Beyond Editing: What Are Your Soft Skills?

Copyright Vaeenma | Dreamstime.com

Self-publishing clients have a range of needs, and savvy editors have an opportunity to grow their business by filling them. If you are willing to (1) broaden your network and (2) broaden your knowledge of publishing, you can find a wealth of business in the self-publishing market.

Self-publishers are in charge of the full publishing endeavor. They need an editor — you — but they also need a cover and interior designer, an e-book formatter, a marketer, a website designer, and more. If you have a network of vendors you can recommend, you can become a resource for your authors. In some instances, you may even get a referral fee.

Many self-publishers are new to the publishing industry. They don’t know one kind of editor from the next, much less how to choose a printer and e-book company. They might not even fully understand what their goals are in publishing their book.

You have the opportunity to educate yourself and then pass that knowledge on to your authors. You may give away some of this information to build trust, or you may charge for your knowledge in the form of a consulting fee. Either way, your clients and you both benefit when you understand the workings of the self-publishing industry.

Like this blog? Find more insights and advice in Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available from POP Editorial Services LLC, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and other fine retailers.

Advertisements

Enough Work to Go Around?

In the freelance-editing field, the topic persistently arises of whether to share client lists with other editors. New editors looking for a way into the industry hope that some nice, established editor will put them in touch with the right people. Some new freelancers might even expect this, seeming to not understand exactly what they are asking. Conversely, established editors want to protect what they have earned with their years of experience and may be reluctant to share contacts with just anybody.

Should new freelancers expect a helping hand from the veterans among us? And just how important is it to guard your client list once you have built it?

Most of us received some amount of help in getting where we are. I know I did—a lot of help—and so, from the beginning of my career, I have tried to give back. Often that has meant sharing my knowledge of the industry with those looking to break in. Other times, it has meant sharing clients.

Several years ago, I said as much to a fellow freelancer, someone I considered a mentor. She said, “I don’t understand that saying. Give back what?” She felt she never was given anything she needed to return. As fate would have it, a few years later, her main client had dried up and she called me looking for a way to keep her business going. She had taught me plenty about editing; I was ready to do whatever I could. To start, I put her in touch with one of my clients who I knew was looking for editors. She never followed up. Perhaps not surprisingly, her freelance company is no longer.

What did I learn from this experience? This woman, who felt she had never been given anything she did not earn, was unable to see the gifts she had received. She acknowledged neither the training and education provided by her capable teachers nor the job opportunities and support her colleagues had given her. And she ended up with nothing. I adopted the opposite stance, and my business is stronger than ever.

New entrants into the freelance field need to remember that building a client list takes time. There should be no expectation of receiving client contact information without putting in the effort to hone the required skills and build relationships. Like many editors I have spoken with, I have had brand-new editors say to me, “Hey, I’m gonna need to get some contacts from you,” as if it were a given. That is when I say, “You will need to get your résumé in order before I can confidently refer you to any of my clients. Here are a few things you will need…”

I have also received calls from experienced editors who are just branching out into the freelance world. Those who are polite, respect my time, and understand that any contact information I share is given because I trust them, I am happy to put in touch with a few clients. Like many others, I have clients with more work than editors, and it doesn’t hurt me to share that information. In the cases when I am the beneficiary of someone else’s client contact information, I say thank you. Then I not only follow up, but also provide excellent service for that client. I know my actions reflect on the person who made the connection and I will not let them down.

To be clear, I do not advocate giving away your client list to every new editor or freelancer who asks for it. As noted, the established editor may be putting his or her reputation on the line when referring a new editor to a client. Therefore, you have to know something about and have a certain amount of trust in the other freelancer’s abilities and character.

So, what do you do when the asking editor does not meet your standards for referrals? In lieu of giving away contacts, consider educating the person about how you found and have held on to the clients you have. Although one can gain a gig based on a referral, maintaining the client demands high-quality work. At times, new freelancers need to be reminded of that.

Some established editors don’t only begrudge giving away their contacts. They also do not wish to give away their time, especially to those who are just dipping a toe in the water. I (and many others) enjoy educating new editors about publishing. Many people did the same for me when I was coming up, and I feel I owe it to the universe to share what I have been given. That said, these “young whippersnappers” can be the worst offenders in assuming that veteran freelancers should willingly give away their contact lists. More often, I have found they are well-meaning and simply need to be told what they can rightly expect. Although it may feel as if you are wasting your time when you spend 30 minutes talking to a “newbie” about how to break in, consider it an investment in your future. Freelance work often fluctuates, but if you take the time to help others, you will have a network of people ready to assist you when you need it.

Helping the next generation can take many forms, such as sharing knowledge, time, or clients. Next time some new freelancer asks you for a helping hand, I hope that you will remember the support you received and send that back out into the world. None of us has gotten where we are all on our own. And in this world of blogs, journals, trade book publishers, corporations, nonprofits, packagers, textbook publishers, academic presses, and self-publishers, there really is enough work to go around.

Like this blog? Find more insights and advice in Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available from POP Editorial Services LLC, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and other fine retailers.

This Is Your Year: 3 Secrets to Unlocking Your Book in 2018

Today’s post is by Jordan Ring, a successful self-publisher who helps other indie authors reach their full potential. Here he offers some excellent, down-to-earth advice on how you can sell more books and achieve your goals. My thanks to Jordan for sharing his thoughts with us.

