Friday, September 30, 2011

3L Publishing Strives for Excellence!

My new novel California Girl Chronicles arrived yesterday via UPS. A few comments about it. First, I love our printer, who I am not going to disclose for competitive purposes. Every single order they surprise me. What you can't see in that picture to the left is that beneath the jacket sleeve, they embossed the hard cover on front and back. It's done in gold emboss and looks really nice. The quality of the paper on all fronts is excellent. The book turned out BETTER than I anticipated. Big kudos. But that said, 3L Publishing strives for excellence on all fronts. We all work with the best of the best. Every vendor we work with we vet ahead of time to ensure what they produce on behalf of our clients will not just be satisfactory but impressive. With the edition of premiere distributor Bakers and Taylor, we are poised to move aggressively into a very successful distribution model into bookstores. Believe me when I say that it was an impressive feat for us to gain acceptance with Bakers. They don't accept all publishers. We had to essentially build the case via an impressive marketing plan and sales track record. If you are looking for a hybrid publisher like 3L, please be aware that most smaller publishers don't have Bakers. I know of several local publishers that do not offer national distribution at all or are not qualified to be accepted by Bakers for a number of reasons: most notably no sales track record that would build the case for acceptance or they lack of any concrete marketing (the marketing plan). Additionally, if you are studying this marketplace, be aware that even in the eBook arena, publishers will use a third-party vendor such as Smash Words to provide eBook services. If your publisher uses Smash Word, be advised: Smash Words in really the publisher. Here at 3L we have our own conversion service combined with ownership of our sales channels with Kindle, Nook and iBook. Apple is yet another difficult vendor to gain acceptance with, and we did so. So these two important vendor relationships say a lot about 3L Publishing and why we are one of the best boutique publishers in our area. Before you get involved in any publishing relationship, do your homework. Ask for references from satisfied authors. Ask about their distribution. Ask HOW they produce eBooks. Be very careful! A lot of unqualified providers exist out there. Don't get scammed. Ask for the publisher's credentials.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Writer's Hazards

I don't know why being a writer invites so much curiosity along with some strange reactions from people. Over the years, I've told strangers about my profession and reactions typically fall across two categories: we'll call the first the "Really" reaction and the second the "Cool" reaction. Here are the responses under each one.

REALLY
"Do you really write?" What does that mean? I lied about it. I only write under my bed and it's just scribbling anyway and that doesn't count?


"For real?" No, not 'real' just fake. I write to entertain the cat -- and that's not really 'real' is it? The cat bats my wadded up sheets around the kitchen so I guess that's not publishable.

"You're actually published?" No, I call myself a writer just to say it. In fact, let's say it now ... w-r-i-t-e-r. See flows right off the tongue. Never published, though. I just like the word writer. And it makes my grandma happy to tell her friends, but when they ask to see my work, she laughs and says she lost my book.

COOL
The "cool" response generally consists of this question: "What do you write?"

P.S., if you're really a writer who wants to be published, submit your sample chapter and synopsis to info@3LPublishing.com. I promise I won't ask you if this is a "hobby". Cross my heart!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Another Excerpt from the California Girl Chronicles

  Note: Sometimes a defining moment in one's life can be so simple! 

 I nodded and realized I did need to get serious. Here was this incredible man making an exciting offer to help me, and I was dragging my feet. Before I could say anything else, Kale leaned in very close to my face and spoke to me.
   “Sweetheart, what else do you have to do?” he asked in serious earnest.
  And that was the question to pose. He was right. What else did I have to do? Nothing. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Every Day I Write the Book

I bet many of you have heard this expression, "writing is like a muscle; you have to use it to become stronger." That statement is true. The more you write the more you exercise that mental muscle and the better your work becomes. I've noticed writers who spin in circles declaring their intentions to write and yet the actual time spent working on the task is nil. They talk about it more than they do it. Sometimes you just have to put your seat in the chair and just do it. Quit thinking about it. Just get to work. The other common idea is that the magic is in the rewrites. So, the first intention to just sit down should be to get it out of you. The second act should be the rewrites. One of the reasons I encourage writers to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is because the contest gets writers to move and write and just get it down on the computer screen. Also, if you think you have a "block" (which I don't believe in writer's block so don't get me started) then the very act of just typing and getting the words flowing helps move you forward. NaNoWriMo begins in November. For details on how you can participate go the NaNoWriMo website.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Like Mother Always Said, "Ignore It"

So I got this spiteful email sent to me from an author whose work we rejected. I read this nasty email in which she decided to lambaste "my world" as she put it. I considered a response for about 30 seconds, and then hit "delete". Why am I bringing this up? Well, I've worked in the public eye for quite sometime. I've written editorials for years, and I received my fair share of ridiculous letters to the editor. I'll never forget the one where I wrote an article against software piracy and got a boat load of responses from techies who defended (yes, defended) their right to steal other people's intellectual property. I was so astounded that we live in a world where people can defend their rights to break the law -- and be mad at me for saying they shouldn't. Anyway, I digress ... this person in a way did the same sort of defense about my right to ask people to respect my time. Under the guise of this is just how to do business (another defenseless assertion), she then went on a personal attack. First and foremost, I want to be clear this was an author we rejected for a number of very solid business reasons, and it was an author who pushed the business boundaries and made a number of requests without signing a contract. She treated her relationship with 3L like a free-for-all, and showed a complete unwillingness to understand that without a contract or willingness to respect our standards and advice on what we'll publish, we won't work with her. In the end, I'm sharing this with you as a lesson in business. If you're in the public eye and write for publication, you will get all sorts of attacks. Sometimes an attack will come out of the blue like this one from someone you barely know. You have to have a thick skin. You should not react. It's kind of like mother always said, "Ignore them." If you know what is your mission, stay the course. Stay on your direction. Stay grounded! And in the end, anyone who writes you a nasty note is just bitter and not worth your time.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

