Friday, August 1, 2008

My Name is Karen & I'm a Publisher

I have never done a guest blogger spot before, so it seems silly for me to warn you to prepare to be dazzled by my brilliance. Then again you never know. I guess I should start in the usual manner.

Hello, my name is Karen and I'm… a publisher. I haven't always been. I used to be a slacker. I know, hard to believe, but true. I would gladly pay anyone to do anything to prevent me from having to do it myself. Now, I am a total control freak who cannot seem to delegate. I also used to be a writer, wait, author. And a bookseller. I am a much better publisher. I get to work with writers and I love that!

Why Write?

Because you love to. Don't do it for any other reason. Anyone can write. You sit down and you put words into sentences and tell stories, or express feelings and emotions. You paint pictures onto your chosen canvas with words. It is one of the most beautiful forms of art there is. I live for words!

Why Publish?

Because you want the world to experience the emotions of your art. Publish because you want as many people as humanly possible to read your work and to be moved by it. Whether with tears, laughter, or fear. If this is not your goal, then continue to write and leave the publishing to those who want to touch the masses.

The Top Five Things A New Author Needs To Know:

If you are an author, or are aspiring to be an author, here is what you need to know. This is YOUR book. Own it! Don't sit in the passenger seat and let someone else drive your work into the bad part of town.

Don't fall into the abyss of apathy. Just because you have finished a book, by no means is your job done. Now you have to make people want to read it. Apathy is not an effective sales tool. Trust me, this I know.

Don't confuse your peers with your market. I know, authors read too. I've heard it all before. Hey! Are you paying attention? You in the blue jammies, I'm talking to you. You're so busy hanging out on MMA that you haven't even updated your web site in four months. Shame on you! Other authors are only going to your web site to see what kind of mistakes you have made. They aren't buying your book, they are trying to sell you THEIR book. Come on, you know this! Make this about the readers and I guarantee you will sell more books.

Okay, I am only doing three things. I'm the guest I can do that. Right?

The Books On My Desk:

This is so funny. There are no books on my desk. There are lots of bills. Some junk mail. A Bead catalogue. Yesterday's lunch plate. 6456 sticky notes of things I was supposed to do. 37 or so pens, including my feathery pink Flamingo pen and my Tinkerbell Glow pen. The bra I was wearing yesterday, it is actually hanging from the drawer handle (it was bothering me so I took it off.) 10 contracts I need to file, and some unsolicited queries that I asked not to be sent via snail mail that need to be thrown away. Some festival contracts.

Which leads me to ...

My Favorite Things:


As a publisher, this is what I do for fun. Ask any of my authors, they can tell you that I am in my element at festivals and conferences. Don't believe me? Ask Evelyn David, Jeff Sherratt, Robert Goldsborough, Sam Morton, any of them. In February 2008 I went to Love is Murder in Chicago, the Southern CA Writers Conference in San Diego, and the Columbia Book Festival in SC. In March we discovered that while I was doing all that traveling, I was in heart failure and could easily have died. But even thought I was having a wonderful time schmoozing, being schmoozed and selling books, I was sick as a dog. Exactly one month after I had the %$#@% pacemaker/defibrillator installed, I went to CA for the LA Times Book Festival. I love meeting writers and readers. I especially love meeting readers. I am unstoppable!

Without the readers, I have no reason to travel. I have no reason to write. I have no reason to publish. They are the lifeblood of the industry. And don’t you forget it!

Karen Syed

Echelon Press, LLC


  1. What if you had a party and nobody came?

  2. Don't worry, they'll come. They just need coffee first.

    aka The Southern Half of Evelyn David

  3. Hi, Karen! Followed your Twitter link here and find a wonderful way to wake up and face the day. GREAT blog! Excellent advice and you made me smile. NOT easy this early. **vbg**

  4. Hey, I'll take smiles. And see, people do pay attention on Twitter.

    You rock, Pauline!

    If you have not read Pauline's "Pig In A Park," Find it and read it. Excellent!

  5. Okay, three cups of coffee and my eyes have finally opened.

    I've experienced Karen's festival frenzy first-hand. Last year at Decatur. She's a dynamo! And, she never sits down.

    Only 29 days until the 2008 Decatur Book Festival! (subliminal message - lol)

    Great advice to writers, K. Write what your target audience wants to read and quit writing for yourself or other writers (or you husband, friend, mother, father...)

  6. That is the one thing that authors forget. It's okay for writers to write for themselves. It's great therapy for life, and it is fun. The difference for an author is that when you are writing for a market other than your blood kin or bedmates, you have to consider the vast difference in tastes and preferences.

    Now, obviously you cannot please everyone all the time, but you can get a pretty good handle on what readers are buying repeatedly. If the Cozy mysteries are flying off the shelves and hitting the best seller lists, there might be something there.

    But remember, trends are fast and furious, so don't just watch for a month and then dive in. Market research is an ongoing thing. Keep your eyes on the prize at all times, and know that the course is always changing, so you must be willing to change as well.

    And MAry is so brave,m she is actually willing to do Decatur Book Festival with me again this year o Labor Day weekend. You can come and visit us!

