Monday, June 18, 2018

Interview with Publishers of Smoking Pen Press

Smoking Pen Press is an independent publishing company started four years ago by Catherine Valenti and Laurie Gienapp.  For now, they mostly publish short story anthologies. Two of my short stories are published in their anthologies and they are a pleasure to work with—highly professional.  For more information, check out their website at:

Question: How did you come up with the name Smoking Pen Press?  Is there some meaning behind that?

Answer:  We met online in the Nanowrimo forums, and the chatroom we met in was called The Smoking Pen. We liked the name, as well as the image it evokes of an author writing at such a pace that their pen smokes.

Question: You mostly publish anthologies, how did that come about?

Answer: It wasn’t always the plan to publish anthologies… in fact we’ve published one novel, and have several others in the works. Where we both have full-time jobs in addition to running Smoking Pen Press, time is at a premium, and we thought a short story anthology would be a good use of our time. Then we discovered that we really enjoyed the process of culling through the submissions, and working with the different authors throughout the editing process. 

Question:  Can you tell us about some of your published books?

Answer:  We have four titles in our Read on the Run series. The idea is that each story in the Read on the Run series of anthologies is short, “to suit your busy lifestyle”.  We started with A Step Outside of Normal, followed by A Bit of a Twist, Uncommon Pet Tales, and we’ve just put out the first romance—A Wink and a Smile.

We also have an anthology of longer short stories, The Ancient, which has variations on the Aladdin’s lamp theme. And we’ve published a novel—The Weatherman.

Question:   What are you working on now?

Answer:  We’re working on a few titles at the moment.  We’ve got a longer short story anthology of romances in the works, as well as three novels – a romance, a suspense and a sequel to The Weatherman.

Question:   What made you start publishing?

Answer: We knew there were a lot of good authors out there looking for a legitimate small publisher who would provide good editing and cover design services. We thought we could provide that, and compensate the authors, and still have a viable business.

Question:   What advice would you offer to those who are currently writing?

Answer: Don’t stop.  Or perhaps more importantly – Start!  In order to be published, you need a well-edited piece of work. And you can’t edit what you haven’t written.

Question:  Where and when will readers be able to obtain your book(s)?

Answer:  All titles are currently available at Amazon and other retailers, in both digital and paperback format. 
Links to Amazon: 
A Step Outside of Normal -
For links to other retailers, see our website -

Catherine and Laurie, thanks so much for coming here. 

For those who are interested, they are available to respond to comments and questions. But the best way to learn about what they publish is by buying one of their books and reading it.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Eight Tips on Getting Your Book Successfully Published

First, I must observe there has been a huge increase in the number of self-published books in recent years. I know there are many writers who claim to do well self-publishing. I applaud and commend them for their efforts. However, be aware that this involves a great deal of intensive work on the part of the writer and often requires a costly lay-out of expenses for professional services such as cover art and editing if the writer wants to present a quality product.

Tip #1: If you decide to self-publish, hire a professional editor and cover artist. Do not rush to publish work that is not ready. It will make you look amateurish and turn off readers.

Tip #2: Before you self-publish your writing, consider trying traditional publishing.

Let’s assume you have written a unique book, whether fiction or nonfiction. You have made certain that there are no obvious typos or grammatical errors. Take the necessary time to explore all possibilities for publication.

Tip #3: Create a query letter that will catch the attention of agents.

Google for suggestions. There are many detailed articles on this topic available for free on the internet. Generally, query letters which you send to agents must be relatively short. Agents are busy people and these days they have shorter attention spans than ever. So you want your letter to sound as interesting and professional as possible. Describe the genre of your book, the length, and give a brief, intriguing blurb in your first paragraph.

Second paragraph, offer your expertise for writing this particular book. Give any background info that might impress the agent. What have you previously had published?
Any awards for writing in this subject area?

Tip #4: Now that you have put together a general query letter, start examining the various agents. Check out WRITER’S MARKET. Get listings that tell you what the agents are interested in representing. For instance, you don’t want to send a query for a romance novel to an agent who only represents nonfiction.  

Do some research. Start with the better known agents in your genre. You can always work your way down. Pay close attention to the directions for querying and follow them exactly. Should agents responds affirmatively, submit what they request in the prescribed manner. Whenever possible, use the correct name of the agent you’re querying. Don’t start off with “Dear Agent.”

Tip #5: The top agents work with the big publishers who in turn pay advances, get your novel reviewed by influential review publications as well as providing PR people who help provide publicity and promotion. Most of all, the big publishing houses have distribution. This is vitally important if your book is going to sell and be read by the public.

Tip #6: You want a publisher that will offer you an advance against royalties which is non-refundable. I call this “good faith.” If a publisher isn’t willing to provide an advance, even a small one, it implies that publisher will do little to promote your book.

Tip #7: Contracts are negotiable. If you don’t understand the terms, ask your agent to explain and possibly work to improve the terms. You can also pay an attorney to go over the contract with you.

Tip #8: Once you sign a contract, you are bound by it. So make certain the terms are fair to you. As the old saying goes: act in haste, repent in leisure.

Note: For those who might be interested, my latest novel, DEATH PROMISE, was released on May 2nd.

You can check out the description of the new novel at:

DEATH PROMISE is now available from:

and many other booksellers.

From editorial reviews:

Library Journal

 "Romantic suspense with an interesting plot...the plot kept this reviewer turning the pages."
 Mel Jacob at Gumshoe Mystery Review:

“The romance between Daniel and Michelle is incendiary with plenty of heat. Nonetheless, they work well together to catch a killer. She struggles with wanting love and not wanting to give up her dangerous work.”
“This is a nice blend of suspense and romance with lots of action 
to keep the pages turning.”
Lelia Taylor, Buried Under Books, May 2018 

Good luck to you in getting your book well-published! Wishing you great success and recognition in your field of expertise.  If I’ve left anything out or you have questions, please write them in the comments section and they will be addressed.