My Life in Print

I had this thought ... after I tried to have some voice-on-voice action with my BFF and we kept missing each other, I noticed she read my newsletter First Word. I chuckled at the thought that now I didn't need to update her on the recent happenings. Is this what my busy scheduled has distilled into -- my friends only learning about my adventures in print? Is that what happens if you get too busy or even famous to keep in touch anymore? Your life's tales unfold in the press? I would imagine that would be the case. What a strange thought. I do, in fact, keep in touch with most people via my marketing materials and First Word, the newsletter. Maybe this is a whole new level of alienation, because it's happening to more than just me. People don't call each other all that often anymore. They email. They text. Voice-on-voice action seems to have gone the way of analog. Here is a funny thought. I've had to force myself to pick up the phone to have a real connection with my friends. I've developed such a digital relationship with the outside world that I don't even call people that often. I'm just saying, this takes alienation to new heights and extremes. A true disconnect in humanity is happening. This applies to the numerous men who try to hit on me on Facebook and even go so far as to make declarations of love ... did you hear that correctly? Yes, love! How you can possibly declare any level or affection or love for a picture and a person you've never met? What's wrong with that picture?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

3L Publishing's Submission Guidelines -- Good Advice

I am surprised by general expectations of authors when they submit books for review. Here is what surprises me the most -- authors who expect that I have time read the entire book and provide a free evaluation. 3L Publishing's submission guidelines stipulate a sample chapter and a synopsis be provided. Why? Because we receive dozens of manuscripts. I don't have time read that many books in a lifetime. Some authors just don't understand that simple premise. I have authors falsely assume I will read the entire manuscript to make a decision as to whether or not I will work with them. First, (and I know this is shocking to some) I can pretty much tell by the end of chapter one (and sometimes the first page) whether or not the author has the fundamental skills required to write a book -- and any weaknesses they have 3L's team will correct. While this may surprise the rest of you, I can often tell by the first sentence if the manuscripts belongs in one of three piles -- the good, the bad or the ugly. I have seen it all. Manuscripts where the writers gives away the spoilers by page two; manuscripts so littered in errors I can't see past the mistakes; and manuscripts where the dialog is painfully stilted, cliché or trite. The best advice I can give any author who submits: don't make demands for me to read the whole thing. I don't have enough hours in the day to read every submission to the end. I wish I did, but I don't. So when you submit your precious manuscript, please don't make these demands. Also, you might also steer away from asking me for a free evaluation -- especially when you intend to shop it elsewhere. I'm just sayin'.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Is that a Bungee Cord?

No you didn't!
Traveling with my absolutely favorite gal pal and financial planner Cindy Fuzie, who I will from now on call The Fuze, we had an absolute blast when we went to Reno eWomen. Now the blast, of course, did not happen at the actual event. Nope! We headed with two good friends/client over to the Peppermill where we bonded in the bar. I have to tell you I have made more strong connections with people at networking event by hanging out in the bar and just socializing. You will actually see it's relationship building not sales. Conferences and events are great but nothing is better than really getting to know someone outside of the events. I know this might sound strange, but I tell you I have built more relationships in bars that you might think I'm a lush. Truly, I drink a little but it's the time when people let their collective hair down and just chat. In these conversations, you can discover whether or not you even like the person. I think in business you should only work with people you like! At least that is how I do business. So we spent the evening with two people I like very much. We talked a little business, but we mostly had a rocking night out. And on the way home, The Fuze snapped that humorous photo!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Infomercial or Speaking Engagement ... You Be the Judge

Today's lesson is about speaking or more specifically bad speakers. Since I constantly network I have seen my fair share of bad speakers. I've also been privileged to see some great ones too. So I feel fairly confident I can tell the difference and provide some advice to those who wish to become a speaker. The number one rule of bad speaking is to start selling them something less than five minutes into the presentation. In fact, if I can impart any advice at all, here it is: don't try to sell at all. Now many of you are scratching your heads and asking, "Doesn't that defeat the purpose?" No! You will still end up with sales for your services or products (that is, if you do a good job), but the truth is nobody wants a hard sell. Sometimes your audience doesn't want to hear your pitch at all. Your audience came to learn something, possibly be enlightened, and walk away feeling like their money was well spent on an interesting networking event. When you either immediately begin selling or spend the last 10 minutes of your 20 minute presentation selling, you turn people off. I recently saw a speaker who within five minutes of her presentation started down the "infomercial" path and told us her prices for services. What did I do? "Oh, wow! Where is my iPhone? Hmm ... I need to check my messages. Oh, and I need to leave ... I mean use the bathroom." That is what your sales efforts will do -- not engage your audience.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I'll "Squirm" for 3L Publishing Anytime!

I'm all about intentions right now. I have a few great projects simmering on the burner, and I'm promoting and networking and connecting. Yesterday I decided I was going to aggressively pursue some angles to get my screenplay out there and find a script agent. So, I started thinking about all of the ways I could do it. Pretty soon, things started to just move forward -- a few inches at a time but none the less forward. I want you to know one thing -- all of this effort and what I'm trying makes me uncomfortable. I am not someone who feels entirely comfortable being pushy or aggressive. Now that is not to say that I'm not good at networking, but while it might appear to those who know me that I'm extroverted, it's not entirely the case. I've had to push myself to color outside of my comfort lines to become extroverted. You cannot run a successful business without comfortably going out and meeting new people all of the time. I've known many associates who have tried to start a business and failed on this point. They don't like all the networking and prefer to stay home -- and there is nothing wrong with that. But hiding in your house will not sell your business or move your project forward. I've been told over and over that to succeed you must get out of your comfort zone on a daily basis. I've been doing that. Calling people I've met via social media or asking people for help to meet a goal is definitely way out of my zone and definitely in the red zone. But my goals and dreams are worth it. So, I am doing it. The bottom line: if you're not willing to squirm a little or you hate networking and connecting, you might find it hard to be an entrepreneur.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

You are Not Your Hype!

Before the party started! LOL
It's a good thing that we took pictures at the house before we left. I just saw a Facebook shot taken much later into the evening -- and I look like I should not stay up anymore past 9:00 pm. I'm sure I had touched, rubbed and smeared make-up by the time that photo got shot. You know what I mean? It was that kind of photo where you look like you should go home now ... tired ... old ... decrepit. Okay, so here is a shout out to this very nice guy named Gabe Kubanda from VH1 that we spent some time with -- and he is the person I got captured with as my tired self in the unflattering photo. First, I want to say this, what a nice guy. A total gentlemen in a sea of (how shall we say) less than gentlemanly guys. He was completely respectful and made some comments about how he treats his fans that just said it all -- a total rare breed. I hope his star rises and he continues to stay grounded.

