Friday, September 19, 2008

Do You Twitter?

So I'm trying to figure this twitter thing out - if it's worth it, what it actually does...why it makes me feel about 100 years old? Do any of you guys out there twitter? If so, why? Is it more valuable as a marketing tool than straight blogging? And is it more fun as a social network than Facebook?

I'm intrigued...but also baffled.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Yes, Reviews Do Matter

I posted this question a while back: do reviews actually matter or are book sales based on something else - co-op space at the front of the store (yes, definitely) and word-of-mouth (also, yes definitely). But I wasn't sure, really, if reviews mattered that much. In fact, I'd spoken to my team at RH, and they weren't sure so much either. No, let me amend that. They were certain that some reviews, such as in People or EW, mattered, as well as some of the other biggies, like O and Elle and the NY Times, but beyond that, no one felt strongly that a magazine review, for example, could make or break a book.

Well, it's been interesting. Because, as of now, reviews for Time of My Life certainly DO seem to have mattered. The book's pre-release sales are very strong, and I can only think this is due to the mentions in this month's magazines: Redbook, Cosmo, Family Circle and Hallmark. But what's interesting is that The Department had similar reviews - in Redbook, Cosmo and Marie Claire - but it didn't seem to sell nearly as well. (And let's hope that I'm not jinxing myself once the book actually comes out!) :) So I'm not really sure what the difference is. Maybe it's that reviews matter but only if it's a universal theme that really appeals to readers. Cancer is a tough sell, and maybe even the most glowing reviews in every magazine (short of perhaps, People, which can completely make or break a book) wouldn't have skyrocketed it to the best-seller list.

Maybe what matters is reviews, yes, but also something intangible - the excitement about a book that then spreads via both reviews and word of mouth and across the blogosphere and onward. I don't know. I'm just sort of rambling, spitting out what I'm thinking. It's sort of baffling, to be honest, and it leaves you both excited and nervous because really, who's to say how a book becomes a BIG book? Authors out there, do you know what I'm talking about? It's almost as if any book could become a big book, and certainly, yours has as much a chance as any, but you have to pinpoint that right mix of what people are looking for, as well as that right mix of publicity and awareness to make readers want to buy it.

Hmmm. It's interesting fodder. At least for me. :) As far as whether or not reviews matter, I'll be honest: I read commercial books, so I do read the reviews in both People and EW, oh, and also in Elle. Other than that - well, maybe in Glamour too - I'm not too easily swayed. What about you guys? (I know that there are some literary types on here who definitely pore over the NY Times Book Review, right?)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I'm Storked!

Yes, two posts in one day! I wanted to put up a note about one of Glamour's blogs called Storked, which has a shout-out to Time of My Life today, but also is a great place for moms-to-be or moms who want a little commiseration. (What? Like you don't occasionally need to commiserate? Come on!) :)

While you're there, click on Vitamin G, which is a blog run by my pal, Sarah Jio. Sarah was a freelance writer just like so many of us (actually, she still is!, I don't know why I wrote that in the past tense), and landed the fabu job of running the blog...which is sort like a freelancing home-run: all the perks of freelancing but with a steady stream of assignments from one of the best magazines out there. Anyway, Vitamin G is the place to head for all sorts of health-related news, tips, ideas and articles, so be sure to check it out and add it to your favorites! The beauty of these blogs is that they're updated several times a day, so whenever you're ready to procrastinate, there's something new there to be read. :)

I've been a Glamour subscriber for literally over a decade (yikes, I'm old), and I love that I can get a dose of their sharp writing and fresh wit on a daily basis.

(Now don't forget to keep reading to today's other post...and then scroll back up to click on Storked and Vitamin G!)

If You Fire Up a Pack of Writers...

...this is what they can accomplish.

As a follow-up to last week's post about Lori Hall Steele, I am THRILLED to say that since we started our "everyone give $25" campaign, we have raised over $17,000!!!! (This includes a $5000 grant that she received from ASJA.) Not only will this provide peace of mind for Lori that she can stop focusing on losing her house and start focusing on her health, but it will also start to help pay her medical bills. And we're not done yet: this is part of a larger initiative to help her with her bills.

All of this goes to show that even if you don't know Lori, even if you've never been affected by such perilous circumstances, even if you've never been in debt or been in poor health or wondered how you would cope if tragedy strikes, as a freelancer, you are part of a larger community who will help cushion the fall if you take one. Often times, it doesn't feel this way. We lead, in many ways, solitary existences: we don't have office buddies, we don't have support staffs. We have ourselves, our ideas, and our computers. We can measure our success against others, but really, we hope to measure our success against ourselves, and in the grand scheme of of things, it's easy to feel pretty small, a blip sitting alone in your home office, wondering if this is an endless uphill battle.

But what Lori's situation has shown us, I hope, is that we're not alone, we're not isolated blips surrounded by the melancholy of our own shadows. We are, in many ways, in this together - an idea that I've long espoused here on Ask Allison - and I'm truly grateful to all of you who have contributed questions, blog comments, support for my books, and especially, to Lori's cause. If you ever feel like this career is too lonely or too isolating, consider what we've all done for her (and she for us), and know that you really are part of something bigger, even if it doesn't feel this way every moment of every day.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Is an Agent Worth It?

Question of the day: I am seeking representation for my first novel. I have three agents considering it, and in the meantime have discovered that "a friend of a friend" has a connection with a large publisher in my genre. Based on my friend's recommendation, the person with the connection has offered to make an introduction. Not currently having an agent to guide me through these waters, I'm a little nervous. Any advice? I don’t want to pass up an opportunity, but also don’t want to do anything that might jeopardize getting an agent. Thanks very much.

Congratulations on all of your success thus far! It sounds like you have several lines in the water, and that's always the best place to be.

My very specific advice, in this situation, is to take advantage of the introduction because, hey, it's not going to hurt you to know more well-connected people in the business, but at the same time, keep very actively pursuing an agent. Here's why: even if this publishing house does make you an offer, you should have an agent in your corner to look over the contract, renegotiate the terms and yes, take it to other houses. Because why would you settle for one offer when you could have multiple offers? Further, the chances of this actually panning out with this house aren't so, so high. That's not meant to be disparaging, it's just honest: the vetting process at publishers is tough - a lot of people have to read your ms and nearly all of them not only have to like it, but agree that it can be marketed and sell to whatever demographic they deem fit, and it's not easy. So even if the editor at this house loves it, that doesn't mean that it will sail all the way through to an offer.

So why not keep working at it from all ends? (That's what she said. Er, sorry! I couldn't help myself: I'm dying for The Office to return!) A good agent will do more for you than just take your ms out to editors and houses. A good agent will protect you from bad offers, make better ones for you, steer you toward editors who will be good matches, advocate on your behalf on everything from good cover art to more in-store co-op, and everything in between. And yes, of course, you can take this offer to an agent once you have it in your lap, but in the meantime, I'd keep plugging away. It's always better to have more options than fewer, right?

Readers, what say you? Would you advise her differently?