This Is Your Year: 3 Secrets to Unlocking Your Book in 2018

by Jordan Ring

You have a book inside you. Every single person has a book in them that will impact other people. Most won’t start writing. Many of those who start won’t finish. Even fewer people will publish. You are better than that.

Maybe the book is halfway done? Maybe it’s finished? Oh no, please don’t tell me you finished it two years ago but are still “tweaking” it!

Maybe you feel like you will never get your book out there. Maybe you feel like even if you do, it won’t sell.

Low sales numbers is the main fear of all authors, and I know because I have faced it myself. We are fearful that our book won’t sell or, even worse, it will get bad reviews.

This can stop even the best authors from ever starting, and even better authors from putting their work out there.

Don’t let this happen to you. The world deserves to read your book.

Follow these three tips to push past fear and get your book published.

Secret 1. Set Realistic Sales Goals

Since getting zero sales is your biggest fear, set a target number of sales to reach for. I tell all new authors to shoot for 100 sales of your book right out of the gate. Would you be happy if 100 people read your book? As a new author, that is not an insignificant number.

No, 100 sales is not going to pay for the book (in time or production costs), but it’s a realistic number that you can hit.

Once you hit that number, set a second goal (e.g., 500 sales) and do everything you can to hit that.

It’s of über importance for new authors to set a number to reach for. Without metrics, how can you measure success?

Personally, I am always trying to hit the next level, and often don’t appreciate how far I have come. Having a sales target is a good way to say to yourself, “Okay, well done, I hit my goal! Now what can I do to hit the next goal?”

This will enable you to appreciate the accomplishment, and it will bolster your resolve to publish your book.

Secret 2. Make a Marketing Plan

Marketing plan to finish your book? Yes, it makes sense. Stick with me.

Finding success as an author means figuring out what is blocking you from moving forward. The reason most would-be authors don’t publish their books is that marketing seems like the giant mountain behind the already huge hill of actually writing a book.

That’s why you should start working on a marketing plan from the get-go, when you are writing a book. This not only will give you a clearer picture of what you are actually writing, but will assuage your fear that the book won’t sell.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Who is my target audience?
  2. Why am I writing this book?
  3. How am I going to sell it?

First, you must define your target audience. Your book is not for “everyone” and that answer is the fastest way to zero sales. Figure out who exactly would be interested in reading your book, and gameplan a way to get the book in front of those people. The best way to do this is to do research on Amazon and see which other books like yours are selling well and have good reviews.

Second, you must have an intrinsic reason to write the book, in addition to the obvious extrinsic reason of getting book sales. If you don’t have a why, you won’t be able to push through and finish writing.

And last, you need to at least have an idea of how you are going to sell your book. The most obvious and best answer is to use Amazon exclusively, but how else will you get your book in front of potential readers?

The base of any marketing plan is to focus on having a great title, getting a professionally designed book cover, and writing a killer book description. I like to call these the Big 3 because you will not sell any books if these things aren’t of the highest quality.

Your title and book cover bring people in, and your book description sales copy will sell them the book. It doesn’t matter how good the content under the cover is — if people aren’t brought in, they won’t buy. You can have the Big 3 professionally done for you, or you can learn to do them yourself, but regardless, you need to focus on them from the get-go.

If you need more help making a marketing plan, touch base with us at Archangel Ink and we would be happy to help.

Secret 3. Become Fearless and Take Action

Taking action is the number one most difficult thing to do in every endeavor. You are forced to sit down and write, plan, and work all while removing your fear of potential negative outcomes. I know that this can feel almost impossible at times, but taking action will bring you closer to your goals.

You have to become fearless, and to be ready to pound away relentlessly on your laptop keys to get the job done. Don’t worry about what comes out of you, just keep writing and then get it edited later. Keep on writing and let the words flow. Turn off your internal editor.

Set a schedule for yourself to write consistently, but also be sure to make time for planning marketing items. Utilize a website like Trello and make a board to plan and then track your writing, publishing, and marketing process.

Continue taking action and before you know it, your published book will be arriving on your doorstep and on your e-reader.

Good luck as you continue to write, publish, and ultimately sell your book. Follow these simple tips, and you will do well.

— Jordan

P.S. I’d love to read your book when it’s done — send it on over to me.

Jordan Ring is the marketing and launch guru with Archangel Ink Publishing Services. You can follow him on his blog, and for help with your own book launch you can get his free book here: Book Launch Gladiator: The Four Phase Approach to Kindle Book Marketing in 2018.

Guest Post: How an Editor Helps Your Author Brand

by Dave Chesson

If you want to give your books the best shot of selling, you must give conscious effort to establishing your author brand.

A strong presence helps an author or any online entrepreneur in the same way branding helps companies. An author brand helps you establish a name people recognize and trust, which helps you sell more books.

What is your author brand?

Your author brand should be a combination of your personality, passion, and the type of work you (want to) write, edit, or create. If you haven’t already, I cannot recommend enough that you set aside some time to brainstorm what you want to be known for as an author.

This might include a certain logo, tagline, and colors among all the places you hang out as an author online. Then, as you build your audience of people who love what you write, they’ll more easily recognize you when your name, profile picture, or logo appears.

Do you want to have a humorous tone? Do you want to be known as a medical expert? Do you want to be known for your big caring heart? You’ll want to clarify what the most important things are you’re trying to exude as an author — and make them known everywhere.

Why is your author brand important?

