Tag Archives: therapist writers

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Writing for Your “Inner Circle” – And Skip the Book Marketing

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How to Get Published and Skip Book Marketing  Getting a book published is a big job, but the biggest part of it isn’t the writing or even the publishing; it’s the book marketing. For many authors, book marketing is a … Continue reading

8 “Starter”Book Marketing Tools

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GUEST BLOG:

“The First 8 Things to Do to Start Marketing Your Book”

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by Catherine Auman, LMFT, Author of Shortcuts to Mindfulness: 100 Ways to Personal and Spiritual Growth, Publisher – Green Tara Press, www.greentarapress.com

8 “Starter” Books Marketing Ideas

You didn’t know that becoming an author meant becoming a marketer, did you? That’s okay; neither did I. The fact is, you’ll need to become actively involved in the marketing of your book because if you don’t, no one but a few friends and family will buy it. Then again, even they might not.

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Really, it can be fun. Here are 8 BRIGHT IDEAS you can get started on before publication:

1) First, gather the items you’ll need to market your book:

  • Author photos/headshots – professionally done, please
  • Author bios of varying lengths – 100 words, 200 words
  • Book synopsis, about 100 words, written to entice readers
  • A jpg of your cover
  • Your elevator speech – a 30-second verbal summary of your book for use at cocktail and other parties when someone asks you, “What’s your book about?”
  • If you don’t have a website, get one. If you do have one, redesign it to promote your books as well as yourself.

2)  Create an Amazon Author Profile. This establishes you as a legitimate author. You can link your website, blog, videos, the promotional tools above and the ones you will develop in the future. Go to authorcentral.amazon.com and it will walk you through the steps.

3)  Create a Facebook Page for your book. Invite all your friends to Like (or Love). Start posting the items above and anything you can think of to create buzz. People prefer it if you try to educate, enlighten, or amuse them rather than just sell.

4)  Create a Goodreads Author Profile. Goodreads is where the avid readers hang out. Go to the Goodreads Author Program tutorial which will teach you how. Later you will be sponsoring book giveaways as promotions.

5)  Go to Vistaprint.com and make some inexpensive postcards using the jpg of the cover of your book. You can use these in any number of ways: send out by snail mail, leave at coffee houses, tack up on bulletin boards, and many uses you will come up with as you go along. I always keep some in my bag – you never know who might want one.

6)  Start identifying people and places to ask for book reviews. You will want to get as many as possible, and you’ll be able to use the reviews later for further marketing.

7)  Identify local stores that are likely to sell your book – not just bookstores, but gift stores and specialty shops.

8)   Schedule and plan your Book Release Party. Congratulations! You’re a published author.

© 2016 Catherine Aumancatherine auman book cover sept 2015 guest blog

(c) The Therapist Writer Blog by Sylvia Cary, LMFT, author of The Therapist Writer: Helping Mental Health Professionals Get Published. Timberlake PressTimberlakePress.com.

 

Portrait of a Neighborhood Book Signing

doug - sign outside

Have you ever attended a book signing by a celebrity author at a major bookstore (think Barnes & Noble), the kind where you are required to purchase the book in advance before you can get so much as a glimpse of the man or woman you have come to see? Then you have to wait in a line, sometimes a long line, and when you finally get up to the signing table, the author may be flanked by sharp-eyed assistants who look like Secret Service agents. Their purpose is to keep the masses at arms length, ward off time-consuming chatting, and keep the line moving right along. One of the author’s assistants may ask you for your name, write it down on a piece of paper, and slip it in front of the author who, without even having to look up at you, can scribble your name inside the book (before signing their own) to make it more “personal.” This done, the book is slapped shut and pushed towards you. You snatch it up, and  you’re out of there! Book signing over! It’s all kind of sterile.

A Different Story

But that’s just one kind of book signing. About a month ago I went to a very different kind,  a neighborhood book event at a small independent bookstore,  Chevalier’s Books at 126 N. Larchmont Blvd. in the Hancock Park section of Los Angeles (chevaliersbooks.com), the kind of book shop that has been disappearing over the past decade because of big troubles in the publishing industry. But this bookstore still seems to be going strong, and the whole signing event was friendly, warm, and cozy —  with some great cheese.

The author at this particular book signing is a colleague, Douglas Green, LMFT, a licensed psychotherapist and fellow mental health professional. Lots of his friends and colleagues were there in support of his publication adventure. It was a party atmosphere. Doug’s book, which I’d already read, loved, and had written a blurb for, is called The Teachings of SHIRELLE: Life Lessons From a Divine Knucklehead. It’s a book about a man (Doug) and his dog (Shirelle) and their awesome connection. It’s one of those books that makes readers end up saying, “I laughed; I cried” — and so did I.

Leading up to, and on the night of, the big event at Chevalier’s Books, there was an appealing little chalk-drawn sign outside the front door, inviting people to the “party” — and when you stepped inside you were greeted by a stack of “Shirelle” books but with no pressure to buy before you were allowed to see the author! Doug was right there by the cheese, nervous and happy to see his friends. Finally, it was time for people to find seats and quiet down so Doug could begin.

doug - pile of books

 

The book: “The Teachings of Shirelle: Life Lessons from a Divine Knucklehead.” (Available on Amazon.com)

doug - crowd

The audience had filled the room. Standing room only in the back. And people kept arriving. At one point Doug looked  up at the big crowd and said, as though in awe at the sight, “Oh, this is what you all look like!

doug - from audience read sign

And we, in the audience, got a hear Doug read some wonderful excerpts from “SHIRELLE” and think, “Oh, this is what Doug looks like doing his book signing.” Everyone was on the same page!

D0UG sideways reading

Some people pulled their chairs up close. Doug had everyone’s attention with his warmth, humor, and delight in his subject matter (“we laughed”); and we felt sadness when, at the end 0f the book, after many wonderful years, Shirelle died (“we cried”).

doug - adding up sales

When it was over, people jumped up, rushed to the counter to buy the book, grab some more cheese and crackers, gab with friends, and form themselves into a very chatty line to have Doug the Author sign his book.

