Authors often dream of seeing their books in print and calculate the royalties they expect to earn per book once their baby hits the market. Few stop to consider how much capital they need up-front to cover pre-publication expenses. These expenses can be broken into three general categories: product development, business development, and marketing.
This post contains summaries of common expenses, a downloadable worksheet authors can use to create budgets for their own books, and ideas for ways to save cash along the way. The cost estimates provided below are not intended to scare off would-be self-publishers. Rather, they illustrate why self-publishers struggle to compete with even the smallest publishing houses in the book market. They also serve as a reminder that authors should not give their work away free . . . everything in publishing comes with a cost and some of those costs have staggering price tags. Continue reading
Metadata is what drives search engine optimization (SEO) and enables web designers to get their websites to rank higher in search results. But metadata isn’t only for website and blogs, it’s also for books. Like SEO, metadata is text written specifically to aid computer systems and search engines. In an era where online shopping is the norm, an absence of metadata (or poorly written metadata) means a book won’t show up in the search results when shoppers are perusing the digital shelves of their favorite online marketplace.
Book metadata helps sell books by using keywords and phrases that make it easy for readers to find them. Because of this, it’s vital that indie publishers include metadata creation as part of their book promotion strategy. So what exactly is metadata? Continue reading
Good covers get readers to pluck your book off the shelf and thumb through it. Poor formatting, interior design, and typesetting will cause them to set it back down—costing you a sale. A well-formatted manuscript is vital for publishing success. That’s because, ultimately, readers care about readability.
Readability is the ease with which a book can be read. Not to be confused with reading level, readability refers to formatting books in ways that are conducive to reading. To compete with traditionally published books, it is important for self-publishers to make sure their books look professional, inside and out. Before uploading a manuscript to one of the many self-publishing services and paying for a proof copy, dedicate time to properly formatting the book’s interior. Continue reading
Writing, it’s said, is a lonely profession. Images of writers sequestering themselves away for the purpose of finishing their novel abound. Some novelist are so overconfident, they believe they don’t need help. Others avoid seeking help, paralyzed by the secret fear that their writing simply isn’t good enough. But, behind every successful author is a slew of people who have left their mark on the manuscript.
Self-publishers, eager to see their books in print, often ignore the undervalued topics of manuscript evaluation, revision, and editing, instead focusing their attention on buying ISBNs, contracting print-on-demand services, and marketing. They do this at their peril. These are the essential steps that makes a manuscript worth reading. Flawed plot lines and inadequate character development are impossible to salvage after the book is published. To catch (and resolve) problematic aspects early in the writing process, the manuscript must be read by others, starting with its earliest draft forms. Continue reading
Write a book, get published, make millions, right? Wrong.
I’m not sure what bothers me more about this misconception: the would-be authors who think a book deal is the key to financial success and easy living or the countless readers who operate under the delusion that authors are so well off that they ought to give their books away, for free.
Authors Earn Less than Minimum Wage
The Bureau of Labor Statistics list average annual income for writers and authors as $63,200. What many writers and readers fail to realize is, this average includes the salaries of corporate writers who are responsible for crafting the limitations for your insurance and warrantees, the microscopic legalese that’s included with the terms and conditions of your credit card, and the impossible to follow instructions included with every “assembly required” item you’ve ever purchased. Actual author income is much, much less. Continue reading
Your book is written, edited, and formatted. You’ve purchased ISBNs and barcodes. You have a stellar cover and a pretty spiffy author photo, too. You’re moments away from uploading to Amazon, popping some bubbly, and announcing your book release . . . but have you really thought through the supply chain connections necessary for a successful book launch?
Marketing on your blog, through social media, and spamming your email list is a no brainer. But, how do you get your book in bookstores? There’s no getting around the need to connect with retailers. Therefore, it’s incumbent on you to figure out what kind of distribution system you want. Continue reading
Launching a book with strong word of mouth sales right from day one takes a lot of groundwork done months (and years) in advance. Most people realize they need to post excerpts and teasers on their author website, in email newsletters, and on social media, assuming that reviews will trickle in from readers after publication. If you wait until after your book has been published to post a listing on Goodreads or similar sites in order to acquire reviews, you have waited too long.
