Monday, January 23, 2017

Author Promo Tips with Mark Gottlieb, Trident Media Group

Today the Insecure Writer's Support Group is glad to welcome Mark Gottlieb, a literary agent for Trident Media Group. Trident Media Group is the #1 ranked literary agency on Publishers Marketplace. We're discussing query letter deal breakers, audio rights, and author promotion. Welcome, Mark!

1. What mistake in query letters are deal breakers for you?

There are many mistakes that I’ve seen in query letters, but I will name just a few that would absolutely deter me from requesting the manuscript from an author.

- Submitting queries for novellas, short story collections, poetry or textbooks will usually turn a literary agent off, as most literary agents do not represent such things. Publishers tend not to buy from literary agents in those areas in the first place.

- Word count is also very important. Traditional book length is 80-120K, and commercial fiction tends to be in the 80-90K-word range. Going outside of normal book-length will not produce good results for an author querying a literary agent for a shot at going into major trade publishing.

- Writing within struggling genres such as cozy mysteries, erotica, or urban fantasy is also another way to turn a literary agent off in the querying process. We tend to be weary of that at Trident Media Group.

2. You used to hold the position of audio rights, which doubled the annual sales volume for Trident Media Group. Why should writers pursue audio rights for their books?

Once an author has a portfolio of books with publishers, audio can end up comprising around 10% of an author’s overall income, and that is nothing to scoff at. Audio books are also another entry point for readers to discover an author. Most audio book listeners are loyal to audio books but sometimes overlap with a general reading audience preferring to read from text. Certain readers that may be elderly or disabled, or just plain too busy to sit down with a book might also prefer to listen via audio recording.

3. Trident Media Group excels in supporting its authors and marketing its titles. What can authors do to further promote their books?

Beyond what a publisher or a literary agent can do in marketing/promoting and author, it is important for an author to understand that they are very central to this process, since ultimately readers will want to hear directly from the author when possible. I encourage clients to build author websites, blogs and to beef up their social media presence, via sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Goodreads, Reddit Author AMAs, etc. Performing readings/signing, speaking at conferences/workshops and reaching out to local publications and libraries is key, as is appealing to highly established authors for advance praise. Writing to online blogs/podcasts/YouTube channels, etc. for review/interview attention is also very good. Sometimes I might even recommend a book publicity firm to a client, but that can cost a couple thousand dollars/month in the few months leading up to publication. Ultimately, there’s no small drop in the bucket, since everything an author puts into marketing/promo, they will get back in sales of their book, especially if the book falls into the right hands of a major publication, celebrity or film/TV company, which can be marketing gold.

4. What is your average day like as a literary agent?

The interesting thing is that there really is no average day in the life of a literary agent, or at least there shouldn’t be, for when a literary agent’s days begin to stagnate and look the same, then that person’s career is in trouble. Every day that I walk into the office, I think of ways to try to reinvent myself in a way to make myself competitive, while improving the careers of the authors I work with in creative and innovative ways. Every day should not be about drudgery—life is an adventure. Of course there are a few things typical to most every day in the life of a literary agent, such as reading query letters, meeting/calls/lunches/drinks with editors and publishers as well as clients, pitching manuscripts to publishers, meeting with film/TV companies to adapt books for the screen, attending conferences/workshops, looking for new talent, etc.

5. Describe your ideal project and/or author you’d like to work with.

An ideal project would carry an important social message or moral to the story, and while not only being beautifully written, it should be accessible or have some aspects of commercialism to the writing, even if it is literary fiction. I also look for authors that have good writing credentials such as experience with writing workshops, conferences, or smaller publications in respected literary magazines. Having awards, bestseller status, a strong online presence/platform, or pre-publication blurbs in-hand for one’s manuscript is also very promising in the eyes of a literary agent.


Mark Gottlieb attended Emerson College and was President of its Publishing Club, establishing the Wilde Press. After graduating with a degree in writing, literature & publishing, he began his career with Penguin’s VP. Mark’s first position at Publishers Marketplace’s #1-ranked literary agency, Trident Media Group, was in foreign rights. Mark was EA to Trident’s Chairman and ran the Audio Department. Mark is currently working with his own client list, helping to manage and grow author careers with the unique resources available to Trident. He has ranked #1 among Literary Agents on in Overall Deals and other categories. Trident Media Group

Question to Readers: What is your favorite way to promote your books?


Hero Lost
Mysteries of Death and Life
An Insecure Writer’s Support Group Anthology

Can a lost hero find redemption?

What if Death himself wanted to die? Can deliverance be found on a bloody battlefield? Could the gift of silvering become a prison for those who possessed it? Will an ancient warrior be forever the caretaker of a house of mystery?

