It was nice to see her again and we discussed our plan with her future books. I then had lunch with Laura Benedict and Rebecca Cantrell and a couple other authors as well as agent Janet Reid. It was a great lunch, chatting about publishing and other topics.

But what struck me right off the bat this year at Thrillerfest was the feeling I got the moment I started to see people was an overwhelming positive sense. And, while I know the topic of Amazon and Hachette was discussed, it wasn’t THE topic of conversation. I talked with a lot of authors who are trying different things from Kickstarter to collaborations to shorts to switching genres to writing more, writing less. Many roads to OZ.

While it had a very positive vibe, Thrillerfest is still very grounded in Traditional Publishing. Even though many authors are dipping their fingers into other possibilities, the focus is on Traditional.

There is a danger in having roots too deep in any one camp. There are both positive and negatives to both indie publishing and trad publishing. I think the hardest part for an author today is sorting through all the information and making the right decision for themselves. This is especially hard when the top 1% on both sides who are well respected in the business are giving advice that is often times the complete opposite of one another. Many of the authors I talked to at Thrillerfest are intrigued by what Bob and I are doing and the Cool Gus Business Model, but, and this is a big but, they are either doing well enough with current publisher, or stuck in contractual obligations, or simply scared to make the leap in part because they do know its not “simple”. It doesn’t matter what side of the fence you sit on, or not sit on, publishing is still undergoing some major changes and there is more to come. We can fight it all we want, but that won’t change reality. Change is required to grow.

There is a lot of misinformation being passed around the internet. And a lot of slanted information for one side or the other. It’s very hard to wade through all the blogs, news articles, blogs and posts about any and all aspects of publishing. I had a long talk at Thrillerfest with Dan from Amazon, mostly about Cool Gus and our authors, since that is my business, and that is the point. It’s a business and we all have to make business decisions. Many roads to OZ and OZ means different things to different people. But we do all have to exist and often work together in this business. Sometimes ego just has to be checked at the door.

Now, how did I break my shoes?

Thrillerfest Dinner 2014Keith Raffel was gracious and invited me out to dinner with him, Laura Benedict, Shane Gericke, Janice Gable Bashman, Karen Dionne, Rebecca Cantrell, Kieran Crowley and Julie Kramer. The dinner was filled a lot of wonderful conversations about various aspects of publishing and different ways to go about it. Also, Rebecca was up for Best eBook Original and WON! Congrats Rebecca! Dinner was on 2nd Avenue near 77th and Keith, Laura and I got this bright idea we’d walk back. Very glad we did as Keith provided a great Fire Work show (thanks Keith!) for Laura and I and also let Laura and I window shop for shoes in some very nice little shops. But, it is a long walk from 77th and 2nd to 42nd and whatever intersection that is for the Grand Hyatt hotel. Not to mention we took a slight detour to see the fireworks. Unfortunately, these long leisurely walks weren’t meant for my very favorite black sandals and the straps broke on the way up to my room and oddly, these were the only shoes I brought with me. Thankfully, I didn’t have anymore walking and got a cab to the airport in duct tape sandals.

Nothing but Good Times.

Question from Romantic Times directed toward Jen: What exactly is your work day like?

IMG_1339Lets take a step back. Bob and I were at Romantic Times last week and on Wednesday we did a workshop together titled: What a Publishing Partnership Does. Right before the workshop, Jon Fine stopped by. While we were chatting, Jon said something interesting to us when we told him what our workshop was about. “That’s interesting because I don’t really understand your partnership. I mean I do get it, but I don’t, but it works.”

Halfway through our workshop someone asked me what my work day was like. Basically, “what exactly do you do?” My knee jerk answer was, “whatever our authors need.” But I realize that’s too generic to help authors understand our partnership and why it works so well not just for Bob and I, but for Bob and I AND our authors.

I’m going to do a series of blog posts that show various aspects of what I do and how we work with our authors. Every author is in a unique position and has their own specific personal career goals. This really is key to helping any author on the THEIR personal yellow brick road to their personal OZ.

There is an enormous amount of information out there on all aspects of publishing. All of it needs to be taken with a grain of salt, including what you read here. What works for one, won’t work for someone else and everything is changing quickly its often difficult to keep up with it all. And more importantly, we can’t be experts in EVERYTHING. Not possible.

Two minds are better than one.

The Bob Mayer SamplerWhile I’m writing this, I’m also communicating with our author Janice Maynard who is working on a Janice Maynard Sampler. I’m compiling the excerpts and doing the formatting while she’s writing a personal note about each series for the reader. Once I have that, I’ll put it together and offer it free. We first tried it with the free Bob Mayer Sampler and its gotten great feedback from both people in the industry and readers. It gives readers a way to flip through an author’s entire catalog. This is a great tool, especially for someone with an extensive back and front list like Bob, Janice and Colin Falconer (I’m working on his too while he’s off researching his next Shakespearian Detective story). And that right there is the key. A writer’s job is to write. To create story. Readers consumer story.