  7. Mornin', Karen...Haven't gotten through my first cuppajo, and yet here I am blogging like eye got good cents :>) Can't wait to see first hand, this time as an author, the fun-fest at Decatur. WOOF! d.d.dawg

  8. Karen,

    What fun! Found you through GOODREADS and thanks to the previous post, just started following you on Twitter. My address is CarrieWTM. I'd like to invite you to check out my author interview talk show/blog website, Words To Mouth (

    I'm compiling some good resources for writers/readers for a future post and The Stiletto Gang will be one of them, plus some of the others you referenced in your post.

    Always looking for ideas, authors, new releases...

    Take care,

  9. That part about getting to a wider audience than only authors is the hard part. Although authors buy books, we need to reach the general public. Lately, that's how I've been concentrating my efforts. MySpace is great for that.

    My resolve is to find readers who are not writers and subtly let them know I'm an author and see if they bite and buy my books.
    Morgan Mandel

  10. Don't wait for them to bite! Bite them. THis is a personality thing, but I have an author, who I love dearly, and this person is the nicest, funniest, kindest person. We could not figure out why this author was not selling as many books as everyone else at an event, so I sent in the professionals.

    What we discovered was, this author was being friendly and so forth, but was trying to keep the hard sell down, and most people did not pick up that this person was an author.

    Once this was explained, this author immediately sold several books one after the other.

    You can't be shy in this business, the competition is too stiff. You have to MAKE them interested and then you have to MAKE them buy your book. You don't have to beat them over the head with it, but if you don't give them a darn good reason for giving you their money, they won't!

  11. Carrie,

    I will definitely check out your site and I just hooked up with you on Twitter as well.

    Thanks for popping in and you won't find a nicer bunch of gals to work with than those here at Stiletto!

  12. I'll be very curious -- at the end of the day on this blog, how many comments will be from authors and how many from nonauthor readers (NAR for short)?

    Maybe it's just that the NARs don't write comments; maybe just writers write comments. Still it's disheartening when it seems we are talking only to each other. FUN as we are!

    Camille/Margaret Grace

  13. That's one of the reasons I posted the event on GoodReads. That seems to be the one place where there are as many readers as authors.

    I often wonder how to get the readers more active in the industry. Do you think we scare them?

  14. How would you want readers to get more active? The readers I know participate in newsgroups, check out what each other is reading, trade recommendations.

    And read, read, read.

    Pat Reid

  15. I am a fiend for marketing and promoting. I often pose questions from a pubisher's point of view asking what readers want.

    Book signings?
    Guests at Readers Groups?

    Things like that. What turns readers off? I know I am on DorothyL and sometimes I get so frustrated because I see that as a place for readers to talk about books, not a place for authors to whine about their books, or bad reviews, or stuff like that.

    As a publisher and an author, I want to know what readers think. I take the bad along with the good. I ahve made myself approachable enough that if a reader gets one of our books and has a problem with it, they come to me and tell me. And I pay attention.

    I hate readings, but I love being in a store and having people come up and talk to me. I do sometimes get frustrated when writers/authors come up to an event and want to pitch me. There is a time and a place, and when I am in a signing place, I don't want to reject authors. I want to meet readers!

    I'd love to know what readers think of our books, our covers, our authors. I just want to know!

  16. I like book signings. Don't need trinkets or book marks. I do a lot of reviews and if I review a good book I normally try to buy any other books that author has written.

    I usually get the book for review for free but it leads me to buy more books and I usually pass the book on to another reader friend who will do a review as well so it is two for the price of one.

    I agree on your remarks about Dorothy L. but it goes up and down.

    Pat R.

  17. This is good to know. Feel free to review our books any time. :)

    Okay, folks, I have to take a little break. Have to drive to Virginia. I will boot up when I get to the hotel in two hours or so and then you get to the really juicy stuff.

    Doesn't anyone want to ask me about the gritty details?

    Back soon!

  18. Great advice! My first book will be released sometime in October or November of 2008 and I can't wait. Well I have to because I'm waiting on the pre-publication reviews. *shudder* I was trying to tell someone the other day just how important readers are..without them, what's the point? Right? Thanks so much for your awesome words! Love them!

    Rene' Morris

  19. I did review PSI Blue and loved it - waiting for the sequel.

    Pat R.

  20. Hey, Karen - if you like festivals, how's about coming to Nashville in October? We've got the Southern Festival of Books back here for good - it's been alternating with Memphis for the past couple of years... oh, wait; I forgot! It's the same weekend as Bouchercon. Oh, well. For anyone who's not going to Baltimore, and who wants to meet either 200+ authors or 30,000 readers over a three day period, consider coming to Nashville!

  21. Popping in to say hello! My book, Searching For A Starry Night, A Miniature Art Mystery just came out last month from Quake, Karen's younger book division...
    As for events - it's trial and error; so far my best sales were at a Dachshund event, but well, my cover explains that. ha! Still testing the waters to see what works and doesn't!
    By the way, I'm blogging daily this month on writing and other stuff so stop by and comment!

