Thursday, April 29, 2010

New Review of "Burden of Proof"

Here is a new review of "Burden of Proof" posted on Amazon!  I did not know the reviewer and her feedback was very helpful.  

"This book is not a "whodunit" it's a lot more a "will they get away with it" type of book. From the first page you are introduced to the conspirators and the conspiracy. It is more adventure than mystery. 

Ms. Lassiter pulls no punches, and those who get in the way of the conspiracy are killed ... so at no point are you certain that anyone will make it to the last page.

I appreciate the fact that this is a conversation-driven book, with an omnipotent overview, so the reader is able to see and understand the motivations of all of the characters.

And I appreciate the way the conspiracy is handled, including the focus on wanting democracy to succeed in spite of the conspiracy.

There are still some "rough edges" in the book, and some of the conversations are a bit awkward. However, the story alone puts this one above average.

I have had the privilege of reading BOTH the early edition of this book and the current addition ... Ms Lassiter forwarded me a PDF copy of the book. While 90+% of the errors were caught in the later edition, there are still a few misused words and typos hanging in there ... but the story is strong, leaving me between 3 and 4 stars - rounded up to 4."


I'm still trying to finish up the follow-up to "Burden of Proof," by will be active in blogging again by mid-May!  Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

"Good Bones"

I decided to take a much needed break from working on my new thriller today by going on an hour and a half walk.  The weather was a perfect sixty-degrees with sunshine.  As I maneuvered the quaint city sidewalks of Bozeman Montana, I admired many of the historic homes dating to the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  The architecture ranges from classic Victorian to well-kept bungalows.  Being from the southern part of the U.S. originally, I love older homes, especially ones that have been maintained well.  I'd take a well-built century old brick Georgian or bungalow over a mac-Mansion any day.  Why not go for the luxurious mansion - mainly because the older homes have good bones.

Good bones?  It's a term meaning that a house was well-built, with care and quality structure.  It is well-designed with quality materials that will stand the test of time architecturally and structurally.  The homes lining Willson Street in Bozeman have good bones.

What does this have to do with writing you may ask?  Well when I walk I'm always thinking of book ideas, and as I admired the architecture I started thinking about how to apply the 'good bones' structure to writing.  A well-built house and a well-written book aren't very different if you really think about it.  Both have strong structure, depth, and can withstand the test of time no matter how tastes may change.

If you want to write a good, or better yet a great book the story needs 'good bones' for it's foundation; a solid plot structure, universal themes, quality characters, and a depth in story telling, narrative and word usage.  Good structure and Solid story depth - lead to a well-told story.  So build your story like a well-built house: structure it well - plot out your plot goals, themes, and characters.  You as a writer are an architect,  a master draftsman - capable of composing a masterpiece (or a least a book that's structurally strong and enjoyable to read) or you can settle for a rushed writing job, and not so great structure - in the end good bones will prove the difference between memorable and forgettable writing...

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

In Between Ink Posts

Sorry I haven't posting recently!  I'm on the brink of finishing the follow-up to "Burden of Proof" and haven't had much time to focus on The Ink Spot.  I will be back very soon with posts detailing more on the writing and publishing process.  Let me know some topics you're interested in.  I plan on focusing on Press Releases next week.  Thanks for reading!  Adele

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Book Review: Christian Encounters Winston Churchill

Thomas Nelson Publishers recently started a new series of biographies entitled "Christian Encounters." This series profiles a wide-range of historical figures from authors to scientists to church and world leaders. The books focus in on biographical history of the subjects lives and how they were influenced by their Christian faith.

Through the Thomas Nelson Book Sneeze Program I was able to preview a new biography by John Perry on Winston Churchill, which offers a concise and well-thought history of the wartime Prime Minister. As a fan of Sir Winston Churchill's life, writings and leadership during World War II I would highly suggest reading this book. It is well-written and engaging.

The biography is sectioned off into twelve chapters highlighting key points in Churchill's life. Perry recounts Churchill's life from in a personable way from his childhood to his leadership during the tumultuous World War II. Despite the strength of the ever-rising Nazi army, bombing in London and uncertainty amidst the chaos, Churchill kept hope alive for the English and helped to lead the Allies to win the war. Along the way, Perry also focuses in on times in Churchill's life when his Christian faith stabilized him and offered insight into his life's purpose.

This biography helped me form an even greater opinion of Churchill. Perry shows Churchill to be a man with both flaws and quality traits. He learned through many trials and experiences early in his life, which would have caused many to give up, but he kept faith that those trials were simply lessons for his future fate. Churchill was first introduced to his faith as a Christian by Elizabeth Everest, or "Woomy," Winston's nurse and constant in his early life. Although Churchill did not attend church regularly in critical times in his life he turned to his faith in God and it was this faith, which gave him that fighting spirit and hope, which made him the leader we know and recognize today.

This book offers lots of documentation, well-written fact and Christian nuances to make this a must-read for those looking for an introduction on Sir Winston Churchill. It is short and highlights aspects of his life and faith, an excellent introduction before reading more detailed works on Churchill's life.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Frustrating writing day

Do you ever have days when writing makes you crazy.  You have writers block or can't see clearly to read through a manuscript you are editing?  I'm there today! 

So what are some good ways to clear your head and refocus on writing?

Sometimes I have to take a break and either work on another project unrelated to my writing project(s) and/or just get out of the house.

On the other hand it could be helpful to try to write through the writers block, which can get your brain going.

I make lots of brainstorming lists, which sometimes helps.  What works for you?  Think of ways that you can refocus after a frustrating day (or week) of writing and editing....

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Writing Resources for Authors

Every few weeks I will try to profile books and websites, which I believe to be useful to becoming a better author and/or expanding one's knowledge of publishing.  Here are three books, which are musts for any writer:

Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White: It's the book you hated in high school and college English, but it is a must have for any writer.  This book explains the fundamentals of the English language in a clear and precise way.  A resource for even the most astute and knowledgeable writers.

Eat Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynn Truss: I received this book as a Christmas book several years ago and it has greatly helped me better my technical writing.

The Writer's Market: A must have for anyone looking to break into publishing.  It gives you a list of Agents, How to Write a Query Letter, Publishers, and Magazines to sell short stories or feature articles.

I'll post more books and add in websites to our discussion every few weeks!  

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Book Signing Tips

Book Signings and Book Readings are excellent ways to entice new readers to pick up a copy of your book, and interact with those who have already read it!   In order for your signing to be a success I've enclosed a list of tips I've learned, which will help your signing become a success.

Planning the Event:  Many times Authors want to coincide a Book Tour with the release of their book.  This is excellent if you are able to afford the time off from work and family life to do so.  However for many Independent Authors embarking on a multi-city tour might not be feasible.  If this is the case,  what I suggest is starting small and working your way up to larger book events, venues and extended touring.  

First pull out a calendar and a map of the region you'd first like to tackle. For instance, I live in Bozeman Montana and I know my book is being released on February 1st.  There are five major and independent bookstores in Bozeman, which I hope will carry my book.  I know I'd like to have one to three book signings in the area between February and March.  I look at the calendar and figure out a list of possible signing book event dates and possible locations to have the event.  I then politely phone the store or library to inquire about the possibility of having a signing and list possible dates in which to schedule the event.  

Once a book event date is settled upon it will then be up to the bookseller whether or not they prefer that books are sold on consignment (I.E. It's your responsibility to order the copies from the printer, and bring them to the book signing.  The Book Store will then take a 40-55% commission off the retail price, and you receive the wholesale price, minus printing costs as a profit).  If you are listed with Ingram or Baker and Taylor and allow returns, the bookstore may opt to order books into the store.  The copies, which don't sell are sent back to your printer/distributor and you pay the refund to the store.  

For "Burden of Proof" I opted to schedule several small events in the Bozeman area, first at the town library and then at a local bookstore.  I learned a lot from both experiences about what to do and what not to do at a booksigning.

So Tip #1: Start off on a regional basis, scheduling events in your hometown at a local library, book or grocery store (yes believe it or not many grocery stores host book signings) and depending on your genre you can also work to schedule book events at schools, book clubs/rotary clubs, the local Y, Church, etc...get creative and constantly be conscious of your key demographic and genre of book.

Once you've done a few signings I recommend setting a goal of how many signings you want to do in a month or six month period.  Be realistic - if you work all the time or can't leave the kids, think small, but efficient.  Maybe aim for one event a month in a nearby town that the kids enjoy going to or a place you are going on vacation...If you have the time (and yes money - for gas and hotel, which you are responsible for while on tour) then think on a larger regional basis.  For example, I'm aiming for a multi-city tour in Montana and Washington State for two weeks in June...I look for locations that are on a certain path to make getting from one event to the other stress-free and easy.

Tip #2: Promotion - Book Signings at a busy book store often get unexpected foot traffic, but I can guarantee that the more you promote your book and publicize the event the better, especially in your hometown.  Send out email or postal invitations to friends and family to attend your event.  Send a Press Release regarding your book and linking it to the event in a local paper.  Supply the bookstore or library hosting the event with ample promotional supplies such as posters, postcards, bookmarks, etc...It doesn't have to be expensive ads, just a catchy flyer printed and copied from your home printer will be effective.  Print out synopsis sheets and book information to hand out around town...anything to help get the word out about the Book Signing event.

Tip #3: Just before a Book Signing:  Be sure to call the event venue several days before the signing to double check to make sure everything is set for your event.  As them what time you need to be there, what you should bring, and any other questions you might have about set-up.  I learned too that if you are supplying the books directly to the store on consignment versus a distributor - ask them about pricing and make sure the book is in their system  I ran across this problem at my book signing today, where I have an Ingram book, but it wasn't priced in the system and it caused a delay in the signing.  

Make sure you know where the venue is, if it's in a new city or part of town you aren't familiar with.  Print out Map Quest directions and double check to ensure you have the correct address with the venue manager.

