Thursday, September 30, 2010

Author Interview with T. Marie Benchley

Today we're talking with T. Marie Benchley, author of Once Wicked Always Dead.

FQ: You appear to easily meld two seemingly opposing genres, romance and the psychological thriller in Once Wicked Always Dead. Tell us how you are able to accomplish this difficult task.

I don't develop my characters, I give birth to them. They are as real to me as you or I. They act and react amongst themselves while I record all the torrid details of their lives and just like some people's lives, theirs are filled with not only romance but scandal, sex, and betrayal. Besides all of that, if I only wrote a romance novel I would be bored to death. I enjoy getting a little down and dirty when I write. Shaking things up is much more fun for me as a writer and hopefully as well for the reader!

FQ: Molly Madison was an upper class Palma Cia Country Club diva, but her heart and soul belonged in the "Big Sky Country." Give us a brief glimpse into your psyche ... where do you feel you belong and why?

I would like to start off by saying that I have and do travel extensively. I am a firm believer that one's own life is meant to be lived and I certainly do my best at living mine to the fullest. I'm not one to just sit behind my desk pounding away at my computer all day and night; so with that being said I guess you could say that I am a chameleon. I melt into my surroundings; allowing each home or place that I visit to seep into my pores. I love bathing in its history and culture, as well as discovering the beauty of my surroundings and having a heck of a good time.

FQ: Your psychopath is so creepy, she would raise the hair on the back of anyone's neck. Statements such as "She just despised the perverts, the evil men who preyed upon the good and innocence of others; the evil types that she craved to rid from the world," will raise a few eyebrows. The character development of this villainous vigilante was amazing. What was your recipe for her? Did you pattern her after anyone we don't care to know?

I'm going to let everyone in on a little secret. I happened to have this neighbor(of course I will never disclose which one this is, as we must protect the innocence). One afternoon I was happily sitting in my writing room working on Once Wicked Always Dead, when this particular woman walked by our house wearing a superman tee shirt and began to laugh hysterically. Unfortunately for her, it was so loud and such a cackle, that I knew instantly that an evil sociopath was just born!

The superman tee shirt that she wore instantly gave me the idea to let this character view herself as a type of superhero. I began to think to myself what type of evil does she wish to rid the world of? That is when my mother instincts came into play. Evil men who prey on children! It was all downhill from there. Like I have always said "You never know where your next Idea will come from."

FQ: On another track, your dreamy cowboy, Clayton Leatherbe, was everything Molly ever seemed to want in a man. If you looked back at all the cowboys you've encountered in books and on the silver screen, who is your favorite and why?

That one is simple, it's my husband. I love the way he fills out his Wranglers and sorry girls he's taken, but lucky for you I am willing to let you all fantasize about his alter ego, Clayton Leatherbe!

FQ: Bozeman, Montana, the setting for mayhem and murder in your book, is a real live city that claims it is "The Most Liveable Place." Several people in your novel booked flights to the city for somewhat nefarious reasons. If any of your readers were to head to Bozeman for a vacation, where would they want to go and what would they do for enjoyment?

All of Montana is absolutely gorgeous country and with those massive blue skies that seem to reach out for eternity, I can certainly understand why they call it big sky country. You must fly in to Bozeman to get to Big Sky Montana and this is defiantly one of the places I would recommend for anyone who loves to ski. It is also close to Yellow Stone, which should be on everyone's bucket list! Seeley Lake and the Swan Valley is the place for us and the location we chose to build our log home. There is a chain of lakes, waterfalls, mountains, hiking, horseback riding, and rivers for rafting as well as fly fishing. Glacier National Park is less than a couple of hours away. The natural preservation of this wild land is breathtaking and the people are some of the kindest people you will ever meet. Montana is the one place where I can become one with nature while giving my mind a well deserved rest and allow my spirit to be renewed.

FQ: Obviously, you do have writing in your genes. Your cousin, Peter Benchley, was the author of the blockbuster Jaws. Once Wicked Always Dead is a stunning debut novel. Have you been practicing your craft for many years? Could you tell us about your passion for the written word?

Writing is as natural to me as sleeping and eating, and with over a hundred years of authors in my family. I definitely have had a long love affair with the written word. When I write I am able to go deep into my subconscious mind and lose myself and when I finish for the day, I feel as if I just awoke from a dream. I know it sounds strange, but I tend to go in a trance state or like a Buddha monk who meditates. Although I did write a lot when I was younger, I put it on the back burner until I was a little more seasoned with life. Having a husband, children and traveling gave me more to write about. My children are now grown and have moved on to follow their own dreams and are working within the entertainment industry. I now have the time to write my novels and will be producing one book a year for many years to come. In other words, I am here to stay, so buckle up and hang on to your hats. It's going to be a hell of a ride!

FQ: When you get a chance to browse the shelves of a bookstore, just what types of books do you find yourself taking a look at when no one is looking at you? No fibbing please ... someone might have been peering over your shoulder!

