The Experts at Novel Journey

October 23, 2007 | Written by admin

Since I’ve been talking to people in the industry about the state of fiction, I thought I should ask a few questions of Gina Holmes and her crew at the popular ficiton website "Novel Journey." NJ is a great spot to find author interviews, book reviews, writing wisdom, and everything else helpful to fiction writers. This past week they’ve had an interview with bestselling author Francine Rivers, a report on the Southern Book Festival, a conversation with African-American novelist Stephanie Perry Moore, an interesting reflection from unpublished writer Janet Rubin, and a podcast with Nicholas Sparks. THAT’S moving around. You can find them at www.noveljourney.blogspot.com, and I highly recommend their site.

The founder/creator/mom of the site is Gina Holmes, who agreed to escape her own blogging empire in order to come talk with me…

Gina, what writing trends are you seeing in fiction at Novel Journey?

"We’re seeing more fantasy, less science fiction, chick-lit is moving into sub-genres like Camy Tang’s Asian chick-lit,  and we have mom lit, hen lit, and historicals are coming back into favor. Above all, more and more readers are being turned on by what we’d consider ‘literary’ writing — A Thousand Splendid Suns, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, etc.

"In CBA, more literary writers (like Charles Martin and Lisa Samson) are the names we hear most discussed as writers ‘you just have to read.’ And for good reason — you JUST HAVE TO read them. Novelists are taking chances, and the payoff has been big. It’s nice to see publishers get ahead of the curve instead of chasing what hit the NYT bestseller list last month. Robert Liparulo’s Comes a Horseman and TL Hines’ Waking Lazarus were different from what CBA houses traditionally have published, and they were very well received. So are M.L. Tyndall’s pirate romances, Tosca Lee’s Demon: A Memoir, and everything that Claudia Mair Burney writes.

"In the ABA, unusual stories like The Lovely Bones, Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas novels, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, The Time Traveler’s Wife – these are what have been getting the most buzz. All of these novels have been out for a while, but we’re pleased to see the trend continue. Another thing we’re thrilled about is the improved quality of CBA deput novels. Liparulo’s novel was amazing. So was Claudia Mair Burney’s first novel, Murder, Mayhem, and a Fine Man."

What marketing or promotional trends are you seeing in fiction?

"Blogging is still the hottest thing around. The power of the internet is huge and everyone’s scrambling to figure out how to best capitalize on it. Most writers now keep blogs, and blog tours have become a staple in marketing plans. Newsletters are big right now, with writers trying to capture as many names and emails of potential readers as possible by offering contests to get people to sign up. Some are offering everything from IPods to autographed books.

"For a while we were seeing big names with big platforms writing not-to-great books, but now we’re seeing people with strong platforms actually writing good books — Jars of Clay’s Matt Bronleewe’s Illuminated is one example. But things have definitely changed. Cross country book-signing tours are less popular as the web has proven more effective at reaching people without the fast food and traffic. And costly magazine ads and expensive book launch parties are less popular as publishers look for ways to get more bang for their buck."

Your site has become an influencer in fiction. What would you like writers to know regarding how they can best influence the influencers?

"One of the most valuable things we’ve learned by running Novel Journey is how best to approach media. And I think the first lesson is simple: Write a great book. We LOVE to push talented writers. If Charles Martin has a new book coming out, I want to personally review it because I know it’s going to be good. Even if we’re booked solid for months, if Lisa Samson comes to us and says, ‘I’ve got a novel coming out, can you fit in some space for me?’ our answer will be, ‘Heck yeah!’ Our goal is to promote great writing, great writers, and great books. So we’ll bend over backwards to fit her in.

"The second lesson is probably don’t approach us like you’re doing us a favor. Listen, we know it goes both ways. We know an author is essentially doing us a favor by answering our questions. We know by having Nicholas Sparks and Dean Koontz do interviews on our website, they’re helping our platform more than their own. They don’t needs us — they’ve already arrived. Both authors recently gave us interviews (Koontz’s interview hasn’t been published yet as of this writing), and by participating they were doing us a favor. But did they approach it that way? Nope. They thanked us. That’s how you do it.

