Posts Tagged ‘nonfiction’

Troubleshooting: Avoiding Scams

So, Squiders, this is our final post about submitting and publishing for the nonfiction book. I’ll take a few weeks off of the nonfic books after this, and then we can talk about whether or not we’d like to do another one or not.

So, today, we’re going to talk about how not to get scammed. There are a lot of prospective authors out there, and, unfortunately, there are also plenty of people willing to take money to prey on people’s dreams. While the rise of the Internet has helped authors immensely (usually a Google search can be enough to avoid some of the worst), there’s still some points to be salient about to keep yourself safe.

In Traditional Publishing, Money Flows to the Author

If you’re pursuing traditional publishing, this is essential to remember. If a publisher or an agent asks for money up front, this is a big red flag. There is no such thing as a “reading fee” or a “printing fee.” In traditional publishing, nobody gets paid until a book is published. Then the publisher takes their cut, the agent takes their cut, and the author gets their royalties.

Authors will occasionally get emails from various companies promising to publish them, but these are almost always scam companies. Legitimate publishers don’t have time to pull every author email they can find. Additionally, some agents may have connections with vanity publishers or editing services that can constitute a conflict of interest.

If you’re looking at an agent or a publishing house and something looks fishy, ask other authors. Many writing communities have spaces where authors can ask if people have used a person or a company and what their impressions were. There are also sites that keep track of potential scams, such as Writer Beware.

In Self-Publishing, Make Sure You’re Getting Your Money’s Worth

Self-publishing requires the author to be in charge of a lot of different aspects of publishing, and it can be a good idea to hire a professional for different aspects to help put out a quality product. But there are a million and a half companies out there that offer services to self-published authors, and it can sometimes be hard to tell legitimate companies from scammers or people who just simply don’t know what they’re doing.

The best way to make sure you’re working with someone with the necessary professional know-how is to ask other authors for referrals. Happy authors are more than willing to share the contact information for someone who’s done right by them, especially since many cover artists/editors/proofreaders are also one-person businesses and they like to see them succeed. You don’t need to talk to other authors directly if you don’t know many; many authors will talk about services they used on their blogs or list them in their books or on their website. Writing communities are also a good place to ask for recommendations.

Once you have some referrals, check out those people/services in depth. For cover artists, look at other covers they’ve done and see if you think their style will work for your book. For editors or proofreaders, you can ask for a sample page (or three) and see if you like their editorial style and if you think they’ll be good to work with. If you’re looking at hiring someone for a blog tour or another marketing campaign, you can normally look at campaigns they’re actively running and see how they’re going. Make sure you’re informed and know your costs/budget up front.

Self-publishing is also pretty easy to DIY these days. You’ll find services that will take over the “technical” aspects of publishing for you, such as uploading your book on to Amazon, but these are unnecessary, as it is pretty straightforward to do this yourself. A cheaper and better alternative, if you feel you can’t manage on your own, is to hire a self-publishing coach who will teach you the process so you can do it yourself in the future. Companies are willing to take money for just about any aspect of the self-publishing process. A bit of research to see if a service is needed, or if you can do it yourself, can be very helpful.

It also doesn’t hurt to be generally aware of the range of price for various services. That way if someone is much higher (or lower) than average, it can be a sign of something being a bit off. This is not always true; some highly experienced service providers may charge more because you’re getting a higher quality service, while many artists and editors who are starting out may not be aware of market prices or may be starting out at lower prices to build their client base/portfolio. Again, this is where talking to other authors can be beneficial.

Contests

It can be hard to pick out scam contests from legitimate ones, since many contests do charge some sort of entrance fee (which at least partially goes to paying out the prizes for said contest). Again, doing your research is key here. Ask other writers, make sure the organizations running the contest are legitimate and not tied to previous controversies, make sure there’s no strings attached to “winning” (a common scam is to make buying a certain number of copies of the “winners’ anthology” a requirement of publishing, and then charging $50 a book), see if they list previous years’ winners on their website, etc.

Avoiding scams across the board involves doing your research, reaching out to other authors, and paying attention to potential warning signs.

Missing anything, Squiders? Anything confusing?

