Mormon Writers Ask for Manuscripts to be Treated on Quality of Work not Content of Biography

For the record, happily I signed the following statement:

Mormon Writers Ask for Manuscripts to be Treated on Quality of Work not Content of Biography

In response to recent events and attention in local and national media, we authors, who are also members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, feel the need to express our disagreement and disappointment with Cedar Fort in their dealings with David Powers King and Michael Jensen in regards to the manuscript, Woven. We appreciate that Cedar Fort has returned the rights to the work in question and want to note that there are many wonderful people working at Cedar Fort–staff members and authors–who strive to carry out their duties with professionalism and courtesy. Nevertheless we wish to offer our support to our fellow authors and feel compelled to speak out.

As writers, many of whom have published with Cedar Fort, we believe everyone should be treated fairly and with respect, regardless of political or religious affiliation, age, gender, or sexual orientation. We believe that degrading attacks are inappropriate in any business or personal relationship. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), we understand our church to teach respect and encourage civility–even when we have differences of opinion.

While publishers have the right to choose what they will and will not publish, we believe books should be accepted or rejected upon the merits of their content, quality, and commercial viability, not on any other factor. If a publisher isn’t comfortable with an author’s personal choices, those concerns should be discussed clearly and respectfully upon signing a contract–not hours before the book goes to press.

We believe that all publishers should be clear and professional in their submission requirements, treat others with dignity and respect, and give all authors the right to be judged on the quality of their work, not the content of their biography.

You can find a full list of authors who have signed the statement here.

There's a story about this in the Salt Lake Tribune here.

Bye Bye Borders

The bookseller Borders is history.

Borders Group Inc. said it would liquidate after the second-largest U.S. bookstore chain failed to receive any offers to save it.

Borders, which employs about 10,700 people, scrapped a bankruptcy-court auction scheduled for Tuesday amid the dearth of bids. It said it would ask a judge Thursday to approve a sale to liquidators led by Hilco Merchant Resources and Gordon Brothers Group.

The company said liquidation of its remaining 399 stores could start as soon as Friday, and it is expected to go out of business for good by the end of September.

From a consumer perspective, I always liked Borders more than Barnes & Noble so there’s a part of me that’s sad to see them go. But, to be honest, I’ve only been to a bookstore once this year and I don’t remember buying anything. Ever since I gave Marathon Girl a Kindle, we’ve downloaded all the books we read. The few times I’ve needed hard copies, I’ve ordered them off Amazon. So, yeah, I’m part of the reason Borders is history, but there are now more efficient means of purchasing books. Though a few bookstores will survive, their time has come. Bookstores are simply a victim to technology making life more productive and economical.

From an author perspective I’m not that broken up about Borders demise. Books will survive just like music survived the digital transition.  More efficient means of distribution are already making them cheaper* and available to more and more people. In the past the loss of a bookstore like Borders might have been devastating to authors. Now booksellers are losing their edge. You don’t have to be in a book store to be a best seller. There’s a lot more opportunities for authors now than there was two or three years ago. With some marketing savvy and ability to write books people want to read, the possibilities for authors and publishers are endless. There’s never been a better time to be an author than right now.

* The big six publishers still haven’t gotten this message. For example the upcoming Lee Child novel, The Affair, is priced at $13.99 for Kindle. Not cool. Not cool at all.

Going Independent and the Future of Publishing

After announcing my decision to go independent with my Dating a Widower book, some people were curious as to why I’d turn down a publishing contract. Since I know most of my readers don’t follow what’s going on in the publishing world as closely as I do, I thought I’d give a more detailed explanation for my decision. The publishing industry is going through a similar change that the music industry went through at the turn of the century. Back when I was in college most people still bought CDs at the mall or stores like Wal-Mart or Target. Right around the time I graduated Napster showed up and everyone started downloading digital music to their computer for free. Of course this was illegal and Napster was soon shut down but not before demonstrating there was a big appetite for digital music. Then iTunes came along and showed that most people would willingly pay 99 cents for song or buy digital albums online—usually for less than the price of a CD. What made digital music really take off was the iPod and other digital music players that made it easy to take digital music files from your computer and put them in a device that would fit in your pocket.

Despite screaming from the record companies that some well known bands that the music industry was going to go bankrupt and disappear,  most bands and record labels not only survived but learned how to thrive in the new music world.  However, the biggest winners were independent musicians who now could upload their music to iTunes and could distribute their music just like the big boys. Many talented, independent musicians and bands suddenly had a way to get their music in front the same people as the big record labels without the overhead of distributing CDs or figuring out how to get them in stores. Because of a level playing field many independent bands and musicians have found an audience been able to make a living. Some have even been signed by big record labels after proving there was an audience for their music.

