The discussion of diversity in publishing has been happening for years behind closed doors, but 2020 was a breakthrough year in the publishing industry. There were several big “scandals” around equal pay and representation in the publishing industry that came to light, creating some really interesting conversations for those of us who care about both the state of the publishing industry AND who advocate for fair representation of marginalized voices.
2020 was a big year for the conversation around diversity in publishing.
If you haven’t been following all of the recent events, let’s get you up to speed. Back in January 2020, the acclaimed publisher, Lee & Low, put out their Diversity Baseline Survey 2.0. It was a follow-up to their often-cited 2015 survey, which really got conversations about representation and inclusion in publishing kicked into high gear. The company shared the 2019 results, explaining why they’d begun this work in the first place:
Before the DBS, people suspected publishing had a diversity problem, but without hard numbers, the extent of that problem was anyone’s guess. Our goal was to survey publishing houses and review journals regarding the racial, gender, sexual orientation, and ability makeup of their employees; establish concrete statistics about the diversity of the publishing workforce; and then build on this information by reissuing the survey every four years.
The results weren’t encouraging. Even after 4 years of activity that an optimistic person would imagine might move the needle – things like Drag Queen Story Hours popping up nationwide, the #ownvoices movement gaining steam after American Dirt was published, the industry remained largely white in traditionally published books.
Everyone in this industry went into 2020 knowing that we had work to do. But we really had no idea…
When #PublishingPaidMe broke last summer, exposing the massive gap between what white and Black authors were paid, it shocked a LOT of my colleagues, even the ones who knew it was bad. I mean, imagine paying N.K. Jemisin, one of the most award-winning, critically acclaimed, reliably bestselling authors less of an advance than some complete unknown first-time white novelist? It seems like bad ethics AND bad business!
In 2020, it seemed like America was finally ready for a real conversation about Black Lives and justice. Black authors’ books rocketed to the top of the bestseller lists. By the end of 2020, did all this conversation change much? We won’t see more hard data for a while, but a November 2020 survey from Publisher’s Weekly reported that 75% of publishing employees said they’d seen a definite increase in diversity programs and efforts over the last year. The initiatives mentioned covered everything from recruiting more BIPOC, LGBTQIA and disabled employees at every level, to running DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) training and forming DEI committees in house.
But there are other bigger changes in the works that impact all of us. For example, in a recent meeting with an agent, she mentioned that many publishers of middle grade books are not interested in even looking at books if they don’t have a “diverse” character base. While this may not be true for all genres or at all publishing houses, it’s important to know if your targets fall into this category.
Another positive outcome came in the hiring process for publishing companies. We saw high profile publishing jobs going to Black and POC candidates. Seeing brilliant, exciting elevations like Dana Caneday at Simon & Schuster is certainly encouraging. It’s also promising to see new imprints popping up, led by BIPOC and focused on authors of color.
But what about the very simple, very important goal of getting more books published by people who are Black, disabled, queer, Hindi, Asian, trans, Latinx, Muslim and all the other diverse identities that make up our wide world of authors with something to say? Having publishing gatekeepers – at all levels – start to look more like our diverse nation is a start, but the rest might depend on us.
How can we help increase diversity in publishing?
It might depend on us as readers – we have to demand more books and make profitable (read: buy!) more books from underrepresented folks.
It might also depend on us as authors – we have to keep writing, getting our books out there, disrupting the system, and challenging the traditional gatekeepers.
We’ll be diving into all of this at our March 30 roundtable on Diversity in Publishing. We are welcoming some of our favorite indie and traditionally published authors to discuss the challenges, the joys and the work ahead to stock a more diverse bookshelf for everyone. Register here, and even if you can’t make it, we’ll send the replay your way!
So, tell us – what’s the one book by an author from an underrepresented group that is a MUST READ? We want to hear from you (and restock our bookshelves)!
One moment in the media spotlight can make all the difference for nonfiction authors. It can take you from being a first-time author to a sought-after expert if the media spotlight is positioned just right. And with all that attention, your book sales are bound to get a big bump!
The real question is, HOW? Most authors have no idea how to harness that power to expand their audience, boost their credibility, and actually move the needle on book sales. Without extensive – and expensive – media training to get those insider secrets about how to take it to the next level, the moment can pass the average author by.
It’s situations like this that make me so grateful that I met Mary O’Donohue, from Authors in Media. She’s an expert who can help authors transform their careers through great publicity, and she’s sponsoring the 2021 Women in Publishing Summit. We are super-excited to hear her exclusive insights at the Summit and beyond!