Troubleshooting: No One’s Buying

Self-publishing can be a lot of work–not only do you have to write the book, but you have to be in charge of editing, proofreading, securing a cover, distribution, and marketing. So it can be depressing if sales are slow or non-existent. What are some things you can do to try and help boost your sales?

Check Your Product

The first step is to make sure you’re putting out a story that is in good shape, not one that’s riddled with typoes, stray punctuation, obvious plot holes, bad formatting, or anything else that makes your book look low quality or amateur. If you find yourself consistently getting bad reviews, or if reviews are consistently pointing out the same issue, it may be worth it to take your story off of being on sale and do another round of beta reading or editing. Some distributors will let people who have bought your book know when you put out a new version.

Check Your Market

It can be hard to know where to put your story when there’s fifteen million different categories available. It doesn’t hurt to look at books that are similar to yours and see what categories they’re listed in, and whether or not they’re performing well in those categories. With online distribution, it’s easy to test out different, related categories to see which ones work the best for your story. You can also tweak your keywords to see if that helps you gain traction. Getting your book where the right readers can come across it can be a lot of the battle.

NOTE: If you do marketing research, you’ll probably hear advice about putting your book into more niche markets to increase its rankings. While this can be a good strategy, make sure the categories are still appropriate to your book or you’re not going to be doing yourself–or your book–any good, and you might actually do some harm.

Check Your Marketing Strategy

It can be helpful–and some people would argue essential–to set up a marketing plan before you release a book. This is a place where you keep track of your different marketing techniques as well as how successful different things have proven to be. You can also keep track of reviewers and your budget, if you have one.

When I make a marketing plan, I often do waves of marketing, such as indicating which activities are pre-launch, during launch, or post launch. I also keep track of activities to try if my initial efforts don’t seem to be working the way I’d like them to. If your sales aren’t what you’d like them to be, it may not hurt to follow some book marketing podcasts or blogs, or to take a webinar or two on techniques that sound interesting to you. That way you can tweak your marketing strategy and hopefully find something that works for you.

Many authors consider marketing to be the hardest part of self-publishing, and it can be hard to find which strategies work best for you. Be open to trying new things if they appeal to you. And when doing research, try to stick to articles and books that aren’t older than a few years, as what works in book marketing changes relatively quickly.

NOTE: If you really hate some aspect of marketing–like, for example, Twitter–don’t force yourself to do it. You’ll be miserable, it’ll be a waste of your time, and your dislike will come through to the readers you’re trying to reach. It’s better to focus your time on something you like to do.

Am I missing anything here, Squiders? Anything else you’d recommend checking if your sales are low?

See you on Thursday!

Troubleshooting: How Many Rejections are Too Many?

All right, Squiders! Let’s get into the troubleshooting portion of submission and publication, which will be the last section included here on the blog. Please let me know if this book blogging thing is working for you, and if you’d like me to continue with the other books.

Today we’re going to talk about how many rejections are too many. Rejections fall into the following categories:

  • No response
  • Form rejection
  • Personal rejection/Send others
  • Revise and resubmit

As a quick recap,  no response means exactly what it sounds like–you send your story/query off to a publisher or agent, and never hear anything again. Emails to follow up go similarly unanswered. A form rejection is a basic rejection that agents/publishers send out when it’s a definite no. These two kinds can be very discouraging, because they give you, the author, no information. Was your query/story bad? Was it good but not a good fit? Did they like aspects of it, but they’re too busy to send feedback along with the rejection?

A personal rejection means the publisher/agent took the time to go off-script from their form rejection to give you some feedback. This can be things like aspects they liked about your story along with things they didn’t, it can be a note that they liked the story but do not have room for it in their current line-up, etc. In some cases, the agent/publisher may ask you to consider them in the future for other stories.

A revise and resubmit means that the agent/publisher will seriously consider picking up your story if you make some specific changes to it. This is very promising–it means you’re close–but you will have decide if you’re willing to make the changes asked for, especially since this isn’t a guarantee of representation or publication.

So perhaps the question shouldn’t be “How many is too many?” but “What kind of rejections are you getting?”