In the last couple of years eBooks and eReaders have revolutionized the publishing world. In the old days going independent (or self publishing) meant the author would write a book then and spend thousands of dollars printing copies of their book. With no way to distribute their work, most copies sat unsold in the author’s garage collecting dust. Now thanks to devices like the Kindle and improved print-on-demand (POD) technology, writers can bypass agents and publishers and have their books in the same online stores as big name publishers without having to invest money in printing actual books. Authors like Amanda Hocking have been able to launch their writing careers by promoting and selling their eBooks online.

With this kind of disruption in the traditional book business there’s the standard weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth as Big Publishing watches the business model they’ve relied on for decades being turned inside out. Many authors and industry experts are predicting the demise of big publishers or publishing companies in general. I don’t see that happening. However I think most have the financial resources to ride out the storm and will (eventually) adapt to the changing marketplace. (It’s traditional brick and mortar bookstores that have the most to lose.)

So what does this have to do with my decision to go indie—at least for this book?

Thanks to eBooks and POD technology I can reach this book’s target audience just as well, if not better, than most publishers. Over the years I’ve built up a loyal readership on the subject and in many corners I’m considered the expert on dating a widower. In addition my website receives hundreds of Google hits every day from people looking for information on this very subject. If I didn’t have any of this going for me, signing a contract with a traditional publisher might have been a better way to go.

What I’m hoping to avoid is the mistakes many indie authors make. I can’t tell you how many books by indie authors that I’ve downloaded on Marathon Girl’s Kindle only to delete the books after a couple chapters because the writing, editing, and proofreading wasn’t anywhere it needed to be. I’ve also refrained from purchasing other books simply because it looked like some 12-year-old put it together. I estimate it’s going to cost me roughly $1,000 for a cover, editing, proofreading, and everything else it’s going to take to bring the book to a professional level. However, it’s a good investment and I’m fairly confident that I can earn that money back in a relatively short timeframe because of the need for this book.

Unlike some authors, I’m not married to the indie way of things. I have two other books I hope to get wrapped up soon. One I’d like to take the traditional route while the other one could go either way. A lot of the direction I choose to go will depend on how this project turns out and the lessons I learn along the way. If anything I see my writing future including using the best of both worlds.

Whatever happens, it’s going to be an exciting journey. And I promise to keep you all posted as this and other projects move forward.

Widower Wednesday: Share Your Dating a Widower Story

As I posted last week, my publishers wants my Dating a Widower book. Last week they sent me a book contract and we’re currently in the negotiation stages.

So why am I bring this up (again)?

My publisher has been following my Widower Wednesday columns very closely. They’ve really enjoyed reading experiences that reader like you have shared in the comment sections of the blog as well as two recent posts about dating a widower with minor children still living at home. In order to move the project forward, they want to include a couple of real world stories from women dating widowers with each chapter in the Dating a Widower book.

I think it’s a great idea. Your knowledge and experience will give the book additional real world advice that will make the book even more helpful to those looking for guidance on dating a widower.

The real life examples you submit can be either positive or “learning” dating a widower experiences or something in between. Basically we’re looking for any kind of story that can help women navigate the murky waters that come with dating a widower.

Though you’re welcome to write about any dating a widower topic, we’re especially looking for stories that can answer the following questions:

  • How to get your widower to open up and talk to you about your relationship?
  • How you overcame insecurities in the bedroom about being compared to the late wife?
  • What have widowers done to make you feel like Number 1?
  • When did you realize it was time to end the relationship with a widower?
  • How did you deal with the widower’s adult children who weren’t accepting of their dad’s new relationship?
  • How did you get the widower’s minor children to accept you as the new “mom”?
  • How did you deal with special days like the late wife’s birthday, and wedding anniversary and other holidays?

To submit your story for consideration, send me an email. Please keep submissions to 500 words or less. You can submit more than one story but please send them in different emails. (This way I can sort them by topic better.) All submissions must be received by May 13, 2011.

The author of any story that makes it into the book will receive a free copy of the Dating a Widower book up publication. To protect your privacy, you can publish your story under a pen name if you wish.

If you have any questions about submitting a story let me know.

Thanks, and I’m looking forward to reading what you have to share.

Dating a Widower Book Update

To keep me honest about the creative writing goals I made at the beginning of this year, I thought I’d update you on the status of the Dating a Widower book. I’ve got good news and good/bad news—depending on how you look at it.

First, the good news. Based on the feedback I received from beta readers last year, I rewrote the entire book last month. The book is now in the hands of a competent editor who’s going to make some final suggestions. I should have her feedback by Friday. I’ll review her changes this weekend and should have a polished manuscript ready to go by Sunday.

