Sunday, November 25, 2012

Geoffrey Morrison, E-Publishing Advice and Experience

Geoffrey Morrison is a speaker at the 2013 MWG Conference. He is a freelance writer and editor based in Los Angeles. He was editor-in-chief of Home Entertainment magazine and before that, technical editor of Home Theater magazine. He currently freelances for multiple websites and magazines, including CNET, Sound+Vision, Men’s Journal, Popular Photography, Residential Systems,,, and more. His articles have appeared on, and in Consumers Digest, PC World, Robb Report, Channel Guide, and many others. His debut novel, Undersea, was published in 2011. It has been highly reviewed on multiple websites, was featured in the first StoryBundle, and spent a week in the Top 20 of’s Sci-fi/Adventure Bestseller list. A sequel is due in 2013.  

MWG: Welcome, Geoffrey! Thank you for taking time to talk to us today. From the brief time that we've "talked", I've discovered you know a lot about e-publishing. Please tell us your background in e-publishing--as in you have done it yourself, a publisher did it for you, and/or you helped others do it.

Geoffrey: My background is actually from print publishing, magazines to be specific. I was editor-in-chief of Home Entertainment magazine for many years and held various other editor positions at other magazines before and since. When I finished Undersea, I considered shopping it around to traditional publishing houses; but in the end, I figured I could do more with it myself going the e-pub route.

MWG: Can't wait to hear more, then! In your experience, how is marketing an e-pub book different than a print book?

Geoffrey: From my experience with the magazine side, it’s a lot easier to have your magazine more or less automatically in every bookstore in the country. You have an idea about how many copies you’ll sell. At least, in a rough sense. Going the traditional publishing route with a novel, there’s an extent that’s true as well. They’re going to print up massive quantities of your book, ship them to stores all over, and hope someone buys them. Ideally, they’ll pay for web advertising, maybe even print advertising--but neither are a given. Since web advertising can be highly targeted, in a way, it’s more useful than print. Web advertising you can actually do yourself, and I’ve had some success with it.

MWG: All right, then, what are some pros that authors should consider about creating their own e-pub book?

Geoffrey: The traditional publishing industry is hurting, and they’re not likely to take many chances on new authors. Certain genres have a better chance of getting picked up than others. But the fact is you could have an amazing novel; but without a following, most agents won’t even look at you. By doing it yourself, you can create a following, get some sales, and with a future novel, have a better chance of getting it picked up by a publishing house. There are a few cases where a successful e-pub gets picked up by a traditional publishing house. In the mean time, you can make a little money, get invaluable feedback from strangers, and hone your craft.

MWG: That makes sense! What are some cons?  

Geoffrey: Editing and formatting are almost as important as the writing itself. No matter how cool your plot and amazing your characters, if there’s a typo on the first page, no one is going to buy your book. Formatting for the different e-readers is tricky and takes a lot of time; but again, if you don’t make the effort, someone will judge your book by how bad the free sample looks on their Kindle, and not buy it. Both of these things take time and or money, but are vital.

MWG: Yes, I've seen a lot of complaints on Amazon or other online sites about books being hard to read due to formatting and not content. But it doesn't make me want to buy it then, that's for sure! What are two tips you can give to authors who are considering self-publishing e-books?  

Geoffrey: Start on action. Even if you have a bunch of good reviews, most people are going to download the free sample of your book before they buy it. If your novel is slow to build, people might get bored and assume the rest of the novel is like that. All writers need an editor. Get someone you trust, and who reads a lot, to read your book. You need someone that isn’t afraid to tell you if something doesn’t work or if the whole thing doesn’t work. Most writers write for themselves; but if you want to publish it, you’re writing for your audience. You need to find out what works for them and what doesn’t. This isn’t to say you should write for the lowest common denominator — well, you can if you want — but it does mean that if you can’t get someone who should like your book to like your book, you might have a problem.

MWG: Great advice! Do you think certain books do better than others as e-books? Are there any books that you would say you should absolutely NOT consider for e-publishing?

Geoffrey: Poetry and books with images or photos really don’t work with the current e-readers. The formatting just can’t handle it. Other than that, write in whatever genre you like; just know that as far as popularity is concerned, some always do better than others. Obviously a sci-fi/action-adventure like Undersea isn’t going to be interesting to as wide an audience as a murder/mystery novel might be. This is true in e-publishing just as much as it is in traditional publishing.

MWG: Thanks for the heads-up about poetry and photo-heavy books. If people attend your session and/or master's class during the conference, what are a few things you'll be covering?  

Geoffrey: The session is for someone who’s considering going the e-pub route. I’ll be talking about e-publishing on the whole, different ways to go about it, things I learned, things that worked/didn’t work, and so on. The master's class is for someone who is finished, or nearly finished, with a novel or short story and has decided they want to e-publish. There will be three main parts. The first is on the pre-publishing side, where I’ll go in-depth with specific tricks for editing, working with an editor, formatting both e-pub and print-on-demand, plus what to do about a cover and working with a cover artist. Then we’ll talk about the actual publishing, about the pros and cons of different outlets, and of course, pricing. Lastly, we’ll discuss different ways to market and publicize your book. At the end, presuming I haven’t babbled on for the whole time, I’ll answer specific questions.

MWG: Geoffrey, that sounds like a wonderful resource for anyone considering self-publishing! Thanks, Geoffrey, for sharing your knowledge with us today!

Geoffrey: Thank you! I’m looking forward to the conference.

