Monday, May 9, 2016

Kindle Scout vs. traditional publishing

I am a traditionally published author taking my first dive into Amazon's Kindle Scout pond, and even though the water was cold at first, I'm slowly acclimating.

For those of you not familiar with Kindle Scout, here's a little blurb about the program from "Kindle Scout is reader-powered publishing for new, never-before-published books. It’s a place where readers help decide if a book gets published. Selected books will be published by Kindle Press and receive 5-year renewable terms, a $1,500 advance, 50% eBook royalty rate, easy rights reversions and featured Amazon marketing."

Just for added incentive, anyone who votes for a book that is selected gets a free copy upon publication. Pretty sweet!

So it's pretty cut and dried. The contract is simple enough that even a non-business-minded lunkhead like me can understand it. It was suggested to me by an author friend of mine who also took the plunge, and it paid off for him in a big way. I'm hoping some of that success is still floating around in the water like an amoeba  waiting to attach itself to my brain stem. 

The authors that I have met on Kindle Boards who are treading water with me have been pretty amazing in supporting me and each other so we all don't drown like a bunch of...uh...drowning people. From what I can gather, the majority are previously self-published. I tried that once, with bad results. I felt like a fish flopping around on a hot sidewalk. I decided not to do that again. So every book I have in my back-catalogue is traditionally published by small to medium-sized presses. I'm not a best-seller by any stretch, but I could definitely be considered a mid-lister. 

So, with my latest book, RED RABBIT, I changed direction slightly. Most of my books are sci-fi/horror/military thrillers usually with some type of supernatural overtones. Think James Rollins meets Dean Koontz. RED RABBIT has been labeled an occult detective thriller, more along the lines of James Patterson meets Dean Koontz. So see, Koontz is still there, but Rollins has been replaced by Patterson. Get it? It's still thrilling and it still has horror, but the sci-fi aspect is pretty much non-existent.

So that led to a lot of head-scratching on the part of publishers. "Um, yeah, the writing is great and everything but...well...huh?"

I actually did land a publisher for it, but the book was too much for them to handle and they decided to go out of business. (Okay, it wasn't because of my book, but it felt like it.) So it was back to sending the manuscript to publishers. Then, my agent decided my book was too much for her, and she decided to change professions altogether. (Okay, it wasn't because of my book, but...well, you get it.)

So here I was with no agent, no publisher, and a brand new book with no home. So my friend says, "Hey, Toby, why not submit to Kindle Scout and become fabulously wealthy and famous like me?" So I said, "I never heard of Kindle Scout." 

I looked it up and liked what I saw. It seemed like a boon for unknown authors and people like me who are traditionally published but who have a book that hasn't found a home.

Of course, there are ground rules for submitting which, if you don't follow, pretty much dooms your chances from the beginning.  You have to provide your own cover, which should be professional-grade. Nobody is going to pick up a book with a crappy cover. They ask that it be professionally edited, which means I was already ahead of the game since I went through extensive edits with my first agent. Once all that is done, you submit your book and wait for approval, which in my case took only a few hours. 

Once your book and the related info is posted on their site, the waiting begins. The campaign lasts for 30 days, during which it's up to the author to get as much traffic to the site as possible and rack up nominations. If you're lucky enough to hit the "Hot and Trending" list, which I did the first two days, then you will hopefully get noticed by the people at Kindle Press.

My friend suggested making a few posts on Facebook and leaving it at that. Well, I believe in the old saying, "Anything worth doing is worth overdoing," so I bought a Facebook ad and ran a HeadTalker campaign. The page is getting pretty steady views and my other books have even started selling again. I'm getting a ton of hits on Facebook, too, so it's all working for the best. Even if I don't get picked for publication, I'll have all those new fans from the campaign. It's a win-win in my view.

So, if the book doesn't get picked, I may either shelve it or let my agency try to sell it again. I'm already working on the sequel, plus another book in another series, so I've got some things lined up. I will keep you posted on how it all turns out.

