Category: For authors

Book promotion tips for authors: The never-ending book tour

By Midge Raymond,

My short story collection, Forgetting English, came out twice—once from Eastern Washington University Press, after winning the Spokane Prize for Short Fiction—and again, from Press 53, after EWU Press closed its doors. On one hand, it was awful to have my publisher shut down and leave me out of print—on the other, I got to have a second book tour, with an updated edition of my book and a spiffy new cover.

Among the best things I learned from doing two book tours for the same book, two years apart, is that The Book Tour comes in so many different shapes and forms. And the most important thing for any author to know is which type of tour will work best, for both the writer and the book. The second most important thing for an author to know is that a book tour doesn’t have to take place within the first few months of a book’s launch date; you can continue your tour for years. Until everyone on the planet has read your book, there will still be new readers to reach.

Of course, the old days of publisher-sponsored, multi-city book tours are, for the most part, long gone. These days, the vast majority of authors must plan, pay for, and publicize their own book tours—which is no small task. And for writers who don’t have a background in publishing, publicity, or marketing, it can seem even more intimidating.
But the challenges are well worth it, as the rewards can be great. Keeping in mind the nature of your book, your schedule, and your budget, here are a few things to consider (excerpted from Everyday Book Marketing) as you begin to think about planning a tour that will best fit your needs.


Go where your friends are. Choose venues that you know will draw a decent audience, i.e., always plan book tour stops and events in places where you know at least a few people who will show up, bring friends, and otherwise make sure you’ll have a nice showing.

If you’re doing mostly local or regional events, spread them out so that the venues aren’t competing with one another. When Forgetting English first came out in 2009, I was living in Seattle, where I did about a dozen book events—but I spread them out over the course of the year, so no one got too sick of me and the venues didn’t have to compete for customers since even similar events were spaced months apart.

Team up with a fellow writer. For my 2011 tour, I teamed up for many events with my friend and colleague Wendy Call, author of No Word for Welcome. Because our books have similar themes (both are about foreign locales, though mine is fiction and Wendy’s is nonfiction), we thought it would be great to offer joint events, with something for all readers, and we received enthusiastic responses from booksellers, community writing centers, and libraries. Best of all, we shared the workload (the cold calls, follow-ups, and creation of marketing materials) as well as the fun stuff (great events, great people, lots of wine). Even better, we could commiserate over the not-so-fun stuff (the rejections, the small crowds, the low book sales). In all, it was a wonderful experience and one I’m so glad to have shared with Wendy. So if your book is a good fit with another writer’s, consider setting up a few joint events, which can offer a great way to share the experience as well as broaden your audience.

Think outside the bookstore. Certain times of year (holidays, for example, or summer in the Pacific Northwest) can be nearly impossible for scheduling bookstore events. And sometimes, no matter what the time of year, a bookstore may be booked already, or your schedules won’t align. So always be thinking beyond the bookstore—you’ll not only find gems in new venues but discover whole new audiences as well.

Libraries, for example, are always open to author events, particularly if the author is local and there’s an educational component to your book or presentation. Also, look for community centers or literary centers such as The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, Grub Street in Boston, Richard Hugo House in Seattle, or San Diego Writers Ink in San Diego. Among the places I’ve read or attended readings are museums and galleries, cafés, universities and colleges, book clubs, historical societies … the list is endless if you think about it, so get a little creative.

If your book is nonfiction, this in and of itself can help you find good venues (if you’ve written a book with an environmental theme, for example, seek out organizations that embrace this theme and see how you can help one another). And fiction writers, too, should look for the same opportunities; simply use your fictional characters and settings in nonfictional ways. If your protagonist is an artist, hold an event at a local arts center or in an artist’s studio; if your book is set in Thailand, host an event at a Thai restaurant; if your main character is a barista, get readers together at a local café. You might also ask someone you know to host a literary salon—a great way to find new readers and talk about your book in a more private, casual setting. Ask a friend (even someone in another city/state, where you’ll be able to reach out to new readers) to host a salon for you at his or her home. Bring copies of the book to sell; provide whatever food, wine, etc., you’d like at the event. Then simply plan a casual gathering around your book, which might include a brief reading, discussion, and Q&A.

