by Kathi Kamen Goldmark and Sam BarryMarch, 2009
A higher calling
The Author Enablers are here to answer your questions about writing and publishing. Together, Kathi and Sam have more than 25 years of experience in book publishing. Kathi is an author, radio producer and former publicist; Sam is a marketing manager at a major publishing company and a freelance editor. They are also proud members of the Rock Bottom Remainders, the all-author rock band founded by Kathi in 1992. Email your questions (along with your name and hometown), or visit their blog.
Dear Author Enablers,
I am a minister and Christian author of five books. I have limited funds and a fear of rejection about marketing, but I am ready to launch out and get things going. Should I just target churches for my audience?
Dr. Evelyn Drayton
Georgetown, South Carolina
Churches are a great place to start, but every author dreams of capturing a wider audience. Inspirational fiction is one area where self-published authors or those published by small and independent presses (with no marketing/publicity budgets and small distribution chains) can have a shot at breaking through to the mainstream. A famous recent example is The Shack by William P. Young, published by Windblown Media, a company formed specifically to publish this book. The Shack has spent weeks atop the bestseller lists, giving hope to authors who've been rejected by traditional publishers.
Success like that is rare, though, and most self-published authors long for the legitimacy that comes with traditional publishing. We asked Cynthia DiTiberio, an editor at HarperOne and Avon Inspire, about expanding the audience for self-published inspirational fiction. "Self-publishing can be a double-edged sword," she says. "In order for us to pay attention, a book would need to have sold substantially, but then we wonder whether the market has been satisfied and if it's worth the risk to put more copies out. We would seriously consider publishing a new book from an independently published author with a record of strong sales. The drive and determination required for a self-published author to rack up sales indicates the kind of commitment that publishers are looking for from authors." We think it's "time to get back to the shack, jack," (even though your name is Evelyn) and start a grassroots campaign, while keeping an eye out for wider opportunities.
Dear Author Enablers,
I self-published a detective story laden with typos and grammatical guffaws. It was my first attempt at a novel and I didn't do all the things I have since learned to do, like rewrite and edit, edit, edit. I have gone back over the manuscript with a "fine-toothed comb." Now I would like to "re-release the book" and am not sure what I need to do beyond the obvious (attaching a different ISBN, new cover, etc.) to self-publish it again should I choose to. What sage advice do you have for me so I don't "screw it up" again?
Colorado Springs, Colorado
We think it might be time to "take a deep breath," and a "step back." Find a writers' group, or start your own. Attend a writers' conference where you can workshop your novel and get tough, constructive feedback. You may find that your book will become so transformed that you will be able to re-release it with a new title, cover and ISBN, though you should note on the cover that the work was previously published as [Title]. Or you may find yourself coming up with terrific ideas for a new project altogether! Just don't re-release the same book if it's not ready. Good writing takes time and effort, and publishing prematurely accomplishes nothing, as you already know.
Dear Author Enablers,
I belong to an ornithology group whose director owns a B&B, knows over 500,000 bird enthusiasts, has written five bird books and has online classes. If I have written a fiction on ducks, and another on birds, would it be OK to suggest collaboration? Since my fiction is completed and he is a nonfiction author, what is the best way to ask and how would he contribute to the writing?
A bird, a duck and an ornithologist walk into a bed and breakfast, and boy are their arms tired. . . . But seriously, folks. Perhaps the director could write a foreword or endorsement (sometimes called a blurb) for your book. Offer him a favorable deal to sell copies in his B&B and help you market the book to other bird enthusiasts. There are many kinds of partnerships, and this one sounds like it might be "for the birds" (or not, depending on your definition). Either way, it never hurts to ask.