Friday, February 23, 2007

German packaging (again)...

Today's post is a lazy post. I don't have much to say, I'm tired, and I'd like to hunker down and get back to writing.

Given that, here's another example of why I love my German publisher. I know it's hard to see, but in the top left hand corner of this bookmark, they're promoting one of Nora Roberts books, and in the bottom right hand corner is my debut novel. Once again, they've packaged me with a veteran author who has sold millions and millions of books (something that seems far away from where I sit in my basement office this morning). I'm not sure who makes these decisions over there, but if any of Nora Roberts' readers want to read my work, I'm okay with that.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Failing to measure up...

I upset my eight-year-old son yesterday. I’m not sure how. Something I did or didn’t do. Either way, though, in his eyes I’ve been falling short as a mom, and as he spewed out a litany of complaints,
I did my best to focus, eyes red-rimmed from lack of sleep.

Hours later, after he went to bed, I found a note on my pillow, only this one wasn’t as loving as the others he usually leaves (see last week's post titled 'Definite Keepsakes').

On it, he’d drawn two stick figures (one labeled YOU and the other DIFRENT MOM), and next to each was a vertical tube-like bar. Mine was shaded half full with a number 5 beside it, but DIFRENT MOM’s was shaded all the way to the top and had a decorative number 10 scrawled next to it. And below both he’d written this pleasant little message:

Mom, if you are NISER to me the bar can still go up.

My husband laughed so hard he almost fell off the bed.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Book covers and titles...

Last week, after posting a German book cover, I received a lot of email from readers asking questions about covers and titles. Hopefully, today's post will clear those up.

First, no, you don't get to choose the cover for your book, unless you're a bestselling author with a huge readership and therefore have clout with your publisher. Usually, the marketing dept comes up with a cover and presents it to your editor, who in turn presents it to you. However, if you absolutely hated it, most publishers would probably make an effort to change or adjust it. (I'm talking about North American or UK publishers, not foreign publishers, as they typically choose a cover and publish it without asking your opinion).
Here are three for The Tin Box. The one on your top left was the first cover ever proposed, but my agent hated it, as did the buyers at Barnes & Noble. Given that, the one to the right of it became my first published book cover in English. Following that, it was changed to the one on the left when the book came out in paperback in October of 2006.

That said, though, when it comes to foreign publishers, depending how they decide to package and promote you, your book is often re-titled. For example, my debut novel, The Tin Box, was re-titled The Box of Secrets in French. My publisher (Belfond) chose one cover, and France Loisirs, the French book club, chose another.

In Germany, The Tin Box was re-titled In A Single Moment, referencing Pearl S. Buck's quote in the prologue. Now, keep in mind that Germany published my debut novel in 2003 before any other country, so when I received it, I cried for half an hour, holding (with pride) my first-ever published novel, even though I couldn't read a word of it.
My favorite colors are blue and yellow and by sheer coincidence they had combined them in the cover (shown on your left). It wasn't until days later that I finally worked up the nerve to ask my agent if maybe marketing wasn't a bit confused between "tree house" and "light house" given the lighthouse on the cover and the lack of one in the story.

Oh no, my German publisher assured us. We're simply reaching for a deep, reflective tone when it comes to the title. "Sounds good to me," I said, shrugging it off. Later, the German book club published another edition with the cover shown on the right above (sans lighthouse, but with a lake scene).

Moving along, in Italy The Tin Box was re-titled The House in the Trees, referencing the importance of the tree house in the story (see green cover below left).
And when it comes to Greece and Denmark, although I can't read either language, I assume they didn't re-title it given the book covers they ultimately chose.

People have asked if this bothers me, a foreign publisher re-titling my book, or having little, if any, say in choosing a cover. And my reply? It actually matters less all the time. Of course, I want to love both, but like works fine, too. I personally find the different takes on covers and titles fascinating, but I don't waste time obsessing over them, because, to me, what's at issue here is so much bigger than the cover or title of one book; it's a career. And right now, I fully recognize how fortunate I am to have all of these publishers helping build mine.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Got an opinion?

I'm having computer trouble. The hard drive on my 1.5 year old ACER laptop died in Dec/06 and I had to have it replaced (the drive). I complained to the technician who did it for me, how it was ridiculous that a drive would go on such a new computer.
Sounding bored, he explained that the average business computer lasts 1-2 years before it needs to be replaced. I pointed out that this wasn't a business computer, that I used it in my home office. Rolling his eyes, he said, "Lady, any laptop that has a keyboard with 75% of the keys worn off IS a business computer." (Until then, I hadn't noticed how many letters were gone).