Pieces of who you are as an author can be found all over the internet. Your author website, your social media profiles, your Amazon Author Central page (this is a big one many self-publishing authors miss), your email signature, comments you leave on blog posts, and so on. All of these build your digital footprint, and if you’re an author, they’re also part of your author brand.

Even in person, if you’re networking at a conference, have business cards or book signings, these are all opportunities for you to create and share your author brand. Having the same logo, colors, tagline, job title, and so on creates consistency so people know what to expect.

Let’s pretend your latest book is a book about vegetarian recipes. You are trying to build a fan base of people who value or are curious about being a vegetarian. Someone sees your book recommended online, but doesn’t buy it quite yet. They’ve never heard of you, after all.

Then they see your name pop up somewhere randomly online and click to learn more. They know they’ve heard of you before, and maybe they want to learn a little more about you before spending money on your book. Then they come across a picture of you competing in a chicken wing–eating contest! So long potential fan! Vegetarians don’t buy books from people who gorge on chicken wings.

That is just one example of many where authors lose potential fans (and book sales) by failing to pay attention to their branding online.

So if you haven’t paid much attention to your author brand or what the traces of you across the internet say, it’s time to take a look.

Get a clear idea of:

  • What you write about
  • The customers/readers/fans you want to attract
  • Your values
  • Your passion
  • Your interests

Then it’s time to take an objective review. What does your website say about you? What does your bio on all your book sales pages say about you? What does your Amazon author page say about you? What do your social media profiles and pages say about you? You should aim for a consistent image on all of your online platforms.

Do they say that you’re a serious writer, or that you’re an amateur fiddling with this writing thing on the side?

Your books and your brand

Writing more than one book about a specific topic can help build your brand too. If you write several books related to saving and investing money, this can help build your brand as an expert in the personal finance field.

Or are you an author of vampire romance novels? Then make sure your bio has the tone of what vampire romance readers would expect.

Writing several books around a certain theme can help build your name as someone those fans begin to recognize, like, and trust.

Ways an editor can help build your brand

An editor can help authors develop a stronger author brand because editors specialize in consistency and details. They also are gifted in putting themselves in the reader’s shoes to give a more objective perspective on what the reader wants and expects.

If you begin working with a new editor, or you have a trusty editor teammate already, make sure your author brand is part of your conversations. Then an editor can more easily identify those glaring inconsistencies that your readers will notice, but you’re blind to (see chicken wing example above).

Sticking with the same editor (if she’s great) through your series of books can be incredibly helpful because then you don’t have to re-explain what your brand/values/passions/tagline/themes are over and over again. Once you find an editor who knows what you do, knows your target audience, and can help improve your craft, the marketing part of your author job will get that much easier.

That’s what happened when I found my editor from Keep Calm Write On. Val started as my book editor, and now is the editor for my blog Kindlepreneur.com, too. She helps me keep my author and online business brand consistent everywhere my work appears.

So don’t be afraid to ask if an editor can review your website, your author and book pages on Amazon, or your social media pages. Of course, you shouldn’t expect this to be pro bono, but the cost should bring a great ROI by strengthening your author brand.

About the Author

When Dave Chesson is not sipping tea with princesses or chasing the boogeyman out of closets, he’s a best-selling author and digital marketing nut. He teaches authors advanced book marketing tactics at Kindlepreneur.com. He also helps authors discover profitable book ideas through his software KDP Rocket.

Like this blog? Find more insights and advice in Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available from POP Editorial Services LLC, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and other fine retailers.

Publishing Stories: 3 Powerful Benefits of Preorders for Newbie Indie Authors

Beyond Sales: 3 Powerful Benefits of Preorders for Newbie Indie Authors

by K. Patrick Donoghue

When I listed the Kindle and Nook editions of my second novel, Race for the Flash Stone, to accept preorders, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Big-name authors routinely list their upcoming titles for preorders, and their books-in-waiting always seem to immediately pop onto the best-seller lists. But what could an unknown indie author hope to achieve by employing the same practice? The answer: Whoa, Nelly!

Of course, I hoped accepting preorders for my book would generate sales in advance of the official release, but I had no idea how many to anticipate. I set my expectations low and chastened myself to primarily treat the 60-day preorder window as an opportunity to build awareness of the upcoming release among my Facebook and blog followers. That tempered view quickly changed within days after listing the book for preorders on Amazon and Barnes & Noble’s website, bn.com.

Sales quickly accumulated, and this led to a few unexpected side benefits that continue to accrue as of this writing, two months after the official release date. In short, I received three powerful benefits from listing my book for preorders that led to a book launch that exceeded my expectations:

  1. Unsolicited buzz by Amazon and Barnes & Noble
  2. Faster accumulation of reviews and ratings for the new book
  3. Early read on sales level led me to boost advertising investment in first book

Before describing these benefits in more depth, it’s likely of value to provide some brief background to assist fellow newbie indie authors in determining whether my preorder insights are of value.

First, both of my novels are part of a series titled The Anlon Cully Chronicles. The first book in the series, Shadows of the Stone Benders, was released in May 2016. Race for the Flash Stone is a continuation of the story explored in Shadows of the Stone Benders, and that likely had an impact on the stronger-than-expected preorders, as Shadows of the Stone Benders concluded with a soft cliffhanger.

Second, I am not a best-selling author. Though my two books, combined, sell 6,500 copies a month on average, neither of my books has appeared on any “big boy” best-seller lists. My Amazon “Author Rank” among all book authors hovers around 2,500.

