QueryTracker Blog

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Heroic Journey of Every Writer: Part Two

By Martina Boone @4YALit
Today, we continue the journey from where we left off on Monday. Following the dreaded rejection.


But there's a hidden treasure in every rejection, a measure of achievement. We have tried. We have succeeded at putting ourselves out there. And we are learning that being creative requires us to face rejection. We are preparing ourselves for years of rejection yet to come. Rejection by agents. Rejection by editors. Rejection by acquisitions boards. Rejection by reviewers. By readers.

Art is subjective. Not every agent is going to love our work, and when we submit our first book, or our second, or third, or sixth, we may discover that it's still meeting with rejection. But maybe, maybe, instead of a form rejection, if we keep battling, we glean a piece of knowledge that points us in the right direction. We learn what we are good at writing. Do we have a great voice? A way with description? A facility with rhythm? Plot? Characterization? And we learn what work we have yet to do, all the elements of writing where we need improvement. We discover that rejection can be energizing, and we realize that we stand on the brink of a landscape that is only just opening up before us.


Having come through the initial battle, we must now regroup. We pull out the craft books. We dig deeper. We seek more experienced mentors. We attend different kinds of writing conferences—conferences focused on craft instead of sales. We read more fiction than we have ever read before, and we begin to read it in a different way, critically, not to find fault, but to peer beyond the curtain of story to examine the motions and machinations of the wizard. Now we are determined to complete the journey and come home with an agent and a book deal. We can smell success… Our mentors can smell it on us. (And yes, this is often the point where we do find ourselves wearing the same pajamas the entire weekend and feeding our families cold, leftover pizza for breakfast on Sunday morning.)


The faster we race toward that finish line, the more painful it is to trip and fall. And we will go splat at some point. Getting a Revise and Resubmit on a manuscript may make us believe we are almost there. Or at least that the next manuscript will surely be an easy sell. After all, this time, we've done everything right. We've plotted. We've schemed and themed. We know (and like) our characters better than our siblings and in-laws. (At least some of them.) We would like to move out of our current homes and take up residence in our storybook settings. And yet. And yet. When it comes down to it, we may be close and still not close enough.

At the climax of our writer's journey, we are going to be tested again, usually when we think we can see a champagne bottle set out on the table. That's the moment when we stumble and go down. We fail. Again.

At that moment, while we're lying curled in a fetal position on the cold cobblestones and whimpering for chocolate, the thought of picking ourselves up and trying again seems like more heartbreak than we can bear. Another round of revisions? Another unagented manuscript? Another unsold book? Or one that's published but undersells or underperforms our hopes? It's all useless anyway. What's the point? We can't DO this anymore. We can't keep spending a year or more writing a manuscript, pouring ourselves into the pages, only to fail again.

But wait. This—yes, THIS—this exact moment, is our defining moment! Our darkest moment. Our long night of the soul.

Everything we create comes from within us. By sharing it with the world, we lay ourselves naked for judgment and ridicule. That's painful. It's hard. It's our battle. Sometimes it can feel as if death would be easier. Certainly, it's easier to give up.

As Walter Smith put it, "Writing is easy. You just sit down at the typewriter, open a vein, and bleed it out drop by drop."

It is also worth remembering that writing fiction is both a selfish and selfless endeavor. We write to communicate. The human spirit aches to share experiences. There are readers out there hungry to escape or enhance their own lives. And they may be struggling with a problem they will solve through or during the reading of a book. They may be searching for just the thought, the sentence, or idea, or emotion that we have labored over within the pages of the book we've written.

The moments of communion when a reader feels a book was written just for them—we've all felt like this when reading, right?—is what lets a book live on and grow beyond us. It's the elixir we are all hoping to find and bring back. The writer's holy grail. The lucky few writers who achieve a communion like that leave behind a legacy. And doesn’t that deserve a battle? Aren't we willing to fight for it? Aren't we willing to keep learning to achieve it, fighting to achieve it—because, yes, we will have to keep fighting, fighting harder, with every new manuscript we begin.

