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Anne R. Allen's Blog

...WITH RUTH HARRIS

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Anne writes funny mysteries and how-to-books for writers. She also writes poetry and short stories on occasion. Oh, yes, and she blogs. She's a contributor to Writer's Digest and the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for 2016. 

Her bestselling Camilla Randall Mystery Series features perennially down-on-her-luck former socialite Camilla Randall—who is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.

Anne lives on the Central Coast of California, near San Luis Obispo, the town Oprah called "The Happiest City in America."


Anne blogs at Anne R. Allen's Blog...with Ruth Harris 
and at Anne R. Allen's Books

Sunday, April 7, 2013

When is it OK to Blog Your Book?


What? Blog a book?  Sez you. You're always hammering us NOT to put our WIPs on our blogs!

True. And I continue to do so—if you're a beginning novelist hoping to get a traditional book contract.

Tiny snippets of fiction for blog hops and other writing-community bonding exercises are OK, but blogging the rough draft of your novel in order to get critique or attract an agent is a bad idea.

For one thing, agents say you're ruining your chances with traditional publishers by giving away your first rights.

And the simple truth is they are about as likely to go looking for new clients on blogs as Hollywood producers are to cast their next film from a drug store lunch counter. Yes, it has happened, but that doesn't mean it's likely. Agents look for new clients in their slush piles. Which is why writing a good query is the best way to attract them.

Also, for some reason, most people don't read fiction on blogs. A popular author I know put some of her short stories on her blog and got only a handful of hits in six months. She decided to self-publish the stories in an ebook and they're now making her hundreds of dollars a month.

The thing to keep in mind is that people generally read blogs for information. They want to skim for nuggets of data, not admire your deathless prose or read an episode in the middle of an ongoing saga.

And very few want to read first drafts and provide you with free editing.

If you're a new writer and want critique, I advise you use a password-protected site like CritiqueCircle.com where you aren't "in public." You'll get more trustworthy advice and you'll avoid hanging your fledgling fiction out there in cyberspace at the mercy of any passing grammar nazi who's having a bad day. Rough drafts are supposed to be s***ty, according to Anne LaMotte. Asking people to read them is asking for a favor. You want your blog to OFFER something, not try to GET something (like free editing.)

Besides, your more mature writer-self will thank you. Trust me on this.

If you want to post samples of work that's polished and ready for the marketplace, you can do it on Wattpad, where 17-year old Beth Reekles got discovered and made a 3-book deal with Random House this week. (Yeah. A big congrats to her.) There's also a new site called ReadWave for sampling short fiction, nicely categorized by genre.

But if you write nonfiction, it's a different story. 

A blog can be a nonfiction writer's best friend. It showcases your skills and gets your name out there where the search engines can find you.

More than half the new writers I meet at conferences and seminars are working on a nonfiction book. Mostly memoirs. And by far the majority of clients who contacted me when I did professional editing wrote memoir or nonfiction as well.

I foresee even more in the pipeline. Many Boomers plan to write a memoir when they retire. And according to the Social Security Administration, every day 10,000 US Boomers hit age 65.

That’s a whole lot of memoirs.

Unfortunately, memoirs are the hardest books to write well. Almost no beginning memoir writer I’ve worked with knows how to mold a lifetime of experiences into a novelistic story arc that will make a compelling read. Instead they write autobiography: a series of episodes from birth until now. Or a series of personal essays.

These authors face years of learning to craft their episodic writings into narrative—or shelling out a ton of cash hiring an editor to do it for them.

So ask yourself: does your project have to be a book-length work at all? Why not a series of short pieces?

Like posts on a blog.

Instead of shoehorning your memories into an 80K-100K word narrative, you can take advantage of the contemporary reader’s short attention span and serialize them on a blog.

The goal of many memoirists is to share their experiences, bear witness to history and make a difference, not establish a long-term career churning out two or three books a year.

A lot of memoirists I've met are working on the following:
  • Eyewitness experiences of historical events, especially war. 
  • Advice from a health crisis survivor/caretaker to aid others who are going through the same challenges.  
  • Inspiring or unique stories about famous people the author has known. 
  • A journal of exotic travels.
  • Advice from an elder to the younger generation
If you’re writing any of the above, and your primary goal is to reach a lot of people with your message, not establish a long-term writing career. I’m going to suggest you let go of the big-book goal—at least for a while. You'll save yourself a lot of money and grief.

