Archive for April, 2015

SNAP OUT OF IT

April 25, 2015

The magic is still in place.  You’re still basking in that blinding light of success.  YOU are going to be published.  I know what a wonderful feeling you have.  Every writer floats on air when they finally sign the contract, reality is here.  It’s time to stop basking and get busy.  Somewhere in that magic piece of paper is a deadline so you’d better get busy.

You are expected to turn in the cleanest, most error free manuscript you have ever written.  Wake up! It is not your editor’s job to find the grammar and spelling errors.  That is your job and if you want your publishing house to love you, you’d better clean up that manuscript.   If you can possibly pay someone to proofread and edit your manuscript—do it.  Unless you want to place the fate of your book in the hands of a college graduate who recently joined the publishing house as an intern, fix the problems before you send your baby out into the nasty world.   Prevail upon a friend or trusted relative to read and check for mistakes.  This person is not your mother unless she has a Masters degree in English.  You mother is going to go one of two ways—either she will be as excited as you are and won’t find a single mistake, because after all you are her perfect child. Or she will slash and burn her way through your book like General Sherman went through Civil War Georgia.   Neither of these scenarios is good, so find a trusted friend and ask them to help for the price of a dinner, drinks, or your undying gratitude.  Please forgive me if I suggest your friend must be literate.  Some folks aren’t you know.

I’m hoping you have the manuscript on a computer because if your book finished it is going to so much easier to index.  Otherwise start making a list of names and important concepts now.  If you are writing fiction you are so lucky.  You can forget that last task.

As a general rule you don’t write your acknowledgements and dedication before you sell you manuscript so in those twilight hours when you are worrying about whether you can make back your advance, write those two pieces.

If you think everything is perfect on this book, get busy on the sequel, because there should be a sequel and you don’t want to be trying to write it while you are marketing book one.

Next week I’ll talk about royalties, payments, and the money side of your published book.

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READING YOUR CONTRACT

April 17, 2015

The big day arrives.  You’ve followed all the guidelines for submitting your manuscript, waited patiently, talked to someone at a publishing house (whose name you can’t remember because you were so excited), and a contract has arrived.  At first, you are so excited that you’re tempted to sign the contract and send it back before they change their mind.  STOP!  Don’t do it!

Your professional, common sense head must take over at this point.  READ the contract, then read it again.  If you don’t understand something, call the publishing house, a literary attorney, or a knowledgeable source and go over the contract and what you don’t understand.  Ask questions about royalties (yes, I know at this point you’d be willing to give the book away just to get it published.), your schedule for making changes, your deadlines, the type of marketing they will or won’t do for you, what rights are they taking, and just generally reassure yourself that this is the contract for you.  Don’t be afraid to tell the publisher about your concerns and even things you would like to change or delete from the contract.  The publisher might not to agree with your changes, but at least you’ll have voiced your concerns.  Relax, if they really want your book they aren’t going to dump you overboard for a few concerns.

Once you’ve thoroughly gone over the contract and understand what you are signing, go ahead and sign.  Remember however that the publisher isn’t likely to change anything after you’ve signed the contract.

Here are a few points to consider:

  1. What happened if you miss a deadline? Most publishers are very stringent about their deadlines.  They have people in place to perform the next steps of publication.  The publisher doesn’t know you, but don’t make it a habit of missing deadlines. Sometimes something unavoidable happens and you’ll miss a deadline most editors understand but they aren’t happy about it.
  2. How much input will you have about the cover? I can’t count the number of times I have seen a cover which had absolutely nothing to do with contents.  Also tell your Aunt Tilly that you appreciate her art work but have no influence with the publisher to take her cover art (believe me when I tell you it is better that way.)
  3. Read the parts of your contract dealing with royalties and sales calculations until you understand them. Most authors don’t understand that the statement which reads “royalties are paid in June and December” means that royalty checks are written on December 31 and June 30 so you’d better not figure that the check will help you with your holiday shopping unless you use a credit card.
  4. Understand what rights the publisher is taking. Are they obligated to print paperbacks, if they are publishing hard backs?  Are they buying all rights to your characters? Will you get some kind of a split if they sell your book for a movie or if they sell it to a magazine to serialize in several issues?
  5. Are they taking your manuscript for the life of the copyright? For seven years? Into perpetuity?