If we want, need, that elixir, we will pick ourselves up after that long night of the soul.

We will be reborn into a world that's very much bigger even than the one that we believed we had found. We finally know how very little we actually know, and we see the breadth of what we have yet to learn. That in itself is staggering. But we are committed to a lifetime of learning, experimenting, reaching. We are strengthened by our successes and our failures, and in the act of pushing past our dark moment, we finally break through that dark veil of doubt that held us back from writing in the first place. The turmoil in which we began is finally resolved, our wound is healed at last.


We return to our families and jobs at peace with ourselves, prepared to continue the journey of the writer. Whether we have achieved the first stage of publication or finally broken through with a novel that takes us to the next step, or anything in between, we carry success within us. Because we no longer feel like we're in a hurry to get "there." We can let ourselves fall in love with the process. We can love the writing, the current book, the next book, knowing that there is an endless well of creativity inside us. Not every book will sell. Not every book will sell well. But every book will teach us something, about ourselves, about our world.

Every book is a brand new journey.


"If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don't be afraid, and doors will open where you didn't know they were going to be." ~ Joseph Campbell

Can you relate to the writer’s journey?


Martina loves reading and writing books about beautiful, vicious, magical worlds that intersect our own, and about the monsters of myth and folklore that sometimes show more humanity than we do. She's the founding member of the Adventures in YA Publishing blog and runs the monthly First Five Pages Workshop. Follow her on twitter as @4YALit [http://www.twitter.com/4YALit] or visit her website.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Heroic Journey of Every Writer: Part One

By Martina Boone @4YALit
“If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it's not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That's why it's your path.” ~ Joseph Campbell

When I decided to write a novel, I didn't stop to think where I was going or how long the journey was going to be. I simply wrote. And then I discovered that the novel needed—deserved—more than that. It needed me to have a clue about what I was doing, inconsequential things, you know, like structure and story elements.
As writers, we can try to reinvent the wheel, sure, but we will get farther faster if we start with a working wheel and then concentrate on making a different or, hopefully, better one. Maybe a few of us are lucky enough to have taken English or Literature or Creative Writing. For the rest of us, learning the basics of crafting fiction is a do-it-yourself MFA program. These days, many of us are doing that program together, making the same journey and blogging about it en route. Of course, some of us are on foot and some are in race cars. But that's okay. I honestly believe we are all going to get there at the pace we need to set.
My pace? Think turtle crawl.
One of the first books of wisdom I encountered on the road was The Hero with a Thousand Faces, the Collected Works of Joseph Campbell. From there, I devoured Chris Vogler's The Writer's Journey. And as I was searching for a way to tighten up the framework of my manuscript, I began to correlate all the brilliant insight from these teachers and various other sources into something I called the Complications Worksheet. I go back to that worksheet each time I start a new project, and the other day while I was on the phone with the brilliant Angela Ackerman (co-author of The Emotion Thesaurus and The Bookshelf Muse blog, I had a revelation. The journey the hero takes in our manuscripts is essentially the same journey many of us take as writers.

Here we are, bumbling through our careers and family lives, vaguely uneasy and unfulfilled but maybe not even aware that there's a void inside us, a gaping wound. Why haven't we written yet? It could be that we tried and failed, or that we had to get on with the business of making a living, or raising kids, or maybe we have a family who has always dismissed writing as a pointless pursuit—something everyone wants to try but only a chosen few achieve. Implying, of course, that we're not good enough. So we shelve our illicit hopes, paint on a smile, and get on with our lives not realizing that something inside is tugging us in a different direction than the path we are still trudging down.


But then . . . Then we have a dream, or read a book, or see a movie, or witness an event that shakes us. Something stirs inside us, an elusive wisp of an idea scented with adventure. It begins to rise and pull us with it, beckoning us to come along, to put our own spin on the wheel of inspiration.


Of course we refuse. We're human. We're afraid. We don't have time, we don't have money, we don’t have the knowledge to pursue something as overwhelming as writing an actual book.

