Archive for August, 2010

You Can’t Get Published Unless You Write

Too often writers lament how hard it is to get published. That’s old thinking. You have more options for getting published today than ever before in history.

The real issue is too many writers think they should be paid for what they write. They’re right, of course, but they’re also short-sighted on the form the payment takes.

If you self-publish, your payment comes later–when you sell books. Your payment is larger than if you royalty publish because no one takes a cut. Yes, you invest in yourself up front, but the reward is much bigger overall.

If you royalty publish, your payment comes later–after the publisher and agent each take their cut, you typically get 5 to 10 percent of what’s left over. Often royalties run 25 cents to 40 cents per book sold (not given away or reviewed or returned for credit). Royalty checks are issued semi-annually or annually, depending on the publisher. If your book isn’t a financial success within a few weeks, you’re tagged as a loser and you probably won’t be royalty published again.

If you puppy mill press publish, your payment comes later–after the publisher takes its cut (you typically have to place all orders for your book with the puppy mill press to assure it gets its cut). Then the press claims to pay you a “royalty” on the book you’ve already paid for in the first place.

If you equity publish, your payment comes as quickly as you can sell books or get hired to speak, to consult, or to do other work  because you’re the expert. Again, your payment is higher because no one takes a cut. You also avoid the stigma attached to self-publishing because you don’t own the publishing company and you don’t have the steep learning curve on what it takes to publish a quality book. Instead, your book meets the quality requirements of the equity publisher.

No matter which way you decide to go, you won’t get published unless you’ve written your book, however. Make writing a top priority if you’re serious about getting published.

Be sure you look at all your publishing options before making a decision on which way to publish. Be aware of the pitfalls of puppy mill presses. Understand how royalty publishing works. Educate yourself. Book publishing is business, not dream fulfillment.

Happy writing!

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Successful Authors Establish Their Presence

Almost every media talk show interviews authors. It’s a win-win. Authoring a published book establishes the author’s credibility, which positions the author as an expert and is good for the show. Being interviewed offers free publicity for the author’s book and could increase sales, which is good for the author.

I don’t have any statistics, but my thinking is that most people don’t have a pen and paper handy to jot down the name of the book when it’s mentioned. Thus, the name of the book could often be lost.

However, if the interview goes well, people will call or email the show and ask about the author or the name of the author’s book. Thus, authors establishing their presence in media can be a good thing if the author does a good job on the program.

Another way authors establish their presence is speaking to groups that are interested in the author’s subject matter. It helps if the author happens to have books at the speaking event to sell. It helps, that is, if the author is an engaging speaker and audience members want to “take the author home with them.”

Writing for periodicals,  blogs, etc. is another way authors establish their presence. Whether sharing an excerpt from their book or sharing new but related information, it’s important authors write something so people begin to recognize the author’s name.

If you’re writing your book to establish (or reinforce) your credibility, it’s important you select the right publisher. Going with an Internet “puppy-mill press” could undermine your credibility rather than enhance it. Everyone knows who these presses are, so being published by them screams desperation, not credibility.

At Expert Publishing, we pride ourselves on the quality of the books we publish because our name and reputation is on the line just as much as the author’s. We believe if we compromise our standards, we negatively impact every book we’ve ever published, and that’s not acceptable to us.

Whether you’ve already published your book or are looking for a publisher, give some thought to establishing your presence so people recognize you and your expertise. There’s an old question that asks, “Would you like to do business with the person who talks about the subject or with the person who wrote the book on the subject?” You can answer that for yourself.

Happy writing!

Why Is It So Hard To Sell Fiction?

A comment from a reader reminded me of something I teach in my book publishing seminars–it’s harder to sell fiction than nonfiction. Many who attend my seminars write fiction and become frustrated when they hear how difficult the market is to sell fiction to publishers.

Granted, success stories such as J. K. Rowling and Stephen King exist, but they are not the norm.

Why is it so hard to sell fiction to a publisher? The answer begins with a field trip to your local brick-and-mortar bookstore. Look at all that precious real estate and what populates it. Assuming 100 percent is the total for books available, what percentage is fiction? Nonfiction? Remember, nonfiction includes everything from biography to reference to special interest to technology.

Seminar attendees typically say 30/70–30 percent fiction and 70 percent nonfiction–and that’s a pretty good guess. Why do you suppose the bookstore populates its shelves primarily with nonfiction? Because that’s what people buy!

A second exercise you can do to determine why it is so hard to sell fiction takes place in your own home. Look at your personal library. Look at your own behavior. When someone asks to borrow a novel from your personal library, you’re probably willing to hand it over (especially if you’ve already read it). However, when someone wants to borrow a nonfiction book (cookbook, history book, whatever), you’re probably more likely to suggest that person buys his/her own copy (even if you’ve already read it).

What does that mean? Every book you pass around to someone else is another book that doesn’t get sold. Publishers don’t get any money and neither do authors on books that aren’t sold new (even the sales of used books don’t generate any income for authors or publishers).

Book publishing is business, not dream fulfillment. Given that readers are less apt to purchase fiction and, thus, so are publishers, you can see that it’s difficult to sell fiction to publishers.

Yet, we love to read a good novel and many are inspired by successes like Rowling and King, so continue to write in pursuit of creating a great novel. Selling fiction is hard, but not impossible.

Happy writing!

Hook Your Reader Right Away

Too often authors lose readers in the first paragraph or two. Why? The author ignores the rule that your first few words are the most important words you write in any given piece.

Just as you have 20 to 30 seconds to make a good first impression when you meet someone, you have about that much time to impress (or hook) your reader. If you fail to hook your reader right away, you risk your beautiful writing, creative descriptions, moving plots, and thought-provoking ideas never getting read, let alone recommended to others.

Review your writing and get rid of trite openings. Here are some examples to delete immediately from your writing toolbox.

  • My purpose in writing…
  • At this point in time…
  • The subject of my article/paper/report…
  • Needless to say…
  • After giving much thought to…
  • Eventually we must all…
  • I confess…

Now that you’ve purged the trite and boring openers from your writing, what tools should you use to hook your reader?

  • Create a short summary of what you’re writing about, why you find the topic important, and how you intend to accomplish your purpose in writing the piece. Think of the summary as a sample tasting of the bigger dish. Don’t give away too much, just whet the reader’s appetite.
  • Begin with a story. People love to be entertained and stories do that. Just make sure you keep the story relevant to the subject matter–no gratuitous stories that don’t apply.
  • Use description to show (rather than tell) your reader about your topic. You can describe a character or real person, a setting or scene, a feeling or intuition, etc. The more you intrigue the reader, the better the chance the reader will continue reading.

Review books and periodicals to see how effectively (or not) the authors/writers hook  their readers. Figure out what works for your writing style and project. More people than ever are writing. You’ll want to rise above the crowd by hooking your reader right away, delivering engaging writing, and creating a buzz about you and your work.

And it all  starts with the first few words your reader reads.

Happy writing!