Showing posts with label publishing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label publishing. Show all posts

Monday, May 6

Writer Beware: Penguin And Author Solutions

Writer Beware: Penguin And Author Solutions

David Gaughran throws down the gauntlet in his excellent blog post The Author Exploitation Business. He writes:
[Being a writer is] a dream job, and like any profession with a horde of neophytes seeking to break in, there are plenty of sharks waiting to chew them to bits.

... [M]any organizations who claim to help writers, to respect them, to assist them along the path to publication are actually screwing them over.

Before the digital revolution made self-publishing viable on a wide scale, the dividing lines were easier to spot. Traditional publishers paid you if they wanted to buy the rights to your novel. Self-publishers were people who filled their garages with books and tried to hawk them at events. And vanity presses were the scammers, luring the unsuspecting with false promises and roundly condemned by self-publishers and traditional publishers alike.

Today it’s very different. The scammy vanity presses are owned by traditional publishers who are marketing them as the “easy” way to self-publish – when it’s nothing more than a horrifically expensive and terribly ineffective way to publish your work, guaranteed to kill your book’s chance of success stone dead, while emptying your bank account in the process.
The target for David's ire is Penguin, owners of the biggest shark out there: Author Solutions. His article is a must read for any writer.

Question: Have you ever had dealings with Author Solutions? If so, what was your experience?

Other articles you might like:

- Chuck Wendig On Finding Your Voice
- Creating The Perfect Sleuth
- How Many Books Would You Have To Write To Quit Your Job?

Photo credit: "Robbery not allowed" by Arenamontanus under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Friday, May 3

How Many Books Would You Have To Write To Quit Your Job?

Ever wondered what the value of a book is?

Jeff Posey, project manager for Lucky Bat Books, tells us this in his post, What’s Your Novel Worth? NPV and Cash Flow. Not only that, he gives us the Excel spreadsheet he used so you can do it for yourself.

When Jeff talks about how much a novel is worth he's talking about its NPV or Net Percent Value. Here's what the NPV tells you:
... the NPV tells you the present monetary value of your intellectual asset if it generates the expected cash flow over the next forty years. It emphasizes the value of long-term steady flows of small amounts of cash, and also helps quantify the value of your time investment (you only have to write a novel once for it to earn income for forty years or more).
Clear as mud? Let's look at a few examples:

Example 1: The Casual Writer

Let's say you don't want to make your living from writing but you'd like to make enough to pay for the lattes you buy while you write.

You've published a novel and you plan on publishing another one every five years.

Number of books published: 1
Royalties per book per month: $15
Number of new books produced per year: 1/5
Money spent publishing each book: $0
Each new book boosts sales by: 15%

Estimated net monthly cash flow:

*- after 2 years: $3
- after 3 years: $10
- after 5 years: $34
- after 10 years: $174

Not bad. You might even be able to afford biscotti!

* These numbers are from Jeff's post, but when I ran them myself using his spreadsheet here's what came up:

*- after 2 years: $34
- after 3 years: $56
- after 5 years: $112
- after 10 years: $335

Example 2: The Professional Writer

You want your writing to be your main source of income.

Number of books published: 5
Royalties per book per month: $50
Number of new books produced per year: 2
Money spent publishing each book: $2,500
Each new book boosts sales by: 5%

Estimated net monthly cash flow:
- after 2 years: - $198
- after 3 years: - $70
- after 5 years: $780
- after 10 years: $8,224

Example 3: The Seasoned Writer

You've been doing this a while, your books sell well, and each new book helps the rest of your book sell even better.

Number of books published: 12
Royalties per book per month: $150
Number of new books produced per year: 3
Money spent publishing each book: $5,000
Each new book boosts sales by: 3%

Estimated net monthly cash flow:
- after 2 years: $1,753
- after 3 years: $3,710
- after 5 years: $10,371
- after 10 years: $50,414

Example: The Lone Gunman

I have a problem with using Jeff's calculations for real world concerns such as: When can I quit my job and make writing my full time profession?

Let's say you write one book, publish it, win the lottery, travel to Europe and forget all about writing. Here's what Jeff's spreadsheet told me.

Number of books published: 1
Royalties per book per month: $10
Number of new books produced per year:0
Money spent publishing each book: $0
Each new book boosts sales by: 0%

Estimated net monthly cash flow:
- after 2 years: $20
- after 3 years: $30
- after 5 years: $50
- after 10 years: $100

That seems wrong. If I only published one book and then, at least as far as my readers were concerned, disappeared off the face of the earth, I think it is much more plausible that, after 10 years, I'd be lucky if I sold $2 a month.

Yes, absolutely, if a writer keeps writing, keeps publishing, keeps blogging, then her backlist books are going to be much more visible and I could see sales staying strong even after 10 years. But whether they will increase, and whether they increase exponentially, is another question.

So, with this in mind let's redo Example 2. Instead of assuming a book will sell progressively more, let's assume that the sales will stay constant.

Example: The Part Time Writer

Number of books published: 5
Royalties per book per month: $50
Number of new books produced per year: 2
Money spent publishing each book: $2,500
Each new book boosts sales by: 0%

Year 1:
5 books for sale so $50 * 5 = $250 per month.
Net gain: $250 per month.

Year 2:
2 new books published ($2,500/12=208) * 2 = $416 per month
7 books for sale so $50 * 7 = $350 per month
Net gain: - $66 per month.

Year 3:
2 new books published = - $416 per month
9 books for sale so $50 * 9 = $450 per month
Net gain: $34 per month

Year 4:
2 new books published = - $416 per month
11 books for sale so $50 * 11 = $550 per month
Net gain: $134 per month

Year 5:
2 new books published = - $416 per month
13 books for sale so $50 * 13 = $650 per month
Net gain: $234 per month

Year 6:
2 new books published = - $416 per month
15 books for sale so $50 * 15 = $750 per month
Net gain: $334 per month

Year 7:
2 new books published = - $416 per month
17 books for sale so $50 * 17 = $850 per month
Net gain: $434 per month

Year 8:
2 new books published = - $416 per month
19 books for sale so $50 * 19 = $950 per month
Net gain: $534 per month

Year 9:
2 new books published = - $416 per month
21 books for sale so $50 * 21 = $1050 per month
Net gain: $634 per month

So, after 9 years, assuming her books keep selling, on average, $50 per month, this writer will earn about $1,000 per month.

But what if one has to pay (as many do) $2,000 a month for health insurance then $1,000 a month is a drop in the bucket.

How many books would a writer have to have on the market if they wanted to make $3,000 a month ($36,000 a year)

Let's approach this from the other end: How many books would a writer have to have on the market if he wanted to make $3,000 a month ($36,000 a year) and each book brought in $100 a month?

The answer: 30 books. Stretched out over 5 years that's 6 books a year or one new book every two months.

A highly motivated person could probably do that. Keep in mind, though, that once you have the books on sale they keep selling at the same rate so at the end of five years you can ease back a bit. Or not.