    Chris Verstraete

  22. Hi, This is Jane St Clair from Good Reads. I just got to be an author a few months ago, so I still think of myself as a reader. To answer your question, Karen, I think readers don't think in terms of influencing publishers. We just think you know what you are doing and you will find the best stuff for us to read. Your blurbs and promotions are all so good, they always give me the sense of "so many books, so little time." that's me

  23. Hi Karen

    Are you still writing novels? And if you are, how do you structure your day? How you do decide when you have time to write? There's always a million other things to do (online promotion, editing, correspondence, website updates). Doesn't it seem nearly impossible to be a novelist and publisher at the same time?

    L.J. Sellers
    The Sex Club
    "A thrilling eye-opening read." — Mystery Scene magazine

  24. Hi Karen! Love your blogs, great information. Here's a readers POV on connecting to readers, as I'm not an author (yet!) I would say conferences, book groups, and networking are three effective ways to reach readers. Of the last three books I ordered off of Amazon, two were for a book group and one was by an author I met at a conference who subsequently connected to me through Facebook, LinkedIn, and Goodreads. As a reader I'm always honored to connect to a published author, and it makes me more likely to buy his or her books.

    And here's a question: Karen, are you going to teach any more classes anytime soon? Maybe "Getting Published 2.0?" Ooo, or maybe a fancy retreat/workshop. That would be awesome.

  25. Rene, you shouldn't have any time to wait. You should be working your butt off to get events set up, scheduling your festivals and doing announcement mailings. Ha, time to wait. ppsshaaw.


  26. Jennie,

    I have been to your festival several times. I used to live in Memphis and I like SFB in Nashville so much better.

    I could not justify the trip this year with Bouchercon in our backyard. We are debuting a new book at the conference, but I reckon I can make it down to see ya'll next year!


  27. Janet,

    That is the key with readers, you very much control what publishers do. Maybe not so much how we do it, but without reader input as to how a book reads, what authors are worth another book, if you hate all our covers,etc. We have nothing to base our strategies on.

    If reders were to be more open with publishers we would know what sucks so we don't waste our money doing it again.

    Trinkets for example, I am hearing more and more that readers don't care about them.

    We want to know, so keep telling us.


  28. LJ, aren't you cute. Write? I wish! I miss it dreafully, but I tell everyone very honestly that I am a much better publisher than I am author.

    I still come up with great story ideas and I have a book file that all my outlines and stuff go into. Like right now I am outlining a new mystery series set in a Maryland Baytown with a relocated big city cop and his kid.

    I have not given up om the writing, but until one or more of my authors sells a million copies, I am too busy traveling to festivals and promoting. :)


  29. Emma, Emma, Emma. Let me tel you about Emma. She took my class at the college and sat at the back of the room, so quiet and so shy, I honestly didn't think she would make it through the course.

    Then the last couple of sessions she began to blossom. Now, every time I see her posting on a list or in a group, I get such a feeling of warmth. For someone who I think was considering quitting, she has embraced this industry with such enthusiasm. You can see an excellent interview with her on my Life as a Publisher today.

    And perhaps it is time I organize a retreat. Not enough people are serious enough for the college to have me back..sniff sniff...but retreat...hmmm

  30. Such great feedback you're getting Ms. K! Interesting about the handouts. And, I just ordered a bunch!

    I've always wanted to attend a writer's retreat. How does Maui sound? Seriously, I'd love to attend. Scheduling would be tricky, though. Maybe next year??

    Thanks, Stiletto Gang, for the fun post.

  31. Karen, you are indeed an inspiration. You sure know what to say and how to say it! You should write a newsletter with a short pep talk for writer's on marketing their books everyday-- You do it so well. Thanks! I'm delighted to work with and for you and be in your company.

  32. Aww, Billie, that's so nice. I love making people feel good and I love telling people what to do. Been bossy my whole life...No, I meant I've been inspiring all my life. ::snort::.


  33. awright folks, this has been a blast! I have to be up bright and early to give a workshop on the value of epublishing at the Hanover Book Festival.

    If anyone pops in after I hit the sack, which will take place in approx. 8 minutes, I will respond in the morning.

    It has been a pleasure and I certainly hope you will bookmark my Life as a Publisher Blog and keep visiting with me. I am doing the Blog Book Tour Challenge, so I will actually be making a post EVERY DAY in August.

    For now, thanks to the Stilleto Gang for having me on the Blog. I feel like such a star!

    This is me blowing kisses to you all...sheesh, I crack myself up!


  34. Thanks Karen for guest blogging today! You were great!

    The Stiletto Gang!

  35. Thanks for the reminder that it's all about readers. I'm at the stage of waiting to see how readers will respond since my novel doesn't come out until May 2009 (and I have a short story in an anthology coming out in October). It's a funny in between stage to be at, like a cobbler who has been making shoes for years and finally has a store. Well, ALMOST has a store.

  36. No need to respond, busy woman. Just wanted to say that you made me smile. Great writing, great advice. I've heard wonderful things about Echelon.

  37. This was a great blog, didn't get around to reading it until today. (Saturday.)

    I've met Karen and she's a real go-getter! Not all publishers are quite as committed to actually getting out physically and selling books.

    Too many authors don't realize that much of the promotion is up to them.

    Thank you, Karen.