Yes, even a self-published book. Of course you can self-publish these days for not a whole lot of upfront money. But here’s the problem with the indie revolution:  the competition has become crazy-fierce. Which makes it very, very hard to sell a singleton ebook—as demonstrated in a recent article in Salon.

Indie authors don’t generally get traction in the big online retailers like Amazon until they’ve built a hefty inventory.

So I’m going to break from traditional advice and suggest you consider blogging your memoiric essays and advice rather than spending years conference-going, workshopping and learning to craft your memories into a book that may not have a market.

Another plus: posting your own photos on a blog costs nothing. Self-publishing a book that contains pictures is expensive and problematic. (At least in the age of the black and white Kindle)

Not me! Sez you. I want an agent. A book deal. And a big advance! Besides, I've heard blogs are totally over.

Actually blogs aren’t over. They’re just not the darlings of New York publishing any more.

But it’s not likely your memoir, travel, or self-help book will be either.

And that's OK. New York publishing is probably not a place you want to be.

It's good to be aware that as Big Publishing scrambles to keep profits up in the e-age, they only want what they consider “sure things.” That means they’re not interested in books—especially nonfiction—written by people who are not already household names.

These days, if you want to appeal to the Big Five nonfiction editors and their marketing departments, you pretty much need to be involved in a reality TV show and/or humiliating sex scandal, be the victim of a major disaster, or run for President. Better still—all of the above. (Unusual hairstyle choices are a plus.)

Being well-known in the literary world means nothing. You have to be über-famous:  Donald Trump-famous; Snooki-famous; I-Had-Justin-Beiber’s-love-child famous.

Or be willing to buy your place on the bestseller list.

Yes. You read that right.

I recently heard from a very successful fiction author with an engaged, enthusiastic fan base who had decided to shop around a nonfiction book proposal. Because her long-time agent didn’t handle nonfiction, she had to go the query route.

She was stunned by what she found. To be considered for representation, she was told by an agent that she’d be expected to—
  • Book and pay for her own national speaking tour. 
  • Hire a publicist (with her own funds.) 
  • Provide names and addresses (along with blog stats and Klout ratings) of high profile reviewers who had been properly primed to give positive reviews.
  • Contact major celebrities who would provide endorsements, TV spots, photo ops, etc.   
  • Provide names of organizations guaranteed to buy up copies of the book in bulk at the appropriate moment to game the bestseller lists. 
  • Spam her email list and personal contacts with newsletters, postcards, flyers, etc. (at her own expense, natch.) 
In other words, to get an agent to represent a nonfiction book, she’d need a private fortune or a SuperPAC.

And a very flexible set of ethics.

I don’t know if all agents require this kind of upfront promise to bankroll your own project these days, but it does explain why so many piles of political doo-doo make it to the top of the NYT Bestseller list.

Apparently those big advances you hear about are more likely to be what nonfiction authors PAY to have a bestseller, not the other way around. Nobody could break even with those expenses unless there was a truly epic advance. Which you’re not going to get unless you’re already a superstar.

It helped explain to me why Simon and Schuster thinks they can get away with selling a $25,000 “self-publishing” package through the vanity press AuthorHouse/Archway.

That’s because ALL Big Five nonfiction publishing seems to have become vanity publishing.

The famous author’s reaction was the same as the one I’m sure you’re having: “If I had the money for all that, why the %&@! would I need a publisher?”

Why indeed? This is the era of indie publishing.

Hey! didn’t you say if you’re not a career author with a big inventory, your self-pubbed book doesn’t have great odds of selling? 

Yes, but remember that blogging is publishing, which is why agents won’t represent something that’s been partially blogged: once it’s on the Interwebz, you’re officially published.

Once you start building an audience, you can think about self-publishing ebooks—maybe a series of shorts. One of the great things about ebooks is they can be any length. More on that in a minute.

And of course, if your blog takes off and you get millions of followers and somebody wants to make the blog into a big book and movie like Julie/Julia, it’s funny how their rules evaporate.

I'm not the first one to suggest this. Nina Amir has been urging people to blog their books for a long time on her blog, How to Blog a Book.

It's true that Jane Friedman, one of the most knowledgeable bloggers in publishing, has advised authors "Please Don't Blog your Book." But she says blogging your book is fine if: "you’re blogging in a nonfiction category, especially if your blog focuses on how to do something or solves a problem for people." And "you’re focused on your blog for the joy of blogging."