Another thing I’m working on with Janice is her personal branding. I helped her create her website and worked with her on her “branding” plan. We’re also paying close attention to what her other publisher is doing and working on coordinating our efforts with both promotion and discoverability. While doing that, I’m working on keywords and categories with her books, matching some to her Harlequin novels and getting her in other ones. I actually spend a good hour each day just looking at keywords and categories. Because everything changes so quickly and there is less of a “standardized” system these day, it’s my job to “milk” the system, so to speak. Though you can’t really milk it, but you can play on the playground.

I’m also making a “digital” catalog of all of our titles to bring to BEA. We’ll be putting them on thumb drives along with our authors samplers, videos, slideshares, as well as some information on Cool Gus.

I then scheduled a special promo for 4 of our audio titles with a new company. What’s funny about this one is that as Bob and I went back and forth about the ads, about 4 emails into I received from him: “this is why you do this. Do what you think is best.” And I did, but honestly it took a good hour to read through the options, and because what works for one author, one genre, isn’t going to work for another, I picked different options for different audio books

I updated our Kindle Countdown Schedule and sent the information on to my team at KDP. I’m also sending them an accounting of how each countdown worked and what other promotion we scheduled.

I scheduled some promotion for our FREE sampler for Bob.

I’m uploading all our books to Google.

I’m also updated end matter for Bob as we’re going to be relaunching the Green Beret Series on all platforms soon. It’s 8 books, so really, not our entire catalog, but I create a file specific for each platform. That would take Bob a long time and he’s under deadline, so.

I also have to do that with 5 of Colin’s books. Again, not a lot of time necessarily, but he’s on deadline both with Cool Gus and with his UK publisher.

The other thing I worked on today was a proposal for Jennifer Probst and our upcoming new releases later this year. I talked with my assistant today about Jennifer’s booktrailer and slideshare that we’re doing for Beyond Me.

That’s just what I’ve done today so far. Oh wait, I sent emails from Bob and I from our meetings at RT and I’m sending emails for our meetings at BEA.

As I write this it occurs to me that some might be thinking, well, you have all that because you have a company with Authors. True. But we don’t have 100 authors with a couple of titles. We have over 100 titles with a couple of authors. Our goal to support an author’s career. To support their goals. Our goal as a company, or our mission statement, so to speak, is to help authors reach their OZ. Many yellow brick roads out there. Watch out for flying monkeys and witches who want your shoes.

Book Tasting: The Art of the Book Sampler

King, Queen, BishopBob’s post, So You Want to Make a Living Writing? 13 Harsh Truths struck some nerves with a lot of writers. There were many comments and reblogs and as #13 reminds us “Content is King.” That said, in comes little old me with the “Promotion is Queen and together they rule the publishing world.” We really should adjust that. Maybe add the notion of (keeping with the chess analogy) “SEO and all things Algorithmic is the Bishop.” These three things play a huge role in any author business. Point is, you can have great content, but if no one knows it exists, well does it exist?

Bob and I will go back and forth and back and forth for hours in email about various different aspects of these chess pieces. We recently tried taking out on-line ads with a company that places the ads in related content. I was actually surfing blogs one day and found one of our ads. Pretty cool. We tried it for a month and currently we don’t have plans to renew, not because it wasn’t effective, because it was. I have all that lovely data about click ins and click outs and time spent on each page of our website and what they did from there, but I didn’t see a direct correlation in sales on the sites that count, like Amazon. If Cool Gus were still an ecommerce site, selling our own books, this might have been much more valuable, but we’re not and anyone selling on-line knows that there is a huge cost in customer acquisition. You don’t just slap a website up on the internet and expect to have massive sales. And lets face it, everyone sells on Amazon. Heck, I bought my last MacBook Pro on Amazon. You can buy underwear on Amazon. My sister-in-law works for a company that sells tech products through Amazon.

Bob constantly calls himself a publishing whore (he’s not allowed to call me that), but essentially you must be willing to try all sorts of things both in your writing and in the business aspect of your career. The key is to remember that not everything you do will lead to sales, but much of it will have a positive impact. Also, what works for one, might not work for the other. We’ve seen people chase trends in writing as well as in business. If someone is doing XYZ, then everyone is doing XYZ. Nature of the beast. Not saying you shouldn’t, but we are saying, try something different. New. Be adventurous.

The Bob Mayer SamplerThat’s my big Segway to Book Tasting. That’s what I decided to call The Bob Mayer Sampler – a taste of 42 books. And its FREE. You can download a copy from our website, from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Google Play and coming soon to iTunes. We’ve actually done these before. We had the Science Fiction Sampler and the Thriller Sampler. The feedback we have gotten so far on The Bob Mayer Sampler has been very positive. It’s given his fans one place where they can see the order of each series. But its more than that. Bob also talks about his ideas, where they came, how he researched them and some other interesting facts. Did you know that the idea for Psychic Warrior came from when he was a Green Beret and a real, then restricted training program? Interesting stuff. Gives the reader a look at the man behind the books. A connection.