Research book festivals and conferences around the country, and see which ones you might attend as a reader, presenter, or instructor. Book festivals and conferences are wonderful ways to reach new readers—all have built-in literary audiences, and it’s also a great way to connect with fellow authors. Keep in mind that most festivals and conferences schedule up to a year in advance, so be sure to do your research early.

Offer a little something more. Unless you’re a writer whose mere presence in a bookstore will guarantee a line out the door, think about offering a little more than a traditional reading/signing. You want the event to be a win-win (so that you not only find new readers but will be invited back enthusiastically when you publish your next book), so think beyond your book to what else you can offer. Because Forgetting English is set in eight countries across four continents, for many of my events I offered a travel-writing workshop, which brings in not only readers but writers and travelers as well. So even if no one’s ever heard of me or my writing (which is, in fact, most people), those who love to travel or write will show up to learn something—and one of the things they learn is what my book is all about. On our joint tour, Wendy and I held several mini-workshops, and we received terrific feedback from these events. Even if an event isn’t specifically about your book, you’re giving participants an opportunity to get to know you, which in turn will build interest in your work.

Try a virtual book tour. This is a great option of you don’t have the time or budget to do a traditional book tour. You’ll do many of the same things you’d do on a live, in-person tour—create buzz for your book, find new readers, and chat about your book. Keep in mind that, while virtual, this type of book tour still takes a lot of planning: You need to connect with host bloggers, come up with original topics to write about, and promote your tour.

For more on book tours and book promotion (including a fabulous Q&A with Wendy Call), check out Everyday Book Marketing. You can also read a mini Q&A with Wendy here.

Must-read blogs on publishing

By John Yunker,

These are interesting times in publishing.

Writers are self-publishing. Even agents are publishing their clients’ books.

Here are a few blogs that we follow at Ashland Creek Press:


A great resource for current industry news.

The Shatzkin Files

Mike Shatzkin provides an insider’s view of an industry in chaos. From author royalties on e-books vs. trade books to commentary on the evolution of Amazon, Shatzkin puts a great deal of thought and opinion into every blog he posts. If you read just one industry blog, this is it.

The Book Deal

Alan Rinzler is a longtime industry expert and editorial consultant. He provides a number of tips for aspiring writers.

Joe Konrath: A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing

Joe Konrath is a case study in how to succeed in self-publishing, and his blog is an entertaining and informative read.

Pub Rants

Agent Kristin Nelson provides nuggets of wisdom about query letters, publishing houses, and the industry in general.

Dystel & Goderich Blog

This is another entertaining and well-written blog by literary agents.




Call for Submissions – Doug Fir Fiction Award

By Midge Raymond,

Ashland Creek Press is delighted to be a sponsor of the 2013-14 Bear Deluxe Magazine Doug Fir Fiction Award!

Please see below for complete guidelines, and you can also click here for details and more info.

The Bear Deluxe Magazine welcomes submissions of previously unpublished short stories up to 5,000 words, relating to a sense of place or the natural world, interpreted as broadly or narrowly as the author defines.

Entry Fee: $15

Word limit: 5,000

Deadline: September 3, 2013

Grand Prize: $1,000, writer’s residency at Sitka Center for Art & Ecology, national publication, and manuscript review

Finalists: Manuscript review, recognition, publication consideration

Award Judge: Lidia Yuknavitch’s most recent books include Dora: A Headcase, a novel, and The Chronology of Water: A Memoir. She is also the author of three works of short fiction (Her Other Mouths, Liberty’s Excess, and Real to Reel) and as well as a book of literary criticism, Allegories of Violence.

Co-sponsor: Sitka Center for Art & Ecology

Associate sponsors: Ashland Creek Press and Hawthorne Books (Ashland Creek Press and Hawthorne Books will provide manuscript review for one story of the author’s choice from award winner and finalists.)