For a short story, if you’re regularly getting personal rejections or requests to send other stories, that’s a good sign. You may just need to keep trying. For novels, if your query is regularly getting partial requests, that’s also a good sign, because it means that your query letter is working.

With a novel, you can often tell where, if anywhere, the process is falling apart. If you get partial requests with a query but not with a query plus five pages, then your beginning may need tightening. If your partials are spawning fulls regularly, then your writing is probably fine, but your plotting may be off. Many agents/publishers will send feedback if they’re rejecting a full, however, so this can be helpful.

If you’re routinely getting the same comments, that might be something to consider updating.

But if you’re getting no responses or form rejections, you may need to consider that something might be wrong with either your querying materials or your story itself. If you haven’t had the story critiqued or beta read, you should consider doing so. Critiquers or beta readers can be invaluable for helping figure out if there’s problems with a manuscript. If it’s the querying material that’s getting you rejected, many writing forums have areas where you can get help and feedback on queries and synopses. Going to a local writers’ conference can also be helpful for that, as oftentimes these offer the opportunity to meet with agents or editors one on one.

So, let’s say you’re getting fairly regularly personal rejections/partial requests, have had your manuscript looked at by someone else and have vetted your querying materials run by other people. Then, how many rejections are too many? Well, on some level, this is a personal decision. Some people are lucky enough to have a story picked up after a few tries, but others have successfully sold a story after 100+ rejections.

But never wait on a story selling. Work on the next one, and if the current one doesn’t sell now, it might later when you have some publishing credits under your name. Or you might find that, as you learn as an author, you figure out an awesome way to fix the story.

Tuesday we’ll talk about issues with selling, for both self and traditionally published stories.

Self-publishing Novels (Physical books)

Okay, squiders, today we’re going to talk about how to self-publish physical books–hardbacks and paperbacks. And then we’ll get into troubleshooting, and then I’m going to have to write the rest of this book on my own, ahahaha. But we’ll do a poll to see which nonfic topic we want to discuss next when we’re done with this one.

Self-publishing physical books falls into two categories:

  • Print-on-Demand (hereafter referred to as POD)
  • Batch printing

The names refer to the amount of books printed at any one point in time. In both cases, you will need for format your book for print, or hire someone to do it for you. It is easier to create paperback versions of self-published books, but some companies do allow you to pay for the added expense of doing a hardback version.

When formatting your book for print, you will need to determine the trim size, which is the size of the book. There are some industry standards, but there is also some variation and you can pick whichever you feel will work best for your book. For example, if you’d like to make a shorter book look more substantial, you could go with a smaller trim size to get more pages. You will also need to determine font size and type. Some fonts are more readable and considered more standard, though you can again get away with some variation as long as the font is easy to read. Mass media paperbacks tend to have smaller font, while hardbacks tend to have larger.

You will also need a cover. Some POD services offer cover creators, which allow you to create a cover on the website, but be aware that your options will be limited to stock font and images, unless the creator allows you to upload your own. You will need the full wrap-around cover (front cover, spine, back cover) so it’s important to do the interior formatting first so you know how many pages the book is going to be and can base your cover dimensions on that. Also be aware that you will need a high quality image so that it doesn’t look grainy or pixelated when printed.

You will also need to consider buying an ISBN. These can be bought individually or in packs of 10. Each new edition will need its own ISBN (for example, a hardback edition would need a different ISBN than a paperback edition) and if you plan to publish several books, the packs are a better deal. Some POD or batch services offer deals to let you buy ISBNs through them, though these may have some limitations as to where they can be used.

Print-on-Demand

How POD works is that your manuscript is uploaded onto a POD service’s website, complete with formatting and cover. When someone wants to purchase your novel, a single (or however many that particular order is for) copy of said novel is created and shipped.

You can work directly with a POD service, or some publishing services companies will deal with it for you. There is a minimum cost per book, usually based on how many pages your novel is, what type of paper you want to use, trim size, and whether you want color in the interior of the book. You must pick a sale price at or above this minimum price.

