Tag Archives: self publishing

Authors Answer 147 – Considering Economic Factors When Writing

Creativity is probably the leading reason authors write. They want to create stories that people enjoy. But how much does economics factor into writing books? There are several factors that may figure into how a person writes, including book length and more. This week’s question comes from Gregory S. Close.

Question 147 – Do you write purely creatively, or do you consider economic factors, such as how long the book will be, and how that would effect production/distribution costs?

C E Aylett

Purely creatively. If you approach it from the other direction you are boxing in your muse. And there’s nothing worse than a story that feels contrived to fit size (think of TV series Game of Thrones — wouldn’t we have liked a little more time to develop the Jon/ Dany relationship? Now it feels inauthentic because it wasn’t afforded the proper amount of time to develop, unlike him and Ygritte.)

D. T. Nova

I’ve paid attention to the length, but with more focus on pacing and tension than on economics.

Paul B. Spence

A little of both, of course. I write the book as creatively as you could wish. I do, however, keep in mind a certain size for the book. I try for ninety thousand to one hundred-fifty thousand words per book. So far so good…

Cyrus Keith

Word count is a factor. Many publishers today don’t want to even look at works less than 75,000 words for a novel. After that, I write what I want to write.

Gregory S. Close

Once upon a time I wrote purely creatively, and assumed that the merit of the work would drive how it was published, rather than things like page count, trim, how much shelf-space it would take up, etc. I thought that I was being economically responsible, but I really didn’t know how things worked until my first experience self-publishing. After surviving that, and realizing how much the size of a book effects the production cost, and thus the potential profit for the publisher and/or author (I only get pennies for every paperback of In Siege of Daylight that I sell, because of the print/production costs of a 600+ page, 240k word beast of a tome that it is), I changed my tune.

Now, I’m a lot more practical in how I consider my writing. I know that the sequel to Daylight will probably be equally huge. I can’t afford to invest the time in another epic and the money in the editing, cover art, trim etc. for another economically doomed novel. So, to be strategic, I have decided that if/when I write at all now, it is to be focused on the shorter, more contained, and potentially more profitable books (Greyspace, short stories and a couple of other ideas I’ve got kicking around). In theory, strategically marketing those more profitable works should allow for me to then pivot back to the GIANT TOTALLY EPIC SERIES. Back and forth I must go, if I ever want to make this work. It takes some of the fun out of it, but ultimately, planning ahead might make the difference between getting a chance to write full time or continuing to write part time, part of the time.

Eric Wood

Seeing as how I’m not published yet, I write solely creatively. I write for free right now, so if someone were to offer to pay me double I’d still make nothing. Perhaps one day I’ll have keep those factors in mind.

Jean Davis

When I set out to write a book, I just write the book. The story is how long it is. However, when it comes to editing that story, I then consider the overall length and what publishing goal would be the best for that particular project. I find it’s easier to focus on embellishing or streamlining after the initial creative process has had its way with the story. Too much pressure to meet a specific word goal makes it more difficult to get that first draft out. I get too hung up on specific word choices, efficient sentence structures or adding sufficient wordy depth to the plot, description, and characters.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

For the overwhelming part, I write purely creatively. I consider small factors, such as ensuring that the book is at least a certain length, but in general I don’t really let that affect my writing. Some would probably say that I should, because it might make my books more attractive to readers/publishers/etc, but for the most part I write because I love it and because I have stories to tell, and I don’t feel like obsessing over those “economic factors” do anything toward writing a good story. Creating something that is enjoyed by the people who read it is more important to me than creating something that checks off all the proper boxes as far as “proper” creation of a book.

H. Anthe Davis

While I’m aware of length and production issues (being an Amazon CreateSpace self-publisher in the print version, and therefore able to see what it costs per unit at certain sizes), I believe a book has to be the length it deserves to be. Can’t shortchange the plot or the characters just for space considerations. That said, there are always tweaks that can be made and extraneous bits that can be trimmed to keep the page count more manageable. I do what I can.

Jay Dee Archer

At the moment, I’m writing purely creatively. I’m not at the point where I’m considering economic factors, such as length of the book. I believe it’s more important to write what I think is a great story. Of course, I have the length of the book in the back of my mind, but also things like cover art. But if I’m thinking about economic factors, it will interfere with my creative process. Write first, worry about the other things later. But once I am considering economic factors, then I will look at what’s best in terms of being published, both independently and traditionally.

How about you?

