Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A word about (negative) feedback.

A few years ago I had a client who got some really negative feedback from an agent. The agent was absolutely right about every single thing she said. My client took it personally, completely lost his temper and dug in his heels about doing anything she suggested. Needless to say he didn’t get anywhere with his book and eventually I dropped him as a client. Indeed he was the last client I will ever work with anyone when it comes to actually writing books. I only guide people toward getting published on the digitals once they have their book ready to publish. Here’s the deal about feedback. If someone in the industry takes their time to give you feedback get on your knees with gratitude, do everything they tell you to do and write them a long letter of appreciation. Feedback from someone who knows the industry is about helping you not hating you – even if it’s hard to take. Getting feedback is an indication that there is interest in your project if you’ll make the necessary changes. These people are in the industry, they know what’s selling, they also know what their friends in the publishing industry are looking for – feedback is a good thing even if it hurts your feelings. Swallow your ego and take advantage of the gift.

Monday, July 30, 2012

More About Digital Publishing from Smashwords

Another bit from the Smashwords newsletter that I found interesting was about pricing and how the big publisher’s pricing on the digitals is actually hurting authors. Big publishers charge more for their digital uploads than indie publishers like me (although it doesn’t cost them any more to post a book since the service is free and they cheat the reader by not allowing Amazon to loan to friends or even different readers owned by the same person – while I have to agree to that loan or charge less than $2.99 and receive 35% instead of 705). The publishers charge more because it justifies the high price of their paper books. However, they confuse money made with units sold. And units sold is what builds your following and your brand. From Smashwords: “One surprise, however, was that we found $2.99 books, on average, netted the authors more earnings (profit per unit, multiplied by units sold) than books priced at $6.99 and above. When we look at the $2.99 price point compared to $9.99, $2.99 earns the author slightly more, yet gains the author about four times as many readers. $2.99 ebooks earned the authors six times as many readers than books priced over $10. If an author can earn the same or greater income selling lower cost books, yet reach significantly more readers, then, drum roll please, it means the authors who are selling higher priced books through traditional publishers are at an extreme disadvantage to indie authors in terms of long term platform building. The lower-priced books are building author brand faster.” What is amazing and delightful is that only five years ago the digitals didn’t exist.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Publishing Companies Still Don't Get It

I was reading the Smashwords newsletter today and came across this information “There are signs that some publishers are beginning to realize they need to implement strategies to bring indie authors back into the traditional fold, as witnessed by Pearson's acquisition last week of Author Solutions, Inc., which will be operated under its Penguin imprint. I'm still scratching my head over this.Does Pearson think that Author Solutions represents the future of indie publishing? Author Solutions is one of the companies that put the "V" in vanity. Author Solutions earn 2/3 or more of their income selling services and books to authors, not selling authors' books to readers. Does Pearson think so little of authors that they've decided they can earn more money selling them services than selling their books?” That’s the racket in most of the companies that you see advertised on facebook and other social media sites. They get you to pay them to publish your book and then the sales start. They sell you an editor, they sell you a cover artist, they sell you reviewers, they sell you the opportunity to go to overseas book conventions….they sell you and sell you and sell you but you don’t make sales of your books and in some cases they never pay you for the books they sold. You’re much better off using the digitals yourself or using Create Space – Amazon’s print on demand.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Myows.com A Free Copyright Substitute

Myows.com is a substitute for copyrights. If you don’t want to pay for a copyright…and with short stories, if you publish many of them, sometimes that’s a bear of an expense – myows.com is a way to prove that you have written what you have written – the paper trail as it were for your intellectual property. It’s a free site for anyone storing less than 1 GIG….which is a lot of material. It’s for any kind of artist, writer, song writer, photographers and so forth. For large works I would suggest copyrighting with the copyright office, for smaller works this is a great alternative. For more information visit: http://myows.com/blog/frequently-asked-question/.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Digital Feedback