Tip # 4: Personal Prep for a book signing can include figuring out how you want to display your books, getting all of your on-site promotional items (i.e. posters, business cards, etc...) organized.  Think about what you want to wear.  You want to look professional and I recommend a dress or suit, either casual or more formal depending on event venue.  

Tip # 5: Arrive early and be courteous to the venue employees. I know this is common sense, but just something that will help your signing/event go smoother.  If you rush to make the event you might come across as abrupt in attitude to potential readers or feel anxious about the event.  

Tip # 6: Setting up your signing table: Usually the venue will have the table set up and possibly a rack to display books.  When setting up your table think of ways to attract customers to your book.  It doesn't have to be fancy - just figure out ways to appropriately set-up your table, whether it's a poster board, cut-out, etc... Also don't forget to bring a couple of Sharpie pens - so you can in fact sign your books.

Things that really draw a reader to your book at a signing:

- Books - Display your books so that the title is easily read and books are easily available for customers to pick up and browse...

- Postcards, pamphlets, bookmarks:  I printed out 4 X 6 postcards with Next Day Fliers and keep them at my table.  They have a book description, ISBN #, ordering and contact information.  That way if Customers aren't sure if they want the book right now, they can opt to purchase it later.  You can also sign these postcards in lieu of books if someone wishes.  

- Promotion: This isn't a must, but I often have a small prize, such as a bookstore gift card for $20 or a copy of a book or DVD, which consumers who purchase the book at the signing can enter to win. It's a perk for them and a way I can thank my readers for purchasing the novel.  

- Email sign-up: Keep a Guest Log at your table, where readers can sign up for email updates regarding your book and also post a comment about your book.

- Don't have so much at the table, that you detract from the book itself, just enough to add to the reader's enjoyment of the book signing and invite curious customers to investigate what your book is all about.

Tip # 7: Always be friendly and outgoing to those who stop by your table.  Be informed about your book, you wrote it after all - so confidently tell the potential reader what it's about and why they might like it!  Greet passerby and smile at other store customers.  You don't want to nag someone to come over to hear about your book, but when you sense someone might be interested start up a conversation about your novel....Also if someone brushes you off or is rude don't worry about it- many people are in a hurry or just don't have social skills, don't let it make you mad, especially sense the person who was rude hasn't even thought about it or how it affected you - why let it bother you when it doesn't bother them?

I'll post more tips later on...those are just a few on my head today after hosting a book signing in town! 

Friday, March 5, 2010

Kindle, Smashwords and e-Book Publishing:

So your manuscript is complete, polished and ready for publishing, then it's time for you to consider making your work available for e-Readers via Amazon Kindle and Smashwords.  

Amazon Kindle: An e-reading platform available through, which allows readers to digitally download your manuscript to their Kindle device, PC, or cell phone.

Smash words: This is a website, which allows Independent Authors and Publishers to publish their books in a variety of digital formats including, but not limited to: P.D.F. , Kindle (in mobi format), E Pub, Sony Reader, HTML.  Premium Publishing on Smash words requires better e-book formatting, but will gain you access into the Nook and Sony stores.

How to Sell on Kindle?

Step 1: Publishing your e-Book on Kindle is free to set-up - a big plus for small publishers and Independent Authors.  To get the Kindle publishing process started go to

You can sign in via your Amazon screen name, which you use for purchasing items off the Amazon site.  After signing in you will be sent to the DTP or Digital Text Platform Dashboard. Your DTP Dashboard is your entry point into Kindle publishing.  From here you can set up your book (known as a 'Title'), edit and republish you work(s) when corrections are made, check your royalty reports, and set up direct deposit for payments, etc...

Looking at your dashboard you'll see several things.  At the top of the browser:

My Shelf - This is where you set up titles, and monitor existing titles.

My Reports - Where you click to check royalties.

My Account: Your Account info.

Step #2: Setting up Titles:

If you want to to set your book title, click the "My Shelf" Button on your dashboard.  In the upper left hand corner you'll see a button that says: "Add a New Item."  Click the icon and you'll be able to set up a new Title.  The process to set up the Title comes in four, fairly easy steps which I'll go through in detail below via steps 3-6.

Step # 3 Enter Product Details: This is the first step in the title set-up.  You will be asked to list and detail the following information: 

Title: What's the title of your work.  Example: my book is "Burden of Proof."

Description: Write a one to two paragraph description detailing your book's plot synopsis.  I have heard from consumers that a more detailed synopsis is better.  Don't give away plot twists or give the entire plot away, but try to give the consumer a good feel for what the book is about, key themes, characters and why they should read it.  For examples on how to write a product description try going through the top Kindle sellers and emulate a similar method in your description.  (*Note Product Description has 4000 characters Max)

Authors: List Author(s) and any other contributors to the project (I.E. Editor) here.

Publisher: List name of Publisher.  If you are self-publishing and are not with Create Space (Amazon's self-publishing platform for paperback books) then list the name of your publishing company (For example, I own Lone Mountain Press - I came up with this name because I love mountains.  Pick a Publishing House name that works for your image as an author/publisher)

ISBN: If you have an ISBN number type it here.  This ISBN number costs $150 through Bowker and can be used for digital books and traditional paperback and hardcover books.

Language * Pub Date: What language is the book in?  What is the date it was published.  

Categories: List the genre your book is in or keywords to identify it.  I.E. with "Burden of Proof" I put keywords such as 'espionage' 'suspense' 'thriller'

Product Image: Upload a J P.E.G. or TIFF of your book cover.  

- Digital Rights Management - can be enabled.  This is a way to stop Internet Piracy on your e-Book.  As someone with an Intellectual Property background I recommend enabling DRM.  For more info on Digital Rights Management and whether or not to use it: DRM

Step #4: Confirm Content Rights - Here you will need to confirm that you have sole right to publish you work (I.E. you own copyright and distribution rights).  Select which region you are legally allowed to distribute.  If you own sole distribution rights then opt for Worldwide Rights.

Step # 5:  Upload and Preview Book:  Before you reach this step, be sure to make sure your Kindle book is formatting correctly.  If you can a Word Document you might just want to delete blank pages at the top of the document before uploading.  For more on formatting check out the Amazon Guide

Here you can upload your digital file.  DO NOT USE PDF FILE!  For some reason Amazon Kindle is not set up for PDF and a Acrobat file will not lead to a poor quality Kindle book.  I recommend exporting a Word or PDF document to HTML or simply uploading an MS Word Document.  

Once you've uploaded the file, you can click the preview button to make sure that it reads properly in the Kindle format.  

Step # 6: Set Suggested Price - You have to set the price at a minimum of .99 cents per Kindle book.  I suggest a starting price of $1.99.  I know that seems a little low, but I've had a lot more luck with sales at that price.  If you want to set your book as a free e-book, you have to work this out with Amazon directly.

Step # 7: Click Publish - Make sure the Content Rights have been approved and then click published.  Your book will typically be 'Live' in the Kindle Store within 48 hours.

Other Issues regarding Kindle:

Royalties: You're in this primarily because you want people to enjoy your book, but any author/publisher who is working to be in print wants their efforts to pay off in a royalty check.  At this juncture you don't have any say in what royalties you receive or what discount is given to the distributor.  This is a bit annoying as Amazon requires 65% percent of the profit be reverted to them and 35% go to the author and publisher.  This option will open up this summer when Amazon will give authors/publishers a 70% royalty option, in which Amazon will receive 30% of profit and A/P - 70%.  If the 70% royalty option is chosen, Amazon will charge a fee per KB downloaded per sale and then configure the 70% rate after the KB deduction is made.  

So if you have a book priced at $1.99 you'll make .70 cents.  It's not much, and you may be tempted to price higher, but speaking from experience stay under $4 (and preferably $2) - you'll make more money by selling in bulk, as more readers are willing to purchase you book right away if it's cheaper in price.

Returns: Kindle users have seven days to return a book.  This will just be deducted from your royalty report and unlike paperback returns - you owe no money, you just lose the royalty you already received and sense you are paid 60 days after the end of the monthly report - you'll take no direct loss.


- Make sure that you have a typo free and well-formatted Kindle book as Amazon Kindle users will vehemently write in a negative review if they find a typo or formatting issue.  The good news is you can upload a new manuscript as many times as you need to for no fee - there is just a 36 hour lay-over before the new version is live.  With my paperback book re-uploads with LSI it's a $40 fee...

Smashwords: is another great site for Authors/Independent Publishers to promote and sell their work.  With Smashwords you can reach a lot of different e-Book formats and you receive a higher royalty than Amazon (80% A/P Royalty).  I recommend being on both Kindle and Smashwords

To get your book listed on Smashwords is easy.  Once you set-up an account you can upload titles simply by importing your MS Word or HTML file to the site.  For more info check out this link:

More on E-Book Promotion Soon!

If you're interested in checking out "Burden of Proof": Kindle 

*Note - New Version now Availble on Kindle for only $1.99

E-Reading Devices

In the past several years more and more devices to promote e-reading for the public at large have come into play.  These devices include Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook and the Sony Reader.  Apple is now coming into the mix with the highly advanced Apple I Pad coming out late this Spring.  More and more consumers are turning to digital books y via the e-reading devices or P.D.F. files  The new digital e-reading revolution affords an excellent opportunity for Independent (and Traditional) authors and publishers to promote their books and further sales.