Word count

How many words per year would one have to write to produce 6, 80,000 word, books? Answer: 480,000 words.

If instead of writing an 80,000 word book one wrote, say, a 40,000 word novella, 6 books would only equal 240,000 words which is, I think, completely doable. 240,000 words is about 4,600 words a week or about 650 words a day.

Keep in mind that Kris Rusch writes as many as 1 million words a year! That means she writes, on average, 3,000 words a day and could complete approximately 24 40,000 word novellas in a year.

Also, keep in mind that books in a series can be bundled together and sold. To read more about this idea take a look at Dean Wesley Smith's post on the idea of a magic bakery.

If the thought of writing 24 novellas a year has left you a bit shaky, remind yourself that in my scenario you only need to write 4,600 words a week or about 650 words a day. Now get a nice hot cup of tea or coffee, give yourself a (short) pep talk, and start writing!

The bear knows you can do it. :-)

"Michelle, zoo manager/our tour guide" by BrianMoranHDR
under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.
Click to enlarge.

By the way, there's more discussion of Jeff Posey's post over at Dean Wesley Smith's blog and at The Passive Voice Blog.

Other articles you might like:

- Advice For New Writers
- 25 Tips For Writing Great Sex Scenes
- Book Design: What NOT To Do

Photo credit: "New Forest Foal" by StuartWebster under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Monday, April 29

Book Design: What NOT To Do

Book Design: What NOT To Do

Jane Friedman recently asked book design guru Joel Friedlander to talk about the dos and don'ts of book design: How Much Attention Should You Pay to Book Design? A Q&A With Joel Friedlander.

The most common mistakes in interior book design:

1. Not using full justification for their text, so that both the right and left margin square up and create a rectangle on the page

2. Not hyphenating the text, resulting in gaps and spaces on the page

3. Putting the odd-numbered pages on the left, when they should always be on the right

4. Leaving running heads on display pages like part or chapter openers

5. Margins that are either too small to allow the reader to easily hold the book, or that don’t take the printing and binding of the book into account

6. Publishing a book with no copyright page

How much should an author expect to pay an interior book designer? 


Joel writes:
For novels and other lightly formatted books, you can expect to pay between $200 and $1,500 for interior design. At the low end you’re likely to get a “template” design. At the higher end, expect to receive several custom designs prepared expressly for your book. You’ll also want the designer to take responsibility for producing the reproduction files for your printer, and make sure there’s an allowance for “author’s alterations,” because I’ve never seen a book yet that went all the way from manuscript to press without at least some changes being made.
Joel mentions that for cover designs the range is between $200 and $3,500.

Professional design can make all the difference, when folks are browsing the cover is all they see. I know I've started reading many books because of their stunning covers.

You can read more of Joel Friedlander's design tips on his site The Book Designer.

Question: Do you have a cover design, or interior design, tip to share?

Other articles you might like:

- Cliffhangers
- New Minimum Length For Ebooks On Amazon: 2500 Words
- Word Processing Apps For Writing On The Go

Photo credit: "paesaggio3" by francesco sgroi under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Wednesday, April 24

How To Create A Press Kit

How To Create A Press Kit

When I posted the other day about how Mike Reeves-McMillan got honest book reviews he mentioned having put together a press kit.

Having a press kit seems like a great idea since it means you'll have all the important information about both yourself and your books in one place for anyone interested to browse through.

Also, having a press kit makes it easy for the author when she/he needs to send information about the book to someone months--or years--after the launch. There's no wondering which directory the information is in, no panicked searches (or perhaps that's just me!). You know where all the information is and it's easy for anyone to access.

So, what, exactly, should go into a press kit?

Building A Press Kit: Author Information

In her article, Book Marketing: Creating Your Author Press Kit, Tolulope Popoola discusses how to put together your own press kit.

1. Author biography

I hate writing these! But it is one of the first things people want to know. What's your background, what kind of books do you write, how did you become a writer?

Tolulope writes:
Your author bio should be about 200 words, and it should have things that make you sound interesting and professional. You should include your name, your place of birth or where you currently live, what you do (or used to do) for a living, what you’ve written, perhaps your education (if it’s relevant), quirky hobbies, or interesting travel experiences. Basically, anything that will make you stand out.
This would also be a good place to list any relevant awards, were any of your previous books best-sellers, and so on.

2. Contact information

How can folks get a hold of you? A website? Blog? Twitter? Facebook? Also, list your agent if you have one.

3. Press release

Steven Lewis advises writers to pay less attention to what your book is about than to what it can do for your readers. Also, consider what market, what demographic, would be most interested in your book.

4. Sample author Q&A

Writers, bloggers especially, are always hungry for more information, so give them some! Tolulope writes:
Make a list of interview questions (and responses) about you and your book. This can include questions about your background, your inspiration for writing this book, why you chose to self-publish, your own favorite writers, future projects, etc. This section is particularly helpful for the interviewer and bloggers who want to help you promote your work, as it’s useful and ready content for them.

Building A Press Kit: Book Information

Book sample

Provide up to three chapters. As for what format you should offer them in, Tolulope made a PDF available for download, but I would suggest making your sample chapters available in as many formats as possible.

If you're having trouble converting your book from one format to another, you could try Calibre. The program is free and it's awesome.

Cover image

Often if a person is writing about your book they'll want a picture, so it's a good idea to provide the cover image. I don't think you need to provide this in many different formats, a jpg should be enough.

Where the book can be found on the web

List wherever your book can be bought as well as other sites it is featured on, sites such as Goodreads.

Sample reviews

Provide excerpts from reviews along with a link to the full text on the web.

The books "one line"

This is one line that sums up the primary conflict in your novel. For instance, they used to write a one line description of a movie on the can a reel of film was stored in that described the movie.

Nathan Bransford has written excellent how-to articles about how to summarize your book in a sentence. (see: How to Write a One Sentence Pitch

Brief Book Summary

This is generally quite short, something under 200 words or so. For example, this is Nathan Bransford's brief book summary for Jacob Wonderbar.
Jacob Wonderbar has been the bane of every substitute teacher at Magellan Middle School ever since his dad moved away from home. He never would have survived without his best friend Dexter, even if he is a little timid, and his cute-but-tough friend Sarah Daisy, who is chronically overscheduled. But when the trio meets a mysterious man in silver one night they trade a corn dog for his sassy spaceship and blast off into the great unknown. That is, until they break the universe in a giant space kapow and a nefarious space buccaneer named Mick Cracken maroons Jacob and Dexter on a tiny planet that smells like burp breath. The friends have to work together to make it back to their little street where the houses look the same, even as Earth seems farther and farther away.

Longer Book summary

This can be as much as 5,000 words or so that summarizes what happens in each chapter of your book (in other words, a synopsis) or it can be a book summary like you did above, just a bit longer. If you're like me you started off with a longer description and had to whittle it down to the essentials so you already have it.

Some sites (Smashwords for example) allow you to post both long and short descriptions so it's handy to have both, just in case.