The campaign runs until May 21, so if you feel so inclined, you can vote here:

If you want to be part of my Headtalker campaign, just sign up here:

Remember, if you vote and my book gets chosen for publication, you get a free copy! What could better than that? Okay, free money might be better. But then you would just use it to buy my book, right? Right!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Interview with Associate Literary Agent Tara Carberry of Trident Media Group

Update 4/1/16: Tara has taken a non-agent job and will be leaving TMG. I'm sorry to see her go - she did a great job for me! And no, this is not an April Fool's joke!  

I've only worked with Tara a short time (my former agent, MacKenzie Fraser-Bub, left to start her own agency), and I feel very fortunate. She's a real go-getter and a pleasure to work with. Also, being a newer agent, Tara is currently building her client list, so this is a great time to query!

Q: What led you to become an agent at Trident Media Group?

A: I earned a Masters degree in English at Columbia University, and then completed internships at Norton and Perseus Books Group before landing at Trident as a literary assistant. Having the internship experience at two very different publishers has proven incredibly valuable, but I quickly realized that being on the agency side ignited more passion and excitement for me. I was promoted to Associate Agent last year and am now enjoying the constant challenges, rewards, and surprises of growing my own client list.

Q: What are some of your favorite things about being an agent?

A: My favorite thing about being an agent is the thrill of discovering new talent. The moment when I’m reading a submission and realize, “Okay, this person can really write,” is one that makes everything worthwhile. As a new agent, I’m working with many new authors, and the shared excitement of pursing new opportunities and reaching new goals or milestones for my clients is very rewarding for me.
Q: Is it all about the writing, or do you feel that agents and writers should connect personally, as well?

A: I think it is mostly about the writing, but I wouldn’t totally discount a personal connection. As anyone with an agent can tell you, it is a very close working relationship. I’m typically in contact with my clients on a weekly if not daily basis, so at the very least it’s good to have compatible communication and general working styles.

Q: What do you like to see in a query letter? What do you not like to see?

A: Likes: A strong hook; clear, concise writing; understanding of where the book will fit in the marketplace and who the reader is; demonstrated commitment to overcoming hurdles and building a presence as an author (for example, you might be part of a writing group, have won writing awards, have an active social media account dedicated to your writing, or all of the above).

Dislikes: Queries that are too long; overconfidence (ie “This will be a #1 bestseller and a blockbuster film and you’d be a fool not to give this book a chance.”); leading with personal information and not the story synopsis; books that have already been self-published – unfortunately, unless you have massive sales numbers, the odds of a traditional publisher picking up a self-published book these days are very, very slim.

Q: How do you get most of your clients—slush pile, referrals or writers conferences?

A: All of the above plus I will sometimes approach writers myself if they are unagented or, in the case of non-fiction, seem like they have a great story to tell. 

Q: Describe some of the more outrageous things authors have done to get your attention. 

A: This happened when I was still an assistant, so it was for my boss at the time and not me, but we once had someone FedEx a hand-drawn map of their fictional world to accompany their query. It was complete with burned edges and artful rips and crinkling to make it look aged. A for effort!

Q: Are you open for submissions?

A: Absolutely!

Q: Is one time of year better than another for sending queries? 

A: No. There are times when my inbox is overflowing and it may take me longer than usual to get to each query (sorry queriers!) but I do read each one and I am grateful to receive them at all times of the year.

Q: What genres are you currently seeking?

A: I am looking for women’s fiction, thrillers, romance, horror, literary fiction and lifestyle nonfiction.

Q: Why do you feel it’s important for an author to have an agent? 

A: The publishing world requires a lot of authors today: they not only must write great books but they must understand how to connect with their audiences. It is a challenging and evolving business and, in my opinion, it is more important than ever for an author to have a knowledgeable, trustworthy agent in his or her corner. A dedicated agent allows them to not only focus on what is most important (ie, writing and growing an author platform) but also provides strategy for developing an author brand that can sustain a long career. Agents often wear many hats and, I believe, have a lot to offer authors at all stages of their careers.
Q: Where should writers send queries?

A: Submissions should go through the Trident website:

Thanks Toby!