If you understand what you are signing, you’ll be happier with the whole publishing experience and it is likely so will your publisher.  Go ahead celebrate and bask in the satisfaction that you are about to be a “published author.”

April 10, 2015

AND NOW THE BAD NEWS

We’ve spent a few installments discussing the type of publishing available to you as a writer, now it’s time to discuss the last and worst option.  In a time not so long ago, writers were offered the option of doing what was called vanity publishing.  That name gives you exactly what you think it does.  Because of your “vanity” you are going to spend in the ballpark of $10,000 or more to publish your book.  If you happened to have a children’s book, the pictures will be poor and without color unless you mortgage your house and pay a whole lot more to get decent, color illustrations.  For your investment you will receive the agreed upon number of books which you can store in your basement until you die when your children will throw them out in the trash heap or make a marvelous bonfire in the backyard.

All I can say is DON’T DO IT!  At one point when I first started writing, I considered this option.  Fortunately, the money was a problem.

In addition to the outlandish cost, the books are printed on paper which is one step, a very small step, above newsprint.  The covers tend to be at the same level of the first grade art show and marketing help is unknown.

So once again, I repeat– don’t do it.

Another similar endeavor surfaced in the 1980’s called Co-op Publishing.  In this scenario you and the publisher share the expense of publishing the book and share in the profits.  The problem with this endeavor seemed to be that your profits never seemed to materialize.  Frequently the publisher went out of business leaving the author with no books and a large bill to pay for the lesson.

Here are a few of the basic drawbacks of either one of these types of publishing.

  1. Poor quality product
  2. High expense
  3. No editing
  4. Book set-up (copyright page, index, pagination, etc.) is not done properly.
  5. No marketing is available, so you are on your own.
  6. The publishing industry considers these books to be of poor quality and booksellers won’t take them to sell
  7. After giving away a few to close friends and relatives, you have a basement full of books

One thought on any kind of publishing, I know it is exciting to get a contract for your book, but please, please read your contract carefully.  Be aware of what your publisher will do and what is expected of you. You may be so excited that you need someone with legal training to read the contract.  When you’re are satisfied, sign the contract and Congratulations, you are on your way.

SELF-PUBLISHING

April 3, 2015

We’ve covered several aspects of publishing now, so I think it’s time to take a look at self-publishing. A decade ago, self-publishing was viewed as the only option for really bad writers with really bad books. This image has changed for the better. As the number of royalty houses shrunk to less than fifty, self-publishing became a viable option for authors with good books in the category of time-sensitive material or limited audience. Self-publishing also works when you have a well-defined audience and the material will sell well, but maybe not a million copies.

If you decide to self-publish here are a few things you need to know:
1. Have your book professionally edited. This will require a few dollars, but the results will be a professional product. No one, and I mean no one, catches all their own mistakes. The human brain reads words that simply are not there, so do your book a favor and get an edit.
2. Study several books from royalty publishers. Make notes on how the copyright page is set up and set up yours accordingly. Notice where page numbers are placed—and the book SHOULD have page numbers. Acknowledgements have moved from the front to the back of the book in recent years, so place them where they belong. If the book is a nonfiction book, make an Index. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to find a specific reference in a book with no index. Above all get an UPC bar code, if your graphic artist knows his/her stuff; they can handle this for you. No bookseller or retailer will handle a book without a bar code.
3. Find an excellent graphic artist. Your cover sells your book before a reader even opens it. A graphic artist can make a significant difference in whether your book is pulled off the shelf and purchased. This is an investment you can’t afford to ignore.
4. Self-publishing used to require thousands of dollars to accomplish. Now with the establishment of Amazon Create Space and several other venues, your book can be published in as little as one or up to several hundred copies. No need to be a millionaire to get your book out there.
5. Be aware that you will be responsible for selling your book. You will be your own marketing person. Don’t bother to hire a public relations person. They cost a bit and do little. The last one gave me a ton of things I had to do (like I didn’t have enough to do already) and couldn’t even get me one signing. You can’t imagine how frustrated I was especially when I had traveled several hundred miles and paid my own expenses for nothing.

Self-publishing can have wonderful results if you are willing to do the work. I have self-published a writing book which was eventually picked up by a major publishing house and a local history book which has sold well for nearly twenty-five years and recently resulted in a similar book being sold to a royalty house. Self-publishing works if you are a realist and are willing to do the work.