By the way, this article of Nathan Bransford's is, hands down, the most helpful article I've read on summarizing a novel: The One Sentence, One Paragraph, and Two Paragraph Pitch. Also, see his article on how to write a one sentence pitch.

Example of a press kit

Tolulope included a link in her article to Michael Hyatt's press kit.

That's it!

What advice would you give a new author interested in assembling a press kit?

Other articles you might like:

- Chuck Wendig On Fairy Dross And Pegasus Dreams
- How To Write A Critique: The Sandwich Method
- How Robert J. Sawyer Writes A Novel

Photo credit: "The Reporter" by CEBImagery (dot) com under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Friday, April 19

50 Shades Of Grey: The Most Profitable Books Of All Time?

50 Shades Of Grey: The Most Profitable Books Of All Time? Love it or hate it, E.L. Jame's 50 Shades of Grey series is a huge economic success.

I knew that. We all knew that.

What I didn't know was how profitable.

In The Incredible Economics of Fifty Shades of Grey Kevin Rose writes:
It's no secret that E.L. James's Fifty Shades trilogy is the kind of monster publishing success that comes along only once or twice a decade. ....
. . . .
But we didn't know the full extent of the Fifty Shades financial bonanza until yesterday, when Random House's parent company--the giant German media conglomerate Bertelsmann AG--released its preliminary annual report. What the report revealed is that Fifty Shades's success has propped up not just Random House, but the entire corporate structure above it. [Emphasis mine]

The Wall Street Journal has this to say:
At a time when other publishers are struggling to generate sales growth, Random House's world-wide revenue rose 23% to €2.1 billion ($2.7 billion). Operating earnings before interest and taxes rose nearly 76% to €325 million.

Fifty Shades vs Harry Potter

For all its success, E.L. James's series has yet to outsell J.K. Rowling's Potter series. Yes, Fifty Shades has outsold Harry Potter on Amazon, but according to The Wall Street Journal its worldwide sales are still lower.

Let me try to put that in perspective.
E.L. James's "Fifty Shades" erotic trilogy sold more than 70 million copies in print, audio and e-book editions in English, German and Spanish from March through December, according to Bertelsmann ... The first of the books was published in the U.S. in March.
. . . .
For a sense of scale, Random House's second biggest selling North American title last year—Gillian Flynn's thriller "Gone Girl," which has been a national best-seller for 41 weeks—sold more than two million copies in the U.S. and Canada in all formats, between June and December. (The Wall Street Journal)
50 Shades sold 70 million copies while the second most popular book in the same period sold 2 million.

I'm staggered.

70 million in just a year. Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code sold, as of 2009, 80 million copies, but that was over a period of six years (the book was published in 2003).

By the way, The Da Vinci Code was published by Doubleday in the US and, at that time, Doubleday was owned by Bertelsmann.

That company has been lucky!

To answer the question I posed in the title: Is 50 Shades of Grey the most profitable series of all time? No, it's not.

Not yet.

Do you think E.L. James' 50 Shades series will go on to outsell Rowling's Potter series?

Other articles you might like:

- When Is A Story Ready To Publish?
- Owen Egerton's 30 Writing Tips, Inspiration For Your Muse
- 3 Ways To Create An Antihero Your Readers Identify With

Photo link: "Money" by AMagill under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Saturday, April 13

How To Get Honest Book Reviews

How To Get Honest Book Reviews

Book Review Bloggers

Honest reviews are one of the best ways of increasing book sales. I know it's anecdotal, but Amanda Hocking credits reviews left by bloggers as being responsible for much of her early success. She writes:
Book bloggers have saved my life. Book bloggers absolutely without a doubt sell books. I can prove it to you. In May, I sold just over 600 books. In June, I sold over 4,000. In May, I had no reviews. In June, book bloggers started reviewing my books. (Book Bloggers Are People, Too, February 9, 2011)
I think even an honest one-star review is better than no review! That is, as long as it's not a screed against the author admonishing him to never again put pen to paper.

So how does an author go about soliciting honest reviews?

Book Bloggers

Book bloggers read and review books free of charge and will often post their reviews not only on their book blog but on sites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

It vastly increases ones chance of receiving a review if one reads and follows each blogger's submission guidelines as carefully as one would those of a publisher or agent.

Keep in mind that many bloggers only accept traditionally published books and, of those who will review indie books, often they will only review certain genres or they will only accept a physical, paper, book.

I look at it this way: if I don't do what a reviewer wants me to do then how can I ask the reviewer to do what I want her to do?

What to send

If a reviewer specifies in their submission guidelines what they'd like you to send then that part's easy, but sometimes they don't. Then what do you send?

Mike Reeves-McMillan suggests the following:
"1. A good brief blurb that piques interest in your book ..."

"2. A synopsis."

"3. An author bio. Try to find something interesting to say about yourself."

"4. Links to where your book is for sale, if it is."
These links will make it easy for the reviewer to find where on the internet to post their review of your book.
"5. More links to you and your book on Goodreads (or Shelfari or LibraryThing if you use them; some reviewers will post there), to your blog, and to your social media. Some reviewers want these."

"6. Your cover art."
"7. An author photo."
"8. An extract from the book."
Mike put all of the above in a press kit and included a link to the kit in the email he sent off to any reviewer who didn't specify what they wanted an author to include in their submission.

I think that's a brilliant idea!

Keep track of your submissions

Mike also recommends starting a spreadsheet--he used Google Docs--so you can track:

- Which book reviewers you submitted to
- When you submitted
- When they responded
- What they said
- If they posted a review

Mike also kept track of:

- Where the review was posted (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, etc.)
- How many stars the reviewer gave

Once you have this information you can use it when you're getting ready to send out your next book for review.

Mike reports that the number of bloggers who accepted his work for review outnumbered those who didn't by a factor of 2 to 1. That response rate is excellent! He also included a generic letter in his post, one that he sent out if a reviewer didn't request anything specifically.

You can find Mike on the web over at The Gryphon Clerks.

Finding Reviewers: Databases Of Book Blogs

Last year I discovered a couple of databases containing contact information for book bloggers who accept independently published work. These are all honest reviewers who take pride in the fact they write and post their reviews for free.

The Indie Book Blog Database

The Indie Book Blog Database contains information about hundreds of blogs which review indie books completely free of charge.

Jennifer Hampton, the database owner, reminds writers that since these bloggers review books as a hobby, and since they are routinely flooded with review requests, authors must be prepared for a lengthy wait between submission and review.

The Indie View

The Indie View is another database which keeps track of review blogs which will consider indie published books for review.

In order for a reviewer to be included in the database he/she must:

- Actively post reviews
- Not charge for reviews
- Not be affiliated with a publisher

Definitely something to take a look at!

Book Blogs Search Engine

The Book Blog Search Engine allows you to search thousands of book review blogs but be aware that many of these reviews do not accept independently published work.
Question: Have you ever submitted your book to a blogger for review? What was your experience like?

