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Prepping Your Author for Interviews

Interview season is finally here. Perhaps you’re thinking, “Where do I even begin?!” Don’t worry—Ooligan Press has you covered.

Let’s start with the basics. Start by creating a list of background questions that are most likely to be asked, and work with your author on preparing answers for them. These questions are often formalities to establish your credibility, create rapport with the interviewer, and set the stage for more important questions later. By anticipating these questions and ensuring the author is comfortable answering them, your author will be able to get through these faster and therefore increase the amount of time that can be spent on the more critical questions that follow.

The next step involves promoting your book (and your author). It’s important to plan for the types of opinion and perspective questions the interviewer might ask. Knowing that more difficult questions are coming helps you prepare your author and prepare their responses, which can be used as opportunities to promote your book and your personal brand.

Here are some tips and suggestions to keep in mind when thinking about how to best prep your author for their upcoming interview:

  • Make a list of questions you would ask if you were interviewing yourself or the author.
  • Prepare answers that give the opportunity to reference the book—themes, key selling points, or anything else you want people to take away from or remember after the interview.
  • Don’t try to fully “script” or memorize your responses to the basic questions about education, general interests, employment (or self-employment), history, etc. Instead, prepare a mind map or fact sheet that lists the background questions you’re likely to be asked, along with the key ideas and connections you want to make for the book. Be sure to use a large type size so that you can glance at it during the interview.
  • Avoid full sentences when organizing before the interview. Instead, jot down the main ideas and phrases you want to include in your answers. Sentences encourage your author to read their responses rather than to respond in a confident and enthusiastic tone.
  • Never read your answers! Instead, review your cheat sheet beforehand and have it handy to quickly glance at during the interview. This works especially well when using Zoom or with virtual interviews.
  • Make sure you and your author are on the same page! Set up a meeting before a publicity interview to discuss key selling points and other topics to ensure consistency.

Lastly, it is important to emphasize to your author the importance of how you say something, not just what you say. It isn’t just your message that improves when you anticipate and prepare for your interview. The more you prepare, the more comfortable you’ll be during the interview, and your comfort instantly communicates itself to your interviewer as well as those reading, viewing, or listening. With anticipation and preparation, your responses to the interview questions will not only be on-point and relevant, but your delivery will also communicate your confidence, likability, and enthusiasm for your book. With a little anticipation and preparation, you’ll emerge not only as an expert, but as a likable expert!

Authors Navigate Social Media Waters

Wed, 07 May 2014 16:00:29 +0000

All writers must come to terms with knowing that bringing the book to press is the biggest but not the last step of the book publishing process. Authors need to be actively involved in the promotion of their books. Those who develop a social media presence and attend to their fanbase online are more attractive to agents and publishers.

For all authors, especially those who can’t do extensive media tours, it is now common practice to launch a social media campaign. Ooligan Press’s own author Sean Davis is on tour promoting his memoir of his life as a combat veteran, The Wax Bullet War. It took Sean years to write the book while he worked through the trauma of his training and his experience in the Iraq war. Sean has embarked on an intensive publicity tour, and he chronicles his stops on the tour on his Wax Bullet War blog.

Many writers are more reclusive than Sean and still need to find a way to promote their books. Sean is not shy, but still he takes the opportunity to promote his book on social media platforms: He began using Twitter to share news about his book and some of his personal interests in early 2012. He added a Facebook author page in early 2014. Ooligan encouraged him to keep his social media “real” by continuing to post selectively about his personal life. Writers also need to take time to respond to readers and fans on social media. Fans want two-way connection, and writers find that it truly endears them to their readers when they engage this way.

Writer Alison Baverstock recently keynoted a conference on self-publishing at PSU (organized by Ooligan Press and Writers & Artists). She’s also the author of Marketing Your Book, An Author’s Guide. Alison uses social media to blog, believing that blogging provides an opportunity for authors to create a community around their work. She says, “Blogging about personal interests other than the book itself helps spread positive interest in the author. It works best when it is genuinely interesting—not a direct sell.” She ties her guest blog posts into her other interests, like running marathons. Through guest blogging, Baverstock benefits from the host blogger’s expanded platform, reaching a wider audience without the time drain of maintaining her own blog.