 

doug - doing the signing

Above, Doug is signing, talking, and laughing with relief — he’d gotten through it! A book signing is really a lot of work, but once you’ve been to one like Doug’s, you’ll want one of your very own.

All you have to do is write a fantastic book!

Support your local authors and independent bookstores!

(c) Sylvia Cary; Photos by Sylvia Cary

“It’s Too Nichy”^

Sylvia Cary to Get an IRWIN AWARD from the Book Publicists of Southern California Sylvia Cary, psychotherapist and author of 5 books, is to get an award for "Best Niche Campaign" for her book, "The Therapist Writer: Helping Mental Health Professionals Get Published" (Timberlake Press) The IRWIN Award, named for the Book Publicists of Southern California founder, Irwin Zucker, was introduced in 1995 as a way to formally and publicly recognize BPSC members who conduct the best book sales/ promotion campaigns. The Honorees present will share with the BPSC audience the steps they took that led to the success of their book promotion campaigns. The event takes place at the Sportsmen's Lodge in Studio City on Thursday Oct. 15th. Contact at: sylvia@sylviacary.com OR visit newly tweaked and updated website, www.sylviacary.com.

Sylvia Cary, LMFT, received an IRWIN AWARD from the Book Publicists of Southern California (BPSC)  for “Best Niche Campaign” for her book, The Therapist Writer: Helping Mental Health Professionals Get Published (Timberlake Press). The award is named for the group’s founder, Irwin Zucker, and was introduced in 1995 as a way to formally and publicly recognize BPSC members who conduct the best book promotion campaigns. Each honoree shared with the audience the steps they took that led to the success of their book promotion campaign. (See video clip of Sylvia’s acceptance remarks below.) The event took place October 15th, 2015, at the Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City, California, http://www.sylviacary.com.

Nailing Your Niche*

Definition of niche:  A French word meaning “a situation or activity suited to a person’s interests, ability, or nature.” 

“Nail your niche and own it.”   — Dan Poynter

In the old days of publishing, before digital, before the Internet, before Amazon, before Google, and before Kindle, big publishers didn’t want to touch books on small topics because most didn’t sell . Publishing them just didn’t pay off. Authors of books in niche areas were more likely to find homes with academic or university presses or with little publishers with no money for publicity or marketing.  The readers of these books often had to find out about them through obscure newsletters, specialty bookstores, or by word-of-mouth from other folks interested in the same subjects.

I went that route myself “back in the day” when I was researching my book called Jolted Sober: Getting to the Moment of Clarity in the Recovery of Addiction. I became a long-distance member of the Alister Hardy Research Centre in the U.K. (Oxford) in order to receive their snail-mailed newsletter which contained information of interest to me for my book. They were studying spontaneous healings and religious experiences. My book contained numerous stories about sudden “Aha!” moments of clarity in the addiction recovery. What they were researching was right up my alley. Today, niche publications like this one are easy to find. In fact, I Googled the Centre to see if it still exists — and it does, but with a new name. Now it’s the Alister Hardy Religious Experience Research Centre.

What all this means for you is that, as an author, you no longer have to be afraid that your topic or specialty is too narrowly focused (i.e. “too nichy”)  to write about. There are people out there looking for what you have to say. And while it’s unlikely that you’ll get a contract with a mainstream publisher where “No Niches Need Apply,” you may be accepted by a small press or you can self-publish on Amazon’s CreateSpace for free. You’ll find some buyers. Or they’ll find you. And they’ll be thrilled.

Tofu Takes Off

Here’s one of my favorite stories about writing a book for a niche market: For many years I’ve been running a free drop-in writers group at a bookstore in Woodland Hills, California. It is sponsored by the Independent Writers of Southern California (iwosc.org). One of our regular members, Lisa, told us how years earlier she’d accidentally stumbled upon an idea for a niche book while waiting in the check-out line at a local market. In her shopping cart she had a couple of packages of tofu. “How do you cook that stuff?” the woman behind her in line asked her. “Tofu is so tasteless.” Because Lisa really knows her tofu, she answered, “”It picks up the flavor of what you cook it in.” The woman was intrigued: “I didn’t know that.”  Lisa shared a few recipes with her; the woman was delighted.

This little conversation triggered an “Aha!” moment in Lisa’s brain. She went home and put together a cookbook on tofu, which included family cooking stories and, on each page, she placed a thought-provoking quote. She had copies made and sold them to friends, family and neighbors. She got requests for more. She had additional copies printed, this time bound with a plastic spiral. She took some of these to a local health food store. They bought a few, sold them, and ordered more. Then they ordered even more. By the end of the year the health food store had sold a total of 250 of Lisa’s tofu cookbook.

The following year, Lisa branched out to other health food stores and even a few pharmacies and it was the same story. They bought books, sold out, and ordered more. Next, Lisa bought her own spiral machine and printed copies at home for less money, and started doing a little local advertising. This resulted in a total of 5,000 cookbook sales, a decent number–  even if it had been a traditionally published book. But it was a lot of work! Had self-publishing on Amazon’s CreateSpace been available at the time Lisa started this project, who knows how many sales she’d have made as the result of people typing “cooking tofu” into their search engines!

Weightier Subjects

While it may still be possible to put everything that’s known about cooking tofu inside a single book, the body of knowledge in other fields is too vast for that. If you are, say,  a mental health professional and want to write a book on your specialty, you are probably going to have to “niche it down” so it’s not too broad and so it doesn’t repeat what’s already been done. In other words, you can’t just write “about alcoholism.” However, a book on alcoholism and the elderly is another story. By “niching it down,” you’ll be appealing to a few specific audiences, such as physicians, mental health professionals working with this population, and family members.  Try to think of another audience or two.