Last, 90% of my book sales are from Kindle e-books, but I do not participate in the KDP Select/Kindle Unlimited program. The retail prices of the Kindle editions of my two books are $4.99 and $5.99, respectively. I have never offered them for free or discounted the books (with the exception of providing a limited number of complimentary copies to NetGalley reviewers).

With that background in mind, I offer the following insights gleaned from my preorder experience to fellow newbie indie authors.

Over the 60-day period Race for the Flash Stone was listed for preorder on Amazon and bn.com, nearly 3,000 paid copies of the new book were sold. While not a whopping amount by some standards, it did mean I more than covered all the production costs associated with the new book before the official release date.

What did I do to generate the preorder sales? Two things:

  1. On the day I listed the book, I posted an announcement about the availability of the new book for preorders on my author Facebook page and my website blog, and
  2. I inserted a similar announcement into the comments section of the various Facebook advertisements I run for Shadows of the Stone Benders.

That’s it. But that’s not the whole story. The preorder sales were surely influenced by side benefit #1, unsolicited buzz from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

#1 Benefit — Unsolicited Buzz

This one caught me by surprise. I figured I was a gnat to Amazon and Barnes & Noble, but it turns out they are both more active in trying to help new books get exposure than I anticipated, even for indie authors.

The first buzz producer: Amazon created a “series page,” which featured both of my books, and inserted a link on both books’ product pages. This meant that anyone landing on my Amazon page for Shadows of the Stone Benders during the preorder period would see that the book was part of a series and could easily link to Race for the Flash Stone (and vice versa).

I believe this not only helped boost preorders of the new book, but also helped push up sales of Shadows of the Stone Benders. (Many readers have told me they are reluctant to purchase the initial book in a series until they know there are other books in the series. Once the second book was available to preorder, I saw a notable jump in the sales of my first book.)

Next up on Amazon: as the early preorders began to accumulate, Race for the Flash Stone achieved a spot in Amazon’s Top 100 Hot New Releases in several book categories (action-adventure, mystery/thriller/suspense, fantasy, and even teen/young adult). Once the book appeared on these lists, it held spots in each for the duration of the preorder period as well as several weeks after the release.

The extra exposure from appearing in these lists not only helped goose up preorders, but I’m certain it also contributed to the surge in sales I experienced for the first novel during the preorder period.

On the Barnes & Noble front, out of the blue I was contacted by Nook Press about 30 days after I began accepting Nook preorders to let me know Race for the Flash Stone had been selected by their editors as one of their “Nook Presents — Hot New Releases” for April and May.

This was followed two weeks later by a Nook Press email broadcast featuring the book with their other hot new release selections, and then a dedicated email broadcast two weeks after the official release date featuring my book.

I didn’t ask for any of this — Nook Press just did it on its own. [Editor’s note: This may have happened because the preorders were already outpacing other book sales.] If I hadn’t listed my book for preorders, though, they would never have known it was coming and I would have missed out on the free prerelease buzz.

#2 Benefit – Faster Accumulation of Reviews and Ratings

Listing Race for the Flash Stone to accept Kindle and Nook preorders also made a big difference in the speed with which reader reviews and ratings accumulated postrelease.

The first place I noticed reader feedback quickly emerge was on Facebook. Among the 3,000 people who preordered the book was a block of my Facebook “superfans,” people who really liked my first book and who regularly comment on my Facebook posts and advertisements.

These superfans were champing at the bit to dive into the new story. In fact, a bit of competition developed among them to be the first to finish the book and register their opinions. As a result, there was an immediate jump in chatter about the new book on my Facebook author page and in the comments section of the Facebook ads I run (thankfully, mostly positive), which has snowballed further since the book release.

By way of example, though my Facebook ad spend only increased 7% in the first 60 days after launch compared to the 60 days prior to launch, engagement statistics for my Facebook ads (post reactions, page likes, post comments, post shares) jumped 40%.

Separately, the bulge of preorders led to a rapid buildup of ratings on Goodreads. Within two weeks, there were nearly 35 ratings. By the end of the first month, the rating tally reached 120. Now, a little more than three months after releasing Race for the Flash Stone, the number of Goodreads ratings for the book stand at 479.

Interestingly, Amazon reviews have been slower to accumulate. Three months since launch, my Amazon review count sits at 75. I drive all my advertising to my book’s Amazon page, so I was concerned the slow pace of Amazon reviews would negatively affect sales, but that hasn’t happened. In fact, since the launch, average monthly sales of the new book have nearly doubled compared to the preorder time period.

#3 Benefit – Fast-Track Refinement af Advertising Investment = Higher Sales and Profits

There’s nothing special about the model I’m following to build readership and sales. Lots of authors who publish series utilize the same basic approach: I invest in acquiring readers of my first book (meaning I intentionally lose money on each first book I sell in order to build a sizable readership base) with the hope and expectation that a good chunk of those readers will buy my second book (and third book, and so on) at a profit that’s large enough to more than offset the first-book investment. To that end, I spend about 95% of my advertising dollars on promotions for my first book. I hardly promote the second book at all.

The art is figuring out how much to invest to acquire each new reader such that one can generate an acceptable/attractive return on investment (profits from royalties) from future book sales. For me, the early read I received from preorder sales gave me a real-world glimpse into my readership’s interest in the second book well in advance of the book launch.