In this post I'll briefly go over the major digital reading devices.  In a subsequent post I'll go into how to sell your e-book via Smashwords and Amazon Kindle


Kindle: Amazon's best-selling e-reading device, which debuted in November of 2007 and is the forerunner of it's predecessors.  It is sold exclusively through Amazon and sells roughly for $259.  It is currently available in North America and Australia, but not in the European Market.  Three hardware devices, known as "Kindle," "Kindle 2," and "Kindle D.X." support this platform. Kindle software applications exist for Windows, i Phone OS, and Black Berry, with a Mac OS X version in development.   Amazon has released Kindle for PC free of charge, allowing users to read Kindle books on a Windows PC.  Kindle owners can download e-books for their Kindle.  The advantage of the Kindle is that you in theory can save money on books, as e-books are typically priced less.  The main advantage of Kindle or other e-reader devices is the portability.  You can carry up to 1500 books in one device - instead of lugging paperback and hardbacks around.  This is perfect for flights and trips.  Books for Amazon Kindle mostly must be purchased through the Amazon Kindle store, however other websites such as Smashwords offer alternatives to this.

Barnes and Noble Nook:  In an effort to cut into Amazon's e-book sales and buffer the Brick and Mortar chain's sales (Amazon is big competition for B&N and cuts into about 40% of their potential revenue margin), B&N opted to develop it's only device called 'Nook,' which is very similar to Kindle in design.  The main difference of course is the fact that the only place you can purchase e-books for your Nook is via Barnes and Noble's on-line store.  I've heard both positive and negative reviews of the Nook.  Some prefer Kindle and others Nook.  

Sony Reader: Borders sells this device in store, however Sony Reader isn't limited by one store format.  It supports P.D.F.'S, e-pub, and Sony e-book store downloads.  It looks similar to both the Amazon Kindle and Nook...I have heard a lot of people say they like the Sony Reader because you can easily read P.D.F.'S and they Sony Store offers a good selection of books.  Over all it depends on your personal preference in model make-up and downloading options.

I Pad:  The Apple I Pad will come out this spring.  I am a Mac user and love Mac products so I'm sure the quality will be excellent.  However I want to point out some key differences between the I Pad and other e-reading devices.  From what I've read the I Pad offers a platform for e-reading, but the device acts more like a mini computer with Internet Browsing, Documents, Applications, and other non e-reading capabilities not offered via Kindle, Nook or Sony.  Therefore Mac will appeal to both those looking for a computer smaller than a laptop, and e-readers have the Apple Book option.  

The price is steep at $499 compared to other e-readers, but given the fact that it is more of a mini-computer that makes sense.  I'm not sure Apple will cut into Nook and Amazon sales as much as economists project.  I think Amazon, much like Apple with the I Pod set the standard with the Kindle and many people who don't want the excess features on the I Pad will opt for the cheaper Kindle.  The main question will be the pricing wars, which are beginning to ensue.  I'll broach th pricing wars in a later post. 

PC or Online HTML viewing: Several e-book stores allow you to download the file to your computer to read in P.D.F. or Online HTML form, which allows even more opportunities for readers to download e-books and read them on the computer.  Cell-phone carriers also are allowing e-reading on phones.

If you are interested in learning about how to sell you book in e-Book form, follow me to the next entry...

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Question of Returns?

To return or not to allow returns - that is the question in distribution for your book.  It's a hard question, which every new author and Independent publisher faces.  


- Most bookstores won't accept  book that is not returnable.  This goes back to the Great Depression, when publishers worked to figure out ways for bookstores to afford to stock their books.  Publishers could never convince stores to change the policy back and now Bookstores feel entitled to returns, even when they probably shouldn't return the book because it was their fault they overstocked it.  The bookstores will expect a return even if the book is tattered, torn and not resellable.  They expect you to pay for return shipping along with the full wholesale rate.  

- If you choose not to allow returns you only potential bookstore market is Independent Stores who will sell on consignment.  This means you have to pay to have the books printed and shipped to the bookstore.  If they sell you'll typically get a 60% royalty consignment rate from the bookstore.  This is definitely an option, especially in your hometown, but it's not something most Independent authors or publishers can afford to do on a large scale.

- Book signings, except for a few Indies, you won't be able to schedule book signings unless you allow returns, even if you offer to bring your own books!  It doesn't make total sense, but is the way things go...

Pros of Book Returns are that you can have a presence in bookstores, which causes buzz and you'll pick up spur of the moment sales you might not get online.  How many times do you go into a bookstore and buy a book you'd never heard of until then because you saw it and subsequently purchased it on the spot?  

Why not to allow returns?

It all comes down to money.  Returns are a loss for you, you not only lose your royalty, you're having to pay out off your own money to compensate for the rest of the wholesale rate, which originally went to shipping.    So if you got a $3 royalty and suddenly owe $12 for the wholesale price and shipping - you're out $9.  This isn't a big deal if you get one or two returns, but if you sell 1000 copies and 100 are returned you're out lots of money and got put yourself at financial risk.  Bookstores typically only allow a book on the shelf for 90 days, and if it hasn't sold it's returned.  

It's a tough call about what to do.  I primarily opted to allow for returns, with the books coming back to me, as I hope to have lots of book signings and it's easier for the store to just order the book and have it there for the signing.  I have teetered with approaching stores to stock without a book signing, but I'm wary of the profit loss.  

I have decided to only approach bookstores within the market in my promotional plan.  I choose 10-15 stores and send them lots of promotional material to ensure those books are sold and not returned.  I feel I can handle this micro-stocking with returns versus having 2000 stores stocking "Burden of Proof" and lots of potential returns.  Mega chains are in financial peril and return even decent selling books - so in this economy it might be a financial risk you don't want to take.

If you opt not to allow returns I suggest really honing in on your Internet campaign as over 40% of books are sold online.   Also work on a request in store campaign.  If enough people request a book in store, the store will stock it, even if it's not returnable.  That doesn't mean it'll get a lot of shelf space, but a local store may opt to order it. 

In Book Sales - The Price Needs to be Right


Figuring out the correct price for your work of fiction or non-fiction is key if you want the maximum amount of your target market to be able to purchase your book.  In this economy more than ever figuring out the right price is imperative to your publishing success.  So how do you figure out which price is the right price?

Before you can even think about configuring a final price, you need to first figure out the unit price to print your book, shipping reductions (if applicable).  This will vary slightly depending on the printer.  For Lightning Source it amounts to .013 per page plus a small printing fee.  So for retail buyers, my novel "Burden of Proof" at 378 pages has a printing cost of just under $6.00.   

Next in setting the price you need to look at other comparable books in your genre and their pricing for a new release.  Most new releases run $15 to $30.  I would like the lower end of the price range as I want readers to be able to afford the book, but two additional factors play into final price: 1)wholesale and retail price- two important terms in the world of publishing and distribution. 2) royalty and profit consideration.

Retail Price: the price you see on the book cover and how much publisher's suggest the bookstore sell your book for.  

Wholesale Price: The wholesale price is how much the retailers actually pay for your book. If you want to be sold in stores you need to allot 50-55% off the cover price, this wholesale rate is the actual purchase price for retailers and how your royalties will be configured.  While thinking about the right price for your new release, you must keep the discount/wholesale price in mind constantly along with the second factor:

Royalty/Profit Consideration- How much of a royalty must you earn in order to make a profit, albeit modest, to keep you as an author out of the red and recoup your publishing investment. Don't get greedy about royalty won't make you more money if fact a higher royalty typically equates to less sales and net profit.  Don't sell yourself short or make it so you have no royalty, but realize that the Rate on Return for book sales isn't a lot and to sell in quantity means more revenue and to sell in quantity you need to have a reasonable wholesale rate for retailers and retail price for consumers.

For "Burden of Proof" I studied the prices of books at local bookstores and mega chains.  I knew I needed to make $3 per copy sold in order to feed that money back into my publicity and publishing campaign.  With Lightning Source the Royalty Rate is the wholesale price minus the printing and handling fee.  I originally thought of setting the price at $16.00, but then I wouldn't be able to give the required discounted wholesale rate bookstores require.  I opted to then set my novel at $18.95 with a 50% wholesale discount, therefore costing $9.48 to the retailer.   Since many retailers reduce the cover price in store and online I thought this was a fair price for a new release.

Of course pricing is heavily dependent on your genre.  For instance children's books, unless hardcover should have a retail price around $12-$15 at the max, and a price around $7-9 is better.  This is hard to do with the printing cost and 55% discount, so you will need to figure out additional printing options (for instance paying upfront to print say 1000 copies for a offset printing rate or working with bookstores to have less of a wholesale discount).

For non-fiction books you can get away with having a slightly higher price to a threshold of $25, especially if you have a legitimate expertise in this area. 

One quick note: In pricing it's always better to go with .95 versus going up .05 cents to .00.   Crazy as it is, consumers look at the first too numbers so if my book is $18.95 they might round up to $19, but most consumers see the $18 and erase the .95 cents, making them think the book is cheaper than if it were priced slightly higher at $19. 

Kindle Pricing:

Kindle and e-Book pricing is an entirely different game in many ways to printed books.  For one you don't have to subtract the printing and distribution cost from your overall price.  To date Amazon takes 65% of the profit from Kindle sales leaving the author/publisher with a 35% royalty rate.  This is going to change as authors have the option this summer to opt for 70% royalty, but for longer books the 35% off retail price might be better.  Why?  In the 70% royalty rate - the royalty isn't taken from the book price, but the book price minus a KB fee.  So Amazon takes a certain amount per KB transfered and subtracts that from the retail price and then you get 70%.  For short books with few KB this is great, not necessary more money for longer novels over 300 pages.

In Kindle pricing I had to experiment a little.  I started off with $11 because I wanted to match the royalty ratio I get out of paperback sales and figure $11 is less than the physical copy.  I quickly realized I was overpricing the Kindle book.  The e-book royalty rate is pretty shabby, but I'm also not have to take out expenses of printing and e-downloads are quick and easy sells.  I then moved down to $4, and sold a few copies, but I finally became humble and priced my new release at $1.99.  Since changing the price I've sold 60 copies, after only 4 sold at $4.  