Honestly it depends on my mood. I generally have three novels on my night stand at all times! I get bored easily so I am constantly switching them up. Last book I bought and just finished reading, was Newt Gingrich Saving America. I love him and it was a great book, but I do have Jackie Collins Poor Little Bitch Girl which has been sitting right next to Newt's novel keeping it company and calling out to me "I'm next; I'm next, read me!"

FQ: Now let's just say you had Clayton over for dinner. He might like pork 'n beans with a side of dodgers, but what kind of meal would you try to impress him with? Gourmet? Homemade? Exotic?

Oh Clayton is so much more than just a beans and frank kind of guy! I would prepare Clayton Leatherbe, seared Pheasant Breast, with a tantalizing port cherry sauce that is lightly drizzled over the top, wild long grain rice and a nice bottle of Syrah. Clayton just loves his breast meat a little wild, taming it only slightly when you put it atop of an open flame! He usually has such a ravenous appetite when it comes to the main course, that there is very little room left in those jeans for desert, but when he does, he enjoys something very sweet.

FQ: The dedication in your book was beautiful and heartwarming. You briefly mentioned that your parents gave you your "gift of humor." Tell us about this gift and how you have incorporated it into your life?

I have been so blessed to have such a fun and loving family. I think it's a definite marker in the Benchley gene pool. No one ever takes themselves too seriously and laughter is a huge part of our daily lives. We just love hanging out together. I can happily say that I am a product of my environment, as well as my children.

FQ: You claim that you enjoy listening to other people's stories. Have you heard any that have made you want to tap away on your keyboard and develop into a new book? Are you tapping away on another one right now?

I am not just tapping; I am pounding away at my keyboard! I am so excited about my next book! The title is Mother Can't Be Trusted. It is once again a mystery, romance, thriller. I have taken actual events and happenings of individuals and created a fictional story! I don't want to give away any of the details yet, but I can tell you that the story begins in the Nevada Desert. It's a fast paced page turner,that will take your breath away!

To learn more about Once Wicked Always Dead please visit our website and read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

For Authors of Childrens Books

Here's a site with lots of helpful information for authors of childrens books:

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

6 Figures for "Secrets" Book

Pre-Frankfurt Buzz: Burstein Gets Six Figures in Two Deals for Newest 'Secrets' Book

In a big pre-Frankfurt deal, agent Danny Baror closed a major sale, in the U.S. and the U.K., for Dan Burstein, Arne de Keijzer, and John-Henri Holmberg's Secrets of the Tattooed Girl. Baror sold the book, in two high six-figure deals, to St. Martin's Press in the U.S. and to Weidenfeld & Nicolson in the U.K. Subtitled The Unauthorized Guide to the Stieg Larsson Trilogy, the book looks to tap into the success Burstein found with his other Secrets titles, such as his bestselling Secrets of the Code (Vanguard Press), which was a companion reader to Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code.

Baror, who runs Baror International, said he's fielding requests from a number of foreign publishers now and expects to close more foreign deals in Frankfurt. Holmberg, a Swedish author and translator who was also a close friend of Larsson's, will bring his personal connection to bear in Secrets of the Tattooed Girl, and the book will explore the historical context and themes of the novels, as well as some of the mysteries that continue to shroud Larsson's legacy, namely the question of whether there is, somewhere, an existing manuscript for a fourth book in what remains a trilogy. Baror said that Holmberg was "one of a handful of people in whom Larsson confided," and that he reviewed all three of the novels in the Larsson's trilogy when they were still in manuscript form.

Burstein said Secrets of the Tattooed Girl will examine a range of topics Larsson touches on in the novels, from violence against women to the collapse of the Swedish welfare state.

According to Baror, there are more than four million copies of the Secrets books in print, available in over 30 languages.

"Pop-Up" Stores for Borders

Borders to Open Pop-Up Stores; Adds Wireless Kobo Reader
Reprinted with permission of Publishers Weekly

After closing hundreds of stores over the last year, Borders Group announced Tuesday morning that it is jumping on one of retailing’s hottest trends—pop-up stores. Borders will open 25 seasonal Borders Express stores nationwide beginning October 25 and will operate them through January 31. A majority of the stores will be in malls where Borders has closed an outlet. The stores will average about 2,500 square feet, and will stock approximately 19,000 book, movie, and music titles with the vast majority books. Books will include bestsellers, new releases and children’s books. In addition, the stores will stock Halloween and holiday-themed items,  plush merchandise and toys as well as an assortment of e-readers and related accessories, Borders said. 

Seperately, Borders announced that it has added a new wireless Kobo e-reader to its list of digital readers. Priced at $139.99, the wireless e-reader will be available in Borders by the end of October.