Interview conducted by Margo L. Dill, author of FINDING MY PLACE: ONE GIRL'S STRENGTH AT VICKSBURG. To learn more, visit Margo's blog.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Kathleen Ortiz, Literary Agent

Kathleen Ortiz will be at the Missouri Writers Guild conference in 2013! Here's a quick bio:  Kathleen Ortiz is director of subsidiary rights and a literary agent at New Leaf Literary & Media, Inc., a full service agency that represents both juvenile and adult literature and works with only high quality writers. She is an agent member of the Association of Authors' Representatives and New Work Women in Communication. The agency is an active member of SCBWI, RWA and AAR.

In the middle of dealing with Hurricane Sandy, Kathleen took some time to answer questions for us! Thank you, Kathleen, and here we go. .  .

MWG: Welcome, Kathleen Ortiz, to the Missouri Writers Guild blog. We are so excited you are going to be part of our conference this year. Let's start with a little about you as an agent since you will be taking pitches. What kind of writing do you just love to see cross your desk?

Kathleen: I love, love, love stories with a strong protagonist and watching that protagonist grow throughout the story. Some snarky humor is great, but it can't tear me away from the story itself. Great world building and believable characters are a must!  

MWG: Thanks for those details! What do writers need to know who are going to sign up to pitch to you?

Kathleen: They absolutely need to ensure they know what I'm looking for in a story. I've just updated my 'wish list' which can be found here: . They also should know how to pitch -- a pitch is not the same as a query. I have a detailed post on how to pitch at a conference here (

MWG: Great resources, thanks! What will you absolutely NOT represent--no matter how brilliant the writing--it's just not for you? 

Kathleen: Erotica, adult books (outside of contemporary women's fiction or romance with protagonists between ages 20-30), picture books, early readers.

MWG: You are also going to teach a master's class on Sunday morning. What are you going to teach about?

Kathleen: It's an advanced course on how to take your social media platforms and organize them so they work together to boost your outreach! Definitely for the author who has a Twitter or Facebook or Tumblr (or all three!) but perhaps just doesn't know how to reach their audience and readers.  

MWG: That sounds great AND like it will be a timesaver once an author learns some tips for using them together. Who will benefit from taking your master's class?

Kathleen: Authors who are published by a traditional publisher or self-published as well as unpublished authors who want a head start on organizing their online platform.

MWG: That covers a lot of us! Anything else you want to add about the pitch sessions or master's class or anything else about the conference?

Kathleen: This is my second visit, and I'm excited to be coming back! It's a great conference with friendly people and informative speakers.  

MWG: I agree! It's chock full of information and opportunities for a reasonable price. We are so glad to have you back. Thank you, Kathleen, for taking the time out to talk with us today!  

interview by Margo L. Dill

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Lela Davidson, SEO For Authors, Workshop Presenter

Welcome to Lela Davidson, whom I was lucky enough to meet at the 2012 Missouri Writers Guild Conference and buy her first book, Blacklisted from the PTA. This year, Lela is back and as a speaker--you will not want to miss her session. She's going to talk about the elusive "SEO" for authors and plus, she's just downright funny. She's also going to have a new book out, Who Peed on My Yoga Mat? She writes about parenting from a "real" perspective, and she's one you won't want to miss! Let's see what Lela had to say when I asked her about her career, her book, and her workshop. Then stay tuned for the link to her website where you'll be able to find more information.  

Margo: Before you tell us about SEO for Authors, tell us a bit about your background as a writer.

Lela: I became very interested in writing in 2003 and got my first paid gig four years later. I started out with online content and freelance copywriting. In 2008, I had my first essay published in the local parenting magazine; and from there, I was off. I had found what I really enjoyed writing most.  

Margo: I think that's what it's all about--finding what you enjoy writing! And about your books?

Lela: My two books are both essay collections. Blacklisted from the PTA was published in July 2011. I didn't really know what to expect, but the book's success encouraged me to get to work on the second collection, Who Peed on My Yoga Mat? which launches on December 4th!  

Margo: Love, love that title, and I can't wait to read it myself. Okay, so what can authors expect from your SEO for Authors talk?

Lela: SEO is a big, scary subject or at least that's how it has felt to me in the past. I want to break down search technology for authors, so that they not only understand how it works, but leave the talk with practical strategies they can apply over time to improve their ranking by search engines. I want writers to know that SEO does not have to be complicated, and it does not have to take over their lives in order to be effective.  

Margo: Sounds great! Sign me up--I need it. Who would be a perfect audience member for your talk?

Lela: Anyone who has a website or anything to sell online will benefit from the talk.  

Margo: That's me! How do you use SEO yourself as an author?

Lela: I pay attention to my analytics and consistently create content with keywords in mind. And if you have no idea what that means, you can find out in my talk ;)

Margo: Sounds perfect! Last year was your first year coming to the MWG conference as an attendee and participating in the book signing. (right?) So, what made you want to come back and be a speaker this year?

Lela: Right, I participated in the signing and enjoyed meeting your friendly group. It was a fun, well-organized, and information packed conference-- who wouldn't want to be a part of that?  

Margo: EXACTLY! (Do you hear that all you writers "thinking about going?") Lela--Give us a couple of your highlights from last year. :)

Lela: I really enjoyed the pre-conference talk and the lunch keynote by Claire Cook. She is a huge inspiration, and I started some new habits based on her advice. I also loved getting to see my longtime writing coach, Christina Katz, in person. And meeting you, Margo! It's been a pleasure getting to know you over the interwebz.  

Margo: Oh, gee, thanks. I'm so glad I met you, too. You are a marketing and brand guru! :) Plus, just a fun all-around, supportive writer!

Okay, writers, to find out more about Lela and her books, you must visit her very informative website at