Some common POD services include, but are not limited to:

  • CreateSpace
  • Ingram Spark
  • Lulu
  • Lightning Source

Some services will charge a set-up fee for the initial set-up, or may charge a yearly fee to continue carrying the book. The quality of printed book also varies between different services. For example, CreateSpace is a popular POD option because they easily let you list your book for sale on Amazon, but there have been complaints about the quality of the books. Some authors use a combination of CreateSpace for its Amazon connections and then a different POD service for other retailers or for books for conventions or book signings.

POD is popular with many authors because it requires little or no upfront costs and because authors don’t need to keep a large stock of their own books on hand. Many publishers, especially small presses, also use POD technology for their titles.

Batch printing

The other method for getting physical copies of a self-published novel is batch, or bulk, printing. This is where several copies of the book are printed all at once, which usually results in a lower overall cost per book. Like POD, you will need to have your book formatted for print beforehand (though many printers also offer formatting services) and have a cover ready (though, again, this may be a service offered). Some printers may only offer books in select sizes, so make sure your formatting matches what’s available. Some printers may have a minimum number of books per order (such as 25 or 100). If you need a large amount of books, this is the way to do it.

There are many different companies that offer this service. There may even be local companies you can use, in which case you can avoid paying for shipping. If possible, ask to see a finished book so you can check binding quality, printing quality, and cover quality.

People who move a large amount of books will find this method much more cost effective. However, you will need to deal with distribution yourself unless you pay a service to do it for you, and if you buy more copies than you sell, you may find yourself having to store a large amount of books with no easy way to sell them.

Did I leave anything out, Squiders? Anything you have questions on?

Also, just a reminder that The Short of It comes out tomorrow! I’ve also got Shards and Hidden Worlds on sale at Amazon for tomorrow (and might have City of Hope and Ruin though I am checking with Siri before I do anything there) for a dollar. I’ll post specifics tomorrow.

Happy Tuesday, squiders!

Self-Publishing Novels (ebooks)

Aw, squiders. Sometimes it’s too cold in the morning for my computer to start up, and then sometimes, when it finally starts, your web browser freezes and eats your half-written blog posts which were apparently not saved all the way despite what WordPress promised.

So, self-publishing novels! A lot of the self-publication information for novels is the same as it was for short stories, as most self-publishing venues allow for any length of product. That’s an argument for making a single self-published section in the book, which I shall ponder. But, for now, we’ll go back over the options, though in less detail. If you’d like more detail, feel free to pop back over to the Self-Publishing Short Stories posts.

I am, however, going to break the information here up into self-publishing digitally vs. self-publishing paper or hardbacks. Today, we’ll talk the digital side.

Here are the methods available for self-publishing novels:

  • Blogs/websites
  • Newsletters
  • Online fiction websites
  • Online retailers/book distributors

Blogs/websites

The easiest way to self-publish a novel is to make it available on your personal blog or website. For a blog, you can post a chapter a week (like I’m doing with this nonfic book) or along whatever schedule works best for you. It is, however, recommended that you not put the book in a single post, since that can make it hard to read. Many blogging sites have character limits on their posts anyway.

NOTE: Posting a novel serially can be a good way to help you build readership should you intend to collect the book into a single manuscript and sell it later, or if you want to sell sequels or other related books.

Some authors also make books available to download from their websites. Often this is the first book of a series so readers are encouraged to buy later books if they like the first one. Most often, the reader has to exchange something for the free book, which is usually signing up for the author’s newsletter, which we will discuss in a moment.

You can also sell your books on your own website. There are different ways to build a storefront into your site, which allows you to take payment directly from your readers without worrying about a retailer or distributor taking a cut of your sales.

NOTE: For best visibility, it will help to have multiple ebook formats available for purchase/download. The majority of ebook readers will use the following formats: mobi (Kindle), epub (pretty much everyone else), or PDF.

Newsletters

As mentioned above, many authors offer a “freebie” as an incentive for joining their mailing list. This freebie can vary depending on what the author has out, what they write, and what they’re willing to give away. Authors I know give away everything from a short story to a novel, but there is a lot of variation and a lot of schools of thought on this one.

For example, some people write a brand new novella or short story related to a series of books they write so that subscribers get something no one else gets. Other people offer a story that a subscriber would otherwise have to pay for, so they feel like they’re getting a good deal. Several people will change the subscription incentive periodically.