E-book Debate

Agents, Publishers, Others Talk Digital Royalties and Strategy at PW Panel

At PW’s panel on e-book rights Tuesday morning held at Random House's New York headquarters, questions swirled about digital royalty rates and the place of traditional publishers in a fast-digitizing book market. While panelist Neil DeYoung, director of digital media for Hachette, and the only panelist representing a big six publisher, asserted repeatedly that the creation of digital books is a costly one for houses, other panelists, including attorney Lloyd Jassin and Paul Aiken, executive director for the Authors Guild, contested that notion with questions and, at one point, a little math.
In his opening remarks about the state of digital publishing,  DeYoung said the popular perception about e-books is that they’re solely a profit-driving force for publishers. Given their perceived low cost of production, many in the business—from agents to authors—have railed against publishers' claims that e-books, like print books, cost money to make, manufacture, and distribute. As DeYoung argued, the costs may be less visible, but they’re there, from the price of conversion (which he said ranges from “affordable to expensive”) through the cost of sustaining servers to the cost of tracking sales. In DeYoung’s phrasing, the addition of digital publishing “only makes the business more expensive.”
The notion that digital publishing is a complex cost center for publishers is, as Aiken put it, the “company line” that the big six have been touting for years. And in the name of those costs, Aiken said, publishers have essentially been cheating authors out of fair royalty rates on e-books. As Aiken explained, “With 25% of net, under the agency or publisher model, the publisher will always do better on e-book sales [than the authors].” And this, Aiken noted, gives publishers “an incentive to favor e-book sales.”
So how much better do publishers do on e-book sales? One attendee, who identified himself as working in contracts at Scholastic, asked Aiken to do the math. Aiken then did the math out loud, tallying what a publisher makes vs. what an author makes on three different formats of a frontlist title—the hardcover, the e-book edition sold through the wholesale model (which Amazon uses), and the e-book edition sold through the agency model (which Apple uses). With his math, which he walked the audience through, a publisher, on a title with a $26 list price, makes roughly $5.10 on the hardcover while the author makes $3.90. On the e-book sold through the wholesale model, the publisher brings in $9.25 while the author gets $3.25. On the e-book sold through the agency model, the publisher gets $6.38 and the author gets $2.28. (A graphic that ran in the Huffington Post displays this visually. Interestingly, though, more costs are subtracted from the publishers’ bottom line.) So with that math Aiken’s question remains the same: why should authors make less on one version of a book than another? In a fair world, authors would earn at least as much (in dollar terms) on e-book sales as on hardcover sales, Aiken said.
For Jassin, who said he thinks “the future of publishing is bright, but the future of the big six is cloudy,” the big thing he asserted that publishers should be concerned about is the copyright termination clause that many authors will be able to exercise as early as 2013. Jassin, touching on the issue of backlist books and digital rights, said that even though the dust may seem to be settling on this subject, “publishers may get these e-rights, but only for a few years.”
Agent Scott Waxman, who owns the Scott Waxman Agency, spoke briefly about his startup publishing venture, Diversion Books, which he described as an experiment, to see if there’s a way to publish titles his agency either cannot, or chooses not to, sell to publishers. Waxman said with Diversion, which is still in its infancy, he’s trying to figure out what the cost benefits of publishing certain authors is, and whether there’s a revenue stream there.
Other topics the panelists touched on ranged from the importance of publishers maintaining the print business—Aiken stressed that, despite the focus on digital, publishers need to find a way to keep brick-and-mortar bookstores and physical bookselling part of the equation—to the difficulties of breaking out new authors in a digital sales chain. Speaking to that point, Aiken said, “There’s clearly a growing demand for e-books, but it’s not clear that [with] e-books [we] can grow a diverse industry.”
Inevitably, though, the conversation looped back to that digital royalty issue. Moderator Jim Milliot’s question about what the costs for publishers actually are in creating digital books not only led to Aiken’s aforementioned math but, again, to a back-and-forth between the panelists. While DeYoung said profitability needs to be measured across all publishing formats and that a publisher’s costs can’t be measured “in a vacuum,” Aiken pressed the notion that the current digital royalty rates cannot stand. Reiterating that format should not affect royalty, Aiken said that the big houses are in effect paying off the most powerful authors—who have the ability to push the issue of the digital royalty rate—with big advances, but that a move to keep the status quo can work for only so long, with a 50% royalty rate on frontlist titles inevitable.

Related Topics and Links:

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Administrativa: The Found Goddess of Yahoo Groups

Here's another post from Barbara Ardinger, book editor extraordinaire.  First, before the article, Barbara would like to introduce her "Found Goddesses":

Finding New Goddesses

You have no doubt noticed that spiritual and religious writing is almost without exception Highly Serious. The standard-brand monotheistic holy books, mainstream metaphysics, Eastern wisdom, channeled "wisdom," books on philosophy and meditation—hardly a smile in any of it, never a giggle. "This is Deep Thought," the earnest and learned ones seem to be telling us. "Our Religion Is Nothing To Laugh At."

Why not? What on earth (or in the various heavens and hells) is so holy that we can't make fun of it? That's why I started Finding new goddesses. What are Found goddesses? They're made-up deities, goddesses who cope with issues not even dreamed of in ancient Greece or India or the northern lands. Please note that I didn't invent Found goddesses. Morgan Grey and Julia Penelope coined the idea in 1988 for their wonderful little book, Found Goddesses. Their first Found goddess was Asphalta: "Hail, Asphalta, full of grace:/ Help me find a parking space."

