Beyond Editing: What Are Your Soft Skills?

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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.

PerfectBound front cover 2019 9-6 low-res

 

Like this blog? Find more insights and advice in the Updated and Revised Edition of Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, now available on Amazon!

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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.

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.

Publishing Stories: Rewards and Challenges of a First-Time Author, Part 2

Peter Diamond, author of Amplify Your Career and Life: 4 Steps to Evaluate, Assess and Move Forward, returns to tell us what he learned about marketing and sales when working with a hybrid press.

Part 2: Marketing and Sales

by Peter Diamond

Marketing and selling my book was much harder and more time-consuming than I imagined. While the manuscript was being turned into a fully formed book for public consumption by my publishing company, I focused my attention on marketing. As an ex-advertising professional, I thought this would be easy. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.

In the early stages of writing the manuscript, I was advised to create a platform of followers, at least a couple thousand, months before the book was published. I was told, “You will have to put as much effort into marketing your book as you do writing it.”

I heard this advice, but I didn’t listen. I mistakenly thought the message of my book, Amplify Your Career and Life: 4 Steps to Evaluate, Assess and Move Forward, would automatically appeal to my target audience: midlife business professionals facing career crisis. Little of my time was spent cultivating a fan base in advance of the book release. I was too focused on writing the book and running my executive coaching business. Little did I know more than 2 million books were published in 2015. That’s insane competition.

Here’s what I did do.

  • I found a PR agency that specializes in working with authors of nonfiction titles.
  • I paid for a number of promotional programs offered by Amazon that my publisher recommended.
  • As part of the PR effort, I wrote a number of byline articles (with no mentions of my book except in my bio) to be pushed out to various sites.
  • I gave 28 small-market radio and podcast interviews, secured by the PR agency.

What happened? The PR effort generated very few sales. The articles I wrote did get a lot of exposure and helped my Google ranking. The promotional programs, in partnership with Amazon, resulted in no sales.

Using my own contacts I was able to secure a local TV morning show interview and radio interview on a popular public radio program. I did see modest sales spikes from these interviews.

After six months of actively promoting my book, I hadn’t hit my sales goal or, said another way, recouped the cost of my investment. At that time I had to make a decision whether to continue to spend more time and resources on promoting the book or focus on generating revenue for my executive coaching business. My business won out and is doing quite well.

Writing and publishing a book was a great experience with certain intangible benefits.

  • It boosted credibility for my brand and executive coaching business.
  • I learned about the process of writing, publishing, and marketing a book.
  • I’m more comfortable being interviewed and telling stories in different mediums.
  • I’m a regular contributor for Entrepreneur.com (this connection came from the PR agency).
  • On occasion, I’m contacted to be interviewed for an article or write a blog post such as this one.
  • Lastly, my book was a finalist for two book awards. It’s an honor to be recognized by the publishing community and fellow authors.

Although my book doesn’t enjoy best-seller status, I recently had a client tell me that reading my book was like reading her own thoughts and how helpful it was to know that others experience the same midlife trials and tribulations. That, for me, made all the effort worthwhile.

Would I do it again? Maybe, just maybe.

Peter C. Diamond, “The Amplify Guy,” is a professionally trained certified coach who helps people improve their work performance and achieve a higher degree of career and life fulfillment. He has appeared on ABC’s Windy City Live and WGN’s News at 5 as a career coach expert, and he writes a blog, The Amplify Guy. For more information about Peter and the Amplify Your Career and Life workbook, visit his website at www.petercdiamond.com.

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: Rewards and Challenges of a First-Time Author, Part 1

In this installment of the Publishing Stories series, Peter Diamond, author of Amplify Your Career and Life: 4 Steps to Evaluate, Assess and Move Forward, relates his experience finding an editor and working with a hybrid press.

Part 1: Editing and Publishing

by Peter Diamond

I never set out to be a published author. During my 21 years in advertising I mastered how to write business memos and PowerPoint decks. This type of writing served a very functional purpose—sell ideas, concepts, and points of view to clients. My early mentors had exacting standards that taught me the rigors of writing persuasive communications that were clear and concise and made a compelling case. But it was all business all the time.