Speaking of staying grounded ... that is an important thing when you're doing work that puts you in the spotlight. You can get really caught up in your own hype. I see authors who have actually bemoaned the idea that they're going to be in the spotlight. I try to counsel them that it's all about building a fan base for your book, and you should not think of it as being all about you. Stay focused on the work itself -- and that's what will, in fact, ground you. All of the hype and media is just external stuff. I was getting so nervous about the release of my sexy book California Girl Chronicles until I reminded myself it's a book. It's not me. And if you mistake my heroine Brea as being me ... well, let's just say that would put me in the category that includes traits such as bad judgment and weak. Those who do know me, know neither of those characteristics apply. So remember: you are not your book!! or film ... or iTune ... or whatever! It's an expression of something.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Emmy Parties ... and Sing it ... Short People Got No Reason

(L) Michelle Gamble-Risley and (R) Sonja Fisher
Sonja Fisher, my First Word Radio show co-host invited me to go to the Emmy parties to network with her. So, I sucked in air and decided to live a little and force myself to go. Now most of you who do, in fact, know me also know I'm not shy. But I do get a little "tense" when faced with crowds and a sea of unfamiliar faces. So, I soon found myself in line to walk the red carpet with Sonja (only after drinking a glass of "liquid courage") clinging to her back like a spider monkey. Sonja got a big ole kick out of her new friend "Klingon." As we were standing there she starts telling me to hype the buzz on my new book The California Girl Chronicles. I couldn't believe how a little discomfort seemed to implode in my head and turn my usually lively brain to pure mush! I'm a publicist for gosh sakes. Brain switch flipped, I started working the interviews like you wouldn't believe. Pretty soon, Sonja is cracking up. She's like, "You were just a hawk for the cameras." I laughed. I even had a gal grab me as we were leaving and tell me how she was doing a reality TV show on models and was I interested. I started LMAO. I'm not a model by any stretch of the imagination. BUT in her defense, there are so many short actors and actresses that at one point I cracked a joke that I thought I had gone to "Oompa Loompa Land." I'm normally 5' 9" and I was wearing high heels so I stood at least 6' 2" at this event -- hence the mistake that I might qualify for the model reality TV show. This whole "shortage" thing was really weird. They were all really short, super nicely shaped and nicely proportioned short people. Really it was bizarre! And I looked bizarre in the sea of short people. Well, I'll be sure to regale you with more humorous stories from the weekend all week long on the blog.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Networking in LA LA Land

I'm heading to LA to the Emmy parties to network with Sonja Fisher this weekend. Networking in a new territory can be uncomfortable. I know a lot of people wouldn't do it at all. But you have to get outside of your comfort zone if you're going to succeed. I've heard you have to get out of this comfort zone daily. Of course, attending parties is usually a lot of fun, so twist my arm, right? I want to meet producers who can move my two projects -- Beauty School and California Girl Chronicles -- forward. The way I network here in town if I lived down in LA LA land, I would have already moved them forward. But I'm handicapped being so far from networking home base. So off I go. I will be sure to report back stupid celebrity stories. Celebrities stories are usually more entertaining and funnier than the norm because you get to add a pinch of narcissism and a dash of big ego to ratchet up the amusement.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Another Excerpt from California Girl Chronicles

“He told me he loved me,” I admitted and felt guilty.
Denise’s eyes grew wide, “Whoops,” she cracked. “What did you say?”
“The truth,” I replied. “I owed him that much. I never led him on. I don’t know when his feelings changed.”
“Umm maybe during all that sex!” she retorted.
I smiled. I loved Denise’s direct honesty. She always told it like it was. “Yeah, that got a little out of hand,” I said. “I think I need to let the relationship chill down.”
“Good idea,” said Denise as she jumped up and headed for the door, “OK, I have to get ready. Ciao!”

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The One Thing

With the acceptance as a Bakers and Taylor publisher, there is only one difference between 3L Publishing and traditional publishing. In exchange for super high royalties, you pay for the services you consume -- and that's it. We had a weak distributor in the past that didn't really move books. We expect the new arrangement with Bakers to push books so much better through their reputable services and quality catalog. When we went to the New York Book Expo and our former distributor handed us a CD and mentioned ignore the typos, we knew we were in trouble. Not just any publisher gets accepted to Bakers and Taylor. In fact, most publishers without the quality catalog and sales track record can get into Bakers.

Some publishers don't have any distribution model outside of Amazon. In fact, many small publishers in and around Sacramento don't have this capability. So, if you're looking to work with a local outfit, ask your representative how they distribute to the bookstores.

The key question to ask about distribution into the bookstores: who do you use? If they utter anything outside of Bakers and Taylor, do your own homework and find out that distributor's reputation. If they have a national distributor and you're paying them a very high hourly or general rate, you will be left high and dry without distribution -- and spending a lot of money to be left without bookstore distribution. Applying for distribution with individual titles is very challenging. We did this with my first book Second Bloom, which won awards, and it got rejected. We even went to the Independent Book Publishers Association, and it got rejected. It's a challenge to get a single book distributed.

If they only offer Amazon and eBook then ask some critical questions about eBook service.

The key question to ask about eBook service: Do you convert the book and "own" the sales channels? What does this mean? Is your publisher really the provider or are they contracting the eBook service to something like Smashwords? Why does this matter? First, Smashwords is really the publisher and royalties will not be as high. Second, that means your publisher is no more then a facilitator with no control. You could do Smashwords on your own. Here at 3L Publishing, we have direct relationships with our eBook providers with Nook (Barnes), iBook (Apple) and Kindle (Amazon). Don't be misled about this. Find out and specifically ask.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Public Relations Tips for Small Businesses

A full-blown public relations campaign can be costly. The average cost of a retainer from an agency averages about $3,000 a month. For a mid-size to large company, that amount is not a big deal ... it's lunch money. For small businesses or individual authors, that amount is a very big deal. If you don't have a lot of money to spend on a public relations campaign, you can do the following:

Help a Reporter Out aka HARO -- Three times a day HARO releases queries from top media outlet reporters who are in search of sources for their material. You can submit queries too if you need content or you can answer queries. HARO is free. It costs you time and ability to answer the queries in the correct manner (now that part is a skill). So, here is a tip: always answer the query exactly and don't stray from the question.

