Three Resolutions for You, and Three for Cynthia

2011 is not just the start of a new year, but a new decade. In the spirit of the season, I thought of the three most important resolutions I wish my authors – and any authors – should make for me, and then I added the three resolutions I made for you.

Your Resolution #1: Stop your Amazon addiction. I know it’s tempting to track your Amazon ranking every hour on the hour, but this will drive you (and more importantly, your loved ones) insane! Your Amazon ranking can fluctuate wildly, going from #265,789 to #10,458 in a course of a click on the refresh button, but it doesn’t reflect actual sales – never has, never will. There are various algorithms that Amazon uses to determine the ranking, some which have nothing to do with your book. Take the time instead to read about trends in the publishing world on Publishers Lunch.

Your Resolution #2: Get on Twitter. I know I sound like a broken record with this, but every author needs to make peace with one social media tool at the very least this year. Whether it’s Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn or GoodReads – it doesn’t matter as long as you’re doing it regularly. Stumped on what else there is to do? There are tons of articles out there (Mashable has some great pieces) as well as books that will teach you new tricks and help spread the word about your work.

Your Resolution #3: Visit a bookstore. Once a month, go to your favorite bookstore and marvel at all the new titles that are available. Watch how the front-of-store tables rotate their titles, which books are shelved face out, and which business book is located in the memoir section. Read the author bios in the back of the book and imagine all the publicists trying to book them on all the same shows I’m trying to book you on. That’s what you’re up against. Bowker reported that over 1 million books were printed in just 2009. I bet that number will only increase in the new decade.

But of course, I can’t just expect other people to change their ways – here are three resolutions I made for myself:

Cynthia’s Resolution #1: I will respond to your emails asap (except on weekends). It’s easy to get overlooked in the steady onslaught of correspondence -- sometimes I’m so busy responding to authors that I don’t have time to actually send emails to reporters! But I know that most of the time, the question the author has is quick and the answer needed to move ahead is equally quick. Therefore, I resolve to do my best to get back to you as quickly as humanly possible.

Cynthia’s Resolution #2: I will send you your clippings. I keep track of every little mention of your title and name – not only to share the piece with our sales reps, but also to spread the article on our social media channels. By doing so, I often forget to share it with the most important person – you, author. So, I now resolve that by the end of each campaign, I will have a comprehensive record of all your media clips for you to use however you please.

Cynthia’s Resolution #3: I will be 100% honest. I want your book to deserve all the attention it can receive, but I won’t waste time (especially yours) pitching the wrong shows. I know, you want to be on Jon Stewart, and at one time I may have humored you against my better judgment. No more. Instead, I’ll kindly but directly tell you that Jon Stewart will likely not be having you on the show regardless of how many copies I send him, and recommend we redirect our energy elsewhere. In the long run, it will be much more productive, your book will reach exactly the right audience, and everyone will be happy. Thus, I resolve to always be up-front and constructively honest with you so that your book has the best possible chance of recognition and success.

Resolutions are usually a recipe for disaster, but by sharing them with you I hope that we can keep each other in check. Do you have any resolutions you want to share with me? I would love to hear them.


A Postcard from Australia

We miss Johanna Vondeling, our ex-Editorial VP (now VP for Business Development), greatly and we're so very curious about her new life down under, and we know others in our community are, too. So she decided to write and tell us:

Dear BK Community,

Greetings from Australia! I’m happy to report that all is well in the most remote large city on the planet. Perth is a pretty, hospitable city, with beautiful beaches and plenty of riverside parks and walking trails. We’ve been enjoying exploring the local bush, where we’ve spotted kangaroos, bobtails and plenty of loud, exotic birds. The eerie, Mars-like landscape of the Pinnacles took our breath away, and the color contrasts in the former pearling town of Broome are stunning. Hopefully, we’ll find an opportunity to complete this gorgeous 135 kilometer Cape-to-Cape trek while we’re here.