Specifically, I found that the percentage of first-book buyers who purchased the second book was about 50% higher than I expected. (I had hoped 40% of first-book buyers would go for the second book. The pre- and postlaunch data shows about 60% are buying the second book. I’m working to move that up to 70%.)

This prelaunch market feedback allowed me to make an informed strategy decision. I could either:

(a) keep my advertising investment per first-book buyer the same and receive a higher return on cumulative royalties from both books, though that would mean I’d build a lower readership level (harvest profits strategy), or

(b) I could increase my first-book investment per buyer and achieve higher overall sales of both books, and higher absolute royalty profits, though at a lower ROI percentage (planting seeds strategy).

For the foreseeable future, I’ve opted for strategy (b) in order to continue to widen my readership pool in anticipation of releasing future books in my series.

The Takeaway: Preorders Can Make a Meaningful Difference in Book Launch Success

To wrap it all up, the decision to list the Kindle and Nook editions of Race for the Flash Stone for preorder paid big dividends in three tangible ways that all contributed to a healthy book launch:

  1. Unsolicited buzz from Amazon and Barnes & Noble prior to the book release helped fuel strong preorders.
  2. Rapid reader feedback from preorder buyers built good sales momentum postlaunch.
  3. Preorder performance helped improve the efficiency of my advertising spend (pre- and postlaunch), leading to higher overall sales and profits at a faster pace.

Truth be told, if I’d known how big an impact preorders could have at an earlier date, I would have listed the book for the maximum preorder windows allowed by KDP and Nook Press. For indie authors, KDP currently limits preorder sales to 90 days prior to release date (for big house publishers, I’ve seen preorder Kindle editions listed up to nine months in advance), and Nook Press allows up to 150 days.

I’ve also recently discovered (after my book launch, unfortunately) that Amazon offers a way for indie authors to list paperback and/or hardback editions for preorder up to a year in advance. While I won’t go to that extreme for my third book, I know for sure I’ll list it for preorder as soon as I’m confident about the release date.

K. Patrick Donoghue is the author of The Anlon Cully Chronicles, including his debut novel, Shadows of the Stone Benders, and the series continuation, Race for the Flash Stone. A newcomer to mystery fiction writing, Patrick’s inspiration for The Anlon Cully Chronicles is rooted in his long-standing interest in ancient civilizations. The next book in the series, Curse of the Painted Lady, is slated for a spring 2018 release.

Like this blog? Find more insights and advice in Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available from POP Editorial Services LLC, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and other fine retailers.

Give Your Manuscript Time to Simmer

Copyright Vaeenma | Dreamstime.com

Good writing is like good pasta sauce. The ingredients in a good sauce are simple enough — tomatoes, garlic, onion, basil, oregano, salt, pepper — yet the range and breadth of flavors that can be created with these seven ingredients are enough to fill an entire section of the grocery store.

What all good sauces have in common, and good books too, is that they were allowed to simmer so that the flavors could meld. If you are hoping for a positive end result, one thing you can’t do, whether in writing or in cooking, is hurry.

Generally speaking, both fiction and nonfiction require some level of research. Although the demands for these two genres are different, good research is nonetheless important for the satisfaction of your readers.

During the writing process, you may be tempted to insert your newfound knowledge without much synthesis. This can become a major stumbling block for your readers. Why? When you don’t allow yourself time to process the information you have gathered, you are likely to abruptly switch between the technical aspects of the research and your natural writing style.

Further, readers may find themselves distracted by the digressions into historical or technical background. Whereas you, the author, may have intended to create a richer description of a person, place, or thing, the result may leave readers wondering what this detail has to do with the rest of the story.

This problem occurs in every kind of writing. As the author, you have to make sure your thoughts are flowing clearly from one to the next and that your inclusion of research improves the reading experience rather than hurting it. With multiple revisions over several weeks, there will be no obvious patchwork, no raw spices.

Researching while you write is a contributing factor to this problem, and it can easily lead to the worst gaffe that can come from hurrying your writing: plagiarism. With so much material online, it is too easy to simply copy and paste someone else’s words and pass them off as your own. Avoid the temptation by allowing yourself time to fully understand what you have learned before you attempt to use it.

But it’s not just research that needs this simmering time. The manuscript as a whole needs a chance to meld. If it took you a long time to get all of the pieces together — many writers report spending five years or more writing their books — once you type “The End” you may want to jump into editing. Hold on! Give that work of yours some room, come back to it when you can read it from beginning to end, and fix any glitches.

Now, it has been suggested to me that setting a project aside for a time to give yourself a fresh perspective may be a luxury that some writers don’t have. Publishers have schedules and they expect their authors to adhere to them. Others might look to some of the prolific best-selling authors, the ones who put out multiple books a year, for examples of when this rule does not apply. Here are my thoughts on those caveats.

First, if your publisher is asking for a book in a faster timeline than you can manage and still write a good book, you need to:

  1. take that into consideration the next time you negotiate a contract, and
  2. ask for an extension.

Although I always encourage my authors to meet their deadlines, I have to also admit that a good 50% of the books I have edited over the past 17 years have been behind schedule at some point. So, if you need more time in order to make a great product, ask for it. You won’t be the first author to miss a deadline.

And second, if you aren’t James Patterson, then you shouldn’t expect to produce books the way he does. Many of the top-producing best-selling authors have ghostwriters. You will also notice that the quality of the books tends to suffer over time. Plots are formulaic, story lines digress, and you wonder if the editor was sleeping on the job. It’s clear the author’s name recognition is what sells these books.