Hire a Smaller Boutique or Contractor -- Individual public relations practitioners working on their own often cost much less than a full-size agency. Don't get too excited that this route is the cost cutting method you seek, though. A PR contractor with a lower hourly rate may not be worth it. He/she may not be using or can afford powerful tools like Vocus, which enables him/her to reach the right target media. If you only intend to do a small regional campaign then do hire a contractor. Most of the time, the contractor probably has regional information and knows the players. Larger reach in national media requires tools and knowledge that might be beyond your smaller practitioner's range.

Watch Out for Over-billing -- Here are some things to watch out for to avoid being ripped off. PR can be very hard to measure. If you get a bill for 10 hours and you don't know what it was spent on, make sure your PR person gives you an itemized list of activities and tasks completed and assigned hours. Now I'm not suggesting you micro-manage your PR representative. But accountability on something where results are difficult to measure will at least help you understand where the time was spent. I knew a practitioner who routinely billed 10 hours for a wire drop. A wire drop isn't a 10-hour task, but clients don't often know that. Did that 10 hours include writing the press release? Did it include follow-up time with individual media outlets? Had this person itemized her report this way, no questions would have been raised; but an invoice with wire drop associated with 10 hours is too vague and raises suspicion. Look for itemized tasks associated with an activity so you understand how that time was actually spent.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Writer's Strike: True Blood Season Finale Needs Fresh Scribes

I was on HBO's message board last night reading the fan's reactions to the season finale of True Blood. If you read yesterday's blog then you know I ranted about the poor writing. I am not the only soured fan who noticed the writers needed a trip to the literary woodshed for a little po-po paddle time. At first, I thought maybe I'm just tone deaf, and I didn't hear the line(s) delivered appropriately. Maybe I'm in a bad mood. Maybe it's PMSS -- poorly managed script syndrome. Then I read the more literate fan messages on the Talk board. Nope! Not even Advil is going to get rid of these brain cramps.

True Blood Season 4 up until the last three episodes was doing just fine. Following the book Dead to the World just fine -- check. Alexander Skarsgård playing my favorite bloodsucker with a fantastic ability to vacillate between two personalities very well -- amnesiac Eric and real Eric. Anna Paquin, child actor extraordinaire who won the Oscar for the critically claimed Piano (anyone remember her in that? I feel old) doing a fine job as our heroine Sookie. Then came some of the worst writing of the show. And here are the lines so dipped in cheese, they might as well come straight out of the dairy farm.


Eric: Excuse me. Crispy up here. -- This line was meant to somehow be funny. True Blood usually does funny pretty well. Why was I not amused?


Sookie: Our time together was memorable but ... -- All right writers, really? This is what our fairy princess says about an incredible romance built up over three seasons? REALLY? I could have taken an intelligent and mature speech over that one anytime. Come on! Just two shows back the words, "I love you" were shared between our favorite fairy and Viking God. WTF ... "memorable" doesn't cut it. "I'm confused. A lot has happened in a short time. I need to be alone for a while. I need to be sure of my feelings. I need to quit sucking your blood ... somebody break these blood bonds (hint: see Dead Reckoning for Sookie's real feelings about our beloved Viking). I could "write" on and on some fantastic lines for our falafel fairy to utter to her guy, but the word "memorable" would be used judiciously to describe only the fantastic sex on the animal pelts. 


Best line of the day and maybe the year. Pam: I'm sick of Sookie and her fairy vagina. 


Jason is absolutely a dim bulb without a doubt. He says and does the stupidest things that I usually laugh over; but I find it hard to believe that he's so Gump that he would actually tell Hoyt the sexual positions he shared with Jessica. He was there, after all, to have a serious discussion about what he felt was his betrayal of his best friend since grade school. So, to turn around and dimly answer the question, "How?" with a series of sexual positions just didn't ring true. He's not THAT dumb! Sorry writers another Razzy for you.

Last licks: Alan Ball did an amazing job on Six Feet Under, which is another show I still pop in the DVD player from time to time just to revisit its greatness. True Blood has consistently delivered great entertaining TV too; but these last several shows it just kind of flailed. I hope that writers are paying attention to literate fans like myself who do this for a living too. I thought those last several shows were sloppy, and it seemed like they got tired or bored or both. You don't have to go far to find excellent material. Just reference back to the original books. Charlaine Harris delivers consistently entertaining Sookie adventures. I could pull at least a hundred great lines out of her books, including my favorite reference to "gourmet sex". And frankly, if I had more time I could jump back to the replays of the finale and offer even more lead-thump clunkers for you all to groan over.

Here is hoping that Season 5 with the eminent return of the rapscallion Russell Edgington will be filled with fun, fantasy and improved writing. And someone please salvage the Eric/Sookie relationship. These two have fantastic chemistry and the great Skarsgård is, aside from being sweet eye candy, an interesting and intense actor. I am curious how deep he is going to go into creepy in the movie Straw Dogs that opens Friday.

Monday, September 12, 2011

True Blood: Sookie and Eric Rewrite Please

All right -- I am going to share my huge letdown with the True Blood triangle of Bill/Sookie/Eric. And for those of you wondering why this is on a publishing blog, I'm going to put it in context of storytelling and staying true to your story. They built up the Sookie/Eric romance over three seasons in the background of the love story with Bill. In the Harris books (for those of you not in-the-know), Sookie's real relationship that lasts over the course of several books is with Eric. In Harris recent book, (spoiler alert) Dead Reckoning, Sookie pledges her true love to Eric even after she has the blood bond broken. Okay, so back to why I'm annoyed with Alan Ball and his writers -- and specifically how it was written. When Sookie essentially gives up both of her lovers, what she says to Eric just bugged me. As a critical viewer, who does know the books and professionally writes for a living, I objected to her break-up speech, which essentially she said her time with Eric was "memorable." THIS after two shows earlier (after much romper room time in the meadow, bed and Viking la, la land), they told each other the magical words, "I love you." And then there was the earlier exchange of: "I gave myself to you completely."