Now the good/bad news. My plan was to have the book ready and available by the end of February. However, under the terms of my current book contract, my publisher has the right to review the next book I write. So last week I shot their acquisitions editor off an email telling her about the book. Because the book is for such a niche market, I didn’t think it was something they’d want to look it. Much to my surprise the acquisitions editor said she wanted to review it once I had a final copy. So after I finalize the manuscript, I’ll shoot it off to the publisher to review. Having worked with them over the last several years I’m looking at about 4-6 weeks until I know whether or not they’re interested.

So when is Dating a Widower coming out? Well, if the publisher turns down the manuscript I’ll get the book on Amazon and other places in March or April—depending on how soon they get back to me. If the publisher accepts the manuscript and I choose to sign a contract, it will probably come out by the end of the year.

Again, nothing is set in stone at this point other than there’s going to be a small delay in getting it out to all of you. I’ll update you once I hear back from the publisher. 

Publisher Hunt Update

I wanted to let everyone know how much your blog comments, emails, and other messages have meant since last week's announcement about The Third. It means a lot to know so many of you are excited to read it and hope that a publisher can soon be found. Also thanks to all those who gave me publishing world leads. I’m following up on all of them as well as honing a new query letter as well as looking at alternate publishing options. I hope to have good news soon.

In the meantime, if you’re interested in reading the entire manuscript, send me an email and let me know. I’m still figuring out the best way to let people read it (suggestions appreciated) but as soon as that works out, I’ll send everyone on the list an email and let them know how to access it.

The Art of Losing

As many of you know, The Third has been going through a series of printing and other delays that have continually pushed back the publication date. This has been extremely frustrating for me and all of you who’ve wanted to read it. Last week the publisher let me know she was unable to meet the publishing deadline in our contract. She gave me the option of having The Third published in the Spring of 2011 or returning my books rights back to me. After much thought and deliberation I opted to retain my rights to my novel and seek publication elsewhere.

Right now the plan is to find an interested literary agent or another publisher. It’s a long, difficult process that I’m not looking forward to but hopefully better things will come from it. Two upsides this time around is that 1) I have a manuscript that’s press ready and 2) know of others who expressed interest in publishing the novel when I signed the contract late last year. If they’re still interested, maybe I’ll have some good news before the end of the summer. That being said, if you know of anyone in the publishing world who might be interested in taking a look at The Third drop me an email.

For those who pre-ordered copies of The Third. I’ve been assured by the publisher that you'll all receive refunds. If you pre-ordered through Amazon or other online book seller, you’ll get a refund through them though I don’t know the process for that or how long it will take.

Finally, I’d like to thank everyone for their patience with the constant delays of this novel. I know many of you were excited to read the book. As I now have all rights to The Third back, email me if you’re still interested in reading it and let’s see if we can arrange a way to get you a copy of the manuscript.

Ransom, Teya, Dragomir, and the rest of the characters in The Third will come to life at some point. Right now, however, I don’t know when that’s going to happen.

Thanks again for all your patience and support.


Abel Keogh

Judging a Book by Its Cover

The Wall Street Journal has a fascinating article on how ebooks and other book-publishing technology are shaking up the business model traditional book publishers.

Amazon has taken an early lead, providing service tools for authors to self publish and creating an imprint last year to publish promising authors in print and online.

This month, Amazon is upping the ante, increasing the amount it pays authors to 70% of revenue, from 35%, for e-books priced from $2.99 to $9.99. A self-published author whose e-book lists for $9.99 on Amazon's Kindle e-bookstore will receive about $6.99 for each book sold. The author would net $1.75 on a similar new e-book sale by most major publishers.

The new formula makes digital self-publishing more lucrative for authors. "Some people will be tempted by the 70% royalty at Amazon," [Richard] Nash says. "If they already have a loyal fan base, will they want 70% of $100,000 or 15% of $200,000 for a hardcover?"

Digital self-publishing, or "vanity" publishing, is creating a powerful new niche in books. WSJ's Geoffrey Fowler joins the Digits show to discuss how this is threatening the traditional book industry.

Traditional book-industry players and tech companies are jumping on the digital self-publishing bandwagon. Apple last week announced a digital self-publishing program for its iPad giving 70% of revenue to authors, similar to Amazon's formula. Last month, Barnes & Noble also announced a service called PubIt!, allowing authors to post and sell e-books online.

While traditional publishers aren’t going the way of newspapers any time soon (though they’re slowly heading that direction), the shift to digital publishing is going to be a boon for talented writers. Published authors with an established fan base can sell their books for less than traditional publishers while making more money per book. New authors in the process build a fan base have another way to market manuscripts that aren’t under contract.

