The Sun Singer's Travels

Malcolm R. Campbell's World

Archive for the tag “publishing”

Aw, those poor authors of ‘overlooked books’

Yes, I know, some publishers won’t turn your manuscript into a book if they don’t think it’s going to sell 50,000 copies or more. Gosh, 40,000 copies must be a real downer causing middle management shake-ups, angry calls to agents who promised everything, and getting the book tagged as one of the most overlooked books of the year.

While headlines such as this one on Kirkus (The 9 Most Overlooked Summer YA Novels You Should Read) give a publication a cheap and easy feature story to write, they’re an insult to mid-list and small press authors whose books really have been overlooked. Readers, especially on-line readers, probably love these lists because (a) they (the lists) don’t require much of an attention span, and (b) might include a gem that the readers didn’t notice earlier in the year.

  • The first book on Kirkus’ young adult list is Solo, by by Kwame Alexander with Mary Rand Hess. It looks good, by the way. However, since it’s displayed on Kirkus’ list with a Kirkus starred review, the book wasn’t overlooked.  The second book on the list, Saints and Misfits, also had a starred review from Kirkus as did every other book on the list. “Overlooked” is a category for books that Kirkus won’t review.
  • Solo’s current rank on Amazon is #1 in teens fiction. I’ll stipulate that its publisher would probably like to see a better overall ranking than 2,949. However, “overlooked” better describes small press books that hardly ever get into the top slots of Amazon’s genre rankings which (due to recent changes) are biased in favor of major publishers and higher priced books.
  • Solo was also reviewed by Publishers Weekly, Booklist, School Library Journal, BookPage, and others. Sure, more would be better. But “overlooked” really refers to books none of these outlets consider at all.
  • So as not to unfairly single out Solo, I should mention that in addition to actual reviews, the authors of the books on this list were also interviewed.  For example, the American Booksellers Association (ABA) featured a Q&A with the author of Saints and Misfits (S. K. Ali). I like the ABA’s “Indies First” program that supports independent bookstores. Unfortunately, the ABA doesn’t lend this kind of support to indie authors even when their books are distributed by outlets where the bookstores get their titles. Truly “overlooked” is being off the ABA’s radar altogether.
  • Many less-well-known book review sites claim that they support indie authors and (thankfully) a lot of them make good on this claim. However, these outlets–even when they have a regional books flavor–want readers, too, so they often fill many of their review slots with mainstream bestselling books that certainly don’t need any help. “Overlooked” is being passed over by a small review site by monthly features about books by top-100 authors.

Overlooked? I think not.

As the year goes on, we’ll see more and more lists of BEST BOOKS even though there will be more stuff published by December 31: these lists really do overlook books because everyone and their brother tries to be first out of the gate with proclamations about the best of the best of the best. And, we’ll see more lists of OVERLOOKED books, too. Suffice it to say that if a book is noticed by the organization creating the list, it hasn’t been overlooked even if higher sales for it had been expected.




Are you writing for immediate impact or to create a legacy?

In an interview in the current issue of Poets & Writers Magazine, Lidia Yuknavitch (The Book of Joan) said that a well known male writer friend is “always talking about how he wants to leave a legacy with his books, and I’m always talking about how I want to create energy in the present tense among other mammals and I could give a shit about a legacy … What I’m finding is, I am more interested in the intense, temporary energy books create.”

Up until Amazon and self-publishing made it easier for more authors to see their books in print, I’m guessing that more writers thought about legacy than immediate impact (other than getting on the bestseller list, perhaps). After all, we grew up with the idea of a writer’s legacy because most of the books we read in school were part of the writing legacy of a famous author; after that, many readers shifted over to current well-known writers who are creating a legacy now.

Several things seem to have changed. First, self-publishing has made getting words into print so easy that I see a lot of writers rushing books into print, trying to create instant bestsellers, publishing free books for the purpose of capturing readers’ attention and then directing them through links in the book to the books the author is charging for, and basically trying to keep a roller coaster of writing and promotion and platform and mailing lists constantly growing and building.

I’m not convinced those authors are thinking ahead to such things as legacy; it’s almost like they’re in a mad rush to build a following. And then, maybe, once they have it, they intend to shift over to writing books that will last and be their legacy.

The other thing is Donald Trump’s election and the campaign that led up to it. This has stirred an interest among both mainstream GOP and mainstream Democrat writers to create novels, plays, poems and nonfiction that matter now. These writers are– like Yuknavitch, perhaps–so focused on the polarized political climate and how it impacts their core values about diversity, big business, the environment, immigration, education, birth control and other issues, that they want books that focus on these issues right now in the present.