Now I'm not some lunatic fan who can't let go. What I object to is how this was written. Her final statement about their connection being "memorable" was completely inconsistent, insincere and frankly weird. I'm sure they're shutting the door on this love story to open it up for some Alcide loving. (My belief is that Alcide is going to be the Quinn character replacement ... sorry to you who have not read the books ... Quinn is ultimately Sookie's were-tiger lover). And it's True Blood; it's a drama; and happily ever after is left for the show finale. They also foreshadowed earlier in the show, Sookie's choice when she referenced her desire to swing on the porch with her grand babies (no grand babies are going to come from vampire loving).

So, here is the lesson for all you writers out there. Keep it real. Fans can accept the storyline a little better if you write it in a way that seems authentic. But you can't have two characters pledge their love and then turn around and reduce their affair down to a single line: "It was memorable." Okay, not working for me. Sorry! Rewrite!!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Day-Glow Pink Slip

Another short excerpt from California Girl Chronicles (chapter 2):

“Laid off?” I felt a pit of dread form in my stomach. “All of us?”
And just as I asked that stupid question, the accountant Janet walked over and handed me my literal, day-glow pink slip. “Why did they print it on day-glow pink?” I heard myself ask with scorn. “How tacky,” I mused.
I knew what it said, and I understood the envelope was probably my last check.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

3L Publishing is Now a Bakers and Taylor Vendor

Big news for 3L Publishing. We worked hard, followed the detailed instructions, wrote the marketing plan, and submitted a package to premiere book distributor Bakers and Taylor earlier this summer. All of the hard work paid off. We received notification that Bakers has agreed to distribute our books! Why is this so important and exciting? I will outline it below:

  • Bakers works like Amazon and only keeps stock on hand that it has orders to fill. This means no storage and insurance fees that we have to pass to our clients.
  • We can do smaller print runs for niche books, as Bakers doesn't have a 500 book minimum they require to fill orders, and thus, no storage and insurance fees.
  • Bakers fills orders to all of the major bookstores and suppliers worldwide.
  • Bakers royalties are real! Not a bunch of nonsense with handling fees and misc. accounting fees that all add up to reduce royalties down to nothing. 
  • Bakers is also a major supplier for Barnes and Noble.
  • Bakers doesn't take just any authors or publisher so this vetting gives 3L Publishing greater credibility as a viable publisher in the marketplace. 3L had to have a real track record and a sales record to support that track record. 3L books had to pass quality control and Bakers inspection, which says a great deal about the quality of our books.
  • Bakers does real advertising, and offers quality catalogs for buyers to select from. None of this half-hearted catalog with spelling errors on a CD.
We will still have to deal with returns et al, but we are much savvier than in the past. We will not set up our company to take the brunt of the problems. Our business model rewards authors with high royalties, which means the authors retain copyright. We have had some problems with returns and lack of recognition by some authors that returns are unsold books. We often suffered because we were never even paid in the first place for many books that we got charged returns and had paid out authors anyway. It was quite a racket. It's a new day, though, and we will be going forward with our eyes wide open. The addition of Bakers puts us in a strong position as we move forward with our cross of print/eBook model that will be another major win for our authors. It's very exciting. If you want to become a 3L author, please send a sample manuscript, synopsis and/or summary of your book to info@3LPublishing.com.

Friday, September 9, 2011

All in My Head

OMG: I had the weirdest, most intricate dream involving a polygamist family. It was bizarre and so intricate. I remember it perfectly -- and I was shaking my head. I mean it was an intricate family story. I woke up and wondered if I channeled something or someone it was so detailed. Maybe I should turn it into a book ... hmm ... I don't want to write about a polygamist family, and HBO did that so well with Big Love. OK, completely strange and then I was sitting here thinking, "What do I blog about today?" My strange dream? Do you all really want to know more about that? Probably not. How about something better? California Girl Chronicles advanced hardcover editions come off press at the end of next week. That's better -- and way more interesting.  Here is a quick, funny story. I was promoting the release party last night and when I switched up my pitch and said it was "sassy" you should have seen the wave of cards come my way from people who suddenly wanted to attend. Well, that was interesting enough. I guess sassy resonates ... or better yet saucy. The release party is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 15 at Bar West next to Harlow's in downtown Sacramento. I will be sending out eVites in the next few days, as soon as the date gets confirmed. I have a limited number of hardcover editions, so if you want yours you can come to the party or buy it on the 3L Publishing website as soon as the shopping cart is set up. The hardcover edition will only be good as long as supplies last ... then sorry it's all eBook and soft-bound versions. The hardcover edition is a loss leader, but I wanted the advanced reviewers to see the impressive edition. It's so "purty" ....

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Excerpt from the California Girl Chronicles: Brea and the City of Plastic

Excerpt from part of chapter 1.

