Friday, July 24, 2009

The Frugal Way to Navigate the Publishing World

Today I received a message through my message center. It was from an author who had made one mistake (choosing a digital publisher before she understood the ramifications of that), and was about to jump from the pot of boiling water onto a sizzling stove top.

The publishing world is just not an easy one to navigate any more. Gone are the days of two paths. The agent to big New York publisher path (though they obviously aren’t all in New York) or what used to be called the “vanity” approach which is so derogatory it is no wonder the model didn’t catch on until the dawn of digital (POD) publishing. There are so many more choices today and none of those even clear cut. Some publishers mix different policies and methods. Some offer several under one roof. Attitudes and acceptance have changed in some quarters and not in others.

Obviously, there is lots to learn. And that brings me to how writers of every ilk can learn what they need to know frugally. The thriftiest way I know is to subscribe to (and read!) respected online newsletters. They are a bit out of favor these days with all the possibilities floating about the Web, but they offer regular resources and wisdom in small, easily absorbed doses. My favorite freebies are:

~Penney C. Sansevieri’s Book Marketing Expert newsletter. To subscribe send an e-mail with SUBSCRIBE in the subject line to
~My Sharing with Writers newsletter (of course!). To subscribe send an e-mail to with SUBSCRIBE in the subject line.
~And for resources, C. Hope Clark’s Funds for Writers. To subscribe go to

Another way to do it is to go to trusted Web sites’ resources pages. My favorites are:

~John Kremer’s website,
~The Resources for Writers pages at my site Click on the Resources for Writers link at the top of the page. Explore all the pages from media release disseminators to graduate programs at US colleges and universities.
~Dan Poynter’s Web site,

Then there are books. Though they are not as frugal as some of the freebies on the Web they are pretty failsafe if you pay attention to the reviews you’ll find easily on each book’s individual sales page on Amazon. Paying from $10 to $20 for a book that targets your immediate publishing and/or writing concern is downright cheap compared to the expensive mistakes you may make if you don’t know your stuff. The trouble is, those new to the publishing industry don’t know what they don’t know. I have dozens of recommendations listed in my Resources for Writers pages on my Web site ( but here are a couple of essentials.

~If you plan to self-publish, read Aaron Shephard’s Aiming at Amazon.~Before you publish anything read Marilyn Ross’s The Complete Guide to Self Publishing. Yes, even if you don’t plan to self publish, you’ll find invaluable information here.
~Read Karen L. Reddick’s Grammar Done Right and my The Frugal Editor. They will both save you much humiliation later and The Frugal Editor will help you get a publisher with the chapter on writing a provocative query letter that doesn’t tick an agent or editor off.
~For a quick brush-up on basic publishing choices try Cheryl Pickett’s Publishing Possibilities.

And then there are podcasts. You’ll find some of the ones I’ve done or am about to do listed in my newsletters. Again, choose to listen to programs or featured guests you trust. Not everyone who has published a book is an expert. Not yet, anyway. It does take a little time because there is just so much to know.

And my last, though much more expensive is to take classes, go to writers’ conferences. My favorite conference is one I cosponsor, the Muse Online Writers’ Conference that occurs each October. It’s absolutely free and Lea Schizas, the power behind the scenes, does vet her presenters. Of course, I also love the conferences that I speak at or have spoken at. Find the upcoming ones in my appearances list in my newsletter or on my calendar at my Website or blogs. Or just ask me for recommendations.

Having said that, there are many classes, both free and otherwise, on the Web and in communities that are not well vetted. It is hard to tell what you are getting when it comes to classes because beginners may give a class rave reviews but they may not be aware that they’ve received biased, incomplete, or downright wrong information.

So the best advice I can give--advice that pretty much assures writers they are getting what they need--is to choose classes from accredited universities with writers programs. There are many instructors who teach for universities but also teach online. Because we’re talking newby writers here, they may not be equipped to fully weigh an instructor’s qualifications.

University classes may appear to be expensive but this is one place where quality counts more and a small fee wasted weighed against a larger fee for a quality class is really the thriftier choice. My favorite, of course, is UCLA Extension’s Writers Program--both online and on campus. And I am happy to let you know what I know about any given instructor. Just call on me. My next class will be:

Carolyn Howard-Johnson will teach “Creating a Promotion Campaign for Your Fiction or Nonfiction Book.” A one-day seminar, it will meet on the UCLA campus’ School of Public Affairs Building (Room 2317) Saturday, August 1, 9:30 am to 4:30 pm. Reg# U9836B Request a UCLA Extension catalog at Learn more about the class (only $125!) at

So there it is. The Frugal way to get information you need. New writer or one who has been kicking around for a while.

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Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and two how to books for writers, The Frugal Book Promoter: How To Do What Your Publisher Won't and The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success. Her FRUGAL book for retailers is A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. She is also the author of the Amazon Short, "The Great First Impression Book Proposal". Some of her other blogs are, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor blog.

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