A CHICK IN THE COCKPIT IS Here!

November 10, 2015

happy capt picard copyOf course, Capt. Picard wouldn’t think twice about a chick in command of a big fat flying tube. But when Erika Armstrong was flying, chicks in the cockpit weren’t the norm. In fact, they still aren’t.

Erika’s life in the cockpit shaped her life outside of the cockpit, and it’s that dichotomy that makes this book a “gotta read.” As I do with all the books we publish, I laughed up a lung and grabbed for the box of Kleenex. If you love flying, or the idea of it, ever wondered what pilots give up in order to be the best, and love seeing wonderful acts of heroism from a very unexpected group of people, then you need to have A CHICK IN THE COCKPIT on your reading shelf.

Lee Woodruff – NY Times bestselling author and wife of wounded CBS journalist Bob Woodruff – had this to say about CHICK…“A fascinating glimpse into Erika’s captivatingly unexpected turbulence in a world where men still rule.”

Tighten your seatbelts, kiddies! It’s gonna be a bumpy ride!


The Query Game – Are You Bantha Fodder?

September 27, 2015

Of late I’ve collected a lot of query letters where it’s obvious the authors lost sight of its actual intent – to the point where all I can do is shake my head and utter, “Wow.”

And not in a good way.

“Everybody Wants Me”

One query named every editor and agent who had asked to see pages. I understand the desire to make oneself look like they’re in demand because sometimes it actually works. That’s the stuff auctions are made of. However, they have a topic that’s worth fighting over because they know what the story is about. The one sentence she expended on her book had me looking around my office wondering if The Rescues had played another trick on me.

If she’d sent the same query to all those people clamoring for her work, how were they able they draw enough of a conclusion to warrant asking for pages?

The icing on the cake is that she never actually mentioned she was querying me. It was merely an email telling me about everyone who wants her. Her reply was that she “forgot” in all the excitement. Forgot. To. Tell. Me. She. Was. Querying. Me.

Alrighty then. I think I’ll let all those other agents and editors duke it out.

Wow.

“I Did This and That”

One author offered up accolades from a play performance and being featured in the local newspaper twice, and only included one teensy sentence about the topic of the manuscript…which is in a very crowded category.

One short sentence. I’m pretty good, but the reception on my tinfoil hat doesn’t extend to reading author’s minds.

Wow.

Humor

Humor is a tough thing because it’s so subjective. What the author may find utterly hysterical may put my teeth on edge. If you’re tempted to use humor in your query letter, ask yourself whether it fits with the flavor of the manuscript, and whether you’re trying too hard to be witty rather than simply telling me what your book is about.

One author’s query letter made me belly laugh – and I’m a very hard sell. So, of course, I asked for the full. Her manuscript is a humor piece, so the humor in her query was appropriate. She had me at hello, as the line goes…

Another author wasn’t as lucky, and had me dropping Pepsid OTC. Her first line begged me not to eat her. Eh? I’ll admit that I can have a bit of bite to me on occasion, but to actually consume another human being is beyond my capacity or desire. I’ll leave it to the bears ‘n gators. There was also an odd reference about hair-pulling which still has me scratching my head. But the ultimate killer was that her subject matter was of a serious nature, so the use of humor  fell as flat as my efforts at baking.

Wow.

“I Thought the Manuscript Was Attached”

Another query was long on the braggy stuff – “I’m the coolest thing since sliced bread.” – and short on detail; also one short sentence. The kicker is that the author thought he’d attached the manuscript, which he hadn’t. But that wasn’t the bad part. The bad part was the author’s assumption that the manuscript would speak for itself, thus making up for a vague query letter.

The truth is that an incomplete query won’t compel me to open up an attachment…even if it is attached. Well, okay, yah, in truth I’ll open it and read a page or two. But if it isn’t even attached, thar be no way I’ll carry the conversation any further, other than to reject it.

Wow.

“To Whom It May Concern”

This is always a favorite of mine because it instantly makes my intestines do a backflip. I know, I know, maybe it’s petty, but I view query letters like a job interview, and my mama always taught me that when job hunting, you always know the name of the person to whom you’re talking, and you’re familiar with the company. It shows due diligence and professionalism.

Wow.

“How Much Do You Charge?”