Seven years ago I began a career transition from advertising to executive coaching. To support my fledging new enterprise I began writing a blog to attract and engage clients. With a handful of blog posts and some encouragement from my clients I decided to turn it into a self-help motivational book.

Having never written or attempted to write a book, I was naively surprised at how challenging it would be to find a good editor and an interested publisher. From my experience, I proffer two pieces of advice:

  • Early in the writing process ally with an editor who believes in your idea, and
  • Be prepared to manage the details of publishing your book.

Finding a good editor was an onerous process. I started by asking my advertising colleagues if they knew of any editors. This resulted in only one option. With this editor, we initially worked on a couple of chapters. Shortly after we started, I realized she wasn’t that interested in my project. We agreed not to continue working together. I wanted to work with someone who was excited about the potential of my idea.

I then turned to the Internet thinking this would unearth editors galore. I was underwhelmed.

I finally settled on someone to help me write a book treatment (which I found out I needed) and fine-tune the first two chapters to send to agents as a teaser. She turned out to be competent but we didn’t click. I was looking for not only an editor but also a collaborator. She just wanted to edit.

I mentioned my predicament to a client who worked in publishing right out of college. She offered to connect me to one of her longtime publishing colleagues. This introduction proved most fruitful. Within 24 hours of making this new connection I was introduced to Katherine. Yes, Katherine Pickett, who is probably blushing right now. It didn’t take long into our initial conversation for me to realize Katherine would be the ideal editor for my book.

This relationship was exactly what I needed. In addition to her scrupulous editing skills, I benefited from her belief in the importance of my message. Probably more than she knows, I immediately warmed to her inclusive editing style. Her generous use of “we” and commitment to the book motivated me to power through during times of self-doubt (which isn’t good for a self-help motivational author). Her belief kept me pushing forward to finish the manuscript. As a first-time author, I felt having a finished manuscript was essential in securing a publisher. I could not have done it without her.

After more than 50 failed attempts to find an agent, I investigated publishers who work directly with authors. The shortlist included Greenleaf Publishing. I submitted my manuscript and they accepted.

I was elated because the benefits of working with a hybrid publisher are twofold:

  • I retain all the rights to my content and can use it any way I choose.
  • They bring all the resources and expertise needed to get the book published.

This arrangement requires the author to fund the publishing costs, similar to self-publishing. Since I have a full-time business to run, the idea of having someone else project manage the process was very appealing.

The most important lesson I learned in working with a publisher is that it still required me to pay close attention to every detail. I read and reread all the editing changes to ensure they were properly reflected in each updated version of the manuscript. This included being fastidious about the formatting of both the print and e-book versions. As I always say to my clients, you are your own best advocate. And this is true in publishing.

I’m very happy with the final product and fortunate to have worked with supportive caring people who believed in my idea and me.

In Part 2: Marketing and Sales, Peter describes what he did to help sell his book and what results he was able to achieve. Stay tuned!

Peter C. Diamond, “The Amplify Guy,” is a professionally trained certified coach who helps people improve their work performance and achieve a higher degree of career and life fulfillment. He has appeared on ABC’s Windy City Live and WGN’s News at 5 as a career coach expert, and he writes a blog, The Amplify Guy. For more information about Peter and the Amplify Your Career and Life workbook, visit his website at www.petercdiamond.com.

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: Publishing a Book I Can Stand Behind

Welcome to the second installment of Publishing Stories, a new series from The POP Newsletter in which former POP Editorial Services clients offer publishing lessons for new authors. Today W.K. Dwyer shares his experience in publishing his newly released social science fiction novel, The Killing Flower.

Publishing a Book I Can Stand Behind

by W.K. Dwyer

In mid-October of 2016 I launched my debut novel, The Killing Flower. After more than seven years of writing, followed by two full years of editing, I held a launch party in DC, during which I referred to self-publishing as a misnomer, giving huge credit to the outstanding team I’d worked with, without whom I never would have completed my novel. Now that I’m on the other side, I want to share some of the details of this journey, the choices I made — good and bad — and what I think I ended up with as a result.

