How Much Does it Cost to Publish a Book?

Derek Murphy did a good job of addressing this as You Tube. I’m putting his video in this post so you can watch it if you want.

I have a lot of respect and admiration for Derek. I’ve never met him, but he has a lot of good advice and better yet, he’s a likable person. There might be something he says that will resonate better with you than what I have to say. Also, if anyone has any tips that neither of us thought of, feel free to share in the comments below.

Okay, so here’s my two cents on how much it costs to publish a book.

In a nutshell, it doesn’t have to cost much at all, especially if you’re willing to do the work yourself. I’ve done my own covers, formatting, bartered for edits, gotten beta readers’ input, done my own book description, and uploaded the book myself in the past. I’ve also hired out for covers, formatting, editing, and book description. In the beginning, I did more stuff myself because back in 2008-2009, very few people were offering any services in self-publishing. From 2002-2008, I was using vanity presses, and those got expensive and sold very few books. I would not recommend using a vanity press under any circumstance.

I completely agree with Derek when he says you want to make more than you spend. That’s the goal. I’m not even talking about making a living at writing. I’m talking about earning more money than you spend in publishing. So if you aren’t selling much, I would do as much on my own as possible. Since I’m losing income, I’ve gone back to doing more myself.

Let me break down my expenses on one book if I did most of the stuff myself.

Covers

I have a program called GIMP that I make covers in. It takes time to learn it. Once you get the hang out of it, it’s a slick and easy program. You Tube tutorials are great for this. Plus Joleene Naylor made these this post on it, and she made a post on Six Facebook Cover Creators,. GIMP was free when I got it way back in the day. I think it still is. Thanks to Joleene for telling me about it!

So then I buy a stock photo or two off of a site like Dreamstime.com or Shutterstock.com. There are others, but I use these the most. Make sure you do “royalty free” photos. Usually, the cost is about $15-$20 for me. I like to use two images (one for upfront and one in the background), but I have done one photo.

Sometimes finding good time period images for romance novels that is hard on the sites I listed above. They’re getting better, though. But I will go to Period Images or Hot Damn Stock. (Those are my personal favorites.) These images are usually between $20-$75, depending on what you get.

So total cost is about $90, and that’s on the high end.

Formatting

I can format ebooks and paperbacks myself, so it’s $0.

I made a pdf document years ago on how to format a paperback. Here’s how to format for CreateSpace. It’ll work for KDP paperback, too. 

There are word programs that will make the ebook format for you, too, but I’ve never used them so I’m not going to recommend any. I use the Word program that is compatible with Mac. I have a blog post with a detailed step-by-step process on how I format my ebooks.

Editing

If you barter services, this can be $0.

Find someone who is really good at proofreading if you want a quick proofread. If you want something where a person looks at the overall book (pacing, characterization, etc), then pick someone who is an avid reader in your genre and ask them to read it. But give these people something in return for their time. Maybe you can offer to do their cover or format their book. An avid reader might love having a signed paperback version of the book when it’s published. Get creative.

Book Description 

This can be $0.

Not sure how to make a good book description? This can be very difficult. I struggle with this area the most. Here’s a You Tube video via The Creative Penn and Bryan Cohen on this topic.

You can also get feedback on your book description from your beta readers, other writers, family/friends. But in my opinion, the very best person to know if your description hooks your ideal audience is to pitch the book description to an avid reader of your genre.

Publishing the Book

I do this myself so it’s $0.

If you follow the instructions on KDP Amazon, Nook Press (Barnes & Noble), Kobo, iBooks (Apple), Smashwords, or Draft 2 Digital, you should be fine. It’s easy to do. I like to upload to KDP Amazon and Smashwords. I let Smashwords distribute to the other channels for me. (When I do the post on formatting an ebook, I’ll do it according to Smashwords’ guidelines. After battling with that format for years, I finally figured out he easy way to get everything approved for premium distribution on the first try.)

Total cost when I do everything myself and/or barter services for editing is $90.

So for under $100, you can publish a book. (I recommend having someone proof your book, but it doesn’t have to cost anything if you offer them a proof in return, do their cover, etc.) Like I said, get creative.

But let’s say you don’t want to do everything yourself or barter services. Then how much are we looking at?

I’m going to go on the high end in this example.

Covers

You might want to buy the images yourself so you own them, but you can get a good cover artist for an ebook can range from anywhere from $95-$300. This may or may not include the paperback. That’s what I usually pay. For the sake of this discussion, let’s say I pay $300 for a ebook and paperback cover combo, and we’ll add the cover artist bought the stock photos to use on the cover.

You can find pre-made covers here. I found two very awesome cover artists through this site. One is Yellow Prelude Design. The other is Love Books Daily. Also, we have a list of cover artists and other services on this blog post.

Formatting

This can cost anywhere from $50-$300 depending on who you get. For the sake of discussion let’s say $200 for paperback and ebook.

Editing

This varies, too. I don’t personally recommend a developmental editor. I think an avid reader (aka beta reader) in your genre is the best person to say whether or not your book is going to “wow” our target audience, but I know people who’ll argue with me. So take my input with a grain of salt.

I do, however, highly recommend a proofreader. That will vary depending on how long your book is. I’d say budget anywhere about $100-$500 for this. This will also depend on how much work the proofreader needs to do. The cleaner your manuscript, the cheaper it should be. If the proofreader ends up

I go with Lauralynn Elliott for this, and she know the grammar rules very well, and she’s good with picking out typos.  Plus, she’s super nice. I also have her do my paperback formatting for me, so I pay more than you see on her rates.

For the sake of this discussion, let’s say this costs $300 for a 60,000 word book.

Book Description

I have used Bryan Cohen’s service for this in the past, and he does a wonderful job. His prices range from $297 for about a month to $479 for 2 weeks. These prices are current as of June 13, 2018.

Publishing Book

I always do this myself, and it’s really not that difficult, so I’m still going to say this is $0.

The total then comes to about $1000-$1500. So if you go all out and get “the works”, that’s what you might be looking at in expenses. Some people pay more than that, but, personally, I don’t see the need to pay more than $1500.

I just thought of author assitants. I don’t have one, but I hear a good one can cost anywhere from $15-$25 an hour. So I suppose that’s another expense you could factor in if you hired an assistant to help you publish a book. If you had an assistant do all of this for you, including uploading, I have no idea how much that would be. It depends on how many hours the assitant needs to get everything done.

***

This doesn’t factor into any marketing expenses that happen after the book is out. It also doesn’t factor in taxes you might owe on the money you make from selling your books. My advice (for what it’s worth) is to do as much yourself as possible or to barter as much as possible if you’re struggling to get sales. If you make enough money to cover your expenses and have a nice profit, then outsourcing these things to get a book ready for publication makes sense since it’ll free you up to write more. You’ll have to take a look at your own income and expenses and figure out what works best for you.

 

Creating an Ebook File From Your Word Program That Even Smashwords Can Love

I format my own ebooks using Word on my Apple computer. I’ve been publishing with Smashwords since 2009, and yes, I’ve been through the aggravation of getting rejected for their premium distribution. So today, I thought I’d share a post on how I manage to format an ebook that passes through the process. This format will also work on Amazon. I upload to Amazon and Smashwords. I let Smashwords distribute to all of the other retailers for me. So I don’t personally make an epub file, but Smashwords will make one for you, which you can download and use if you want to upload it to Kobo, Barnes & Noble, or Apple yourself.