Delving into the depths of the tortured hero, twelve authors explore the realms of fantasy in this enthralling and thought-provoking collection. Featuring the talents of Jen Chandler, L. Nahay, Renee Cheung, Roland Yeomans, Elizabeth Seckman, Olga Godim, Yvonne Ventresca, Ellen Jacobson, Sean McLachlan, Erika Beebe, Tyrean Martinson, and Sarah Foster.

Hand-picked by a panel of agents and authors, these twelve tales will take you into the heart of heroes who have fallen from grace. Join the journey and discover a hero’s redemption!

Release Date: May 2, 2017

Monday, January 16, 2017

Stepping Up Your Game

Many writers have an unfinished manuscript tucked away; a neatly bound stack of papers relegated to the back drawer of an old cupboard...

The unfinished manuscript may be one of your earlier attempts at writing; the story you started as a newbie writer. During the writing journey, you became stuck, unable to move the story any further. Maybe you felt that you lacked certain skills to continue with the story. Maybe the story didn’t fit into an easily defined category. You encountered a ‘brick wall’. What stopped you from moving beyond this blockage?

In essence, it’s fear. It’s the fear that, as a writer, you didn’t know how to put into words, that image in your mind’s eye. You knew exactly what you wanted to say but didn’t know how to go about getting it into words. You doubted your ability to write the new material in a way that worked for your story. Think of it in the following way: you were required to up your game; to move to a higher level. But you were unsure how to go about doing that. At that particular time, you doubted your abilities.

When you hit a brick wall in your writing, you have to work through it. Take the plunge, whether you’re ready or not! No matter how scary it is, reach out and just do it. You may never be fully ready but you have to embrace the discomfort and move to the next level. That’s how we grow as writers.

Have you ever wondered about writers who work on a story for many, many years? As the writer reaches the next level, the story evolves and changes. The writer also evolves and changes. The writer isn’t the same person who composed the first draft years before. As the writer grows, he becomes more skilled, making it easier to meet each new challenge, push a bit further and move to the next level.

Keep stepping up your game. Read dozens of books on the craft.  Keep slaving away those hours upon hours in front of a computer. Be brave and allow yourself to make mistakes. Quit playing it safe. Keep an open mind. Engage in activities that fuel your imagination. Take some risks in your storytelling. Break through the fear. Write what you’re afraid to write. It might work, it might not. You never know until you try.

You will reach yet another level, where a new challenge awaits. A brand new wall. It will be time to face yet another uncomfortable growth period. Once you find a way to get over this, the cycle repeats...

It’s a new year. Any plans to step up your game?

Monday, January 9, 2017

Audio Books - Options, Pros, Cons, Dos, and Don’ts

Several years ago, audio books were tanking faster than mass market paperbacks. EBooks were taking a large chunk out of both and the rest of the market share. But in the past two years, audio book sales have soared. This is the result of lower production costs and more options for listening.

For authors and publishers looking to take the plunge into audio books, there are several options:

Royalty-share platforms - ACX is one of the largest, and it also offers producers for hire. With royalty-share, the distribution company keeps a portion of profit and the narrator and author/publisher split the rest 50/50.

Hire a producer and narrator - this can be done on your own (using a company like CDBaby for distribution) or through a company that will do it all for you like Infinity Publishing or Dog Ear Publishing.

Produce and narrate yourself - for those with the resources and equipment to complete an audio book for uploading to a distribution platform. After paying the distributor, all of the profit goes to the author or author/publisher.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of audio books?

  • Exposure - There are a lot of companies distributing and selling audio books now. Plus there are fewer audio books, so you are more visible to buyers.
  • Another source of income - Multiple streams of money is better than all of your eggs in one basket, and it’s an additional boost to your current income.
  • Reach a wider audience - There are people who don’t read a lot of books. Some may not have time or they struggle with reading. You’ll reach non-readers, active people, and those with poor vision.
  • Always in stock - Like an eBook, your audio book is always in stock.

  • Cost - The biggest one comes from producing the book yourself or paying someone to narrate and/or produce. Unless you are doing royalty-share, you have to weigh the cost (usually in the thousands) versus return on investment.
  • Time involved - An eight hour audio book requires an average of sixty hours to produce. Narrators often take several weeks and if you’re doing it yourself, it could take even longer.
  • Promotions - Audio books aren’t instant sales. The author and publisher still have to promote the titles just as they would a print or eBook.