I have another client who I’m guiding into digital publishing. This week our conversation was about which of the digital sites to publish on. His choice (because it services so many distributors and therefore reaches so many markets) was Smashwords. My suggestion was to include Kindle in the mix because of the feedback. Kindle gives you daily feedback in terms of sales in almost real time. Every day you can see what’s selling. That is so important when you get into multiple lines of sales or you’re experimenting with a new market or series. Smashwords, on the other hand, doesn’t know itself what’s sold until after the close of each quarter when the distributors send in their reports. Eventually you figure out what has sold (although it’s a difficult process because their record keeping is to say the least primitive) but getting sales information three of four months after the fact is really slow in the digital age. Barnes and Noble’s Nook is no competition for Kindle.I sell 3 to 5 times the number of books on Kindle and I sell a greater variety as well although the feedback when it's there is excellent. Getting real time feedback allows you to make adjustments to your covers or blurbs or prices in almost real time because you can see the results. This holds true for every business. Test and measure. Test and measure. You can’t do that in slow motion in the digital age.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Digital Publisher Breaking News

Breaking News. Kobo is now publishing independently. That means there’s another place to which you can upload your digital books. Kobo is also one of the Smashwords.com members so it you want to do one-stop-publishing you can leave it with Smashwords and take less money. Over the next few weeks I will remove every single one of my titles from the Kobo section on Smashwords and uploaded the books and stories onto Kobo itself. I have previously removed Nook and Kindle from Smashwords. The pay is better if you aren’t splitting it with another entity although Smashwords is really good about taking only a small share. At my writer’s breakfast today we discussed the benefits of moving to Kobo. Kobo is a Japanese firm that as put a great deal of money into their new system. What sets it apart from all the other systems is that if you make a mistake you can upload a new version WHILE the original is still being uploaded. That is very different. Aside from not splitting your fee, the other reason to use Kobo itself is that Smashwords is not as reliable as one would like it to be. It sometimes gets the covers wrong, or the blurbs wrong, it fails to upload. Sometimes it doesn’t upload to the distributors it claims to upload to. It’s an ambitious company and I’m sure it will improve but it is not the one-stop magic maker it advertises. I like Smashwords and I make money on Smashwords, and I’m glad I’m working with Smashwords, but I would definitely advise uploading separately to Kindle, Barnes and Noble and Kobo.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Business Of Writing

As some of you have commented, writing is a business. Your book is your product. It takes every bit as much effort to get your book out to the public as it takes to get any other product out to market. For a long time – before the digitals – I had given up doing anything except writing for pleasure because, since I’m quite introverted, meeting agents and publishers was a non-starter for me. The publishing industry absolutely does not support up and coming authors who aren't socially connected. So it was secretary by day, author by night. And then came the digitals. Suddenly none of us needs the publishers – Oh the industry won’t die, we’ll just make money for a change and we don't have to come out of our rooms. We still do a ton of work to get known, but we don’t give 95% of our profits away for the pleasure of seeing our names in print. Even if your writing is an adjunct to your real business it still must be marketed. And the publishers still will let you do 100% of the marketing unless you are already famous in which case you’re probably out there marketing anyway. The big difference in the famous person’s case is that when you call up a radio show to see if they’ll interview you they say “yes.”

Friday, July 20, 2012

Writing A Book Proposal - Final Step

Assembling your proposal. Start with your cover art. Cover art is not just a picture. It looks like the cover of a book with the title, subtitle and your name on it. Behind that goes your title page with the same information but without the picture. Next is your synopsis or overview, your table of contents, your annotated outline. These are followed by your three sample chapters in order. Finally is your bio, your comparison sheet and your marketing plan. Do not bind them. This is not a book you are submitting and the agent or publisher may want to Xerox it. They will not be happy if they have to pull it apart. Do make certain that you have 1.5 inch borders on the left and right, one inch on the top and bottom. Leave room for agents and editors to make notes. NOTE Make very sure that your copy is clean of typos and misspellings. Run every sheet through spell check just to be sure. I have hired copy editors to check for grammar and typos. If you want a good copy editor message me I will refer you.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Writing A Book Proposal Step 8 – Cover Page.