This post is intended for people who are new to ebook formatting and want to format using their Word program.

1. Before you start to format, mark down all of your words or phrases that are italicized, bold, or underlined. I like to do all of this during the editing stages.

I like to copy a paragraph that contains any words that are in italics, bold, or underlined. Then I paste all of those paragraphs into another document. I print this document out. I then highlight those words that are italicized, in bold, or underlined. In this way, I save on paperback by not printing the entire book out. You can also save the document on your computer and refer to it later when it’s time to format your ebook.

2. Nuke the entire book.

For those who don’t know what “nuke” means, it basically removes all the formatting from your document. If you’re using a Windows computer, you’ll do this in Notepad. If you’re an Apple user, you’ll use TextEdit. Open this program up. (If using TextEdit, you’ll need to open a New Document.)

New Document

Why nuke the book?

I used to bypass this option, but whenever I did, there would spots where the formatting got unclean in certain places. For example, most of the book would have no spaces between paragraphs, and suddenly, there would be a space between a paragraph. Sometimes, all of my paragraphs had spaces between them, even though I had removed spacing between paragraphs in the document. (This was most often the case.) So I learned it’s just best to nuke the document right at the beginning.

3. Copy and paste the entire document into TextEdit or Notepad.

This is how it should look if you’re in TextEdit. (I’m sure it’ll be similar in Notepad. It’s been years since I used a Windows computer, but the process is similar.)

after copy and paste

4. Remove the formatting.

Step 1 on the Apple: In TextEdit, go to Edit. Select All. This should highlight your entire document.

highlight entire text

Step 2 on Apple: Choose Format. Then choose Make Plain Text.

make plain text 2

Click OK.

This is what you should get:

after stripping formatting

If you’re using Notepad….

It should automatically strip your formatting for you. This is what happened when I tested it on my Dell computer just now. I don’t have a screenshot since I’m doing this post on my Apple computer, but when I copied and pasted the document from Word into Notepad, all of the formatting was stripped right away.

Since I no longer use a Windows computer, if I missed something important, please let me know. I had to dust off old computer to get into Notepad to see what I had to do, and this is the process that worked for me. Newer Windows computers might be different.

 

5. Put the unformatted text back into Word.

Copy and paste the entire text into a NEW word document. This is what it should look like. All of the page breaks, different font sizes, different font types, any bolding, and italics have been removed. Also, nothing is centered anymore.

post unformatting

6. Before doing anything else, save this as a Word.doc (which is the 2004 version).

The last time I checked, Smashwords still only takes Word 2004 files. They might have changed things since then, but this will still work. Amazon takes it, too, though think they accept newer Word documents.

7. First things first, removed the tab indents if you have them.

Some people have it set up to automatically indent the first line of every paragraph. I’m old school, so I still use the tab to indent the first sentence in the paragraph. If you’re like me, this is what you do:

Go to Edit. Select All.

Then Find And Replace.

removing tabs

In the Find option, put ^t.

Leave the Replace option blank.

All of your tabs should highlight.

highlighted tabs

Click Replace All.

And you should get this:

tabs all gone

8. Indent the first line of each paragraph.

Select the entire document again. Then go to the ruler at the top of the document. There’s an hourglass. When you put your cursor over it, it should say “First Line Indent”. You might need to click on the image below, you’ll see “First Line Indent” in the yellow rectangular box.

first line indent

Move the top portion of the hourglass over as far as you want to indent the first line of each paragraph. Notice the black line that is going straight down the page? That is where I choose to make my indents.

making the indent

Release the hourglass, and the black line will go away.

9. Next go to the front of the document and center everything in the title page.

Basically, click on the beginning of the text and “un-indent” everything on the title page. Match up the top of the hourglass with the bottom part. Then center it so it looks like this:

title center

Set your page break to separate this from your copyright page. In case you don’t know how to do a page break, go to the top of the toolbar. Choose Insert. Then Break. Then Page Break.

page break

10. Look through your copyright page to see if it’s the way you want it to look.

You no longer have to use a Smashwords copyright notice. You can put in whatever copyright information you want.

Here’s an example of what I use:

This is a work of fiction. The events and characters described herein are imaginary and are not intended to refer to specific places or living persons. The opinions expressed in this manuscript are solely the opinions of the author and also represent the opinions or thoughts of the publisher.

TITLE OF YOUR BOOK

All Rights Reserved.

Copyright 2018 YOUR NAME

Book Cover Design by: GIVE CREDIT TO WHOEVER DID YOUR COVER.

IF YOU DID YOUR OWN COVER, MENTION THE SITE YOU BOUGHT THE STOCK PHOTOS FROM, SUCH AS DREAMSTIME OR SHUTTERSTOCK, ETC. THAT MIGHT LOOK LIKE “Cover Photo images Dreamstime.com and iStockphoto.com. All rights reserved – used with permission.”

This book may not be reproduced, transmitted, or stored in whole or in part by any means including graphic, electronic, or mechanical without expressed written consent of the publisher/author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

YOU CAN ADD YOUR WEBSITE IF YOU WISH

If you want to use a Smashwords copyright for your Smashwords version, here’s a sample of what I use:

TITLE OF YOUR BOOK – Smashwords Edition

Published by YOUR NAME at Smashwords

Copyright © 2018 by YOUR NAME

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

Smashwords Edition, License Notes: This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then you should return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

GIVE CREDIT TO THE COVER ARTIST OR TELL WHERE YOU PURCHASED YOUR STOCK PHOTOS.

YOU CAN ADD YOUR WEBSITE IF YOU WISH.

11. Then put in the Table of Contents (using Apple’s Word program). 

Joleene Naylor did a post on doing one in Windows’ Word program.

“Do I really need one?” you might ask. I’ve been dinged from Amazon AND Smashwords for not having one. So I strongly encourage you to put one in. Some authors do this at the end of the book. I do mine in the front.

Put in a page break after the copyright page. 

Now to get to the Table of Contents. 

First, type all of the links you’re going to make. Start with “Table of Contents”, then move down to all the chapters, then add links to any back matter you want to add. Here’s an example:

toc start

You’ll notice that my Table of Contents isn’t centered. Right now, it’s indented. Move the top of the hourglass to “un-indent” the Table of Contents. You can do this quickly by highlighting the entire Table of Contents like this:

toc highlight

Now move the top portion of the hourglass over to the left so it matches up with the bottom half.

toc unindent

Now center the Table of Contents.

toc center

Now, put your mouse’s cursor at the beginning of “Table of Contents”. Go to Insert. Then Bookmark.

toc bookmark3

After you click Bookmark, you’ll get a pop up box. I put in TOC in the box. Then I click “Add” at the bottom of the box.

toc add bookmark2

 

Now to hyperlink this bookmark. Highlight “Table of Contents”. Go to Insert. Hyperlink.

hyperlinks

Now toward the center are three options: Web Page, Document, E-Mail Address. You want to pick Document.

document

Then move your mouse further down to Anchor. To the right, is the option “Locate”. Click that button. This box will pop up:

hyperlink box

Choose Bookmarks. Select TOC. Then click OK.

hyperlink Bookmark

This is what you should get:

link to hyperlink

Click OK. And you’ll get this:

toc link done

Now you know the process of creating a bookmark and a hyperlink. If you put your mouse over “Table of Contents”, you’ll see “TOC” pop up in a yellow box. That means you did it right.