Other articles you might like:

- What Slush Pile Readers Look For In A Story
- Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge: Choose Your Opening Line
- Is Writing Rewriting?

Photo credit: "Song (John Keats, 1795-1821)" by jinterwas under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Thursday, March 28

Amazon Is Acquiring Goodreads

Amazon Is Acquiring Goodreads
Amazon is acquiring Goodreads.

This news shocked me. I hope the wonderful book culture that has developed over at Goodreads doesn't change.

Why Goodreads Wants To Join Amazon

Otis Chandler, Co-founder of Goodreads, says he is excited about the development. He writes:
1. With the reach and resources of Amazon, Goodreads can introduce more readers to our vibrant community of book lovers and create an even better experience for our members.

2. Our members have been asking us to bring the Goodreads experience to an e-reader for a long time. Now we're looking forward to bringing Goodreads to the most popular e-reader in the world, Kindle, and further reinventing what reading can be.

3. Amazon supports us continuing to grow our vision as an independent entity, under the Goodreads brand and with our unique culture. (Exciting News About Goodreads: We're Joining the Amazon Family!)
The folks over at The Verge point out that ...
Amazon already owns Shelfari, a social and information network described as a "community-powered encyclopedia for book lovers." Together with Goodreads (as well as its own lightweight / somewhat anemic social notes network) Amazon will soon own the major online recommendation and commentary engines for new and old books. (Amazon to acquire Goodreads, a social network for book recommendations)
I guess, also, Goodreads represents a wealth of data on readers preferences and reading habits.

This story is still developing so stay tuned for further news.

(Thanks to +Andy Goldman for mentioning Amazon's acquisition of Goodreads.)
Question: What do you think about this merger? Will it be good or bad for readers and writers?

Other articles you might like:

- Janice Hardy Teaches Writers How To Be Their Own Book Doctor
- How To Write Description
- Mark Coker, Founder Of Smashwords: Six Ways To Increase Book Sales

Photo credit: "The dawn of freedom - digital-art" by balt-arts under Creative Commons Attribution NoDerivs 2.0.

Sunday, March 24

The New Yorker Rejects Its Own Story: What Slush Pile Rejections Really Mean

 The New Yorker Rejects Its Own Story: What Slush Pile Rejections Really Mean

The Experiment

It's easy to forget that one can have the best prose in the world, but that's not enough to get your story accepted.

So David Cameron decided to remind us.

As an experiment, Cameron copied a short story that had been published in The New Yorker--one of the top professional markets in North America (The New Yorker was said to pay $7,750 per story in 2003) and submitted it to "a slew of literary journals, all of whom regularly grace the TOC of Best American Short Stories, Pushcart Prize, O’Henry, etcetera and etcetera".

The cover letter simply said that Cameron was "an unpublished writer deeply appreciative of their consideration".

Cameron also submitted the story back to The New Yorker.

Then he waited. Would one of the publications catch his duplicity and cry foul? Would any of the magazines accept the plagiarized story and, if so, how many?

Well, you've probably guess the outcome: none of the magazines accepted the story, not even The New Yorker!

David Cameron writes:
Dear reader, every single one of these journals rejected my poor New Yorker story with the same boilerplate “good luck placing your work elsewhere” auto-text that has put the lid on my own sorry submissions. Not a single personal pleasantry. What’s more, the timeframes tracked perfectly. For example, if the Beavercreek Fucknut Bulletin (not a real journal, but representative) generally takes thirty days to relegate my stuff to the recycle bin, then our New Yorker story ... fared no better.
Cameron thought his results might be a fluke so he tried again, this time with a story "by a rather celebrated youngish New Yorker author" but he had the same results; no one accepted the story.

What Was The Point?

What did David Cameron's experiment demonstrate? First and foremost it's a much needed reminder that the slush pile "is often just a cleanup chore relegated to overwhelmed readers, and ... rejections might mean nothing".

We've all been told that, but it's nice to have a demonstration of it every once in a while.

Still, I'm surprised no one caught onto the hoax. Cameron writes:
A part of me really wanted to be outed, to have some vigilant editor write back and say, “Nice try. Consider yourself blacklisted.” Or even to put me in the horribly awkward position of an acceptance!* That would mean there’s hope, that open submissions weren’t just, in so many cases, empty gestures.
To read more about David Cameron's audacious experiment, click here: The New Yorker Rejects Itself: A Quasi-Scientific Analysis of Slush Piles.

The Steps Experiment

In the comments to Cameron's article someone mentioned The Steps Experiment that Chuck Ross conducted in 1975.
[Chuck Ross] typed up twenty-one pages of a highly acclaimed book and sent it unsolicited to four publishers (Random House, Houghton Mifflin, Doubleday, and Harcourt Brace Jovanovich), claiming it was his own work. The work he chose for this experiment was Steps, by Jerzy Kosinski. It had won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1969 and by 1975 had sold over 400,000 copies. All four publishers rejected the work, including Random House, who was its original publisher.
I encourage you to read the entire article: The Steps Experiment, 1975. Chuck Ross--who later went onto a successful career in journalism--later did another experiment and submitted the script of Casablanca to over 200 movie agents.

Unaddressed Questions

Cameron didn't give us the names of the authors of the stories he sent out, and of course he didn't give us the names of the magazines which rejected them, but it would have been nice to have been told:

- How many magazines he sent the stories out to.
- How long he gave the magazines to respond before he wrote his article.
- How many replies he got back.
- The approximate pay rate of the magazines he sent the stories to (so readers could get a feel for the kind of markets they were rejected from).

Also, it would have been interesting to see the cover letter Cameron sent out with the stories. Though I'm sure it was well written, it would help rule out the objection that it was the cover letter that killed the editors' interest.


I did some research as I wrote this article and came across interesting articles I want to share.

Dan Baum's story of his short career as a staff writer at The New Yorker

A few days ago a friend asked how much I thought a staff reporter at Wired makes a year but I had no idea. Dan Baum's article answered my question (in 2006 about 90k) and gave a tantalizing peek into that life.

Dan Baum originally told his story as a series of tweets (2009) and then gathered them together on his website. Here's a link: New Yorker Tweets.

By the way, if you would like to submit to The New Yorker, send a PDF to The New Yorker's online submission form. Deborah Treisman is the fiction editor.

Submissions may also be sent snail mail to the fiction department at The New Yorker, 4 Times Square, New York, NY 10036. (No simultaneous submissions)

How much can one get for a short story?

It depends, of course, on a number of factors: the market, the length of the story, and so on, but here are the numbers for a few markets: How much does a short story earn in a magazine? 

(Duotrope used to be one of the only places a writer could get market information but now there is the The Grinder.)

The following numbers are approximate:

New Yorker: $7,750 for 5,000 words (as of about 2003)
New England Review: $230
Asimov's Science Fiction: $427
Rolling Stone: $3.40 a word (as of about 2002)
Question: Have you ever been tempted to do a similar 'sting' on traditional publishers?