Who is Authors in Media?
How did she get the inside info to propel authors to center stage? Mary was a producer for THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW for 12 years. She’s also a best-selling author herself and helps authors use traditional media to increase their influence, impact, and income. As a best-selling author herself, she knows the importance of using the power of media to promote your book and your message.
While media exposure is great for any author, it’s especially helpful for nonfiction authors. The media landscape can be confusing and complicated, and it’s full of traditional gatekeepers, putting indie authors and new writers at a particular disadvantage.That’s where Mary comes in. She has access to behind-the-scenes secrets and insider tips on how to pitch your work, present yourself to each different media source, and how to work with them once you’re booked to ensure you get asked back. Knowing the rules of the game makes all the difference when you’re pursuing traditional media, and that’s exactly how Authors in Media has helped so many writers grow their careers.
Why We Love Authors in Media
We’re excited to welcome Mary of Authors in Media as a sponsor of this year’s summit. Media can be an essential tool for any author, especially nonfiction writers. A lot of experts focus on social media and what it can do for you. And sure, social media is the shiny new object. But Mary takes a step back and shares how traditional media can help propel your book forward – if you know how to use it. Our interview with Mary was exciting — we talked for over an hour about authors and media opportunities. She really gave me a TON of awesome strategies to share with my clients, and I know she’s going to get you all thinking, too. The interview will be available during the Women in Publishing Summit and it’s one you don’t want to miss. Mary and her company has been a great asset to our sponsor lineup this year and we can’t wait to share the interview!
Authors in Media is a bronze sponsor of the Women in Publishing Summit
Authors in Media is one of our bronze sponsors for the Women in Publishing Summit. She’s offering 25% off of her self-directed course, Profitable Publicity to all summit attendees. Join us at the Women in Publishing Summit to listen to her interview and learn more about writing, publishing, and marketing your book!
Good reviews sell books. It’s how most of us make buying decisions, especially online – we look at those star ratings, whether it’s books or wheelbarrows. So what’s the easiest way to build a set of rave reviews? Giving your book away to new readers. It sounds counterintuitive but it’s true – it’s the best way to build your email list – your #1 selling tool – and to get your book the great reviews it deserves.
Most of the time, our first book is just laying the tracks for what is to come. In over 500 interviews conducted for the Women in Publishing Summit and podcasts over the past six years, I have yet to find an indie author whose first book blew sales out of the water. But once they had an email list and dedicated readers, it’s a different game entirely.
This is why we’re excited to introduce you to BookFunnel, a bronze sponsor of the 2021 Women in Publishing Summit.
What is BookFunnel?
BookFunnel is an online tool that allows you to build landing pages and deliver your book to interested readers. Our team uses it to build landing pages for our authors to share their Advance Review Copies (or ARCs) because it’s SO easy and integrates with any author website. It lets you add anyone who downloads the ARC to your mailing list, or you can keep them on a separate ARC list and invite them to join your regular newsletter later, if you’d prefer. BookFunnel gives you a seamless tool to speak directly to those who are most invested in your book — the people who are already reading it!
What really makes BookFunnel special, though, is the way it helps expand the pool of ideal potential readers for your ARC through the power of the BookFunnel community. On any given day, there are dozens of promotions in which you can participate. Just choose the genre and theme that’s right for your book and you’ll be part of a coordinated, linked group of authors sharing a massive e-book giveaway with ALL of your audiences.
So if you’ve written a great YA fantasy, you can join a group of other YA authors that’s as small as 3 or 4, or as big as 100! Each author shares their unique link to the promotion, and together you reap the benefits of fresh new readers checking out your book and being added to your email list! We have seen the results for our author clients – a well chosen BookFunnel promo can grow your newsletter by the hundreds!
Our Experience Using BookFunnel
As we mentioned above, we use BookFunnel to build landing pages for our authors. These landing pages help us deliver an ARC to new readers and we build an engaged email list at the same time. We know how important word of mouth marketing is in the publishing world which is why we choose to leverage the power of BookFunnel for our authors.
Trust me: getting your book out there to ideal readers, getting those ideal readers on your mailing list, and growing them as your readers will result in reviews which, when implemented properly, results in more readers.
I see this in action all the time. A friend of mine will post on social media, “I just read this new book by xyz and it was awesome!” Or they’ll leave a review on GoodReads, the mecca of rabid book reviewers. If they also leave a review on Amazon, that helps other readers find it too.