I won’t go through this whole process again in this post. But I will highlight what to do with chapter one so you know how to link up everything in this list under the Table of Contents.

12. Time to do the chapters.

After you do a page break, to to Chapter One.

Un-indent “Chapter One”. Center it. Then make a bookmark. I put “C1” in the box for Chapter One, but you can name it whatever you want. We will hyperlink this later.

c1

13. Un-indenting and centering stuff you want to in the chapters.

You will notice I have a ~~~ after my author note. I will un-indent it and then center it. I will also un-indent “October 1819”, but I won’t center it. You can un-indent the first paragraph of your text that starts each chapter if you want.

When you have a division between scenes like a ***, you can un-ident this and then center it. Since I already discussed how to un-indent and center something, I won’t repeat myself.

14. Make page breaks between every chapter. 

15. Make sure each chapter has a Bookmark inserted so you can hyperlink to it later.

16. Make sure you are mindful of your scene breaks during this whole thing. Un-indent and center each scene break that happens within the chapter.

17. At the end of your book, you will have some kind of back matter.

In this blog post example, the first thing to show up after the chapters is “Next Book In This Series”. If you don’t have a series, then I suggest putting in a book you have that is similar to this one. If this is your first book, then I suggest mentioning the next book you’ll have out.

Be sure to set a Bookmark for everything that starts a new page in the back matter. I make a new page for the next book in my series (which I try to have on pre-order), my email list sign up and where people can find me, a list of all of my books, and my author bio (if I add one).

18. Hyperlinking to a website outside of the book.

Before we finish the Table of Contents, I’m going to show you how to do a link to other sites, like your website. The procedure is the same to any website outside the document that you want to link to, so I’m only going to show the process once.

In this example, we’ll say you want to link to your blog. Highlight the text you want to link. Then go to the toolbar. Choose Insert. Choose Hyperlink. Instead of Document, choose Web Page.

blog link2

Open a new tab or window on the Internet. Type in the exact website url in the “Link to:” box. So watch for the https:// at the beginning of the url, and type in the https:// and what follows. Then click OK.

blog link3

Afterward, the blog will be linked up. Click on it to make sure it works. This is tricky. If it doesn’t, type the website (exactly as it shows up on the url) again and test it again. I usually do this more than once, so don’t feel bad if you don’t get this right away.

19. Now finish up the Table of Contents

Remember all of those Bookmarks you made at the beginning of each chapter and each new page, like the Next Book In Series, Email Sign Up, and so on? Now it’s time to hyperlink to them in the Table of Contents. We’ll start with Chapter 1. Highlight it.

toc ch 1

Go to Insert. Hyperlink. Make sure you click on “Document” in the middle of the box that pops up. We’re done hyperlinking to another website. We are now going to hyperlink to stuff within the actual book.

ch 1 hyperlink

Go down the “Anchor” that is further down in the box. Click on “Locate”. Another box pops up, and it should look like this:

box pop up

 

Click on the arrow that is by the word “Bookmarks”. You should see all of the Bookmarks you made in the document. You’ll notice they are in alphabetical order.

toc bookmarks box

My Chapter One is C1 as a bookmark. So I choose that for Chapter One. Whatever you named the bookmark for your first chapter is that you should pick. Then click OK. You should get something that looks like this:

almost done ch 1 link

Notice what is in the “Link To” box at the top. Also note what is in the “Anchor” box. If this looks right, then click OK. And this is what you’ll see next.

c1 linked up

Go through the rest of the Table of Contents to hyperlink the rest of it.

20. Now go back and italicize, put in bold, or underline your words and phrases.

Remember when I said mark down all of your italics while you edit your book? This is why. If you use any italics, or even if you bold anything, this is the stage where you put those back in.

This is also a good time to change any fonts or font sizes that you want. I keep my stuff simple. When it comes to Smashwords, I learned the simpler, the better. But you can play around with different fonts and sizes.

21. If you want to put an image into your document, this is what you can do.

In this example, let’s say you want to add the book cover for the next book in your series. Go the page. Leave about three spaces between something like “Don’t Miss the Next Book In This Series!” and the book description. So the page will look something like this:

next book

Notice my cursor is right under “Don’t Miss the Next Book In This Series!” I left one space above it and one below it. This will make sure your cover isn’t right up against the text.

Now go to Insert. Choose Photo. Choose Picture From File…

pick picture

Pick the image you want to insert.  Now, don’t panic when you see how big the picture is. You can resize it. When I inserted mine, this is how large it was:

huge pic

If you click on the picture, a box goes around it. Go to the top right corner of the image, hold down the button of the mouse, and move the cursor to the center. This will make it smaller. Adjust the size until you’re happy with it.

Like this is mine when all is said and done:

done with pic

Yo don’t want to make them too big because the ebook will most likely be read on a eReader. In a paperback, I would make the picture larger.

*************

Was there something I missed? Was there something I did that might confuse someone and you’d like to offer them an easier way of doing it? I tried to be thorough, but I probably missed something along the way.

Feel free to chime in. I’m not the most tech savvy person on the planet. I get by okay, and my ebooks look clean when I upload them, but I’m sure there are better ways to do this.

To those following the instructions to format your ebook: be sure to check the comments below. Someone might be able to offer you a better way of doing something than I did.

The Continued Tale of Trademarking A Commonly Used Word

I struggled with how to title this post. When I first heard about this whole trademark on the word “Cocky” thing, I was shocked. I didn’t know what to say. Then, after a few days, I grew worried over what this will mean for the future of being a writer because this kind of thing of trademarking commonly used words stifles creativity. Over the past couple of weeks, I became aware of other words that were in the process of being trademarked, and I just shook my head in disbelief this was even happening. Then I found out about someone trying to trademark the word “Forever” yesterday, and that’s when something snapped inside of me. I also heard something about “shifter world” being possibly trademarked, but I didn’t see too much about that. (As a side note, it looks like the author isn’t going to go through with trademarking “Forever” so that’s good.)

But anyway, now I’m mad. It’s taken some time for me to soak in the ramifications of what this whole #cockygate thing really means. It’s not just about the word “Cocky”. It’s not just about Falenna Hopkins. I had no idea who Falenna Hopkins even was until I found out she had trademarked the word “Cocky” and was threatening authors with C&D letters to change their titles just because she doesn’t want other authors to use that word in the title of their books.  Kevin Kneupper sent in a petition to cancel the trademark on the word “Cocky”, so I thought this was all going to go away.

Then this morning, I wake up to the news that Faleena Hopkins (and her company) has gone to a lawyer to take legal action against Kevin Kneupper, Tara Crescent, and Jennifer Watson. Now, I have no legal background at all. I don’t know what a Temporary Restraining Order against Kevin’s Petition of Cancellation means. I also don’t know what this means for Kevin, Tara, or Jennifer.

In my gut, I don’t see how Faleena is going to win this in court. It might be dragged through the courts for a long time. It might get expensive. From what I’ve seen so far, it doesn’t look like she intends to quit. But I don’t think she can prove that she has the sole right to trademark that single word. Again, I don’t have a legal background. All I’m using is common sense. And common sense tells me that this is just crazy.