This is another favorite of mine for the sheer humor of it. That simple question tells me buckets about the author’s knowledge of the publishing industry. And hey, what better compliment can one have than to be assumed as being a vanity publisher? Cracks me up every time because there are so many responses I’m tempted to write:

“A quart of your blood and any beagles you have stashed around.”
“If you gotta ask, then you can’t afford me.”
“I don’t charge, I lollygag. Slowly.”

Oh dear, the list of possible replies goes on and on…

Wow.

“I Have an Agent”

Now this confounds me every time I read this – and yes, over the past 13 years, it’s happened more than I care to count. For the love of all that’s holy, why, why, why would you write a terrible query letter that’s on equal footing with bug repellant when you Have. An. Agent? Isn’t that why you have an agent?

I know of some authors whose agents will only query the Big Guns and permit their clients to query us “less worthy” sub-humans. This offers up its own roadblocks because I find it arrogant and offensive. So if those Big Guns don’t bite, and the author does all the dirty work of querying us peons, then how has that agent earned their 15%? Uh uh. Not in my book.

Double wow.

Do It Right or Go Home

The long and short of The Query Game is this: If I have no idea what your story is about, then it doesn’t matter how funny, popular, forgetful you are, who your unnamed and absent agent is, or how much money you have. Send a query that’s short on giving me the goods, and you’re bantha fodder.

A query letter exists for one purpose; to attract an editor or agent to the point of uttering “Wow” in a good way. My particular needs are the following:

  • What is your book about? – this means details about your personal journey and how it impacted/changed your life.
  • What makes it a “gotta have it”? Is there an identifiable audience? If so, what are the unique elements of your story that make it stand out from the herd? If you don’t have something unique and revolutionary to say, then I probably won’t bite.
  • Who are you and what kind of platform do you have? Furthering that idea of a unique message, you need to have a platform to back yourself up. This doesn’t mean how many people you know, but how many people know you. And how do they know you? If you’re known for being a painter, then I’m leery about whether your book on manic depression or cancer will carry much weight. Reason being, there are a jillion books on those topics, and the thing you’re known for doesn’t impact the subject of your book. Nonfiction is funny that way.

Conversely, Erika Armstrong, author of our upcoming release A CHICK IN THE COCKPIT, is known for being a pilot and writing amazing aviation articles in many mags. However, the fact that she’s a pilot is the compelling hook for her personal journey. Given the vast numbers of pilots, this is going to be a hot seller because her platform supports her book.

This is how you Wow an agent or editor. Don’t be bantha fodder. Go out and be fabulous!


Bookstore Signings: Method to the Madness

August 24, 2015

Bookstore signing events are often the stuff that propels authors with the desire to toss themselves under a bus. Being the author of two books, I grok that. And nowadays, book signings are an even scarier notion, given the changes within the publishing industry. But keep in mind, authors aren’t the only ones freaking out. Bookstore event planners are doing their fair share of doing the freak-out mambo.

The first thing bookstore event planners have to consider is whether the author will bring in an audience, because they are in the business of selling books. It’s how they keep the lights on. They want attendees to not only buy the author’s book, but stroll around and buy an armful of other books. In many cases, it’s a great way to pull in people who normally buy their books online and give them a chance to see how groovy (‘scuse my 70s moment) it is peruse the shelves and lose oneself among the huge and wonderful choices.

Knowing what flips up a bookstore event planner’s Victoria Secrets is half the battle in strategizing your promotion plan. But first, it’s important to know where the author fits in this bookstore signing game – and it all depends on how you’re published.

Mainstream Pubbed Authors

These authors enjoy national distribution. Their publishers have regional and national sales teams whose job it is to get books into stores. They do this at the corporate level with the large national accounts like BN, etc., while the regional sales teams frequent the bookstores in their territory, which includes the chain stores and the larger indie stores.

What this means to you, the author, is that your book is already in library and bookstore systems. If you waltz in and tell them your title, they’ll find your book, who distributes your book (for example, Consortium is our distributor, and I love them more than chocolate. Well…almost). They know they can easily order your book, and that it has all the standard discount percentages attached. If it’s BN, they can easily order from their own warehouse (if the buyer picked up your title), or they can contact the distributor to order the books.