I’ve thought about the idea of immediate impact lately because there’s such a push amongst writers for all of us to get involved in writing something with a tie-in to current issues. I realize that I don’t do that. Sure, I make a few comments on Facebook (and usually get burned for saying anything), support various environmental and social service groups, and occasionally post things on my other blog about environmental issues. But my fiction hasn’t changed with Trump’s election any more than it would have changed with Hillary Clinton’s election–or anyone else’s election.

I care about the political issues and have an opinion about them. Most people do. I’m just not moved to write about it. As for a legacy, no, I don’t care about that either because short of having Oprah call me out of the blue, my books will be forgotten soon after I depart for the writing room in the sky. I’m realistic about that. So it comes down to just telling stories, hoping people like them, and in being aware that something in this story or that story might impact how a person feels about my stories’ themes.

That said, I tend to agree with Yuknavitch’s point of view because it seems to me that consciously trying to create a legacy destroys the experience of writing a meaningful story in about the same way that posing for hundreds of selfies destroys a person’s involvement in the tourist locations they’re visiting. Legacy creation probably ruined a lot of otherwise promising careers because those who approached storytelling this way were overly particular and/or restrained because they imagined what their words would look life when they were engraved in stone. In a way, those writers are like the politician who always minds his words because a camera might be recording him as he speaks.

Of course, we may end up with both immediate energy and a legacy if we don’t try to force the issue.


Carrying Snakes into Eden (two short stories) and The Lady of the Blue Hour (short story) will be free on Kindle April 22 through April 24, 2017.




Book Marketing tips for trad published authors

“Over the course of my ongoing tour, a lot of people have asked me what it’s like working with a major publisher and how much book marketing is expected of a traditionally published author. The answer is, it’s great, but it’s also a lot of work. In fact, based on my conversations with self-published authors, I can tell you that the book marketing effort required by a traditionally published author is about 99% the same as what’s expected of a self-published writer.”

Source: Book Marketing tips for trad published authors via Mark Noce

Mark Noce’s comments may surprise some self-published and small-press-published authors who assume larger publishers do more of the promotion work. As you’ll see, that’s not possible, due to the volume of new books coming out every month.

But Mark offers some nice tips here, well worth reading.


If you want to succeed at self-publishing, don’t be discouraged

“I strongly recommend resisting the urge to publish your first work as quickly as possible. Rather, proof it, reread it, get comments, proof it again, and devise a pre- and post-publishing marketing plan…Don’t be discouraged by rejection or settle for good-enough. In marketing-speak, make it the highest quality product you humanly can, and — with some doggedness and hard work on your part — the product will then sell itself.”

Source: Want to Succeed at Self-Publishing? Don’t Be Discouraged: Tips from an Indie Author

Ben Batchelder has certainly been there and done that even though writing wasn’t his first career.

I like his message partly because I hear a lot of indie authors talking about speeding things into print, getting as much stuff out there as possible, and–often–skipping the quality control side of the work.

What’s the rush, I often wonder.



How to Get Paperback Books into Libraries

“Indie authors and publishers think a lot about getting books into libraries. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s a rite of passage, or a holdover of the older, traditional publishing industry. Or maybe, as in my case, it’s the awkward silence when asked, ‘Can I check out your book from the library?'”

Source: How to Get Paperback Books into Libraries – Indies Unlimited

worldcatAs a publisher, Melinda Clayton does her research so that books from Thomas-Jacob (including mine) show up in the places where prospective readers expect to see them.

Like her, the question I usually hear when I publish a new book (other than, “What pages have all the ‘good stuff’ on them?”) is “can I check it out at the library?” For a while, the answer was “yes” because I lived in a small town, worked on a city commission, and knew the librarian. So yes, my books were there.

The thing is, they weren’t in any other libraries. But there’s a way to get them there. Thank you, Melinda.


You’re invited to subscribe to the Thomas-Jacob Newsletter

Thomas-Jacob Publishing is kicking off a newsletter this year, and for those of us who write for this small Florida publisher, this is an exciting announcement. Writers are often asked, “When is your next book coming out.” Sometimes the answer is, “Last month.” It’s hard to keep up. This newsletter will give those who’ve enjoyed a book by Melinda Clayton, Tracy Franklin, Michael Franklin, Robert Hays, Smoky Zeidel, and myself a way to stay updated.