Although you have a slim chance of reaching fame and fortune churning out book after book, if you have to sacrifice the quality of your writing in order to do it, and thereby risk your reputation, I’m not sure it’s worth it.

I offer you one more reason to take your time while you write. Traditional publishing houses do not spend as much time or money on editing as they used to. The large presses only accept books that are in tip-top shape (unless you’re James Patterson). Smaller presses may accept your work but offer little in the way of editing assistance. In both cases, that means it’s up to you to deliver a manuscript that is very nearly publication ready. That only happens when you take your time. (Self-publishers keep their own schedules; no excuses for rushing when you’re the publisher!)

Of course, this is all coming from a woman who quit her job as an in-house editor because, as a member of the quality control team, she was unhappy with the quality of books the house was producing. I work for myself now. That means I control the quality of my writing and editing and I can take pride in whatever comes out of my office. It’s a good feeling, one that I believe every author should aspire to.

Like this blog? Find more insights and advice in Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available from POP Editorial Services LLC, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and other fine retailers.

Wednesday #Writetip: When to Spell Out Numbers

Copyright Gorodok495 | Dreamstime.com

Consistent use of numerals (1, 2, 3) versus spelled-out numbers (one, two, three) is one of the most common problems I see in my authors’ writing. Most just type whatever form their fingers choose at that moment, but ultimately a rule of some kind should be established.

There are at least four different numbers rules that a writer could follow. Which one you choose has to do with the type of publication you are writing for and the technical level of the material. Your options include the following:

  1. Some publications prefer to spell out one through nine and use numerals for all other numbers. This is often called the informal numbers rule and is commonly employed in newspapers and magazines.
  2. Others prefer to spell out numbers one through one hundred and all large, round numbers (e.g., ten thousand, fifty million). This rule dominates the nonfiction trade book market, which includes general interest, self-help, memoir — most books that are sold in bookstores but are not textbooks or fiction. It is commonly referred to as the formal numbers rule.
  3. A small segment of publications use numerals in all instances except in general uses like “I for one” or “for one thing.” I have only seen this in corporate reports, where the press has decided numbers appear often enough that it isn’t worth the time to deal with exceptions.
  4. And then there are those publications that spell out all numbers no matter what. This is most commonly seen in fiction, where numbers are used rarely, and when they are used, it is not for exact measurements.

I don’t know any cute names for these last two rules, but I do know they are the simplest to follow. That is because they have the fewest exceptions. Exceptions are what make numbers rules challenging even for trained editors.

In fact, I’ve found one of the quick ways to tell a book that hasn’t been edited very well is to look at the treatment of numbers. If I find a bunch of inconsistencies, I figure the editor didn’t know her numbers rules and has probably made other mistakes as well. (The numbers rule is an early lesson in editing training.)

As the author, you can help by choosing the numbers rule that suits your type of book and following it as best you can. It’s highly likely you will make a mistake somewhere — use words where there should be numerals or vice versa — but you can help yourself and your editor by working toward consistency.

Like this blog? Find more advice and insights in the award-winning book Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available through POP Editorial Services, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Novel Books, and other fine retailers.

Learning from My Clients: Lessons in Publishing Success

In the blog series Publishing Stories, I asked several past clients to share their experiences with publishing.

There are more to come, but I would like to pause here and think about what we as authors, editors, and publishers can learn from their stories.

The four profiled authors — Gary Bargatze, W.K. Dwyer, Maureen C. Berry, and Peter C. Diamond — come from a variety of backgrounds, wrote on wide-ranging topics in both fiction and nonfiction, and were in varying stages of their careers as authors.

  • Gary Bargatze, the author of the eight-book historical fiction series titled Your Winding Daybreak Ways, chose to hire his own editor and rely on a publishing services company to produce his book. Starting in 2015, five of the books have been released with more publishing over the course of 2017.
  • W.K. Dwyer, whose social sci-fi novel The Killing Flower was just released in fall 2016, arranged all of the vendors — developmental editor, copyeditor, interior designer, cover artist, proofreader, printer, and e-book company — himself.
  • Maureen C. Berry left a contract with a publishing house to self-publish her cookbook, Salmon from Market to Plate, on her own terms and schedule. The book debuted in 2016.
  • Peter Diamond’s self-help book Amplify Your Career and Life published in 2014. He hired a developmental editor, then contracted with a hybrid publisher for production, distribution, and marketing.

The goals of each author and their expectations for marketing and sales greatly colored their stories. It was educational for me to see where I saw success and where they did or did not.

Have a Vision and Stick to It

Gary Bargatze had a vision for his series before he wrote it, and he followed it through to the end of the project. He was aware of his abilities, crunched the numbers, and found the path that was economical for his time and pocketbook.

His use of an editor outside of the publishing services company is one of the key decisions he made. It saved him money compared to what the publishing services company offered, and he received what I know to be a more in-depth edit than most get with a company.

Gary also wasn’t shy. He stood up when the production wasn’t right, and he had his book reviewed in the Baltimore Sun online (twice, actually). He is strategic and pointed with each decision and the success he has had reflects that.

The satisfaction he takes in the journey of publishing is also apparent — and deeply important to the final judgment of whether this adventure was a success.

Make a Great Product and Ask for Help When Needed

W.K. Dwyer shared how much he learned over the course of publishing his first novel, and one lesson is that self-publishing is a whole lot of work!