Here are just some of the subjects therapists have picked as specialties. Any one of them could be developed into a book:  Abuse, addiction, adoption, aging, anger management, ADHD, animal assisted therapy, anxiety, art therapy, Aspergers, autism, biofeedback, bipolar disorder, children/adolescents/teens, Christian counseling, cognitive behavioral, couples, creativity, depression, divorce and custody, eating disorders,  employee assistance (EAP), gay / lesbian/transgender issues, HIV/AIDS, Jungian analysis, Gestalt, grief recovery, learning disabilities, life coaching, meditation, mental illness, men’s issues, metaphysics, military culture, neuroscience, online counseling, parenting, phobias, play therapy, postpartum, private practice marketing, psychoanalysis, relationships, religious counseling, retirement counseling, rockstar therapy (yes, really!), short-term therapy, sex therapy, singles, sleep disorders, special needs – and hundreds more!

Start thinking about how you might give your special topic that special twist to make it different and unique. That’s how you get literary agents interested in representing you, publishers interesting in publishing you, and readers interested in buying you, whether it’s a traditionally or self-published book. Readers don’t care. They just want the information. The trick is to jump on a niche when it is still fairly new so, as the late publishing guru Dan Poynter said, you “own” it.

Finding a Home for The Therapist Writer

When I first came up with the idea for The Therapist Writer, I wrote a standard book proposal and started sending it out to literary agents. I kept getting back the same response: “It’s too nichy.” The agents didn’t think  there were enough mental health professionals who wanted to write who’d be interested in buying a book on the subject.  In fact, well-known literary agent Michael Larsen from San Francisco even phoned me to tell me this, and added that if I’d expand the focus from therapists to include other professions, he might consider it. That was tempting, but it wasn’t the book I wanted to write or felt capable of writing. I know my “tribe,” my fellow mental health professionals, very well, but I don’t know about other professional “tribes,” so I didn’t think I’d sound like I knew what I was talking about. I said no.

The Therapist Writer by Sylvia Cary, LMFT

The Therapist Writer by Sylvia Cary, LMFT

That’s when I realized I didn’t have a clue how big my market was. How many mental health professionals are there are in this country, anyhow, and how many of them want to write a book? I consulted the Occupational Outlook Handbook and came up with 750,000 mental health professionals, so I figured that if I could sell The Therapist Writer to just 1% of these therapists, that would end up being 7,500 books.  I also realized that while this figure might make me happy, it wouldn’t make me rich, and it wouldn’t impress a mainstream publisher.

I gave up on the idea of traditional publishing and self-published through Lightning Source (after first becoming a publisher — their rule at the time), and once the paper version was up on Amazon, I published it as a Kindle E-book.

Doc, What’s Your Line?

The conversation with agent Larsen made me really clear on the fact that I didn’t want to give up my niche audience (mental health professionals who want to write) and write for all writers. There were already plenty of books on writing and publishing for the general public. I also felt it was a plus that I was a licensed psychotherapist because I had chapters in the book on special issues that therapist-writers face, such as the important issue of patient confidentiality: How can a therapist write about a client’s case without getting sued? I talk in the book about “the art of disguise” in writing about others, which means a lot more than just changing names.

I now understood that by “niching down” my book I was probably limiting my readership and profits, but that’s just one of the many decisions an author must make. I also knew that when I started marketing my book, I’d have a chance to point out the benefits in the book for all writers, not just therapist writers. One big marketing shift I had to make was to treat therapist-writers as therapists, not writers. Most therapists don’t want to be writers, which is why they haven’t bought books on writing, and why they know less about the writing business than the average bear. They just want to keep on being therapists who have written a book. My book, I point out in my marketing, understands this and works with it so the therapists can reach their publishing goals in spite of their discomfort. The therapists who do want to be writers (and there are some!) already act like writers, and have read books and know about publishing trends. They are ripe and ready to press on.

The majority of the time, in marketing to therapists, I stress therapy careers, not writing careers. I  list the perks for therapists in being “the author of ” a book. It means instant credibility; being seen as an “expert in the field.” They might even become the “go-to” shrink for colleagues to refer to for specific psychological issues, like one therapist I know whose self-published book on his personal bipolar struggle has made him the therapist that other therapists think of as a referral resource. When I’d speak at therapy-related events and meetings, I’d take the same approach. I’d  talk to the audience as “therapists,” not “writers,”  and stress the career perks of getting published.

Becoming Niche Savvy

It’s important to know why your niche audience wants your book. For my niche audience, my book is business, not pleasure. Some therapists want to publish in order to have a carton of books in the trunk of their car to sell when they give talks or give workshops, or to have on hand for clients, clients’ families, and colleagues. Nothing more. They hate marketing.

I learned how to market The Therapist Writer (and I’m still learning) and how deal with a niche audience on the job, mostly by correcting mistakes —  such as starting out with no idea of the size, or whereabouts, of my audience! Next time out, I’ll know.

I didn’t get rich or famous marketing my book, but I learned a bunch and I got this award for my efforts. Cool experience. And the award  is pretty, isn’t it?

The IRWIN Award for "Best Niche Campaign"

The IRWIN Award for “Best Niche Campaign”

Below, FYI, is a video clip of my award acceptance remarks:

 

*Copyright 2015  Sylvia Cary, LMFT.  Portions of this blog post are taken from the chapter on “Nailing Your Niche” in The Therapist Writer.

10 Things Therapist Writers Worry About

Publishing a book can be scary. But don't let your fear keep you out of the game. Forewarned is forearmed.  Avoid these 5 mistakes can keep you safe(r).  -- photo by Morguefile

Publishing a book can be scary. But don’t let your fear keep you out of the game. Forewarned is forearmed. Here are ten things therapist writers worry about and what to do about them.                    — photo by Morguefile

Loose lips sink ships.  — World War II poster

All writers, not just therapist writers, should pay attention to the legal side of publishing, and concern themselves with the possible consequences of what they say in print. Blabbing off and not heeding the rules can get anybody in trouble. No writer benefits from getting sued. That’s definitely not a perk.

Writers who also happen to be licensed mental health professionals and write about their work with clients have to be particularly vigilant because they are bound by a number of legal and ethical restrictions (such as maintaining patient confidentiality) which can inhibit and impact what they say.