I began writing The Killing Flower in 2006, at a time in my life when I was in a lot of anguish. First, 9/11 had happened and was already deeply disturbing, but the nasty polarization that occurred around the time of the Iraq invasion had affected me personally. I felt I had lost my entire family, who I’d always been unusually close to; they had all gone to the other side of the political, sociological, and religious divide. This was alienating, frustrating, extremely upsetting for me, particularly because soldiers and innocent civilians were losing their lives overseas and our only response seemed to be screaming matches on Facebook.

So what motivated me was simply catharsis — writing was my way of working through my angst, and the fictitious character I made up could do anything he wanted to with that tragic situation. He could kill all the bad guys, he could tell the unedited truth about his family, he could survive war, he could bear listening to the two insane sides of America — one saying the sky is blue and the other saying skies don’t exist. As the story developed it became more about the character and his world, but I retained the overall framework, to create a metaphor for what I saw had happened to us post-9/11.

Although I had never published before, in fact had never been involved in journalism or writing clubs or anything related whatsoever, I had been writing all my life — personal journals, poetry and songs, and a few short stories. My mother, being an English major, introduced me to poetry at an early age and influenced my appreciation for literature. The classics were emphasized quite a bit in my preparatory high school, so I did obtain at least a decent foundation.

Despite this, I never considered myself to be well-read at all. I was placed in remedial reading in seventh grade and never quite recovered; there are hundreds of novels I wish I had read and only a very small percentage of them I can say I have. So, for better or worse, when I began writing The Killing Flower my only points of reference for writing were a select set of books most would consider way out of the league of a first-time novelist.

What came out of all this was perhaps pure in the sense that it was naively written, with no bias from knowing the business side of things — targeting a particular audience, making the story marketable, fitting it into a specific genre. I simply focused on telling a good story, mimicking the novelists I had been exposed to and using techniques I had learned in school. “Build it and they will come” was my thought. Make a great product and a readership will follow.

The downside of this is that in the world of self-publishing, this almost never works. Without an established following, there is little chance of the book taking off initially, and if all I did was “build it” and put the book on Amazon there is a very real possibility that it would go completely unnoticed. Even if a few readers here and there are super impressed, no one will have any motivation to go shouting from the rooftops about how my book is the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Regardless of what has happened to the pub world in the last decade or so, it remains a business and excitement over a book is simply a commodity that is bought and sold.

Nevertheless, that was my approach, and it affected my decision to go with self-publishing over traditional as well. For me it was pretty clear; no way was I going to hand over the cover design to a publishing house and risk having readers get the wrong impression about my novel. It was an easy decision, and although it did sign me up for three solid months of stress, pushing the limits of my artistic side and navigating through choices and judgment calls usually made by professionals, it did pay off in the end. My artist, Carlton Tomlin, came up with an absolutely brilliant interpretive piece of original art that fits the story perfectly, and I could not be happier with how the novel looks.

But the most critical part of this process by far was the editing. Again, with an emphasis on building the best product possible and doing things by the book, I turned to professionals in the business. I was lucky enough to find Katherine Pickett, a seasoned editor and self-publishing expert with more than a decade of experience in publishing, including the editing of over 300 books. She not only played the role of my developmental editor, but also served as my personal self-publishing consultant-slash-mentor.

My first step in the process was to read her book, Perfect Bound, and it became my reference throughout. Although the query/editing was a ton of hard work, and was harrowing at times, it was extremely productive and positive every step of the way, even surprisingly so.

The manuscript we began with was a hodgepodge of passages, somewhat story-ish perhaps, but rather disjointed and very incongruent. What came out was a well-organized and smoothly flowing narrative; every passage had an important role, moved the story along, delivered the plot. It was so polished I actually considered skipping copyediting, but Katherine convinced me to go the extra mile again (and this was great advice).

Copyediting, which was performed by Christina Frey, was a similar experience for me. There were hundreds of queries and issues to work through, and those several months were extremely intense, but the entire effort was methodical and predictable and clearly added quality to the novel. Although I expected little more than fixing commas and grammar here and there, what I got was a second, laser-focused pass through the novel, fixing everything from timelines to fact-checking to character inconsistencies.