You should do your research about what will work best for you and how you want to implement your newsletter.

NOTE: In most cases, unless you’re providing exclusive content for your subscribers, this should not be the only method of distribution.

Online fiction websites

Sites like Wattpad and FictionPress allow you to post full-length novels in a serial fashion. These websites often have a community aspect to them, and readers can leave comments, favorite, or otherwise “like” (terminology varies by website) individual sections or the work as a whole. They can also bookmark your story so that they’re notified when you post an update.

This can be a good way to build readership, depending on how much time you’re willing to put into the community. In some cases, people have received traditional publishing deals if a story has done well enough, but you shouldn’t go into this method expecting that to happen.

NOTE: This does count as publishing your novel. If you’re hoping to try for a traditional deal later, some agents/publishers may not consider work that has been previously published unless you have impressive numbers to back it up.

Online retailers/ebook distributors

This is the most common method to self-publish an ebook. These websites allow you to upload your manuscript and cover, add in a book description and categories, and set a price. Your books will show up next to traditionally-published books and, if you do a good job with cover/formatting/etc., are indistinguishable from them.

Most ebook retailers allow you to upload your book directly to them (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo), though others will require or be easier to access if you use an ebook distributor. A distributor, such as Smashwords or Draft2Digital, will convert your ebook into different formats and distribute them to different retailers of your choice. Many authors prefer to use ebook distributors because it simplifies the process of keeping track of sales, and because changes only need to be made in one place.

Right, so there’s the low down on that! Am I missing avenues, Squiders? Let me know! Tuesday we’ll talk about paper/hardback publishing, and then I think we may be done with the content that’s going on the blog–no, wait, I was going to do troubleshooting. Right! So novels Tuesday, probably a break Thursday, and then troubleshooting.

Publishing Novels Traditionally: After the Agent

Okay, squiders! This’ll wrap up traditional publishing for novels, and then we’ll take a bit of a break before we jump into self-publishing novels.

So let’s say you’ve gotten an agent if you wanted one. Your agent may work with you to revise your novel, depending on its state. Once you and the agent feel it’s ready, the agent starts approaching publishing houses and querying your novel.

Depending on the publishing house, there is a differing number of people who need to be convinced to buy your book. A small press may have a single person in charge of acquisitions (normally known as an acquisitions editor), whereas a large house may have an entire acquisitions team. In some cases, even if you have an acquisitions editor who loves your novel, if they can’t convince their team/their manager to buy your book, they may be unable to do so by themselves.

Interested publishers offer you a book deal. If there are multiple publishers that are interested, your novel may go to auction, which is coordinated by your agent. There are different kinds, but essentially each interested publisher offers a book deal for your novel, and the best one gets the publishing contract.

NOTE: If you’ve gotten a book deal sans agent from a publisher, the following steps are more or less the same, allowing for variations within different companies.

Once your book is with a publisher, it will undergo an editorial review, after which you’ll get an editorial letter, which is essentially a letter with everything that needs to be changed. Some of this might be more major, like structural or pacing changes, or it might be more minor. You’ll have a deadline to complete the changes by. Copyediting is also usually done at this point.

NOTE: If there’s something major in your editorial letter that you strongly disagree with, you can discuss the issue with your agent and editor. Just make sure it’s worth fighting for. You don’t want to fight everything because 1) they probably know what they’re talking about in most cases, and 2) you don’t want to get a reputation for being someone that’s hard to work with.

Once you’ve turned in your edits, the book goes into the final publication phase–it gets typeset, a cover is designed, a title is solidified, marketing is done, etc.

WARNING: With a traditionally published book, the author often has little control over things such as titles or covers. Additionally, traditional publishing can be a long process, with it taking over a year between acquisition and a publication date.

How does payment work?

There is a two tier payment system for traditionally published novels. Some authors are paid an “advance” where they are paid some amount upon signing their book deal. Not all publishers offer these, however, and in these changing times, advances now are smaller than they’ve been traditionally. It’s not uncommon for a debut author to only get an advance of $5000 or $10000, if they get any at all.

