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Forbes Column 08: Web-Savvy Authors Reap Fame, Fortune

Posted on Friday, Jul 18th 2008

My new column on Forbes, Web-Savvy Authors Reap Fame, Fortune tells Elle Newmark’s story of how she got to a seven-figure book deal using the Internet and print-on-demand technology.

This segment is a part in the series : Forbes Column 08


. Connecting With Your Intimate Bot
. The Gap in Google's Defenses
. A Recession-Proof Corner of the Tech Sector
. eBay's Bounce-Back Opportunity
. How To Dig Out Yahoo's Treasures
. The Microsoft-Yahoo! Battle Plan
. What Microsoft Should Do While Yahoo! Dithers
. The Next VMWare
. The Smartest Unknown Indian Entrepreneur
. The Coming Death of Indian Outsourcing
. India - Cash Rich, Product Poor
. How to Save the World's Back Office
. Latin America's eCommerce Leader
. The Next Indo-China War
. The Real VCs of Silicon Valley
. Fund Envy
. Bootstrap Yourself
. The Coming Convergence
. Lighting The Way In India
. Hydro-Alchemy
. How Amazon Could Change Publishing
. A Technological Fix For Education
. How Technology Can Save Retailers
. Mobile Microfinance
. How To Heat Up Solar
. How Chip Toolmakers Can Survive
. Kill The Business Trip
. Water Firm Enlivens IPO Market
. Web-Savvy Authors Reap Fame, Fortune
. Peeking Inside the iPhone
. Bootstrapping, Montana Style
. Entrepreneurs Flock To Online Travel
. Silicon Lazarus
. Carts Ahead Of Horses
. Weapon Of Mass Reconstruction
. Barack Obama' s Finance Lesson
. Stimulus Package For Entrepreneurs
. Building A Smarter Corporation
. Deconstructing The Cloud
. 'SaaS-ing' Back At The Economy
. Web 3.0
. My Adventure With Amazon
. An S.O.S. To Silicon Valley
. OLPC’s Last Billion
. Capitalism Revisited
. Bargains For Private Equity
. President Obama
. Perilous Protectionism
. Healing Health Care
. Stop The Fear Epidemic
. Obama
. 'Edutainment' Needs Entrepreneurs

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I take my hat off to Elle Newmark. I am an author too, at least I hope I am worthy of the name. I am represented by a major London agency (I’m going to protect their privacy by not naming them) and we have been receiving the most encouraging rejections: fascinating story; I think this is going to make a fantastic book; what an interesting and gruesome story; very well written by Tomlins; Paris’ answer to Sweeney Todd in more than one respect; incredibly captivating; not for us, but why don’t you get in touch with XXX – the comments of only a few, yet I am still in search of a publisher. (I have a show sheet, so I can prove that these comments are not my imagination.) However, as Gertrude Stein might have said, a rejection is a rejection is a rejection.

My book (130,000 words) tells the story of Dr. Marcel Petiot, the WW2 French serial killer. As Dr. Petiot murdered within the frame of the Nazi atrocities – many of his victims were Jews – my book crosses the true-crime, history and Holocaust genres.

I spent two years on research (mostly in French) and another two years on writing and I believe that I have a story and a book people would want to read. The publishers’ feedback confirms this. Yet … Yet … Yet … my frustration increasing, I have not completely outlawed self-publication. What holds me back? My belief that I have written a book that merits being published by a traditional publisher (big or small).

I do not write to pass the time. I write for a living. I am the correspondent in Paris of a major Australian media group; I am British but I was born in South Africa. Right now I’ve started researching for a book on the guillotine; its history, anecdotes about it and so on. Some days I think I’m crazy to yet again undertake a book, but …

The Petiot book’s title is ‘A Life In Quicklime’.

Marilyn Z Tomlins Saturday, July 19, 2008 at 1:17 AM PT

I don’t think it is either one or the other. If you play this right, you can use one to get to the other. In other words, if you can show an agent/publisher that your book is already fully done, and selling, they would possibly have more confidence in taking the project on and making more of a real investment in it.

Sramana Mitra Saturday, July 19, 2008 at 3:25 PM PT

Sramana,

Yes, I quite agree: In business (and writing is a business like any other) it’s use one to get to the other.

It was real nice of you to respond to my comment. I’ve been reading your blog for a while, but yesterday was the first day that I took the plunge to comment. Your response showed that here is a real person behind the blog.