Other articles you might like:

- Writing And The Fear Of Judgement
- The Rules Of Romantic Comedy
- 5 Tips For Creating Memorable Character Names

Photo credit: "More from Vivid" by aussiegall under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Friday, March 15

Hugh Howey's 3 Rules For Writing

Hugh Howey's 3 Rules For Writing
Because of the success of Wool, Hugh Howey has become a household name. Every self-published author has been inspired by his rocket ride to writing and publishing fame.

So when Hugh Howey gives advice to writers, especially writers interested in self publishing, my ears perk up. Below is my summary of what he had to say, but I'd encourage you to read his article in full: My Advice to Aspiring Authors.

Hugh Howey's Advice To Aspiring Authors

Hugh Howey advises writers: Don't write to become rich and famous, write because you love it.
And so my advice is geared toward helping authors get to the end of their manuscript, polish it to perfection, and then gain the widest readership possible. This is the best you can hope for. I think it’s possible for every writer who gives it their all.
Awesome! Let's get started.

1. Write

Write every single day.
To begin with, you need to write. This seems axiomatic because it is. The only way to amass a pile of words into a book is to shovel some every single day. No days off. You have to form this habit; without it you are screwed.
If you haven't already formed the habit of writing every day don't panic. Hugh Howey gives two tips on how to begin:

a. Spend quality time with your monitor 

Even if you don't write, even if you're blocked, get used to sitting in front of your monitor for however long you've set for yourself to write. If you want to write for an hour a day, then sit there, staring at the monitor for an hour. NO social media. NO email.

Eventually either the boredom will force you to type something, anything, or you'll stop trying.
Get comfortable staring at a blank screen and not writing. This is a skill. If you can not write and avoid filling that time with distractions, you’ll get to the point where you start writing. Open your manuscript and just be with it.

b. Write rough

I always knew I liked Hugh Howey, both as a fine writer and a decent, likable, guy but when I read the following he went to a whole new level of cool. I do this too! Of course it takes a lot more than writing rough to be a success but, hey, I'll take my joy where I can get it. ;)
Stop caring about spelling and sentence fragments and plot holes and grammar. Get the story down. Listen to the dialog and try to keep up with your fingers. Get to the end of your manuscript and THEN worry about the quality. If you can master the art of powering through to the end of your story, you are on your way.

2.  Self-publishing is a marathon, not a sprint

Write 10 books and don't promote them. Instead, spend your time writing more books. (This is going to sound very familiar to folks who read Dean Wesley Smith's blog! By the way, Dean's blog is great, I highly recommend it.)
My father ... wondered why I wasn’t spending all of my time promoting that first book. I told him I had my entire life to promote my works. I only had now to write. I stuck to that principle for years, writing and publishing several novels or short stories a year. I wrote a variety of genres and with a slew of styles and voices. 1st person, 3rd person, fiction, horror, sci-fi, novelettes, short stories. I also read a wide variety of works, but hardly ever in my genres. I read literary fiction and history, non-fiction and science. I try to read the newspaper every day.

My father now agrees with this approach and sees the value of having a dozen titles available. This is going to sound strange, but you are MUCH better off with your 10th work exploding than your 1st work. You’ll never have quiet time to crank out quality material ever again. And when your backlist matches the growth of your first breakout, you’ll do very well for yourself. Be patient. It’s been said by many others, but I’ll repeat it here: self-publishing is a marathon.

 3. Self publish at the beginning of your writing career

Hugh Howey advises new authors to avoid the traditional route to publication at the beginning of their careers. He writes: "every author should begin their writing career self-publishing, even if their dream is to be with a large publisher".

Here's why:

a. Your manuscript won't change

Your manuscript won't drop in quality just because you decided to publish your story yourself. It's the same book whether you publish it or whether Penguin does.
Querying an agent won’t make your manuscript better. Self-publishing won’t make it worse. It’s either a story that appeals to readers or it isn’t.

b. In self-publishing readers, not editors, not agents, are your gatekeepers

If readers had a choice between a good story or sparkling prose they'd take a good story every time.

Think about it. Think about the popularity of Twilight, The Da Vinci Code, the 50 Shades trilogy. Those aren't read, enjoyed and loved for the prose but for the story. Hugh Howey writes:
Appealing to readers is the endgame. They want story over prose, so concentrate on that (aim for both, but concentrate on story). Agents and slush-pile readers are often the opposite, which is why they bemoan the absence of literary fiction hits and cringe at the sale of Twilight, Dan Brown, and 50 Shades. You are writing for the reader, who is your ultimate gatekeeper. Get your work in front of them, even if it’s one at a time, one reader a month or year.

c. Self-published books are forever

If you self publish then your book will be available to readers for (potentially) forever. A traditionally published print book has, at most, a few months in the bookstores and then its time in the sun is over. It's gone. Unavailable. Remaindered.

Hugh Howey writes:
Working at a bookstore was a dream job but also a sad job. I saw how books sat spine-out on a shelf for six months, were returned, went out of print. That’s a narrow window in which to be discovered. If you self-publish, you will have the rest of your life (and your heirs’ lives) to make it.

d. When you self publish you can get 70% of the royalties versus 12.5%

The chances of a book blowing up like Wool are slim whether you self-publish or are published traditionally.

But IF you get lucky--and it happens--which would you rather make: 70% royalties or 12.5% royalties?

Hugh Howey writes:
If you blow up, do you want to own your rights or have someone else own them? Do you want to be making 12.5% or 70%? Remember, the chances are that you’ll never have a mega-hit. Traditional publishing will not increase those odds. With the 6-month window, I’d say the odds are 1/100th what your work might do in 50 years self-published.

e. Whichever way you go--traditional or indie--you are the publicist

Traditional publishing expects an author to have their own platform. Hugh Howey writes that he'd be shocked to learn that someone got a publishing deal "without already having a robust one":
Houses have too many authors to promote all of them. They choose a select handful based on the excitement around a debut manuscript (rare) or the perennial bestsellers (more likely, but still rare). If you want to earn a living as a writer, which I’m assuming the people asking for my advice are, you are going to have to be more than a writer. You will be an entrepreneur and a publicist. 

f. Hugh Howey is not the story

Hugh Howey is an outlier. He doesn't think we should pay attention to wild success stories like his own. Instead, we should look at how many thousands and thousands of writers are making $1,000 a month over at Amazon.

 g. Be professional

Being professional means studying grammar as well as reading critically and not just for enjoyment.

There's a saying, "It takes a village to raise a child," well, arguably, it takes a village to make a writer. We need to rub elbows with like-minded professionals, whether those elbows are real or virtual. Hugh Howey recommends becoming active over at places like Kindle Boards Writers Cafe.

#  #  #

Hugh Howey has a lot more to say about publishing, and it's all great stuff. I encourage you to read his article in full, here's the link again: My Advice To Aspiring Authors.

I'll leave you with these closing thoughts:
The key to making it as a writer is to write a lot, write great stories, publish them yourself, spend more time writing, study the industry, act like a pro, network, be nice, invest in yourself and your craft, and be patient. If you can do all of these things, you’ll earn some money.
Now that's inspiring!
Have you published any of your work? What do you think of Hugh Howey's advice? Did anything in particular stand out for you?

