Moonspinners Writer's Page:


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Q - Expert question is directed to Bernie Ross: My memoir, "Recollecting Mansfield", was published in 2001 by Random House.  It did quite well but a couple of years later Random decided not to keep the remaining copies and asked me if I would like to buy them up for a much reduced price.  I decided to do this, thinking I could then on-sell them for $10 each (retail price was $30).  My problem is that I am now stuck with several dozen copies and no idea of how to promote them.  Very grateful for any advice.

A - Well done for getting taken up by Random House, a mainstream publisher that many a struggling writer would shave off their hair to get published with. Having a boxful or so of remainders is nothing to be ashamed of but naturally it would be good to see they all get to good homes.

Think back to some of the comments you've received from previous readers, what did they pick up on? Think about the various events and issues that are covered in the book. Memoirs can cover so many events and ideas: make a list of them and cogitate for a day or two. How could you bend an idea to make a bookish event out of it? Within the memoir there is sure to be something that will interest a certain group of people: maybe you could arrange a school reunion party (or equivalent with a different 'group' - ex employees; bird lovers; photographers; spealeologists; whatever interests the book covers) and open it to anyone. Give them a reading, talk about the old haunt and invite discussion. Send them away with a signed book for a third of its original price.

This might seem an extreme effort to go to but it could be very interesting and give you more material for a new book.

Another idea is to offer it as a freebie when someone buys your latest book (or another item you want to sell), thereby killing two birds with one stone. You could also give them to charities, leave them on park benches as part of the project. In UK we have another version called At the end of the day you are sure to ask yourself which is the more important: to get your money back so you're never out of pocket? or to get your book out there to be enjoyed? I know what my answer is, with my own 'remainders'. The happiest outcome is to gain new friends and experiences from your creation, even if it is past its sell-by date.

Good luck with your endeavours,

Bernie Ross


Q: Expert question is directed to Rick Frishman:  Questioner is author of two books, one released in July 2005 called "Living By The Truth." She was anxious to get the book published so, without researching, sent her manuscript to a POD publisher. Later on, the author began hearing negative things about the company. She's heard that: " one wants to stock my books because they are POD. The publisher is not a traditional publisher, and they are vanity publishers who will accept any and all work submitted to them.." She says: " Just because they accepted my work does not mean that my work isn't good.  I'm having problems with marketing, because everyone believes that, because the publisher of my work is [this particular POD], my work will be a work with little or no editing and substandard in quality. I signed a contract with them that extends to 7 years in agreement.  My questions is:  How can I get through to people that just because my work was accepted by a publisher not well-regarded in the industry, that my work is good and worthy of a chance to prove itself.  What can I do to market my book without receiving the sting of this company?"

A: This particular POD publisher has a lousy reputation - because they said yes does not mean your book is bad - it may be, or it could be a very good book. Can you get out of your deal? A literary attorney may be able to help you. Contact Lloyd Jassin

Whether or not your book is marketable - I don't know - I would have to see it. But yes, being published by them is a big negative

Rick Frishman


Q: Expert question is directed to Aaron Paul Lazar: Marketing of murder mystery fiction: I've tried to get indie bookstores interested in my book, only to be told that "murder mysteries don't sell". Can you comment on that? How can I interest store owners in my book?

A : Well... all I've ever bought at bookstores (aside from college texts) is murder mysteries!  They appear to have massive sections devoted to them in the stores in NY. I participate in many book signings/ author events. I sit among a plethora of authors who write about historical fact books, comedies about dogs, poetry, guide books, cook books, etc.  And guess who always sells the most books at these events? Me, with my murder mysteries... So my experience has been rather contrary to what your bookstore reps are telling you. 

Here are some key questions. Who's your publisher?  Do they accept "returns?"  If not, that could be the real reason you're getting the cold shoulder.  Bookstores have been spoiled with traditional publishers' protocol.  They get to buy as many books as they want.  If they don't sell, they just ship 'em back and get full refunds!  Wow, what a deal, huh? 