Word of mouth marketing is so powerful that large publishing houses give away thousands of copies of a book IN PRINT. That’s super expensive, but it doesn’t cost you anything to give away your ebook and Book Funnel makes it even easier.
BookFunnel is a bronze sponsor of the Women in Publishing Summit.
If you’re looking for a reasonably priced, multi-use tool to get your ARC out into the world, BookFunnel is a great investment! And our whole team is over-the-moon that BookFunnel has joined our Women in Publishing Summit as a Bronze Sponsor this year. Their generous support, along with the rest of our awesome sponsors, is what allows us to take on the enormous project of the Summit every year!
BookFunnel is generously offering $50 off the first year on their more robust plans to our Summit ticket holders, so if you are excited about the opportunities to get in front of new readers using BookFunnel, grab your ticket and stay tuned!
Damon, the CEO of BookFunnel, who is the lone dude in our entire Summit, and quite an entertaining interviewee, gave me some AMAZING ideas of ways to grow your email list that I can’t wait to share!
Beyond wanting to write a great book, what’s our goal as writers? To have happy readers, right? To have those readers becoming raving fans, that want to review and talk about our books, and buy the next one as it is released.
It takes more than just writing a good story. While that piece is obvious, in certain genres, like Romance, you have to go a lot deeper than just writing a good story. Because a good story that doesn’t meet the expectations of your readers will fall flat.
Let’s talk about the Romance genre.
You’ve always wanted to write a romance book, but as you’ve started researching, you realize, there’s a lot more than meets the eye. Maybe you’ve started connecting with other writers and when they ask what you write, you respond, “Romance” only to be asked: “what kind?”
What do you mean? Isn’t a romance book a romance book?
The genre Romance falls across a very broad spectrum, from squeaky clean, to full on smut. From period eras, such as Regency and historical, to contemporary fiction. Each of these subgenres has its own norms and reader base, and those readers have expectations. The readers expect that you know their expectations when you market a book to them, and they get really upset if you break their expectations.
Each genre has its own beats, or, if you’re not down with the lingo yet – the expected events that take place throughout the book – and you better know those beats, or your readers will chew you up and spit you out.
If you aren’t reading in the subgenre that you want to be writing in, you need to start reading now. And a LOT. Knowing your subgenre backwards and forwards can help you not only find the right audience for your book, but it’s crucial to making sure your book is written and positioned properly, has the right cover, and sends the correct message to the readers.
Who knew there could be so much to learn about writing a romance? Step one truly is learning everything you can about the type of book you want to write.
Happily Ever After is a requirement
The one thing you have to know and understand about romance as a primary genre, no matter what sub-genre you are writing in, is that the Happily Ever After component of the primary couple is a requirement. If they don’t wind up together, then your primary genre is not romance, it simply has romantic elements in the book. And that will happen a lot. You may have a women’s fiction primary genre that has romance in it. But it’s not a romance book if they don’t wind up together.
What are the subgenres of romance?
Let’s talk about the different sub-genres. It’s important to know your audience when writing and editing your book so you can meet reader expectations. Your sub-genre will guide several different elements of your novel including setting and plot. People often dismiss romance books as being “all the same.” While this is true in the beats, and expected that it will follow a predicted path, those expectations vary a lot in the subgenres. So we compiled a list of some of the most popular subgenres and a few key notes for each one.
Age targeting is one of the first things you’ll need to decide on as a romance writer, and choosing to write for the YA market will bring a whole set of important considerations. Young adult romances are typically meant for readers between the ages of 12 and 18. They deal with those issues that teens are typically facing including first love, family relationships, friendship, self-identity, and more. It’s important to keep the age of your audience in mind as you tackle topics that make them feel connected as a reader. YA has gotten confusing over the years with much more mature topics being covered, but if you’re writing primarily romance for this age group, it should be kept appropriate to that age range.
There’s also the emerging and growing “New Adult” category – it’s a demographic that’s blowing up the publishing world in many genres, not just romance. New adult romance books also have strong elements of identity and finding one’s way, but it skews slightly older (ages 18-29) and can address that first job, finding your place in the adult world and the higher stakes of adult relationships.
Historical romance refers to those novels set in a specific period in history, like the wildly popular Regency sub-category. Within this subgenre, you’ll find that authors and readers often prefer immersing themselves in a specific time period (such as regency romance). With historical romances, it’s important to study the time period surrounding your novel. Details on everything from geography to clothing is part of what people love about these books. Readers will pick up on discrepancies and it can take them out of the narrative. This is a great genre for writers who love research!
