February 26, 2011

Our Favorite Reads in the Last 10 Years

Mom and I love literature, and we are avid readers and book club participants in addition to our writing. To both of us a book is a favorite if long after you put it down you still wonder about the characters. We hope you will wonder and care about Krista and Abby long after you are finished with Depression Cookies.

Our Favorite Reads Over the Last 10 Years

1. Yellow Raft in Blue Water, Michael Dorris
2. Stones from the River, Ursula Hegi
3. The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
4. Sarah's Key, Tatiana de Rosnay
5. The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd

1. Stones from the River, Ursula Hegi
2. Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man, Fannie Flagg
3. Sophie's World, A Novel about the History of Philosophy, Jostein Gaarder
4. I Know this Much is True, Wally Lamb
5. The Honk and Holler Opening Soon, Billie Letts
(CLOSE 6th - The Help, Kathryn Stockett - and my number 1 read in the last 12 months - to see more of my top 5 in the last 12 months, please see my Mom in Love with Fiction blog at http://etjrmbach.blogspot.com/)

We'd LOVE to know your top 5 favorite books (in any time period). Please leave your list in the comments section below.

February 25, 2011

Latest News

Check out our NEWS tab for the latest article on Depression Cookies (published 2/23/11 in the Damascus Gazette).

February 17, 2011

Self-Publishing: Not for the Faint of Heart

So many people have asked us about self-publishing versus "traditional" publishing and our experiences. First some background... our novel was initially picked up by a small press, Blue Moon Press out of New Bern, NC. Through them, we received excellent editing and advice on how the publishing journey would begin and our part in it. Unfortunately when we were about six months away from publication, the Owner and President passed away and with him our opportunity.

Mom and I were so pumped up at that point we decided to self-publish. Mom, having self-published her book of poetry titled Promises Seeded Inside, knew something of this pathway. Add to that the wonderful advice on publishing we had received from Stephan Horvath of Blue Moon Press and we felt confident in our decision to move forward.

Of course, Xlibris showed us spreadsheets and talked all kinds of pretty Marketing speak to lure us in. I say lure for a reason. Another important facet to this conversation is the idea of "traditional" publishing. I think there's very little traditional left in publishing. So much has changed. Most publishing houses won't receive unsolicited manuscripts, only manuscripts represented by agents. And several agents will not receive unsolicited queries about manuscripts. It's a tough, tough world.

So with our decision to self-publish firmly in place, I offer up this advice for future self-publishers.

1. Consider Professional Editing

Not only did we have a professional editor, we also asked three of our friends in the publishing industry to read our book as well as family members, and we still published with errors (some of which were mistakes BY our publishers). We are now paying in post-publication to have them fixed because we aren't error-sort-of-peope.

The "editing job" done by our self-publisher was weak at best, basically a simple Word spellcheck. I truly don't believe a person there has read our novel.

2. Seek Help for your Design Cover

The cover templates with Xlibris were limited and cheap-looking. You get one shot with your book sitting on a shelf to grab your reader, and the cover is that shot. Take time with it. Look at covers that have pulled you in and figure out what you liked about them. Conversely, look at covers that turned you off and avoid the elements you found off-putting.

My sister, Dana Newbrough (who thankfully also runs our website, see #4), designed our cover after Xlibris suggested nothing but the picture WE provided and wanted on our cover blurred in the background. We were fortunate to have a very creative family member, and we've received very positive input about our cover design.

3. Include Advanced Praise & Reviews

Xlibris has a method and a format... give them your manuscript, they input and output their standard book. End of story. Our original editor and mentor told us to tap our writing community and have some authors/people in the publishing world read our manuscript and offer an advanced praise quote.

Most books published by the big publishing houses have so many quotes of advanced praise, I often have a hard time finding a summary of the book. Although I think this is a bit much, there must be a lot of readers who will NOT purchase a book without reviews and praise.

There are several sites that will review your manuscript and offer tear sheets and reviews to be used when you publish. Do your homework. A lot of review sites will not do self-published works or manuscripts. Check out http://www.featheredquill.com/ (our favorite), http://www.rebeccasreads.com/ and http://www.readerviews.com/ to start.

4. Use Social Media to Promote your Book

Like it or not, and my mother doesn't particularly like it, the world has gone viral. You will need a Facebook fan page, website and blog for your book at minimum. In addition, you will need to join writing forums and organizations to learn and spread the word.

Did our self-publisher give us this advice? NO! Although our premium package included a managed website, the original http://www.depressioncookies.com/ was pitiful and not user-friendly. To make matters worse, any changes to what they produced required additional fees.

I had some forethought here and purchased a website with our book title's name (thankfully we didn't change it) almost two years before we published. When we saw the website produced by Xlibris, we immediately enlisted my sister (who was already in the blog world and quite computer-savvy) to help us. With http://www.godaddy.com/ and their Website Tonight, we were able to develop the type of website we wanted that was aesthetically pleasing, user-friendly and interactive.

I did my part by opening up a FB fan page and learning about the blog world by trying it out pre-publication (see http://etjrmbach.blogspot.com/). It's a learning curve... embrace a lot of learning and internet searches.

5. Search for a Literary Agent

Just because we decided to self-publish, we have not given up on the idea that this novel deserves to be in many more readers' hands. Buy the latest Guide to Literary Agents and work on a killer query letter. Use the internet and the Guide to find examples and hints. It's very important to determine which agents fit your genre and not just mass-query.