That's what I'm suggesting: Blogging for its own sake. For community. For reaching an audience.

If you need to make a little money in order to justify the time you’re spending, you might want to start off right away with the kind of blog that allows advertising. Free WordPress blogs do not. Free Blogger blogs feature AdSense, which can monetize your blog as soon as you establish a readership. But a montetizable WordPress blog is not terribly expensive and I’ve heard it’s better for long term expansion. If you want more info on how to choose the right blogging platform, Jamie Gold wrote a great guest post for Kristen Lamb this week on WordPress.com vs WordPress.org.

You can also serialize your blog through Kindle and charge for the subscription. That way, your blog is listed on Amazon.

You can even put a donation button on the blog that works with PayPal. I think donation buttons are mildly tacky—and I definitely don't recommend installing one if you're bragging about how much money you're making with your business methods or you're chronicling your glamourous world travels. But if you've got a medical or caretaker blog that offers helpful advice and you're hard up financially, people can be amazingly generous. Funny how they're more likely to donate $5 to a blogger than they are to buy a $2.99 book.

I’m not pretending any of these methods will make you rich. But you won’t have to re-mortgage your house to bribe people to make your book into a fake bestseller, either. Or spend your golden years getting weekly agent rejections in your inbox.

Even the few bucks you might get from Ad Sense would be more than major newspapers pay most bloggers these days. The majority of newspaper bloggers are paid NOTHING—yes, I’m talking about professional journalists. Plus they have to sign away the rights to all their work forever—including their own photographs.

You’re way ahead of things with your own free blog. At least nobody’s making you pay to play.

But who’s going to read it? Sez you. How do I get traffic? 

It’s not going to happen overnight, and it especially won’t happen if you sit on your own little blog and wait for people to find you. You need to go out and meet your potential readers.

Submit your stories to magazines and online sites that appeal to your audience. (Some of these might even pay you. Look in the "opportunity alerts" below.) And they'll all allow a link to your blog.

Find websites and blogs that cater to your demographic, then—
  • Subscribe to or follow those blogs, 
  • Comment often 
  • Offer to guest blog 
  • Submit short pieces to zines and anthologies in your field
  • Make friends
If you have some stories that are too long to make good blogposts or articles, this is when you should think about publishing some of them as ebooks. As I said above, any length manuscript can be an ebook (although I suggest you don’t try to charge money for anything under ten pages.)

If you have a series of shorter titles, you’ll make much more of a splash than with one book.

And if you have mixed media to present, including poems, photos and essays, you can produce your own literary magazine at a site called Flipboard

I don’t want you to be discouraged by this post. Some memoirs do still sell to big publishing houses. But I’m offering alternatives. And a way to save a lot of editing fees.

If you’re set on seeing your project as a book-length work with a publisher’s name on it, and you’ve been working really hard on that story arc, you can also look to small, niche and regional presses that don’t require agents.

Regional presses will be interested in books about local history, and niche presses that specialize in military history might look at a war memoir (see "opportunity alerts".) A small press that specializes in the occult might like your book on tarot reading. A university press might be interested in your meticulously researched biography of a little-known artist.

These presses are generally a whole lot more author-friendly than the big guys. You won’t get an advance, but you might make a nice royalty.

But they’re going to be more interested if you’ve already established an audience with a blog. If you want step-by-step help in how to start a blog, I've got one in the book I wrote with Catherine Ryan Hyde, HOW TO BE A WRITER IN THE E-AGE…AND KEEP YOUR E-SANITY. 

Agents may not want memoirs or nonfiction by non-celebrities, but there are plenty of readers out there who do.

A number of readers of this blog have started successful memoir/personal essay blogs.
  • Florence Fois of Fois in the City blogs about all things New York, including her fascinating memories of a Brooklyn childhood, and has built a loyal following.  
  • Retired businessman Silvio Cadenasso has started a travel blog about the journeys he and his wife take exchanging houses with people all over the world. His great articles and photos have got the attention of National Geographic and has a steadily building audience. 
  • Nina Badzin started her blog to build platform for her fiction and discovered she prefers blogging full time. Now her witty pieces are often picked up by the Huffington Post.
Instead of endlessly chasing that agent dream, these writers are reaching readers.

Right now.

Big publishing’s nonfiction wing may have become a one-percenters’ club for generating expensive, unread pulp for vain billionaires and political manipulators, but that leaves a big market unserved.