Now, I don’t know if it’s just that therapist writers are worry warts, but when it comes to writing a book, here are 10 things therapists seem to worry about, have the most questions about , and need the most help solving:

Help is on the way.

Help is on the way.  Photo credit: Morguefile

1. Should I copyright my book idea?  It’s mostly new writers who worry that somebody is going to steal their book idea. News flash! You can’t copyright an idea, even a good one. You can only copyright the execution of an idea, i.e., how that idea is expressed in writing. The minute you put it down, you are protected. You don’t even have to officially register a copyright, but it’s still wise to do so just in case you get involved in a legal case. Then, you’ll have an official copyright date on file. Go to www.copywrite.gov, read the instructions, and email a digital book file and $35 to get your “placeholder” copyright (while you are finishing the book). When your book is published and available for sale, go to www.copywrite.gov again, follow the instructions, fill out two copies of a form, and then mail the two copies of the form, a check ($65.00 as of this writing), and two copies of your book to the Library of Congress, Copyright Office, Document Recordation Section, 101 Independence Ave SE, Washington, D.C. 20559-6000. (Always double-check the website for any new information and instructions). One copy of the book goes to the Library of Congress. (Yes, you can go there and check out your own book!); the other copy gets stored somewhere.

Don't worry if there are other books on your topic. Tweak your book into something new and fresh.

Don’t worry if there are other books on your topic. Tweak your book idea into something new and fresh.        Photo credit: Morguefile

2. What if my book idea is already taken? So what? Unless your topic is unique, there are probably hundreds of books on your subject already in print. Search Amazon. You’ll be astounded at how many authors have beat you to the punch. But that doesn’t matter. Your challenge will be to tweak your idea so it’s “better and different” than the rest. If you want to write “about alcoholism,” and you note that thousands of others have already done so, then tweak it. Write about “high IQ alcoholics” instead. That will be your niche. That will make most of the competition go away and make your book stand out. Next, look only at the books in your niche that were published in the last five years. Read the customer book reviews. Read the “Look Inside” feature. How do competing books handle the topic? What’s missing? Note the Tables of Contents. You’ll learn what to focus on, what to add, what to leave out, and you’ll get ideas about how to market your book – the hardest part.

3. What if my book title is already taken?  Same answer as #1 above. You can’t copyright a title. For example, there are many books called “The Gift.” Some are differentiated by their subtitles. There’s was also a movie called “The Gift” and a TV show called “The Gift.” You can still call your book “The Gift” if you want to, but why would you? Don’t you want it to stand out? The only titles and words you can’t use are trademarked — like Hell’s Angels, Hello Kitty or Harry Potter.

4. Can I write about my patients? Yes, you can write about your patients, but you know the drill. As mental health professionals, we are legally bound to protect their identities. This means you have to learn the “art of disguise” to the point where friends, family and even the patient themselves won’t be able to tell who you are writing about. This actually shouldn’t cramp your style too much because the details of a patient’s life are rarely critical to the story you are trying to tell, or the message you are trying to convey. Of course, you can side-step this by getting signed releases from the patient and perhaps recognizable others in the story, but that’s not always foolproof. The other way is to change everything — dates, ages, places, details about looks, jobs, family members, even therapy issues (if uncommon enough to be recognized). It’s the core of what you are writing that’s important. Focus on that.

When you're writing about friends and family, be kind.

When you’re writing about friends and family, be kind. Photo credit: Morguefile

5. Can I write about friends and family? Authors rarely get sued for saying something nice about somebody. It’s when you get critical or expose gossip and hurt someone’s reputation in the world that makes people cranky – or litigious. In my first book I said that my sister, during her high school years, looked “scruffy.” I didn’t think that was such a big deal, but she was hurt. And I learned something. It wasn’t necessary for the sake of my story to use a critical term. Did you ever see the movie “Tea & Sympathy?” It’s about a male student at a boarding school who has an affair with the head master’s wife. When the boy leaves the school, the wife tells him, “When you talk about this – and you will – be kind.”  So unless you are a journalist and writing a killer exposé about, say, the mistreatment of the elderly in a nursing home (and your facts better be right!), then, as a general rule, “be kind.”

Saying unkind things in your writing not only hurts people but makes them cranky.

Saying unkind things in your writing not only hurts         people but makes them cranky.                                          Photo credit: Morguefile

6. Can I quote from other experts in my field? Being able to quote from thought leaders in our area of expertise is critical. How could we progress without referring to those who have gone before us? The tradition of “Fair Use” allows authors to quote other people – up to a point. The law here is “fuzzy “and vague. It all depends on what’s being quoted. You may have heard that you can “quote up to 50 words,” but that’s a myth. Perhaps you can quote 50 words from a scientific document, but you probably can’t quote even five words from a song or poem. According to Jonathan Kirsch, a Los Angeles based attorney specializing in intellectual property and publishing law, when it comes to substantial quotes you need to get “permission” (see below). “If you rely on ‘Fair Use,’” Kirsch added during a talk for writers I attended (I’m not an attorney myself so I go hear them speak), “you are taking a risk.” Being published traditionally doesn’t protect you either. “The publisher wants the author on the hook, as in, ‘Author shall indemnify, and hold harmless, the publisher.’” In other words, guess who is considered the “deep pocket” in this scenario? YOU are! One workaround is paraphrasing and giving credit to the original source, but you have to be careful that you don’t get accused of misrepresenting what the original author said. Another “quoting” issue I run into as an editor is over-quoting. Mental health professionals, especially when they are new to book writing, are insecure and tend to fall back on quoting others instead of putting their own opinions out front. I have to scold them: “Don’t keep quoting other people. You are the expert here because this is your book, so quote yourself!”

7. Can I write about myself?  Some mental health professionals are skittish when it comes to writing about themselves. It makes them feel exposed and vulnerable. “What will my patients think?” I know traditionally-trained “blank screen” therapists who wouldn’t dream of disclosing personal information to patients, including the fact that they write. Sadly, it keeps many from writing at all. On the other hand, I know therapists who blog, share opinions, and have Facebook pages filled with family photos and events. Often these therapists who are at ease with self-disclosure are in recovery from the same conditions they are treating their patients for — addiction, over-eating, bi-polar disorder, divorce. They experience sharing and writing as helpful to their clients and vice-versa.