Or maybe we don't refuse. Maybe we take those first tentative stops, only to hear someone else, someone who means well, who doesn't want to see us hurt or disillusioned, make the refusal for us. For our own good. Because really, the idea of writing for publication is absurd, and we shouldn't have any expectations.


Still, someone, somewhere, gives us a few words of encouragement. Maybe it's something as small as a sentence in the Author's Note of a book that resonates, or something we read in an interview or on a blog, or maybe we're lucky enough to know a writer. It could even be that someone reads our first hesitant scribblings and has the kindness not to laugh. These encounters give us our first supplies for the long trek, the first guideposts to set our feet on the long and rocky road. We reach deep and dig out some hidden spring of courage and take that initial, hesitant step.


At the end of Act One, we've committed to venturing beyond the Ordinary World of 8 to 5, diapers, homework, cooking dinner, cleaning house. We step into a mist-shrouded swamp, someplace new and different filled with rules we don't know and emotions we're not prepared to feel. 


We don't exist in isolation. Suddenly, we encounter all sorts of other people with feelings and opinions about us and the journey we're undertaking. Some of them help us and some make us wish we'd never even thought of writing. Some aren't actual people at all; our manuscripts themselves serve every one of the roles a hero encounters in his travels: heralds, allies, mentors, threshold guardians, villains and enemies, shapeshifters, and tricksters. They all serve a role, testing us in some way while we sort out who they are to us and how we have to deal with them. Some we're happy to leave behind; they criticize us to make themselves feel better; they hold us back. Some we have to reluctantly leave behind; they present so much drama we're worn down trying to help them instead of helping ourselves. Some we follow and some we lead. All of them teach us about ourselves, all of them help us settle into the voice that will shape our themes and writing.


We approach the biggest obstacle. At the time, we probably don't even know it's going to be that hard. We've got the manuscript written. Rewritten. Edited. Refined. Polished. We think the story is solid, plenty of conflict, no plot holes, no sagging middle, no weak Peggy-Sue characters. The writing shines. We've gathered our critique partners, our beta readers, and they have trained with us, cheered for us, pushed us until we know that we are ready to battle through to submission. And make no mistake, querying the marketplace is the biggest battle we will face.


We prepare the list agents or publishers to query, and we think that puts us almost at the end of our journey. In truth, we have barely reached the midpoint. But it is the most crucial point, the initial test. Did we do more than write a book? Did we write a saleable book, a book that's unique, a book that's the right marriage of story and writing craft? One that readers will eventually hold in their hands and make greater by bringing their own experiences and ideas into the reading? We face our greatest fear, the question of worthiness. Have we spent months, years, writing something no one will ever read? We die a little each time we obsessively check the inbox and read another rejection letter.

Not to leave you hanging about what happens after a rejection (other than drowning our sorrows with chocolate), but part two of your writing journey continues on Wednesday.

Do you relate to any of the steps on the journey so far?


Martina loves reading and writing books about beautiful, vicious, magical worlds that intersect our own, and about the monsters of myth and folklore that sometimes show more humanity than we do. She's the founding member of the Adventures in YA Publishing blog and runs the monthly First Five Pages Workshop. Follow her on twitter as @4YALit or visit her website.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Publishing Pulse for 2/22/13

Success Stories

Congratulations to our latest success story, Tricia Skinner! You can read her interview here.

Around the Internet

The New York Times ponders a boom in short stories, asking whether the shift to eBooks is a good fit for short fiction.

The notion of used e-books cropped up in the news this week, as Amazon received a patent for a used digital media marketplace. Publishers Weekly parses the legal obstacles to this plan, which caused considerable hand-wringing by authors this week.

Also in e-book land, independent bookstores have brought a class-action suit against the big six five publishers and Amazon, together. The suit attacks the way that Kindle e-books can only be read on a Kindle or Kindle app. (As opposed to a file format readable by different devices / apps.)