Yes, you can keep honing that memoir until the pages turn themselves while socking money away and hoping a sinkhole swallows your house, you become a contestant on the Biggest Loser, and/ or your wife admits to a secret affair with Dick Cheney.

Or, you can think outside the book and start a blog.

How about you, scriveners? Are you working on a memoir or nonfiction book? Are you surprised to hear that nonfiction writers need a private fortune to be considered for Big Five publication? Have you thought of blogging your own book or publishing it as a series of shorts? 

OPPORTUNITY ALERTS


1) FOR THE FEARLESS: The Horatio Nelson Fiction Prize comes from Black Balloon Publishing: "we champion the weird, the unwieldy, and the unclassifiable. We are battle-worn enemies of boredom and we’re looking for books that defy the rules." Prize is $5,000 and a Black Balloon Publishing book deal. They want a sample of your completed, novel-length manuscript. It's a two-tiered process, so make sure you follow the guidelines in the link above. Wait until April 1 to submit.

2) The Saturday Evening Post’s Second Annual Great American Fiction Contest—yes, THAT Saturday Evening Post is holding a short fiction contest. Could you join the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald; William Faulkner; Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.; Ray Bradbury; Louis L’Amour; Sinclair Lewis; Jack London; and Edgar Allan Poe? $10 entry fee Deadline July 1, 2013

3) Inspirational anthology accepting submissions: A "Chicken Soup for the Soul" author is looking for heartwarming inspirational nonfiction pieces. Do You Have a Story on "Staying Sane in the Chaotic 24/7 World"? If you have a great story and would like to be considered for the anthology, 30 Days to Sanity, Send submissions to: 30 Days to Sanity at Box 31453, Santa Fe, NM 87594-1453. Or e-mail stories to stephanie@30daystosanity.com The maximum word count is 1200 words. For each story selected for the program a permission fee of $100 will be offered for one-time rights. There are no limits on the number of submissions. Deadline is May 1, 2013

4) Stanford Story Slam The first ever Stanford Story Slam has opened, a chance for a team of writers to win $500. Anybody can enter the writing contest and the deadline is April 22.To enter, you must collaborate to write about this prompt: “There are over 15,000 bikes used by students, staff, and faculty to get around Stanford campus. Over 300 bikes are stolen each year. Where do they go?” The Stanford Arts Review will publish the winning entry. Here’s more from the organizers You don't have to be a Stanford student to enter.

5) Small Press Seeking Memoirs and other Nonfiction. Yes! See I told you they exist. GrayBooks in New Hampshire says they are always looking for authors. They publish in four categories - Food, Fiction, History, Memoir. They are especially interested in war and historical memoirs. 

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43 Comments:

Blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Wow, so much information here, I don't even know where to begin!
Doubt I'll ever do a memoir. My life was too boring and even-keel.
However, I did receive the warning not to publish any of my fiction on my blog from my publisher because then it's already 'published.' Since I don't write much fiction outside of my current series, I save it all for my publisher and only put up a snippet with their permission. (Just to be sure I'm not screwing myself.)
Good stuff, Anne! I'm going to mention this in the Ninja News tomorrow, because there is something for everyone here.

April 7, 2013 at 10:21 AM  
Blogger Vera Soroka said...

I have no plans to do a memoir. I'm not a non fiction person. It seems a different ballgame than fiction.
I do break the rules and publish my stuff on line and have attracted a small audience. I do have plans to self publish my stuff as I don't have any plans to tradtionally publish.

April 7, 2013 at 10:43 AM  
Blogger jp said...

With alack of imagination memoirs are all I have but fortunately(?) my life has been bizarre enough to warrant a little interest.

April 7, 2013 at 10:57 AM  
Blogger Leanne Dyck said...

I like to drain the pain out of my life, add some humour, stir and bake. Yield: one novel-length work of fiction.
Thanks for this information, Anne. I especially appreciate the link to a new-to-me publisher.

April 7, 2013 at 11:20 AM  
Blogger D.G. Hudson said...

No plans for memoir. But I'm interested in creating ebooks from blogposts (travel). I'll check a few of those other links.

Thanks for all the indie info as well. I'm querying a novel, so I'm trying a few things.

April 7, 2013 at 11:29 AM  
Blogger The Happy Amateur said...