Now, here's Barbara's thoughts on "Administrativa":

Here is Administrativa. It’s 7 a.m. She’s sitting at her computer, parsing posts and picking the ashes out of the lentils. It’s noon. She’s still sitting at her computer, nibbling on the bread crusts the friendly doves have brought her. It’s 7 p.m. She’s still sitting at her computer, nibbling on some nice cabbage soup the friendly mice have delivered. It’s 2 a.m. She’s still sitting at her computer. The owl from down the block is fanning Administrativa’s cheeks to help keep her awake so she can do her eternal job of keeping track of what’s doing what to which group. If she looked into a magic mirror instead of at her monitor, the voice in mirror would laugh and say, “Dudette, you are majorly fair. Have an apple?

Administrativa takes her work Very Seriously. “Snip and clip,” she tells the girls in the group, “so people who get digests don’t have to read a whole month’s worth of posts just because it takes you twenty-seven day to reply to something you think you read.” She looks at the list again. “Do not forward anything from this list to any other entity on the planet,” she types. “We do not want anyone to know what we know.” She considers a thread she has been following. “Stay on topic!” she writes. “Do not post your banned Craig’s list ads on this list.” Administrativa follows all threads and reads all posts. She is seven times more attentive to her lists than those grumpy, lazy, thoughty, sleazy little men were to that sleepy little girl. Administrativa is helpful and kind and gently uses her virtual whip to keep everyone in line. She can spin the dimmest post into pure golden prose. She has a quantum brain and actually understands what everyone is writing. She is always doing cutting-edge research and is able to present new ideas for discussion.

Thank you, Administrativa. You keep our fingers happy. You explain social networking and HTML. You tell us where we can put our attachments. You share clarifications that we can collectively consider. You neatly snip away the non-text portions of our posts. You reply to our naïve questions promptly and without obfuscation. Thank you, Administrativa. You are never trivial.

Freakonimics Giveaway

Feathered Quill Book Reviews is pleased to announce an upcoming blog book giveaway of the original Freakonomics and its sister book Super Freakonomics.  This contest is in junction with the opening of  Freakonomics: The Movie scheduled for an October 1, 2010 release.  Like to learn more about these books?  Read the review of Freakonomics on our site. 

We will announce the specifics on this contest next Monday so be sure to check back!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Steve Martin Talks About His New Book

A Nice, Decent Guy: PW Talks with Steve Martin

Comedy legend Steve Martin has a new novel, An Object of Beauty, set in the New York City art world and offering a neat encapsulation of the end of an era.

This is a more cynical story that your two earlier novels, Shopgirl and The Pleasure of My Company. The protagonists in those stories, Mirabelle and Daniel, were genuinely lonely and without purpose. Isn’t the art dealer Lacey Yeager despicable by comparison?

Lacey is arguably despicable because she commits a crime, but she’s not despicable because she’s in the art trade. She has a quaint morality, a narcissistic personality. Self-centered.

You collect art, so does this story come out of your own experience?

I wanted to write about two things: the art world, and this character. And conveniently they came together. I did very little research except in my own brain. I did research the contemporary art world and interviewed some gallery owners. It’s a mystery to me the way that contemporary art galleries function.

You weren’t making a statement in this book about the craven immorality of treating beauty as a commodity?

No, not at all. I’m enamored with the art world. Anytime you look at anything that’s considered artistic, there’s a commercial world around it: the ballet, opera, any kind of music. It can’t exist without it. And certainly, my narrator, Daniel Franks, is not craven at all.

No, he’s you. So was Ray Porter in Shopgirl.

Yeah, sort of a nice, decent guy who wants to learn to write clearly.

You’re a writer, an actor, a musician. Which one do you love the best?

Whenever I engage in any one of them, I really like it. Right now I’m in banjo world so I’m really enjoying that. Thank God I have this variety of things to do. Otherwise, I’d just be doing the same old thing every day.

If you were to be remembered for only one thing, what would it be?

Geez. I would say comedy. Whatever that means. Comedy. I love comedy. That’s what got me into the arts. I don’t even know how to categorize myself anymore.

Do you have a favorite work of art? Your Raphael birdbath?

Thanks for remembering that—the subject of my first piece for the New Yorker. Every day I have a favorite work of art. It’s always different. The world is so rich with great art.

Which is your favorite city, L.A. or New York?

L.A. is my briar patch. That’s where I really grew up. Orange County. New York will always be the city of excitement and busyness. The place you’re excited to be when you land. When you land in L.A., you’re home.

But you were born in Waco, Tex.

Moved away when I was five, leaving behind a wife and two kids.

Your hair has forever been white. Are you a worrier?

It’s genetic.

WSJ's New Book Review

Messenger Opens Up About WSJ's New Book Review

When this weekend’s Wall Street Journal hits stands, those in publishing will be quickly flipping to the new stand-alone book review section, called Books, which appears in the paper’s revamped weekend edition, now named WSJ Weekend. Robert Messenger, the new editor for Books, talked with PW about what he plans on reviewing, the importance of keeping long-form book coverage intact, and how he’s not competing with the Times’s Book Review.
While the question of how many reviews Books will run week in/week out and the length of those reviews is still evolving, Messenger said he’s focused on a mix of longer essays and shorter reviews. To that end, this week’s section will open with a 2,000-word essay by James Grant on the Library of America’s new edition of writings by John Kenneth Galbraith, The Affluent Society and Other Writings, 1952-1967. While Messenger said the exact makeup of the review will change, the loose format will include a lengthy main essay in the 1,800-2,000-word range, with room for other substantive essays that can run anywhere from 900 to 1,600 words.