Fair enough. But here's the thing: It's two months later and I'm having trouble again, so I'm considering buying a new laptop. I've never owned a MAC, but a few people have told me I should get one. And yet, buying one feels like I'm switching religions or something. As a writer, I don't need much. Internet access, Microsoft Word, and I'm good to go.

What's your opinion? What do you use?

Thursday, February 8, 2007

The possibilities are endless...

I found a set of keys while I was walking today. The tip of one was sticking up on the edge of a trail, so I poked at it with my foot. They aren't car keys or house keys. They're old and rusty and belong to something else.
Walking home, I wondered if they were meant to open something that’s no longer nearby or if it's still here, in my neighborhood -- maybe hidden in the far corner of someone's crawl space under their house, or above a warped ceiling tile in someone's basement, or better yet, buried thirty paces from someone’s back door under a menacing gargoyle that watches over their garden.

Then I started wondering what might be inside whatever these keys opened? A box of letters from someone’s lover? A long lost will that could tear a family apart? A map to a hidden grave? (Maybe Jimmy Hoffa’s! Wouldn’t Canada have been a good place to hide his body?) Or was it something even more enigmatic, like a wedding veil, five seashells, and a brass whistle?

I’ll never know what they open or who they belong to, but they’ve already unleashed a barrage of creative ideas in my mind and I’ve only had them one day. Maybe a future novel will be built around these keys. Or maybe they'll be the source of a chapter in my current novel. I’m not sure, but for now I've tucked them away in my mini-aluminum garbage can labeled STORY IDEAS even though it's already crammed full with paper and pictures and nick knacks that probably wouldn't make sense to anyone else (unless you're a writer!)

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Yes, officer, that’s my brother...

Friends, family, and readers often ask why The Tin Box is found under "K" for Kennedy in book stores instead of face-out on those Hot Fiction or New Fiction displays done up at the front of every store.

It's because this is called "premier shelf placement" and I don’t get it. At least, not yet, anyhow!

Front-of-store placement must be paid for, whether its face-out positioning on promotional stands, end caps, new release tables in the front of the store, or placement in airport book stores. For those of you interested in more information on this, check out the following post at where it’s explained in detail.

That said, I couldn't resist posting today about my brother, who doesn’t care that I don’t get premier shelf placement. All he knows is when he walks into a book store (in any city, on any given day) he thinks my books should be face-out under Hot Fiction or else on a table reserved for bestsellers.

So he moves them.

All of them.

There are times when he’s sly about it, glancing furtively over his shoulder to make sure no one’s watching. But there are others when he simply grabs half a dozen and moves them, offering no explanation to the staff watching as he does so. Often, smiling charismatically, he tells them they should be doing it. “Now here's a good writer,” he’ll say. “She not a bestseller yet, but she’s gonna be!"

And then there are also times when he… lurks.

Picture this: A woman stands in front of the Hot Fiction display in a book store, frowning. My brother, who is married, but bored because his wife has left him alone for ten minutes, sidles up to her. “Looking for a good book?” he asks. “Actually, I am,” she admits. And then — PRESTO — he whips out a copy of my book and hands it to her. “You’re gonna love it,” he says. “Read it and tell all your friends.”

And so it goes.

Me, telling him to stop, and him, ignoring me as he becomes intimately acquainted with every bookstore within a hundred miles. Not that he limits himself to local bookstores, by the way, because even when he travels (as he’s doing this week) he often phones to tell me he’s been busy “promoting me” which is when my neck starts to itch and I find myself scratching my arms, breaking out in a nervous rash.

I just know the phone’s going to ring one day and it’ll be the "book police" who've given him a quarter and allowed him one phone call, and that’s when I’ll have to decide if I’m going to bail him out, or pretend I haven't got a clue who this guy is.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Something to note re: The Penny Tree

I wasn't planning to post again until Thursday, but had to share the following email I received from my publicist this morning:

"We’ve just been informed that The Penny Tree will be in the April 10th issue of Woman's World, which reaches over 1.5 million readers! The magazine will hit stands April 3rd and a cover photo will run alongside the write-up of the book. Holly, it's extremely rare to get coverage in Woman's World, so congratulations!"

I'm not certain if this will be a review or just a small placement promoting the book, but it's great stuff either way.
Any publicity is good publicity.