I don't think you should devalue your book by pricing it too low on Kindle, but you need to realize that many users won't pay above a few dollars for a new or unknown author.  I suggest with a lower price and then after a few months maybe move it back up, by then you'll have enough good (and unfortunately you'll get some negative reviews) to cement your e-book sales.

I'll do an entire feature on Kindle and Smashwords in the coming weeks. 

Friday, February 26, 2010

Step 7: Book Promotion Part Two

In this section of the 7 steps to Publishing Process I'll focus in on how to promote your book in store.  This is no easy feat and you'll get very frustrated at least once before it's all done.  Don't Fret - Just keep focusing on your end goals and you'll get there eventually.

The Press Packet. As previously stated a Press Packet is vital for pitching your book to Book Stores.  Whereas with an Electronic Press Kit (Also known as EPK) you can have a standard PR angle, with book store mailers you should tailer each Press Kit to the individual chain or Independent Bookstore.  

Some things you need to know about bookstores and how they stock:

- There are two major categories of Book Stores and 3 if you count Used Book Stores: Major Chains (i.e. B&N, Books a Million, Borders, Wal-Mart, Target, etc...) and Indies.   Independents DISDAIN mega-chains as it cuts into locally owned bookstore profit as the Indies don't have the dollars to negotiate some of the distribution larger chains can utilize. There are roughly 1200 Independent bookstores, which are bound together in a coalition entitled IndieBound.  It's very important to target Independents much differently than Mega Chains.

- Mega Chains won't stock in-store unless you allow returns.  As previously discussed you might not be able to grab a foothold in chains without allowing for returns.  I will discuss the issue of returns and tips for promoting with returns in a later entry.  Independents might sell on consignment, but you will then have to pay for the books upfront and in turn supply them to the Indie Bookstore.  The advantage is if they do sell you typically can receive a 60% royalty versus the typically 45% royalty, which buffers the costs.

Attracting Mega Chains:

As discussed in our distribution section, before you can be included in a mega chain you will have to have your book stocked with Baker and Taylor and Ingram.  Once you have been added to their store website you are also available for in-store distribution.  The only way that stores like B&N and BAM automatically stock a book in all stores is if you 1) are from a major publisher or 2) you are from a small-publisher who has sent a decent enough press packet an manuscript to the corporate office to entice B&N to add your book to their 777 stores.  In the latter option they forbid stocking of self-published manuscripts and will not accept novels from Authorhouse or even their own imprint IUniverse.  If you do opt to attempt to be stocked in all B&N stores then I suggest that you try to play the angle of a small publisher versus self-promoted author.  

Since B&N is struggling in this economy they don't typically add new books from small publishers so your next option to get stocked in the likes of B&N is to attract the attention of individual store book buyers.  It bottoms down to the fact that each chain store has a book buyer who has the freedom to stock a variety of books not automatically ordered by headquarters.  The main issue in this is the fact book buyers won't stock a book unless it's returnable (corporate policy) - however they most likely will order in a copy or two if mail them a decent Press Kit outlining why your book will sell.

So what to include in a Press Kit tailored for a Mega-Chain?  First you'll need a standard Press Release along with a cover letter.  I recommend wording the letter to sound more like it's from the publisher versus you as an author.  I've tried both angles and although I had a polished and professional kit with my angle as a writer - many stores automatically write you off as "self-published."  I then tailored my campaign as a "New Release Packet from Lone Mountain Press" and saw much better results.  Frankly I own L.M.P.  so it wasn't dishonest to take that angle.

In the cover letter specifically explain pricing, distribution, plot synopsis, your marketing campaign breakdown (short but informative) and why stocking your book will help them make money.  In my letter I explained that "Burden of Proof" is a topical thriller that has a 50% discount off the $18.95 Retail Rate and allows for returns.  I also explained my marketing efforts and mentioned my charity drive from book sales. I explained that I was willing to offer promotional supplies for the book including postcards, bookmarks and contest information if they chose to stock "Burden of Proof."

In the Kit I also sent a few sample marketing flyers and postcards to help promote the book.


Independent Bookstores need to be treated on an individual basis as they pride themselves on locally owned service.  You don't invite yourself to the Indies table, rather they invite you.  Approach them with a confident humbleness and focus on the same individuality they pride themselves on as bookstore owners.  This doesn't mean you have to write 1200 different cover-letters, but if you can find the book-buyer or manager's name then it's best to address the packet to them.  Don't phone Independent Bookstores to speak with the book buyer about stocking your book -  from my experience they'd rather be on the floor selling books than trying to play "Let's Make a Deal with You."  The time to phone is when you are interested in setting up a book-signing.  Don't focus so much on the stocking of your book in store as scheduling the event and why it would bring business into their store.  Be polite and courteous anytime you choose to make a phone call whether it to Mega-Chain or Indies.

In the Indies Press Packet I sent the same Press Release (although you could tailor a more specific one to Indies and Indiebound).  However my cover letter is slightly different.  I put a strong focus on supporting local buying habits and promoting my book in THEIR store.  I offer to send specific promotional items directing customers to "Shop Local" or "Buy IndieBound."  I also have a bi-monthly contest, in which anyone who purchases "Burden of Proof" in an IndieBound Store can entered to win a $50 Indiebound Gift Card.  I supply the book store with entry info and a SASE envelope to mail the slips back.

With Indies I also include a book signing form listed with dates I would be available to do a signing to promote the book and generate in-store sales in their area.  

Information which needs to remain the same is where to order the book (Ingram, B&T, etc...) and whether or not you offer returns or consignment sales.  Also describe the pricing and why this book would fit well in their particular store.

Other ways for publishers to promote via IndieBound:  IB formerly known as Book Sense offers a wide range of opportunities for small/independent publishers (sorry this doesn't apply if you go the Vanity Press Route).  Advance Access is a terrific way to break into Indies.  It allows you to offer a certian number of Galley or first run print copies to IndieBound bookstores.  Obviously there is the cost of the Galley, but it's a good way to show how good your book is and get it stocked in store.  You can also sign up for mass mailings, in which IndieBound will mail your flyer or other promotional tools to all Indies.  This is a little price, but might be an option once you've sold a couple hundred books and are looking to generate sales to the next level.

Regional Divisions

Because postage is not cheap and your mailers won't guarantee sales I suggest following a similar model, which I've utilized with "Burden of Proof" - divide bookstores and print media into target regions and only focus on one or more regions at a time for both Indies and Mega Chains.  Aside from the monetary benefits of divisions this will also help you stay more organized an make promotion for in-store sales easier.

Every two months I designate one or two regions to focus on.  It is during this time I send out Press Packets to all Mega Chains and Indies (two separate packets as discussed above).  I then follow up with a postcard (I printed up "Burden of Proof" post cards) and/or a short phone call later.  Phone calls should be respectful and placed during off-hours.  I primarily only phone a bookstore if I'm interested in hosting a book signing. 

During this time my print media efforts focus mostly on that region.  For instance I will email a Press Release and short note (every Tuesday - that's the best day to get your PR read) with a brief note asking that they include a blurb on my novel.  Most publications like to tie an event or a newsworthy story in order to publish it.  If you don't have an event in the area try to find some type of news connection to tie your book to the paper.  For instance I have sent Press Releases detailing how Kindle has helped small publishers or the fact that I am donating most of my profits to Haiti Relief (which makes it more important to make money off my book as the more sales I garner the more the reader and I can work together to give The American Red Cross.)

Often times papers won't reply.  If you don't see your book on their online website within two weeks, send a short and polite follow-up email.  If they don't respond - let it go until you can approach them with a new angle - such as an in town event.

I suggest focusing on 50 publications in an area such as papers, news stations (ask that they mention you their online site versus on-air - I've had more success that way), radio, etc...some local stations might be interested in having you on one of their talk shows.  

Newspaper Ads:

I would advise 99% of you not to spend money advertising in Print Media.  Although it sounds tempting to spend $2000 for a Print Ad in the NY Times or Denver Post most authors, both traditionally published and self-published I've spoken with says the Rate on Return isn't very good for such ads.  Of course you can say you were "in the NY Times" - but if it doesn't garner you sales - does it matter - maybe if you had a review - but an ad doesn't have that prestige level.  The only times it may be beneficial to invest in an in-print ad is in your local paper right as the book is released or if you are having a signing event in a large city and couldn't get the date added to the local calendar.


Reviews are both a blessing and a curse.  I've learned the hard way what to and what not to do when it comes to a review.  Reviews in print are nice, but the main place you'll want excellent reviews is on Amazon, where many buyers religiously follow even inaccurate poor reviews.  I recommend only asking someone to post a review if they already told you they enjoyed the book and aren't just saying they enjoyed it because they are your friend.  Perhaps someone who read the book prior to publishing or since distribution.  Don't try to get the top reviewers on Amazon to review your book no matter what other promotional tip sites say.  It could end well but often times it ends badly.  Many reviewers on Amazon are decent, but others are overly opinionated and get joy out of bashing your book.  An accurate review, albeit negative might actually help you become a better writer, but a negative review that is more about the reviewers animosity or misguided viewpoints isn't worth having and could harm your sales.  

I have been lucky to have found several reviewers who enjoyed my work.  These are people who up to that point didn't know me from Adam, and still liked the book.  However I have one not so hot review, which in hindsight I might not have asked the reviewer to review my book due to their taste in fiction and her overt dislike for any political thrillers that have conspiracy plots.  I'm not angry and learned a lesson in handling negative reviews and bettering my craft as a writer, but be warned - just because someone agrees to review your book doesn't mean they'll like it.  Sometimes they have legitimate reasons that you should consider fixing and sometimes it's merely their opinion.  My point: tread carefully with reviews.  

Another important note - A galley copy accidentally got sent to a reviewer - DON'T let this happen to you!  Many reviewers are very sensitive to errors and if they had already been changed in your novel, why get stars deducted for what looks like unpolished work, which you already finished polishing.