What about smaller, independent stores in your home town area?  I've found that local stores will take my books even though they aren't returnable.  You can also offer to do it on consignment.  You have to buy them up front, of course, which isn't cheap... but it could get your name around town. 

If you'd like to tell me more about your situation, perhaps we can come up with more options for you.  There are many ways to sell online or through other means than bookstores, though that is by far the most lucrative route!

Best wishes and hope this helps,

Aaron Paul Lazar


Two questions directed to Tricia McGill:

Q: I had my first novel listed with but have had very few sales. Have you had much success with that style of publishing? I have now completed another novel, a gentle romance.  It is difficult to get fiction published in N.Z. so I have published it myself, ready to give to family and friends for Christmas. It has an attractive cover. My writing colleagues feel that I should do more with it. I have been writing for many years and have had short stories published and broadcast. I also  have an advanced diploma in applied arts (writing).Do you have any ideas what I can do with the novel? Sorry to put this onto you, but I do want to recoup some of my printing costs. I would really appreciate any suggestions.

A: All my books are published by epublishers and some sell better than others. i think your query is more to do with how to sell your already self-published book. Is that so? I self published a book of short stories and poems last year and find it very hard to sell the copies, and feel that unless you are an excellent marketer you will have the same trouble.Some authors who self-publish have achieved great sales but it's usually found that these people are willing to go out into the marketplace and work very hard to find ways to distribute their work. As you are in NZ you probably have the same distribution problems as we do here in Australia. Unless you are with a large publishing house you have little chance of finding a distributor willing to take your book on. Sorry to be such a pessimist but I've had trouble finding bookstores here willing to stock my paperbacks, and you will probably hit the same snag. The main setback is that most bookstores want to be guaranteed a money back agreement on titles that don't sell. And romance seems to be a no-go here. Most bookstores seem ignorant of the fact that romance books take up a large percentage of the market. If you are willing to travel to markets or similar outlets you stand a chance of selling your book there, but then again our cousins in the States seem to have more luck selling at such venues than we do over here. Have you tried radio interviews and local press? They are usually keen to interview local authors, especially if your book has a local setting. Sorry i can't be more help.

Q: Thanks so much for that reply. It was straight to the point and I appreciated that. I would like to ask another question please, of the writers who e-publish. Do they always order the 'print on demand' as well as the electronic download version?

A: Yes, I always buy my trade paperbacks as my relatives and some friends don't have PCs, and I also sell a lot to readers who prefer a paper book to hold.


Tricia McGill


Five questions directed to Penny C. Sansevieri :

Q: I am trying to decide on a publisher. The best would charge  $15, 000 for 200.  Even I can see $75 a copy is unjustifiable expense.

A: **correct, this is not a good investment, I recommend NOT going through a self-publishing company per se but self-publishing this yourself or going through a POD (print-on-demand) publisher (I can recommend a few if you need them, the charges will be approx $500) 

Q: One suggests looking for sponsors (Kaitaia Rotary, Kaikohe Pioneer Village, National Beekeepers Association, Creative New Zealand?) Should I save them for the marketing phase?  How early can I enlist them?

A: **Yes, you can get sponsors but then you  might lose control of your book (this ties into your next question) - consider marketing the book to them and selling it in bulk

Q: If I get sponsors, must I sacrifice half the family photos?  Is 100 too many, anyway?

A: **One hundred pictures seems like a lot --- remember that people will be interested in the message of the book but might not gravitate to the pictures as much as someone closer to this book might

Q: A successful local self-publisher has offered me 82 library, museum, and school addresses.  How many copies should I print?  He suggests less than 500.  200? Who does attractive covers, besides the wife of the $15,00 man?

A: **I can make a recommendation for an excellent cover designer. Her name is Jeniffer Thompson - tell her I referred you, if you need more referrals email me privately. Now to the self-publisher question, you can get these lists on your own - yes, you might have to pay for them but my sense is this local publisher is going to cost you a bundle. If you're self-publishing 2,000 copies is the max I'd print but this depends on your market and your own personal mailing list of folks who might buy this book.