It was only after the copyedit phase was completed that it finally hit me what an actual professional-quality novel really looks like. Proofreading and interior design added the final look and feel, and the book was finally complete. Looking back, I consider the choice to have the book professionally edited — which obviously incurred some expense — well worth it and one of the best decisions I made.

All in all I am very happy with the results. Sure, some of the technical aspects of putting everything together were neglected and I would have been better off if I had followed Perfect Bound more closely and studied self-publishing for six months prior to starting the process. Researching Bowker, ISBNs, review sites, establishing a platform and followers, how to throw a launch party — these are things that are critical in the process and ideally should not be rushed at the last moment. But the most important thing by far is the book itself, and this was given top priority.

To market a book takes confidence in the product, and that is what I have achieved. Developing a new strategy or angle for marketing can be tweaked along the way; not so much for the novel itself. It has to be something I can stand behind, and it truly is.

W.K. Dwyer, author of the novel The Killing Flower, has written short stories and poetry for decades and was trained as a musician under J.D. Blair. Following the events of September 11, he stopped creating music to focus on writing and podcasting about the root causes of terrorism. W.K. holds a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering and has done postgraduate work in artificial intelligence and cognitive science. He works as a government contractor, developing targeting systems for counterterrorism.

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: Successful Self-Publishing Takes a Team

In the new blog series Publishing Stories, I have asked former clients to share their experiences with book publishing. This first contribution is by Gary Bargatze, author of the eight-book series Your Winding Daybreak Ways. His self-published books have earned praise from many corners, including the Baltimore Sun. Here he tells us how he found success as a self-publisher.

Successful Self-Publishing Takes a Team

by Gary Bargatze

When our first child was born some 30 years ago, a wise old friend foretold our future as parents. He flashed a knowing smile and accurately predicted,

“Children give you the greatest joy and the greatest sorrow. … The challenges will never go away; they’ll just get different.”

And as writers who’ve “given birth” to a number of works over the years, my wife and I have often compared the ongoing challenges of parenting to the long, winding road of crafting an idea and managing it to print.

After overcoming the myriad challenges associated with a successful “delivery” (e.g., daily decisions about plot, character, syntax, grammar, word choice, and consistency), we stare at the newborn manuscripts in our hands, sigh with relief, and smile with a rightful sense of accomplishment.

But as the thrill of our newborns’ births begins to fade, we slowly realize that we now face a whole new set of daunting questions and responsibilities to ensure that our “children” reach adulthood and succeed in their lives.

And when these new questions arise, “they come not as single spies, but as battalions”:

  • Which route to publication should we choose?
  • Should we attempt to publish traditionally via an agent and a major publishing house?
  • Should we publish independently through our own start-up publishing companies? Or should we hire an existing press to perform most of the publishing and marketing tasks for us?
  • If we go either the independent route or hire a company, do we engage professional editors?
  • Whom will we hire to design the covers and format the interiors? How many editions of our works should we produce—a print version, an e-book, and/or an audio edition?
  • How will we distribute our new books to retailers (e.g., Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple)?
  • Whom will we hire to develop our author websites?
  • And last but not least, should we tackle social media marketing on our own or engage a professional to develop our social media persona, visibility, and branding?

In my own case, after spending seven-plus years writing the Your Winding Daybreak Ways series consisting of seven novels and a novella (e.g., Warfield, Happy Hollow, and McGill), I ventured out into the vast reaches of the Internet seeking answers to these challenging questions. When I discovered that I could deduct most of the expenses associated with developing and operating a new company from my income taxes, I chose to create my own publishing house, Rigor Hill Press, and to publish my works independently. And then the question arose, how many of the publishing and marketing processes do I really have the desire and expertise to tackle on my own?

After further research, I identified several presses specializing in independent and self-publishing. And over the next several weeks, I conducted a number of staff and customer interviews and ultimately decided to engage Mill City Press headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Our contract included a number of milestones — for example: cover design, interior formatting, printing, e-book formatting, publishing, distribution, and marketing programs via Facebook, Goodreads, and Amazon. While Mill City Press offers editorial services and the use of one of its imprints, I chose to use my own Rigor Hill Press imprint and to engage a copyeditor whom I had thoroughly vetted for qualifications, editorial style, and personal compatibility.