On that note let's get back to regional divisions.  I recommend a two file folders for each division - one for Indies and the other for mega-chains...that way you can track your progress and know who has been sent packets and when.

 How I Set Up my Regions: 

Region One: 

Jan-March: Pacific NW: This includes Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Northern Wyoming and Washington State.  I live in this area and I'm a days drive from these locations making it easy to garner regional interest out of my promotion.  

Jan-March: Overlapping campaign with NC and Nashville TN as I was born and raised in Raleigh and my entire family is in North Carolina - I have familiarity to promote their fairly easily.  I graduated from school in Nashville TN and therefore can promote to the media outlets there with the angle of a former resident.

Region Two: The Southeast: As I stated previously, I'm originally from the South. I know the area very well and I plan to do a signing tour there in the late summer early fall.

Region Three: California and Nevada

Region Four: The Mountain West: CO, AZ, UT, NM, SD

Region Five: Texas

Region Six: The Midwest i.e. KS, OK, Indiana, Missouri, and the Great Lakes States

Region Seven: New York and Pennslyvania

Region Eight: New England

That's a wrap for this edition of The Inkspot!

Upcoming entries will revolve around:

To Return or Not to Return

Press Packets and Press Releases

How to Host a Successful Book Signing

Step 7: Book Promotion Part 1

So your book is printed and looks great.  You've set up your distribution channels so your novel is available from Ingram and Baker and Taylor.  However just because your book has been released and is available for purchase doesn't mean it will sell well - that part comes from Step 7 in the Publishing process: Promotion.  

Book Promotion is something that all authors, whether traditionally or self-published have to work on.  Many major publishing houses don't have Author Tour or Promotion Support and what they give outside of placement inside chain bookstores is very little.  For self-published authors it boils down to hard work, focus and belief in your novel.  

Money is the first thing you'll need to reconcile in your campaign.  You have to decide how much you are willing to spend and whether or not you will get a solid enough Return on Investment to put up the promotional and marketing dollars.  The point of promotion is the hope that your efforts will translate into sales.  If you are spending advertising dollars and it's not translating into sales then it's probably wise NOT to spend the money.  

So the first step in your marketing campaign is deciding how much you want to spend on promotion and marketing.  Unless you have countless amounts of dollars in your bank account, I'd suggest starting off with a very small to moderate budget, I.E. $50 to $500.  Most of the promotional strategies I'm about to share are affordable and many free.  

Okay so you've figured out your start-up budget for promotion.  The next step is structuring your promotional campaign.  It's important to have a well-formed plan in place before launching your campaign as it will help you measure your success and have a better chance of reaching your sales goals.  I suggest having two parallel campaigns: one for online sales and promotion and the other plan for how your will focus on gaining in-store sales.  

Both of these plans such start with a Press Kit.  I will be posted a more detailed entry about constructing a Press Kit.  For now we'll keep it simple.

- Press Release: a one page summary release about what your book is about, who you are as an author, who is publishing it, and where and when it will be available for sale.

- Author Bio: A short half to one page biography about you as an author along with a few fun facts (i.e. what's your favorite song, favorite food, etc...)  Don't get over detailed.

- Book Cover Photo, and a Book Trailer (if you have one)

- Book Facts: I.E. plot synopsis

- Any previous Press Clippings about your book you may have already garnered.

Online Promotion :

The World Wide Web has become a treasure trove of free and affordable options in book promotion.  Many self-published have been able to be successful on online sales with Amazon or B&N.  

Get a Website: The first step in your online promotional campaign is to set up a website. You don't have to spend a lot of money for a quality website.  Many new website hosts have prefabricated templates and easy to use website design for any skill level, including those with little to no computer savvy.  I suggest Hostbaby (primarily for singer-songwriters but works well for authors too) or GoDaddy.  For "Burden of Proof" I use GoDaddy's Website Tonight Program.  It costs $8.99 per month and includes hosting and an easy to use Website Design software.  My domain name only costs $1.99 per year.

Social Networking:  SN sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, Goodreads, etc...offer a free and effective way to target readers and interact with those who enjoyed reading your book (s).  

     Facebook: Start a Fan Page for your book and invite all of your friends to join.  For "Burden of Proof"  I set up a Fan Page and then spent a $50 ad credit I received from Go Daddy to advertise the page.  If you are going to invest in pay per click ads it worked very well as I received 30 new group members off of that ad campaign.

     To entice more group members to join and in turn purchase my novel I have bi-monthly contests just for my Facebook page.  These contests don't have to cost a lot of money or be complicated, but having giveaways is a reward for those who purchased your book.  I opted to give away Season 7 of 24 on DVD as my novel is of a similar conspiracy plot.  Other prizes I've seen authors give away include coffee mugs, book magnets, writing pads, etc...anything to get the reader more interested in joining in the Fan Page discussion.  

Myspace:  Myspace in my opinion can be a decent way to promote your book, but I think it's geared more towards musicians.  I too am a songwriter and have had a lot of success with Myspace in promoting my songwriting, however it's not as user friendly as Facebook or GoodReads for accessing your target audience.  Set-up a Myspace page, and keep it updated, but I wouldn't make this the flagship site of your online social networking campaign.

GoodReads:  Goodreads is a great site for authors and readers.  It allows for authors to create a page, maintain a blog, connect with Readers and offer book giveaways.  This is a must for online promotion!  

Amazon Author Page:  If you have a book on Amazon you should sign up for an Amazon Author Page.  It's free and connects to your book page(s).  You can personalize with a bio, video and blog.  

Book Tour:  This is a website where authors can post tour dates for their book and look for possible signing venues.  Book Tour will connect to your Amazon Author Page.

SPAN Net: Small Publishers of North America now offers a Social Networking site where authors and small publishers can post information about their books and create Apps.  To join the site is free, however to become a full-fledged SPAN member it only costs $89.  The fee is well worth it as you'll get a free membership to (usually $197 to join) and discounted rates for cataloging with Baker and Taylor.

Message Boards:  Joining in Message Boards for books can really help boost your online presence and create buzz about your book.  There are countless amounts of forums geared towards books of all genres with readers eager to find new books to read. There are certain dos and don'ts on these boards.

Offer interesting discussion about books (not just your own book) - the more quality posts you write about other fiction - the more of a presence you will have on the site, which will encourage fellow forum members to invest in your book.  Post a plug about your book on the Author Forum or appropriate forum page.  Be confidently humble.  What does this mean?  Well it means let readers know that your book is an enjoyable read and affordable, but don't be overly confident of use phrases such as "My book is the best book ever written, if you don't buy it you will cursed for life..." 

For Kindle Books - you can post on Amazon's message boards, but I will warn you that many of the posters can get mean and if you post a shameless plug you might get deleted by Amazon.  Just be cautious.  Good alternatives are sites like Mobile Read or KindleBoards.  

Pay Per Click Ads: 

Many websites now offer affordable "Pay Per Click" Ad options, which means you are only charged for the ad when it is clicked, not simply based on the number of views of impressions.  This can be an effective way to invest advertising dollars.  The key to translating the ad clicks to sales is ensuring your ad is well-written and eye-catching and you product page looks professional.  You also need to ensure that you pick the right sites to invest in.  I think the best value for your money is Facebook Ads ( a little expensive, but effective), Google AdWords (Not as effective for my campaign, but if worded well can lead to a lot of sales), and GoodReads - this is a site tailored completely to readers, and the ads will target readers within your book's genre.  You can set up the add to add the book "to-read" on GoodReads or purchase directly from Amazon. 

Over all I would suggest investing small amounts in PPC ads at first to see what sites work and how effective the ads seem to be for your campaign.  I limited my budget to $50 a month in Ads and sometimes don't invest nearly that much because the cost of $1.00 for a book Ad when I get a $3 royalty isn't great.  It's an option you'll have to weigh and budget into your campaign.

PR Blast/News Media:  Within your marketing campaign I suggest sending out a weekly email blast to news media such as Newspapers, Television Stations, Magazines, E-Zines, etc.  I'll go into more detail about this in an upcoming post geared specifically to Press Releases and Press Kits.

That's all for now!  Next time we'll examine Part II of the promotion campaign - targeting bookstores and print media.  

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Step 5 & 6: Pre-Press and Distribution

I'll start off by saying that Steps 5 & 6 overlap in the Writing and Publishing process.  However I separated them in an effort to make each step easier to accomplish successfully.  

Step 5: Pre-Press:  This is the stage where you prepare your manuscript for how you want it to look in published form.  It should start off with a final proof and read-through of your manuscript to ensure that you have quality sentence structure, and no typos present when your book goes to the printer.  Don't rush through the read-through, because once you've submitted your files to the printer it will cost a lot of money and time to get one tiny error correct, especially if you use an offset and not Print on Demand printer.

Once you've completed the final read through then it's time to work on typesetting your document and formatting it to meet the specs of the size book you wish to print.  This can easily be done in the Word formatting tool box.  Just check with your printer or use Google to search for the exact margins and dimensions you'll need for this process.  Remember that you'll need to incorporate bleed-through areas in the manuscript margins.  This is to ensure the print stays on the page and you have enough of a margin when binding of the printed pages takes place.

Here is a helpful link on how to set up a 6 x 9 format in Word 

Depending on how your printer or publisher manipulates the digital manuscript file determines the next step in formatting.  I chose to go with Lightning Source, who required an embedded Adobe PDF file.  Now for those who are new to publishing, it seems like all you'd have to do is export your Word file to PDF format.  It's not that easy.  You'll need to use Adobe Distiller.  

For "Burden of Proof" first I exported the Word document to PDF, then I exported the PDF to PostScript and then I converted that PS file back to PDF through Distiller.  The entire process of exporting and converting takes no more than five minutes, but you have to make sure all the fonts are Embedded, otherwise L.S.I. will reject the manuscript for the printer.  The resubmission fee is $40 - so better to get it right the first time.  To check to see if the font is embedded go to File in Acrobat then hit "Properties" and then "Font."  Scan through all the fonts on the list to ensure they say "Embedded Subset."

