Saturday, October 20, 2007

The illustrations are completed and the final editing and proof-reading are in progress. The next step is printing. The Orange Slipknot will be out by Christmas!

As the publication date looms closer, both the publisher and I have started marketing the book. This involves contacting potential buyers as well as making updates to both our websites to facilitate ordering.

Many authors or would-be authors do not realize that writing books requires the author to do a certain amount of publicity and marketing. Even if a large publishing house with a marketing department is handling your book, you need to be as involved as possible, if you want to sell a lot of books.

Writing is only half of being an author. Once you have finished your manuscript, you need to be knowledgeable about how to market your book to publishers. The course I took from the Institute for Children's Literature taught both writing and marketing. Many aspiring authors I have talked to have no idea what to do once they finish their manuscript. There are many books and websites that explain how to find publishers and how to contact them. If you fail to do your homework, randomly select publishers, and do not package your submission in the required manner, you stand very little chance of your manuscript even being looked at, much less published.

Once you have sold your book, you need to help market your book to the public. I have been collecting information on this subject for years and have a file folder of clippings from writers' newsletters and articles. At one point I considered self-publishing through POD (print-on-demand); the author pays anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars, and publishes without the benefit of the discriminating eye of an editor. There are many such publishers available, and as I researched them, I found that by using them, I would be 100% responsible for publicity and marketing. To prepare myself for that possibility, I began looking for even more information about how to do that. I learned that even a traditionally-published book will benefit from author involvement in the marketing process.

Many writers hope to become famous; I don't. Being a rather quiet, private type of person, I admit I dread the idea of publicizing myself. But I have also learned over the years that I can do many things I didn't think I could do, or even things I don't want to do. Making a website for my book was the first step, which I already knew how to do and which didn't involve face-to-face publicity. Then I designed and printed out bookmarks to give people I talk to. I found a graphic for the top, used some of the text I already had on my webpage, and printed it on orange paper. I designed some flyers which I posted around town on bulletin boards. These projects were time-consuming, but not scary.

I also did a few book talks at the school where I work. I have collected ideas for book talks to schools and to writers' groups ever since I started writing this book, so it wasn't hard to come up with a book talk format. Getting positive feedback from the kids and teachers was encouraging. It was fun to dress up in cowboy hat, chaps, boots, spurs, and wildrag, display some cowboy tack, and talk about cowboys, as well as read from my book and present some writing exercises. This wasn't scary either, but did make me a little nervous. I used to be extremely shy but over the years, through many opportunities, have developed the ability to speak in front of groups. I hope to be able to do some book talks, but since I work five days a week, I'm not sure if or how that might work out.

Book signings and media interviews are the kinds of things I dread. Instead, I prefer collecting business cards from vendors at horse activities who are interested in carrying my book, or searching the web for contact information for schools and homeschoolers. I will gladly drop by stores and gift shops, locally or wherever I happen to travel, or call librarians, to see if they might like to carry my book. I am glad that my publisher already has an established clientele that is interested in her books. I am glad she knows about marketing and distribution. I'm glad I did not choose to self-publish, taking on the financial risk and the huge burden of selling my book.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

On August 18 I wrote some comments about how many Americans don't see the relationship between ranching and our food supply. I recently came across this quote in Range Magazine, from the article "Healing the Land with Livestock":

"About 98.5% of Americans are city or suburban based and have no connection with the production of the food they consume. Only 1.5% of the American population has anything to do with producing food."

This is one of my motivations for writing about ranching and Nevada. Our nation's roots are in agriculture, but in the last several generations, most lifestyles have become distant from farming or ranching. Food comes from the grocery store, not outside the back door.

I grew up in the suburbs of Sacramento, California. When I first met my husband, I remember asking him what was in that little building behind his barn. He said that was his pumphouse. I said, "You have your own WELL?" He laughed and asked where I thought water came from? I said, "From pipes under the street!" That really made him laugh! I had a college education and I knew that water came from underground, but I had never known anyone who actually had a well. Everyone had "city water" and got a water bill from the city. I was surprised to learn that people with wells don't get water bills; electric pumps pump the water to their homes, so instead of a water bill, they just have a bigger electricity bill.

Because few families raise animals for food, few kids see animals killed to provide their meat. At the same time this trend was developing, kids began watching cartoons with cute talking animals. The thought of killing "cute" animals and eating them horrifies many kids. Farm and ranch kids see, accept and understand this fact of life. Many city kids grow up with an unrealistic view of our food supply, then fall prey to the propaganda of the environmentalists who paint ranchers as enemies of the land. I hope that as I show city kids the ranching lifestyle in a fictional setting, they will come to understand not only our American agricultural heritage, but the need for ranching today.

As far as the progress of The Orange Slipknot, I finally finished the curriculum unit. I am so excited about the thought of classrooms full of kids reading this book and learning about Nevada, ranching, and cowboys! The curriculum unit provides teachers with many questions, activities and writing assignments. It was also very exciting to contact all my friends and announce that the book is now on sale! Many people are already placing their orders.