Q: Should I wait for the verdict, due this weekend, of an historian who is reading the ms, before I do anything?

A: **Either way should be fine although it's always great to get a blurb from someone like a historian, especially with a book of this nature.

Good luck!

Penny C. Sansevieri


Q: I successfully did a lot of crazy stuff on my own, and now I ran out of unusual ideas to proceed. First, I live in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where I wrote my first book. Being a professional translator, I decided to go right for the BIG market, and POD-published it in English, in the USA. I built an "official" web site for it, where among other things (on the second item) I tell my six-month e-odissey after a literary agent or publisher on the www. I got it placed in many search engines. I also posted an abridged version of its first 1/4.

However the book is not moving. The people who read it did so at my request, and were far more enthusiastic about it than sheer politeness would call for.

The worst of it is that the book is almost a pioneer in its genre, so I cannot focus to a target group. From what I've read, it might be realistic fantasy, however I haven't amassed enough readers of this kind to confirm or deny it.

So my question is: How can I get my book reviewed by unbiased and unknown people?

Not only for budgetary reasons, I'm looking for maybe 5 or 6 reviewers that will publish a fair opinion in exchange for a complimentary copy, and not unrestrained praise just because I paid them a bundle. So far, I found only one: Midwest Book Review. Are there more?

A: You're right in not asking reviews from friends or people you know. Chances are these reviews won't be unbiased, and readers can tell, especially from sites like Amazon, when reviews are written by the author's friends or family. Nobody will take  take this kind of reviews seriously.

The other problem is, since your book is POD, almost no print publication will consider reviewing it. It isn't fair, but this is the way it works. There are so many badly written self-published POD books out there, the good ones get to pay the price and carry the stigma, too.

On the other hand, many online review publications will agree to review your book.

Please check This site lets you find the review sites which review the specific genre of your book.

Usually you send your book information, along with a short blurb, to the review site editor, and he/she will try to match your book with a reviewer. Then you mail your book directly to that reviewer. So there's no contact between you and the reviewer. When the reviewer writes the review, she/he sends it to the editor, and then the review is posted on the site and sent to you, too.

With other review sites, you have to send your book directly to the review site editor, and she/he sends it to the reviewer who has agreed to read it.

You really have to check each review site to know their guidelines.

Here are some good review sites to send your book to:

Also try the print publication Mosaic Magazine, as they review books by south American authors, and sometimes accepts self-published POD books.

But the best is to check The Book Connector--there you'll find a long list of review sites to send your book.

Also check this link for a list of reviewers in different countries:

Good luck!

Mayra Calvani


Q: Expert question is directed to Pam / publicity: I have my book in hand. I do presentations and sell lots of books.How can I expand my market expodentially? My goal is 500 copies a day. I have a web site with 25 hits per week. I need big time exposure. I'm doing a tv spot and a documentary.How can I break into the national scene? I'm a practising medium, the book came out of the work I do. I travel around lecturing on the subject.

A: Remember, breaking into the national scene is a process not a step.  Everything you do begins to add up until you reach a "tipping point" where everything seem to happen all at once. Here are some of the things that you can do to start accumulating publicity for yourself and your book:

* Get a database of media contacts (, are two sources), or go to the library and use theirs.

* Write an article that is packed with tips for the reader to help solve their problems and don't mention yourself in it.  At the end of the article, put your name, contact info, the name of your book, etc. If the article even hints at self-promoting, it won't be accepted by magazines.

* Submit the article, for free, to as many appropriate magazines as you can think of and make it clear that it is for their non-exclusive use.

Keep an eye on the news and every time something happens that you can comment on as an expert, write a press release and send it to newspaper editors, radio program directors, and TV show producers letting them know what your expertise is, why you are qualified to comment, and a little about what you have to say.  Be sure to include contact information and keep yourself available.

Research "Chase's Calendar of Events" in the library and send press releases similar to those above that tie you into special days (for example, August 1-5, 2005 was Psychic Week). Go for it!