Sarah Pinneo
is a novelist, food writer and book publicity specialist. Her most recent book is Julia’s Child. Follow her on twitter at @SarahPinneo.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Author As Assistant Cover Artist

Have you ever designed your cover in your mind? I used to design covers in sidewalk chalk while my preschool-age children drew flowers and monster faces. They were about as good as you'd expect with sidewalk chalk, which is to say about as good as I'd be able to produce even in a professional art studio with the entire contents of Oil Paintings And More at my disposal. I'd splash my title across the top and my name along the bottom and then some stick figure bit in the middle.

Then the rain would come, and the world was thankfully spared my artistic genius, assuming anyone even recognized that as a drawing in the first place.

You can't tell a book by its cover is the truism, but of course we judge books by their covers all the time. It's the face your work presents to the world. Your book cover is the introduction you're making to a potential reader.

My first novel's cover arrived in the mail one day. I was given no opportunity for input, but I thought it was okay (it grew on me later). Since then, working with small presses, I've had the opportunity to design four covers, and if this happens to you, you should know what to do. (Because at least one of those cover artists probably put a picture of me on a dart board.)

First, your book is a multifaceted work filled with interlocking meanings and chained symbols overlaid over a theme and a mood. And before you step any further, you need to know: a cover won't capture it all. You thought a 250-word query letter was insufficient? You're going to be longing for those 250 words.

What that means is you can't ask the cover artist to cram every bit of meaning in the book onto the cover. I've seen covers where the author and aritst seem to have plotted out every molecule of space: We'll put the main character here and the love interest looking in the opposite direction over there, and we'll superimpose that over the image of a rose, and beneath that we'll have the images of a locked treasure chest and a kitten, and in the background we should have an old Victorian house with birds flying overhead.

(I pulled that out of thin air, by the way. If I accidentally nailed your cover, my apologies.)

The problem with a cover like that is while you might think your book cannot be encapsulated without the rose and the kitten and the treasure chest, someone else's brain can't process it all in a glance. We don't know where to look first, and we don't know what the story is about.

So back up. The most important thing you can keep in mind when working with your cover artist is that the cover art is a selling tool.

It's an ad. It's not space graciously donated by the publisher so you can have a pretty picture. It's an ad, and its purpose (its only purpose) is to make someone pick up your book and read the description. While working on the cover for The Wrong Enemy, I told the cover artist that if she thought a picture of a rusty can opener would sell a million copies, then a rusty can opener was what should appear on the cover, even though one never appeared in the book. 

If the cover artist chooses a scene from the book to illustrate, don't shriek with horror that the climactic sword battle took place in a wood shed, not a Gothic cathedral, and the knight's sword had a silver hilt and should be just a bit longer. Cover art is not an illustration. Repeat after me: it's a selling tool.

Don't duplicate information on the cover. If your novel's title is "The Dying Rose," don't ask for a dying rose on the cover. We already know about that. Space is limited: make every pixel count. It's not a lesson: it's a selling tool.

With that in mind, try to choose an image that captures the book. One image. One emotion. One tone. And something that asks a question.

Secondly, keeping in mind that "selling tool" bit, when you get your artwork, make sure the title is readable. Make sure your name is readable. Shrink it down to thumbnail size and double-check. (And at thumbnail size, that little locket from chapter five that you wanted in the lower left corner? No one would see it anyhow, so leave it out.)

Thirdly, work with the cover artist. The first time my publisher asked for input, I said something to the effect that I'm not an artist. Bad author: that's not helpful. What the cover artist needs to know is the theme and tone of the book, the genre, what audience you want to reach, and what you think is most appealing about the book. 

The artist didn't tell you how to write the book, true, and you're not going to micromanage the way the artist covers the book, but at the very least give your opinions and thoughts. The artist will appreciate if you can explain what you're objecting to and why (or why you like what you do.)  

For example, while designing the cover for The Boys Upstairs, the cover artist saw from the description that part of it takes place in a church, so she used an image of a cathedral. The problem? The story takes place in an impoverished inner-city church. The cover was lovely but the wrong tone. The artist was perfectly happy to change the image to something that better fit the struggles of the book.