The reason I’m upset is because this should never have gotten this far to begin with. I can’t imagine why any author would think they can have ownership of a single word that has been used for a long time in the English language. Then this author threatens other authors with C&D letters, and now she’s blown this even further out of the water with legal action. It boggles my mind that this is even happening.

The reason we need to care is because innocent authors are being hurt by this. I have noticed that Faleena hasn’t targeted the big name authors who might have deep pockets to fight back. I love this particular video that Suzan Tisdale, so let me share it with you really quick:

I almost forgot about Faleena going after the Cocktales Anthology. I don’t know enough about how she’s going after the anthology to talk about that particular situation, but here’s a link for more information on the anthology itself. I watched the video at the bottom of the post that I just linked to, and I agree that this issue is much bigger than the trademark of one word. It is about one author preying on others. If we sit by and let one author silence the rest of us, then our creative expression is in danger.

That’s why I’m making this post. I’m not shocked anymore. I’m not even worried about it anymore. At this point, I’m mad. Sometimes you have to say, “No, this is not appropriate. This isn’t right.” One author should not take one word that is commonly used and forbid others to use it. That is bullying behavior. It’s wrong.

One thing we have going for us in the indie author community is that we understand how precious words are. We use them to touch the lives of our readers. We are blessed by them as we write them. I can think of no other activity I’ve ever done that has fulfilled me as much as writing has, and I think most writers would agree with me. We write because we love it. And I think freedom to write what we want and title our books however we want are extremely important. It’s very encouraging to see how authors are coming together right now. This isn’t just about a single word. It’s really about creative expression. No one should have the right to squash it.

If you would like to buy the Cocktales Anthology, here’s the link for more information about it.  *ALL* net profits will be donated to: 1) Authors already impacted by creative-obstruction (10%), and 2) Romance Writers of America (RWA) (90%) as a general donation intended for their Advocacy Fund. (Disclaimer: This anthology is not being conducted on behalf of RWA, nor does RWA endorse this anthology or effort. They have, however, graciously agreed to accept the funds.)

Only You Can Write Your Story

only you can tell your story blog post image
ID 110705309 © Ivelinr | Dreamstime.com

I was listening to a song that was sung by someone other than the original artist, and I went through my music library because I wanted to hear the song sung by the original artist. Why? Because there was a certain “edge” in the way the original artist sang the song that the other person couldn’t get right. It’s the same song, but the artist brought their own style to it that makes me like the song a lot more.

Then I started thinking of how important our writing voice is. Writers, just like musicians, have their own style that they bring to the story that no other writer can do. This is what makes us unique. It makes us different. This is why I think it’s crucial for writers to embrace their creativity. Creativity is what helps writers explore their voice. It’s the natural flow of the story. It’s all in “how” things are worded. The “how” is key.

This is why I’m not a fan of critique groups. When critique groups come in, they often kill the writer’s voice because they impose their own voice into the story. I know that using critique groups is a safer way to go, but I think it can end up ruining what makes a writer unique.

The reason a certain reader is going to be attracted to your story is because you wrote it. A readers becomes a fan of a certain writer based on how strongly the writer’s voice has connected with the reader. There’s a reason why some readers put you on their “auto-buy” list. You bring something to the table no other writer can. You bring your own way of telling the story. You are using words in a way that no one writer can do.

This is why one person will like a book by one author but hate a book by another author. Sure, there can something to do with the content in the book itself. Some readers, for example, love strong heroines while others prefer them to be softer. That speaks more of the reader than it does the writer. You can’t worry over stuff like that. The reader’s preference is out of our control. If you try to write for every reader out there, you’ll end up with mediocre stories. (I know because I’ve tried this, and looking back, I wish I had done a couple of stories differently.)

Being true to your voice is going to require some risk. You’ll have to go into the story knowing that not everyone in this world will like your book. You won’t even please everyone who likes the genre you’re writing in. But, you will find some people who will fall in love with your stories because of the way you tell the story. They will seek you out. They will want your other books. They will prefer your books over another writer’s because of your voice.

It’s like the singer I was listening to. This singer doesn’t appeal to everyone. My husband, for instance, hates this particular artist because of the way she “sounds”. But I love her because of the way she sounds. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to producing a song any more than there is to producing a book. The more you write, the more you will discover your voice. The more you embrace your voice, the more authentic you’ll be to your ideal reader. So don’t fret over elements out of your control (like “why” someone won’t like your book). Instead of focus on elements you can control, like the way you tell a story. You’re the only one who can tell a story in your style. There will be someone out there who will love it.

The Beauty of Point of View

point of view
ID 101241498 © Pelikanz | Dreamstime.com

The other day, a friend and I were reading the same blog comments left by two people with distinct points of view. One argued in favor of something, and another argued against it. I was surprised when my friend said the people were being a bit mean and condescending. When I read those comments, I didn’t think that at all. To me, it seemed like both were steadfast in their beliefs and presented them in a rather neutral tone.

As I was thinking on how differently she and I interpreted the exact same comments, it occurred to me that she and I are looking at these comments through our own perceptions. We are taking our background, our personalities, and our biases in making a judgment about the “tone” these commenters were using while presenting their case.

And that is what makes people “real”. For all I know, we could both be wrong on our interpretation. The two commenters could be friends and having a fun discussion. Neither she nor I picked out that they were having “fun”, but they might have been. You see, these commenters have their own backgrounds, personalities, and biases, too. Too many times we look at things and think we know exactly what’s going on when in reality, we might be wrong.

That is the beauty of point of view. When we’re writing our stories, point of view is what characters “real”. It makes them come alive. It makes them three-dimensional. They have their own backgrounds, their own personalities, and their own biases. All of that impacts their point of view. It is the lens they will at things that happen to them in the course of the story.

The more I study point of view, the more I’m fascinated by it. Every character has a point of view. No two characters in a story should see things the exact same way. They might agree on something, but it should be for different reasons, even if those reasons only vary slightly.

For example, if both characters don’t like the villain, they agree the villain is a jerk. BUT Character 1 may say the villain is a jerk because the villain stole something from her. Character 2 may say the villain is a jerk because the villain killed her sister. Both characters can have the same focus/goal, which would be to defeat the villain. They’re going at it from different angles (for different reasons). It’s possible the villain could have killed both of their sisters. This would be especially true if Character 1 & 2 are sisters. But even then, there could be a slight variation in perception. Character 1 could be the personality type that is quick to act, and this will affect her point of view. (She’d be the one that would want to jump at the villain right away.) Character 2, however, might be more cautious. (She’d want to make a plan to take down the villain before acting.) That would impact how they both perceive the situation they’re in, and it would lead to some conflict between the sisters while maintaining the conflict these sisters have with the villain.

The example above could be worked out a lot of ways. The characters’ point of view will determine the way the story plays out. That means every writer reading this could take that scenario, and each writer would have a different story. The writer creates the characters, so the writer is bringing his/her own point of view into the story. The writer already has it set on what kind of story this setup will be. It could be a short story, novella, a novel, or even a series. The writer could then break it down according to genre and sub-genre. So even at the writing level, we have the beauty of point of view. But then the writer creates the characters and the world, and from there the characters bring their own points of view to the table. That’s why even with the same set up, no two stories will be alike. There might be some similarities, but they will be distinct because they will all play out differently.