Hi Anne, very interesting as always. I'm just curious: won't publishing your writing on Wattpad on similar cites compromise your chances of getting a deal with a publisher? (I understand that this young talented author just got a book deal thanks to Wattpad, but could it be an exception to the rule?..) I thought that once it's out there, it's considered published, and agents and traditional publishers don't like that very much.. I'm a bit confused, help, please?
Thank you so much,
Sasha

April 7, 2013 at 11:37 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Anne—Thank you for such an info-packed post. As you know my DH, Michael, wrote a memoir, THE ATOMIC TIMES. Took him fifty years to process the experience ("observing" the US H-bomb tests as a young soldier) and many false starts thereafter.

When he was finally far enough away in time and space from the grotesqueries, he was able to see the oh-so-black humor in the experience & that, in turn, gave him the freedom to write a memoir that has been called "CATCH-22 with radiation."

April 7, 2013 at 11:43 AM  
Blogger Lexa Cain said...

I loved all the info about promoting a non-fic book -- flexible ethics, indeed! Thank goodness I write fic, but still, my expectations of success are diminishing by the second. I work hard, but it all seems so hit or miss.
Thanks for the post! :-)

April 7, 2013 at 11:54 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Alex--I did kind of go over the word limit this week didn't I? It probably should have been two posts. Yes, publishers get cranky when you violate their copyright on your blog. Thanks much for sharing it with the Ninjas!

Vera--It's so true that fiction and nonfiction require very different talents. I find it hard to switch from one to the other myself. You're one blogger who has managed to get a blog following with fiction and since you don't plan to pursue a trad contract, that's just fine. Congrats on going against the odds and succeeding!

jp--I don't mean to imply that memoir is in any way inferior to other forms of writing. It's just tougher to fit into a book format. But when you have great material, it can be easier to get that story arc going.

Leanne--LOVE this recipe for a novel "drain the pain out of my life, add some humour, stir and bake. Yield: one novel-length work of fiction. Good luck!

DG--The only drawback to making a book out of blogposts is there can sometimes be a conflict if you go into KDP Select at Amazon. You may have to take down those posts because Amazon may consider your blog to be competition for the book.

Happy--Putting your work on WattPad IS publishing. It's considered self-publishing, even if you haven't officially published the book as an ebook. So you need to get a lot of interest there--just as you have to on Amazon--in order to get a trad publisher interested. If you do get a deal, you have to take it off Wattpad right away.

Since it's harder now to get the huge sales on Amazon for a single indie book that agents would want for a deal, Wattpad has been a better showcase for some genre writers. Like that lucky 17-year old.

April 7, 2013 at 11:57 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Ruth--It sounds as if Michael got his memoir to succeed by adding humor--and a story arc. Because it's about one finite time in a particular place, it's much easier to develop a novelistic plot. I'm sure that's one of the reasons for its popularity.

Lexa--It is a tough profession we've chosen. I won't pretend it's not. Sometimes I joke that I'd make more money picking up cans on the side of the road. But we love it, right? We have to love the process and hope it will pay off at some point.

April 7, 2013 at 12:02 PM  
Blogger Anne Gallagher said...

I don't think I'd ever write a memoir perse, however, I do have some fine tall tales I would like to incorporate in my fiction someday. They're so crazy, if I wrote them as memoir, no one would believe me. Although truth is stranger than fiction. lol

When I was a newbie I put a couple of scenes up on my blog, but after a week or so I always took them down. They were always first draft and just a tease for what I was working on at the time. I don't think I'd do it now.

April 7, 2013 at 2:00 PM  
OpenID paulfahey said...

Hi, Anne, A great informative post as always. I really like what you said about publishing ebooks of shorter length than say traditional 250-300 page works. I think e-books provide so much more flexibility in this sense. As you know I've been more successful lately with short 14-24 K word-length e books (historical fiction mainly) than I ever was before. Having a savvy publisher has also been a great plus, but I think publishing work as a series of short e books is a great way to get your work out there.Keep up the great posts, Anne.

April 7, 2013 at 2:10 PM  
Blogger Rosi said...

Great, informative post. Thanks, Anne.

April 7, 2013 at 2:19 PM  
Blogger ED Martin said...

Great post, very informative. Just to clarify one of the differences between crit sites (Critique Circle and Scribophile are the best), and writer showcase sites (Wattpad, Inkpop, Authonomy, Writing.com) - if you need a password to access the stories, it's not considered published. But if you put the whole thing out there, including on your own blog, it is. And I completely agree with you that your blog isn't a place to get free editing, no matter what you're writing; it's not fair to ask of your readers.

