Monthly Archives: May 2011

Marketing for Introverts

26 May 2011
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I haven’t blogged about Shrinking Violet Promotions for awhile. Their subtitle is Marketing for Introverts.

The recurring theme of their posts is the inherent contradiction between the dominant personality type among authors and the need for authors to promote their books which, face it, involves some degree of extroversion.

Here are some excerpts from an interview with introverted author Allen Zadoff:

SVP: You’ve been called the Little Introvert That Could. What’s your secret?

I moisturize.  Actually, that doesn’t help much.  I think the key is accepting my limitations, even leaning into them a little. For example, I’m not great with social networking.  When my first novel Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have was published, it was suggested I get on Twitter.  I checked it out and saw that people who were good at it were tweeting a dozen or more times per day.  They were funny and real, they were carrying on a conversation as part of a community. I could see what they were doing, but I couldn’t do it myself. So I was thinking, “I’m dead. I can’t tweet. I’m dead.”  As if Twitter were oxygen, right?

. . . .

SVP: When did you first realize you were an introvert?

I was very shy in the womb. I hardly spoke to anyone. When I got out, the trend continued.

. . . .

SVP: Did your life B. P. (Before Publication) involve extroverted activities?

Of course it did. To tell the truth, I’m an introvert with a taste for extroversion.  I really enjoy people. One of my favorite experiences was when I went to a friend’s wedding out of town, and a whole bunch of our mutual friends were staying in the same hotel.  I was on vacation for the weekend, but I was surrounded by people I knew.  I felt like a flower who had just discovered the sun.

Link to the rest at Shrinking Violet Promotions


Proofreading Tip (Short and Not Boring)

26 May 2011

Author and writing teacher Dave Farland has long advocated proofreading your paper manuscript by printing it in a different font and different font size than you used when you were writing it.

PG just discovered that proofreading on a Kindle is another great way of finding errors you miss on your computer screen or on paper.

For those unfamiliar with Kindle, every Kindle has an email address. If you attach a Word file to an email, then send the email to your Kindle, your manuscript will show up on your Kindle in a couple of minutes and look much different than it does anywhere else.

Safety Warning: Don’t try to use a pen, an eraser or white-out to make corrections on your Kindle screen! 🙂

Who Made Books an Endangered Species?

25 May 2011

According to Michael Levin, a multi-bestselling author and business writer, publishers set the book business up for disaster.


The publishing world gathers . . . at BookExpo America . . . but the one subject attendees won’t be discussing is the coming collapse of publishing and the inevitable disappearance of books.

It’s not just that books are going to Kindles and iPads. It’s that books are going away, and the publishers have no one but themselves to blame.

The traditional New York publishing business model — publish a ton of books, fail to market most of them, and hope that somebody buys something — worked well when publishers had a hammerlock on the distribution and marketing of books. Publishers essentially faced no competition and enjoyed complete control of what books people could publish and sell.

In today’s world, however, anyone from John Grisham to John Doe can put up a book online with Smashwords, Lulu, or Kindle Direct, and bypass publishers — and bookstores — all together. Authors can use Google AdWords or social networking strategies to market their books far more effectively than publishers ever could. So who needs New York?

. . . .

But the real reason why books are going to vanish is the remarkably un-business-like business model of the publishers. Think of General Motors — decades of inefficiency, but without the federal bailouts.

In no other industry do producers actually wait passively to see what products are suggested to them, instead of doing market research to see what people really want to buy. Yet publishers seldom generate book ideas; instead they wait for literary agents to submit proposals. Houses decide which book to publish based on little more than a gut feeling that says, “I think we can make money selling this!”

. . . .

Most of the major publishers today are owned by international conglomerates who, at some point, will awaken to the realization that English majors in their employ are spending millions of dollars on books that no one wants to read.

. . . .

Especially in the Internet era, you can’t make money putting books on trucks and hoping someone buys them.

