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Posts Tagged ‘Leprechaun Cake & Other Tales’

Vonnie at Carroll County Farmer's Market When I started the writing journey, I thought I had a clear picture of the book publishing world. Wrong!

I slid into book publishing via my work as an illustrator. I was lucky enough to stand next to an indie author in aerobics class who’d lost her illustrator suddenly. She was telling me about her plight, and I mentioned I was an illustrator. Many hours and illos later, her book (with my illos) was picked up by a major publisher, and I ended up illustrating her 8 books with Prima Publishing.

When it came to my 1st book, Leprechaun Cake & Other Tales, again I slid into book publishing. This time, I was set to design, typeset, and layout a book for the Vegetarian Resource Group (an Indie Press). The author bowed out at the last moment, and my book project slipped into her publishing slot.

Nowadays, I slog along with the rest of the small press authors. A couple of things I’ve learned: few people know your books (even if you’ve sold thousands) and even fewer know your name. You can’t convince someone to like your book, and it’s difficult to convince them to buy your book unless they already read the type of book you’re writing.

A few more lessons learned about book publishing: Friends of friends or family members will ask you to read and critique their book (for free) on a regular basis. You need to find a nice way to say, “No.” Your writing time is valuable (and limited), so you need to focus on your own writing. I often suggest a writers’ group or class for peer input.

Countless people will talk to you at an author’s event or signing about the idea they have for a great book, then ask if you’d like to write it for them. Again, the answer is “No.” If the idea is worth writing about, they need to write their own book. They’re the person with the passion about the idea – not you.

Also, people want to learn the secret to getting their book published. To which I always answer: “Hard work, persistence, and a little luck.” I wish there was a secret I could share which would quickly get their book on a fast track to publication, but there isn’t one.

And remember, free candy will always attract potential customers to your book display at an event. 🙂

Lastly, librarians and Indie bookstore clerks are a small press author’s friends. These are people who care about books and readers.

An interesting article on the subject, 24 Things No One Tells You About Book Publishing, adds to my ideas and is well worth the read.

Find my books on Amazon and elsewhere. Happy reading!

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 I’ve reviewed books, movies, videos, and restaurants over the years for various publications. It’s not an easy job! As a reviewer, your thumbs up or thumbs down can have an impact on whether readers buy or pass up a book. Yikes! That’s a lot of responsibility – which is why I no longer review books.

“Wait a minute,” you might say. “Don’t you write the ‘Writer’s Block’ column for Harford’s Heart Magazine?”

And yes, I do write that column, but I don’t actually review the books presented there. I do interview authors and introduce books which have a local connection. In addition, I occasionally write a book-based column for the Holiday, Pets, or Children’s section of the magazine. But I try to not give my opinion as to the merits of the work.

“Why not?” you might ask.

Firstly, I’m interested in promoting reading, writers, and books – not in telling readers which books are worthy of their attention.

Secondly, as a writer I’ve come to realize a reviewer’s opinion is just what one person thinks of a book (or film or restaurant), and that view can be skewed for any number of reasons. Maybe the reviewer doesn’t care for a particular type of book. Maybe he or she just read a similar book and, consciously or unconsciously, is comparing the two rather than evaluating a book on its own merits. Maybe the reviewer is having a bad day. Or maybe the reviewer is trying to curry favor with someone. This isn’t meant to imply reviewers are dishonest, most are very honest. But reviewers are human.

Leprechaun Cake fc One of the first reviews (and one that still lingers on the internet) I received for my kids’ book, Leprechaun Cake & Other Tales, was a bad review. After the initial sting of the reviewer’s words, I looked more closely at the content. It was evident this person was not someone used to working with kids, had never met a polite child (how sad), and seemed to be a bit of a grump. How unfortunate this one person’s opinion might persuade others not to buy my book. Before you pull your handkerchief out to weep for my misfortune, many more reviews of Leprechaun Cake & Other Tales were published, and they were all positive. But the impact of one nasty review is hard to calculate.