This discussion is about the cover page for the proposal not for the book. You usually have no control over the cover art if you are working with a publisher. When Suzy Prudden and I wrote “Change Your Mind Change Your Body” we told the publisher about our experience with “MetaFitness: Your Thoughts Taking Shape” and why we thought the cover should have a more metaphysical picture and definitely not a picture of Suzy in a Leotard. I’ve posted the cover picture we ended up with below. Obviously the publisher did not listen and the book didn’t sell well. It was not a fitness book in the conventional model and the metaphysical audience it was intended for would never pick up a book that looked like that. Putting a picture on the proposal that you really think speaks to your reader is your only shot at influencing the publisher’s ideas about cover art unless you are famous enough to demand final cover approval. So choose carefully. I’ll cover back of the book blurbs at another time – there is no back cover in a proposal and no back cover on the digitals.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Writing A Book Proposal Step 7 – Bio

Your bio should be one page (double spaced) or shorter. It should focus on (a) what makes you the expert in your field that justifies this book, and (b) what you do that can result in sales. If you have done something that links you to a group of people that might conceivably buy your book – note it. If you are a public speaker who has large back of the room sales, note it. If you’re blogging with thousands of followers – note it. And don’t forget that if you’re all over the internet, publishers can look you up and check your bio, your claims and you’re your numbers. And if you aren’t all over the internet, that will be noted too. I sound like I’m droning on and on about your proposal constantly relating to sales, sales and sales – but that’s the bottom line for publishers. This is a proposal for publishing companies. You don’t need much of this if you’re going the self-publishing or digital route – although the annotated outline is a real plus for writing the book itself. In getting a publishing house to pay you money to publish your book you have to show that you are a person who can and will sell books.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Writing A Book Proposal Step 6 – Marketing Plan

It is important for publishers to know that you can market your book. If you are writing for an established group like the American Cancer Society and you can make a deal before the fact that they are going to advertise your book or sell it on their site that’s the kind of marketing book publishers are looking for. What they are NOT looking for is a statement like “I will go to every radio show you book for me.” They probably won’t book any radio shows for you. One of the most startling things about publishing today is how little publishers do for their authors. Plan to do it all yourself. Plan to schedule your own book signings – if you want to spend the time. Plan to write your own self-promoting blogs. Plan to pay for a bunch of reviewers to review your book and don’t be disappointed when that doesn’t result in sales – you will be able to post the reviews on your website and on the digitals. They do give you credibility. If you are doing a lot of public speaking before large audiences you are the person the publishers are looking for. Do not make statements that are obvious pie in the sky like “I am going to speak on every radio program in America.” Unless you have a really good publicist who can get you on those radio shows. Make your marketing plan doable, grounded in reality, a plan that you can and will carry out. What publishers are really looking for is writers who are connected to legitimate markets where sales can be guaranteed.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Writing A Book Proposal Step Five – Comparison Sheet.

This is actually a step I do early in the process, before I start writing anything. I go to the bookstore (not the library because library books can be old and already out of print) and I search out my competition. I’ve said this before – you HAVE to know which section your book fits into if a bookstore is going to carry you. You will find your competition in that section - your competition may be your guide to the section. This research is always fascinating. You get to see which publishers publish your competition. You get to see what’s selling right now. You get to see how your competition has handled a similar subject. You probably have half the information at home in your library but a trip to the bookstore is always instructive. NOTE – do not skip this process or just skim over it. You want to read some of these books if you haven’t already. You have to know and write down what your competition is writing, what you have to add to the conversation that is similar and what you bring to the table that is different. List at least five current books (those in the bookstore today rather than your library or on Amazon) Remember that you’re going to be approaching the same publishers so they know what’s current. They’re looking to you to make the comparison and contrast). Write title and author at the head of a paragraph and then describe briefly what each book is about. Finally describe what’s similar about your book and most importantly what’s different about your book.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Writing a Book Proposal - Step Four - Synopsis

Now that you have written your table of contents and annotated outline it’s time to write the synopsis. This is a one page attention grabber that is a summary of the book. It’s like those back of the book teasers except in this case you do give away the end. Since it will be placed up front in your proposal it’s your early shot at attracting the agent or publisher’s attention. It is also good practice at writing powerful material that sucks the reader in. I can’t tell you how to do it, but I can tell you what it feels like. It comes directly from your own excitement about your material. It almost writes itself because you believe so much in your subject and the need to share it with others. When it’s good and powerful it kind of explodes out of you. Think about that excitement that motivated you to get into your business in the first place. Think about the results of what you do and why it excites you. When you are charged up….tackle the synopsis.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Writing A Book Proposal - Step Three - Sample Chapters