So I stood in place and bopped to the music when a short guy with stubby blond hair came out and went to the microphone.
“You all having fun?” he yelled into the microphone.
A limp and quiet, “Yeah,” came back to him in response.
Stubby blond guy was undeterred. “All right then give it up for Rigor Mortis,” he shouted and stepped away.
“Rigor Mortis? Really? Was he kidding? Who the hell chose that name?” I thought and frowned.
Lance caught the look on my face, but didn’t say anything. Now I was curious to see what a band with that name looked like. The first two guys with shaggy dark hair came out on stage to another limp reception from the half-interested crowd. It was the lead singer, a guy with sandy blonde hair and beautiful blue eyes that caught my attention. He didn’t quite fit in well with the other two. And my eyes went right to him almost like a magnet. He was dressed all in white — white t-shirt and jeans. He stood there momentarily and stared out into the small crowd. He didn’t say a word and started to play his bass and sing — words I could not hear. I wasn’t really sure if I liked the song or not. I couldn’t hear it well enough to form an opinion.
“These guys rock,” Lance piped up and said enthusiastically. He wasn’t looking at me anymore. The guy who wore white mesmerized him too.
I wondered if Lance realized he said a rock band rocked? I doubted it. I could have been jealous of the way he stared at the lead singer if I too were not just as spellbound. Some people you see you have this electric connection. You can feel it. I think you might call that kismet or here in California, experts would tell you that you shared a past life with that person, and he was like your dad, uncle or lover. I’m more pragmatic. I figured either reason seemed legit. Why not? The band played on, and I forgot about Lance’s attention being directed at a dude instead of me. I was watching the lead singer with a strong interest. I wondered momentarily if my fixation on the singer was rude on a date, but since Lance was just as consumed I let it go.
It was not long before a small entourage of sexy “skanks” gathered front and center, and all made eyes at the lead singer. Some were so blatant in their pursuit it was kind of gross. This one particularly ugly-ass brunette with bad teeth and a real tan. (Do people bake in the sun for real anymore?) She also wore a J Lo sapphire dress cut down to her snatch. I was sure I spotted pubic hair and grimaced. That sight was super, super slutty and nasty. Another one wore all leather and had this Joan Jet sneer on her face that made her look like she was bearing her teeth between ruby-red lips. I noticed red lipstick smeared on one of her front teeth. The lead singer didn’t seem interested in the groupie trash.
So the skanky chicks were doing their best bumps and grinds like strippers to get the lead singer to look at them. I saw him glance at them, but I wasn’t sure if it was because they looked like they belonged in a whore museum, and he was gawking or if he was into them. Since he was so mesmerizing and good looking, I decided to assume he had better taste than that. Now I’m a girl, though, and us girls tend to think all men have good taste in women. Not so. Some men have tragically bad taste and enjoy women who get overinflated boob jobs and wear rubber or spandex to pass as fashions. I can, without a doubt, tell you that no self-respecting California girl would ever wear so-called fabrics invented in the fashion house of cheesy, cheap and tasteless. But you know that’s just me talking.
The band played their last set. Lance never wavered his gaze at the lead singer. I pondered if he swung both ways or he was on the road to “Gayville,” which in either case, wasn't going to go over well with me. Yet the band stopped, and suddenly Lance put all of his attention on me. He unexpectedly grabbed and yanked me into a passionate kiss. I felt my temperature rise a degree. In the heat of the moment, I was also taken aback by his romantic gesture that bordered on aggression. I pulled away and moved a step over.
“Lance,” I said, “can you please take it down?” I didn’t want to bark at him, but now he embarrassed me in public.
And I don’t want to admit this, but I was thinking about the lead singer. He was much more intriguing. Before I could turn my attention back, the lead singer appeared right behind me — close enough that I sensed his heat on my back and turned around. He was standing there and looking down at me with his intense blue eyes.
“What did you think?” he asked me without an introduction.
“And your name is?” I countered.
“Drew,” he replied in a flat tone. “So what did you think?”
Lance, like an eager fan, stepped forward and said, “It was awesome dude.”
Drew didn’t even look at Lance and kept his attention on me. “We’re playing again at Barkley’s next week. You should come,” he said and looked at Lance and added, “without him!”
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a card with a logo of the outline of the band’s profiles — something you would see in a Disneyland portrait studio only with outlines of little kid’s profiles not grown men’s. He handed it to me and said, “Call me.”

California Girl Chronicles is going on pre-sale on the 3L Publishing website ONLY. Advanced hard cover special editions will be available for a very limited time. Book one in the series will be available on Amazon and eBook in Nook, iBook and Kindle in November 2011. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Two Things I Don't Want to Hear

If you're wondering what I secretly wish I could say sometimes but cannot because it wouldn't exactly uphold my standards for customer service, I thought I would instead share some the absurdities on the blog. Then perhaps many of you will avoid the common pitfalls when you get me on the phone or in person. So, let's have some fun.

"My mother loves the book" aka peanut gallery focus groups. I completely love this one. Authors often try to sell me on how good their books are based on what I call "peanut gallery focus groups". They take their projects to family and close friends for feedback. You know your family and friends typically want to encourage and support you, right? When I hear this method as a benchmark for how great a book is, I shudder and have to refrain from making remarks. Focus groups are great. You should absolutely do a focus group for critiques, but your focus group should consist of unbiased associates who have no stake or vested interest in your "feelings" or more like hurting your feelings.

The next New York Times best seller. The minute I hear this proclamation, I immediately start thinking about lunch and how I can get out of this conversation. Let's get real for a moment. Do you think JK Rawling actually said to her publisher that Harry Potter was the next New York Times best seller? You know what I'm willing to bet? JK probably thought she had a great book and it would sell well -- and she might get off welfare. When you tell me with all assurance that yours in the next best seller, all it does is set up false expectations. I'm not suggesting you don't think big. I am suggesting you realize just how competitive this market is. Thousands, and I mean thousands of new books, are released each day. Authors who are appreciative of the good sales and maybe even the great sales will be easy to work with. The author who laments their inability to make the New York Times list will be a bear to work with; hence my desire for a quick exit and a trip to Big Patty's Pie Shack.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

How to Pitch Your Book to a Publisher

I work with authors every day. I've heard it all about the writing process. I've also been pitched hundreds of times. I find some of the common mistakes authors make pretty entertaining (at times). I thought for the sake of teaching you something and doing it with a smile, I would share those mishaps. Please don't do the following when you pitch either an agent or publisher:

"Chapter 1 sucks, but keep reading it gets better." Have you ever heard the cliché, "Put your best foot forward"? It's unwise to tell a busy publisher or agent that your first chapter is terrible. Why would you submit your worst work? When someone tells me to read the whole book, which is 500-pages long, to get to the good part, I laugh. Do you know how much work 3L Publishing has going? I barely have enough hours in the day to eat lunch let alone get past your terrible chapter 1 to (and I quote), "Get to the good part," which I am willing to wager probably isn't as good as you're saying.

"What's your book about?" "I don't know." I am not joking. I have heard this more than once. What do you mean you don't know? How can you not know what your book is about? Better yet, how can you call 3L Publishing unprepared and give that ridiculous answer? If you really don't know what your book is about, how am I supposed to? You cannot pitch a book like that -- even it's not true and you do know. You look absolutely silly. If you get nervous pitching, write down 50-100 words what your book is about so you're prepared with the right answer.