April 7, 2013 at 3:00 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Anne--I feel the same way. My life has had some episodes so outrageous, nobody would believe them. Might as well tell people it's fiction :-)

Snippets on the blog are fine when you're starting out--so other authors can get to know your work. But later on, let them get the free sample on Amazon.

Paaul--You certainly are having great success. The ebook age is the age of the novella. So happy to see it making a comeback!

Rosi--Thanks!

ED--Many thanks for clarifying my muddy answer there! That's a great rule of thumb: If it's password protected, it's not publishing, but if it's on your blog, it is. And even if it's password protected, if your whole book is on there, be careful.

April 7, 2013 at 4:22 PM  
Blogger fOIS In The City said...

Ah sucks, Anne. Thanks for the mention. You also talked about "loving it." If you don't truly love blogging for whatever reason you started ... it won't work. The key is to have some fun, use common sense and relax. It's not brain surgery.

I think the sound advice you provide so many is so helpful. It keeps people who are new to all of this from making basic mistakes.

Also, I made the decision early to only use snippets and "stories" on the blog that I do not intend to publish in any other way. I happily think of it as my writing exercise for the week. The advise and writing craft help can be done by others who are more qualified ... like you and Ruth :)

April 7, 2013 at 4:29 PM  
Blogger Silvio Cadenasso said...

Thanks for the mention. I believe it was responsible for the spike in my blog views.

April 7, 2013 at 6:28 PM  
Blogger Roland D. Yeomans said...

As Alex says, there is something for everyone here. This is a post you could study for a week, and you would get something new every day. Bravo.

I have fun with my blog. Last night, I threatened my rubber duck (found outside my blood center's back door after Hurricane Katrina) unless I got comments. It was fun. My visitors got into the act. And it was light and breezy. If newbies glanced at the sidebar and saw one of my books that interested them -- so much the better.

Have a great new week, Roland :-)

April 7, 2013 at 6:31 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Fois--Your blog is fun, unique and totally you. Your sense of fun is what makes it a success. You're right that brand new authors giving writing advice is kind of pointless. As Ruth and I say, we've made the mistakes, so you don't have to.

Sil--I'm so glad this post has brought you some hits. You've got a great, very professional travel blog. It deserves to "go places." :-)

Roland--I didn't really plan to cram in so much. I started by talking about my famous author friend who got the mind-blowing requests from that agent, and then I went up and down from there. Didn't want to make it a totally depressing post.

We do the same thing with our blog that you do. We try to give value and then put our books in the sidebar and hope a few people click through.

OK, you've got me intrigued. I'd better go check out last night's blogpost...

April 7, 2013 at 7:58 PM  
Blogger Kim (YA Asylum) said...

I was skimming Publisher's Marketplace and saw the story about Beth Reekles, it was so great to see! I love odd success stories like that.

After reading this, I'm with Lexa, I'm glad I write fiction. Nonfiction has always seemed like the harder field to break into (and I'd be horrible at writing it). They have to build a platform and now they have to pay more?

Great information, thanks for sharing!

April 7, 2013 at 8:41 PM  
Blogger Donna Hole said...

Good advice and thanks for the publishing tips Anne.

......dhole

April 7, 2013 at 9:49 PM  
Blogger Phyllis Humphrey said...

Anne:

thanks for another great post. I learned so much. In the way of giving back, may I suggest your readers write a memoir about an interesting family member which I did with THE GREEN BOUGH about my husband's aunt. It's selling fairly well. And I, too, love blogging even if few people follow me.

April 7, 2013 at 10:55 PM  
Blogger Sheena-kay Graham said...

Wow I had no idea that publishing a lot about your fiction online messed up your rights. Thank you for letting me know and all the other wonderful info you shared.

April 8, 2013 at 1:20 AM  
Blogger Suresh kumar said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

April 8, 2013 at 3:23 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Kim--I loved reading about Beth Reekles, too! You're right that it's not quite as tough for fiction writers--especially if you write YA or children's. It seems a less cutthroat culture. But I've been hearing about publishers who expect fiction writers to put up a lot of upfront money with no advance these days, too. That's when self-publishing would become a very welcome option for me.

Donna--Thanks for stopping by.

Phyllis--Sounds like an interesting source of material. Best of luck with the new title!

Sheena-kay--It's fine to write ABOUT your fiction. But don't put the actual fiction on your blog. Save it for password-protected critiquing and sharing sites.