Finally, if your publisher has guidelines about how to work with the cover artist, read and memorize them so you don't make a total pain of yourself. If you get three tries and then the publisher picks a design without your input, don't expect a fourth try. If there's a fee for authors who try to change the cover art after it's finalized, pull out your checkbook if you try to change the cover.

The cover art in conjunction with the title is a selling tool. The purpose of the title is to get someone to pull your book off a shelf and look at the cover. THe purpose of the cover is to get someone to flip the book over and read the back cover copy (or to click on a thumbnail and read the description.)  The purpose of all three together is to entice someone to give a vendor ten dollars in order to read your book.

So keep all that in mind when you're working with an artist: focus, questions, theme, identification. The artist and the publisher are your teammates, and they want you to have a cover you're proud of, and since this is the public face of your book, you want that too. 

Jane Lebak is the author of The Wrong Enemy. She has four kids, two cats, and one husband. She lives in the Swamp and spends her time either writing books or ejecting stink bugs from the house. At Seven Angels, Four Kids, One Family, she blogs about what happens when a distracted daydreamer and a gamer geek attempt to raise a family. If you want to make her rich and famous, please contact the riveting Roseanne Wells of the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Should Authors Be Reviewers?

For every story, there is a review. Sometimes, there are many reviews. Sometimes, the reviews remain unwritten.

And that is the tragedy, isn't it? The unwritten review.

Reviews are nature's way of validating an author's efforts. Whenever a review is written, an author is assured, once more, that their work has been read. Has been processed by the mind of another person. Has been mulled about in another's thoughts.

An author is assured that, through their story, they've connected to another human being.

Does that sound melodramatic? It should…and it shouldn't.

Every author should be able to think back to a time before they decided to pick up the pen and write a book. We all start out as readers, with our own favorite authors and favorite stories. We read, we devour books by the score, and we share them with our friends. We talk about the characters we love, the villains we hate, the tales that keep us thinking about them long after we put down the book.


If you were to write a review of a book you'd read back then, how would you write it? With all the passion of a dedicated reader, who only wants a chance to discuss the book and the way it affected you?

Or would you write it as the author you are today--with all the sensitivity of a common bond, as someone who understands the weight each word of a review can carry? How would your perspective as an author change the way you review another person's work?

Can you walk that fine line without toppling?

The Review and the Razor's Edge

On one side of the blade, you may under-evaluate a work for fear of hurting feelings or--worse yet--earning a negative review in return. What purpose would such a review serve? The writer would not be fairly reviewed if all you provide is lip-service. Readers who come across your critique may mistake it for veritable praise and expect to find those merits in the story.

On the other side, you may be tempted to find fault where there is none, to cut down another's work to elevate your own. Your immediate response to that must be I would never--! But there is a part in each of us that is absolutely identical: the writer's conceit, that piece of ego that insists that we can tell a certain story better than anyone else can. That is a part of what drives us to write--aside from the pleasure of writing, apart from the creativity and the craft we have cultivated.

The silver line of the razor's edge is often taken too lightly--or too seriously--by writers. Just like any element of writing, the review is simply another thing authors should learn to write.

We need reviews, and we need a lot of them if our books have a chance of standing out in the crowded world of publishing. We are more likely to enlist the help of fellow authors when we are able to offer our own help in return. Has anyone forgotten the sweetness of a well-earned blurb?

I didn't think so.

So. Now we come to the part when someone says…but I've never written a review! Should I be writing them?