If you’re an author, do you consider economic aspects while writing, or do you focus on it entirely creatively? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Why Write a Trilogy When You Can Write One Novel?

I saw a question in a fiction writing group on Facebook asking why authors decide to write a trilogy from the beginning, rather than just writing a single book. Why not start off with a book, and try fit it all in? I have some answers.

First of all, the story may be too large to fit in a single book. It may be a single story, but split into three. Why not just put it in one book? I don’t think many people want to buy a 1,500 page novel. That’s why. They’re more likely to try out the 500 page first book, like it, then buy the other two.

That leads us to the second reason. People like to read series or trilogies. Not everyone, but there are many people who love to read them. I’m one of them. And it also makes economic sense for the author. Incredibly long books may be hard to sell, but shorter ones tend to be more attractive. And that means if people buy and like the first book, they will likely buy the other two. That’s tripling the income!

And finally, a series may involve related, completely self-contained stories that simply cannot be written as a single book. This is what my first trilogy is like. They’re separate stories, but they all lead into each other with a final conclusion. I also have a fantasy series of four books planned that has three parallel stories that lead into a final book. In a single book, it would be a complete mess.

Those are my reasons for writing trilogies or series. Standalone books have their own advantages, too. There are many I’ve read, and they work perfectly fine. They end at the end of the book. There is no continuation.

What do you think? As a writer and a reader, do you prefer standalone books or trilogies and series? Let me know in the comments below.

Changes Coming to Amazon’s Kindle

Publishing to Amazon’s Kindle has been easy for anyone to do, and has flooded the market with self-published eBooks. They range from professionally well-done to amateurishly horrible. Amazon wants to solve the problem of substandard eBooks.

eNovel Authors at Work posted a great article about the changes and what they mean to the average indie author. To get yourself familiar with what’s happening, I suggest you read it. It may make life easier for you.

The changes come into effect in February and will affect indie authors, small publishers, online publishers, and boutique publishers. This does not affect traditional publishers who concentrate on print books. When there are errors in the book, such as spelling mistakes, grammar mistakes, formatting issues, and just plain poor quality, the book will be flagged and taken offline. The author is then notified and asked to fix the problems before it can be published again. Even one complaint by a reader can result in a book being pulled. Thankfully, fixing the issues is easy, especially if it’s just a spelling or grammar mistake. In fact, Amazon will tell you exactly where the errors are. Sometimes, they’ll be foreign words. Fair enough, those don’t need to be changed. Before publishing, you can even use Kindle’s online proofer to find the mistakes. If there are no problems, publish away!

My worries are probably minor, but what if a book is constantly being tagged as poor quality because of technobabble, magic words, or unique names that the author has made up? I’d hope that wouldn’t be an issue.

On the positive side, this will force authors to make sure their books are good quality. It may discourage the lazy or unmotivated authors from publishing substandard books. They may try anyway, and get frustrated. I could see the number of books published this year decreasing because they’re prevented from publishing their error-riddled novels.

As always, I’m a wait and see kind of person. I’m interesting in seeing how this goes. What do you think? Do you agree with the new rules? Or do you have any worries? Let me know in the comments.

99 Cent or Free eBooks? I Won’t

When someone goes to work, they expect to be paid a fair amount for their work. When an artist creates a work of art, they expect to be paid for the work they have done. So why would an author work for months on a book only to sell it for 99 cents or just give it away for free? I won’t do that.

Sure, I’ll do the occasional promotion where I’ll drop the price to 99 cents, but never free. I want to be paid for the work I did. I’ll never keep a book at 99 cents, either. That is unless it’s one of my first books in a series and I’m comfortable with reducing it to that price. But I can’t guarantee it.

So why won’t I do this? It turns out, from what I’ve heard, that offering free books may get more downloads, but they’re unlikely to be read much. When people buy books, they will read them. A freebie is just that. Something they’ll put on their Kindle and forget about it. Low priority.

With that said, I do download free books, but I want to give back to that author in the form of a review. If I really liked the book, I may buy a print copy. I like physical books, because I’m a bit of a collector.

So, permanently low price or free book? No. I want to be paid for my work. Low price promotional copies? Yes. It’ll boost my visibility and hopefully drive regular price sales. I will have to experiment, though.

How do you feel about free or 99 cent books? Let me know in the comments.

Authors Answer 41 – The Big Moment. Published!

Every author’s dream is to be published. To have that book they’ve spent months or years on finally in print or in eBook form, ready to be purchased by eager readers.  That is the moment that every author anticipates or dreads.  Will it be a hit? Will it be a flop? What will the reviews say? It can be a moment filled with mixed emotions.

