As a Reader, What Would You Like to Ask a Publisher?

My interview blog Pat Bertram Introduces . . . is really taking off. I post author interviews and character interviews, and someone suggested I post publisher interviews, too. Sounds like an interesting idea, especially since I’d like to do more to support small independent royalty-paying presses that publish books by a variety of authors. (Like Second Wind Publishing, the company that publishes my books.)

Before I can do the interviews, I have to compile a list of questions such as my author questionnaire or my character questionnaire. Some of the author questions might be applicable, but I’m more interested in getting behind the scenes of the publishing companies to help readers learn more about small presses. And I don’t want to ask writer-oriented questions such as submission policies and what royalties they pay because I’m trying to steer readers their way.

So, as a reader, what would you like to ask a publisher? What genres they publish, of course, and the criteria they use to choose the books they decide to publish. How they decided to become a publisher might be a good question. What else?

[If you are a publisher who would like to be interviewed, please leave your name as a comment/reply. If you are an author who would like to do an interview for me or have your character do an interview with me, please go to either the  author questionnaire or character questionnaire (or both!) and follow the directions.]

Diving Off the Deep End

I never learned to swim as a child, so when I went to college, I signed up for beginning swimming for my PE credit. On the first day of class, the teacher had us line up at the deep end, then she said, “Dive in.” What????? I stared at her, totally out of my depth. Well, not really out of my depth since I didn’t even jump into the pool. I just stood on the sidelines while everyone else dived. The teacher kicked me out of the class. Apparently, though the syllabus clearly stated the class was for those wanting to learn how to swim, there was an undeclared understanding that people who could swim took the course as an easy way to satisfy the PE requirement, and she had no patience for someone who could barely float.

Today, I’m feeling the way I did that long ago day standing on the edge of the edge of the pool. I mentioned a year or so ago that I was asked to be a speaker at the Scribblers Retreat Writer’s Conference on St. Simon’s Island in Georgia, but I had to cancel due to a death. (Not mine, though it felt like it.) I thought that was the end of it, but conference organizers contacted me and asked me to reschedule. So I did. I’ll be speaking at the May 2011 conference at 3:00 on Friday the 13th. Perhaps an auspicious date? I hope so! This will be my first ever speaker engagement. (No honorarium, but an incredible honor.)

I had no idea of the scope of the conference until today when I learned that the conference was recently voted one of the “Top Ten Organized Conferences in the U.S.” by Writer’s Digest. I also learned that Phillip Margolin will be fellow a speaker. Gulp. This is the big time. The deep end. Shouldn’t I dip a toe in first? Test the waters? Nope. Have to learn to dive very, very quickly.

Oddly enough, despite my lack of experience and a niggling worry that someone made a mistake by inviting me, I know I can do a good job. I plan to use my character questionnaire and, with audience participation, show how to develop a character (and subplots and tension) by making a series of small decisions. I realize talking before a group is not the same thing as moderating online discussion groups, which is my usual venue for talking about writing, but I plan on having fun. And anyway, it’s not as if I’m going to drown — or get kicked out of class — if things don’t work out right.

More Blogs Than One

A year ago when I was waiting for my books to be published, I kept myself occupied with setting up a variety of blogs. I told myself I wanted to test blogging platforms so I could help my fellow authors pick the best one for their needs, but that wasn’t my excuse for setting up a bunch of WordPress blogs since I was already familiar with the site. The truth is, I became enamored with the custom colorizer, and ended up with five blogs, identical except for color.

The blue blog, this one — Bertram’s Blog — chronicles my struggles first to become a published writer and now to become a published selling writer. It was my original blog, and the one I still consider my blogging home.

The red blog, Pat Bertram Introduces, was intended to be an authors’ blog, where I introduced the writers I was coming to know via networking sites. When so many of them ignored my invitation to be a guest, I decided to turn it into a blog for interviewing my characters. (I’d forgotten that until just now. Never did introduce them!) To get the blog going, since at the time it was too soon to introduce my characters, I decided to introduce other writers’ characters. If you’d like me to introduce your character or characters, you can find the instructions on the Character Questionnaire page. At the very least, it’s a good way for you to get to know your own characters.

The purple blog, Book Marketing Floozy, was intended to be a blog to promote my books. I was talking (online, of course — that seems to be where my life is lived nowadays) to a fellow author about promotion, and she cautioned me against signing up for too many social networking sites. She said that I ran the risk of becoming a marketing floozy, just popping in to peddle my books, and then disappearing again. Since I’ve never been one to take advice, I signed up for several sites (though in the end, I did more or less take her advice — I spend most of my time on Facebook, Goodreads, and Gather.) And I started the Book Marketing Floozy blog — I decided that if I was going to be a book marketing floozy, then I should flaunt my flooziness. Again, since it was too early to start promoting my books, I started collecting articles about book marketing and promotion by different authors. The site is now indexed for easy reference, but there is no article about my books, though I did mention them in passing in one of the articles I wrote. Too bad. I did like the idea of being a book marketing floozy.

The yellow/orange blog, Dragon My Feet, was an import from Live Spaces. I set up a blog there using a gorgeous dragon template, and since I mostly talked about how I was procrastinating, I called it . . . You get the idea. So now I have a blog name that, while cute, really makes no sense. And the blog itself makes no sense. It’s become a dumping ground for any article that doesn’t fit with another of my blogs. I have guest articles that are too self-promotiony for Bertram’s Blog. I have a few of my attempts at reviewing books. I have photo essays. Checking out the blog just now, I notice that thirteen of the past fourteen posts are related to books in some way. Perhaps I should turn it into a book blog? But that would be work — finding guests, reading books and writing reviews — and I am inherently averse to work.

The green blog, Wayword Wind, is a poor, loveless thing that sits there getting greener by the moment because of all the moss it’s gathering. I have not posted a single bloggery because I have never quite figured out what to do with it. I planned to post articles about the various themes and research in my novels, but alas, I can’t think of anything to say that isn’t already in the books. I should have talked about the swine flu and how it tied into A Spark of Heavenly Fire, but I didn’t. I could talk about the twelfth planet and the various conspiracy theories I mention in my upcoming book Light Bringer, but I won’t. Been there. Done that. At one time I thought of posting quotes and then giving a commentary, but I really don’t have much to say on any subject except writing. I discovered this recently when I started yet another blog simply because I like the WordPress theme. (Do you see a pattern here?) I call it The Mind of Pat Bertram, but since I seldom post to it, you can see how little is actually on my mind. Then I thought of turning Wayword Wind into a blog for posting my progress with Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way program, but since I haven’t actually been doing the program, it fits more with Dragon My Feet. Because of the way I spelled wayword, it seems the blog should be about writing, but I already have a blog about writing.

So, here’s my conundrum. It’s not as crucial as the one that haunts me about how to promote my books, but it is a niggling one. I have a blank blog!!!!! What do I do with it?

(The title of this article was once used in reference to me by Lisa Brackmann, author of the soon-to-be-released Rock Paper Tiger.)

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