6. Learn to be a Marketing Guru or Hire One

I am not a sales-person. Never have been. An ill-fated and short-lived foray into Pampered Chef taught me that. This is our novel and NOBODY is going to sell it with that same passion we are. Remember that. Use what you know about your own reading habits and go from there. Be wary of any marketing agency making big promises. Getting a book off the ground is a slow process and not for the faint of heart.

Xlibris promised us a press release and email campaign. They were poorly done and quite frankly produced nothing, and we don't believe the PR campaign was done at all. A friend of mine, thank you Dean Smith at Newstage Media (http://www.newstagemedia.com/), gave us wonderful advice on press releases and media advisories as well as free sites to distribute these (example is http://www.prlog.com/). Thanks, too, to Stacey Hartmann who applied her PR skills to helping us craft a well-written press release out of the pitifully-executed one by our self-publisher. Again, I truly believe they never read our book cover-to-cover and really have no vested interest in it doing well. Thank God we do have sole rights for our work!

The more I learn about marketing, the more I'll pass on. It's a mine field of real results and car salesman.

Remember, nobody has the passion for your novel more than you do. Throw yourself into the publishing world by joining writing forums and organizations and do so before you publish. Get out there! Walk the walk, don't just talk the talk.

February 15, 2011

Reviews Help Sell to Undecided Readers

Please help other readers know if our novel, in a sea of novels, is worth their time by reviewing our novel at http://authorsonthenet.com/general-fiction/depression-cookies.

Every review helps and we appreciate all our loyal readers!

Parenting - the Great Divide

Parenting is tough... no beating around the bush. Anyone who says it's not tough is probably not a parent or not doing a very good job. Mom and I learned a lot about each other as parents writing this book. There is no right way except to love your child and do your best.
I find it funny that the two parenting theories making the media rounds right now are in complete opposition to one another. Take Race to Nowhere with its tagline, "the dark side of America's achievement culture" and compare it to the Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother's anthem that Americans coddle their children and make them weak and unable to compete in the world's stage. I'd love to sit in the theater and watch Race to Nowhere next to Amy Chua and the film's creators and see the inevitable discussion break out between them.

I have a feeling there will be a whole new generation of writers exploring parenting and who gets it right, both in non-fiction and fiction. Those that follow the tiger or those in the race. Hmmmm. I think a middle ground is the best approach, but Lord knows I've been wrong before when it comes to parenting.

I wonder what Krista would have to say about Abby taking either approach. I'm sure she'd be pithy and judgemental, as I was before having my own children.

February 11, 2011

Latest Interview and Review

Check out our newest review at www.featheredquill.com (scroll down the home page) and our latest interview at www.featheredquill.blogspot.com/2011/02/author-interview-with-angela-beach.html.

Soon to our blog we'll be featuring excerpts from Depression Cookies. Keep checking back.

February 7, 2011

What About Bob?

Mom and I have found it interesting how many people have asked about Bob. Women in particular (and yes, there have been several men who have read and loved this book and I rarely hear these views from them) have intense feelings about Bob, and few are good.

It's very important to remind readers that this story is told from two women's perspectives. I'm sure Bob's version would be very different and highlight information two women would leave out or forget to notice in their own emotional upheaval.

Below you'll see a reader's question followed by Angela's response.

One reader in Colorado recently asked:

I felt a sudden change in how Abby started writing about Bob. First he appeared very non-emotional, detached and disrespectful almost and then all of a sudden he was kind and considerate and more emotionally present. What happened to cause this change?

Answer from Angela: I don't know that there was a conscious effort to change Bob as much as to allow him room to grow. When you meet Gabby and Rose (Bob's parents) there is a hint about Bob's upbringing. Born in the 50's in the south, there was a demarcation between the roles of male and female. A lot of families adhered to a strict dynamic where the man worked away from home and the woman did everything else. Bob's admission that he couldn't even balance the checkbook was a tell-tale sign of his dependency on Abby to take care of the homefront.

As a funny aside... although this book is not a memoir, it is certainly based on some people and events from our lives. To give you an idea of the South and gender roles, I have to tell you a story from my childhood (so the 70's and 80's). Once a year, my family and I would trek to see our grandparents (who, like in the novel, lived across the street from each other, so we saw all our relatives squeezed into one week per year). When it was time for dinner, after hours of cooking by the ladies while the men sat on the porch telling jokes, all the men would file through the dining room filling their plates. Once all the men were through the line, and only then, could the women go through and get food. I, obstinate teenager that I could be, decided this was unfair and went through the line with the men. I did it once and only once thanks to a stern talking-to.

I think it's important to remember in fiction that you are only getting the story the author wants you to get. And, in life, there's no reason to judge people when odds are you just don't understand their upbringing and perspective.

February 2, 2011

It's a Full Nest Book Giveaway

"It's a Full Nest" website showcases the book and an interview with Tia Bach on their site. Check out the "News" tab to follow the link. When you follow the link, you can also sign up for their Depression Cookies book giveaway. Do not hesitate - the drawing for a free book sends on Friday, February 4th!

February 1, 2011

The Cost of Choice

A poem inspired by Depression Cookies
by Angela Beach Silverthorne, Co-Author

The Cost of Choice

A choice can captivate or cripple.

Its freedom can liberate or ensnare.

For the women in Depression Cookies, a choice is a light foot tap against a row of dominos, or a peg pushed in too far, or a crack widening in a foundation.

Once made, a choice cannot be withdrawn without cost or stabilized without regret and remorse. Choice shapes the course of one's history, setting up internal conflict., igniting dry brush into a forest fire, or bursting a meadow into lush green.

Choice waits in the palm of a hand, never suspecting the muscle tension as one finger after another closes in, obscuring the promise of security or calamity.

All it takes is

one word, one action, one deed

to change everything.