"I'm sorry, I can't spell." If you're coming to 3L for editing services, this answer is justifiable. If you're submitting a completed work that is littered with mistakes, your book will look terrible (and be distracting to read). You should at the very least before you approach an agent or publisher, make sure your manuscript is fundamentally edited even if it's not perfect. A handful of small errors won't send me to the fireplace to burn your book, but a book that looks like you're completely illiterate, will definitely land the book in the rejection pile.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Writing about Family and Friends

I read a lot of memoirs submitted to 3L Publishing for consideration. For the most part, these memoirs don't delve into anything too personal to reveal to the world. In fact, we're working on a new memoir for one of our clients. I've thought about doing a biography and decided I would have to wait until I'm old if I wanted it to be an authentic reflection on this life I'm living. The truth of most of our lives tends to get pretty messy. If I revealed the truth about much of my life, many people might not like to see in print reflections on their true stories. I remember one of my fellow writers doing a seminar about how to write about one's mother or parents while they were still living. You're stepping into some tough territory with that one, especially if you're going to reveal information that would make your mother or father uncomfortable. Some families -- even with the less difficult stories -- just don't want their private lives revealed to the public.

A few words of wisdom about writing about your personal life. Make sure you get sign off from the person you might mention in the book. Sign off means legal sign off to use their names and stories. This sign off doesn't just apply to family -- it applies to anyone's name you intend to use. Beyond the legal formalities, consider a discussion with the people affected. It's highly ill advised to simply change a family member's name and then spring the book on them after the fact. First, if they can show in court that it's easy enough to determine it's them, they can still sue you. Second, most people don't like nasty surprises. This caution applies to family, friends and acquaintances you intend to reference.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Getting Personal

So I am a huge fan of True Blood on HBO. I am probably a horrible fan too, because I like to read the spoilers! Yes, it's true I like to read what's going to happen. Some people get really upset and hate spoilers but not I. Well, anyway, I am also a huge fan of Alexander Skarsgård who plays vampire Eric. I enjoy reading his interviews et al. Well, I've read in more than one place, he is fiercely protective of his private life. I was impressed. I think it means something to keep my private life and family out of the media. Yet here is what just threw me. He wrote and posted Men Don't Eat Chocolate Mousse (super cute title by the way and would make a great book title ... Hey, Alex your bio?), which describes how he lost his virginity. Maybe he wrote this pre-fame and didn't give a second thought to the fact that one of his most personal moments would be available for his millions of fans to read. And I admit my voyeuristic self read it all right; but it truly begs the question of a true desire for privacy. I'm sort of guilty myself, as my own story is floating around out there, but I will never tell which book it's in (and no it's NOT a 3L Publishing book; it's actually a big brand-name publisher ... hey wait, is that worse?) -- and my name was artfully changed to protect the innocent.

I guess it begs the question about privacy in general. When did it become public fodder to post such intimate details of our lives? I suppose if you never expected to become a celebrity, and you didn't think your story would be read by everyone and their cousins, you could just call it art. I do find it difficult to believe that if you were going into profession such as acting that you wouldn't realize your intimate storytelling might wind up being read by so many people. And hey, maybe he doesn't care in the least.  I'm just begging the question that if you truly want some things to be kept private, you shouldn't write about them at all. I also wonder when I read anyone's memoir or tell-all that if the other people's names used in the story might not want their participation in the intimate acts revealed. My first boyfriend is actually a pretty well-known guy in some circles, and I would hesitate to ever use his real name. Not because I would fear being sued, but because it might be disrespectful to his feelings about ... privacy.

With the Internet being like nuclear waste and never going away, you should always seriously think twice before you blog or publish anything private. Again, Skarsgård probably doesn't care that we can all easily find his story about innocence lost; but that is not always the case. You might not care at age 20 that you posted something so deeply personal, but 20 years from now, maybe your wife or husband would care. Or maybe even your boss. Or maybe just you.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Partnerships -- Yes or No?

I've extolled the virtues of partnerships in the past, but just the other day after eight months of running 3L Publishing solo, I started thinking about how much I love being solo. So, I thought I should preach to the value of keeping lone wolf (or wolf-ess) status and why partnering can be a liability. So, this lesson will be the opposite -- and hey, keep it fair and balanced too. I'll be like Fox News ... or better yet ... Lone Wolf News (yuck, yuck and bada-bing).

First, for the record, I launched my company in 2006 with the intention to do it on my own. In fact, I never wanted a partner for my company, as I felt from past experience it could be a liability -- and no way I ever wanted to threaten my hard-won status as a successful business owner. I certainly never needed a partner either. I was doing extremely well the whole time. So when the proposition came up to add a partner, the only reason I did it was to have fun (not a good reason). Partners don't have to be liabilities, but I've seen very few partnerships flourish. I remember I worked for a company that started with three partners and it eventually dwindled down to one. Hmm ... maybe I should have paid more attention at the time and wondered why. So after this last soured experience with a partner, I will never ever add that kind of liability to my company ever again. And as noted, it was truly never my intention to  partner in the first place. So, why do I say this? Why should you be very careful in who you partner with? Or why should you partner or not? Here are some important lessons and guidelines to use if you want to consider it.

Honesty, Integrity and Ethics -- I am extremely ethical. I value honesty and integrity as symbols of my company and how we work with clients. I am also extremely trusting. This last year I had my trust violated in big ways. I don't think you should ever lose your ability to trust, but I think the decision to partner with someone should be made slowly, methodically and carefully. I also think you should have ethics clauses in any contracts you might sign with someone. Breeches of ethics should be cause to sanction or end the partnership. Why does this matter? When you work with clients, any breeches of your ethical responsibilities (e.g., delivery of promised services) should make it easy to end that relationship. When you remain in charge of your company and you value these things then it makes it easy to keep those principles in place. You cannot control another person's actions or even qualify their true intentions. So be sure that your potential partner shares these core values -- and I mean really shares them and doesn't say he/she shares them. There is chasm between do what I say and do I what I do.

Adding Value to Your Company -- A partner should add value to your business. They should bring a talent to the mix that you don't have. One clear sign of imbalance is when a prospective partner brings zero value, and in fact, is a clear liability. What does this mean? It means you are not carrying the financial burdens of the company. It means that you are equally responsible for everything. One thing I've learned in taking responsibility for my own failings is that I always tend to be a fixer. And when you have a fixer fixing and another person just sitting back and watching the action, it up-ends the balance of things. So if you do tend toward that behavior, you should avoid it right from the start. Everything should always be 50/50. The second part of that is that you don't fix the work either. A partner, as a true 50/50 owner, should be fully responsible and able to do whatever their work is. They should not rely on you to fix or correct or improve.