Many consumers use reviews to make purchasing decisions. This means authors need to develop a plan to obtain those reviews about a year prior to publication. When sending materials out for review send exactly what the reviewer requests. Some reviewers will accept galleys others require an advance reader copy (ARC). So what is an ARC and how is it different from a galley? Continue reading
You have written a book. It’s great book, a stellar book, a magnificent book. Yet, it sits on the shelf unsold.
If your intended audience is between the ages of 6 and 18, unless your book is listed in the Accelerated Reader (AR) catalog, it’s unlikely to be purchased by anyone. Teachers cannot possibly be familiar with the plot, storyline, and characters of every book available to school-age children. Because of this, many schools turn to Renaissance Learning’s Accelerated Reader (AR) program. The AR software provides assessments that measure comprehension and reading level. Consequently, school and library purchasing decisions are often dependent on AR catalog listing.
Authors hoping to bypass schools and libraries, marketing directly to kids (and their parents) are out of luck. Summer used to be a time for kids to catch-up on ‘fun’ reading. Now, even it has fallen victim to the AR Catalog. Racking-up AR points is highly competitive. Pizza parties and tickets to amusement parks on the line. Many schools allow students to log points for books read during summer break, so most school-aged children simply will not read a book that does not appear in the AR catalog.
In order to be successful with the school-age demographic, authors need their books listed in the AR catalog. But, how does one do that? Continue reading
According to Jane Friedman the most essential first step for authors is book reviews, not sales. A good review generates symbolic capital, which helps sell books. New and self-published authors have no symbolic capital, meaning they are an unknown in the book market. The key to a successful book launch is acquiring reviews before investing in public promotions.
Many self-published authors and authors published by small presses don’t think about reviews until it’s too late. The time to start thinking about reviews is about one year prior to publication. This is because a list of potential reviews must be created before proofs are ordered. The proofs are sent to selected reviewers as advance reader copies and it can take anywhere from 3 to 6 months before the publisher has a review in hand and is ready to proceed with publication.
But where do these reviews come from? Many first-time authors turn to paid review sites like YourNewBooks.com, Reading Deals, and Enas Review. While some paid review sites, like Kirkus, are accepted and trusted sources by many in the industry, most are not worth the trouble (or the money). The draw for many of these sites is that if the review is negative the author can chose not to have it published. However, American Heart initially received a glowing review and was awarded a Kirkus star, only to have the star removed–Kirkus forced the reviewer to change their review post-publication. So, if you are going to end up with a publicly available negative review anyway, there are plenty of places to acquire those for free. Below are the five areas to tap pre-publication to get reviews. Continue reading
In every group of friends there is that one person who is always trying something new. There was the new diet that failed, the new hobby that only lasted two weeks, and the new relationship that crashed and burned. The reason all of these failed was because they were unwilling to make the sacrifices necessary to make them work. It’s no different for people who want to be writers.
It’s not uncommon to hear aspiring writers say, “I long to become a writer and land a traditional publishing contract, but I have never written a word and have no idea what to write about. I just keep waiting for inspiration. And, given all that’s going on right now, I just don’t have time to sit down and write. Besides, I couldn’t bear to show my work to anyone.”
If this is you, then I cannot help you become a writer. Like the dieter and hobbyist above, you already have excuses just waiting to be employed. To quote Dan Poynter, “If you are waiting for inspiration to write, you’re not a writer, you’re a waiter.”
So, how does one actually become a writer? The first step is to engage in less whining and more writing. Abandon your high-faulting literary romanticism and vocal criticisms of the “lack of literary quality” in today’s published works. No matter what you think of J.K. Rolling’s or Stephen King’s writing, the simple truth is they are making millions and you are not. And understand that you will not be an overnight success. As Malcolm Gladwell discussed in his bestseller, it takes 10,000 hours, or approximately 10 years, of deliberate practice to become an expert in your field, so be prepared to put in a lot time at the keyboard.
Now that we’ve got the excuses out of the way, here’s how to start writing: Continue reading