8. Can I use a painting or photograph for my book cover?  If you painted it or snapped it yourself, or hired a graphic artist for the job, yes, if you think it would make a good book cover. But if it’s something from the Internet, probably not, unless you’ve bought it and have the rights. Or it’s from a free photo site, such as http://www.morguefile.com. Paintings and photos, like books, poems, and song lyrics, are often under copyright protection — unless they have fallen into the public domain (meaning the copyright has expired). Written works fall into the public domain 70 years after the death of the author. This means thousands of books are up for grabs every year. That’s why anybody can make a movie of Hamlet or reprint Sense and Sensibility through their indie publishing company. You don’t need to get permission from Shakespeare or Jane Austen.

As they say, "It's easier to ask for permission than ask for forgiveness." Photo credit: Morguefile

As they say, “It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.”                           –Photo credit: Morguefile

9. How do I get permission to use quotes in my book?  You’ve probably heard this cute little line: “It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.” Unfortunately, when quotes don’t fall under the “Fair Use” umbrella, or are not in the public domain, or are not properly paraphrased with credit to the original author, then you’ll have to get permission. How do you do this? You ask. The hard part is finding out who to ask. Check www.copyright.gov to see who has the copyright. (By the way, this information is sometimes dated or wrong.) Track down the author if he or she is still alive. Write a letter to the author via The Writer’s Guild because they’ll sometimes forward a letter on to authors. Contract the publisher who may do the same. Check Facebook even if the author is dead. When you do find somebody who can say yes — they may say no. I wanted to use a poem in one of my books, but the poet told me she still gets paid speaking gigs based on that poem, so she wasn’t going to let me have her cash cow! In most cases, once you manage to track down the author, they are happy to be quoted if you quote them correctly, give them credit, and are “kind.” (Warning: Sometimes there’s a fee involved.) In your book, either on the page where you use the quote or in a special section, you say “reprinted by permission.”  Getting those “permissions” is an achievement!

10. What if my book is a best-seller?  That’s a problem!? Well, I guess it could be since it’s usually just famous authors who make money who get sued. Unknown self-published authors who sell 100 copies or less rarely get sued. But don’t count on things going either one way or the other. Don’t blow off the legal side of publishing. The best advice I got was to hire an attorney read a book I wrote to make sure there was nothing libelous or slanderous in it. He had me get a release letter from one person, which I did – just in case. With another book, I deleted one of the twenty-one interviews in which a man said something “not kind” about somebody else. That “somebody else” threatened to sue if the book was published, so I replaced the interview and avoided a potential problem. Rule of thumb: Prevention trumps litigation! Now you can go ahead ad tell your tales without fear.

May all your writing puzzles be solved.

May all your writing puzzles be solved.                     Photo credit: Morguefile

(c) The Therapist Writer: Helping Mental Health Professionals Get Published by Sylvia Cary, LMFT, available on Amazon and Kindle

“Don’t Go There”

Grief is a Scary Place to Go

GRIEF IS A SCARY PLACE TO GO

October. Bright colors. Halloween approaching. Very soon my grandkids will be going trick-or-treating in their cute costumes.  There will be funny-faced pumpkins on neighborhood doorsteps. I’ll trot along behind and take pictures. Halloween is very photogenic. There may even be a fall nip in the air so when I get home I’ll be able to “turn on” my store-bought fireplace (it has real-looking flames and real heat). I’ll enjoy that after so many hot Los Angeles days.

Anniversary Reactions

Yes, so many heartwarming memories associated with the month of October. And since this blog is primarily about writing, I was going to talk about my upcoming October workshop on “DIY Book Marketing.” I thought I’d give some pointers and tips on the subject for the many “indie” published authors out there who are facing the huge task of trying to sell their book.

Just not today. I just can’t write about marketing today. My good thoughts about October are being crowded out by sad thoughts, “anniversary reactions,”  memories related to the events that happened just a year ago which led up to the death of my lovely husband, Lance.  Those memories hurt.  But trying to write about “book marketing” when I’m thinking of something else hurts more.

October 8th (tomorrow, as I write this) would have been Lance’s 71st birthday. What a wonderful time we had one year ago on his 70th birthday when we threw him a huge surprise party at his favorite Italian restaurant, Maggiano’s in Woodland Hills, California.  His cousin Jorgen flew in from Denmark (where Lance was born) as a surprise.  And it was! In the restaurant, we all  sat at one  long table (tables pushed together) — family and friends, talking and laughing,  popping up and down to chat with those too far down the line to hear above the din.

Enjoying Lance's birthday party. Here, my daughter and son-in-law shake hands over the heads of my grand-children, with Lance (striped shirt) in the background across from his cousin and 11-year-old grandneice from Denmark.

Enjoying Lance’s 70th birthday party. Above, my daughter and son-in-law shake hands over the heads of their children (Lily and Lyle), with Lance in the background (right) across from his cousin, Jorgen, Danish flags stuck in a glass between them.

Towards the end of the dinner, Lance stood up. Forks clinked against glasses to get people to quiet down. He gave a touching speech. He has no idea he was sick.

Soccer Game Tickets 037My daughter, Claudia, gave Lance soccer tickets to a Galaxy game (the card was made by my granddaughter, Lily). That soccer game turned out to be  our “last date” together before Lance was diagnosed.

Turkey Day and “D” (Diagnosis) Day

After Lance’s birthday there was Thanksgiving.  It was great. My daughter Claudia and husband Roy hosted it because I was recovering from a back mishap. I wrote about it in my 2012 blog: “Mishmash: What I Love About Thanksgiving.”  After the meal, we all stood by the fireplace to take our annual Christmas photo. Lance, though “tired,” still didn’t know he was sick.