And this is good. It means there are many ways that stories can be told. It allows for creative freedom. Point of view is a wonderful tool at our disposal. Instead of trying to be like another writer, I think we should embrace the writer we already are. We can use our characters to explore new ways of looking at the world that we never even considered. We should allow the characters to be true to themselves instead of telling them who they are. We, as writers, set the initial stage for the stories. The characters are the ones who take the main set up and run to tell the actual tale.

I never know what my characters will say and do until I’m writing in their point of view. I go into the story thinking I know what will happen, but I’m rarely ever right. I’d say 95% of the time, I’m wrong. The characters take the reins, and they end up telling me what they’re going to say and do. All I do is sit back and record everything down as it plays out like a movie in my mind. The best way to do is by getting deep into the character’s point of view. I don’t agree with everything my characters do. I wouldn’t do things the same way some of my characters do it. But I’m writing the characters’ stories, not my own. So I let them lead the way. There are times when I think the characters are taking the entire story off course, but I have learned to trust the process because every single time, they end up making a better story than I would have.

This is a huge reason why I can’t plot ahead of writing a book. When I tried, the characters ripped up my outline, threw it away, and did their own thing. If I forced them to stick to my outline, the story fell apart, and I hit a dead end. Now, I know some writers plot and do it well. I’m not one of them. This post might be primarily for those writers who are pansters. The reason I say this is because I can’t know my characters until I’m writing in their point of view. I can imagine what they’d do all day long, but none of makes any difference until I’m writing.

My way,  obviously, isn’t for everyone, but I thought I’d share it because I was excited to learn something new about point of view I hadn’t really thought about before. But I’m also bringing my own point of view to this topic. Take what you can use and toss the rest out. Only you can write a character’s point of view according to your own unique style.

Writers Shouldn’t Have to Fear the Future

Edited May 9, 2018: Author Kevin Kneupper has a legal background, and he explains the details of this situation which sums things up much better than I ever could.

This post is inspired by a very unfortunate situation that has developed recently in the indie author community. An author took a commonly used word and trademarked it. I won’t go into specifics, but suffice it to say now this author wants other indie authors (as far as I know she’s only gone after indies) to remove this specific word from the titles of their books.

I’m not affected by this because I’ve never used this word in a title of one of my books. However, it does make me concerned about the future of indie publishing. Are we to expect more of this stuff to happen in the future from other authors? Will we wake up one morning to an email sitting in our inbox from the author or Amazon telling us we’re in violation of a trademarked word because we used it in a title?

That scares me. I’ve been doing this since 2009, and I have never come across anything that’s scares me like this, which is why I feel like I need to write a blog post addressing this topic.

A title change Is NOT simple.

This would be a nightmare if someone asked me to change one of my titles, and I only have ebook and paperbacks. So we’ll forget how much authors spend on making audiobook versions for a moment.  Let’s just think about how much other work and money would go into changing a title.

You have to redo the ebook and paperback covers. Then you have to fix the interior files (the actual book itself). You’d have to update the title page, the copyright page, and any headers with the title in it. Then (this is where it really gets time consuming and scary), you’d have to change the back matter in all of your other books, including the one you just changed the title on.

I currently have sixty-nine romances published. Some will have the book with the title I need to change in the back matter. I’d have to search through them to find out where they are, change them all, and republish them. While D2D updates back matter for you, Amazon and Smashwords don’t. I don’t know if Kobo, iBooks, or Barnes & Noble do since I rely on Smashwords to go wide.

Then you have to update your blog and/or your website to reflect this change. You’d also have to update all of your swag material such as bookmarks and pens. Then, as if that isn’t enough, you’ll have explain to anyone who asks you, what happened and why the title is now different.

This is time consuming and can get expensive.

Also, since I have registered my copyright to all of my books with the US Copyright Office, what happens to the copyright?  Will that copyright still hold up? I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t know.

I’m just a writer who publishes my own books. I don’t have a lot of money. In fact, I’m losing money overall. I could seek out an IP lawyer and get a consultation, but how would things shake out? Is this a slam dunk win for me since I never set out to copy another author by taking a commonly used word and putting it into my title? Or would this result in tons of money being spent in court–money I don’t have in order to prove my innocence?

Do you see why this kind of thing could be a nightmare for authors if this becomes a trend? Every single author could be vulnerable. That’s why I’m addressing it.

The nature of indie publishing

I’ve been publishing on Amazon and Smashwords since 2009. And I’ve noticed some things along the way.

Similar (or even the same) titles get used a lot. Stock photo images from places like Dreamstime.com and Shutterstock.com get used a lot. Same/similar character names get used a lot. Certain fonts get used a lot. Plot ideas (such as a hero and heroine who are forced into marriage or “the beauty and the beast” scenario) get used a lot. Aliens attacking earth, a hero going on some kind of quest in a fantasy, or vampires falling in love with mortal women get used a lot. These types of things are broad. There’s lots of room to move within these basic plot ideas. The authors then take the basic premise and spins a unique story from it. As long as the story is spun in their own way, everything is fine.

Now, here’s when red flags should be going up. If someone plagiarizes your book or if someone outright steals it, then yes, you have a problem. If someone takes your exact cover and uses EVERYTHING in it the EXACT same way you did, yes, that would be problematic. If someone uses your actual series name word for word, you have a problem. If someone uses all of your characters’ names (the first and last) in their books, you might have a problem. (I would be super worried if the other author took multiple characters that were in one of my books. Just one or two with the same first name would not bother me.) If someone takes your author name and uses it as their own author name, you could have a problem. (You have to really look into this one.) You’d have to see if this person’s name is legally theirs, too. There are people who have the same first and last name out there. My suggestion is to either have a unique name (one that isn’t common) or use your middle name to help make you distinct. Ruth Nordin is very common. So I put in Ruth Ann Nordin. The chances of you and this other person have the exact first, middle, AND last name would be suspect.

My personal experience

In the past, I have gotten emails from a few readers who thought someone stole my book because there was a similar cover. The cover was a bride holding flowers. It wasn’t my exact cover, but it was something I could have picked. Keep in mind, there were A LOT of romance books with brides holding flowers back in 2010-2012 when I was getting my feet wet in indie publishing. Now, it’s mostly the hero and heroine in some kind of embrace. And often, the same models are used in these covers today. This is very common. And it is acceptable because the license for that stock photo allows other authors to use those photos. If you want to make sure no one uses that exact picture, then you’d need to get exclusive rights to it. But even then, you might end up with other authors using the same models in other poses.

Anyway, I think it’s only been about five people (a low number) over the course of my indie publishing career that thought another author was stealing my work and putting it under a similar cover. I went to check the books out to see if the readers caught another person stealing my books. Most of the time, the author name’s was different, the actual cover was different from mine (though it was “similar” or had the same model(s), and the title wasn’t one I had used. Fortunately, most these weren’t my books. It had the same “look” but a lot of covers in romance have the same “look”, esp. when you narrow down the sub-genres. It’s just the nature of the romance market in general. Upon looking inside these books, I saw the stories were totally different from mine. So no, these were not a violation of my copyright.