"Third, make me look good. You want to be featured on Novel Journey or some other popular website? Great. We want to have you. But it’s much less likely to happen if you send me an interview that showed up on blogs everywhere two months ago, or you send me an article that’s nothing more than an infomercial for your book. Don’t make it about you. Make it about my readership. How can you serve them? Trust me, this will serve you. I’ve noticed that the best writers tend to give the best interviews. They tend to do everything above and beyond. Dean Koontz’s interview is amazing — he didn’t give sound-bite answers. He gave thoughtful, helpful, entertaining answers. Our best interviewees are always among the best writers. So make me look good, and it will make you look even better.

"Fourth, make my job easier. This goes for all media, not just websites. You want to be featured in a local magazine? (Don’t we all?) If we’re both novelists hoping to get into The Roanoker, and I send them my press release hoping they’ll write a story about me, but you actually write the article, make it relevant to their audience, and include photos, who do you think will get featured? Editors and media types are busy people. Make our jobs easier and we’ll use you again and again. You’ll become our go-to guy.

"Fifth, don’t be a diva. Don’t send me an interview and ask me to edit it twelve times before it goes up, or chew me out because it went up a few days later than I said it would. Sometimes we have to make decisions you know nothing about. Just follow up, thank me for my time and all I’m doing to help you, politely ask when I think your interview will get posted. The media don’t owe you a spot — it’s a privilege to have people feature you, not an entitlement. Afterward, a thank-you card, an email, or an autographed copy of your book goes a long way.

"Sixth, don’t be penny wise and pound foolish. I once had a first-time author tell me that she hoped I would buy her book and write a review of it. Excuse me? BUY her book? I already run a website that generates no revenue, take my time to feature authors so that readers will buy their books, and that earns the author income…and she wants me to spend my own money and buy a copy at retail price so that I can help her do that? Does that seem like a good deal for me? Nope, it’s not. I get more free books than I could ever read. Sometimes I review one. That’s the way it works.

"Finally, be gracious. I wrote a review of a novel I was lukewarm about — I thought the author had grand potential, but didn’t quite pull it off in that book. I said so. She came back with a glowingly warm thank you note. She called me insightful and correct, and thanked me for helping her grow. Wow. You think I’m not a big fan now? You think I won’t want to do everything I can to promote her in the future? Follow her example. Don’t argue with the reviewers — thank them. They’re probably right, and like a good critique you might learn something from them. But even if they’re dead wrong, showing kindness to them might just help them be kinder to you in the future."

Hey, thanks for all the wisdom, Gina!

My pleasure, Chip. We’ll see you at Novel Journey.

Posted in Resources for Writing

  • http://www.anemulligan.com Ane Mulligan

    Great questions, Chip. Thanks for your support of Novel Journey. Good job, G.

  • http://kellyklepfer.blogspot.com Kelly Klepfer

    Well said, Gina.
    Thanks for posting this, Chip.

  • http://christianfictionblogalliance.blogspot.com Bonnie Calhoun

    Great interview Chip! And good helpful answers Gina girl!
    There’s only one thing you left out Gina! Chocolate…big honkin’ boxes of expensive chocolates should always accompany ever book sent your way! :-)
    Bonnie Calhoun – Dir. Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

  • http://www.elizabethludwig.com Elizabeth Ludwig

    Great interview! As a first time author, getting the scoop on newsletters and blogs is invaluable. Thanks, Chip and Gina.

  • Yvonne Anderson

    Great to see NJ featured on your blog, Chip! Gina’s on the ball.

  • http://www.daylejamesarceneaux.blogspot.com/ Dayle Arceneaux

    I second Chip’s review of Novel Journey. It is a fantastic site. I have learned a great deal from this FREE resource and want to express my gratitude to the entire Novel Journey team.
    Great questions, Chip. And, great answers, Gina.
    I can’t imagine an author not thanking those who help them market. Two signed copies of their book is the least they could do. One for the interviewer and one to give away to those who have taken the time to read the interview.

  • http://www.brandtdodson.com Brandt Dodson

    Novel Journey was the first site to interview me when I published my first novel – and Gina was more than kind.
    I couldn’t recommend this site with more fervor. You’ve got to check it out – and often.