I’ve begun to list books I’ve read on Goodreads, but as of yet, I’ve not posted reviews. I’m planning on posting brief reviews shortly, but I’ll be certain to frame my comments with “in my opinion” rather than stating for a fact that a book is great, mediocre, or awful. Actually, I’m usually generous in my “stars” on Goodreads, and I try to appreciate a book for what it is – meaning I try to rate a children’s book as a children’s book (quality illustrations, age-appropriate text), a non-fiction book as a non-fiction book (adequate references, soundness of research), a fantasy novel as a fantasy novel (good world-building, uniqueness of characters), etc.

Which brings me to another problem for me with reviews: negativity. My mom was a fan of the “if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all” school of thought. And she passed that philosophy on to me. So instead of posting a poor rating on Amazon or Goodreads or elsewhere, I have a tendency to just not review that book. Cowardly? I don’t think so. Rather I remember that misguided review of years ago, and choose not to be unkind.

If you’ve read my books, please post your ratings/reviews on Amazon, Amazon UK, and Goodreads. And don’t forget to give the books a “thumbs up” if you enjoyed the read.

For you cooks out there, look for another easy, delicious recipe on Saturday, Feb.24th – Vonnie

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Networking, that ambiguous term that means a friendly chat that may or may not result in a career opportunity, works. I’ll give you a few examples to prove my point.

About 10 years ago, I was selling my books at the now non-existent Bel Air (MD) Book Festival on a sweltering day that ended in a cloud-burst. A woman looked at my illustration & book display, asked for contact information, and said she was thinking about starting a magazine. I smiled, chatted with her briefly, handed her my number, and never gave the conversation a 2nd thought. Several years later, I got a call from that woman, Fran Johnson, who was now editor/publisher of Harford’s Heart Magazine, and she offered me the chance to write the magazine’s book review column. And how I even came to be at that book festival is another tale of a friend of a friend suggesting the festival organizer contact me.

 Nearly 30 years ago (yikes, I’m dating myself here), I was standing next to a woman in an aerobics dance class and she was complaining about the illustrator she was using for a cookbook she’d written. I said I could do the job. She asked to see samples. And that was the start of not only a multiple-book working relationship with Bobbie Hinman & Prima Publishing, but the opening of a door that led me to The Vegetarian Resource Group. And  in addition to doing design & illustration work for VRG books and pamphlets, I’ve been illustrating The Vegetarian Journal for 25 years now. Perhaps most importantly, my children’s book, Leprechaun Cake & Other Tales, was published by the VRG.

 In 2009, as President of the Maryland State National League of American Pen Women, I was putting together an Arts Day. I needed women editors for a literary panel. Fran (see above) was busy, but I called a few women I knew who edited literary magazines and a friend who was working for an e-publisher, and had a wonderful group of women for the panel. (All of whom I met through networking). But I still needed a woman editor from a commercial publication to round-out the panel. I looked at the magazines on my shelf, and with little hope of a “Yes,” called Kim Cross of Faerie Magazine. To my delight, Kim agreed to come to the Arts Day and participate on the Women Editors panel. We amicably chatted that day, and have since developed a friendly relationship.  And because of that networking opportunity, I’ve contributed both fiction and nonfiction to Faerie Magazine.

 Which brings me to the newest bonus of networking. For years, I’ve help lead Balticon’s Poetry Workshop (Balticon is the Baltimore Science Fiction Society’s Annual Convention). There, I met author & editor Danielle Ackley-McPhail. Danielle was editing an anthology of short stories about dragons for Dark Quest Books, and agreed to let me submit a story. The story was selected, Dragon’s Lure was published, and then the book was reviewed by Professor C. of BSCReview — now, BoomTron. Professor C. loved my story, so when my new book, The Greener Forest, was published, I asked him if he’d be interested in reviewing it. He said, “Yes.” And the resulting review and interview can be found on the wonderful BoomTron site: http://www.boomtron.com/2011/04/the-greener-forest-by-vonnie-winslow-crist-review/  and http://www.boomtron.com/2011/04/vonnie-winslow-crist-interview/

Would any of these things have happened without networking? Maybe. But I think writers, illustrators, and anyone looking to expand their professional opportunities need to keep their eyes and ears open to networking possibilities. You never know who might be next to you in line at the grocery store or where that conversation at a meeting might lead.

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