In early December, Lance did feel sick. He took to his bed and missed a week of work. Lance never missed work. When it turned out not to be the flu, he was treated at home for “pneumonia,” and when he didn’t get better he was admitted to the hospital where he got the bad news:  Stage 4  lung cancer.  Not fixable. Maybe six months left with “targeted chemo.”  He was sent home with oxygen and a boatload of equipment to await more tests and then get a pet scan to see where the cancer might have spread. The night before the pet scan, this man who’d always has such a strong heart , had a massive heart walking to the bathroom. It felled him. The paramedics took him back to the hospital. Eighteen hours in Emergency, then up to the ICU.

In ICU all the holidays ran together:  Christmas Eve. Christmas. Our 28th Wedding Anniversary. New Year’s Eve. New Year’s Day 2013.  Somewhere in there came strokes. It was increasingly difficult to communicate with him or make sense of what he was saying. And then on January 2nd, 2013, he died.

Stalker Grief

Grief is sneaky.  A month ago I was at Crown Books in Woodland Hills where I run a monthly drop-in writing group. It’s next door to the restaurant where we had that wonderful birthday party for Lance. I walked into the restaurant just to use the Ladies’ Room because the one in the bookstore was on the blink. I didn’t even think of the party. It wasn’t until I was on my way out and found myself in the area where the party had taken place that it hit me — POW! A sock in the gut. The tables were now empty, pushed apart. I looked at the empty tables and saw a brief “vision” — a fantasy re-enactment of the whole party. I rushed out.

Doing a Drive-By

Then there was the day I drove past the townhouse complex where Lance and I lived for 23 of our 28 years of marriage.The landscape was so achingly familiar.  On impulse I made a right turn into the side street, a turn I’d probably made a thousand times. Next I turned left into the alley, then another left into the driveway. I drove past all the garage doors and slowed down when I got to the one that used to be “our” garage door.

For a brief moment, like something out of a time-travel movie, I felt I could push the button on my visor and the garage door would open and I’d see all our familiar things, my filing cabinets, Lance’s computer stuff, our books. I could park the car, open the downstairs door and walk up the stairs — and right back into my old life. I’d find Lance at his computer, as usual, and the cat curled up nearby.

I just wanted to go home.

Grief involves wanting to go back, rewind, undo, and go home again.

Grief pushes you to try to go back, rewind the movie, undo, and go home again.

“Stop Going There!”

By the time I got to the end of the townhouse complex driveway, I was in tears. I pulled over and called my daughter so I could cry some more. Afterwards I called a friend, “Why did I do that?” I blurted out.  “Then stoppit. Don’t go there!” she told me. “It’s not true that time heals. Time just teaches you to stop going there.”  I didn’t tell her other things I did, like listening to Lance’s last two cheery messages to me on my cell phone, one calling me from Fry’s computer store, the other from home after the Galaxy had won a  soccer game. He was happy: “See you when you get home!” I saved those messages. When I got a new cell phone, I had them transferred over.  I still have them.

And sometimes I go there.

Danish flags brought to Lance by his Danish cousin for the birthday celebration

Danish flags brought to Lance by his cousin for the birthday celebration

As the onslaught of anniversaries hits me over the next three months, I know it will be hard not to “go there.” After the anniversary of Lance’s birthday tomorrow, there’s  going to be Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve (that’s when we used to celebrate Christmas — the Danish way), Christmas Day, our would-be 29th wedding anniversary on December 29th, New Year’s Eve (in 2012 I’d spent it at Lance’s bedside as he endured 100% oxygen being force-fed into his lungs just to keep him alive), then New Year’s Day (with goodbye visits from family and friends), and then the next day, Jan 2nd, 2013, the day that Lance died.

I’ve told people I don’t even want to be in L.A. for that anniversary, but where would I go? You can “go there” even when you’re someplace else.

Pictures

I have dozens of pictures of Lance in my little apartment — another easy way to keep going there and remembering back. Probably I should put some away. But for now they will stay where they are. I can only go so fast. If I’m still doing drive-bys five years from now, that’s a whole different story. Then stop me.

Anyway, of all my many pictures of Lance and me together, this is a favorite:

Dinner together at the same favorite restaurant . This was our 27th wedding anniversary the year before. The 28th was spent in the hospital. I love this picture of Lance. It's so -- "Lance."

Dinner together at the same restaurant  where we had Lance’s birthday bash. This was, I think, our 27th wedding anniversary on December 29th, 2011. Our 28th, on December 29th, 2012, was spent in the hospital. I do love this picture of Lance. It shows this warmth, kindness and love. It’s so — “Lance.”  It’s so what I miss.

(c) Sylvia Cary, LMFT.   Photo credits: Sylvia Cary, wwwMorguefile.com and the waiter at Maggiano’s Restaurant in Woodland Hills, California

It’s Not Easy Being Green

Writer as Witness to an After-School Gang Shooting. Photo Taken by Writer From a Safe Distance Away!

I was there being a good “green” citizen and recycling plastic bottles at my local supermarket. I filled a shopping cart with bottles and was pushing it towards the recycle booth when I heard men shouting. I looked over and heard “Pop!” “Pop!” “Pop!” and saw a man lying on the ground behind a car and two guys leaning over him, maybe shooting him again, maybe seeing if he was OK. The high school across the street had just let out so the area was swarming with teens.

It took me a second or two to realize this was REAL shooting (and it DOES sound like firecrackers), so I ducked down between the shopping cart and my car. I had my keys and cell phone in my hand. Crouching down, I opened my car door and crawled inside and scrunched down on the seat. As I was shutting the car door, I saw a car speed by and out of the parking lot — like a getaway car. I kept my head low and called my husband, then called 911. By the time I dared raise my head, there were cop cars there, a fire truck, a motorcycle cop and an ambulance. I got out of my car, still clutching only my cell phone and keys, and before I knew it the police had put tape around the whole parking lot and my car was trapped inside it — in police custody! “They have to look over every car,” I heard a cop telling another car owner who was complaining about not being able to leave. “What if there’s blood on it?”