Pam Lontos


Q: Expert question is directed to Michael McCarty: I am looking to get some of my work out, and am not sure how to go about it as most local papers are not looking for supernatural horror.

A : I use to be in the same boat as yourself, writing for the local newspapers dreaming of getting my horror published. There are a lot of magazines and websites out there looking for good horror stories and articles.The best place to look is: and . For general information about horror and vampires, I occasionally go to Michael Romkey's website at: . If you want to subscribe to a great e-newsletter, I highly recommend the Bram Stoker winning Hellnotes.  And don't be afraid to visit my website, I like
visitors : )  If you have any other questions, feel free to contact me again.

Michael McCarty


Q: Expert question is directed to Patricia Fry: A publisher has asked me to submit my book proposal and along with my first 3 chapters need to write a summary for them as requested. My summary contains 1,150 words, is this too long? and also what exactly should a summary contain? It is a self help book

A: Congratulations on getting your book idea noticed by a publisher. And good for you for being concerned about making a good presentation.

A summary is also called an "overview" or a "synopsis." This is the meat of your book proposal. It should tell the publisher succinctly what your book is about, the purpose and point of your book and the scope and focus of it. I also include, for my nonfiction books, why I feel this book needs to be written. You might give statistics related to your topic. If your book is on dieting for example, find statistics showing how many people use diet products or reducing equipment or have stomach-stapling surgery each year. These people are probably your potential audience. Also state what makes this book different from other books on this subject.

Yes, some of this will be expanded upon in other portions of the book proposal, but it is important to give the publisher the pertinent facts, figures and information in the synopsis, as well. The synopsis is usually the first thing the publisher reads and it may be the only thing he reads. So make sure that it gives a complete picture in as few words as possible.

Over a thousand words might be okay, as long as you are not just rambling. A synopsis is not a chapter outline and does not have to include information about each chapter. It should just give an overview of the entire book.

Now if he wants chapter summaries--that's what most professionals call a "chapter outline," this would be a separate part of your book proposal. This is where you summarize the content of each chapter in a few paragraphs for each chapter.

Also included in your book proposal should be your market analysis (what else is out there like your proposed book and how do these books differ from what you plan?), marketing section (who is your target audience and how do you envision reaching them?), promotional plan (what do you plan to do in order to promote your book?), about the author (why are you the person to write this book and what are your writing credentials/experience?)

You might want to get my new book to use as a guide in writing your book proposal. "How to Write a Successful Book Proposal in 8 Days or Less" is an easy-to-follow guide to writing a book proposal and it includes actual examples from successful book proposals. I hope this helps.

Patricia Fry


Q: I published a collection of poetry with an Australian publisher. I live in Canada. It has been months now, and I have not really made any money from sales etc. I think the book may be a bit overpriced, but I had to charge an little extra to make anything myself.  I have been basically promoting it myself. I have not had a book signing or anything conventional. What should I do to improve sales, promotions, etc. Thank you.

A: There are a couple of areas to utilize. One is getting your name into the media and thus securing attention to the fact that you've written this book. The second is trying non-traditional marketing outlets.

First, the publicity. You need to think of something you can comment on that would interest the media. I don't know your background, but is there something in which you are an expert or a knowledgeable citizen?  If so, offer your opinion to the media in the form of articles, opinion pieces to the newspapers, etc.  Always say in your bio box that you are the author of...and name your book.

Second, you have to look to non-traditional marketing opportunities.  Match the theme of your book to retailers whose customers may have an interest in it. For example, if your book is about matters of interest to women, contact women's clothing stores and see about getting it placed by their cash registers.  If it's about the beauty of nature, contact flower shops, nurseries, botanical garden gift shops, etc. Hope this helps.

Pam Lontos, PR/PR


Q: What are the best publishers to approach with books on writing and CDs marketed with them?

