The Contract by Sheila Grinell

“How do you encourage curiosity in a place where thoughts are policed?”

Joanna Dunhill knows just how difficult it can be working with family, and now that she has an opportunity to finally, in mid-life, achieve professional and financial success, family—and Saudi Arabian culture—stand in the way. Author Sheila Grinell flawlessly depicts female empowerment and cultural dissonance in this story about the difficulties of owning and growing a small business. Her new novel, THE CONTRACT (She Writes Press, October 2019, Original Trade Paperback, ISBN: 978-1-63152-648-0, $16.95), explores the many “contracts” we enter in our lives, implicitly in marriage and with siblings, as well as explicitly on the job.

Joanna and her husband, Ev Dana, operate a museum design company to which Ev supplies brawn and creativity in an abstracted, laid-back way that irks Jo no end. Given her drive and management skills, though, she’s convinced they can win a much-prized deal with the Saudi Arabian government. The mission: to create a new children’s museum focused on renewable energy.

When Jo’s competitor and archrival, Phil Owen, becomes involved in the deal, Jo must find a way to look past their personal drama and join forces. Harder still, she must probe the limits of what she will be allowed to accomplish in Saudi Arabia as she seeks to expand opportunities for the mothers and daughters who will patronize the future museum. Meanwhile, it seems Ev would rather pass on the entire project and explore one of his own at a local art gallery. Will Joanna’s over-ambitiousness and Ev’s side-gig get in the way of both their business and their marriage?

“The test was about to begin. Not the presentation she and Ev would make to the review committee–they knew how to present their qualifications. No, the test would be learning the ropes of a society that repressed women yet where the potential client, the deputy director of the agency that had summoned them, was female.”

 In THE CONTRACT, Grinell draws complex characters who share many of the struggles Americans face in business, especially when confronted with gender and cultural differences. Even here, where we enjoy the freedom to choose our own paths, we are often unsure how to take the next step.

 ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sheila Grinell spent forty years developing science centers in the US and consulting on museum projects around the world, including in Saudi Arabia. She turned to literature in her sixties, publishing a debut novel, Appetite, in 2016. The Contract is her second work of fiction. Born in a taxi in Manhattan, she studied at The Bronx High School of Science, Harvard University, and the University of California at Berkeley. She lives in Phoenix with her husband and their dog.

Meet the Bobs and Tweets: Scout Camp by Pepper Springfield

BOBS AND TWEETS

Book #4: Scout Camp!

by Pepper Springfield

Illustrated by Kristy Caldwell

The Bobs and Tweets are back for a whole new summer adventure. Their next destination: camp! In Pepper Springfield’s latest book BOBS AND TWEETS: Scout Camp! (Scholastic; August 1st, 2019; Original Trade Paperback; ISBN: 9781338355406) illustrated by Kristy Caldwell, readers join the Bonefish Scouts as Bus Driver Joan leads them on a trip filled with sing-songy hikes, breathtaking views, tippy canoes, smores, and more camp fun!

But when Scout Leader Mike splits the group in two for a “team-building” exercise that forces them into survival mode, the Bobs and Tweets must work together in order to overcome some serious challenges. Will the scouts be able to pitch a tent, build a fire, and boil water before the ominous storm clouds keep them from finding their way home?

 Scout Camp!  flawlessly demonstrates just how far a little teamwork and problem-solving can go when learning new skills and having fun along the way!

The Not-so-Sexy Side of Book Publishing

People think what I do is glamorous and super cool – publishing.  When I was a recruiter we used to use “Publishing” as a headline to attract talent for our open positions that were basically secretarial jobs or filing clerks. There used to be editors and publishers who were almost like celebrities in the New York scene.  Books were launched with parties at trendy venues, lucrative deals were made at Book Expo, and everyone was looking to discover the next Salinger, Hemingway, Roth, Asimov, Morisson, Kerouac, or any other writer you admire.  Sounds like fun, right?

What I’ve said so far is what the audience sees.  Most people in the industry don’t expose the magic by showing you what happens backstage.  It’s not all that interesting, but these things must be done to publish professionally and competitively.

In the indie publishing world, I see repeats of wasted opportunities and misinformation about how things work that can be cleared up by remembering a few details and rules.  As a publicist, and, now, a publisher, I’m going to wear both of my hats and dish the dirt on what you need to know.

Publishing Tips

  1. Format: Proper formatting is a very basic aspect of putting a book together.  When I was an editorial assistant we called it front and back matter.  I don’t know if that’s what the managing editors are calling it these days, but it still works for me.  These are the pages at the front of the printed book including a title page; copyright page; dedication; acknowledgments; author’s note; and predetermined blank pages.   The title page and copyright page are mandatory, while the others will or won’t be added depending on the author.  My advice is to look at books from traditional publishers to see what they are doing with their pages and copy the format.
  2. Identification: There are identifiers your book needs.  Without them, it doesn’t exist in the market and can’t be sold.  They are ISBNs, bar codes, and a Library of Congress number.  Most everyone seems to know how to get the first two, but the latter is still often missing.  I was taught that it is necessary, especially if you want libraries to find, recognize, and shelve your title.  Check out this site for information on how to get your number(s).
  3. Accessibility: If you choose to publish exclusively with Kindle Direct, independent bookstores, and probably the chain stores as well will not know about your book, nor will they want to stock it.  When you sign up with Amazon’s publisher only, your sales channels are those that Amazon covers.  To have your book recognized in the trade market, you need to upload it with a national wholesaler such as Ingram, which is now the only wholesaler that distributes to independent stores.  You can also try to solicit wholesale orders through your website, but that still won’t give you the credibility you need with the trade market.  I recommend doing all of the above.
  4. Credibility: Bookstores and publications will look to see if your book is listed in Ingram’s database.  I’ve had conversations with editors at publications who will look up the book and if they don’t see it in Ingram they won’t cover it.  Why?  Because some bad apples in the indie publishing world convinced these people to review books that never made it to publication.  The quote I’ve heard is, “I’ve been burned before”.

