Editing: From Alphas to Betas and Beyond

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


The Terrible Truth behind Free Books

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


Book Distribution: What are your options?

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


Book Review 102: Galleys vs. ARCs

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


Submitting to the AR Catalog

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


Book Review 101

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


10 Tips for Beginning Writers

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


National Novel Writing Month

NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month.  Founded in 1999 with just 21 participants, the movement has grown to including nearly a million writers annually.

Each November, participants are encouraged to write an entire novel in just 30 days.  The goal is to complete a very rough first draft, which will be edited throughout the following year.  Participants start by registering on the NaNoWriMo website where they will be connected to a local Municipal Liaison (ML) who will inform them the dates and times of write-ins.  The write-in is simply times when groups of local writers agree to meet for the purpose of diligently writing their novels. Continue reading


Tips for Successful Book Signings

Reality Check: Unless you are on the New York Times Best Seller list, don’t expect book signings to bring in a ton of money.  So, if not for the money, why should the average Joe participate in a book signing?  Exposure.

Books don’t sell themselves.  If you are self-published, that also means self-promoted.  Small-time and self-published authors will likely sell less than 10 books at a book signing.  Many of the people who attend the event won’t even buy a book, they are curiosity-seekers, tire-kickers, and sometimes, just looking for a bathroom.  However, all the marketing and promotion that occurs prior to the event will help you reach new readers who may buy the book, even if they don’t come to the signing.

After hosting several book signings, I’ve created a list of tips and tricks for eager authors to help make their next book signing a success. Continue reading


Book Cover 101

We’ve all heard the admonishment, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”  Whoever said that clearly wasn’t trying to sell books in the 21st century.  Regardless of whether it’s consumers, bookstore buyers, or the folks making nominations for the Worst of Amazon, everyone is judging books by their covers. Why? The simple truth is, a great book with a horrible cover won’t sell, but a horrible book with a great cover will.

Authors and self-publishers need to put as much thought into their book’s cover as they do the content between the covers.  The smartest thing to do is hire a professional cover designer.  This is because every book requires multiple cover files, how many depends on how the book is distributed.  The best recommendations for cover artist come word-of-mouth.  If you attend an author event and see someone with a cover that catches your attention, ask for the name of their artist.  Most authors are happy to share that information. Continue reading