  • Eunice Matchett

    Tons of great information, Gina. Chip, thank you for posting this.
    blessings, e

  • http://christianfiction.blogspot.com Dee Stewart

    Great interview, Gina. Let me add that you all put a great deal of time and energy in making Novel Journey so good. The fact that you’re a working mom and you take your wee hours to pull this together it’s phenomenal. I am still receiving hits and emails from readers interested in becoming book reviewers based on my article featured at Novel Journey. Most importantly, you stick your neck out for rising authors like myself. Your phone calls and emails on top of all that your family obligations and your obligations to Novel Journey and Novel Reviews is incredible.
    Thanks for featuring NJ, Chip. They deserve it.

  • http://www.jessyferguson.blogspot.com Jess

    A wonderful interview. Thanks Chip and Gena. There are a lot of lessons here for all of us – but especially for me. :)

  • Sara Mills

    What a great post. It’s so helpful to get a peek at the wizard behind the curtain at the Novel Journey site(that’s you Gina :-P ). Novel Journey is a powerhouse literary blog and it helps to be reminded that it is not an income generating corporation, instead it’s a handful of people who have invested a huge amount of their own time to shine a light on great books, great authors and a great industry.
    Thanks so much for all you do.

  • sally apokedak

    Great interview!
    Gina has it all. Smart, a good writer, and cute as can be. And a nurse. Yikes, Gina, come to think of it, you’re like the Energizer bunny only not annoying. =0)
    Thanks for posting this interview, Chip. And I love, love, love that one of the first things Gina said (and I’ve learned she isn’t afraid to tell the truth) is that she’s seeing more fantasy. Yee Haw.

  • mg

    As expected, a wealth of information Chip & Gina… guess I’ll box up my diva stilletos if that’s what it takes.

  • Michael Ehret

    Great info, Gina. I like the descriptor of Gina as the “Mom” of the site. Hey, Mom, can I borrow a $20 until payday? There’s a book I want to buy.
    Chip, loved this. Thanks.

  • http://www.noveljourney.blogspot.com Gina Holmes

    Awww, shucks. Wow, I’ve got nice friends. Thanks everyone and thanks Chip for having me on.

  • Julie

    Loved the interview–such helpful advice for all of us.

  • http://www.janetswritingplanet.blogspot.com Janet Rubin

    Hi Chip! Hi Gina! Novel Journey is as much a part of my day as that first cup of coffee. More than anything, I find such encouragement reading the author interviews. And I’m honored to be a part of it. Gina is amazing. Absolutely.

  • http://www.cjdarlington.com C.J. Darlington

    Great stuff! Loved reading this.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/JessicaDotta/ Jessica Dotta

    Gina for President!!

  • Jim Rubart

    Awesome content, awesome person. Thanks, Gina.

  • erin

    This was so interesting! I’m a huge fan of the literary push Ms. Holmes is talking about (though I don’t know I understood what that word meant until now – gracias!). I’m a sucker for good southern fiction, both classic works (like Katherine Anne Porter, Flannery, Fanny … all those girls with funky names) and contemporary southern writers (like Silas House and Charles Martin). I just shattered my book budget to drop $30 on “One Fell Swoop”. I have something to finish before I can really dig in, but I’m so excited about this book. The writing is gorgeous! Another book that has really peaked my interest I see people mention on this blog is “Deamon”. I read ‘The Oath’ in eighth grade and that book rocked my world. When I read it again as a 25 year old, it had the same effect :) I’m interested in that element of “fantasy” (if it’s classified as that), particularly the wild mysteries about all those things “seen and unseen”.
    This was a fun interview to read. Thanks for featuring this blog. I’d never heard of it before, but I can’t wait to catch up on it at work while I’m supposed to look like I’m working. :)

  • http://blog.myspace.com/hillbillybible Stevie Rey

    “Blogging is the hottest thing around”! Boy, ain’t it! I reckon I’m fixin’ to use it as a marketin’ tool myownself, Chip!
    Stevie

  • http://www.tinaannforkner.blogspot.com Tina

    Great stuff, Gina.

  • http://thekoalabearwriter.blogspot.com Bonnie

    Great interview – thanks. Great comments and advice, really good insight into the publishing world.

  • http://www.pamhalter.info Pam Halter

    Good interview, great advice. Thank you Gina and Chip!