The inaugural Books section will be six broadsheet pages, and, though the edition will focus on a few long pieces—Messenger said likely two or three—there will be notable space dedicated to reviews. Messenger said that the section will likely cover more nonfiction than fiction, but will, as the NYTBR does, collect shorter reviews of multiple books and group them together. These groupings, Messenger said, may vary in highlighting four new books, or four recommended books. Mostly, Messenger said, he wants to “bring novels to readers’ attention.” And, while nonfiction titles will likely be handled on a peer-reviewing system—with specific books paired with someone considered knowledgeable or noteworthy in the title’s topic area—regular reviewers will handle the fiction titles. And the section will be reviewing children’s literature. Hardcovers will be the focus, but the paper will review original trade paperbacks and will look for books from independent houses.
The bestseller lists, which the Journal has traditionally run on Fridays in the Weekend Journal section, will now appear in Books. (The Weekend Journal name, incidentally, will also be dropped, and the Friday arts section will now be called Friday Journal.) Books will be running six lists: fiction, nonfiction, business, a nonfiction gainers and losers, comparisons list, and (forthcoming) e-books. The nonfiction gainers and losers list will highlight titles that have shot up the charts or precipitously fallen off. The comparison list will change and might, for example, run the top 10-selling titles in two different cities. The e-book list will not appear on Saturday but will run at some point in the near future. A spokesperson for the paper confirmed that the numbers used for the lists will continue to be provided by Nielsen BookScan, which currently provides the data for the paper’s bestseller lists.

When asked how much Books would resemble the NYTBR, Messenger said that while he’s “a big fan of the Times Book Review,” his section will be different. He said that while he’s aiming for “the same highbrow audience,” readers can expect a more dramatic mix of review lengths.  And despite the lack of advertising dollars, which has doomed most book review sections, Messenger believes it’s something readers still want. Readers, said Messenger, “are hungry for more book coverage.”

So what kind of ad support is Books drawing? The paper’s spokesperson said that five publishers have placed ads in the first week’s edition of Review (the name of the section the pull-out book review appears in). All the same, Messenger said, support is coming from management; as he put it, his section “is about servicing the reader and that message comes from the very top.”

Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday Finds

Look what came in this week at Feathered Quill!  Check back soon to read the reviews.

How to sell $15,000 worth of books in three hours

Interesting article about a psychiatry department that sold $15,000 worth of books in just three hours.  Wow!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

So You’ve Written A Book. Now What? Formatting Your Book

So You’ve Written A Book. Now What?

Formatting Your Book

In the last part of this series, we spoke about the self-editing of your manuscript, something that is essential to getting your work accepted into the first layer of publishing—the acceptance by the agents or publishers who will take you through the process. DO NOT discount this vital part of your work. Whether you hire an editor to look over your work or you do it yourself, you must remember the mantra: “The very best you can make it.” With over 300,000 books being published every year now, what is going to make yours stand up and be noticed—even accepted in the very first place?

After the internal part of your work, self-editing, there is still the designing of your cover, the writing of your backmatter and the ultimate typesetting of the book. Even more important (to readers) than the story itself, your cover and backmatter are the parts that will get the book up to the cashier. They are critical, and yet we overlook these items so often.

If you’ve looked at self-publishing companies, you will notice that most of the really inexpensive ones have a template, or several, that is to become your cover. Many of them are, in general, nice, but you must ask the question, Will this cover really show my book off to its best advantage? Does the style reflect the mystery and suspense your book is about, or the peacefulness, or the happiness? Do the colors show off the book, or do they hide it? Is the title one-size-fits-all, or can it be changed? What about the color of the text? Do they show off well against the background color or scene? Does your name stand out or get hidden? Can you get a sub-title on the cover or just the main title name? My next book is entitled “The Lesser Evil” but it really needs the sub-title, “Comes the avenger executing wrath on those who practice evil” to really set off the intrigue in people’s minds as they see it for the first time.

All of this must be looked at carefully before you say, “It’s okay.”

What about the backmatter? That’s what is on the back cover of your book. Is it just words describing the story? Does it also have a picture of you and a short biography? Or do you need the whole back cover to describe enough of the story to get people’s interest? And, who will write your backmatter—your editor or you? If you are with a traditional publisher, you will likely have a full editor and usually they do that writing. However, who has the final approval? YOU. You must make sure it says what you want it to, that the words excite you as it must a buyer. Nothing wrong with having your picture there, but do you really want it and the bio to take up space? Do you really need that space to tell about the story properly? More things to consider.