Other articles you might like:

- 7 Secrets To Writing A Story Your Readers Won't Be Able To Put Down
- Review Of Grammarly, Its Strength And Weaknesses
- Joe Konrath Makes $15k A Week Selling His Backlist

Photo credit: "sky on fire" by Robert Couse-Baker under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Tuesday, March 12

Joe Konrath Makes $15k A Week Selling His Backlist

Joe Konrath Makes $15,000 A Week Selling His Backlist

Joe Konrath Makes $15k A Week On His Backlist Titles

In Backlist Then And Now Joe Konrath writes:
These past two years have been interesting, because I really haven't had a new IP of my own.

Of the last six novels I've written, five have been collaborations, and one was sci-fi under a pen name. No new stand-alones, either under JA Konrath or Jack Kilborn, and no new solo novels in my series.

And yet I'm making $15k a week.

How Joe Did It

Joe attributes his financial health to a combination of the following:

- Getting his rights returned
- Free promotions
- Paid advertising

Whatever Joe has been doing, it's paid off big! And not just in dollars.
In the ten years I was legacy published, I made about $450k. In the four years I've self-published, I've made over 1.1 million dollars.

The higher royalty rate, the control I have, and the very little self-promo I've had to do while self-publishing means I've never been happier as an author.

I'm very lucky. I get to write for a living. And I get to do it on my terms.

As nice as the money is, the peace of mind is even better.
I encourage you all to read Joe Konrath's original article, he talks at length about the early years of his career as a writer and the events surrounding his decision to put his work up for sale on Amazon.
I'm curious, how many of you were, at least partly, inspired by Joe, his words or his example? I was.

Other articles you might like:

- How To Be A More Productive Writer: Use A Voice Recorder
- Amanda Palmer's TED Talk: The Art Of Asking
- Short Story Structures: Several Ways Of Structuring Short Fiction

Photo credit: "Week #6 "Leap" [6of52]" by Camera Eye Photography under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Monday, March 11

Writers Beware of Authariam

Writers Beware Of Autharium

It seems like this is the time of year for scams targeting writers. Passive Guy, aka David Vandagriff, recently wrote a blog post warning writers against Autharium, "a new British site that makes it easy for indie authors to publish and distribute their work".

Passive Guy writes:
By distributing your book through Authariam, you are giving Authariam exclusive world-wide ebook rights to your book for the full term of the author’s copyright, which PG is informed is the author’s life plus 70 years under British copyright law. British law governs this contract.

You can remove your book from Authariam, but Authariam still owns world-wide rights.

The Digital Reader: Authariam Grabs ALL Rights Including Audiobook, Movies, ANY Digital Content

The Digital Reader picked up on the story soon after Passive Guy blogged about it and warned that, the way their contract was written,
Not only does Autharium demand an exclusive, their definition of digital form is so broad that it arguably includes subsidiary rights like audiobook, movies, and really any digital content.
Autharium can legally sell the audiobook rights out from under the author, and the same goes for the movie rights. Hell, that site could sell the movie rights to their entire catalog for 10 pounds and a job offer, and it would be completely legal.
Run away from this company!

Other articles you might like:

- Chuck Wendig's Editing Plan: Edit A Novel In Four Months
- Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge: Choose Your Random Sentence
- Stephen King Talks About Doctor Sleep, Winnebagos & A Movie Prequel To The Shining

Photo credit: "Close up of a dragonfly on a Lotus Flower Bud on green background - IMG_7149" by Bahman Farzad under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Thursday, March 7

Beware Alibi Publishing, John Scalzi Warns: "This is the worst book contract I have ever encountered"

In John Scalzi's latest blog post, A Contract From Alibi, he writes that Alibi's contract terms are so heinous he wouldn't recommend them to his worst enemy.

John Scalzi: Do Not Sign With Alibi

At least, do not sign the their standard, boilerplate contract. Scalzi writes:
I want to be clear: I can say, without reservation, that this is the worst book contract I have ever personally encountered. Not only would I never sign it — which should be obvious at this point — I can’t imagine why anyone whose forebrain has not been staved in by an errant bowling ball would ever sign it. Indeed, if my worst enemy in the world was presented with it and had a pen poised to scratch his signature on it, I would smack the pen out of his hand and say to him, “I hate you, but I don’t hate you this much.”
Alibi is a digital imprint of the Random House Publishing Group.

In his article John Scalzi steps through some of the more egregious sections of the contract and, colorfully and with wit, tells authors why they should run, not walk, away from this company.

John Scalzi is best known for writing science fiction, for which "he won the John W. Campbell Award (2006) and has been nominated for the Hugo Award for best novel (2006, 2008, 2009). (Amazon Author's Page)"

If you're thinking about submitting work to any of the new digital imprints (Loveswept, Alibi, Hydra, Flirt) A Contract From Alibi is a must read. Heck, even if you're not thinking about submitting to them, it's good to know what to look out for in the industry.

Thanks to Dean Wesley Smith for blogging about this. Here is a link to Dean's post: Another Bad Publishing Contract.

Other articles you might like:

- Amanda Palmer's TED Talk: The Art Of Asking
- Moby Dick And Amazon One Star Reviews

Photo credit: "Dream" by seyed mostafa zamani under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Sunday, February 17

Joe Konrath Made $15,000 dollars over 7 days using Amazon Select

It looks like Joe Konrath has returned to blogging. And what a return! He writes:
In the past seven days, on Kindle, I've made about $15k. I currently have two ebooks in the Top 100 Free list--the same ebooks I blogged about two days ago. Dirty Martini and Trapped are #3 and #4, and Tiemcaster will hit Top 100 later today. I also blogged about four other ebooks by my friends Barry Eisler and Blake Crouch. Both of Barry's ebooks hit the Top 100, peaking at #3. One of Blake's did, and it is still #1 in the UK.

In the past 60 hours, I've sold 2200 ebooks in the US, and had over 400 borrows.


I have a hypothesis.
Here's Joe's Hypothesis: All things being equal, when you're looking for a book "You're going to take what is right in front of you, currently under your nose". He writes:
I have no doubt that bestselling authors have a lot of fans. But it's one thing waiting for the next Harry Potter book to come out, and its another seeing the latest Patterson on the new Release table and picking it up because it is there.

I'm not knocking Patterson. The guy is a genius, on several levels. But how many fans have read every Patterson book vs. every Potter book?

Joe Konrath's Secret For Selling $15,000 in 7 days

Joe attributes his huge bump in sales to Amazon KDP Select. He writes:
So what am I doing differently? I have no new releases out. Yes, I self-pubbed my Jack Daniels series for less money than my previous publisher had, but during the first few days those sales were steady, not explosive like they've been.

What's changed has been making titles free using the Kindle Select program.