Click on the graphic to subscribe:




92% of college students prefer print books to e-books, study finds

“If you imagine millennials are just young people entranced by their cellphones or tablet computers, you might want to think again. According to a new study , 92% of college students would rather do their reading the old-fashioned way, with pages and not pixels.”

Source: 92% of college students prefer print books to e-books, study finds – LA Times

In another article, the author cited statistics showed that slightly less than 40% of Americans read only print books. Perhaps the future will continue to bring us multiple reading/listening options.


Book Bits says goodbye again

I canceled Book Bits once before and then brought it out of retirement. Now it’s time to say goodbye again.


It’s getting in the way of my own writing as well as the many projects my wife and I have to do on this section of a farm we moved to earlier this year.

So, once again, thank you to everyone who has stopped by these posts and (I hope) found a link or two out of the batch that they found interesting.

If you want a quick digest of U.S. publishing news, you can find it on weekdays at Poets and Writers Magazine. For Canadian news, check Quill & Quire’s “Quillblog.” For a retail slant on book news, see Shelf Awareness. They have two newsletters, one for readers and one for the book trade.

Publishers Weekly and Galley Cat will bring you recent publishing information, while Flavorwire will bring you lists of books grouped around current themes. For heavier duty features, look at Literary Hub and The Millions.

I’ll continue to post book-related news and features such as the Jane Smiley essay I found earlier today. But, compiling Book Bits is now at the end of its road–unless I get bored some day and bring it back again.

Thanks for reading.



Forever Changing Gears

This blog is named after my first novel The Sun Singer, initially self-published and then published by a small press. That publisher also released the sequel Sarabande. These novels are both contemporary fantasies.

First edition - 2004

First edition – 2004

The books went out of print due to a disagreement between myself and the publisher. Subsequently, another small press expressed interest and promised to bring out new editions in January and April of 2014. Things dragged. Finally, The Sun Singer was released in August of 2014, but with a badly formatted Kindle file. Sarabande was never released by this publisher for unknown reasons.

Since that time, there have been endless discussions about what it would take for the publisher to fix the file. Meanwhile, neither version of the book was available. We have finally come to a parting of the ways. This means my rights to both The Sun Singer and Sarabande will revert to me.

I have no clue what I will do with them. Personally, I like the novels a lot. But they have lost ground being out of print and then having one of them go through multiple release dates only to not show up and then to get tangled up in the corrupted Kindle file scenario.

I look at them and wonder if I should change gears again. It’s hard to re-release old books unless they are very well known or have something special added to them. New books, from little-known authors, go through a certain sequence of events that allow the author a chance for promotion: revealing the cover, announcing the release date, talking about the book’s first reviews, sponsoring a GoodReads give-away, having book sales, etc.

With older books, the bloom is off the rose (short of Oprah or Hollywood calling).

Plus, my focus has changed away from Glacier National Park where the novels are set to north Florida where my recent novella Conjure Woman’s Cat is set. Doing something with the older books would definitely be a distraction. One never knows whether to change gears on such things or not.

If you don’t, the gods will say you should have. If you do, the gods will ask you why you did such a crazy thing.

When you write, every day is a new adventure. As corporations used to say, one needs to be agile, that is, to be able to adapt to quickly changing conditions. So, perhaps those old books will return again and perhaps they won’t.


KIndle cover 200x300CarryingSnakesCoverMalcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” a novella set in the 1950s Jim Crow era of north Florida in which a granny and her kitty use folk magic to combat the Klan.

My Kindle short story “Carrying Snakes Into Eden” is free April 28-30, 2015.



On a Kind of Writer’s Block, On Not Writing, On Refusing to Write, On Freedom

“In the fall of 2003, I was pretty sure my career was over. My third novel had just come out. And I was certain that my publisher had, more or less, fired me. They had a first-look option on my next novel, but it was clear that they would pass and this first-look was a formality.

“My instinct was to sit on my hands and refuse to write. It was a gut instinct, really. I couldn’t argue with it rationally.”

via Home of Baggott & Asher & Bode: On a Kind of Writer’s Block, On Not Writing, On Refusing to Write, On Freedom.

One doesn’t need a lucrative writing career to be in this position. Most writers have problems with publishers sooner or later and just decide to shut down the process at its starting point. Many writers will be able to empathize with Julianna Baggott’s (“Pure,” “The Madam”) feelings in this post.


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