Keep in mind this extremely important aspect of putting your ultimate book together: What will buyers see when they look at the bookstore shelves? Will your book stand out or just be lost in all the color? Can people read the words on the spine of the book (because that will likely be what is standing out to them)? IF they happen to pick the book off the shelf, what will the cover tell them? Will it excite them or cause them to put it back? IF the cover keeps them looking, what will they read on the back that causes them to consider opening it and reading a few words?

And then, what will the typesetting of the book do? IF they get past the cover and the backmatter, is the type too small and scrunched together? Do the margins get lost in the edge of the book so they have to “break” it to read it? Is the type so flowery that they have trouble reading it—and put it back on the shelf? Are the lines too close together? If you have pictures or charts and graphs, are they absolutely clean and readable? Does the color of the paper match the story and can you easily read the text against it? Again so much to consider as you work to make your book “the very best you can make it.”

Don’t get so enamoured over this magnificent creation you’ve put together that you run off to publishing land without spending considerable time considering all these aspects of your book. If you use a self-publishing company, YOU will be responsible for how this all looks and how it will be received by the reading public. If you use a traditional publisher, YOU will still be responsible, ultimately, for what your book will look like. I don’t necessarily mean to fight with your publisher for “your rights” on this, but again, ultimately, YOU have to be excited about what the end result is and YOU have to approve of it. It’s YOUR book—YOUR baby—YOUR creation. “The very best you can make it.”

Next time we’ll look at the actual publishers out there. What kind are there and what will they do, or not do, for you as you walk on through this mine field. So, look for the next edition or head right into the Website and get the mini-book, So You’ve Written A Book. Now What? at

* * * * *
Jim Magwood is the author of the international mystery novel, SANCTION. You can visit him at his site, He is also the webmaster of a site dedicated to showcasing authors and their works to readers everywhere at a cost any author can afford. Visit The Author’s Inn at

E-book Sales Up

Reprinted with permission of Publishers Weekly

E-book Sales Jump 150% in July
After increasing by “only” 118% in June, e-book sales jumped 150.2%, to $40.8 million, at the 14 publishers that report e-book sales in July. Sales for the first seven months of the year were up 191%, to $219.5 million. The $40.8 million in e-book sales generated in July came within $20 million of the July sales generated by the nine mass market paperback publishers that reported results to the Association of American Publishers. The e-book gains also came in a month where all print trade segments reported a decline in sales.
In the audio market, sales of traditional audiobooks (mostly CDs) fell 35.6%, to $8.7 million, in July at the 21 reporting companies, while sales of downloadable audio rose 38.4%, to $6.6 million, from the seven companies that reported figures.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Finalists of Purple Dragonfly Book Awards Announced

CHANDLER, AZ– Judging for the first annual Purple Dragonfly Book Awards contest, which recognizes excellence in children's literature, has concluded, and a list of finalists revealed. The finalists will learn the details of which category they placed in and whether they will receive first, second or third place, or an honorable mention at or after the Arizona Authors Association Awards Banquet, which begins at 5 p.m. on Sat. Nov. 6, 2010. The event is held at the Glendale Civic Center at 5750 W. Glenn Drive in Glendale, Ariz.

One exceptional entry will win the $300 Grand Prize, while all first place entries receive $75 each. 

“Winning any place in the Purple Dragonfly Contest is a huge honor because in order to maintain the integrity of the Dragonfly Book Awards, a minimum score of 55 out of 80 must be earned for a place to be awarded to the entrant – even if it is the sole entry in a category,” explains Linda Radke, president of Five Star Publications, the sponsor of the Purple Dragonfly Book Awards. “Competition is steep, too, because there is no publication date limit as long as the book is still in print.”

The list of finalists include: God’s Promise by Maureen Moss of Ashland, OR; Chippy Chipmunk Parties in the Garden by Kathy M. Miller of New Ringgold, PA; Ramdas: The One-Eyed Turtle by Robert Goerman & Dinesh Patel of New Kensington, PA; Little Rockin’ Roger and the Magic Glass Guitar by Benjamin Moores of Manchester, England; Travels with Gannon and Wyatt: Botswana by Patti Wheeler & Keith Hemstreet of Rochester Hills, MI; Danny the Dragon by Tina Turbin of Dunedin, FL; Hey Dad! Let’s Have a Catch by Harold Theurer, Jr., Brooklyn, NY; Where Do We Go? By James F. Weinsier of Fernandina Beach, FL; Princess Sally and Prince Tommy in the Kingdom Always by Jennifer L. Gray, Ph.D. of Federal Way, WA; Roonie B. Mooney: Lost and Alone by Janan Cain of Riverside, IL; Hip Hip Hooray, It’s Monsoon Day! By Roni Capin Rivera-Ashford of Tucson, AZ; Living on Sisu: The 1913 Union Copper Strike Tragedy by Deborah K. Frontiera of Houston, TX; Morning Rain by Sheila Cayolle of Slpharetta, GA; Your Preteen Apostolate by Nicholas J. Bottesi and Michele E. Bondi of Rochester Hills, MI. Several of the finalists placed in multiple categories.