Marilyn

Marilyn Z Tomlins Saturday, July 19, 2008 at 10:50 PM PT

Being a new author, a new publisher and a book about creativity we knew that getting noticed would be entirely up hill. My publisher though is a very smart man as well as up front about what to expect. In addition to what the publisher gets done as far as marketing, I had to do a bunch myself. At one point I had a MySpace account to promote the book and had about 4000 people as “friends” but not enough bites as far as sales. My publisher encouraged me to join LinkedIn for professional reasons. I had a LinkedIn account twice before and nothing ever came of it other than a bunch of recruiters and techie’s were on there. Then a marketing friend encouraged me to join again, so I did. This time I specifically focused on people that fit what we were finding to be the books market, creative people. The original idea was that the non creative people would be more interested in the book given the title, How To Be A Creative Genius (in five minutes or less). But it seems that artists, designers, advertising people, writers and the like were the ones getting the book.

Using LinkedIn I was able to look at their industry both past and present, so I could tell if they might be a candidate. I could also look at what they had listed as hobbies and interests. I also looked at what groups they were a part of. All this would tell me about if this person was a good candidate. Now I also made some reach with people that didn’t have a tendency as an existing creative person, and found quite a few there as well. With each contact I made with a possible connection I tried to make sure they new who I was as an author. Each time I emailed one of them, I had links in the email to the book, my website and my LinkedIn account. On my LinkedIn account I made sure the things about my book were the first things people read on my page. I did not make it sound as if I was selling the book on each line, but I put other peoples comments about the book and such. So far half the hits my site gets come directly from LinkedIn. -whereas with MySpace only .001% of hits came from myspace links.

Also, I embarked on a fairly massive email campaign. I used my email address list and sent out emails about once a month. Then I created a group on LinkedIn (again, advice from the publisher) where I would give creative ideas, not found in the book, but ideas that would likely establish me as someone to listen too. Again, not selling the book in the group emails but at least listing the book and links at the bottom in what we call the signature line.

Also on LinkedIn I joined other groups that had a creative bent. Being listed on there, many people found me or took interest in my group.

Apart from LinkedIn I also found the email address for every Barnes and Noble in America (somewhere just under 1000 stores). I sent them a notice that the book was now available and that if they’d carry one or two. For those BN stores in my state or within a short driving distance I let them know that I was available to come and do a book signing.

To date Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Waldenbooks and Borders have sold out of my book.

Gary Sunday, July 20, 2008 at 11:32 AM PT

If I may comment again — this time to comment on Mr. Gary Unger’s comment.

Mr. Unger, you didn’t give your surname, which was probably deliberately (?) but I found you on Amazon.com and from there I was led to your website.

(Interesting what you say. I’ve not read your book, but will order it now. )

What I want to say is this. It is all very well to be creative, but what if one needs others to market what one creates. I’m a writer. I’ve written a serious non-fiction book. I’ve been told the book’s well written. I have an agent. *But* for my book to be published, I need a publisher. Therefore, I can be as creative as I wish, or as I can possibly be, without a publisher there is no book. I can self-publish which is what Sramana’s blog entry is about, but there is a stigma of “couldn’t get your book published then, could you?” to a self-published book. My book and I do not deserve that.

On your site you write: “Learn the godly aspects of what creativity needs in order to be successful”. Mr. Unger what my creativity needs to be successful is a publisher.

Marilyn Z. Tomlins

Marilyn Z. Tomlins Monday, July 21, 2008 at 7:42 AM PT

Ms. Tomlins,
Sorry, Did not leave off my last name on purpose. Just didn’t think about it. It is Unger. I’ll take your post as I can.
1) Yes, you need help from others to market your book. If you self publish, hire a publicist or someone in the book marketing field.
2) A “well written” book is not a selling point. The idea of the book is the selling point. A dictionary is “well written” but its not on the best seller list is it? You buy a dictionary because of the idea.
3) It could be that your agent is telling you that you “need” a publisher is because that is where they make their money. Not that that is bad, just how it works.
4) Brian McClellan has a video on http://www.bigidea360.com called Love Letter and he tells his audience to “ignore the evidence”. Who cares if there is a stigma to self-publishing. If anyone tells you or has that snarky look on their face when you tell them its self published, tell them “no its not that I couldn’t get it published, I couldn’t find a publisher with any vision.”
5) No one loves your baby like you do. What your book needs to be successful is to be finished. THAT is more than what 99.9% of would be authors do. If you have that, the rest is all in sales. And sales is the easy part.

My apologies that you had to hunt me down, my email is posted on my website as well as on LinkedIn.com. Anyone if free to contact me with questions. I’m always willing to give my view of life in publishing.

Thanks for the post.

Gary Wednesday, July 30, 2008 at 2:24 PM PT

Not sure if I’m duplicated myself here —

Sramana — I write for two major literary publications and am a books reviewere for the Denver Rocky Mountain News (you can Google my name).

I’d like to communicate with Elle Newmark directly on a possible story (or series of stories).

Can you possibly “link” us?

Many thanks,

Cathie Beck

Cathie Beck Monday, September 15, 2008 at 2:34 PM PT