Link to the rest at Forbes Booked

How to Choose a Lawyer

25 May 2011

Passive Guy is dealing with a couple of deadlines, so he’s going to take a shortcut on this topic. The shortcut is purely deadline-driven, not because choosing a good lawyer is a trivial matter.

So, where’s the shortcut?

PG is going to tell you how to choose a good divorce lawyer because he’s already written all about that under a pen name.

Since everybody should get divorced as often as possible, this will be useful advice. If you don’t need a divorce lawyer today, maybe you will tomorrow. Almost certainly, you’ll need a good divorce lawyer by this weekend.

For those interested in hiring a lawyer who knows about publishing and agent contracts and copyright issues, you’ll need to extrapolate a little.

PG would get in big trouble with his publisher for giving part of his book away free, but . . . he doesn’t have a publisher, so it’s all just fine.

On a more serious note, for those of you who flunked extrapolation, in the future PG will talk about hiring a good lawyer for when you’re writing books between divorces.

However, PG will bet you discover something you didn’t know about hiring any kind of lawyer if you learn how to hire a splitsville attorney.

How Do I Choose a Lawyer?

Not all divorce lawyers are the same. The large majority I have known are competent, but they don’t approach contested custody in identical ways. I would love to tell you this isn’t so, but the outcome of your custody litigation can vary depending upon which attorney you hire.

The best way to locate a good divorce lawyer is to talk with other divorce lawyers. When I was practicing, I could rattle off a short list of attorneys who always did a good job whenever I saw them in court. This was one reason I was flattered whenever another attorney asked me to handle his divorce.

The problems with using this strategy when you’re in the market for a divorce lawyer are obvious. When you’re talking to one lawyer, assuming you don’t sound like a psychopath, that attorney may very likely be interested in representing you. Asking for recommendations for a good divorce lawyer might not be very productive.

If you know any attorneys who represent real people (as opposed to corporations or government bureaucracies), ask them for recommendations for divorce lawyers. Ideally, you would ask more than one attorney. If you are able to do so, you’ll collect names. If you talk to five lawyers, it’s likely that you’ll hear the names of two or three divorce attorneys more frequently than others. You would want to go speak with those attorneys.

If you don’t know any attorneys, but do know some people who have gone through contested divorces, ask them how they feel about the attorneys who represented them and the attorneys who represented their spouses. This is not as reliable as asking lawyers because someone who is a lay person doesn’t always recognize whether an attorney is doing a good job or not. At attorney may be the nicest person in the world to his client, but be ineffective in court. Few lawyers will admit they lost an important motion because they didn’t do a very good job. On the other hand, a person may think their attorney or the opposing attorney must be really good because she was an attack dog, constantly objecting, arguing, etc. As discussed further below, an attack dog attorney may not be a very effective attorney.

However, just like with speaking with attorneys, if you talk to twenty people who have been through contested divorces, the combination of their experiences may point you in the direction of one or two attorneys you might want to speak with.

Where do you not want to look? Lawyer referral services, whether private or operated by a state or local bar association, are not a good choice. Why? If it’s a private referral service, it will send you to lawyers who have paid money to be listed. If it’s a bar referral service, it will send you the names of lawyers who have checked a box on a form that says they handle divorces. Neither a private or bar referral service will screen for competence.

You see a book entitled, “America’s Best Divorce Lawyers” and decide to use it to find an attorney. While I have not investigated all possible books like this, the ones with which I am familiar usually list attorneys who pay to be listed. It’s probably like a private referral service.

Most state bar associations have programs whereby an attorney can be certified as a specialist in a particular field of law. Family and/or Matrimonial Law are popular specialties. Usually, the bar association website can provide you a list of certified family/matrimonial law specialists. A list of certified specialists will filter out attorneys who are totally incompetent to handle a divorce trial. However, some very good divorce attorneys don’t choose to be certified for one reason or another and some mediocre attorneys are certified.