For the above if you don't own Acrobat Pro/Distiller you will have to purchase it or use the thirty day download.  If your really serious about publishing though it's worth the $60 for Pro or the more expensive Creative Suite.

Now if you chose to go with a Vanity Press like Authorhouse you can usually just sent in the MS Word document and they'll be able to manipulate it for you.  

ISBN: Before you design your book cover it's helpful to already own your own ISBN so you can imprint the ISBN and bar code into the back cover of your book - A must if you hope to sell in store and even on certain online sites.  An ISBN can be purchased through Bowker who will assign a single ISBN # for $150 or 10 different ISBN's for $300.  By doing so you will be listed as the publisher on the book, and therefore own complete rights to the novel's distribution.  This is where some opt to go with a Vanity Press because they don't want to mess with these Pre-Press costs, however if you do so - you will NOT own the ISBN and distribution rights for the book as long as it's under that ISBN #. 

Book Cover:  You shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but everyone does in fact judge a book by its cover.  Therefore it's imperative that you create an eye-catching cover.  If you have the technical skills to navigate Photo Shop, Quark, etc...then this may be a piece of cake, but for the technically challenged it might turn out to be the hardest point of the Pre-Press process.  Don't fret, there are plenty of options for creating an excellent book cover.  

I chose to download Quark, a print media program, to design my own cover.  This was after I downloaded BookCover Pro, another good program for beginners designing their covers.  I liked the cover, but found it easier to deal with the Quark Lightning Source Template than the Adobe Template BCP uses.  The first cover was plain, but looked professional enough and frankly I didn't want too many graphics distracting from the title.  I have recently changed it slightly for the next print by using a picture of the U.S. Capitol.  

For affordable royalty free photos to use on your book cover I recommend  If you use an image make sure it's Royalty Free and that you have a license to use it.  Photos are Intellectual Property and you DON'T want to use an image you don't have permission to reprint.

Over all I enjoy designing covers, but I can understand how it might be a little daunting for some.  I suggest soliciting the help of a graphic designer/book cover illustrator to help you engineer the perfect cover.  This doesn't have to cost a lot of money.  Many student designers are willing to work for a reduced rate and many professional book cover designers only charge a few hundred dollars to design the cover and ensure it's print ready for your publisher.  I know that sounds like a lot of money, but two places you shouldn't skim on book publishing are cover design and editing.  

If you have opted to go with a Vanity Press a cover design is included in your fee.  Create Space allows you to upload your own cover or choose from their prefabricated designs. 

My costs to date for my Pre-Press were $89 for Book Cover Pro (an unnecessary expense since I used Quark - but still a decent program), I used the 60 Day download for Quark (I hope to buy it eventually - a terrific program, which is easy to use and sophisticated at the same time), $37.50 for the Interior Manuscript upload onto LSI and $37.50 for the Cover upload to LSI.  $12 for adding a title to LSI's System. 


As a Music Business and Intellectual Properties major I cannot stress how important a copyright is.  It only costs $35 to file (Don't buy into paying someone $170 to copyright your book - it costs $35 and an envelope and a couple of stamps.).  It's not terribly hard to fill out the forms.  I have posted the link below.  Scroll down to the middle of the page and click on the Literary form.  Print it out, fill it out and mail it in with a print copy of your work and $35.  You'll hear back from the U.S. Copyright Office in 3 to 6 weeks, but they date the copyright on the day your manuscript was postmarked, typically.

U.S. Copyright Office

Pricing:  A major issue is how you will price your book.  Most chains and online retailers prefer and almost require  50-55% discount off the retail price.  Ingram requires at least a 20% off discount.  What I did was figure out the royalty rate I needed to make in order to not lose money per book sold, which was roughly $3-$4 in paperback.  I then configure the printing price per book and then examined the prices of other new releases.  It's better to receive a smaller royalty than set the Retail Price too high as they will in turn decrease over all sales.

I opted for a new release price of $18.95 Retail with a 50% discount, thus making my wholesale book price stand at $9.48 with a $3.64 royalty per book sold.  Most chains have discounted the Retail Price to $13.64 so readers still get a fair price on the book.

Step #6: Distribution/Book Release:  I put this at number 6, although figuring out distribution is vetted in the Pre-Press process.  

Distribution: If you want to have your work available stores you need to stock your work with Ingram and possibly Baker and Taylor.  It's important to note that making the book available to bookstores doesn't mean you'll find it in every bookstore in America.  It just means the bookstore has the title in their system and can order it if they choose.  

Lightning Source is owned by Ingram, which has been an advantage as I was instantly put into their title's catalog, added to Amazon, Barnes and Noble Online, and a variety of other websites.  My book is printed and stocked constantly with Ingram with LSI taking care of all the details.  Baker and Taylor usually opts to add all Ingram titles to their catalog as well, however occasionally they do not or the process takes six months.  B&T  is the primary servicer of libraries and schools so if they don't think a title will be a big seller for their market they might opt not to add it on their own accord (without you paying a fee).  The one store however, which forces every publisher to sign on with B&T is Borders.  They only use Baker and Taylor, whereas other major chains and Independent bookstores use Ingram and B&T.  Considering Borders is a mega chain and the only store in some towns it's important to find distribution with B&T.

To date I have not been added to Baker and Taylor, possibly because I'm not a library type book or perhaps because its only been a month since publication and they haven't added me yet.  However I do plan to sign on with them in the coming months by paying the $125 publishers fee, which will place your book(s) into their system.  It's worth the money, especially if you want to target Borders.

I will note that once you are with Ingram and/or Baker and Taylor you will be automatically placed on Amazon, B&N online and Books A Million online, which means you don't have to become and Amazon Associate member unless you choose to do so.

Other Chains: Wal-Mart, Target, and Grocery Stores are great venues for book distribution.  I personally am working on getting "Burden of Proof" into regional markets via Safeway and Wal-Mart in the coming months.  To do so it's best to go on their corporate websites and look for supplier info.  Most companies have a spot for how to sell "a book or magazine" in store.

Wal-Mart only uses Anderson merchandisers for book and music distribution. Contact info for AM can be found on their corporate website.

Target is very vague in how to attempt selling your books in their stores.  I am probably not going to pursue this route, but I would suggest phoning their corporate number and inquiring that way.  I have also been advised that a mention in the Minneapolis Star might help get a  Target buyers attention, although the paper is not likely to mention your book unless you do a book signing in the area or are local.

Grocery Stores: Phone the corporate and or regional offices and discuss why you think your book would fit in their stores.  Some book stores offer book signings, especially @ Grand Openings so suggest that you promote the book in store that way as well.

The Indies:

Independent Stores are still out there and vital to their communities - they typically only take books on consignment, but can be very supportive to local authors.  You'll have to contact them directly or work to gain Indie attention via IndieBound


I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but no book store will stock your book or even have a book signing in many cases unless you offer returns through Ingram or B&T.  I've learned this the hard way when attempting to schedule a book signing in my current city of Bozeman MT at the B&N.  The clerk curtly said "Sorry no returns then no book signing even on consignment."  Kind of silly considering I had purchased the books and any unsold would therefore be on my shoulders and not the stores, but a fact of how many stores work just the same.

Some Independents will stock the book, but it must be on consignment, which means you will supply the book out of your own money and then they'll reimburse you once it's sold.  Frankly returns aren't much different it's just the opposite way around.  The store purchases the book, and if they return any you have to pay them back.  The problem with returns in Print on Demand is that you are both paying for the cost of printing, the royalty rate and shipping - yes they won't even ship it back to you for free.  So a book that you earned $4 for you have to pay $11 for in the return.  This could bankrupt many Independent authors, however if you don't allow returns you'll have to rely mostly on online sales.

I struggled with this, but in the end opted to try out returns for a few months, primarily for the purpose of scheduling book signings.  In the second printing I may become more aggressive in convincing stores to continuously stock my book.  I'll go into more detail about this in the next entry.

Digital Publishing (I.E. Kindle, Nook, Smashwords):  I'll really hone in on this subject later, but another must for distribution is via Kindle.  It costs you nothing and can be an effective way to get sales.  The primary concern is the low pricing you'll need to get an Indie Book sold and issues with DRM.  Look for a more detailed discussion on this topic in a later post.

Sorry if this entry was a little long, but it gives you an idea of what's involved in the Pre-Press and Distribution phases of the 7 Steps.

Monday, February 22, 2010

"Burden of Proof" Updates

A quick note to let everyone know that the second edition of "Burden of Proof" is now available online via Barnes and Noble.  A portion of the proceeds will go to the American Red Cross for Haiti.  

In addition I thought I'd share some recent press I've received on the novel:

From the Bozeman Daily Chronicle (2/19/2010):

Gallatin Valley resident, Adele Lassiter will be discussing her new thriller "Burden of Proof" in two area book events. Lassiter will read a chapter from her novel at the Bozeman Public Library, 2-4 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 20, and signing copies of the book at Hastings Saturday, March 6.

The novel is set in Washington D.C. and Southwest Montana. Gallatin County locations such as downtown Bozeman, Montana State University, Gallatin Field, The Corral and The Rainbow Ranch are featured. The plot revolves around a fictional biological attack on the U.S. and subsequent government cover-up. It is being published by Lone Mountain Press and distributed via Ingram.

"Burden of Proof" is available locally and online via A portion of sales will go to the American Red Cross for Haiti Relief.

From WRAL News: Raleigh NC (Jan. 25th 2010)

Raleigh, N.C. — A Raleigh-raised author is donating a portion of the proceeds from her latest novel to the relief effort in Haiti.

Adele Lassiter's "Burden of Proof," a thriller about a biological attack and cover-up in the U.S., is on sale at Raleigh's Quail Ridge Books & Music, at 3522 Wade Ave., and other local stores.