To wit: there are millions of people with Kindles, and the majority of them haven't heard of me, haven't come across my titles, haven't read me before. So by getting three ebooks on the Top 100 Free list, I am making myself known to them.

I am a tasty, free morsel directly under the nose of hungry readers. And they snatch it up.

Not all will read the free ebooks they download. But I still benefit, because the more ebooks I give away, the higher the bounceback will be on the paid bestseller lists. And when I'm on the paid lists, I'll be seen be those who have never seen me before.

Also, I have a hunch some people are reading the freebies immediately. This is why my sales are booming. A rising tide lifts all boats, and some people snatching up the freebies are also buying some of my other ebooks.

Whiskey Sour is #529. Bloody Mary is #411. Rusty Nail is #1121. Afraid is #586.  Endurance is #1439.

Last week, most of these were ranked at #10,000 or higher.
That's quite a bump!

Joe Konrath's Tips For Independent Authors

Here's Joe's advise for how indie authors can improve their sales:
1. Publish books with Amazon Publishing. They do a lot to announce their ebooks to readers.

2. Use KDP Select to make your ebooks free. I suggest using all five days at once. The more ebooks you give away, the higher the bounceback.

3. Have a lot of IPs. The more ebooks you have available, the more virtual shelf space you take up, the likelier it is for a customer to see one of your titles.

4. Cultivate fans. Have a newsletter, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, so people can follow you and get the announcement when you put something new on sale. But remember this will be supplementary, not primary, and no one will follow you if all you're doing is advertising.

5. Announce via third parties. I found to be effective in helping me give away freebies. So is Pixel of Ink.

6. Keep at it until you get lucky.

I can't stress #6 enough. It is easy to get discouraged with promotion, because it may not get the results you seek. You have to have the right book in the right place at the right time, and cross your fingers.
Publishing books through Amazon KDP Select can be intimidating! You worry about whether folks will hate your work, whether anyone will download it, whether you'll get horrible reviews. Don't forget, though, you can publish anonymously and, even if the whole thing's a disaster, use your failures to hone your writing and publishing skills.

Have you ever published through Amazon KDP Select? If not, has Joe Konrath's experience of making 15 thousand dollars over 7 days through Amazon Select changed your mind about the program?

Other articles you might like:

- Screenwriting Software: Adobe Story
- Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge: Write What You Know
- Writing A Feel Good Story

Photo credit: "Sloth in the Amazon" by Praziquantel under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Thursday, January 24

How To Succeed As A Writer: The Value Of Failure

How To Succeed As A Writer: The Value Of Failure

We've all failed. Seth Godin believes that failing is good but that failing big is even better. Why? Because unless you're failing you're not really trying. (NexGen Interviews - Seth Godin)

But how does this philosophy apply to writers? That's something I've been thinking about lately. This morning I came across How to Become a Writing Rockstar: A Simple Guide. In it Henri Junttila asks: What is the goal of writing?

When we know what the goal is, perhaps he can understand how failure can help us. So, here's what Henri thinks the goal of writing is: To write authentically, to write honestly. "When you stay true to your quirky self, you are already a rockstar."

That echoes something Seth Godin said:
We should blow up the expectations of writing and say something worth saying and say it in a way that’s personal. It turns out that the internet, for the first time in the history of mankind, says to everyone, ‘Here’s a microphone. If you want to talk, talk. If you want to write, write. If you want to make a difference, make a difference.’ How horrible it would be to refuse to take your turn at the mic. (Why We Are All Artists: Seth Godin in Conversation – Part 1)
You might say, "Oh, but what if people don't like me! What if I release my work on Amazon and I get a bunch of 1 star reviews?"

1. Failure Shows You How To Get Better

Here's why failure is so important: it shows you how to get better. Seth writes:
Bob Dylan was booed off the stage in 1967 when he went electric. He was booed off the stage in 1974 when he went Gospel. He’s been booed off the stage since then and yet he still fills theaters. The Monkeys, on the other hand, have never been booed off the stage and they’re just an oldies act. Being booed off the stage is a key part of being an artist. (Part 1)
So, congratulations! Sure, you failed, but you tried something. And, as a result, you learned something.

2. Failure Is Safer Than Not Failing

What you did is actually a very safe thing. Seth writes:
I want to use the words uncomfortable zone [rather than "danger zone"] because it is, in fact, a very safe place to be because it’s not fatal. No one ever died writing a blog post. What we’re saying here is that for a while anyway, the safest thing you can do is to be as uncomfortable as you can stand to be. (How to become a Successful Writer: Seth Godin in Conversation – Part 2)
Your writing career is not over because you wrote and published a story that people hated (and I'm pretty sure not everyone hated it). Remember: YOU didn't fail, your story did. 

The key: Don't take failure personally.

Seth Godin puts it this way:
Most people who are getting started in writing do not have the confidence of a best-selling author. They are not comfortable sharing their work far and wide. They’re not comfortable saying, ‘I don’t have a publisher. I’m going to publish myself. Here, I wrote this.’ They would rather have the safety that comes from saying, ‘Well, I didn’t decide this was good. Penguin decided this was good.’ ‘I didn’t decide this was worth reading. Simon and Schuster decided it was worth reading.’

My argument is that all the things that feel uncomfortable are actually the safest things you can do. To every novelist who is complaining or bitter about all the publishers who won’t publish them, I say: Take your novel, make it into a PDF. It’s free. E-mail it to fifty of your friends.

If your novel strikes a chord, they will e-mail it to their friends and the next thing you know, a million people will read your novel for free. If a million people read your novel for free, you’ll have no trouble whatsoever selling your next one.

On the other hand, if the fifty people you sent it to don’t share it with anyone, then you haven’t written a good enough novel, and you should start over. But either of those paths is better than sitting at home complaining about the fact that you can’t get published. (Part 1)
We’ve just eliminated scarcity. There used to be scarcity of shelf space, scarcity of publishers, and scarcity of paper. All that’s gone. There’s unlimited shelf space, unlimited digital paper, and an unlimited number of publishers. You can’t continue to blame scarcity for the fact that your writing isn’t in the world.

You have to accept that putting your writing out there is no longer difficult. What’s difficult is getting someone who encounters your writing to share it with someone else. That changes the kind of writing you should be doing. You shouldn’t ever again be writing to please an editor. (Part 2)
Seth admits to failing:
I don’t consider it a good day unless I fail. I’ve written thousands and thousands of blog posts. Most of them aren’t that great. I’ve written books that didn’t sell as well as the publisher wanted. I’ve launched internet projects that have fallen on their face. I’ve had negotiations where I completely misunderstood what the other person was looking for, or they misunderstood me, and we walked away from each other.

The Key To Success As A Writer

Don't write to please everyone. If you do that you'll please no one.
If you’ve accepted that the rules of the game are that you are not willing to write unless everyone likes what you write, then you’ve just announced that you’re an amateur, not a professional, and that you’re probably doomed. Whereas the professional writer says, ‘It is almost certain that most of what I write will not resonate with most people who read it, but over time, I will gain an audience who trusts me to, at the very least, be interesting.’ (Part 2)
The power of the internet, for writers, is that we can find a small group of people who are interested in the same things we are, the the things we write about. Seth writes:
I was in Iceland last week ... and one out of every six hundred people in the whole country came to see me speak. This would be the equivalent of fifty thousand people seeing me in the United States, which has never, ever happened.