One of the most ineffective trial attorneys I ever faced in a custody dispute was certified by all sorts of family law organizations. He knew a great deal about divorce law, but was not skilled at examining or cross-examining witnesses and unable to present a persuasive case to the judge. At the end of an extended trial, my client not only won custody of the children, but the judge also ordered the opposing spouse to pay me the single largest attorney fee award I ever received in a divorce matter.

One more potential pitfall before I stop depressing you about hiring an attorney: Where possible, hire an attorney who regularly practices before the judge who will be hearing your divorce case. You might read a flattering magazine profile or newspaper article about a divorce attorney from a city 300 miles away who has handled a divorce for a millionaire. Are there any problems with choosing this attorney?

First, any attorney is mindful of the benefits of good publicity, but a magazine profile appears because the lawyer has hired a PR firm or has invested in the magazine, not because everyone agrees she is the best.

Second, the out-of-town big-shot is not familiar with the personal pet peeves of the local judges. Every attorney has appeared before an unfamiliar judge on many occasions, but a local attorney who understands how to persuade a particular judge has an advantage over a high-profile outsider, particularly one who manifests the slightest hint of arrogance. I have watched more than one judge embarrass an out-of-town attorney by reminding her that she has failed to abide by the local court rules and denying all her motions on that basis.

Third, most attorneys charge for both travel time and travel expenses, so every ten-minute hearing involves paying for airfare and mileage to and from the airport plus however much time the driving and flying consume.

I am not laying out problems to discourage you from searching for and hiring a good attorney. As I do everywhere else in this book, I’m being completely truthful about the challenges. Some advice books on divorce make the process of hiring a good attorney seem like a simple and straightforward matter. It’s not. It requires a thoughtful approach with your eyes wide open.

My bottom-line recommendations for locating a good attorney are:

  1. Ask as many reliable people as possible who the good divorce attorneys are. Other attorneys are more reliable sources for recommendations than former clients. I would omit asking court bailiffs or police officers for suggestions.
  2. By all means, check the list of local attorneys who are bar-certified family law specialists, but don’t automatically eliminate attorneys who aren’t specialists from your list of possibilities.
  3. Plan to meet face-to-face with two or three different attorneys before you make your final decision. If an attorney doesn’t have time to talk with you face-to-face before you agree to hire her, take her off your list.
  4. During these preliminary meetings, you’re checking to see if you feel comfortable talking to the attorney and are confident she will work well with you.
    1. Do you feel the attorney is giving you complete and balanced answers to your questions, not just telling you what you want to hear?
    2. Beware of an attorney who comes across as an attack dog, who talks about different sorts of aggressive trial tactics. Sometimes an attack dog can succeed, but when she doesn’t, she tends to fail spectacularly.
    3. Ask how many contested divorces the attorney has handled in the last year.
    4. Ask how the local judges differ in their handling of a contested divorce.
    5. Ask what some of the biggest mistakes a person involved in divorce litigation can make.
    6. If you have a question about child custody, ask it, but don’t be upset if the attorney responds that she will need to know more about the facts of your case before she can provide you a good answer.
    7. Don’t be afraid to ask about attorney fees.
    8. Make an evaluation of how helpful the office staff is because you may be dealing with them quite a lot and you’ll probably have to go through them before you can speak with the attorney. If you have a wait in the lobby before you see the attorney, pay attention to how the staff handles phone calls and deals with any clients who may come into the office.
  5. Watch for warning signs of alcohol or drug abuse. Attorneys as a group have a higher-than-average incidence of alcoholism and abuse of prescription or illegal drugs. These problems contribute to a large percentage of bar association disciplinary complaints and malpractice suits. If you see any hint of these problems, do not hire the attorney. A few states will allow the general public to search bar association complaints about an attorney online.
  6. What about a young attorney? Everyone was once a young attorney, even me. I made mistakes as a young attorney that I didn’t make as a not-so-young attorney. Someone fresh out of law school needs more education, practical education, before he is ready to handle a contested custody case. If the young attorney you meet with is in a firm with other attorneys, ask if a more experienced attorney will be providing supervision and support during your case. If the answer is yes, ask if you can briefly meet with the older attorney before you hire the young one. You want to confirm the qualifications of the older attorney, ask if she will be in court when the young attorney has major hearings and for the divorce trial and make sure you’re comfortable that the supervision is real.