I didn’t even have my purse with me. It was locked inside my car. I was there for a few hours. I went ahead and recycled the bottles. Later, when a detective came over to ask if I was OK, I said, “Oh, I’m fine. Fine.” Then I realized I had thrown my cell phone and keys away with the bottles! A little distracted maybe? You think? I went back to the recycle booth and we had to paw through all the yucky bottles to find my cell phone and keys.

The police kept my car there until after 9 pm (this was at 3:30 pm).  I was interviewed by two detectives and two members of the media and ended up on the 7 o’clock local TV news and in a newspaper story. From the stories, I learned it was a gang shooting and the guy didn’t die. He was taken to a hospital. My husband picked me up after work and later he went back with a friend to get my car. I noticed a mild case of PTSD for a few days after that — jumping at every “pop!” noise.

I’ve always said I don’t write dramatic fiction because I haven’t had dramatic experiences. Well, now I know how to write about an after-school gang shooting. Write what you know, right?

I want to add a P.S. onto this blog because I’ve been guilty of blog abandonment lately: My book, THE THERAPIST WRITER: Helping Mental Health Professionals (Timberlake Press), is out and available on Amazon and on Kindle. Wheee!

Middleworld — Where the Publishers are Neither Too Big Nor Too Small

Miniature Story Book -- photo by alphadeltago's photostream, Flickr

Okay, so here’s the situation. You’re a therapist writer. You’ve decided to write a book. Maybe it’s on a mental health topic; maybe it’s on something else. You’ve done your homework. You know your subject matter, your genre, your angle, your goals, your audience. You may even have completed a few chapters. That’s all good.

Then somebody comes along and throws you a curve by asking you a simple question: “How many actual books are you going to be able to sell to your primary audience?” Gee. I didn’t expect that question.  In my case, I know that the primary audience for the book I’m writing (The Therapist Writer) is mental health professionals who want to write. But exact numbers?  I realized I needed to get my numbers act together.  As my GPS says…

Calculating… Calculating…

After a lot of Googling (which wasn’t helpful), and some phone calls to mental health organizations (many refuse to disclose membership numbers), I finally consulted a copy of the Occupational Outlook Handbook 2010-2011 (the new edition covering 2012 is due out soon), and I came up with a total of “700,000” mental health professionals in the U.S. with an expected growth rate of 15% by 2018, bringing the total number of therapists to 805,000 by 2018. And since I’ve always heard that in the fund-raising world a 1% response to a fund-raising letter is average, I threw that number into the mix…

Calculating… Calculating…

The number I came up with (1% of 805,000 mental health professionals) was 8,500 potential book sales over the next couple of years. (Anyone with a better set of numbers please let me know!)  In my world, 8,500 sales isn’t bad.  But in the world of traditional publishing (think New York), 8,500 is lousy. It’s small potatoes. Without at least 25,000 fans panting to buy my book, my chances of getting a New York agent to broker a book deal with a big time trade publisher are slim to none. So forgetaboutit. It’s just never going to happen. My book is far “too nichy” for that world. Now what?

As a therapist writer, this could happen to you. Not to be mean, but I’m afraid that book you’re working on about Sandtray Therapy just isn’t going to be a hot item at Random House. Then, is your only alternative self-publishing? That’s certainly an option, maybe even a good one in some cases, but don’t throw in the towel just yet. There’s a whole middleworld of publishing houses out there known as “the independents,” or “small presses,” or “academic publishers” or “university presses” that are still considered traditional publishers, same business model, and they might be just perfect for you.

According to Los Angeles literary agent Paul S. Levine, the publishing world is roughly divided into two parts. Half of the book business is controlled by the “Big Six” global publishing conglomerates (Random House, Harper Collins, Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, Penguin and Hachette (and a slew of imprints under the umbrella of each). The other half, Levine states, is made up of some 56,000 smaller publishers or “independents” which he defines as “those who publish three or more books in one calendar year.”

Also mixed in here are the academic/university presses, some 100 of them that publish anywhere from a few book to 100 books a year, many on specialty topics (archeology, history, music, biographies, politics, music, theater, dance, art, baseball, gardening, health, sports, travel, school texts, nature, interior design, pop culture, writing —  and many areas of  psychology.) Because everything is topsy-turvy in the publishing world these days, some of the university and academic presses have had to go mainstream and put out commercial books, so they’re not just printers for stuffy books anymore. If you’re afraid your book isn’t stuffy enough for them, this should come as good news. You may have a shot.

Why Are the Independent Presses Worth Looking Into?

For today’s writers, one of the best things about the small, independent presses is that many of them don’t insist that you have an agent, which is rare in the “Big Six” world. That’s one huge gatekeeper out of the way! You can send in material (such as a book proposal) unsolicited, without prior permission. These publishers are more open to niche topics and if you do hook up with one of them, they’ll give you more personal attention and help you make your book “perfect.” On the downside is time and money. This all takes time and there’s not much money for advances or marketing. If you’re in a big hurry to get your book out there for upcoming workshops, seminars and conventions, then self-publishing, using print-on-demand technology, might work better for you.

Best Resources

The two best resources for finding out about the independents, small presses, academic publishers and university presses are these annuals: 1) the 2012 Writer’s Market (check out their “Family Tree” chart showing the conglomerates and their imprints), and, 2) Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents 2012. Writer’s Market refers to these houses as “small publishers” and defines them as those publishing ten books or less a year; Herman calls his list of 500 or so presses the “independents” and defines them as publishing one book a year on up. He has a separate section for “university presses,” whereas Writer’s Market mixes the academic and university presses in along with other publishers, but has a separate section for the “ten and under” small presses. There’s a lot of cross-over so it can be confusing. Writer’s Market also highlights “new listings” which might be worth looking into because they may be less inundated with material from other writers — so far.