Write three complete sample chapters. Leave them unfinished in the annotated outline so the editor has a sample of how you work with your outline (of course you can fiddle with the outline as the chapter develops it’s not written in stone). One of your sample chapters can be your introduction where you have talked about your background including why you are qualified to write this book. Cardinal Rule Number One – NEVER belittle yourself in your book. The person who buys the book assumes that if a publisher put your book in a bookstore that you are an expert on your topic. Never delude the reader with statements like, “You may be wondering why you’re reading a book by a middle aged housewife from Denver…” No. The reader didn’t wonder why he was reading a book by a middle aged housewife from Denver, the reader thinks you’re a God in your field. Don’t ever tell them otherwise. There is no room for humility in writing. Even if you are a middle aged housewife from Denver you must have done something fantastic to get the publishing contract. You can say, “I started as a middle aged housewife from Denver but when my husband came down with cancer I mastered the art of getting him treatment when we didn’t have insurance and I’m going to tell you how to do it.” You turned yourself into that God. Stay godlike.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Writing a Book Proposal Step Two - Annotated Outline

An annotated outline is an outline in which you write the first two to five paragraphs of each chapter and then outline the rest of the chapter. It gives the editors a good sense of your writing, of how you will follow up on what the table of contents promises. You don’t have to write all of the chapter, you do have to write enough to show your stuff. What is really important about the annotated outline is that it’s the first place where you truly begin to see problems if they’re going to occur. It answers questions like: Do you have enough material for a book (which isn’t so much of a problem with the digitals)? Can you write? Are your chapters balanced – are you interested in everything you’re talking about or did you add chapters because you thought you ought to and they don’t fit or you have only a page worth of information and it shouldn’t be a chapter. Suzy Prudden and I have sold books from conversations, from an outline on a yellow pad and from this kind of proposal. Believe me when I tell you that writing from an annotated outline is easier to sell and easier to write from. It leaves no room for miscommunication with an editor about what the content of the book is to be about. It’s incredibly important.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Writing A Book Proposal - Step One Table Of Conents

Step one: The Table of Contents. Notice I didn’t start with the title, because titles are subject to change as the book progresses. So for that matter is the table of contents, but you start with a list of what you want to put into the book. You start with an introduction (which is where you can fit in a bit of your autobiography). You list chapter headings. You don’t list pages because you actually won’t know pages until you have pages and even then pages change when you go from the computer to the book. You actually reduce the number of pages by 1/3rd. Here’s the most important bit of information about chapter headings especially in non-fiction books. They should be stand alone catchy. The best chapter heading I ever wrote was for “Suzy Prudden’s One Stop Diet Revolution.” The chapter was “Why Sex And Exercise Are Best In The Morning.” I cannot tell you how many comments we got on that chapter which is actually about the lymphatic system. When a buyer (and remember it’s all about sales) comes in contact with your book there will be certain touch points. The cover, your name and reputation, the title and the table of contents. Your books stands a much better chance of selling if all of those ducks are lined up beautifully right from the beginning but I’ll get to cover and title last. This part is about Table of Contents. Spend time with those chapter headings. Get clever. It will pay dividends later.