Lassiter pledged to give $1 from the sale of each copy to the American Red Cross to be used for recovery and rebuilding in Haiti after the Jan. 12 earthquake. She hopes to raise $1,000.

From the Billings Gazette: (Feb. 7th 2010)

Montanan writes toxic conspiracy

Bozeman author Adele Lassiter journeys into terror in “Burden of Proof,” her new book about fear and conspiracy.

The U.S. government brands a 2001 mail attack with the toxin Thorax as a biological warfare assault from outside the country. And the incident helps lead America into war in the Mideast.

Six years later, the public tires of war and current leaders. But a group of D.C. power players’ effort to hide details behind the toxin attack runs up against a reporter and others determined to unravel what they see as a conspiracy.

Lone Mountain Press of Bozeman published the thriller. A portion of each book sale will go to the American Red Cross for relief for Haiti.

Step 4: Post Edit

So you've polished your manuscript to perfection and think it's ready for print.  A part of you feels an an urgency to see it magically appear on the shelf at the local chain bookstore and sell millions of copies.  Well don't give up on your dream, but you also need to get a reality check.  Although Editing is the hardest part of the writing and publishing business in my mind, things don't get easier just because you book is done.  In fact you are merging onto another highway entitled Publishing Turnpike.  This highway is NOT an expressway, but rather a long road filled with traffic and roadblocks.  A writer should start this path realizing that the business of getting your book in print is challenging and at times will make you want to give up.  Don't Give Up!  Just realize the reality of the hardships of publishing and keep working to get your foothold in the market.

At this juncture you have one of two options for how you proceed to put your manuscript in print.  The first option is to be traditionally published by a major NY publishing house or a small quality press, in which you must submit your manuscript.  Option Two is to self-publish your book or go with a Vanity Press.  This means you pay to put your book in print and are in charge of your marketing plan.

If you meet the following criteria you should at least attempt to be traditionally published:

- You have a book which is of a topical style or in sync with other best seller molds and has the possibility to do well in Trade Paperback.  I.E. you wrote a legal thriller and have the knowledge and writing ability to add credibility to your product.  

- You have written a literary manuscript which you feel would do well in the current market.  This is an area that is really subject to opinion.  Frankly you look at the bestseller lists and books like "The Help" or "The Time Traveler's Wife" don't really sound like they would target a mass audience, but someone saw the literary merit in the work and decided to take a gamble.  

- Have an expertise that validates your work.  For example, if you wrote a guidebook to Montana and live and work as a tour guide in the region then there's a good chance Frommer's or another Publishing House may be interested in publishing the work.

When to Self-Publish:

- The only time you go to Option 2 first is if you wrote a book, which appeals to a very limited audience (for instance - "A Basic Guide to Wind Jumping in Indonesia") , deals with a controversial plot/topic, is overly existential or rooted in complex plots that wouldn't resonate with a large audience.  Those are just a few reasons. 

- You couldn't find a traditional publisher or literary agent interested in your work, but still want it in print.

- You have a business or organization in which you only wanted a limited number of books printed.

- You don't have the patience for writing queries to Literary Agents or waiting for a publisher to pick up your work.  * Frankly this is NOT a good reason to self-publish.  If you are impatient to publish then it's most likely you are not ready to be published.  There are exceptions to this, but no good books are printed quickly for the sake of being printed quickly.  Patience will lead to a better publishing option and if Self-Publishing is still what you choose at that juncture, then go for it!

For me I chose Independent publishing as I love the business of publishing, marketing and Intellectual Property.  It gives me an outlet for the skills I acquired in college.  I think if I'd pressed I could have found an Agent, but I wanted to immerse myself in the publishing process.

Option A:

So you want to be traditionally published, great, just bring your patience and don't take rejection letters personally.  If you want to be traditionally published there is a precise system.  

   - First you need to query a Literary Agent.  I will post a guide on query tips in the near future.  The query letter is vital to getting and agent and must be properly formatted, well-written, humble, and informative.  A query letter runs one page (no more - shorter is better.  Show that you can express yourself in short concise paragraphs).  Typos and poorly constructed sentences lead most query letters to the trash.  Also don't tell the agent "your book is the best book ever written" or "we will make millions from this book!"  Don't use phrases like "honey," "baby" or other casual nicknames.  This is not professional and sounds cocky.  

You need to research agents and formulate each query letter to fit that particular agent and agency.  They all focus on different areas of fiction and non-fiction and have various query letter guidelines.  By not following their guidelines for a letter, you will most likely end up in the trash.  Research the agency and guidelines and find out if the agent you are querying is a she or he.  Don't write a query letter to a Mr. when it's a Mrs.  

The best way to find reputable agents is via The Writer's Market. This guidebook is a MUST for costs about $40 and is worth every penny! Make sure any agent you query is certified and credible.  No credible agent will charge for reading a manuscript or query letter!

Once a letter has been submitted it usually takes weeks to months to receive a response.  If you're lucky, the agent will ask for a writing sample or full manuscript.  However most query letters come back with rejection form letters.  Don't be discouraged.  In this economy many literary agents don't have the resources to take on new clients.  Don't write them back, begging for another consideration on the same book - accept the rejection and move on.  You want an agent who loves your work and wants to sell it - not one that doesn't enjoy your style.

For smaller presses you can submit your manuscript on your own. Consult the publishing companies submission guidelines. Response time is typically a few weeks to a few months.  Be patient and don't nag.  They will get around to it when they are able.  After a few months then you can follow up. 

*Don't bother submitting to the likes of DoubleDay or Random House without an agent - they'll throw your work away and you'll lose a few dollars in postage.

Another alternative to traditional publishing is also by attending writers conferences where Agents regularly attend and networking with other writers and agents in the form of Writer and Publishing Associations.  

Option B:  Self-Publishing

Within Self-Publishing there are two subdivisions: True Self-Publishing and Vanity Press Publishing.

TSP means you are responsible for every aspect of the publishing process.  You design the cover.  You typeset the manuscript.  You find a printer to print your book (note a printer and publisher are two very different things.  The former is in charge of the total packaging and distribution/marketing of product - Doubleday is a publisher, a printer just prints the books and has no other role in the process).  You are in charge of distribution and marketing.  

This is the route I chose for my novel "Burden of Proof."  I researched printers and settled on Lighting Source, who only charges $87 to upload your book into they POD system and add it to the Ingram database.  LSI allows for you to start your own Imprint, and therefore I own my own publishing company.  I purchased an ISBN for Lone Mountain Press through Bowker. I then had to learn Quark for the cover design and spend hours editing and typsetting the manuscript.  It's a learning experience, but I much prefer this route to Authorhouse.

Vanity Presses:  Vanity Presses such as Author Solutions, I Universe, Lulu, etc...claim to be self-publishing houses, however they are really publishers who require you to pay them to be printed.  This can be a good and bad thing.  On the one hand, companies such as AuthorHouse offer a professional typesetting and cover design team and have promotional and distribution resources, which you might not have access to otherwise.  On the other hand they charge exorbitant fees, and offer NO editing and companies such as Barnes and Noble typically won't sell Vanity Press books in store.  The fees per printed book typically price out your key customers so you lose money.  Trust me I went the Vanity Press Route several years back and to date I've made $10 off those books after an investment of $1500

The only time I recommend Author Solutions is if you don't want to mess with finding a printer, typesetting, cover design, purchasing an ISBN, etc...However if you do go with a Vanity Press I suggest paying to have someone edit your book or making sure it's well edited, because the publisher won't even look at the content as long as they get their $$$ and a poorly editied Self-Published book can hurt your future credibility as a writer.

That's all for now...I'll post another entry on Vanity Presses: Pros and Cons and Literary Agents in the next few weeks.  Look for a detailed entry on step 5: Pre-Press next time on The Inkspot!


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Step 3: Editing

I cannot stress the importance of editing!  It is my least favorite part of the process, and in the past I've kind of fast-forwarded through the process - which as a costly mistake.  I have learned that you should NEVER assume that your work is ready for print.  Instead you as the writer need to focus on any possible grammatical or typographical errors.  A reader may dislike your plot, but you don't want them to dislike your work because of needless typos, which you have the power to change.  

You want your sentences to be polished and follow well whether read on paper or spoken aloud.  I often find reading the work aloud can help me identify sentences, which need restructuring or are grammatically incorrect.  I personally rarely notice typos when reading on the computer - they do pop out at me when the page is printed.  I recommend printing out the manuscript and marking it up.  

Steps within the editing process:

- After completing the novel do a quick read through to make sure you feel the plot works and then reexamine what needs to be done and fix it.

- From there just keep rereading and rewriting.  I also recommend having friends or family who are willing to offer constructive criticism to read the manuscript after each edit.  They aren't connected to the work and will offer a fresh perspective on what works and what doesn't.

- For "Burden of Proof" I had to reread the work 20 times before I got it right.  Why so many?  Part of this was I wanted to lower the word count in hopes of appealing to a literary agent.  My novel is fast paced, but because of a variety of plot twists and plot development it originally ran 250,000 words.  I have pared it down too 166,000.  Some Lit Agents wouldn't look at the work based on word count alone.  Oddly enough one critic of "Burden of Proof" said it was too short and not descriptive enough.  Another review loved the description so you can't win them all.

As for Word Count goes in general it is important to omit needless words or repetitive descriptions, expressions, etc...but don't cut words just to cut words.  If the word or paragraph needs to be in your story - Keep it In.

I thought after an extensive edit I'd eradicated all errors, however lo and behold I get my proof/galley and I caught twenty typos!  I am a good speller, but the fact is even the best spellers have a propensity to mistype words when caught up in the moment of constructing their story.  Typos might not be noticed by you as a writer as you think in terms of what should be there and not always what is physically on the page.