As an author, your opinion is going to be taken seriously. Whatever you put our name on is going to become part of your brand. Although there is no magic formula to writing stellar reviews, there are some tips to keep in mind.
  • Read book reviews.
Part of improving our craft of writing involves reading. Just as we read books and stories to see what works and what doesn't, we should also read reviews. Reviews are everywhere (and they are a great deal cheaper than novels). Read reviews posted on book blogs, on sites like Amazon and Goodreads. My personal opinion is that, as a future author, you need to write reviews that look just as professional as your manuscripts.
  • Structure your reviews and give something useful and unique to the reader.
Don't just spew out your random butterfly thoughts without any sense of direction. Provide the basics--the title, the publisher, a few links--so that a reader can track down the book for their own consumption. But don't just give boilerplate reviews--add your own insights, you special flavor, your emotional reaction.
  • Learn when opinion and info share becomes spoiler.
Never spoil--but tease liberally. Make the reader want to seek out the book for themselves.
See, I don't think it's in anyone's best interest for an author to publish a lousy review. I don't mean lousy as in the book was lousy. I mean a poorly-written review.
Why? It doesn't serve either the reviewer or the reviewee. People will skim over and ignore a poorly-written review and, perhaps by extension, the book itself. That hurts the author. Other people will associate a poorly-written review with the person who wrote it--and may assume everything else they've written is garbage, too. That hurts you.
So, what are you supposed to do?
Think before you write. Choose your subjects wisely. Realize the power a review has for both the subject and the reviewer. Put the same effort and skill into your review as you would your own story.
Reviews are forever. Even if you could somehow scrape it off the Internet (ha, ha…good luck with that) you will never remove it from the mind of the author whose book you reviewed. Especially an author like me, who prints out every review she finds and keeps it in a binder.
Reviews can't be taken back.
Which is precisely the reason you should be writing them.
There are quite a number of benefits we will enjoy by taking the time to write reviews.

Writers belong to a community. While writing is a solitary effort, reading is a group sport. We read. We share. We bond. Reviewing our peers shows we are a part of that community.

Also, reviewing raises our public profile. It's another Google hit, another blog post, another chance to be read. Reviewing for others is still promotion for ourselves.

And besides, remember that every good turn deserves another. Every writer knows how valuable time is. Reading and reviewing another's work is a sacrifice that is not soon forgotten. Reviewing is a great way to earn a favor for when you are hoping for reviews of your own work.

Still working on getting that first book published? Then cash in on the value of writing reviews while you have the time to do it--long before the deadlines begin to step on your neck, you can improve your craft, read other wonderful stories, build a platform and public profile and--hopefully!--an audience, and you can endear yourself to other writers in the community.
You get all that, simply for voicing your opinion…as long as you do it right.

Do I? Should You?
I myself am not a prolific reviewer. I admire reviewers--I admire the insight they have into a stranger's work and I admire the way they infuse their passion with opinion. I've bought books based only on reviews. I know the power that book bloggers have over the audience that trusts them.
I also have read a lot of lousy reviews and have no wish to write one.
I never paid much attention to the opinions of others until I had something of my own to receive potential reviews. Once I began to pursue publication, I tried to separate reviews into two neat little piles--consumer opinion and professional review. Even when the line between the two got blurry, one thing always remained clear--I should never, ever allow myself to write anything less than a professional review.
Maybe, back in the day, when I was a kid who curled up on the sofa with a book and forgot to eat lunch, I would have done it without thinking twice. I'd simply have poured out my elation and my agony and my frustrations in book reviews without a second thought. Not now. I've walked in the shoes of an author for too long. I'd think very hard about what I'd write, and imagine how I'd feel to get a review just like it.

I'm one of those that take the silver line of the razor's edge too seriously.
Perhaps that is the great tragedy. I don't think that the world is devastated by the absence of heaps of reviews from me. There are far worthier opinions out there than any I'd have to offer. However, there are a lot of authors who may never know how much I appreciated their characters and their stories and their worlds and, perhaps, a few of them may have been glad to hear about it from someone like me.
The only reviews that should remain unwritten are the poorly-written ones and the ones that make writers feel poorly. Every other review is a golden opportunity--for writers, for readers, for authors alike. I look forward to the day when I'll be able to devote more time to writing well-crafted reviews. I know I'm missing out on a fantastic opportunity but it is one of my goals as a professional writer. 
Do you review? Why? Or why not?