The second annual Purple Dragonfly Book Awards contest is already underway. Submissions postmarked March 1, 2011 or earlier are eligible for the Early Bird reward: a free e-copy of The Economical Guide to Self-Publishing or Promote Like a Pro: Small Budget, Big Show. Final deadline for submissions is May 1, 2011. The Royal Dragonfly Book Awards Contest has also launched with Submissions postmarked December 1, 2010 or earlier eligible for the Early Bird reward and the final deadline for submissions on February 1, 2011. For complete rules and submission forms, visit

The Purple and Royal Dragonfly Book Awards are part of the family of Five Star Dragonfly Book contests, which include the Chocolate Dragonfly Book Awards, honoring food-related publications; the Green Dragonfly Book Awards, saluting books that create awareness of the environment and eco-friendly living; and Dragonfly eBook Awards, which celebrate eBooksFor more on Five Star Dragonfly contests, access Five Star Publications can be reached at or by calling 480-940-8182.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Author Interview with Matt Williams

Today we're talking with Matt Williams, author of Jak Phoenix.

FQ: Are you a lifelong fan of science fiction? Which authors and books inspired your writing in particular?

I’ve enjoyed science fiction as long as I can remember. The thought of there being more to the universe than the day-to-day operations of our planet has always captivated me. I grew up on Star Wars and Star Trek, always craving a large helping of action and adventure with my sci-fi.

Ian Fleming, Douglas Adams and Elmore Leonard are a few of my favorite authors and I would say a healthy dose of each of their influence can be found in my writing. I started writing Jak Phoenix around the same time I was on my second run through of the original James Bond novel series, so much of the action and pacing is heavily influenced by how Ian Fleming would so expertly move the story from calm to breathless. Not an influence you’d expect in regards to a space opera novel, but I think it works. In addition, Shadows of the Empire, a Star Wars novel by Steve Perry, is one of my favorite sci-fi books. Adventurous and fast paced – right up my alley.

FQ: Where did you first get the idea for Jak Phoenix?

Jak Phoenix came about after I decided to buckle down after a night discussing story ideas with one of my best friends. I decided it was time to put my money where my mouth was and do more than talk about how we would change this or that in movies we had watched. Above all else, I wanted to write a story that I would love to read. Jak himself was the guy I wanted to see. The imperfect everyman.

FQ: Jak Phoenix is the kind of guy I think many men wish they could be, or at least, be for a day. Do you imagine yourself, at times, living out Jak's life?

I do every day. There would be positives and negatives though. The negative aspect of being Jak Phoenix would be the refusal to conform to regular society, even in the very least. In the galaxy of Azore’s Crown he’s a hero, at least among the people he associates with. In real life, the nearest equivalent would be driving around in a shabby houseboat, picking up garbage to make your living. The downside would be the poverty…the upside would be the freedom. Unfortunately, in real life you have to budge, at least a little. One of the things Jak struggles with is what to do with his life. That is something I can say I have definitely thought about more than once.

FQ: What was the most enjoyable part of writing this story? What was the hard part?

The most enjoyable part of the story was the character creation and dialog. Above all else, I wanted this to be dead on. It also became very enjoyable trying to ensure the right amount of humor was being injected at the right time without watering down the action scenes. I wanted to make sure it was funny when it needed to be, but when there was danger, it was serious business.

The hardest part was overcoming my fear of showing what I had created to others. I’ll always remember the nervousness I experienced while waiting for my fiancée to read an early version of my first chapter. Scary, but rewarding.

FQ: Is there one character with whom you identify in particular?

There is a bit of Jak in me with a mix of Baxter in there too. I gave Baxter my technology skills while Jak, for better or worse, inherited my procrastination and slacker skills. Jak’s need to make light of serious situations is something that hits home with me. Life is too short to be troubled too often.

FQ: Which one of the various villains did you most enjoy creating/writing about?

Villain-wise, I enjoyed writing about Murdock the most. Everyone has met that one person who just seems to always be one step ahead. He is smug, pretentious ad arrogant, making it easy for anyone despising those traits to find a common enemy with Jak.

FQ: Jak Phoenix is light and fun. Were you deliberately trying to avoid morals, messages, and metaphors, which are common in a lot of science fiction?

That was the goal from day one. As I started out, more humor than I expected began to creep in, but the goal had always been to take the adventurous part of a story like Star Wars and elaborate on that. In recent years my interest in sci-fi has waned due to the doom and gloom in modern stories that always need to be “dark,” and “gritty.” There is enough of that in everyday life. Other writers are doing an amazing job at this, but I’ve come to the point now where I need something more upbeat. Jak Phoenix is pure escapism and I’m proud to admit it. It’s a pulp space opera tale anyone can pick up and enjoy, even if they haven’t gone beyond Star Wars and Star Trek in their science fiction repertoire. If there is any type of message in Jak Phoenix, it is to be yourself, take things in stride and realize there is more to life than jobs.

FQ: Do you have more adventures planned for Jak?

Absolutely. I am several chapters into Jak Phoenix 2 as we speak. Book two will explore some of the repercussions for the events in the first novel while flipping things around, testing Jak’s friendships and outlook on life. Of course there will be plenty of explosions, gun battles and chases as well.