However, I actually have had a couple of cases where my books have actually been plagiarized or stolen. It does happen on occasion (unfortunately). So it’s smart to investigate these cases. Sometimes readers catch something we need to know about.

Also, I’ve have other authors who used my name in a keyword so their books come up when someone searches for my books. This happened early on in my writing career. (Like back in 2011 and 2012 when I hit the radar of the indie community. Since then I’ve pretty much faded into oblivion, so this doesn’t happen anymore.) I’ve heard marketing gurus tell new writers to mention popular authors in their genre order to attract their target audience. So I’m not surprised a new author would put a popular author into their keywords in the meta data for the book or in an ad they’re running. This is common practice. Some authors will even put, “If you like POPULAR AUTHOR A or POPULAR AUTHOR B, then you’ll love my book” in their book description. Usually, they put in traditionally published authors like JK Rowling. Sometimes, they’ll put the popular author’s book title or series instead of the author’s name. So it would read, “If you like Twilight or The Hunger Games, you’ll like my book, too.”  As long as the authors aren’t copying your actual book, I wouldn’t worry about it.

Bottom line:

I don’t know what the future of indie publishing is going to look like. Will trademarking a popular book series, which will then be used as an excuse to tell other authors to change their titles, become a trend in the future? I hope not. But I don’t have control over what another author does. I can only control what I do. I’d like to say this isn’t going to happen again, but I can’t.

The main thing comes down to support. If indie authors supported and cared about each other, it would be a nicer place. I think understanding that readers have a lot of authors they love to read is important to keep in mind. There’s no reason why a reader can’t enjoy Author X’s AND Author Y’s books. There are more readers than there is a single author who can write books for them all. This is especially true in romance. As soon as I publish a book, a reader finishes it within a day or two. What is that reader supposed to do while they wait for my next book? They read other authors’ books. This is why I don’t think we are in competition with each other. There’s enough room for everyone. Sure, some authors will pick up more fans than others. I write more for a niche within romance anyway, so I don’t appeal to the largest fanbase.

My advice (for what it’s worth) is to focus on your own books. Concentrate on writing the best stories you can. Don’t worry about what another author is doing with their titles. Your fans will find you. They will stay with you. The world is big enough for all indie authors.

I Had to Give Up Writing to Market in Order to Find My Passion Again

It’s been ages since I posted anything on this blog. It wasn’t that I didn’t have any ideas. I had a lot of them. But as soon as I sat down and wrote a paragraph or two, my mind came to a screeching halt. I waited and waited…and waited some more for inspiration to come so I could finish the blog post. But inspiration never came. I deleted most of those drafts. Why? Because my heart wasn’t “in” writing anymore, much less trying to figure out how to tell other authors how they might sell more books.

I had lost my creative edge, and the scary part is that I didn’t even know it. Writing had started to become a chore. I was doing good to chug along and write my books. It’s like I was running on a gas tank that was almost empty. All of the gas left in my tank was going to my books. I had nothing left to give to a blog post.

feeling trapped
ID 40361529 © Artistashmita | Dreamstime.com

I got some criticism for writing a blog post on here about losing income. But it’s true. I did lose income. I lost about 1/3 of my income from 2015 to 2016. I barely remained steady in 2017. I was even tempted to go exclusive with Amazon by putting new books in KDP Select so I could take advantage of page reads in Kindle Unlimited. I had to spend serious time in prayer and talking with a couple of friends in order to make the best decision for me longterm. (KU is not a good longterm plan.) I knew this, but I had started to focus on short-term plans.

Which is why I was writing to market when 2016 came around.

I wrote to market for two years. Fortunately for me, I happen to love historical western and Regency romances, which happen to be popular genres anyway. But what I did was pick heroine types, hero types, and plot types that I felt had the best chance of selling well. I broke this rule with one book (which is now one of my all-time favorites). That book didn’t do as well as the others. The thing is, I know what is popular in my corner of the romance market. I know what pleases the most readers. How? Because of all the feedback I’ve gotten over the years and watching what other (very successful) romance authors were doing.

I always picked plots I was interested in doing. I could never bring myself to write something I didn’t like. But after two years of writing as fast as I could on projects that I felt would sell, I realized I had used up all of those ideas. I was exhausted. I knew I was burning out. Still, in January, I wrote another romance to market. Then February came. By this time, I was wiped out, but I already had a pre-order set for an April release, so I went through that month and pushed myself to finish that book. Thankfully, this book wasn’t a “write to market” book. It was a passion project. I was venturing into new territory I was excited about. If it had been a “write to market” book, I don’t think I would have survived the month as well as I did. Because even though it was a passion project, my joy for writing had already been hit hard.

And yet, as I write this, my income is still dropping. Writing to market was not a long-term solution to my problem. It was a temporary one. I don’t know if it’s because the market is saturated, or if my readers from early on were tired of the new stuff I was doing (since it was not longer my passion projects), or if it’s because I never went into KU, but my income never did return to what I made in 2015. Ads had minimal effect, and quite frankly, with tax payments based on last year’s income, I don’t have the luxury of spending a lot of money on ads, which are the latest promotional tool. (I’m sure the effectiveness of ads will run out in due time, just like the effectiveness of free, $0.99, and other tactics have diminished over the years I’ve been indie publishing.)

Anyway, when I saw my efforts were not paying off, I asked myself, “Why am I pushing myself so hard?” And it all came down to money. I wanted to make more money writing books. But the thing was, I wasn’t making more money. I was making less.

Early this month, I caught myself thinking, “I hate writing. I wish I could leave the computer and never write another word for as long as I live.”

And that scared me. When I was in the 6th grade, I first discovered how fun reading was, and from there, I started writing. I had always loved writing. Up until 2015, I couldn’t imagine never writing because I loved it so much. When I died, I was hoping I could continue writing in Heaven. So when did it all stop? Looking back, I realized it became “work” in 2016 when I started to seriously write to market. I stopped taking story ideas I felt was risky. I was no longer putting myself into every story. I was playing it safe.

My stress level went through the roof. Whenever I wrote, I was asking myself, “Will someone object to this? Will someone give me a 1-star over that? Will someone stop buying my books because I put this in it?” Everything I wrote (with the exception of two books) revolved around what I thought the market wanted.

I didn’t realize I was paying attention to something Dean Wesley Smith calls “critical voice”. I just got through reading his book Writing into the Dark last week (scroll down the page to find it). Anyway, the book mainly tells writers how to write without plotting, but in it he mentions how harmful critical voice is to writing. And he’s right. Critical voice was in full control when I was writing to market. Critical voice stepped in and stopped me from pursuing books I really, really, really wanted to write because, “No one is going to buy it because of (insert reason here).”

I had a good list of things I had to avoid writing while I was focused on the market, and because of this, I ended up having to work within a narrow parameter of what my critical voice had told me was acceptable. I still picked things I was interested in, but I wasn’t able to go beyond the box I had put myself in. And that was slowly killing my creative voice. I didn’t even know this was happening. That was the scary part. It’s only now as I’m looking back that I can see what was going on. I shake my head and wonder, “How could I not see it?”

This is something all authors are probably going to have to come to terms with at some point. Yes, writing to market can yield high income. (I’ve seen writers do it.) But is it possible to do this for the long term? Can they keep producing these books in a way that is fresh and new? Can they keep doing this at breakneck speed?