The good news is that I chose wisely. Mill City Press has delivered on time as advertised, and the few times that there have been hiccups in our multibook, multifaceted project, they have quickly and effectively remedied the situation, which is the sign of a first-class operation.

During my search in 2014 for the perfect copyeditor, I discovered Katherine Pickett’s recently published book, Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro. I ordered a copy, read it thoroughly, and contacted her company, POP Editorial Services, in Silver Spring, Maryland. After several conversations with Ms. Pickett via email, the telephone, and a personal meeting at a local bookstore signing, I concluded that she was the right person for the job.

Ms. Pickett had the experience and qualifications, her editorial style was what I had envisioned for the series, and our personalities were quite compatible. Not only is she a pleasant person, but she has the ability to offer constructive criticism that motivates, provides potential solutions, and fosters vitally important trust between the author and herself.

And I cannot overemphasize the trust factor in the author/copyeditor relationship. Since great copyeditors as Ms. Pickett will openly express their opinions with no holds barred, the author must be prepared to suffer a few bruises to the ego along the way. I must admit that as we edited the eight books in the series, I always dreaded receiving another of Ms. Pickett’s lengthy, single-spaced editorial letters detailing everything that I needed to enhance to publish a first-rate novel — for example:

“(1) include more description and feeling around dialogue so that it doesn’t feel like an interview; (2) balance dialogue against straight narration; (3) remove unneeded or excessive adverbs; and (4) insert line spaces to indicate large time lapses. … In addition, the narrator and his three closest friends would benefit from some additional character development.”

But the good news again is that I chose my copyeditor wisely. Ms. Pickett is a true professional who delivers as advertised. And the positive reviews for the series posted by readers in the US and Europe speak volumes to her ability to raise an author’s level of play — for example: “A literary landmark!” “A saga for the big screen!” “Profound, meaningful characters!” “Riveting and imaginative.” “Impossible to put down!”

So when I’m asked at book signings to explain the keys to self-publishing success, I respond, “Choose your partners wisely, and prepare rigorously for every step along the way to publication.” I then usually close my remarks with a quote from the legendary heavyweight champion, Muhammad Ali, who believed that rigorous preparation was the key to long-term success. He said, “The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses — behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights. … I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’”

Gary Bargatze is the author of the novels Warfield, Happy Hollow, Hurricane Creek, Hollow Rock, and McGill, the first five works in the critically acclaimed 10-part fictional series, Your Winding Daybreak Ways, comprised of a prologue, an epilogue, seven novels, and a novella. Mr. Bargatze divides his time between Williamsburg, Virginia, and the Berkshires of Massachusetts.

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.

Red Flags When Hiring an Editor

I have written extensively about how to find and hire a copyeditor that is right for you. In the blog series How to Hire an Editor in 5 Easy Steps I discuss what to look for so you know you are hiring a qualified editor and the one who is best suited to you and your book. In this post I discuss the other side, the red flags.

Danger

Perhaps the biggest red flag to look for is someone who makes promises they can’t possibly keep. I recently came across this bold statement on an editor’s website:

Because of David’s experience and cachet, you are more likely to sell your book to a publisher if his name is attached to the project. A book “authored by J. Doe and edited by David [Lastname]” will give the publisher assurance that the book will be a professional effort.

There is no way this editor can make such a promise unless he is an agent also. Freelance editors do not get special treatment within publishing houses. Even with an agent, the only special treatment I ever saw when I worked in-house was a closer look at the manuscript and a personalized rejection letter rather than a form letter. The book has to be good and right for the publisher. An editor’s name is not going to sell the book for you.

Another red flag to look for is anyone who does not list credentials on her website, or her only credential is a degree in English and/or time spent as an English teacher. Book editing requires specialized training, whether that’s through classes and certifications or through on-the-job training. Good training is very important, and you should expect your editor to tout whatever training she has received.

Warning

Two factors when choosing your editor warrant further exploration. I wouldn’t call these red flags, but you should know what they mean to you before you commit to an editor.