April 8, 2013 at 9:03 AM  
Blogger Christine Ahern said...

Great post as usual. So much good information. The story about the established author looking for an agent for her non-fiction was amazing! I agree, what would she need an agent for if the agent expected her to do everything an agent should be doing? I just don’t get that at all. Sounds like hubris to me.

April 8, 2013 at 9:41 AM  
Blogger Julie Luek said...

I started a blog at the beginning of this year just to play around with different creative nonfiction styles- see if I can find an audience and which posts resonate (and which ones don't).

Nonfiction doesn't have to be memoir or based in trauma-- any nonfiction can be interesting if it triggers a memory or thought or feeling or experience for the reader. That's the fun, and wow, the challenge.

Will I ever do anything more with it? I don't know, honestly. I don't think I quite have the writing chops yet, but blogs are great ways to practice with an audience, get some feedback and yet not feel like I'm risking the mortgage.

April 8, 2013 at 12:46 PM  
Blogger Debra Eve | Later Bloomer said...

I'm blogging my books, but I've got the perfect nonfiction subject (short inspiring biographies). I self-published the first and made quite a nice side income in 2012(as in, I haven't quit my day job).

One thing I'm struggling with now, as I pull the second book together, is how to differentiate the books from my blog. One or two negative reviews mentioned that the chapters "read like blog posts" or that they could have "read it for free on the blog."

So I'm publishing more interviews and guest posts on the blog that won't appear in the books and expanding the posts that will go in the books. I'd love your take on this problem at some point, Anne.

I though maybe I'd query my third and fourth books, but you've really made me rethink that! It sounds ugly out there. Thanks for another great post, Anne!

April 8, 2013 at 2:09 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Christine--Actually I think that agent was voicing the policies of the big (and mid-sized) publishers. Publicity and marketing aren't traditionally the job of an agent--they're the job of the marketing department of a publishing company. Who now apparently do nothing but sit on their tushes and count the money they're raking in from authors.

Julie--You're absolutely right that nonfiction doesn't have to be memoiric at all. Blogposts can be about anything. We don't do much personal writing on this blog and we're doing fine. :-) Blogs are wonderful for experimentation because you can see immediately what works and what doesn't.

Debra--Thanks for weighing in! Originally I put your blog in my list, but then I pulled it because you do have a book and the other bloggers I listed don't. But you're doing much the same thing. Your blog is a destination site unto itself--not just support for a book.

As far as querying--some small publishers may be welcoming to books like yours, but from what I can see, the Big 5 aren't worth the effort unless you can get to be a guest on Honey Boo Boo or attempt to assassinate Cher.

April 8, 2013 at 2:29 PM  
OpenID anthonyvtoscano.com said...

"So I’m going to break from traditional advice and suggest you consider blogging your memoiric essays . . ."

Dear Anne, Yes, I know you're correct when you say that people don't read fiction online, that they seek factual information. As well, I think readers seek a feeling that they know a writer and share common, everyday experiences. (I call this the Giggle Factor, as in 'Tee hee hee, yes my underwear drawer is haphazard, too!).And memoirs seem to have run a certain course (unless you're a famous or infamous celebrity).I think I'm not alone, however. Some of us just need to write and hope that at least one person will read us. I've been writing, and studying the craft, long enough to know that although I can string words into pretty necklaces, I don't own the necessary talent to write a story or a book. Nor do I any longer own sufficient time on Earth to begin boot camp again. For a writer like me, then, a website is an opportunity to feed an always empty belly, and to scratch an itch that will not go away.Thanks so much for giving all of us the benefit of your hard-earned wisdom.

April 9, 2013 at 5:57 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Anthony--You have the kind of blog that Florence Fois has--a memoiric mosaic of original photos (your photos are great!) and short literary memoir pieces that chronicle a lifetime of experiences and the characters you have known.

You have to plug away at it, but you will get a following. Your great writing and unique insights will draw people in. It's hard to get a blog going. During my first year I often had zero hits for weeks at a time. Luckily I was too much of a cybermoron to read my stats.

You don't have to have a book to hawk--no need to apologize for that. In fact people may be grateful that you don't. :-) If you network with some of the bloggers I've mentioned, you may find their followers will start drifting your way.

April 9, 2013 at 10:46 AM  
OpenID anthonyvtoscano.com said...

