Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
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.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
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
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 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
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 Amazon.com, 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: http://www.smashwords.com/about
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
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
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.
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 percentage...it 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 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.