This is a bit of a side note, but I’ve noticed that (at least on Amazon), in order to stay relevant, I had to get more books out. Romance authors are now putting out two or more books a month. I’ve seen a couple of authors doing one book a week. Yes, they’re novellas, but still…  And the other day, one author was going from one book a week to two books a week. How long can this momentum stay up? I’m a firm believer that it’s possible to write fast and write quality, but even I can’t see how going that fast is a manageable long-term strategy.  But I’m not the only one who noticed this trend on Amazon. Cait Reynolds did a post on Kristen Lamb’s blog called “Kindle Unlimited: Good Plan or KU Hamster Wheel of Death?” (The post is hilarious, especially with the hamster pictures.) I have this article on my desk and read it at least once a month to remind myself that KU (and Amazon) is built for speed. You must constantly have new books out to keep income up. And there’s a point where I can’t write any more books that I currently do each year.

So I need a long-term strategy because I want to love writing. I want to keep writing. And more importantly, I want to love what I’m writing. I want my passion back. I want my creative voice to flourish again. Just recently, I finally decided I’m going to stop writing to market. I have officially dropped out of the rat race. I’m going to start embracing projects that I can give my whole heart into. If it fits the market, fine. If not, fine. But I’m not going to let that critical voice rule over me anymore.

It was amazing how quickly this single decision changed things around for me. I took a few days to decompress and re-evaluate my life. I did a lot of self-reflection.  But within a week, something magical happened. I got the joy back. I got my passion back. Finally, I have fresh and new story ideas again. I have characters who are exciting to write about. I didn’t expect this to happen so fast, but it did.

And last week, for the first time since 2015, I wrote because I “wanted” to. I had no idea there was such a huge difference between writing because I “had” to and writing because I “want” to, but it’s a huge difference.

What about you? Have you had any revelations about your own writing lately?

Online Conferences: Why You Should Take Them

Before you say, “I can’t afford to pay for an online conference,” here is one coming June 3 from the Indie Author Fringe that is FREE.  Register for the event, and you’ll get email reminders.  You can watch the videos at your leisure.  I’ve done this a couple of times with Indie Author Fringe, and they have excellent topics and speakers.  Not everything will fit what you’re looking for, but I bet there is something there that will fit your needs as an author.  Go to the “speakers” box to see who is going to be giving a presentation and what the topic will be about.  All you have to do is click on the “Register” red banner, type in your first name and email address, and confirm your registration.  That is it.  It’s super easy.

That all being said, let’s look at the reasons why online conferences are a good idea.  (Now, if you’re writing for a hobby, then I don’t think this is a “must” because it doesn’t matter to you if you’re making money with your sales or not.  But if this is a business, then this is something I highly suggest.)

online conference pic
ID 77545023 © Tashatuvango | Dreamstime.com

1. Education

I believe it’s important to keep learning.  There is value in reading books and blog posts, but online conferences offer fresh new speakers who might present new ideas that we haven’t thought of before.  Or, it could be something we already heard of already, but this particular speaker might say it in a way where the information finally “clicks”.

2. Keeping up with trends

The world of publishing and marketing is changing at such a fast pace that it can be overwhelming.  These conferences are a great way to keep abreast of the changes that are happening.

3. You pick which speakers you listen to

Some in-person conferences don’t give you the option of selecting which speaker you go to.  Some have only one speaker per session.  With online conferences, you get to pick the video you want to watch, and you can skip the ones you’re not interested in.

4. Cost effective and convenient

The way of the future is getting to be more and more online.  Yes, I still think there’s value in going to conferences in person.   Seeing someone in person is still the best way to establish a rapport with someone, but the cost of traveling and time away from home are not always feasible.  People have jobs and families to take care of.   Online conferences are a great solution to this.  You can do this from the comfort of your own home.  When it’s free, that is just icing on the cake, but for the most part, they are much cheaper than ones you attend in person.

 

A Brief Overview of the Publishing Process (If You Want To Try Traditional Publishing)

Someone asked me about traditional publishing a while back, and I’m just now getting around to writing this post.  (I’m sorry for the delay in getting to this post.  I have to be in the mood to write a blog post or else it’s going to turn out flat.)

Now, I’m not going into the specifics because each publishing company has their own way of doing things.  This is just a broad overview of what I gathered from my research over the years.  If anyone has more information they would like to add, please do!  (Be sure to read the comments.  There might be better information there than what I can provide.)

A quick note: a reputable publisher will never take money from you.  Money should flow to the author, not from the author.  If a publisher wants your money, run away.

Traditional Publishing Blog Post
ID 44000912 © Dreammasterphotographer | Dreamstime.com

1. Submission

This is naturally the first step.  You will need to go to the publisher’s website and see what their rules are for sending submissions.  Usually, you send in a query letter.  This letter basically tells them what the book is about, why it’s a good fit for their company, and what you can bring to the table in ways of helping them sell your book (such as your current author platform, any past sales, and your writing credentials).  Sometimes they’ll ask for the first couple of chapters along with the query letter.

Now, it’s important to only target publishers that are a good fit for your story.  You don’t want to send something incompatible their way because you’re only wasting their time and yours.  For example, don’t send a romance to a science fiction publisher.

Do you need a literary agent?  For small publishers, no.  The big publishers?  Probably.  Check their guidelines to find out.

2.  They get back to you (sometimes).

If they reject your story, they might or might not get back to you.  Their timeframe on getting back to you could be a few days to months.  I read somewhere it can even take up to a year, depending on how large the publisher is.  This makes sense because the larger the publisher, the more submissions they will be sorting through.

Can you send your story to other publishers in the meantime?  Some publishers will say not to do that, but as a traditionally published author once told me, “What’s the worst that can happen?  Both publishers want your book and will fight over it.” So go on and submit to multiple publishing houses.  Then work on your next story.  Don’t sit around and do nothing in this time.  If the publisher wants this story, they might want to know what else you have.  It’s a good idea to have something on hand if this happens.  And if it doesn’t, you can always publish it yourself.

If they are interested in the story you submitted, they will either suggest changes to make to better fit what they’re looking for and ask you to resubmit it or they will ask you to send the whole thing.  I’m not sure how long this step takes while they will look over your book.

3. They will either take the book or not.

If they want the book, you’ll get a contract to sign.  Do check it over carefully.  Some contracts are more friendly to authors than others.  Most of the time, the contract will be easy to understand without a third person looking it over.  When it doubt, have a lawyer look it over to explain anything you don’t understand.   You will sign the contract if you like it and send it back to them.

4. They will go over the book.

I’m going to ballpark this stage at taking a couple of weeks to a couple of months.  But it really depends on the publisher.

What you’ll get back are recommendations for changes they would like you to make.  Depending on the publisher, you might or might not have the choice to say no.  That should be specified in the contract, which is why you need to understand it before you sign it.

Once you make the changes or decide not to make the changes, then send the story back to them.  I have a friend who went through two rounds of this stage.  I don’t know if that is typical or not.

5. The publisher will send you the cover and interior file to look over.

You may or may not have input into the cover.  It depends on the publisher.

The interior file is formatted book in its final form.  I believe you can make any last minute changes in this stage.  Say you find a typo the editor missed or something else is off.  This is the only time you have to make the final change (if the publisher allows it).