Contemporary romance is set in modern times. This means these stories are relevant to things happening in the here and now. Contemporary romance addresses issues facing lovers today, and the characters have similar concerns that most of us do when it comes to work and relationships. Novels set in the 1970s to present are typically considered to be contemporary romance, too, so there is a whole array of settings that would work for this subgenre.
Erotic romance is also referred to as “sexy” or “steamy romance.” These novels are definitely written for a mature audience. Erotic romance uses sex to show the development of a romantic relationship. So while sex plays a vital role in the plot and romance development of these novels, it’s not all there is to the story. These books are not erotica (where sex is more explicit and central to the tale), bur rather stories where well-developed characters grow their physical connection.
Paranormal romance (aka fantasy or sci fi)
Paranormal romance comes in many different forms since it involves fantasy and science fiction. These novels bring elements of science fiction and fantasy into the setting and characters while following a romantic plot line. Lots of shapeshifting in these types of novels. Think werewolves, time travel or other worlds. True Blood, anyone? Paranormal romance has been around for a long time – it’s rooted in the classic gothic romance novels people loved a hundred years ago! But while these tales exist outside our reality, romance is still the beating heart of this subgenre.
Romantic suspense novels use suspense, mystery, or thriller elements to drive the story forward. The characters are falling in love as a mystery unfolds around them – what could be more exciting? The story is turbo-charged by the element of danger, giving the protagonists an exciting setting for their romance to unfold. Like paranormal romance, this is another subgenre rooted in gothic traditions, with thrilling elements that have been popular since our great-great-grandmothers’ time. No matter how compelling the suspense is, though, the core of the novel must be the romance in order for a book to fall into this category. Otherwise, it’s a suspense with romance in it. For it to still qualify as a romance, it must have a happily ever after with the main couple.
We included these common subgenres for a starting point – there are so many different, exciting worlds in romance writing. Just remember, Happily Ever After, and of course, make sure you’ve got the expected beats covered.
Want to get started writing your own romance novels but aren’t sure where to begin? Don’t worry – we’ve got you covered! Take a deeper look into the romance genre with our Romance Roundtable Talk happening soon! Click below to sign up!
Jennie earns $10k a month in author royalties. At the end of the day, that’s the goal most of us are striving towards, right? Earning a LIVING as an author, with a nice fat revenue stream.
How does someone get to the point where they’re cashing 5 figure royalty checks every month? It wasn’t an accident – it took a plan. And Jennie shared that plan with me in her Women in Publishing Summit interview.
Who is Jennie Goutet?
Jennie Goutet is a friend of mine and I’ve followed her since her writing journey began. So it’s truly exciting to see her having this level of success as one of the top indie Regency fiction writers. I knew her waaay back. She actually was a contributor to my book, Sunshine After the Storm: A Survival Guide for the Grieving Mother, as we sadly share the loss of a child.
When we met, she was already blogging her way through her memoir, which she would publish about six months after Sunshine. The title: A Lady in France.
She went on to hit the #1 spot on the New York Times bestseller list for 9 weeks straight and make a LOT of money in royalties.
NO SHE DIDN’T.
The Real Story Behind Jennie’s Success as an Author
I’m just messing with you. That does NOT actually happen, just so you know. Truly. It’s almost unheard of for a self-published memoirist (or any genre) to have a success like that on their first book.
What DID happen was she had some mediocre success, got a lot of feedback, and wound up making some significant changes to her book after she learned a lot more about the business of being an author.
Then, she set to work, and over the course of six years, learned everything she needed to know so that by November of 2020, she was earning $10K per month through book sales in KDP.
I just completed my interview for the Women in Publishing Summit with Jennie and she went step-by-step through what she learned, what she took from it, and how she went from her first experience of publishing her memoir not so successfully to now being one of the top Regency fiction writers on Amazon.
You are going to want to watch this interview. I took SIX PAGES of notes!
Jennie could have thrown in the towel when her book did not meet her expectations. She could have had a pity party that she just wasn’t a good writer. But Jennie didn’t give up. She had a goal to be a successful author.
She learned and implemented changes that soared her into the top 10 in her very competitive category of Regency fiction.