Writers who want to understand how to find more readers through social media will also benefit from the expertise of Tim Grahl, author of the e-book Your First 1000 Copies. Grahl offers tips through a series of newsletters that help writers tackle their biggest problem: how to effectively use social media so that it doesn’t steal time from writing. Ineffectively used, social media platforms don’t increase book sales. According to Grahl, for example (he has many other writer marketing strategies to share), “authors sell more books from their email list than their Facebook, Google+, Twitter, blog, and podcasts combined.” Writers still need multiple platforms and can enjoy using them, but they have to keep their ultimate goal in mind. Grahl’s experience comes from building writer platforms for the likes of Hugh Howey, Daniel Pink, and Dan Ariely. Grahl’s Out:Think Group offers a free 30-day course on building an author platform and using it to sell more books.

The current industry mantra for success in bookselling is to engage with potential readers on social media platforms a year before the book is published so that authors have a network in place before the book release. But of course it’s never too soon to begin building that network.

Morality Clauses in Book Publishing

Publicity plays a crucial role in any publishing house. Authors who accrue bad publicity are often subjected to the morality clause in their contract so that the reputation of the publishing house is not tarnished by the actions of the author. Recent developments in the entertainment industry, especially in regards to the #MeToo movement, have led to an increased focus on ethics and morality in professional, educational, and media settings. Publishing houses and agents have faced similar problems, which is where the morality clause comes into play; an increasing number of publishing houses and agents are now including these clauses in their contracts, requiring authors to comply with acceptable professional standards and providing for the possible termination of the contractual relationship if the author fails to conduct themselves appropriately.

Definition

If you are unfamiliar with the term “morality clause,” here is a definition from Wikipedia: “A moral clause within contracts that is used as a means of holding the individual or party(s) to a certain behavioral standard so as not to bring disrepute, contempt or scandal to other individual or party to the contract and their interests. It attempts to preserve a public and private image of such a party to the contract.”

Example

All morality clauses look different depending on what they cover contractually, but here is a generic example from Author’s Guild:

Publisher may terminate…if Author’s conduct evidences a lack of due regard for public conventions and morals, or Author commits a crime or any other act that will tend to bring Author into serious contempt, and such behavior would materially damage the Work’s reputation or sales.

Limitations and Benefits

There is much debate on whether or not morality clauses should be included in author contracts. Many publishers want to protect themselves from any bad publicity their authors might incur based on their beliefs, however, there are some who believe that morality clauses are inherently unethical because of the difficulty in drafting meaningful contractual clauses that explain what conduct is immoral or unacceptable other than in the vaguest terms possible. Because of this, publishers are able to terminate contracts based on what they deem to be inappropriate behavior. There is also the question of whether these clauses are necessary as a matter of law in regards to whether they add anything meaningful to what’s already in the contract.

While there are certainly limitations, there are also benefits to morality clauses. These clauses are meant to empower publishers to easily terminate contracts without having to go through a court proceeding. Publisher’s began adding morality clauses during the rise of #MeToo Movement as a way to protect victims and hold people accountable for their crimes.

Real Cases

In 2017, Simon & Schuster canceled Milo Yiannopoulos’s book contract after he made controversial comments on the topic of pedophilia. Instead of enacting the morality clause, which is harder to prove in court, Simon & Schuster claimed that the manuscript itself was unacceptable, which provided grounds for termination. This case provides some guidance about how already-existing contract clauses can be used to address situations like this, even in the absence of a morality clause.

Recently, Simon & Schuster also canceled their contract with Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri for his book, The Tyranny of Big Tech. In an Instagram post, the publisher wrote that it took this action “[a]fter witnessing the disturbing, deadly insurrection that took place on Wednesday in Washington, D.C.” Simon & Schuster went on to say, “We did not come to this decision lightly. As a publisher it will always be our mission to amplify a variety of voices and viewpoints; at the same time we take seriously our larger public responsibility as citizens, and cannot support Senator Hawley after his role in what became a dangerous threat to our democracy and freedom.”

It’s a matter of balancing two aspects in the drive for justice: the desire to protect people from being penalized for their sexuality, lifestyle, or political beliefs versus the desire to believe victims and hold people accountable for their crimes.

Are morality clauses needed in the publishing industry? As a matter of law, the answer is arguably no, but the answer can also be yes when the clause is used as a reminder that publishing is an industry whose participants should adhere to moral and ethical standards of conduct. Should authors need reminders such as these in this day and age? Theoretically no, but in practice, given the current political and cultural climate, sadly it may be a good idea.