Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Publishing University 2013

Friday and Saturday I attended Publishing University, a day and a half workshop sponsored by the Independent Book Publishers Association, which was held in Chicago. I previously attended Pub U in 2010 as a scholarship recipient. On that occasion it took place in New York. Since Chicago is an easy drive from St. Louis as well as a more economical city in general compared to New York, I decided to attend this year. Another woman from the St. Louis Publishers Association and I drove over together and shared a room. Additionally there were two other members of our organization who were there as well.

Guy Kawasaki
The opening speaker on Friday was Guy Kawasaki, former evangelist for Apple computers as well as a published author. His new book Ape (subtitled Author Publisher Entrepreneur) was released recently, so he shared his experiences in getting it ready to go to the printer. He had hundreds of beta readers go through the book before turning it over to a couple of trusted reviewers. Then he gave it to an editor. She came back with over 1,400 errors! As they say, you can never have too many eyes looking at your book. He joked that the name of his book can be a noun or a verb. "I aped my book!" He was very entertaining as well as full of helpful suggestions, so that certainly started the conference off on a good note.

Publishing University vendors
Up next was a general session on publishing trends and best practices, followed by one on eBook sales and their buyers. The last general session was Inventory on Demand, and the public's expectation to buy it and get it now. Your book needs to be listed In Stock and available for shipment, or you will lose the sale. I followed those up with a breakout session on meta data that was over my head, but then attended one on secrets to selling more books on Amazon. That speaker was awesome, and offered up solid numbers on book pricing and return on investment. The day wrapped up with a reception in the exhibit hall.

Dan Poynter
Saturday began bright and early with a book promotion session with Dan Poynter at 7:00 a.m. I was thrilled to meet Dan back in 2010 at Publishing University. His book on self-publishing got me through the process of setting up my publishing company and producing my books. I refer to Dan as my book's birthing coach. My favorite quote from Dan this year was, "I never said promoting your books would be easy. I just said it would be worth it." Dan was followed by an eBook production and distribution panel, and we learned that eBooks account for 30% of book sales today. Online retailers want to carry every book that is available, so the problem is no longer one of distribution but rather one of discoverability. Amen to that!

My first breakout session was on marketing strategies for finding new readers, and I didn't pick up too much there. Next I went to one on promoting your books to online communities. Key takeaway is that the average Facebook user has 133 friends, so use your friends to get them to spread the word about your books to their friends. Following the luncheon I listened to marketing strategies for reaching a niche market. Find out what the reader's problem is and tell them how you can solve it. For the last session of the day I went to the panel discussion on tips from authors who are with small publishers but have large sales. It was an inspirational hour and fifteen minutes. And who doesn't love a cowboy writing historical western romance novels?

Reid Lance Rosenthal
We were on the road back home by 5:00, making for a very long day. I met some very interesting people, learned a lot of new tips, and feel re-energized about my company and my writing. A winner all the way around.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Centennials and Documentation

Shrewsbury Centennial Celebration
A neighboring community is celebrating its centennial this year, and a number of events are scheduled to illustrate the town's history. It happens to be the community where I am researching the history of a couple of houses, and thus the life and times of John Murdock upon whose farm the initial village was platted in 1889. On Sunday they offered a trolley tour, taking you by thirteen houses and explaining what history was known about each house. The last stop of the trolley was Kenrick Seminary, where a few of the students offered tours of the buildings which have just undergone a $63 million renovation. I have never been on the campus, so it was a real treat to be able to view the buildings and grounds.

Kenrick Seminary Chapel

Kenrick Seminary
We walked back to the community center from Kenrick, where the local jazz band was playing and refreshments were being served. But most importantly for me, numerous photographs and other memorabilia were on display. There was a voter list from 1925 and a directory of residents from 1926. I also learned that the historical society has some other old street directories that will assist house researchers. They meet twice a month, and I am going to try to go to the first meeting in May so that I can get a better feel for what they have in storage.

Some of the items shown on their display boards conflict with information that I have gathered about John Murdock and the original sale of the land. I am hoping to be able to see where their data came from and compare notes with the archivist for the society. If I decide to go ahead with a book about John Murdock, I want to be sure that my story is accurate.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

More on Elsie Metz

Elsie Metz 1902
Continuing with my research on Elsie Metz, I turned to Google Books as a resource. It is amazing what you can find on this site. It has a search bar just like google.com, but it looks for your search terms within the context of books and magazines. I have suggested to house researchers that they enter their address, street and town to see what results they might find. But the same approach works for genealogy as well. When I searched for Elsie I was able to find references to her in a number of publications, including the yearbooks from the University of Cincinnati. If the scanned images are in the public domain, you can download them onto your computer. If they are not in the public domain, you can still do a screen capture to save the information to your computer. This photograph is Elsie's senior picture at the University of Cincinnati in 1902.

As I looked at each of the four yearbooks in which she appeared, I was struck by the fact that while there were 141 students in her freshman class, only 48 graduated in 1902. I guess the drop out rate for college students was high even in the early 1900's! But the bigger surprise to me was that 26 of the graduates were female - over half the graduating class! In the year 1900 only 2.8% of the female population went to college, and women obtained 19% of all undergraduate degrees in the United States. So what made this graduating class different? It would be interesting to know, but I am not sure I will have the time to seek out the answers to that question.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Story of Elsie Metz

In a previous post I mentioned that my cousin had come into possession of a 1912 travel journal that belonged to Elsie Metz. Elsie is my second cousin, twice removed for those who are interested in the connection. Since scanning the journal, which covers a cruise she took from January 30, 1912 through May 20, 1912, I have been doing a bit of research on Elsie. Today I was excited to find a photo of Elsie from a 1953 trip she took to Rio de Janiero, Brazil. She would have been 73, though I can't say for certain that the photo used on the passport was taken that year. It was a thrill for me to finally put a face on the woman who has begun to truly fascinate me. The document also included her signature, which is a find as well.

Elsie Lauretta Metz
Elsie was born in Cincinnati, Ohio to John and Isabella (Drescher) Metz in 1880. She had an older brother Daniel who was born in 1873. Neither she nor Daniel ever married, and they lived with their mother and father. When the parents passed away, Daniel and Elsie stayed in the family home on Melrose Avenue. Elsie went on to get not only a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Cincinnati in 1902, but also became a Teaching Fellow in Modern Languages there in 1903. She received a Master's of Arts degree in 1913. It was fairly unusual for a woman to obtain a college degree in the early 1900s, particularly from a university that was not exclusively for women. You can see why I am captivated by this woman.

In 1912 she began to travel, or at least that is the earliest I know that she traveled due to the existence of the journal. It makes me wonder if the cruise she took in 1912 was part of her thesis for her master's degree? Additionally I have found records of her traveling by ship in 1914 (she requested an emergency passport to return home from Berlin, Germany on August 5, 1915 - WWI began in 1914), in 1921 from Hamilton, Bermuda to New York, in 1925 from Plymouth to New York, in 1930 from Boulogne, France to New York and in 1953 from Rio de Janiero to New York. I want to do a little research on the ships she traveled on to see if I can determine what the itinerary might have been.

Another thing I am curious about is where did the money come from? Her father died in 1921 and I do not yet know what he did for a living. Elsie herself may have continued teaching, so I need to check that out. Her travels always took place during what would be the school year however. I have quite a bit of research to do, complicated as usual by the fact that many of the records are in Cincinnati while I am in St. Louis. Time for another road trip!