What to do in Middleworld

If your book is “too nichy” for an agent and the “Big Six,” but you’re not up to self-publishing (which is exciting but a lot of work), look at the publishers in Middleworld:

  • Look through the two directories mentioned above;
  • Read the sections for “small,” “independent” and “university/academic” presses;
  • Put checks by the publishers that don’t require agents (Basic Books and WW Norton do require agents; Adams Media and Guilford don’t);
  • Come up with a list of about 15 publishers that appeal to you and seem to have a strong presence in your subject area;
  • Check out each pick with http://www.writerbeware.com and http://www.preditorsandeditors.com just to be safe and make sure they’re not flakes;
  • Go on each of the 15 web sites and see what their writer guidelines say. You may have to hunt for them — try “Contact Us” or “Submission Guidelines” or “Authors” or “Writer Guidelines;” or “Submissions;”
  • Don’t deal with any so-called “publishers” (vanity presses in disguise) that use words like “subsidy,” “co-publishing,” “joint venture.”  That’s the dark side of  self-publishing which is another conversation;
  • Send off whatever the publisher asks for — and don’t wait by the mailbox. They’ll answer eventually. In the meantime, keep educating yourself about publishing; keep networking with other writers, and keep writing.

A Panel of One: Dan Poynter Updates Writers on Latest Publishing Changes & Opportunities

Self-Publishing Guru, Dan Poynter, Updates a Southern California Writers Group on the Latest Publishing Industry Changes -- Photo: Sylvia Cary

Whether you’re a therapist writer or any other kind of writer, you know it’s important to  keep up with what’s going on in the ever-changing publishing industry.  Since we can’t all be at every writing-related event in our area, I thought I’d share some things I learned at the latest meeting of IWOSC (Independent Writers of Southern California) in my own area.

Now usually on the last Monday night of the month, IWOSC presents a panel of four to six experts on topics related to writing and publishing, but this time things were different. This time it was a panel of only one — that one being Dan Poynter, a man who probably knows more about the publishing game than anyone else on earth. He flies 6000 miles a week, speaking to book-writing hopefuls and conversing with publishing experts in every nook and cranny of the globe. He spends 40% of his time in the air, at airports, and in other countries. It’s no wonder that whenever he opens his mouth to speak about publishing, writers listen.

Poynter opened his talk with a catchy little definition of self-publishing that you might want to put up on your fridge to inspire you:  “Self-publishing, when you’re doing it right, is when your passion center meets your profit center.”

But publishing wasn’t originally Dan Poynter’s primary passion. Sky-diving was his first love. One day in 1972 somebody took him for his first sky dive “and I was hooked,” he says. If he hadn’t been taken on that jaunt, he never would have known how much he liked it — and he might never have ended up in the publishing field. Today, he advises parents to “do something new every weekend with your kids; open them up to different kinds of experiences and eventually they’ll find something they want to pursue.”

After Poynter got into sky-diving (including a  jump into the north pole), he realized that there were no parachute manuals. He wrote one, became a publisher, published it and sold it through parachute schools, parachute shops, parachute catalogs, and parachute magazines — but not through bookstores. Even back then he realized, “Sell to your own tribe. You have to go where your audience hangs out.” Marketing a book was harder in those days.  “Today, because of the Internet and search engines, we can find our customers and our customers can find us.”

In 1973, Poynter discovered hang gliding. He fell in love again. And again, when he realized that there were no manuals on the subject, he spent four months researching it and came out with the first book on hang gliding. The book took off. “It was the right book at the right time, just when everybody was crazy about hang gliding and there were articles on it in every magazine.” He marketed this book the same way he’d marketed his parachuting book — he sold them in hang gliding stores, hang gliding schools, hang gliding magazines and hang gliding catalogs. “Your book has to be the first one,” he says. “If you have the second book you’re out of luck.” Initially, when he left copies in stores on consignment, management was skeptical. Then, when the books sold out, he started to get calls for more: “You have to show them there’s a market.”  Also, thanks to his naïveté at the time, he sent a copy of his hang-gliding book to the Library Journal and asked them to review it.  He had no idea that getting a book reviewed in the Library Journal is a feat the equivalent of parachuting into the North Pole. But the Library Journal actually did review the book and as a result of that review he sold copies to 1200 libraries.

By 1974 Poynter had earned enough money to move back to California from a colder clime (he’d come to hate cold) to a big house on a hill in Santa Barbara. He has since authored over one hundred additional books.

Publishing is changing so fast it’s hard to keep up. The large publishers are downsizing, the traditional brick and mortar stores are going out of business, readers have fallen in love with ebooks, “and we’ve been losing three independent bookstores a week for the last twenty years.” Publishing industry professionals who are still resisting all these changes are, in Poynter’s words,  “in denial,” And the changes are having a huge impact on every facet of book publishing — literary agents,  distributors, book printers, book reviewers — just about everyone that the industry touches. Even the area of “foreign rights” is changing. Someday, authors will have their books translated into other languages on their own and sell them on Amazon or on their own Web sites. “Tolerate books stores, but don’t pursue them,” Poynter says. “Bookstores are lousy places to sell books. New York publishing still thinks it’s all about bookstores, but they’re wrong. The winners are going to be authors and small publishers who go with the flow and adapt to what’s inevitable and embrace the changes. In the past, everyone followed the Big Six publishing conglomerates. Now, the Big Six are following us!”

Poynter predicts that the abandonment of the “New York” publishers and gatekeepers will continue, and magazines (and along with them book review space) will continue to disappear. “1989 was the peak year for the magazine industry. Magazines were thick with ads. Now they’re getting skinnier and skinnier. Look at Newsweek. It’s losing millions. Most newspapers will disappear in five years. The only four likely to survive are the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today and the Wall Street Journal. Most book reviews will be done online by book bloggers.”

While these changes are opening up all kinds of exciting opportunities for writers, Poynter warns that writers also need to be wary of scammers. “Avoid Vanity presses. Do your due diligence. And if you are about to do business with a company, first go online and type in Google + the name of the company + scam (or rip-off) and see what comes up.

Poynter ended his presentation with a reminder: “87% of people don’t like their job. One million people call in sick every day. But we, as authors and publishers, are respected and have a passion for what we do. There will be a growing need for entertainment (fiction) and information (non-fiction)…” – and that means work we love! So for the hundreds of  writers, publishers and guests sitting in the audience listening to this most impressive “panel of one,” the future is looking pretty good.