Our senior dog, Jude, survived an unhappy month in quarantine and is now living a life of leisure, though the dive-bombing Willie Wagtails here pester him on walks. Things I’ve learned the hard way: u-turns are illegal, and using a cordless phone brought from the US will both disrupt the local cell phone network and draw the attention of the authorities. 30 SPF is the absolute minimum level of adequate sunscreen, even in Winter; the “slip, slop, slap” mantra is widely -- and wisely -- heeded. I have yet to try Vegemite, and I’m still recovering from sugar shock brought on by my single encounter with a Tim-tam. Grilled kangaroo, however, is quite tasty, as is the Pipsqueak Cider produced by local microbrewery Little Creatures.

I’ve been delighted to find that the publishing community in Australia rivals America’s in overall friendliness. Many booksellers and publishers have generously and patiently answered my questions about the marketplace here, which is facing its share of challenges. While the Australian economy overall is currently much healthier than the US’s, industry revenue is nonetheless estimated to be down 5-10% for the year. To the consternation of local booksellers, many customers are turning to overseas online retailers, while others are simply purchasing fewer books. Cookbooks, children’s books, and coffee table books are uniquely recession-proof. The boom in digital publishing has yet to sweep Australia (e-book sales were recently estimated to be around 1% of total book sales), but many are excited that Kobo and the iBookstore both launched here earlier this year.

Perth itself has a lively scene of independent booksellers, such as Boffins, Bookcaff√©, and Planet Books. Each store hosts creative events that make the shop a destination site for the local community, and the foot-traffic is impressive. Karen Kotze, owner of the Bodhi Tree, is cultivating a community very much aligned with Berrett-Koehler’s mission; her book caf√© serves authors and customers by “promoting conscious development in all areas of life -- at work, at home and at play and through inspiring and cultivating wisdom that draws on both western and eastern philosophies.” We’re excited to be exploring ways Bodhi’s author community can hold hands across the pond with the Berrett-Koehler Authors Cooperative.

All in all, a great adventure so far! Please feel free to connect with me through social networks, including, for more updates and news. In the meantime, here are some photos from our life down under, and an authentic recording of those really loud birds known as Kukaburras.

Johanna Vondeling
Vice President, Business Development

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Five Things Cynthia Wants You to Know

I love the authors I work with, but sometimes, the process can be a bit trying. Since the same things come up with every title, I thought it might be best to list the five things that I want my authors to know up front:

1. I want you to be on the Daily Show just as much as you do. I have a crush on Jon Stewart and getting you on the show would get me one step closer to having him notice me. Seriously though, you need to have a really solid book that is smart enough for Stewart, or you need to be a celebrity of some sort. Stewart’s producers know the power of their reach and look for really compelling topics that would make good interviews. I know, all authors feel that their topic is really compelling, which is why you should approach your teenage kids or nieces or nephews about the subject and see their reaction. That reaction will be Jon's producers' reaction.

2. I cannot send you the contact information for my media contacts. Sorry, but too many over-zealous authors before you abused that privilege by calling my contacts and harassing them incessantly, which only ruined the contacts’ trust in me. A big part of my job is cultivating relationships with media, and protecting them from authors who don’t understand when to move on. Trust that I follow up with them appropriately, and I know how to speak their language.

3. Your media contacts are just as good as my media contacts. If you have a friend who has a sister who works at Time Magazine, it’s perfectly fine to send her a copy of your book, asking her to pass it along. But please share that information with me so that we can decide who has the better relationship.

4. Many authors think that their books "are for everyone." Not so. Please don’t make me pitch media that has little to do with your book. If a magazine only covers recipes and food, an article about building social networks isn’t going to fly -- even if you pitch it as "the recipe for social networking success!" Instead, familiarize yourself with the outlet, and then explain to me exactly where and how you’ll fit in. If it’s too far of a stretch, I'll let you know. Trust me.

5. Use email instead of the phone whenever possible. Phone calls are reserved for discussions that take too long to write, or when you’re needed immediately for a last minute interview. Calling me often is not going to give you priority, and calling me to tell me that you just emailed me is just redundant.

Now I feel better for getting that off my chest. Thank you!