For complete guidelines, visit or email (website is under redesign).

Online payments can be made at (please indicate “Doug Fir submission 2013-14″ in the notes with your payment). Once payment is made, submissions can be emailed to with subject line “2013 Doug Fir Award.”

The magic number of Amazon book reviews — and the rules of the road

By John Yunker,

I almost always read customer reviews before I buy something on Amazon.

Of course, I’m well aware that you shouldn’t always trust these reviews. I’m well aware that authors often review their own books anonymously and that a few nefarious folks go out and buy positive reviews.

But by and large I find that if there are enough customer reviews, you can get a pretty good idea if a book or product is worth it. And sometimes even the bad reviews are highly entertaining. Consider, for example, the many one-star reviews of Moby-Dick.

The key however, is having “enough” reviews. I believe 20 reviews is the magic minimum threshold that every author should aim for. Getting to this number can be challenging. It may require asking anyone who tells you they loved your book to get online and provide a review. Trust me, I hate asking people, but more often than not people are happy to do it.

Which brings me to the purpose of this post — the rules of the road when it comes to Amazon book reviews.

Here is a handy Q&A from Amazon on what is and isn’t allowed on book reviews.

Q. Are authors allowed to review another author’s book?
A. Yes. We very much welcome Customer Reviews from authors. However, if the author reviewing the book has a personal relationship with the author of the book they are reviewing, or was involved in the book’s creation process (i.e. as a co-author, editor, illustrator, etc.), that author is not eligible to write a Customer Review for that book.

Q. Can I write a Customer Review of my own book?
A. No. You are not eligible to review your own book, but there are other ways to communicate with your readers on Amazon such as Author Central.

Q. Can I post a Customer Review on behalf of someone else?
A. No. Customer Reviews are meant to provide customers with feedback from fellow shoppers. For this reason, you should use the Editorial Reviews section of your book’s detail page to share content that is posted on other sites or from individuals who do not have an Amazon account. You can update the Editorial Reviews section of your book’s detail page through your Author Central account.

Q. Can I ask my family to write a Customer Review for my book?
A. We do not allow individuals who share a household with the author or close friends to write Customer Reviews for that author’s book. Customer Reviews are meant to provide unbiased product feedback from fellow shoppers.

Q. Can I pay for someone to write a Customer Review for my book?
A. No. We do not allow any form of compensation for a Customer Review other than a free copy of the book provided upfront. If you offer a free copy of the book in advance, it must be clear that you welcome all feedback, both positive and negative.

Q. A Customer Review is missing from my book’s detail page. What happened?
A. Reviews are removed from Amazon for one of three reasons:

  • The review did not meet our posted Customer Review Guidelines.
  • The customer who wrote the review removed it.
  • We discovered that multiple items were linked together on our website incorrectly. Reviews that were posted on those pages were removed when the items were separated on the site.

For more information, here is the full list of Amazon Customer Review guidelines.

A Q&A with SURVIVAL SKILLS author Jean Ryan

By Midge Raymond,

Q&A with Jean Ryan, author of SURVIVAL SKILLS: STORIES

Q: How did you come up with the idea for this book, and how long did it take you to write it?

A: These stories were written over a period of several years. As they began to gel into a collection, I was able to understand what interests me most as a writer: the natural world and the vulnerability and interdependency of all living things. I enjoy exploring the connections, the synchronicities, the quiet miracles underlying the world we see. Fear and the relative fragility of the human mind fascinate me in particular.