The second part of the payment process is royalties. Royalties are a percentage of the sales of the book, generally somewhere between 7 and 15%. An advance is technically an advance against royalties, so if you get an advance of $15,000, you won’t actually start earning royalties until you’ve made $15,000 in royalties. So when someone says a book didn’t earn out its advance, it means the book never sold enough copies to make back what the author was paid in advance.

All right! That should be it for traditionally published novels, squiders. Please let me know if you think I’m leaving anything out! Or if you have questions, or comments, or anything along those lines.

Publishing Novels Traditionally: The Submission Process

Continuing on from Monday’s post about the ways to have a novel traditionally published, and Wednesday’s post about agents. If you haven’t read those and also aren’t familiar with those topics, you might want to start there.

So, let’s say you’ve decided whether you’re going to approach publishers directly or work on getting an agent (or a mixture of both), that you’ve made a list of publishers/agents who you think will be a good fit for your novel and that you know are reputable, you’ve done your research so you know what material each publisher/agent wants with your query, and you’ve put together your query, synopsis, sample pages, and whatever else you might need.

NOTE: You may find it helpful to run your query letters/synopses by other writers. Many writing communities offer forums for this purpose. In exchange for looking at your materials, you’re expected to look at other authors’ and help them out as well. This can be especially helpful if you are new to querying. These forums also often include a place for other members to post their queries when they get an agent and/or a book deal so you can see what’s working.

After you have everything ready to go, you can start sending out queries, making sure you are following the literary agencies/publishing house’s submission guidelines as to where to send it and what to send.

Many authors wonder how many queries they should be sending at a time. This is a personal decision. It can run the gamut from a single query at a time to an author’s entire list, but many authors like to send out 5 to 10 at a time so they can gauge how their query letter is performing and whether they need to change anything before sending things out to the next batch.

WARNING: Make sure you personalize each query to the agent/publisher! Mass emails to several people at a time are an almost certain way to get yourself rejected. Besides, since many agencies and publishers have different submission guidelines, it can be near impossible to match things up properly. Each agent/publisher gets their own email, and make sure you’re spelling people’s names right, and that you have the right gender. (No one likes to get an email for Mr. Smith if they’re a Ms. Smith, for example.)

NOTE: Response times for queries can vary wildly. Some agents will get back to you within a week or so; others may take months. Some agents/publishers never respond if they’re not interested. You can send an email asking for status if it’s been a reasonable amount of time (often several months–agencies’/publishers’ websites might include how long their response times are, and if you’re past that, you’re generally safe to ask) but this is why many people prefer to send out a few queries at a time.

If an agent or publisher is interested in your novel, they’ll generally ask for either a “partial” or a “full” manuscript. A partial is generally the first three chapters or the first 50 pages, though this depends and the agent/publisher will generally tell you what exactly to send. In some cases, if they haven’t asked for it already, they’ll ask for a partial plus the synopsis. A full is exactly what it sounds like–you send the entire thing.

NOTE: An agent or publisher may ask for an “exclusive”–meaning that they want to be the only person looking at your manuscript until they make a decision. It’s up to you whether or not you want to grant this; if you’re getting a lot of interest in your manuscript, it might not be worth it. Whatever your decision is, make sure you let the agent/publisher know. Most won’t reject a manuscript just because you wouldn’t go exclusive with them.

If an agent/publisher likes your partial, they will generally ask for a full. Decisions are then made off of the full manuscript. An agent/publisher may reject at this point, usually with the inclusion of details of why, which can be useful to the author for revising the manuscript if they deem it necessary. They might offer what’s called a “revise and resubmit (R&R)” where they’re interested in the book, but would need some revisions done before they offer representation/a book deal. The author can make the decision about whether or not to do so–if the changes seem like they would be beneficial to the story, it usually doesn’t hurt to make them. However, if you’re getting interest from other agents without the changes, it may be best to leave the story alone.

Representation/a book deal may also be offered at this point. You may have a single offer, or you may get many. It’s important to make sure that the agent/publisher is someone you are comfortable working with. Several websites and books offer lists of questions to ask potential agents/publishers to make sure you’re making a good choice.

Tuesday we’ll go over what happens after you’ve got an agent/publisher. Questions, squiders? Comments? Cheez-Its for the Landsquid?