Self Pubbed Authors

For the self pubbed author, getting a book signing could be harder because this group lacks the distribution support afforded by their commercially published brethren. This means that you’re not in the bookstores’ database, which makes ordering a PITA because your book isn’t in their warehouse. If you can convince them to host an event, be prepared to provide your own books…and they will dictate the percentage terms. This is why it’s important to have a large enough print run. It’s a good idea to offer them a copy to read.

Print On Demand Authors

Not sure how many of these are still around (thankfully), but your concerns will be the same as the self-pubbed author. In fact, it will be more difficult because books are only printed when there is a demand. These “publishers” don’t do print runs, so these unfortunate authors will have to buy their own books (at often lame “discounts” that do nothing but line the publisher’s pocket. Gee, Pricey, how do you really feel?).

Perspective

Okay, let’s talk how you can appeal to a bookstore, the first of which is changing your perspective. This isn’t about what they can do for you, but what you can do for them. It’s much easier to talk to an event planner if you feel you have something concrete to offer them, rather than pleading with them to host you. “You want to host me because I’ve taken the necessary steps to encourage a good-sized audience.”

Book events are time consuming. Good bookstores take the time to promote and advertise upcoming book events. Indie bookstores can be little goldmines of support if they like you.They’re smaller and can turn on a dime much more easily than the large chains. One that comes to mind is Tattered Cover in Colorado. Love, love, love these guys. And because they’re so full of awesome, you want to provide them with a product that will enhance their business.

Customer Base/Audience

A store’s customer base should be your first consideration. You want to match the store’s customer base with your book. Obviously, a store whose customers tend to lean toward nonfiction won’t be a good fit for your  YA distopia. I’ve called up any number of bookstores for my authors over the years only to have them tell me their core customers focus on topics other than what I’m pushing. And yes, good bookstores know their customers’ reading tendencies.

How to Bring in an Audience

Bookstores want to be assured you’ll garner an audience. One of the best ways of making an event planner smile is if you can show them you’ve put out feelers to the local area. Back when I was promoting my writer’s book, I told the manager/event planner that I had a list of all the local writer groups in the area, and would contact them regarding my event. I always got the event, and enjoyed a good turnout.

When I was promoting my novel, I’d do the same thing, with the exception of telling the event planner that I planned on contacting the local nursing associations, docs, healthfood stores, and integrative practitioners (the book has a heavy theme of integrative medicine). Again, I always got the gig, and a good turnout.

Seminar? Short Talk?

How you choose to plan your event gives it a definite face, and bookstores capitalize on that in their promotion. “Come hear Authoress Fantabulous discuss her book PUTTING THE ZING BACK INTO YOUR ROMANCE, where she’ll focus in on the finer points of the whistling belly button trick and how it’ll put the romantic jam in your jelly donut.”

Some books are filled with great seminar material. Our upcoming title A CHICK IN THE COCKPIT by Erika Armstrong comes to mind, and I could easily see her putting together a seminar about filing a flight plan for daily living.

On the other hand, this is easily a great book for a short talk, and there are a myriad of topics she can pull from to discuss.

What it comes down to is the event planner. They will tell you what’s more appropriate for their particular store – a seminar or a short talk. But the fact that you are giving them options shows that you’re not a noob (someone who doesn’t know what they don’t know).

For example, with my writer’s book, I always did a seminar because it was easy to pull in aspiring writers who were eager to learn the ropes of the publishing industry and how to circumvent the waters. I always provided a seminar outline to the event planner to let them decide whether this was something they wanted.

For my novel, I chose to do a short talk instead because I felt the readership would rather hear about the characters, the storyline, and how integrative practices are playing a larger role in mainstream medicine. I wanted to be sure I was appealing to my target audience. But I was always careful to have a distinct point to my short talk other than just focusing on the book. I brought in elements that apply to our lives, something that appeals to everyone.

Simple Booksigning

What I really avoid, and recommend to all writers, is the simple booksigning. No talk, no seminar, no nothing other than signing a few books, smiling, and pretending you’re having a grand time. This is the least plausible way to engage with the customer because so many of them are working hard to avoid eye contact.

Is there anything worse than going into a bookstore and seeing some poor author sitting at a table, alone in the corner with a small stack of books and the poster and candy that only kids will come up and eat in handfuls, looking like he’d rather be watching paint dry? Many shoppers’ first instincts are to walk in the other direction because it’s all sad and forlorn. The writers are almost always unknown, so there’s nothing to pull the buyers into the table.