Most of the stories were inspired by something I had read or a show I had seen. “Migration” issued from the real story of a Toulouse goose that lived in a park in Los Angeles and became smitten with one of the visitors. “Looks for Life” also came from real events—a co-worker told me about a friend of his whose life changed after a plastic surgeon rebuilt his face. “Waiting for Annie” followed a special I had seen on coma, the “silent epidemic.” Improved emergency response techniques and sophisticated life support machines are keeping more and more lives in this eerie state of suspension. Especially intriguing to me is the mind’s ability to make connections by itself, to persist without the complement of consciousness. “Paradise” emerged from a program I had watched about intelligence in birds, parrots in particular. One bird had acquired a prodigious vocabulary and this stirred my imagination. I thought it would be fun to work this creature into a story, to use him in fact as a main character. In order to create conflict, the parrot in this tale is malicious as well as brilliant. The extravagance of Palm Springs, its artificial overlay, seemed an apt parallel to the various indulgences that Max enjoyed in his man-made abode.


Q: Do you have a special routine or place in which you write?

A: I write in the mornings, in my living room, using a laptop computer. However, I think about my stories anywhere and everywhere, so you might say that I am always in the process of writing—either mulling over scenes in a particular story or absorbing ideas for future stories.

I usually start making notes for a story in longhand. After I have a few paragraphs down, I  switch to the computer. I love the ease with which text can be manipulated, and paper saved, using a computer. I edit as a I write. Manuals on writing will invariably instruct you otherwise, but my method is more like a stone mason’s: A sentence must be as strong as I can make it before layering on another. I am obsessive about finding the right word. Occasionally a word that perfectly defines an idea is not a word that fits rhythmically, so I will use a slightly different word in order to achieve the right sound. The rhythm of a sentence is very important to me, and I hear phrases as I write them.

Q: Do you prefer writing short stories over novels?

A: Yes. I love the immediacy of the short form, the way it pulls the reader into a situation quickly. I think the quality of writing in literary short fiction is superior to the writing in most novels. Novels often carry too much exposition and padding. Short pieces must get to the point quickly. This urgency requires distillation, a challenge I revel in—delivering a scene or idea as clearly as I can.

Q: What was the most difficult aspect of your book’s journey?

A: Finding a publisher. Despite shrinking attentions spans in this information age, people are still inclined to buy a novel over a book of short stories. Publishers know this, so few of them will consider buying short story collections. I would like to think that as more people embrace the various digital platforms available now, with single stories more widely available, the short form will have a revival.


Q: Do you have a favorite story?

A: “Paradise” and “The Side Bar” are probably my favorites. I had fun with the humor in “Paradise,” and I enjoyed creating a parrot with an agenda—I love Max! “The Side Bar” is a more serious story, which actually began as a novel. As the story expanded, I saw that it was headed in a direction that didn’t ring true, so I focused back in on the bar itself and the troubled characters it contained. The desert is a compelling backdrop for human experience, and I admire those who can withstand its haunting openness.

Q: Which story did you feel was most challenging to write? And were there any that came so naturally they seemed to write themselves?

A: “Remediation” was probably my most challenging story, inspired by a woman I knew and respected. Writing about her was difficult at times; I miss her very much. The story that came most easily—and this is so rare—is “Survival Skills.” The tone of this piece presented itself to me, and the juxtaposition of plant and human felt natural. Having worked at a nursery for several years, I’ve had ample time to witness, and envy, the grace inherent in the plant world. While we blunder through our human lives, plagued with questions, stalled by indecision, plants steadily assert themselves, taking just what they need and giving more than they take. For even a moment or two, I would like to possess that certainty.

Q: Who are your own literary muses?

A: My own literary muses are writers whose talent takes my breath away: Virginia Woolf, Jean Thompson, Lorrie Moore, Antonya Nelson, Amy Hempel, Marisa Silver, Annie Proulx, Joan Didion, Stuart Dybek, James Lasdun, Rick Bass. In the genre of poetry, I am in constant awe of Mary Oliver. Reading the exceptional work of others gives me hope that I can achieve something close. I can at least try, can put forth my own ideas. There are countless writers in the world, and there is room for every one of us. No one can write your story but you.

Learn more about Jean (as well as ACP authors Mindy Mejia and Olivia Chadha) in the Book Divas Ask a New Author column, which began in January and runs until June. Find answers to such questions as how to keep the faith in your work, revision tips, and more. You can also ask your own questions by sending them to

Ask a New Author