Iceland teaches an important lesson. It’s such a tiny place, yet it’s possible to have a café that succeeds. The café succeeds not because everyone in Iceland goes there, but because enough people go. Whether you live in New Zealand, Malaysia or the United States, the internet connects you to four billion people.

All you need to make a living is for four thousand to adore you. And you need forty thousand to be a hit. That’s forty thousand out of four billion! Those are really good odds! (Part 2)

The Bottom Line

If failure is okay (but mistakes are not), then is there anything you shouldn't do? Seth Godin says there is one thing you should never be: boring. He writes:
Whether you’re a writer or the maker of widgets, you won’t be able to keep going if you’re boring. (Part 2)

Seth Godin's Advice To New Writers

Seth Godin was asked to give advice to new writers. What should a new writer do? His reply:
There are three steps: write, ship, share. When you write and ship and share and you see whether or not it resonates, you will get better at what you do.

The more you write and ship and share, the more people will come to depend on what you’re doing and the easier it’s going to be to spread your ideas. At some point, people will come to you and say, ‘I’m not getting enough of what you’re doing. Here’s some money’, or ‘I’m not getting enough of what you’re doing. Please come speak to my group’, or ‘I’m not getting enough of what you’re doing. Please coach me so I can do it too.’ But none of that happens until you write and ship and share. (Part 2)
My Question: Are you convinced? Do you think failure is necessary for success?

Other articles you might be interested in:

- The Magic Of Stephen King: A Sympathetic Character Is Dealt A Crushing Blow They Eventually Overcome
- Ray Bradbury On How To Keep And Feed A Muse
- Fleshing Out Your Protagonist: Creating An Awesome Character

Photo credit: "Stupid garbage compactor ..." by JD Hancock under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Friday, January 4

How To Format A Word Document For Uploading To Amazon

How To Format A Word Document For Uploading To Amazon

Apparently it's possible for the editor to eat an entire post. I know this because it just happened. (sigh) I think after this I'm going to type my drafts into Word or Scrivener so that at least I'll have a rough draft to fall back on if Blogger feasts on my finished, polished, prose.


I'm going to take a day off from my Starburst Method series to talk about how to format a Word file for uploading to Amazon. I think everything I say will also be applicable to Smashwords but that platform may have one or two special requirements.

The Anatomy of a Formatted File

When your Word file is formatted ready for upload to Amazon it will have several sections. Below are the most common ones I've seen.

1. Title section

- Title
- Author's name

2. Copyright section

- "Copyright"
- Copyright symbol
- Person or company that is copyrighting the work.

3. 'Plain language' explanation of your wishes regarding whether your book should be copied without your permission.

4. Link(s) back to your website or blog, social media sites, etc.

5. Reading samples of your other books

6. Table of contents

7. ISBN number

8. Blurbs

- One or more authors telling prospective readers your writing is terrific.

9. Book description

- Tell readers what your book is all about and hook them in 500 words or less.

10. Acknowledgements

11. Dedication

12. The story

Many of these sections aren't mandatory and I've listed them here in no particular order. Yes, you'll probably want to start off with your title section, and certain sites will want you to put your copyright information up at the front of the book but, other than that, the order the sections come in is up to you.

What follows is just what I do. If you decide to do it differently--for instance, place your acknowledgement section at the back instead of the front--that's great! Do what works for you and the book you're publishing.

Required Sections

Here are the sections you need to have in your finished, formatted, file before you upload it to Amazon:

1. Title section
2. Copyright section
3. The story

That's it.

If you've never published a book before I'd suggest that you be kind to yourself, take things easy, and publish a short work and keep it simple. After you have one success under your belt and you're feeling bolder then start adding sections.

One section I would add, even if this is your first time, is a link section. This can be as simple as a link back to your website or blog. That way folks will know how to find you and your other work. (I'm taking it for granted that you have a website or blog where you list all your work.)

So that's what I'm going to talk about. Publishing a simple, bare-bones document with minimal formatting. No bells and whistles. But, first, let's get a couple of questions out of the way.

Do I need an ISBN number?

You don't need to have an ISBN number to publish your books on Amazon. It's easy to procrastinate publishing your first book because the process is unfamiliar and perhaps daunting. You can always get an ISBN number after you publish your story. The important thing is to publish it.

I do think it's a good idea to buy a block of ISBN numbers from (if you're in the US) Bowker. Here's a link to Bowker's extensive FAQS.

In Canada ISBN numbers are free but you have to be a publisher to obtain one. (See: How To Get A Free Canadian ISBN Number)

Do I need to register my copyright?

I'm not a lawyer, and this is NOT legal advice, but I think it's better to have something and not need it than need it and not have it. That said, you don't have to register your copyright in order for your work to be copyrighted. This is from Wikipedia:
It is a common misconception to confuse copyright registration with the granting of copyright.

Copyright is itself an automatic international right, governed by international conventions - principally the Berne Convention (which dates from 1886). This means that copyright exists whether a work is registered or not. (Copyright Registration)
Having a copyright and protecting it are two different things. This is from the U.S. Copyright Office:
Do I have to register with your office to be protected?
No. In general, registration is voluntary. Copyright exists from the moment the work is created. You will have to register, however, if you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. work. See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section “Copyright Registration.”
If you want to be in a position to defend your copyright in court it's a good idea to register your copyright.

Also, and as I'm sure you know, a number of sites pirate books--offer them free for download without the copyright holder's permission. If you find your book on one of these sites you have a chance of getting it taken down if you can provide proof of copyright.

Whether you want to register your copyright is up to you. You can publish your book without doing so.

Hello Amazon!

It's conventional that the first program one writes in a new language prints out: Hello World! Or at least that was true in my day. This is our equivalent. We're doing this to get the hang of things and show ourselves this publishing thing isn't scary at all. So go through your writing, do you have a short story that is finished, beta-read, proofed, edited, typo-free with sparkling prose that's ready to be uploaded?

Great! Let's do this.

The sections in our simple book

1. Title section
2. Copyright section
4. Link to your website or blog
5. The story
6. Link to your website or blog

To Be Continued

Well, I'm at just over 1000 words so I'll end this post for today and pick it up again tomorrow.

Update: Here is the second installment in the series: How To Format A Word Document For Uploading To Amazon: MS Word Styles.

Have you ever published your work yourself? If so, what did you think of the experience? Was it harder than you expected? Easier?

Other articles you might like:

- The Starburst Method: Discovering Your Characters
- The Magic Of Stephen King: An Analysis Of The Opening Paragraphs Of The Dead Zone
- How To Sell Books Without Using Amazon KDP Select

Photo credit: "Destination Unknown" by VinothChandar under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.