Ash Krafton is a speculative fiction writer. Visit Ash's blog at www.ash-krafton.blogspot.com for news on her urban fantasy "Bleeding Hearts: Book One of the Demimonde" (Pink Narcissus Press 2012) and the follow-up "Blood Rush" due May 2013.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Publishing Pulse: 2/15/2013

Success Stories

Congratulations to our latest success stories, Sarah Gagnon, Shannon Grogan, and Emmie Mears! Click their names to read about how they landed their agents!

Around the Internet

If you're anything like me, you wish you were more prolific. Turns out that—just like in other aspects of life—pushing yourself to do more and better will put you ahead of the pack. Check out this article on Being Prolific.

If you're a writer living outside of the United States but hope to publish in the US, or if you're a US writer collaborating with someone who lives outside the US, you need to understand certain aspects of US tax laws. Children's author Miranda Hardy tells you what you need to know in The US Tax Treaty for Writers and Illustrators.

Want to use Goodreads to promote your book? Read (and listen to) this first.

We all know how important it is to get outside feedback on a story before querying agents. In this post, learn to make sure you're choosing your beta readers wisely.

Janice Hardy teaches you How to Develop Your Theme using Suzanne Brockmann's advice. (I'm currently obsessed with Brockmann's novels!)

Have a great weekend and we'll see you next week!

Carolyn Kaufman, PsyD's book, THE WRITER'S GUIDE TO PSYCHOLOGY: How to Write Accurately About Psychological Disorders, Clinical Treatment, and Human Behavior helps writers avoid common misconceptions and inaccuracies and "get the psych right" in their stories. You can learn more about The Writer's Guide to Psychology, check out Dr. K's blog on Psychology Today, or follow her on Facebook

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Linking to Booksellers and Affiliate Programs 101

In a perfect world, a reader finds your author website, memorizes your name and book title, grabs her keys and heads immediately to her local, independent bookstore to buy a copy.

That's how I wish it went down.

But in the modern era, your author website should have buy links on it--plural. Although it's tempting to just put a single link on your page, that's not your best option. On the off chance that a bookseller looks at your webpage before placing her order, do you really want to confront her with the all too familiar logo of an online-only vendor? Probably not.

So which links should you include?

Get Creative

Vermont author Deborah Lee Luskin arranged with the Newfane Country Store to ship signed copies. By taking this step, Luskin brought business to her community, offering something special--a signed copy--in the bargain.

Make it a Multiple Choice Test!

I have buy links up on my author website for six vendors, including IndieBound. IndieBound is a collective for independent booksellers, meaning that buyers are asked for a zipcode and then directed to a nearby store's "buy" page for your book. Two of the vendors I've included are bookstores that have offered to hold events for Julia's Child. It's the right thing to do.

Affiliate Programs

The bigger online book vendors offer affiliate programs, which pay a small commission to the generator of a book sale. If you have affiliate links on your website, and someone clicks through to the vendor and makes a purchase, you get paid. A little.

Here's how it works: you "join" the seller's affiliate program by entering some basic information into a form. It will ask for a web URL and a business category. I never quite know what to put there, but "author" seems to work fine. When your "application" is accepted (and it will be) you can begin generating affiliate links. On the vendor's website, you will need to generate an affiliate link for each book you're linking to. That special link will contain an ID tag which identifies you as the referrer. When a sale is made, your account is credited a small commission, often 4% to 6%, depending on the program.

If you have any patience at all for fiddling around with web links, you should do this. You will not make much money, if any. A book sale would net you between $0.32 and $1.00. (You get paid when the commissions reach some threshold, such as $10) But there's also data. The affiliate vendors keep track of the number of times someone clicks through your site, and what they ultimately buy. If you have a lot of click-throughs which result in the sale of your competitor's book, you'll see it.

Last but not least, you'll have a window into the world of web vending. You'll learn to spot others' affiliate links, and better understand book marketing that you find on websites out there in the big world.

For more information about affiliate programs, see:


Sarah Pinneo
is a novelist, food writer and book publicity specialist. Her most recent book is Julia’s Child. Follow her on twitter at @SarahPinneo.