Five years from now every book that matters will sell more copies online than it does offline

25 May 2011

A couple of days ago, I tweeted about a Mike Shatzkin blog post discussing a major hire by Amazon.

Late last week, you’ll recall Amazon announced a new mystery imprint, Thomas & Mercer Books, and announced Joe Konrath was one if its first authors.

Earlier this week, Amazon announced that former Time Warner Publishing CEO Larry Kirshbaum will head up a new general trade imprint for them. Kirshbaum is a serious heavyweight in big publishing.

Mike is much more nuanced about what this means, but Passive Guy concludes Amazon wants to take on Big Publishing and print some books of its own to sell. Barnes & Noble has made some moves indicating it might want to sort of take on Big Publishing.

Who will win in the Amazon vs. Legacy Publishing?

Readers. I think readers will win because Amazon has price competition built into its DNA and will continue to push prices lower.

Authors. Not all authors, but some authors will win because increased competition for authors means increased income for authors. Amazon has hired a big name CEO and the big name CEO will hire some big name authors. As the Joe Konrath deal demonstrates, however, some authors who have been midlisters with big publishing will also have promotional jets strapped on their books.

Indie Authors. Who is better-positioned than Amazon to identify hot indie authors? PG’s crystal ball says if you sell a bunch of Kindle books, somebody at Amazon is likely to notice. With a serious traditional Amazon publishing arm, if you want to go that route, your chances of being discovered will improve. People who write good stories will become more and more valuable.

Excerpts from Mike Shatzkin:

Konrath complained in a blog post over the weekend that independent bookstores planned to boycott the Thomas & Mercer imprint. It would appear Konrath (who, in his pre-ebook-evangelist days worked hard to promote through independents) took very personally what was meant to be resistance to Amazon.

One would suspect that the books Kirshbaum is going to acquire will be very hard for any bookseller that wants to serve and keep her customers to avoid stocking. In other words, the Kirshbaum signing might have cured Konrath’s concern.

. . . .

Five years ago we lived in a world where every book that mattered sold more copies at brick stores than it did online. Five years from now every book that matters will sell more copies online than it does in a brick store. The Amazon decision may mark the commercial turning point of that massive shift.

The edge in maximizing online sales revenues will go to the publisher that can manage online pricing and marketing most effectively. That not only means raising and lowering prices dynamically to get the most possible revenue, it might also mean experimenting with free sample sizes to see what delivers the best rate of conversion to a sale. It certainly also means having the best list of potential readers to alert to a book’s publication.

Publishers have a steep hill to climb to develop skills in that regard that Amazon has been honing for years. The announcement of Bookish, a community and information site for readers, seems like a weak counterweight to this Amazon announcement. I would imagine Kirshbaum will have signed away a few books the Big Six publishers wanted before Bookish even opens its doors.

Link to the rest at Mike Shatzkin

Nine Writing Rules You Should Break

24 May 2011

Consider the question of whether it’s a good idea to color inside the lines.

Did Hemingway color inside the lines?

Did Austen color inside the lines?

Denise Shekerjian wrote a book about the creative process and she thinks you should break some writing rules.


1. Don’t take on taboo subjects.

Politics, religion, money, no-no sex—did I miss any? These are interesting, complicated subjects—why do you think we’ve built up taboos around them?—and an intelligent, artful treatment is a very good thing.

. . . .

6. Be your own best friend.

A case of withered spirits is not going to help a writer produce anything. So, by all means, cheer yourself up, whatever it takes. But you also have to get real. There are inherent difficulties with your chosen work—isolation, rejection, penury, and more. If you’re going to do the work, you have to reconcile the reality to the dream. Otherwise, you’ll be in a constant state of feeling had, which is not fertile grounds for good work.