First, most of the time if you are hiring an editor who is part of a large editing group, you will pay a higher rate than if you hire a solo editor. This includes editing packages provided through self-publishing companies. If you aren’t paying more, then the editor is getting less than other editors. That’s because the leader or organizer of the group has to get paid somehow. The upshot is that you may not be getting the same quality of editing for the price.

And second, I have mentioned before that you will get the best edit from someone familiar with your genre and topic. If you work in a subgenre, you may need to be more particular. For example, if you write adult fiction, your editor should be familiar with adult fiction. Experience in young adult fiction is not enough, as the conventions are different. Similarly, if you write romance, an editor of sci-fi/fantasy may not give your book the edit it needs. He might overedit your manuscript or miss key elements that romance readers are looking for. With the number of editors out there, you can and should be picky.

Proceed with Caution

There are a few practices that some authors think are red flags that are not necessarily so. It is up to you to decide if you dislike the way an editor works, but you probably don’t have much to worry about with these editor preferences.

Some freelance editors like to see a full manuscript before agreeing to take on a project. It is unlikely she is planning to run away with your book. Rather, she may be able to get a better sense of how much work the project needs and therefore how much time and cost to estimate for the project. If you trust the editor otherwise, you should feel comfortable sending the full manuscript.

Further, I have found an increasing number of editors do not like to release their phone number. I prefer to speak to a client over the phone, and many of my clients feel the same way, because it gives me more insight into what our working relationship will be. It can also be a time-saver compared to email and can clear up misunderstandings faster.

However, most freelance editors work from their homes and may not have a separate work number. Giving out their phone number means giving access to their personal lives as well as their work lives. Others may have found that they spend too much time on the phone with clients who require hand-holding, and the editors prefer to control their time by restricting communications to email.

If you really want to be able to speak to your editor on the phone, then you should find someone willing to do that. At the same time, if you have found an editor you think will be great for your project and you don’t mind email as a primary form of communication, you do not need to discount your editor for this one preference.

Due diligence is essential to finding a qualified, reputable editor. When you know what to look for, you can hire your editor with confidence.

IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards Silver Award Winner!

Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro has been named a Silver award winner in the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards!

April 10, 2015, I traveled to Austin, TX, to attend the awards ceremony, and it was a terrific experience. My friend, colleague, and contributor to Perfect Bound, Kathy Clayton, was my guest for the evening.

Katherine Pickett and Kathy Clayton at the IBPA awards ceremony
Katherine Pickett and Kathy Clayton at the IBPA awards ceremony

Our table of ten was filled with finalists and industry notables. Having chosen our table at random, we were thrilled to be seated with three other finalists. Also at the table were Sonia Marsh, who heads the popular Facebook group Gutsy Indie Publishers, and Brian Jud, executive director of the Association of Publishers for Special Sales (APSS; formerly SPAN).

Two of the finalists at the table won Gold Awards. Rita Gardner won for her memoir, The Coconut Latitudes, and Shea Henderson won in the crafts and hobbies category for her book School of Sewing. We all joined the fun.

Rita Gardner wins Gold
Rita Gardner wins Gold

Perfect Bound took Silver in the reference category. Although it would have been nice to win the Gold, the book has done well. Over the past two days both the print edition and the ebook have landed on Amazon bestseller lists, and for several hours yesterday the print edition was on two bestseller lists concurrently.

Perfect Bound hit two bestseller lists April 14, 2015
Perfect Bound hit two bestseller lists April 14, 2015
The ebook hit the bestseller list April 15
The ebook hit the bestseller list April 15, 2015

It is constant conversation among writers as to whether these awards competitions are a good investment. Some can be quite expensive. The strategy at Hop On was to choose two awards where we valued the opinion of the awarding body and where we thought our book would fit — and possibly win.  For us, it has been a terrific experience and a whole lot of fun. Besides being recognized by an industry-leading organization, we are also reaching more readers, and that is what the publishing adventure is all about!

 

PerfectBound by Katherine PickettLike this blog? Find more insights and advice in Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available through Hop On Publishing, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Left Bank Books, and other fine retailers