Obviously, I’m painting a worst-case scenario, because I’ve seen authors who are amazing at simple signings, and sell a ton of books. But they’re the exception to the rule, as I’ve seen the former play itself out far too often. If you want to do a simple signing, then you need to figure out how you’re going to attract people to your table without making them want to call the cops.

Day or Night of the Event

Bring. A. Pen. It’s one of those “duh” things, but I remember having a stack of customers who wanted me to autograph my writer’s book, and I had NO pen. What a ditz. I quickly borrowed one, but geez…a total
WTF moment.

Food! Bring plenty of goodies for everyone – including special treats for the staff. It’s a simple thing, but it’s often overlooked. It can be anything, but it’s something that will keep people at your table after your talk. For example, for our author’s first event, we get them a sheet cake with their book cover on it to pass out to shoppers. Book parties are a blast, because it’s invariably where you have the largest crowd, filled with friends and family, along with anyone you can drag off the street.

One of the things we’re starting is Hershey bar labels, like this:

candy bar front

 

 

candy bar back

 

 

 

Just wrap ’em around a Hershey bar, and voila…instant marketing tool, and way better than a bookmark.

The important thing is to bring something, especially for the staff. After all, they’re the ones who are in a position to recommend your book to their customers. Make ’em happy. Plus, it’s simply good karma.

Promote Your Competition: It may sound counterproductive, but stores love it. But, mind you, it’s not for every book. For example, when I was doing a seminar for my writer’s book, I’d have the store employees pull some of their favorite writer-type books and put them out on a table next to my book (in hopes of selling more books than just mine.) I figured there’s enough fabulosity to go around. Obviously, it depends on the kind of book you have and how you’ve planned your event.

In the end, it’s all about making a store deliriously happy they hosted an event for you, and you do that by having the perspective that you’re there to help their business, not the other way around.

Now, go out and be fabulous.


Can I Get a Huzzah?

August 5, 2015

squirrel reaching for sky copy

Pre-order your copy today and find out why airline folks are ordering their copies in midflight!

Amazon

Barnes & Noble


Pilots Are SO Weird

July 31, 2015

A Chick in the Cockpit -final

My thoughts on turbulence:  I. Am. Going. To. Die.

Pilot Erika Armstrong’s thoughts on turbulence:  “If it wasn’t for company policy requiring me to go and find you some smooth air, I’d just tighten my seatbelt, put my arms up in the air and yell, “Yee haw!” I know what these airplanes are capable of, and turbulence, even severe, isn’t going to harm the airplane.”

It is my opinion that pilots are twisted animals. This short excerpt is just part of the fun, games, and reality from Erika’s addictively enthralling book, A CHICK IN THE COCKPIT. Pre-order your copy today here or here!


Who Says Editors Don’t Squee?

July 13, 2015

A Chick in the Cockpit -final

There is a palpable high I get when completing the final hard edit. This is the point where all the commas are nestled properly in their beds, misspellings are given the hatchet job, and rewording is is given a shampoo and set. It’s the point where Ms. Manuscript goes from being a double-spaced bit of a slop to a formatted thing of beauty. All the chapter headings are prettified, the copyright page gets a facelift, and the cover is completed – all in preparation to going in for the final hard read before going to the printer’s for ARCs (Advanced Reader Copy).

I love this part because Ms. Manuscript is transformed. She’s lost about ten pesky pounds and is now sporting a new hairdo with blond highlights. It’s one of my little rituals with every book to look back to the time when Ms. Manuscript first arrived on my desk, and compare her to her current makeover. Where she was a bit tentative and shy, she now shines and struts her stuff with amazing confidence, and yodels, “Heck yah, I’m ready for the marketplace!” Never fails, I squee every time.

Erika cockpit

And boyo, A CHICK IN THE COCKPIT, written by the achingly talented and hideously indomitable Erika Armstrong, is definitely squee worthy. Every time I finished reading an edited round, I fell in love that much more.

I’ve always been one of those passengers who was afraid to get out of her seat because of the recurring nightmare of spilling my huge glass of water on a passenger’s head. Turbulence. Never been more mortified. Thought the flight attendant was going to laugh up a lung. <shudder>

One of things I love most about our authors is that I always learn something vital that I can apply to my own life.