Talented unpublished authors can get around the often lengthy and cumbersome process of finding an agent and working with a publisher. If they have a compelling story to tell, they can immediately start selling books and building a fan base.

Of course not every self-published book will do well. As the WSJ article notes, self published books are generally poorly written and lack an editor’s touch. But in the new publishing paradigm, talented writers can hire editors to go over the book to improve the story and writing.

It’s also makes it easy for authors to overcome the second problem self-published books face: crappy covers. We’ve all be told never to judge a book by its cover, yet we do it all the time. If someone’s going to take a self-published book seriously, it needs a cover that’s going to make people want to pick it up or, with ebooks, at least read the first chapter or two. (And for those who say they never judge books by their covers, would you even consider reading a book with covers like these? Be honest!) Thankfully, there are plenty of talented graphic designers out there who can create a compelling cover for a couple hundred bucks. You have a professional look and copy and you’ve overcome two big obstacles that self published writer and books encounter.

Going the self-published route isn’t the best option for everyone right now. But it’s become a more viable business model for talented writers. That being said, I’ll be testing these new self publishing waters later this summer with a short, niche book of my own.

Stay tuned for details.

Book Publishers Wake Up! The Future of Reading Is Digital!

The Future of Reading is Digital

In the latest issues of Wired, Clive Thompson writes:

Books are the last bastion of the old business model—the only major medium that still hasn't embraced the digital age. Publishers and author advocates have generally refused to put books online for fear the content will be Napsterized. And you can understand their terror, because the publishing industry is in big financial trouble, rife with layoffs and restructurings. Literary pundits are fretting: Can books survive in this Facebooked, ADD, multichannel universe?

To which I reply: Sure they can. But only if publishers adopt Wark's perspective and provide new ways for people to encounter the written word. We need to stop thinking about the future of publishing and think instead about the future of reading.

Every other form of media that's gone digital has been transformed by its audience. Whenever a newspaper story or TV clip or blog post or white paper goes online, readers and viewers begin commenting about it on blogs, snipping their favorite sections, passing them along. The only reason the same thing doesn't happen to books is that they're locked into ink on paper.

Release them, and you release the crowd.

I hope every publisher in the world reads Thompson’s article and breaks out of the old, archaic ways of publishing and marketing books.

Most publishers still don’t get it. Sure, they’ll publish a chapter or two online. Maybe even make slick trailers to get some hype. But only one publisher that I’m aware of allows the entire content of their books to be published online. Publishing entire novels online and giving people a chance to share that content or hype it on social networking sites is, as far as I know, unheard of.

Yet there’s never been a better way to market books to people then the Internet. Posting an entire book online and providing a way for others to share or highlight portions of that content on Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, GoodReads, Shelfari, and other sites is a great way to build an audience and SELL books.

In an industry that suffering from cutbacks and lagging book sales, publishers worry about losing books sales if they post the content online.

Guess what? They won’t.

They’ll actually sell more books because more people will be exposed to it. I’m willing to bet they’ll even find a market for some of their books that they didn’t know existed before.

Writes Thompson:

You're far more likely to hear about a book if a friend has highlighted a couple brilliant sentences in a Facebook update—and if you hear about it, you're far more likely to buy it in print. Yes, in print: The few authors who have experimented with giving away digital copies (mostly in sci-fi) have found that they end up selling more print copies, because their books are discovered by more people.

Still publishers wring their hands when they think about posting the entire conents of their books online. "What about Napster?” they say. “It almost bankrupted the record industry.”

Here’s the dirty little secret of the free online music days: CD sales actually rose during the heyday of free digital music. That’s right. People bought more music because they had a chance to sample it first. Musicians who would have languished in obscurity suddenly found an audience because more people heard about it.

Instead of embracing the new technology and trying to find a way to share music and make money from it (like creating slick online stores where people could by songs and albums), the record companies sued the hell out of everyone they could think of. Instead Apple came in and filled the gap and turned their company around. Now Apple is raking in billions of dollars that could have gone straight to the record companies and musicians if they had embraced technology instead of fought it.

Right now publishers are in a unique position to develop technology that allows people to read books, share portions of the content on their websites or social networking sites, allow readers comments and feedback, and link to places where their books can be bought. Something akin to Google books, only on steroids.

And for the record, I have no problem taking my just completed novel and working with a publisher to post the entire contents online for people to read. As far as far as I’m concerned, it will not only help me sell more print copies but give me a chance to see who the book really resonates with. My guess is that, like my memoir, Room for Two, I’ll discover a completely underserved market that is hungry for its contents.

The challenge is finding a publisher who’s willing to be the vanguard and embrace the digital revolution that has consumed the rest of the world.