While some authors will tackle the narration themselves, most will work either directly or indirectly with a narrator. Both the author and the narrator invest time in the story and consideration is required from both sides. There’s etiquette to consider and dos and don’ts:

Do -
  • Provide pronunciations, character accents, and character descriptions. Make it easy for the narrator to do his or her job.
  • Expect professionalism. The narrator should provide a quality product in a timely fashion.
  • Plan marketing with the narrator, especially if it is a royalty-share project.
  • The key - communicate!

Don’t - 
  • Accept shoddy or extremely late work. The narration should be high quality and delivered on time as promised.
  • Expect perfectionism. The audio book will NOT sound exactly as you imagined it. The end result will be the narrator’s interpretation, just as a movie is the director’s interpretation. Remember, your readers will also have formed an idea of the character’s voices and doubtful those match up with yours, either.
  • Be overly demanding. You do not want to be a pain to work with! Like any industry, word gets around. No one wants a miserable experience.

The audio book market is wide open and booming - weigh your options and be prepared. Are audio books right for you? Have you already taken the plunge?

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

IWSG and Anthology Contest Winners!

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

The awesome co-hosts today are Eva @ Lillicasplace, Crystal Collier, Sheena-kay Graham, Chemist Ken, LG Keltner, and Heather Gardner!

Prompt question for today - What writing rule do you wish you’d never heard?

Today is the big day – the announcement of the IWSG Anthology Contest 2016 winners!

First, thanks to my awesome IWSG Admins for reading all of the entries - Lynda Young, L. Diane Wolfe, Michelle Wallace, Chrys Fey, Susan Gourley/Kelley, Joylene Nowell Butler and Joy Campbell.

Next, a big thanks to this year’s official judges:

Elizabeth S. Craig writes cozy mystery series for Penguin Random House, Midnight Ink, and independently. She curates links on Twitter as @elizabethscraig that are later shared in the free search engine
Richard Harland finished his first novel in 1993 and resigned a university lectureship to become a full-time writer. With seventeen fantasy, SF and horror novels published since, he went international with his steampunk fantasies, Worldshaker, Liberator and Song of the Slums. He has won six Aurealis Awards and the A. Bertram Chandler Award in Australia, the Tam Tam Je Bouquine Award in France. Writing Tips
Laura Maisano has an MA in Technical writing and is a Senior Editor at Anaiah Press for their YA/NA Christian Fiction. She’s excited to release her debut YA Urban Fantasy SCHISM, and she’s finishing up the sequel UNITY.
Russell C. Connor has been writing horror since the age of 5, and has been in the self-publishing industry for a decade. He has published 8 novels and 4 novellas in both paperback and eBook, including the Box Office of Terror Trilogy and "Whitney," an epic horror novel about hurricane survivors fighting a washed-ashore sea monster. He also designs books for clients and assists them with self-publishing endeavors.
Dawn Frederick is the founder of Red Sofa Literary, previously of Sebastian Literary Agency, and she brings a broad knowledge of the book business to the table—with multiple years of experience as a bookseller in the independent, chain, and specialty stores; sales, marketing, & book development at a YA publisher, a published nonfiction author, and an agent associate literary agent at Sebastian Literary Agency.
Ion Newcombe is the editor and publisher of AntipodeanSF, Australia's longest running online speculative fiction magazine, regularly issued since January 1998. His qualifications and employment range from horticulture through electronics into literature and communications.
Lynn Tincher,  author, public speaker, and executive producer, was born just outside of Louisville, Kentucky in the beautiful city of La Grange. She has written four books, with the fifth one currently in the making. Her first book, Afterthoughts was optioned for movie production by Kilted Pictures and Dancing Forward Productions in Los Angeles. It is currently in pre-production with plans to shoot in Louisville, Kentucky very soon.

And now, the winners of the 2016 IWSG Anthology Contest – Hero Lost:

L. Nahay – Breath Between Seconds

Roland Yeomans - Sometimes They Come Back

Elizabeth Seckman - Mind Body Soul

Olga Godim - Captain Bulat

Ellen Jacobson - The Silvering

Erika Beebe - The Wheat Witch

Yvonne Ventresca – The Art of Remaining Bitter

Sean McLachlan - The Witch Bottle

Sarah Foster - The Last Dragon

Renee Cheung - Memoirs of a Forgotten Knight

Tyrean Martinson - Of Words and Swords

And the grand prize winner:

Jen Stanton Chandler - The Mysteries of Death and Life

Congratulations to the winners and all who entered – we had a record number of entries this year. Look for the anthology, Hero Lost: Mysteries of Death and Life, late spring.

Did you enter the IWSG Anthology Contest? What genre would you like to see for the next contest? And what writing rule do you wish you’d never heard?