To learn more about Jak Phoenix please visit our website and read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Finds

Check out all the interesting books that came in for review this week!  Stop by Feathered Quill soon to read the reviews.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

So You’ve Written A Book. Now What? Self Editing

This is the second article in a series of articles written by Jim Magwood, author of So You’ve Written A Book. Now What? and the mystery novel, SANCTION.  (More on Jim below the article.)  As the editor-in-chief of Feathered Quill, I can tell you that Jim's advice is spot on. Editing is the single biggest problem we see with self-published books.  If you're going to spend the money to self-publish, PLEASE edit your book.  Read this column carefully!

Once you get your book into the hands of a publisher, you will get it edited (at least if your choice of publisher offers that function.) However, BEFORE it gets that far, even to ensure it DOES get that far, you must get it edited, and that will usually be done by YOU. You might hire a professional to do a major edit for you before you start sending it out, but even before you do that, you must Self-Edit. So here are the major items to look at to make your manuscript the very best it can be.

First, read all the way through your manuscript as if it was already a book using your red pencils to just make marks reminding you where to come back to. Don’t take the time to make all the corrections at this time; just mark them. Try to read through your book to get the “flow” of the work. Does it read well? Do the sentences make sense? Is it dry, dull and boring? Does a paragraph or chapter start out exciting but end strained and dull? Do you see words and sentences that just don’t make sense?

This first time through is just for you to get the feel of how the story flows and where there are obvious, major errors. What’s the “flow?” Ask yourself, Does the story go where I want it? Does it wander and twist too much? Do the conversations make sense? Are you comfortable reading the story or is it a strain sometimes to follow what’s going on? When you get to the end of the story, do you look back and say, Yes! or do you feel that it just didn’t get there?

If you have any question about how the story flows, read it out loud. We hear much different than we read, so if there are any questions, read it out loud.

Now I’m going to assume you have your work on a computer, not on typewritten or hand-written pages. If not, at all costs get it on a computer so you won’t be afraid to make changes. With a computer, changes are made in a nano-second with backup copies in case you want to go back.

So, how many times have you spell-checked? WITH the grammar checker turned on as well? Probably not enough times, so do it again – and again – and again. All an agent or publisher has to do is see ONE misspelled word and it likely goes into the circular file. That grammar checker may drive you crazy, but it’s there for a purpose, so use it.

And here’s a list to run through that covers further highlights of self-editing.

1.     Is there something in the immediate, opening sentences and paragraphs that reaches out and grabs the reader? It may not set up the full direction of the book, but there needs to be something that shocks or surprises or intrigues the reader.

2.     Who are your characters and how are they developed? Do your main characters quickly take their place in the story? Are they interesting? Does the dialogue flow to where you want it to go and is it natural? (Read it out loud to see if it sounds like a real conversation.)

3.     Does the dialogue between characters make the story flow, or does it become stilted or unnatural? If you have long pages of dialogue, descriptions or technical minutia, your reader may not get past them and into the fun or excitement you’ve created.

4.     Do the relations or situations between the characters work their way through the story and bring out agendas and conflicts or relations that keep the story moving, or do they just get confusing? Yes, you can have confusion and hidden agendas for some time, but eventually they must get resolved or the reader loses interest.

5.     For both characters and action, do you tell about them/it, or do you make it happen? Action scenes can be exciting; talking or thinking about the action can be just words. Action is action. Good writing shows or reveals things, it doesn’t just tell about them.

6.     Does the story describe events so your reader has an attachment to them? Do they “feel” it? Do they end with a mental image of your scenes? Does the story “flow” and hold the reader’s attention?

7.     Again, before you finalize your writing or your thoughts, read your story completely, OUT LOUD. If it doesn’t sound right to you, how is your reader going to feel it? Remember: “The very best we can make it.”

8.     Your ending can be anything you want. But, how many times have you read something where you said, “Okay. Same old ending.” Consider an ending that doesn’t work out just right for the heroes. The hero kisses his sweetie goodbye and steps outside—onto a land mine. End of story with that sentence. Shocking. Leave your reader crying, and screaming, “Nooooo!!!” Your reader may not agree with, or like, your ending, but they need to at least be left saying, “Man what a crazy, scary, weird (choose a word) ending. I want more of this.”

9.     Find a book or an author that has really left you panting for more and copy their work. (No, I didn’t mean copy. I really meant get your story, your ending, your style, to work the same as theirs.) Read and study what the best sellers look like, how they sound and how they’re laid out. After all, they are the best sellers.

Remember, there are some 300,000 titles published each year now. What’s going to make your work rise to the top of that list? “The very best you can make it.”

Next time we’ll look at Book Covers and the Back-matter, plus the actual formatting of your book, all subjects that can make or break your book. So, look for the next edition or head right into the Website and get the mini-book, So You’ve Written A Book. Now What? at

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Jim Magwood is the author of the international mystery novel, SANCTION. You can visit him at his site, He is also the webmaster of a site dedicated to showcasing authors and their works to readers everywhere at a cost any author can afford. Visit The Author’s Inn at