Anne, You are a rare combination. You're a successful, hardworking and persistent author; and yet you maintain a warm heart and a continual willingness to encourage writers who may never reach your level of success. As I sat in the audience of the Digital Age Writers workshop that you and others led a short time ago, the aspect that most struck me -- and that I most enjoyed -- was your apparent desire to give knowledge born of experience to other writers. That, kind lady, and your sharp sense of humor are gifts for which I'm grateful.

April 9, 2013 at 11:13 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Anthony--Thanks so much. I'm so glad you enjoyed the workshop. It was a good group. I always say I made a full set of mistakes so you don't have to. :-)

I think as you move around the blogosphere you'll find a lot of published writers who are eager to help newer ones. Writers are mostly a pretty friendly bunch.

April 9, 2013 at 6:49 PM  
Blogger Corey Feldman said...

Interesting post. I have to say I broke your rules on my children's stories though. I blogged them unillustrated, and in many cases with editing work still need. Once I was ready to publish I took the links down. But I built up a large audience, so I made more in my first month than I could have reasonably expected to make as an advance had I cared to follow a traditional route. Query agents for a year, wait however long it takes to get a deal, then wait months to years before the publisher actually publishes it. Then get my advance split up and paid over 6 months to a year. Then if I am lucky enough to earn out, which will only happen if I do most of my own marketing, since the big 5 aren't putting a lot of marketing power behind an unknown, I get a small royalty. No thanks. Honestly YMMV but I have seen a bunch of blogged serials turn into successful publications.

April 10, 2013 at 3:15 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Corey--Thanks for stopping by. This blog offers advice for authors who are looking to trad pub AND indies, so I want to keep things balanced. Those aren't my rules: they're the rules of the trad pub world. You'll notice I say it's not a good idea if you're a beginner and you're looking to be trad pubbed.

For indies, anything goes, and if you read the whole post, you've seen I'm encouraging nonfic writers to go indie, because they're not welcome in the Big 5 any more.

It's great you got a readership before you published. That's exactly what I'm encouraging nonfiction writers to do. If it works for children's books, too-- so much the better!

April 10, 2013 at 3:54 PM  
Blogger Mila Romansky said...

Thank you for a very insightful article!

April 15, 2013 at 9:52 AM  
Blogger Nina Badzin said...

I think I finally figured out how to comment on blogger blogs!

April 24, 2013 at 10:37 AM  
Blogger Joe O. said...

Ever since I've gone back to work at a traditional office part of me has taken to measuring time by these blog posts. I can't believe I've been away from this awesomeness for five weeks! Thank you as always for the great information.

What do you guys think about sharing work on Authonomy?

April 24, 2013 at 12:04 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Mila--We appreciate you stopping by!

Nina--Yay!

Joe--Thanks a bunch. I don't think I've ever been a measurement of time before. :-) The clockwork blogger?

I think places like Authonomy and Book Country are great for networking and making friends and getting comments on your work. I've never heard of anybody who got "discovered" there, but I do know people who have made great friends on those forums. It's not the same as putting your work on a blog, because they are closed communities and not "public" in the same way as a blog, so don't worry about posting your work there.

April 24, 2013 at 12:15 PM  
Blogger Jack Eiden said...

I'm new to blogging,but I've been writing novels and annoying agents with them, off and on, for 30 years. I think your advice about memoirs is on the mark. Since I have some from a long ago war and other settings, I had already decided to load some into the blog when I read this article. I also posted a series on gun control, but the memoirs got the comments and views. I followed your suggestion to serialize them - actually, I'm throwing them out as stand-alone stories - but your article started me in that direction

May 20, 2013 at 8:30 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Jack--I'm so glad I inspired you to blog your war memoir stories! We need to have a record of those times from the people who lived it. You'll be reaching soldiers and veterans of our more recent wars and helping them with your wisdom. Thanks for thinking outside the book and getting your work out there for the world to read!

May 20, 2013 at 9:49 PM  
Blogger An Unknown Author said...

Really informative post with a lot of interesting points. I wish I had read it before I started my blog as I seem to have fallen into a few of the pitfalls myself.

June 4, 2013 at 12:28 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Unknown--Don't worry. You can change anything about a blog except the url. It's easy to change the title, the template, the format, how often you post, and still keep your followers and search engine ranking. That's tied to the url. That's the great thing about blogging. You can experiment and see what works for you and your writing style/brand.

June 4, 2013 at 3:46 PM  

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