320px-Modern-ftn-pen-cursiveQuestion 41: What was it like when you published your first story? If you haven’t published yet, what do you imagine it will be like?

S. R. Carrillo

Publishing my first book was harrowing. It taught me things, though, and continues to teach me all the time, even after publishing my second book. I will say that it’s incredibly exciting and rewarding as an independent author, especially.

D. T. Nova

I haven’t yet, but I imagine that I will be both excited and nervous.

Linda G. Hill

I haven’t published an entire novel yet, but I do remember the first time I put something on the internet for strangers to read. It was extremely nerve-wracking. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have a novel be the first thing I ever published. After years of having a blog I don’t believe I’ll be nervous. Excited though? Definitely.

Allen Tiffany

In the fiction space, I’ve had two publications to date: A short story in a campus lit magazine a few years ago, and my first novella on Amazon earlier this year. Of course it was exciting to see them both times, but it also scared the hell out of me. On the one hand I’m aggressive and will promote aggressively, but at the same time I’m terribly afraid that I’m made a mistake. Nothing is ever perfect, not my writing, the production, not the promotion. So I’m always obsessing about what I missed, what I did wrong, what I could have done better. Publishing a story or a book — in my view — is just one milestone in the much larger process of becoming a writer. If I go on to publish 20 books that are well received, and I’ve got the money to have them all produced professionally, then I might stop worrying. Until then….

I’ll also share that the novella I recently published is dedicated to Vietnam Veterans, who were the soldiers who trained me both as an infantryman and a young leader and a young man when I first joined the Army. I don’t plan to write another Vietnam War story, but this one has been stuck inside me for years, and I needed to tell this story, to say thanks. So though I knew I was treading on emotional ground for some, I was taken aback at some of the letters and feedback I have gotten. For instance, one woman engaged me via a “group” on Facebook with a couple thousand followers, and included a photo of her brother’s grave maker. There were also other tributes at the gravestone to her uncle and husband. All three had died as a result of the battle I had depicted. She included a nice note thanking me for writing what I had. She talked about how much she loved and missed these three men.

When I came across it, I stopped cold. I think I stared at it for a good 20 minutes. And it took me an hour before I could figure out how to reply. I’ve gotten several such emails. Another fellow sent me photos of himself at the site of the battle in 1968, and of when he went back two years ago with his kids. There have been more such messages. If I ever doubted the power of writing before, I don’t now.

Of course, not all my writing is going to be so impactful. Most of it is just for fun. But this experience did leave me with a deeper understanding of the extent to which writing can cut deep and reach into someone’s heart. In short, I do take it all more seriously now.

Gregory S. Close

I had been writing my first novel for years.  More than a decade, off and on, actually.  When I finally finished it – when the edits were all in, the cover was done, the proofs had arrived and all was ready to go, when I hit the “publish” button at Amazon and CreateSpace, I felt a moment of excitement and fulfillment and satisfaction that was a rare and special moment in my life.

Followed immediately by abject terror and an impending sense of horrible failure.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

I’m going to answer this question twice because of the way it was worded.

The first story I ever published was a Harry Potter fan-fiction that I wrote and posted on FanFiction.net back in college. I consider this to be my first technical publication because it was a complete story that I published for other people to read. At that time I was pretty excited in a giddy way because this was the first time that perfect strangers were reading and commenting on something that I wrote. Better yet, people seemed to actually really like it, so it was a pretty major thrill and actually helped me start getting back into writing seriously.

The first time I published a novel was when I decided to take the self-publishing route and submitted my zombie apocalypse novel, “Nowhere to Hide“, to CreateSpace.com. It started out as super-stressful because I had to figure out all the stuff that a publisher would normally handle, like formatting and cover design. When I managed to figure out all that stuff and ordered a copy to make sure it was all good my stress turned to nervous excitement. What would it look like? Had I done the formatting properly? I couldn’t wait to find out. Then my parcel finally showed up, and I could scarcely contain myself. I was so happy with it that I could have cried. It may not have looked 100% professional, but it looked like a book, like something you could actually find sitting on a shelf in Chapters or Barnes & Noble. It was properly formatted, the pages were crisp, and my Photoshop-created cover actually looked better than I’d expected it to. I was absolutely ecstatic, and within half an hour of inspecting that first print copy I had the book available for sale on CreateSpace and Amazon, soon to be followed by Kindle. And I never looked back!