And Erika’s book really made me think about the choices we make in our professions and the sacrifices we (and our families) make in pursuing our dreams. How many of us become lopsided and only give focus to our job, while ignoring other aspects of our lives that keep us whole and balanced? Guiltily raising my hand here.

It took me a year to write my first novel, and while the book earned awards and such, I’d become little more than part of the dining room furniture (where I’d holed up to write). Upon finishing, I blinked around and wondered when my son sprouted up to six feet and my daughter decided to change her hair color. What else had I missed? Did not get the Mom Award that year.

Living out of balance can ignite subtle changes into great big “Holy Hell!” moments. Taking your eyes off your flight plan can send you crashing to earth. And I needed to hear that. I’m willing to bet a lot of other people need to hear it, too…which is why I’m in squee mode about this book.

So much of Erika’s story is hilarious – I mean, how could it not be when a sweet Midwestern woman is stuck in a cockpit with a bunch of raunchy men for thousands of hours? The idea of taking control of a huge commercial jet and taking hundreds of people from Point A to Point B gives me the willies, but Erika does it with ease and finesse. And a lot of guts. And she takes complete control in her fabulous book, as well.

I hope that come November 10, you’ll, pull away from whatever you’ve been giving an unbalanced amount of focus, fasten your seatbelt, and let Erika take you for one helluva ride.

Yep, I’m still squeeing.

 


Books That Blow My “Mother” Doors Off

May 19, 2015

Even though Mother’s Day has recently come and gone, I spent some time looking at our wonderful list of books that made me think of how amazing mothers are, and three instantly came to mind.

heart-warriors-smHEART WARRIORS by Amanda Adams blew my “mother” doors off the first time I read it because of the dedication and sacrifice Amanda made for her son, Liam. Let’s face it, moms are the heart and soul of most families. When we fumble and flail, so does the family. We have to be stronger than the sum of our parts, and Amanda’s brave and terrifying story highlights the guts and love it takes to be a mom by standing up to doctors, asshat observers, and anyone who failed to help Liam get better. Brava, Amanda, you’re one helluva Momma Bear.

 

Amy-TimesUnionFSO - lo RESFIGURING SH!T OUT by Amy Biancolli made me sit back and take stock of what it’s like to deliver tough news, be strong, and have all the answers. My life has been pretty gilded, but one flaw (of the many) is that I always felt I had to have all the answers for my kids when they were younger. And sometimes there aren’t any answers, and the only thing you can do is hug them and admit that you’re floundering just like they are.

We would do anything for our kids not to hurt, and a piece of us dies when we see them suffering. One poignant scene in Amy’s raucous, tender, brilliantly written book is when one of Amy’s daughters is so bereft over losing her father that her own thoughts turn fairly dark. Amy fervently prays for her husband to visit her daughter. Next morning, the daughter awakens with a whole new perspective, saying her father came to her in a dream and told her he was happy and that he loved her. Niagra Falls…went through a box of Kleenex. But what Amy’s book also did for me is show the power of not being afraid to redefine oneself through losing a cherished love. It made her a better person and mom. That has my mom-o-meter quivering over Achingly Stunning.

 

Cockpit-smA CHICK IN THE COCKPIT by Erika Armstrong is an upcoming release (Nov. 2015). Erika’s book, in a nutshell is “A brilliant career in the sky brings aching despair on the ground.” What mother doesn’t become a Bitch-Bear-From-Hell when her kids are at risk? Erika’s skyrocketing career as an airline captain is seriously damaged when her abusive husband threatens her life and the welfare of her two daughters. The lengths of what she endures is stuff you just can’t make up, and I cheer and screech every time I think of her journey to protect her life and her kids. The angst and fabulously amusing humor popped my #1 Mom of the Century cork. And who doesn’t love a plucky book club who comes to Erika’s rescue at a hugely critical time? I salute them and bow before Erika’s incredible fortitude, MamaBear-itude, and brilliance.

Definitely put this on your To Be Read list. In fact, go buy all three. They’re feel-good-in-the-face-of-shit-odds stories that make all the cells in me vibrate at a different frequency. And that’s a good thing!


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