There are a lot of moving parts, and it takes a lot of mind space to keep it all going. He wanted full control over production, especially in regards to the cover, and that is what he got. His book is beautiful and well crafted.

Marketing, as he says, does not happen on its own, and while there is satisfaction in making a great product, it’s more fun when people buy the book. Delegating work can help to alleviate the stress.

Indeed, W.K. has since enlisted the help of a marketing expert to get word out about his book. With that assistance, W.K. is set to meet his goals.

Be Flexible and Be Determined

Maureen C. Berry knew what she wanted: a traditional publisher who was going to support her book idea and her marketing efforts. When she discovered that wasn’t going to happen, she changed course. She produced the book on her own to her own standards, and she immersed herself into the marketing the book.

More than any of the other authors profiled, Maureen has embraced the work of marketing her book. She has clear determination to give the book its best shot at selling, and it is selling!

Maureen’s enthusiasm and drive are palpable, and it’s clear that she enjoys the challenges of marketing. Those two factors go a long way in whether marketing efforts will pay off. Her traditional publisher would have done well to keep her.

Revise Expectations and Focus on the Positive

Peter C. Diamond told us that he enjoyed the writing and publishing aspects of making a book.

But like many authors, he underestimated the amount of work involved in marketing the book. Although he had some help with the marketing, he did not meet his sales goal.

What I see with Peter, however, is a much bigger success than he may see.

His book is both a self-help book that really does help the people who read it — note the 25 reviews on Amazon — and a marketing piece for his company. In this situation, there rarely is a one-to-one return on investment.

But for many businesspeople, that’s not the point. Rather, the book offers intangible benefits in the form of new clients, prestige for the author, speaking engagements, and other business-related opportunities.

Self-publishing is also very much about the long tail. That is jargon for the amount of time it takes to make back the investment.

A traditional publisher will market a book for six months and reap as much profit from that endeavor as possible. That’s the short tail. Self-publishers have to take a longer view.

More to Come

In the coming months, more authors will share their stories, highlighting other aspects of the publishing life. Some do not see themselves as bearing a lesson, but I assure, there is much more to learn!

Like this blog? Find more advice and insights in the award-winning book Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available through Hop On Publishing, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Novel Books, and other fine retailers.

Publishing Stories: My Flirtation with Traditional Publishing

Maureen C. Berry, author of the cookbook Salmon from Market to Plate, is the feature of this month’s Publishing Stories installment. In this post she tells her experience with a traditional publisher and the ultimate successes she found for her book. 

My Flirtation with Traditional Publishing

by Maureen C. Berry

You write and polish the best manuscript you can. You hire an editor. You research and then query an agent (or 10). Then wait. While you wait, you wring your hands, fret over that last phrase, that one word. Should I have written more? Less? Did I seem needy? Will they like my work? OMG, did I include my phone number? I suck! What if I never hear from any of the agents? Should I self-publish? Traditional publishing is overrated. I will not self-publish, I’ll wait until I hear back. Checks email every two minutes. A rejection letter is better than nothing, right? A badge of honor. Surely someone will love my book.

***

As I aspired to publish my first book, these thoughts raced through my mind daily. Okay, who am I kidding, by the minute. My goal? Traditional publication. While I always considered self-publishing a viable option, I was convinced that traditional publication was the best route for me.

But as I researched agents and prepared my query letters, I was a hot mess.

Then something short of a miracle happened.

The first agent I queried for my book, tentatively titled Eating Salmon, replied within five minutes. My pulse raced, my breath caught in my throat. I wondered if I might be hyperventilating. I looked around my one-woman office needing someone, anyone to see the reply.

Dear Maureen,

Thank you for your MS. This is really do-able. [I almost fell off the chair]

But not for me. [Heart dropped to gut]

However, [Heart fluttered back to life], this is a perfect project for XYZ.

And BTW, there’s a similar title, ABC, that was bought earlier this spring by John. P.Q. Literary. Use this in your market research. And please use my name in your query to XYZ.

Warmly,

Literary Agent

Okay, so now I am dancing with the dog. Is it too early for champagne? I call my husband. Validation sets in. I pinch myself. Then I sit down to write the second query.

You know where this is going right? Insert all the above first paragraph internal dialogue.

Within two weeks, the second agent bit. And within two more weeks I had my first contract from an imprint of a midlevel publishing house in New York.

But first I had to write the book proposal (I had written the entire manuscript) and have the manuscript edited. I hired Katherine Pickett through an online referral.

I found a publishing attorney on Twitter (yes, it’s true!) who agreed to negotiate my first contract pro bono. Three months later, I signed off on the contract and submitted the manuscript.

Was the advance good? Nope — think small four figures. Was my royalty rate fair? I could have done better — was advised to not accept this contract.

But a contract is a contract, right? I was a first-time author with a small but growing platform. This contract could only help me build my brand, not hinder it.

The publisher suggested a book style — softcover, 6″ × 9″, black-and-white illustrated interior with color cover graphics. 200 pages. I flip-flopped, wanting a hardcover, full-color interior (mine was a cookbook after all, and we eat with our eyes), but I relented, assuming they knew best. And really, I didn’t have much say or any options, other than breaching the contract (code for return the advance and forfeit my rights to the manuscript to the publisher).

Much time went by without any word from the agent. When I did hear, she suggested I write the outline of the second book in the series, Eating Shrimp.