And it gives me more opportunity to push the algorithmic button and play with keywords, make fun charts and spreadsheets. You should have seen one folder I put together about a year ago for one of business meetings (yes, we have them regularly). I had all these pie charts and statistical information compiled on all sorts of things we were doing at the time and Bob just looked at me like I had 5 heads and had beamed down from Planet Crazy or something. Bob is currently rolling his eyes because he looks at this very differently than I do. I see the behind the scenes opportunity in promotion and how readers will find Bob Mayer Books and increasing the chances of new customer acquisition (I just like that word) and repeat buyers. He sees a neat way to connect with his readers and introduce them to his Factual Fiction. I see another way to have the algorithms pick up his titles. And we’re going to be working with our authors to do this for them. I think it’s a good tool. Another look inside, except the reader gets to look inside every book in one place via a download.

I also look at this book tasting as another way to promote binge reading, which is like binge TV watching and that’s important because we as a whole have changed the way we watch TV, a lot and we are changing the way we read. Remember back in the day before VCR’s and DVR’s and if you missed a show, you just missed it. Granted, not as many shows to choose from, but still, you were tied to that time. And, because gremlins do exist and they eat VCR tapes, I missed the series premiere of Who Shot JR. OMG, it was terrible! Oh, and free book to the person who names that show first in the comment section. Bob got my DH and I hooked on The Good Wife. Any show we watch, its all Bob’s fault. Just saying. Anyway, on a rainy day when the poor DH couldn’t go play golf, we watched 9 episodes in one sitting. Yep. Got to love Amazon Fire TV!

So, carrying this idea over to books. We’ve always said the best promotion is a good book. The next best promotion? Another good book. And so it goes. A reader recently contacted Bob about the sampler and how much he appreciated it because he’d just found Nightstalkers and knew he’d read some of Area 51 but hadn’t read all 9. Anyway, he could figure out what he read, and hadn’t read, and go to town because what do readers do when they find a book/author they like? They go looking for more books. But again, that’s another thing that has changed. The way readers find us. And it is harder. How do readers find authors? A recommend from a friend. A review on Goodreads. A search on the internet for Area 51, Atlantis, Green Beret, Yellow Labs, whatever. Or maybe a Librarian or a book blogger. So, what is your favorite book or series?

Nothing but good times.

Protect The Work by @jenniferprobst

Please welcome NY Times Bestselling author and Cool Gus Team Member Jennifer Probst. Take it away Jen Squared!

* * *

I’ve been thinking about a term Susan Elisabeth Phillips – one of my all time fave authors – used in one of her RWA workshops that’s been resonating with me lately.

Protect the work.

This meant different things at various times in my career. In the beginning, it meant make time to write. Between household chores and a full time job and a demanding family life, I needed to make sure I set aside time to write and follow my dream. That was hard enough.

As I became published, it meant make sure I kept writing. Stay away from consistent social media demands that keep you from completing the next book. Look for balance between trying to build a career yet keeping productivity and quality up.

When I hit the Times list, and I gained more readers and success, it meant something else. Protect the work from consistent career stress and self doubt. One day your books are the hottest thing on the market and there’s money, and bestseller lists, and lots of people who want to be your friends. When your book slides, and doesn’t sell as much as originally thought, well, there’s less noise and a lot more self doubt. Many times I would be deep into my writing, loving my story, and come face to face with a scathing review, or discover my new book is tanking, or general sales are lower than anticipated, and the book I’m working on and once loved suddenly goes flat. I’m worried about pre orders, and PR and marketing and sales. Not my new book.

Sometimes it takes me a while to get out of the hole. Eventually, after a brief panic attack, time lost on the computer frantically trying to be proactive, moaning to my husband my career is tanking, fighting the endless voices of negativity, I hear a tiny whisper in my ear.

Protect the work.

Maybe it’s my muse. Maybe my survival instinct. Maybe my soul. Doesn’t matter.

You see, it really is all about the book. Writing a good story. A story that satisfies the soul of a reader and the writer.

Isn’t that always the goal? Money is good. Success is satisfying. Lots of followers on twitters, and good reviews, and Facebook messages that stroke my ego is awesome.

But the best part of the job and the only thing that helps me sleep at night is knowing I wrote a great book. The rest, in a way, doesn’t matter. Not in the big picture.

Sure, networking and doing your job to help build success and gain readership is important. It’s part of the package. But it’s not the end game.

In the end, everything is about the book.

Write a great book and they will come. Keep writing great books and more will show up.

Eventually.

Clear the mechanism.

Protect the work.

* * *

You can pre-order Jennifer’s latest release here.

 

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