7. Write about what you know.

Of course, the particulars of your own life will influence what you write. But feel free to reach beyond these boundaries to what you don’t yet know, and bring it back for the rest of us.

Link to the rest at soul of a word

Ebooks Will Devour the Mass Market Paperback

24 May 2011

From Eric, who works in the sales department of a publishing house.


The mass market paperback offers the following:

· Low price point;
· Relative portability;
· Higher disposability (readers are more willing to chuck a mass market paperback than a trade paperback or hardcover);
· Wide availability (book stores, grocery stores, department stores, drug stores, &c).

The e-book offers the following:

· Low (on average) price point (and getting lower);
· High portability;
· High disposability (though you wouldn’t need to, since e-book files occupy no physical and very little digital space);
· Wide availability (at least in the United States).

. . . .

I think once the price of e-readers (specifically the Kindle) consistently drops below the $100 mark, mass market paperback sales will start taking a real beating. To my mind, the only barrier to the complete cannibalization of mass market paperback sales by electronic books—in the United States, anyway—is the price of the e-reading device; remove that, and there’s no reason to keep the mass market around. Print runs of any real quantity will rapidly become a waste of money, and I don’t think anyone would really want a POD mass market paperback when they could just as easily get a POD trade paperback.

Link to the rest at Pimp My Novel

How to Read a Book Contract – Assignments – Part 2

24 May 2011

Who knew normal people could get excited about the ins and outs of contracts?

Getting shafted or knowing someone who got shafted will tend to make even the most obscure fields of knowledge relating to shafts interesting.

Before we get into Assignments, some people would like to have laws governing different types of contracts, laws that protect them from predatory contractual partners. Passive Guy thinks these are fine for what he’ll call mass contracts – the 50 million contracts Visa has with cardholders, for example, or the 25 million contracts Blue Cross has with policyholders.

However, for most contracts, PG likes the standard rule: Two adults have almost complete freedom to craft a business agreement in the way they think is best for them. While one party may take advantage of the other on some occasions, the flexibility to structure business relationships, terms and prices in a way that maximizes benefits for both parties has created a great deal of wealth wherever it has been permitted. In order to work, contractual freedom must occur in a society that also has a fair and relatively inexpensive way of enforcing contracts when one party defaults.

Another preliminary matter before Assignments take the stage. One of the comments to PG’s prior Assignments post raised an important point: PG’s theoretical meanderings are generally applicable across most states in the U.S., but other nations have different rules. The comment I refer to informed me that in the UK, rights under a contract may generally be freely assigned, but, unlike the usual rule in the US, obligations may generally not be assigned without consent of the other party to the contract.

Let’s assume you have a publishing contract that includes a clause saying neither party will assign rights or obligations without the written consent of the other. Are you always going to be dealing with the publisher whose name is on the contract you signed?

Maybe, maybe not.

It is very common for business loans to be secured by property owned by the business. If I own a ball bearing factory, my bank loan may be secured by my factory, equipment, inventory of ball bearings and/or receivables – the amount of money by customers owe me for ball bearings they’ve purchased but not paid for. If I don’t make my loan payments, the bank exercises its rights as a secured creditor to take possession of its collateral and, voila, the bank is in the ball bearing business and I’m not. Since banks don’t particularly like being in any business except banking, the bank will probably sell my business to one or more purchasers and apply the proceeds to my outstanding loan balance.

Publishers have more in common with ball bearing manufacturers than you might think. A publisher can borrow money and pledge its publishing contracts and receipts therefrom to secure payment of the loan. If publisher defaults on the loan, voila, the authors have contracts with the bank or whoever buys their contract from the bank. While it is reasonable to assume a creditor would sell all publishing contracts as a group, it is probably not required to do so. Your crazy ex-husband might bid to acquire your publishing contract for How to Have a Happy Marriage and start demanding revisions to your manuscript.

This potential problem in business contracts is usually resolved by putting language in the Assignment clause prohibiting each party from pledging the contract as security for a debt or similar actions.