6. The book is published.  

Getting a book together and uploaded takes time, and there will be other authors the publisher is also working with, so be patient.  This is why indie publishing goes faster.  The author might do everything themselves, but they are only publishing their own work.  Publishers need to deal with a variety of authors.

****

That is all I can think of in the stages to getting a book published with a traditional publisher.  Having self-published for years, I can appreciate the time it takes to go through all of these steps.  It’s not something you want to rush through.  A good publisher will take time to make sure the final product is professional.

If anyone with more experience than I do wants to chime in, please do.  I’m not an expert in this area, so feel free to correct me if I got anything wrong. 🙂

The Importance of Focus

Today’s post is geared for writing as a business.  (For those who are writing as a hobby, you may want to skip this one.)

Over the years, I’ve been reading magazines and blog posts dedicated to entrepreneurs, especially small business owners, and I have come away with one main theme that seems to emerge.  That theme is “focus”.  More importantly, it is focusing on the one thing you are most passionate about.

I came across this great post the other day, and it reminded me of those articles.  Then, I thought about how this applies to writing.  Specifically, how does it apply to writing if you have a business mindset.

Some people may see writing with the goal of earning money as “selling out”.  I don’t.  There’s nothing wrong with trying to make money doing something you love.  Most writers I come across love writing.  They have always loved it.  It has been a big part of their lives ever since they can remember.  I might not have caught on to this until I was in high school, but I honestly can’t think of anything I’m more passionate about than writing.  It is the one thing I can do all day long and not get bored.  The best kind of job you can have is the one that feels like play.  Why?  Because then you’re never “working”.  You get paid to play.

But sometimes the dream of doing something we love can get sabotaged when we lose our focus.  I once read a post years ago from a writer who asked, “How Badly Do You Want It?” I can’t find the article now, but it has stuck with me through the years.  So, how badly do you want to make a living as a writer?  What are you willing to give up to make it happen?

Too many times we let distractions get in our way.  Anything that doesn’t matter to the business side of writing is a distraction.  (Yes, set aside time for family and friends, but make this business your priority.)  Today, I have some tips on how to do just that.

importance of focus post first things first
ID 35991003 © Aquarius83men | Dreamstime.com

1. Write the next book. 

This is the most important thing you can be doing today.  Without a book, you will have no product to sell.  In order to make a living as a writer, you need to think beyond one book.  You need to think beyond one series.  You need to be prolific.  It’s just the way it is. Each time you publish a book, you should see a rise in income.  But that rise is temporary.  Sales are up and down in this business.  You can’t predict how things will go from one month to another.  All you can do is get another book out and hope it gets you through until your next book comes out.

As a quick note: not all books will sell the same.   Some will probably sell better than others.  The trick is to find out why you sold one book really well and do what you can to tap into the elements that worked for that book into your future books.   For example, I noticed my marriage of convenience romances sold better than the books where the heroine pursues the hero.  You have to get creative on spinning a plot trope so you’re not writing the same story over and over again, but it is possible to do many spin-offs from one idea.

focus blog post customers
ID 74642992 © Chandara Tubchand | Dreamstime.com

2. Write for your audience.  (This is writing with focus.)

If you aren’t writing the kinds of things your target audience wants to read, you will probably not sell as well as you would have if had tailored the book to them.  This is why finding your target audience is important.  The key to this is finding an area you’re already interested in writing in and then combining it with something your audience wants.  Find out what character tropes and plot tropes are popular in your genre, and then write your unique spin on it from there.  It will still be a fresh brand new story.  It’s just one that is geared for your audience.

focus and time management
ID 27350029 © Liliwhite | Dreamstime.com

3. A wise use of time.

There are a lot of distractions that will pop up in the day.  Every single day you will be given a reason not to write.  (I’m all for taking a day or two off each week to rest.  There’s nothing wrong with that.)  But when we haven’t written our next book in weeks or months, there is a problem.

Sometimes family and friends will get in the way of your success.  If you had a job outside the home, would you drop everything to do something with them?  No.  You would wait until you’re done working for the day and then take care of them.

Sometimes our pleasures get in the way of our success.  If you had a job outside the home, would you take time off just to sit and watch a movie?  No.  You would wait until you’re done working for the day to watch it.

Sometimes laziness gets in the way of our success.  If you had a job outside the home, would you call in and tell the boss, “You know, I just don’t feel ‘inspired’ today.  I’m taking today off.”  No.  You would go to work and press through the day, even if you end up watching every minute on the clock as it slowly ticks by.

My point is that writing needs to be a job.  (Yes, it’s a job you love, but it is work.)  You need to treat it with the same dedication that you would treat a job outside the home.  There are no shortcuts.  You can’t dillydally with it.  You have to be serious about it.  You need to focus on what needs to be done and do it.

focus blog post balance
ID 47990773 © Alain Lacroix | Dreamstime.com

4. Watch your writing to promotion ratio.

Yes, you do need to get your name out there. You need to build up an author brand so  people know what to expect when they pick up your books.  I know this is daunting for a lot of people.  (I’m an introvert, so it takes a lot for me to even answer emails.)  But how is anyone supposed to know you have books if you aren’t out there?

I don’t know what a good rule of thumb is for how often you should be engaged on promotion.  I consider emailing, blogging, setting up pre-orders, Facebook, Twitter, Google +, You Tube, updating your blog/website, running ads, participating in groups, etc to be promotion.  I don’t have a rule for how much time should be spent on this stuff, but writing the next book needs to take up the bulk of your time.

Personally, I aim for 80% of my work time to go to writing.  About 20% goes to promotion.  I do work at home.  My hours are usually from 9:30am – 7:30p.m. at night.  I take a break to make meals for the family, do laundry, dishes, and other thankless chores that probably take 2-3 hours total away from my working time.  Unless I’m sick or on vacation, I average six days a week.  Sometimes I will take day #6 to do promotion all day so that I can give 95% of my work time solely to writing.  (I consider edits to be a part of writing.  It’s just not the fun part.)

I don’t know where you will find your ratio, but I highly advise that at the very least, you spend 60% of your time writing and 40% of your time promoting.  That’s just a ratio.  So you take the available time you have and figure out what those hours will look like.  Obviously, not everyone can write the same hours I do.  Some of you have sick family members who need constant care.  Some of you have day jobs.  Some of you have second jobs.  Some of you have babies and young children.  Some of you have health issues to contend with.

Personally, if I had a limited time to write, I would spent 90% writing and 10% promotion.  The less time you have on hand, the more important it is to write.  But I have found it’s not how much time people have that matters as much as how they choose to spend it.  There are people who have plenty of time and are able to work, but they keep finding other things to do instead of writing the next book.

~~~~~~~

Remember, keep your eyes on the prize.

That is why focus is so important.  Without focus, you’re not going to accomplish as much as you would otherwise.  And it all boils down to the simple question, “How badly do you want it?” I understand that sales like they were 2012-2013 when self-publishing seemed to be at its peak.  But if you don’t take control of your time and focus on writing, you’re not going to have the chance of getting to where you want to be.  That’s what I’m talking about.  Having a chance at your dream.  You need focus to get there.  (And it goes without saying that you need a compelling story that is properly edited, a good cover, and a good description to go with each book.)