Once again I recommend having a friend check for typos.  Also print out the work and read line by line and circle any typos or grammatical errors then go back and change them.  Repeat this process at least three times before print!

Common Typos:

Here is a list of common typos.  In "Burden of Proof" my most common typos were: every - instead of ever, conscious instead of conscience, what for want, etc...who knows how I made the typos - it wasn't the lack of knowing how to spell a word as much as not hitting the right keys.


abber(r)ation ** aberration

accomodation ** accommodation

acheive ** achieve

adress ** address

alot ** a lot or allot

Alsation ** Alsatian

alterior ** ulterior

ammend ** amend

anti-semetic ** anti-Semitic

attatch ** attach

athiest ** atheist

auxilliary ** auxiliary

barbeque ** barbecue

beggining ** beginning

beleive ** believe

bicep ** biceps

bouy ** buoy

Britian ** Britain

brocolli ** broccoli

Common Grammatical errors:

- It's (It is) and its.  Make sure you have the correct form.  And don't count fully on Word Spell Check.  They told me that it's was incorrect in several sentences when I as writing "it is."  Think does it make sense to say "it is" here - if so write 'it's' if not then the correct usage is most likely 'its'

- to and too.  Make sure you have the correct form of to/too.  Most often it is not grammatically correct to end a sentence in 'to' However certain sentences and vernacular allow for that rule to be broken.  

- NEVER end a sentence with a preposition (i.e. Where's it at? - wrong - Where is it?  of "Do you know where it is?)- is a much better use of phrasing.

- Fragments: I use some fragments stylistically in writing, but try not to have too many fragments.  Connect sentences to make them not so choppy.  On the other hand, run on sentences don't bode well either

- Say what you need to say simply.  Don't create sentences that are repetitive or roundabout.  Instead focus on stating what you need to say in a way the reader can understand.  Simple writing can be descriptive and isn't necessarily because the writer can only think simply.  Rather Simple Writing is a way of writing so the reader can benefit from your plot and not be distracted from it.

Steps 1 & 2: Igniting the Idea and Putting Pen to Paper

In this post I will go into more detail about Steps 1 & 2 of the Publishing Process: 1) Getting your Idea and 2) Writing the Manuscript.  I will share a few of my tips and how I come up the ideas for my projects and turn that idea into a story.  I look forward to hearing your suggestions for brainstorming story ideas and the process of writing.

Step 1: Getting the Idea.  

This step has never been particularly hard for me as I am a creative person and my mind is always thinking of story ideas.  My ideas stem from news stories I've seen on Television, My own personal experiences, influences from other writers and my own imagination.  Normally I get the basic plot structure all at once and I immediate write down the outline.  I then either store it in my to write folder, or if I'm so taken with the idea I jump into the story.  

However from time to time I've had ideas and a general idea of plot, but can't decide the exact plot or how to make the story more innovative.  I have been taking notes and writing down ideas on a fantasy book I hope to one day write, but do not feel creatively ready to pursue at this moment.

My tips: 

- Keep a notepad and writing utensil everywhere you go, so if you get a story idea or meet someone who inspires a character you can take note and not forget about it.  Voice recorders are good to carry around as well.  

- Keep a creative journal - use this to collect ideas and try to write a little every day.  The more you write the better you become and more likely an idea is to come into your mind.

- Follow the headlines.  Topical stories with universal themes are always good, especially if you write thrillers.  Every time I see a headline that might be utilized in a fictional plot line I print out the article and write notes on my story idea.  I have read this is how John Grisham gets a lot of his book ideas as well.  

-Read: The more quality popular or classic fiction/non-fiction you read the more you will know what sort of stories you enjoy writing and how to better your own plot structure or construct a quality idea.

I got the idea for my novel "Burden of Proof" after seeing a television news story about the case regarding the micro-biologist blamed for the Anthrax attacks.  I'm not a conspiracy theorist in nature, but I thought that the case seemed to have a few loose ends.  That put forth the idea for "Burden of Proof."  However I then took the real story and fictionalized it.  Although the news headline was the stem, my plot is entirely different than real life events regarding the case and speculative so therefore part 2 of the idea was my own "What if..." imagination.

Step 2: Writing

Step 1 and 2 go hand and hand.  How quickly step one flows into step 2 depends on your creative impulse on an idea, your schedule and eagerness to write the story.  I typically have a list of about five Works in Progress or Future Projects and a time line of when I plan to work on the novel.  This keeps me organized and helps me not neglect quality ideas, however if you catch the writing bug for a particularly idea and have the impulse to write it NOW - don't hesitate.  Writing is often about impulse and combustion of ideas.  Sometimes the ideas can wait, other times it's better to jump into a project so that the idea doesn't fizzle out.

For me I typically plunge head first into a story and just start writing.  At the close of every writing day I make notes about where I want the plot to head and re-read what I've written.  Sometimes I'll hit a block in the creative process.  I don't get frustrated.  Instead I step back, take a deep breath and reexamine the work.  Don't stop writing, even if that writing is a rewrite of something you've already written or a new paragraph a day.  The more you write the more progress you will gain in breaking through the writer's blockade.  If you say "I'll pick this up later" 9 times out of 10 you may not.  

With writing try to have a deadline.   This deadline can be as short or as long as you want it to be.  But having a flexible end date helps you focus on finishing the book, without feeling pressure to write clumsily just to finish the work.  It also makes the process seem less daunting.  If forces you to think about the plot and how you should end the story without rambling on.  For me the end date varies.  I usually give about two months to start and finish the first draft, but I'll admit it can take longer, but it keeps my creative mind focused.

With "Burden of Proof" I began in late September and wrote through November 2008.  I took a break to edit another work before picking up the book after the holidays and finishing in February of 2009.  I think let it sit a month before jumping into the long and tedious process of Editing (Step 3), which I will discuss in my next entry.

The Seven Steps of Publishing

Writing and Publishing, the words go hand and hand - but in reality the bridge between the creative process of writing your story to getting it published and subsequently sold takes a long time to cross.  It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of completing the manuscript and feel urgency to share your story and find it in print.  However finishing your first draft of your manuscript is only the first step in a long, but hopefully rewarding process.

In this Publishing Basic Entry I will briefly address the steps of the creative and business process of publishing.  I will subsequently follow this entry with more detailed posts on each aspect of the Publishing process.

The Steps:

Step 1: The Idea: Before you start composing words into a story you must first have that light switch moment that ignites an idea.  An idea may come quick and you instantly recognize how you want the plot to play out or it may be a bit vague.  If it's the latter I recommend journaling any sparks of literary ideas you have and anytime you think of an addition to the plot add it to your brainstorming.  Don't get frustrated when you have half an idea.  Often times you should plunge into a spark and you must bank on it to ignite the full flame.  It's okay to let your mind and creative senses flow.  Whether your idea is a full-fledged plot line or just a spark, your pen or keyboard and imagination will propel you into the next step: Igniting the writing flame.

Step 2: Writing your novel.  This is when you put words together to form the story.  This is a time consuming process, but often a rewarding one as it is a chance to further your ideas and construct an enjoyable story.  

Step 3: The hardest part of the process for me is the rewrite and editing stage.  You put so much passion and emotion into completing the manuscript that it's easy to be creatively drained when it comes to the editing process.  However I have found that editing your novel is possibly the most important stage in the process as a polished book is the best way to make your work shine.  You don't want people to wind up being disappointed with your writing because of needless typos, grammatical errors or poorly constructed sentences.  In editing NEVER assume your book is ready for print, instead like a shark looking for blood in the water - keep your head clear and your eyes sharp for how you may improve upon your work.  Re-read and Rewrite.  On average it takes at least 5 edits to get your book in quality form and sometimes as many as twenty reads.  This can be tedious and sour your creative impulse as frustration sets in, but don't let it - patience and fortitude in editing will make the end result all the more rewarding!

Step 4 - Post-Edit: So your work is perfectly polished and edited to a tee. The question now is 'how do you get it to readers?'  This is the stage you examine what your end goals are for your book, how you plan to publish it, and how to make your distribution hopes a reality.  This is the time to possibly query Literary Agents (which is excruciating and time consuming - but if you want to be traditionally published a necessary evil) or Small Presses.  It might be at this juncture you opt to focus on publishing your work Independently.  If that's the case you need to thoroughly examine all your self-publishing options.

Whether going with a Vanity Press, which really is more pay-to-publish than true self-publishing, or doing Self-Publishing in a more traditional sense (You are responsible for every aspects of the publishing process) it's important to think about distribution and whether or not investing in publishing is worth your money.  Frankly I published too soon with my former book as I was lured into AuthorHouse's promises of writing glory.  I was so excited about seeing the book in print I neglected key aspects of the pre-press process (editing).  If you do self-publish you need to realize that you won't sell copies if you neglected Step 3.  

Frankly I'm not a huge fan of Vanity Presses, although I do feel they have their place and I will say the book's cover and typesetting was done well, however they overcharge you and because they are listed in Bookstore's ordering computers as Vanity Press - you will get hardly any in store sales.  I'll go into this in a subsequent entry and go over pros and cons of Author Solutions type companies.

Step 5: Pre-Press: This is the stage where your manuscript goes through a final proof, is typeset for the printer and all the specifications of how you want the physical book product to look in print or in e-Book form.  This can be a fun, albeit daunting task.  Once again creativity can drive your decisions for how you want your cover to look, or your chapters laid out.  Many people do judge a book by it's cover and layout - so this is not something to just gloss over.

Step 6: Distribution/Book Release: Figure out how to get your book distributed via Ingram, Baker and Taylor, online, etc...Also work on a spec marketing plan for when the book will be released.

Step 7: Your book has been released - Now how to get it sold?  Promotion and a good Marketing plan will lead the way to sales for your book.  This will take a lot of time and patience, but the more you plug your novel - the more likely for it to become a success