Then late that summer, I was working with the publicist. Salmon from Market to Plate was scheduled for a spring release date. My book had been upgraded to full color, they’d use my photographs, and the book would be larger, thus a higher royalty rate to me. Win-win! I shouted into the woods from my office.

But a month later, my agent messaged that she was retiring and I’d be working with someone else. Not daunted, but a little disappointed, I shook it off. Agents move around and there is always fresh blood willing to learn the ropes.

A few days later, on a Friday afternoon that fall, I received a message from one of the editors at the publishing house: my project was put on hold. Indefinitely. They had a competing title scheduled for a spring release, a lifestyle seafood cookbook by an author with a larger platform.

Over the weekend, I considered my options. I would attempt to negotiate my rights back without penalty or returning the advance.

Mid-October, nearly a year to the day after receiving the contract, the publisher agreed to my terms and within two weeks, my rights were reverted. I told myself (and the husband and dog) that I’d give myself six months to find another agent/publisher.

Then the new year rolled around. And, well, my attitude changed, as often is the case during the new year. I decided to self-publish under my company, Berry Consulting. It never occurred to me to use a self-publishing services company. My thinking was if I’m going to self-publish, then I’m going to learn how to do it with all the unknowns, bumps, and not-so-pretty side of doing something totally foreign. A friend’s cousin, a graphic artist, wanted to expand her portfolio. Her style leaned toward commercial but fun. And with that recommendation, mid-January 2016, I hired Megan Johns to design my book. I wanted an April release date to coincide with the opening Alaska salmon season and my project fit her schedule.

Megan delivered Salmon from Market to Plate a week ahead of the April 13, 2016, release date. Any delay was editing and style issues on my part. Megan is a terrific book designer.

Is Salmon from Market to Plate a success? 

  • Salmon was #1 New Release in Fish & Seafood Cooking on Amazon for its first week out.
  • It won a Gold Star for cover design from The Book Designer for the month of April.
  • I was invited to the 35th annual Kentucky Book Fair this November hosted by the Kentucky Humanities Council.
  • I was accepted to the Southern Kentucky Book Fest in Bowling Green at Western Kentucky University next fall.
  • In October 2016, Salmon received an Honorable Mention from the 24th annual Writer’s Digest Self-Publishing Competition.
  • Salmon is stocked at two locations in my small (20,000-person) western Kentucky community — Bobbi’s Hallmark and Bookstore at the mall and 45-70, a men’s bespoke store in downtown Madisonville.
  • Salmon was accepted for review by BookLife/Publishers Weekly.
  • The larger bookstores in my region, Joseph-Beth in Louisville and Cincinnati, Parnassus in Nashville, and Barnes & Noble in Bowling Green rejected my book. But I am not disappointed. Encouraged is the word that comes to mind.

And what marketing do I do?

  • I try to do a book signing/salmon tasting event every month in my community. Average book sales are 15 books per event. I sell signed copies from my home, shipping via media mail and taking payment via PayPal, including the shipping and handling plus tax in the price. For each of these signed books, I offer a free bourbon-and-butter cookie, made by a local baker, that looks like the cover of my book.
  • I send free copies to industry and sustainable seafood organizations.
  • I sell books to chefs and restaurants.
  • I submit books to writing contests and for review.
  • I work hard to not be that author who shouts, Buy My Book! on social media.

There is much to tackle yet. For instance, how do I sell foreign rights? And should I? Should I print an Asian counterpart? Should I hire a publicist?

There are many questions I can answer. Am I glad that I self-published? Yes. Did I make mistakes? Yes. One biggie was that I didn’t give myself enough time to submit galleys for review. Is self-publishing hard work? Yes. The marketing responsibilities are overwhelming some days. Do I still want to be traditionally published? Yes. But would I self-publish again? Hell yes.

One thing that kept me sane when I otherwise thought I’d lose it was that I believed in myself and my project. Because if you can’t be your own cheerleader, then nobody else will either.

***

Salmon from Market to Plate is available as a 200-page, softcover, full-color, 6″ × 9″ book. Available on Amazon ($12.95) and Kindle ($6.99). Also available wholesale from IngramSpark.

Like this blog? Find more insights and advice in Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available from POP Editorial Services LLC, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and other fine retailers.

Wednesday #Writetip: Ensuring Variety of Word Choice in Your Writing

Copyright Michaeljayberlin | Dreamstime.com

When I’m editing I often see writers relying on the same words and phrases throughout their manuscripts. Sometimes the repetition becomes noticeable and distracting, particularly when words are repeated in the same paragraph or sentence.

Some words and phrases are more memorable than others. Indefatigable, for example, or invariably, or in an alternate universe will stand out to readers and need to be used sparingly.

Now, some words are difficult to write around — work is one that causes me trouble — but others are not so difficult, and if the repetition is distracting your readers from your message, it is almost always worth the effort to find a new way to say something.

What can you do about it? First, determine if you are falling into this trap. Reading the passage aloud can help. Stepping away from the manuscript and then reading through from beginning to end is another way to detect the problem.

Once you know what some of your “crutch” words are, you can do a search to locate each instance. Then evaluate each use and decide (1) if you need the word at all, and (2) if there isn’t a more interesting way to convey your meaning. Revise as needed.

Like this blog? Find more advice and insights in the award-winning book Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available through Hop On Publishing, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Novel Books, and other fine retailers.