Passionate Equals -- Now this is a really interesting one. A passionate equal means that your partner shares your passion on the same level. That when you give your all -- the other person gives his/her all. Because this can be another situation that sets up imbalance in the partnership. So you have to find someone who will give the same amount to the company and infuse the same passion and enthusiasm. For example, if you're in a business like 3L, one person can't always be the one doing the extra-curricular support, showing up at literary festivals to represent, travel to all of the book launches, making sure that all of the clients are supported. It's OK if one person doesn't want to go above and beyond, but it needs to be equal in that desire and interest.

Here is my last comment. You would think that no longer having a partner would mean more work for me right? Here is a surprise. I was completely burned out and exhausted last year. I was working a crazy number of hours. I was keeping everything going, and I really needed and wanted help. I wasn't getting the necessary support and what burns evaporates. The loss of the partnership had profound and interesting fallout. I now have hired the necessary support. I no longer work round the clock. I am actually working fewer hours than ever before, have more time with my kids, and I just finished two major creative projects that are my own. We are doing better than ever from a financial standpoint. What happened? Well, I didn't have all of those things and now I do. So if you are considering partnering and you believe it will ease the work, really analyze it. You might find that hiring people to do the right jobs will enable expansion. And lastly, when you partner you give up a certain amount of control you may not want to do. I believe healthy partnerships can be productive if balanced 50/50 and burdens and responsibilities are weight equally between the partners; but if those things cannot be achieved, it's just not a winning situation. And here is another interesting gem, we have actually been able to grow a new area of the business, because I have the right staff in place. I will announce our new business area in the coming months.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Off Target ... Again!

OK, I have to take a minute to rant about this ... I just got invited to a community weight loss event. All right, here is the deal for the hundredth time. When you do Facebook events, do not do mass invites. First, I have never been invited to so many different things in my life. Second, I just got invited to a community weight loss event. Really? Has anyone looked at my profile picture ... or even better seen me in person? Probably not in person, but my picture doesn't lie. Do I look like a community weight loss even is necessary to rid my frame of unnecessary girth? Seriously people, if you're going to do events and invite people to them, don't do mass invites to anyone and their cousins, aunts and distant relatives. It wastes your time! It wastes my time! And if you're doing something that involves the following: weight loss, anorexics anonymous, alcoholism and substance abuse, sex toys or swinging or anything else that might be construed as offensive, be extra careful who you invite.

Three Things a Book Can do for Business

Some authors I meet with are not in the least interested in writing a book as a best seller. They are business people who recognize the value and opportunities business books can bring their businesses. Yes, a book and not a brochure. A book can be an exceptional marketing tool, and most people don't look at it that way. They think novels and books to sell in bookstores. Yet a book can be one of the most powerful business tools in your marketing arsenal.

Here are three things a book can do for your business:

Credibility -- a book positions you as an expert and lends credibility to your business. People take books much more seriously than brochures. The very substance of a book tells people you have that much knowledge. People who enjoy reading will sit down and read what you had to say. This same credibility also gives you more of a chance of being asked to speak in front of audiences.

Speaking Opportunities -- authors are asked to come speak to groups, associations and conferences. The number of business opportunities you will have when you get in front of a room of sometimes thousands of people is like an instant commercial for your services. When you work in an industry where a single contract can pay for your entire year, the opportunities generated from speaking gigs are worth the costs to produce the book. I always encourage authors to consider that just one great opportunity would provide their return on investment.

Gravity -- as many of you know when someone hands you a brochure nine times out of 10 where does it end up? The trashcan. A full-color brochure that costs you perhaps $10 a copy in the trash. Someone just threw away a $10 bill. Most people don't feel comfortable to throw away a book. In fact, it's more likely that the person will resell or give away a book than he/she will toss it. And the print cost per book is about $1.50 to $2 when you do bulk print runs.

Now 3L Publishing doesn't do all business books under our premier publishing brand. If we feel the business book is really well done and would sell well in bookstores, we will publish it under our 3L brand. If we think it will simply do well as a custom publication, our team will produce it for you with the intent of you using it as a marketing tool. If you are interested in producing a custom publication with us, please send an email to info@3LPublishing.com.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Corporate Life NOT for Me

I am not kidding. I wake up almost every single day for the last six years and thank the business gods that I am not going to a corporate job. Sometimes you just never know how much you didn't like working for someone else until you're NOT working for someone else. I started working when I was 16. I worked several jobs until I hit my late 30s when a terrible malaise set in. I remember literally sitting at my desk at my old office one day and realizing I didn't want to be there. I am not the type of worker who would just get up and leave a job, but on that particular day I just wanted to leave and run for the nearest exit. So many other times in the past, a raise would have nullified my angst or a super plum project, but in those last couple of years nothing seemed to quell the rising tide of angst, restlessness and unhappiness. I even tried switching jobs for a year -- and that just made it worse. The truth was, I didn't want to work for people anymore. I was tired of building other people's businesses, often not getting the recognition or money I deserved, and just getting through to the next day. Does my story sound familiar? Many corporate workers are probably nodding "yes".

At some point in your career journey, you have to decide when enough is enough. I had had enough. I've been an entrepreneur for six years now. Is it always easy? No, it has its challenges. Sometimes it gets tiring having to "sing for my supper". But a few tap dances and show tunes hummed do not compare to the unhappiness I felt having to work for someone else. 3L Publishing is the result of a lot dancing and singing. I had a rough year this year no doubt -- and not just related to sales. In fact, sales for the first two quarters were impressive and double that of last year. No, I had some personal tragedy and some business dealings gone wrong. But the healing has begun, and I'm back to my normal, cheerful, driven self. In fact, we are extricating the company out of a stinky relationship with our distributor and some fallout will continue from that in the next two months, but when it's done it will be done. So, I'm back to the normal morning realization -- I don't work for anyone! And that Friend-Os is always a glorious feeling.