Monday, July 9, 2012

If You Want To Get a Publisher

If you want to go the big publisher route you have to understand the dance. The bottom line of publishing is sales – which may sound like an obvious statement but it’s about as obvious as the saying that bottom line of all kinds of dancing is to move. Each part of the publishing industry, and that includes bookstores and agents for purposes of this discussion, are puzzle pieces that are interrelated all based on helping your market find you.. So start at bookstores. Bookstores have areas where your look for the books you’re interested in. If you’re interested in children’s books you’ll go immediately to the children’s book section. Same for every genre – self-help, psychology, medicine, history, science fiction, romance – down the line. So your first question is what shelf does my book fit on? (Be very certain that it fits on only one shelf which will be the topic of another blog.) The second question is who publishes in my section? You will find that different publishers specialize in different genres. The big publishers have bought up little publishers that specialized in certain areas that generally compliment the big publisher and they still specialize within the context of the bigger publishers. Notice how many of the books you read for your field have the same publishers. Then come the agents. Most publishers tell you that you cannot submit a book to them without an agent. Which isn’t totally true but true enough for this discussion. Agents generally have come up through the publishing ranks. They have made connections in certain publishing houses and just as the publishers specialize so do the agents. There are numbers of books in the resource section of your library or bookstore which will guide you to agents (who are your first step to getting into the publishing houses). Those books have sections which break the agents down according to their specialty. They will often tell you which houses they work with. They will often list the books they have placed. Pay attention. You want the closest fit possible between your book and your agent because then it will have the greatest chance of being accepted by a publishing house. This is very humbling information because most of us think our books will sell because they’re interesting. They will only sell if they are interesting, but the dance of matching the agent and the publisher is what gets you and your book in the door. – That and an excellent proposal.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Use Short Stories To Create Buzz

Use short stories or articles to build your brand on the digitals. A book doesn’t have to be 90,000 words to be published on the digitals, it can be 5-10,000 words. I write novels. I am now going to start writing short thriller stories using my novel characters so that people can sample my writing in short form at lower prices as introductions to major characters and series. I can write new stories for the characters that I’m going to use in a series and introduce them in cheaper versions. Very big writers do that. I recently read a short story by Lee Childs that introduced his series character Jack Reacher in his youth. It’s not just me being brilliant with this suggestion. This is particularly important if you’re going to write series. Right now I am offering my novels at $.99 to generate reviews and conversations. This week I’m offering my novel Provenance which is inspired by a true accident in New York and contemplates why the major characters played their roles in this riveting drama.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

How Much Do You Charge On The Digitals

How long does a book have to be and how much do you charge on the digitals? Kindle now offers three months at $.00 during which they promote your book. The idea is to generate reviews and conversations. For the indie writer, pricing starts with short articles in the $.99 area. That’s around 2,500 – 3,000 words. Over 3,000 words to 6,000 or so charge $2.99 (you have to write six $.99 short stories to match the income from one slightly longer $2.99 short story because the price point on Kindle changes from 35% to 70% at $2.99 – just saying. My novels at $4.99 are anywhere from 50,000-100,000 words. $4.99 is the demarcation line for impulse buying so take that into consideration when you’re pricing. The $9.99 price point is what the big publishers use to justify their hard cover paper book price - Because Kindle set that as the top price by making the percentage go down over that price. Because there’s generally no cost in publishing on the digitals people resent the high prices. I’ve read some scathing criticism on price points in otherwise good reviews. For more information visit www.joanmeijer.com Right now I am offering my novels at $.99 to generate reviews and conversations. This week I’m offering Provenance which is inspired by a true accident in New York and contemplates why the major characters played their roles in this riveting drama - Provenance means origin so the story is about the origins of the characters and why they played a part in the accident.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Where Do You Start Your Novel?

Where do you start a book? Very few people can sit down and write a book start to finish without revision. The best thing about computers is that you can start writing a book anywhere and you can cut and paste easily and effortlessly. It isn’t like it was in the days when I started writing when you wrote the first draft by hand, typed the second draft on a typewriter. Cut and pasted with a scissors and glue. Typed. Cut, pasted and glued the third draft. And if you were lucky that was the last draft. Once you get rolling you’ll find that the process feeds the book and that a natural order appears. You should expect to start in the middle and build in several directions. One of my favorite stories is about the time I published an article inspired by a physics class I was taking. My physics professor said, “I’m so impressed, it would have taken me at least five drafts to write that.” My thought was, “What makes you think it didn’t take me five drafts?” Today I am announcing a $.99 special on my book “The Provenance.” It is a story inspired by a real rescue in New York laced with the new age theory of rebirthing. Rebirthing teaches that you make life long- decisions at or around birth and during early childhood. It deals with the question what led the prime characters to act out the hero, victim and savior roles they played in this dramatic rescue.