You can learn from Jennie’s story, and you can also ask her questions during the conference. (Yes, surprise! This is a new feature this year. Our speakers will be joining us live to answer questions on Thursday, Friday and Saturday – March 4, 5, 6!)
In case you’re wondering about her memoir, Jennie went on to republish it after she learned more about the norms of the memoir genre. She got a new cover and a new title that more appropriately fit her book, and she cut 50,000 words, because it was way too long. It did okay in sales, nothing revolutionary. But – and this is the important part – that process taught her an incredible amount that she shared in her interview with the intent of helping YOU get there faster and with less experimentation.
There’s one more thing about Jennie that makes her amazing. After having some success with fiction books, she landed a traditional publishing deal. She also shared about the differences that being traditionally published taught her, and why she decided to go back to indie publishing with subsequent books.
I invited Jennie to speak after I saw her post an update in a group we’re both in. I was both proud as heck of what she’s done over the past 7 years AND biting at the bit to hear what she’d been doing to have this kind of success. I’ve had a front-row seat at watching her publish and grow, so it was really exciting to hear the HOW from her. And it was really encouraging to see that it is possible, even after a failed start, to have great success and earn a living as an author.
Her journey wasn’t easy or quick. But if it was simple, ALL authors would be making $10K/month in royalties.
If you’re committed to making a living as a successful fiction author, you’re going to want to get your ticket and watch this presentation.
Extra bonus! We’re releasing a few of the interviews early in February! Grab your ticket now (at the discounted price) AND get access to these early releases!
There is no perfect first draft. But your writing can get a LOT closer to perfect with the right tools. That’s why we love ProWritingAid. This self-editing tool isn’t just glorified spell-check, it’s a robust tool for professional writers and ANYONE who relies on the written word to present their ideas. Since they’re a company we truly use in our business every day, we’re excited to announce that they’re returning as a sponsor for the 2021 Women in Publishing Summit.
What is ProWritingAid?
ProWritingAid is a digital tool that helps you self-edit your manuscript. A human perspective can never be fully replaced in the process (good news for writers and editors everywhere!), but this tool takes your first draft and whips it into shape. Using machine learning and years of research, the team at ProWritingAid has built a software that can catch mistakes and just make your writing better. Any word processing software can catch a basic spelling or grammar error, but ProWritingAid can tell you when your writing is overly complex, unclear or uncompelling. It makes suggestions as you type, and it works intuitively based on what you’re doing. It helps you draw your readers in with its editing suggestions, and it works with any style of writing. When you begin with a first draft that’s already been through the patented ProWritingAid software, what emerges is something that’s ready for prime time.
Beyond perfecting your book, it also offers a Chrome extension that allows you to get feedback as you’re typing emails, blog posts, and more. Since writers are so often in the business of promoting their own career, having ProWritingAid’s tools at your disposal will make sure that every email you send will impress.
You can download ProWritingAid to your computer or use the mobile version to access the tool in the way that fits your lifestyle. The desktop version even allows you to use the tool even when you’re not connected to the internet — so you can head on out to that cabin in the woods and write whenever you want.
At the end of the day, , you’re going to send your manuscript off to beta readers and an editor. ProWritingAid can help you clean it up before other eyes see it. It will help you catch the errors that your eyes miss. It’s like having another set of eyes on your manuscript without paying more. It’s a smart way to save time and money, all within a budget that’s accessible for the average writer.
We helped author and professor Kasie Whitener publish her first novel, After December, last year. When we used ProWritingAid, it found that she used the word “sandwiches” over 150 times. When we shared this information, Kasie laughed and joked that all she feeds her characters are sandwiches. ProWritingAid helped us catch this repetition that might have taken readers out of the story (“What’s with the sandwiches?!?”), and that went unnoticed otherwise.
ProWritingAid is a tool we can count on for our business, can recommend to our authors, and can use in our everyday lives. We love the ease of use, the comprehensive suite of editing tools, and the affordable price point. It’s just one of those products we can’t imagine doing this work without.
ProWritingAid is a silver sponsor of the Women in Publishing Summit
A really cool thing about ProWritingAid is that they offer lifetime access — which means you pay once and then you have the tool forever! It is so important when you consider how we practice our craft, making revisions and changes sometimes over years! This software is ready to be a long-term partner to writers of every level and genre, right out of the gate.
They’re such a great partner that they’re offering all Women in Publishing Summit attendees 50% off of their lifetime access. This is a great savings on an already affordable tool! This offer is only available to summit attendees, so make sure you sign up below!