Friday, February 7, 2020
Carol Smallwood Interviews Author, Marketer Carolyn Howard-Johnson
By Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Modern History Press
97816159948, $8.95, Paperback, $2.99, Ebook, 54 pages
Carolyn Howard-Johnson is the author of the multi award-winning series of HowToDoItFrugally books for writers including USA Book News' winner for The Frugal Book Promoter now in its third edition. An instructor for UCLA Extension's renowned Writers Program for nearly a decade, she believes in entering (and winning!) contests and anthologies as an excellent way to separate our writing from the hundreds of thousands of books that get published each year. Two of her awards are Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment given by members of the California Legislature and Women Who Make Life Happen, given by the Pasadena Weekly newspaper. She is also an award-winning poet and novelist who shared what she's learned.
Smallwood: I can see how you might be exhausted with two books released in a month, but I am hoping you'll share a little about the second one because it's brand new to me.
Howard-Johnson: I can see why you might be surprised because The Great First Impression Book Proposal now has "Second Edition" in it - even on Amazon. And it is really a booklet, closer to what we poets call a chapbook than a real book. So, most authors know me by the full book in my HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers, not the booklets for I rarely promoted them. I was just too busy with the information most every author needs for their books to be successful. That brings me to the fact that book proposals are a tool that most writers assume are only needed by authors of nonfiction as part of the sales process to find a publisher for it or an agent to represent their book to publishers but things are different now.
Smallwood: Please tell how it is different:
Howard-Johnson: Well, I didn't know it myself until I got an agent to represent the rewrite of my first novel This Is the Place. It is out of print and is now called This Land Divided. It is already an award-winner. The first chapter won WriterAdvice.com's Scintillating Starts contest, so I figured it would be easy to get an agent. But my agent, Terrie Wolf at AKA Literary wanted a book proposal! So I was the one asking, "Really?" Now that even big publishers expect their authors of about any genre to market or help market their books, most agents ask for a book proposal. It is a time-consuming process and most authors hate it. Lots of my consulting clients would rather pay me to write proposals for them than to ead the big, long, fat and utterly boring tomes that are out there as guides for the process. The trouble is, most authors can do it for themselves lots better than anyone else could. The author is the one with the voice! The author is the one with the passion!
Smallwood: Is that what lead you to write The Great First Impression Book Promoter?
Howard-Johnson: Exactly. I took the material I had written just to get the information I need to write a proposal for one of my clients and turned it into this booklet. I figured every author who must write a book proposal would rather learn how to do it in thirty minutes or so rather than read 300 plus pages! So, voila! There it is. 54 pages. Fast. I suspect the publisher at Modern History Press figured he could supply a copy of this booklet to the authors he was considering to get them to do the book proposal he needed - and they needed.
Smallwood: You say "they needed?"
Howard-Johnson: Actually, book proposals are great organizational aids. They can be a little like a story board for a film. They require all kinds of things an author and her publisher are going to need. Like a synopsis. A pitch. Nonfiction authors need a projected outline of their chapters or contents. But mostly a book proposal gets all authors thinking about their platforms and how to use them to market their books. Too many authors still believe the publishing works as it did decades ago. But we only need to be around a little while before we figure out that an author with a platform has an edge over an equally talented author who doesn't do much other than play with their friends on Facebook.
Smallwood: You're saying book proposals - for all the aches and pains - do as much for the author as they do for agents and publishers?
Howard-Johnson: Exactly. In fact all the planning and thinking they require can save them tons of time in the actual writing of their book. I remember reorganizing and rewriting the first chapter of my novel…well, lots of time. If I had an outline or storyboard or book proposal, I might have spend that time fine tuning the conflict, arc, characterization or whatever. A book proposal helps with all of that.
Smallwood: I don't remember seeing this book on your website.
Howard-Johnson: That's because Modern History Press did so much with it including a brand new cover from Doug West that blended with the new cover of the third edition of The Frugal Book Promoter. I love the typewriter. It reminds me of the one I used when I started out in journalism, which I did mostly because all of the smartest, cutest boys were on the high school journalism staff. There. Now you don't have to ask what got me into writing!
Smallwood: So, how can readers get this inexpensive, easy-to-read and use little booklet?
Howard-Johnson: "My" small press is as aware as big publisher are that a book isn't truly published without marketing. So Victor Volkman came up with the idea of using this book much like I had. It is available on Amazon as a hard cover, paperback, or e-book like all his books. (It was only available in the last two iterations when I self-published it.) And he is eager to get authors reading it because he feels as strongly as I do that it can make a huge difference to writing careers so he's also using it as a promotion. So those who the new release of my The Frugal Book Promoter, now in its third edition, directly from him at http://www.modernhistorypress.com/frugal/ will received First Impression Book Proposal at no additional cost. We both figure that a great way to get an author off on the right foot or to give her a nudge in the right direction even if she has already made a few really big mistakes. (Use the code GO Frugal, to get this extra benefit.)
Smallwood: Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Howard-Johnson: You know I have three full books full of things your audience should know. But here is just a teaser. Most authors misuse or underuse (or don't use) their review and interviews like this one to their advantage. They need to know a whole lot more about managing everything from managing Amazon reviews to getting reviews from the big journals like Library Journal. So, I'm suggesting my How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically: the ins and outs of using free reviews to build and sustain a writing career.
Carol Smallwood, reviewer, interviewer, and recipient of the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award, received a MLS in librarianship from Western Michigan University, MA in teaching from Eastern Michigan University. She’s done several dozen anthologies for American Library Association, Rowman & Littlefield, McFarland, and others; has had over a dozen collections of poetry and essays published; hundreds of stories, essays, interviews, poems, reviews in RHINO, World Literature Today, and others. A multi-Pushcart nominee in Wikipedia, the Michigan resident has founded humane societies.
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