  • http://www.timothyfish.net/ Timothy Fish

    Blogging is obviously a tool that can work well for marketing, but some people use it very ineffectively. This blog is an example of how blogging should be done because the people visiting the site are many of the people are in Chip’s target audience. Unfortunately, many of the author blogs that I visit are reaching the very same people. Authors are readers too, but there may be a major portion of the potential readers that are being missed. This is especially true for novelists.
    With non-fiction, the title of the book can be a common search phrase used by people looking for the information that is in the book, such as I did with Church Website Design. A person who types the title in to Google is predisposed to buying a book on the subject. If they find a site that has articles about the topic and is promoting a book about about the topic, they are much more likely to see a need for the book than if they are looking for information about parenting.
    Ideally, an author blog or website should focus on topics that interest people who might be interested in the book. With fiction this is extremely difficult. For my little experiment in fiction I chose a title that described the content, “Searching for Mom,” but few people who will type that phrase are looking for the information in the book. I have noticed some books that have even worse titles in terms of being found online. “Deception,” “Summer,” “Forever,” are among some of the most popular books with titles that are not well suited for the Internet. No matter how many times these titles show up in a blog post, the book is unlikely to show up in the Google search results. Novelists do not know what their potential readers are typing into Google and we have no way of guessing. We might say, “if you like X then you will like Y” and there is some benefit to talking about similar authors on a blog if the information is unique, but people are not likely to buy one author’s book if they are looking for the other author. The thing I ask myself nearly everyday is “What interests a reader who wants to read about a girl who searches for a mother on the Internet?” I always come up blank, as I think most novelists do and the result is that most of the traffic to my website is looking for information about designing a website or information that is unrelated to anything that I am selling.

  • http://www.noveljourney.blogspot.com Gina

    The interesting thing about my site is that something like half of our readership gets to us through the google searches you mention. (Tip: make sure in your interview you’re using key words that would bring the people searching for what you have to your post.)
    So while there’s a lot of blog incest going on (for lack of a better word), not all of Chip’s readers know about me, not all of my readers know about him and like I said, fifty percent or so of our daily readers might be one time visitors that just happened upon us. Site meters are invaluable for deciphering how people are finding you. It’s information you need to be effectively marketing. Great insight, Timothy.

  • http://www.gumboya-ya.blogspot.com Jennifer L. Griffith

    I pass by Novel Journey almost every day! Thanks ladies for making it happen and keeping it happening!
    Blessing for the journey!

  • http://www.annettesmithbooks.com Annette Smith

    Great interview! Novel Journey is the best. I’m forever greatful for the above-and-beyond support my novel received from Gina and company. I mean …come on… they went out and created an award for A Bigger Life. I still can’t believe such selflish generousity.

  • http://www.susanmeissner.com Susan Meissner

    Great interview, Chip and Gina. So glad to hear the NJ community is getting more and more interested in literary writers like lovely Lisa and Charles Martin. That excites me. . .:)
    Sooz

  • http://www.mommycomelately.com Beth K. Vogt

    With all those author/book recommendations, my To Be Read (TBR)pile is going to rival Pikes Peak! Thanks for another good blog post, Chip!

  • http://www.juliesjoyfuljourney.blogspot.com Julie

    Many thanks for this interview, Chip.
    Gina, your insight is greatly appreciated and an eye opener in more than one way. I have to say it saddens me that you essentially have to instruct writers to “Be Nice!” Good grief.
    Though I’m not familiar with your blog, I will certainly make it a regular stop. Thanks for sharing with us.

  • http://www.christianlovestories.blogspot.com Kristy Dykes

    (Sorry for being late with my comment.) Novel Journey is the first place I go to every morning. I applaud Gina and the staff. Fabulous stuff! Can’t say enough good about it.
    Kristy Dykes

  • http://www.GODHEADPRODUCTIONS.com R. C. Beckom

    this article really helps me to understand the many types of ways there is to promote my book, I find that my biggest situation is to find ways to get my book into major distrubution into major bookstores and into the eyes of the public, being that I self-published it, I find myself wearing many hats to get this to work,any tips that I can find to help me put it on the right track, I’m very graftful, thank you for being there in my time of need . I will keep reading all you post.