OK, so you have your Assignment clause tightened further to cover the creditor issue. Are you out of the woods? It depends on who’s on the other side of your contract.

If you have a contract with Venerable Olde Publishing, Incorporated, your contract is not with T.W. “Tightwad” Venerable III, whose picture hangs in the lobby, it’s with . . . I know you’re close to the answer . . . think hard . . . Tightwad’s corporation.


A corporation is owned and ultimately controlled by its shareholders. If Tightwad owns the shares, Tightwad controls Venerable Olde Publishing. If Tightwad sells his shares to Donald Trump or Glenn Beck or The Somali Pirates Pension Fund, Venerable Olde Publishing may seem like a different place than it was before. There is no assignment or pledge because the corporation still owns your contract.

So, what do you do? One thing you could do is to create a corporation of your own, Jane’s Novel Writing and Diesel Repair, Incorporated. When you received a great contract with a giant advance from your publisher, you would cross out Jane Austen and write in Jane’s Novel Writing and Diesel Repair, Incorporated, sign the contract as Jane Austen, President, and off you’d go, never worrying again whether a single man was in possession of a good fortune or not.

That would be really cool if you could pull it off. PG would give you a Champion Negotiator plaque to hang in your repair shop.

In the absence of such luck, what is not possible and what might be possible?

In the real world, stock being sold and related issues are dealt with via a change of control clause. If one of the parties has a new owner, the other one can terminate the contract.

In the unreal publishing world, unless your name is something like James Patterson, you’re unlikely to persuade Random House to place any restraints on its right to assign your contract or to allow you to terminate if they’re sold to a different German conglomerate.

I mentioned the lack of any clause prohibiting assignment of a publishing contract by an author in my first post on Assignments. One possible smartypants response to an assignment of your publishing contract to a publisher you don’t like might be for you to respond by assigning your contract to someone else as well. PG has done a little more checking on this lack of prohibition on assignment in publishing contracts and hasn’t found much written on the topic. In one Google search, PG’s initial article on the topic about three days ago showed up in the #2 spot on Google, which indicates an unexplored nook in the world of contracts.

Passive Guy admits, if he were still in practice, he would take a run at the no assignment clause issue at no fee or for a low fee just for the fun of it. He even has a judge in mind who would have loved to try a case like that, particularly if PG could have lured some New York lawyers into the courtroom.

Is this the end, then?

Of course not. If you can’t get the whole salami – an option to terminate your publishing contract on any type of assignment, pledge or change of control – you might be able to get some salami slices that could do you some good.

Following are a few examples of salami slices that might be doable. Once you get in the spirit of this sort of thing, I’m sure you could come up with more:

  • If you write about Christian topics and have a Christian publisher, you might be able to negotiate the right to terminate if your contract is assigned to a non-Christian publisher. You would want to define what a Christian publisher is very carefully. You might run a similar play with a romance publisher, fantasy, etc.
  • If you have a minimum wage for authors clause, the minimum payment might increase if the contract was assigned.
  • An option to exit the contract might arise five or ten years after assignment.
  • An assignment might mean the new publisher no longer has an option on future books with the same characters, setting, etc.
  • You might agree to one assignment, but have the option to terminate if your contract was assigned a second time.
  • If the contract is assigned, the retail list price of your books (the one on which your royalty depends) will not change for three years.

You need to be careful when you have multiple moving pieces, however. The assignment’s impact on minimum wage for authors is an example of multiple moving pieces. It is very easy to become focused on the most likely or most advantageous combination of the moving pieces. You need to meticulously consider all the possible combinations, not just the ones you’re excited about.

On more than one occasion, Passive Guy has had an “Oh, Shucks!” moment a couple of years after a complex contract was signed when an unanticipated combination of factors caused a contract to do strange things. If neither party wants the strange things, it’s not difficult to negotiate a little addendum to fix the problem. However, if one party loves the strangeness, you’re in a fix.

Isn’t life wonderful? A week ago you didn’t know what an Assignment Clause was and now you want to think about Assignments all the time.


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