A - The information you want is in constant flux, with publishers constantly changing the mix of their offerings.
For starters, you might want to contact David Galloway at Booksurge,( They  offer a wide variety of services.  Beyond that, go to your favorite search engine and put in publishers, books, CDs
and see who comes up today! Sorry I am not able to give you more specific information, but this should get you started. Good luck,

Patrika Vaughn


Q: I am the author of 2 (equestrian based) children's books...the first in 2003, the second due out by Xmas. The first book was published as a joint venture/offer from a publisher. The second book was entirely done by the publisher based on a review book one received where I was compared with prominent publishers in the genre...(Black Beauty and Blaze books are told from the pony's point of view with humans as secondary.) The stories and characters are real and I still own the central pony characters in the books. I subcontracted my own illustrator for book two...the daughter of an nationally renowned children's book illustrator, and paid dearly for it.. I have given up the store for every making any money on the first two books...but they are two of 30 I have in my head of real life with all of these ponies. My question - I want to find a publicist that will attract the attention of a larger publisher for me to continue the series. I am confident if I can get the first two books read by the right person, such an offer may be possible. Can you recommend a book publicist who is the right fit for my goal?

A: Your initial goal is to attract a larger publisher to your work. While publicity adds to your arsenal of material to convince a publisher, it doesn’t necessarily get their eyes on your work.I think your first step would be to find a literary agent that specializes in your genre. I don’t work with agents so I don’t really have anyone to recommend. However, I found some interesting information on the Internet about this. Check out this site:  I hope this helps.

Pam Lontos


Q: Expert question is directed to Max Anderson: I recently completed an inspirational novel (Christian) and have sent query letters to a few agents.  All of them (independently of each other) have written that the book has a lot of promise but that the market seems to be flooded at this time with this type of book.  I love to write, but my heart was never really in this type of book.  I want to write inspirational fiction books for teens.  Before I begin again though, can you tell me what the market is for this type of literature? Thanks a lot!

A: Hello. It was good to hear from you. I'm afraid some of my answers to your question may not make much sense, but I'll try to give you a picture of where things stand concerning Christian publishing…and publishing in general.

First, let’s speak generally. In the US, there were 85,000 publishers who cranked out 185,000 new titles in 2004. Indications are that these numbers only went up in 2005 and will do the same this year. This is happening at the same time that the number of readers in the country is shrinking.

One would think that it would be easy to find a publisher, with all of those out there, but it isn’t. Many of the Christian publishing houses, that you would have heard of in the past, have since been bought up by secular companies. What used to be thought of as a ministry must now meet the same bottom line performance as any other business. At the same time, only 10 to 20% of the books published each year ever turn a profit.

Publishers find themselves turning to proven authors for their new titles. Or, they look for people who already have a platform. Fewer publishers are looking for new, unproven talent. 

Now let’s look at your situation. You can be proud of the fact that you did something many writers never do…you finished your book. Congratulations to you for that accomplishment. You might not believe it, but many people who complete their manuscripts can’t seem to bring themselves to go to the next stage. You are already approaching agents and getting responses. That puts you another step up above many others. 

I now have 7 books published for readers 8 – 13. My publisher is releasing my 8th book around March 1st. I don’t have an agent. My publisher is very small and has little money for promotion and marketing. So, I do an awful lot of that. Make sure you understand that you will be called upon to do this as well, if you land with a smaller publisher.

Don’t give in to self publishing unless you know how to sell a ton of books.

I have to tell you, realistically, that the landscape is not pretty for authors and publishing. Lately I have been approaching larger publishers because I have a total of 25 finished manuscripts that are, as yet, unpublished. Even with over 30 pages of reviews that I can show them, so far, there have been no takers. But, like you, I don’t intend to give up.

Asking questions like you have here is a good sign. Don’t give up. Continue looking for an open door. I often tell people that writing is the easy part. It’s what comes next that is the truly hard work. Finding a publisher is hard work, but that’s nothing compared to what you have to do in order to promote your work.

I wish I could give you direction on what to do next, but you’ll simply have to continue trying. Someone once told me that nothing can hold back a great story. If you write great stories, I believe nothing can hold them back either.

Max Elliot Anderson


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