Book Marketing and Publicity

Regarding promoting a book, there are two major issues I keep coming across.

  1. You have to consider timing.  I won’t belabor the point here because I’ve said it many times before.  If you have written a novel or memoir, you will need three to five months ahead of your publication date to send out review copies and allow for publications and bloggers to read and schedule reviews of your book.  For a prescriptive non-fiction title that has “news you can use” there is a bit more flexibility, especially if it is tied into your career or field of expertise.
  2. Printed review copies are necessary.  In indie publishing, we often use the finished book as a review copy and have it stickered or printed in a way that indicates it is a preliminary version.  The publication date is printed on the book or sticker so that it is clear when it will be for sale.  You can register with Net Galley, offer a watermarked pdf, -mobi file or ebook, but 90% of the reviewing public wants a hard copy.  I know it’s an added expense but you will be better off in the long term doing it the correct way.

For more resources and information I recommend the Independent Book Publishers Association website.  It’s not that expensive for a membership, which will give you full access.  Also, I suggest visiting Jane Friedman’s website.  She is a veteran in the industry, a professor, editor, and a published writer.

“Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.”
― Mark Twain

 

 

Claire McKinney Launches Plum Bay Publishing, LLC

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

PUBLICIST AND NOW A PUBLISHER

Veteran New York Book Publicist and Entrepreneur Launches Indie Press

May 21st, New York, New York, after over twenty years working as a publicist and book marketer in New York, and as the owner of her own public relations agency, Claire McKinney enters the growing independent book publishing community with the launch of her new company Plum Bay Publishing, LLC.

“Since starting my own public relations business in 2011, I’ve been impressed by the number of great writers whose books are not being published by the bigger houses,” says McKinney. “My goal is to provide a transparent environment for authors and retailers that allows good, quality books to enter the marketplace at competitive prices and discounts.”

Plum Bay Publishing will publish traditionally and cooperatively depending on the needs of the authors and their books. Their intent is to create a model that allows for printing and warehousing books for the trade, while allowing online retailers that work directly with indie presses to order via print-on-demand. Currently, the Plum Bay list consists of six titles, two of which will be published this summer. Their goal is to publish up to 20 titles per year.

“I love this business,” McKinney says, “and I feel that I need to do my part to preserve its integrity and to bring qualified, untapped voices to readers.”

For more information, visit www.plumbaypublishing.com or call Keely Flanagan at 908-955-7580.

Social Media 101: Reddit

Entrepreneurs and authors alike are encouraged to use social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to promote their product. These platforms are indeed user-friendly promotional tools on an author’s belt in the effort to corner mainstream interest. Among these tools there is one invaluable gem that is perfect for targeting niche audiences yet is largely avoided: Reddit.
Since it’s debut in June 2005, Reddit has curated 1.2 million sub-reddits or small forums with niche interests such as “r/IndieBookClub” where redditors meet to discuss a specific subject. The platform hosts a total of 330 million subscribers (TechJunkie). So why do authors avoid Reddit promotion?

Redditors and sub-reddit administrators are quick to attack, or even ban raw promotional content. Though Reddit has a massive base of users, the high volume of sub-reddits fosters a sense of grass-roots/tight-knit community among these small virtual villages. These users only want genuine content that is entertaining, informative, or useful in some way. This results in a general aversion to the shameless plugging of products. Authors who have met this obstacle are often discouraged from utilizing this platform. But don’t give up. There are a few tricks to making the most of Reddit for authors.

Be active. This is a rule of thumb with any social medium but is especially important with Reddit’s micro-communities. Participate in other redditors threads. Comment on threads, join robust conversations about things that interest you. Share other user’s content. Regularly create your own content that isn’t necessarily promotional or related to your book.

Being active builds awareness about you and your book and creates trust among your potential audience. You will also earn a good deal of karma points from being active -this is a score visible on your page, affected by how many upvotes or downvotes your content gets (comments on other redditor’s posts included) similar to likes on a Facebook post. As mentioned before, it’s all about building credibility -good karma means a good reputation in your communities. Being active is hard work, but effective, as seen in ReferralCandy Marketing Manager Si Quan Ong’s recent case study.

Tease your product. Present your book’s intrinsic value to your following. You can promote your book on Reddit, but it must be done with tact. Instead of sharing blurbs with Amazon buy links like you would on the other platforms, write a useful post relating to the subject matter of your book. A good example of this method is our client Ron Franscell, author of ALICE & GERALD: A Homicidal Love Story’s recent AMA.

AMA is an acronym for “ask me anything.” We have used AMAs over the years as a strategy to curry favor and build loyalty for our authors in key niche groups. Ron Franscell did an AMA in r/UnResolvedMysteries, as he is a veteran true crime journalist and author. Rather than plugging his book, Ron presented himself as an expert in true crime and fielded questions relating to the subject. ALICE & GERALD  was used as an example of his experience rather than a product being pedaled.

Here is what Ron’s thread looks like. So far it is at 96% upvotes of 1.2 thousand, and 157 comments.

 

As you can see, Ron replied to everyone’s questions promptly and thoroughly. A few redditors even asked for book recommendations from his accumulated works (Ron has authored 17 titles, you can find ALICE & GERALD here on Amazon).

 

While it is difficult to manage a successful Reddit account, it is well worth it -look at those upvotes! With these tips, you’ll find your karma climbing and follower count growing. You can find more of our social media tips and tricks here.