Jean Davis

When I received the acceptance email on the first short story I sold, I had to read it twice. I’d grown so used to rejections that I had to make sure I wasn’t just misreading the email before I let myself get excited. Holding my story in print was a big positive boost. Now, I have a book coming out this fall. I’m quite looking forward to holding an entire book of my own work in my hands.

Eric Wood

I imagine fan fare, streamers, and lots and lots of confetti. I imagine posters of my cover, flyers in everyone mailbox and big paycheck in mine. That’s how imagine it. Will that be how it actually happens? I doubt it, but wouldn’t it be nice?

Caren Rich

Amazing. My first story was published at a small e-zine, but it felt like National Geographic published it! I told everyone about it, plastered the site all over the web.  I glowed for days. That year for Christmas I gave everyone small fruitcakes, in honor of my short story The Fruitcake.

Paul B. Spence

Scary and exciting. I couldn’t wait for reviews to start coming in.

H. Anthe Davis

Kind of a relief, but kind of an annoyance that I couldn’t thereafter correct any errors.  I’d pitched the book around for a while without any takers, and finally decided to just self-publish it so that I could move on with the series (and my life), but the urge to go back and edit — especially now that I’m on the fourth book and have learned so much — is always there, making me wonder if I published too soon.  Granted, the first book had gone through so many years of revisions that it was a Frankenstein’s monster enough without another go, but still…  Mostly though, I was happy to have it out of my hands at last.

Jay Dee Archer

While I haven’t published a novel yet, I have been published in a couple ways.  On my official author’s blog/website, I’ve published parts of the prequel of my Ariadne series. These are free for anyone to read, but it is technically published by myself. I was a bit worried about how it would be received by people, but it’s been largely positive. That’s a bit of an ego boost!

I’ve also been published in an online travel magazine based in Singapore. I wrote weekly articles about travel in Japan, but it was also for free.  I found it to be a good exercise in writing with a deadline, but ultimately moved on from it. I wasn’t particularly worried about it, as I’ve written many similar posts on my Japan blog for a few years now. It was basically more of the same with a larger potential readership.

As for when I finally publish my novel and short stories for people to buy, I’m going to be nervously checking and rechecking everything to make sure there are no mistakes. I’ll be publishing through Amazon and later Createspace, as well as other platforms. The moment it goes live, I will be nervous, I think. And I’ll be celebrating my first sale. And then my first review. And my second sale. And my first bad review. And my first paycheque. Actually, I don’t know how I’ll feel at these moments, but I’m anticipating it a lot.

How about you?

If you’ve published a book, how did you feel when it became available for purchase? If you haven’t published, but plan to, how do you think you’ll feel? Let us know in the comments below.

Call to Arms – Book Marketing Results

Very interesting statistics regarding marketing. Check out what works and what doesn’t for a variety of book prices.

Nicholas C. Rossis

Following my Call to Arms, a number of you responded by sharing with me your book marketing experience. I now have about a hundred responses by some fifty authors. Although some of the responses were expected, there were quite a few surprises in there for me.

Methodology

For anyone wishing to take a look at the raw data, you can download this Excel spreadsheet. I grouped the results according to whether the book was offered full-price, discounted or free. I also have a fourth category titled Other, that includes any entries where this was not specified.

To compare the various ad media, I came up with a number that represents the ratio between number of sales and cost of advertising. In other word, if you spent $1 and had one sale, then this number would be one. If you spent $1 and had two sales, the number would be two, etc.

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Authors Answer 28 – Publishing Paths

A big publishing contract with a major publishing house is a dream for many authors. But a lot of authors are going another way these days, completely bypassing the publishers and doing it themselves. This week’s question is from RedTheWriter.

320px-Modern-ftn-pen-cursiveQuestion 28: Vanity Publishing? Indie Publishing? Self Publishing? Traditional Publishing? Author Publishing? What is the difference? What do you recommend?

H. Anthe Davis

For me, self-publishing through KDP worked best, because I’d been pitching my first book at publishers and agents for years without success and just wanted to get it out there so I could move on to the second book.  As a hobbyist I don’t mind that it’s not lucrative, though I do have this dream of pitching the finished series to publishers later and them going ‘yes, of course, brilliant!’ for a traditional print run.  Considering they’d scrap my covers for their own, though, I’m not sure anymore if I’ll even try that.

Elizabeth Rhodes

I’ll simplify this down to three categories.Traditional publishing is a process that involves pitching your work to a publishing house.  They decide whether your book will be marketable and the terms of your business relationship.  This process may, and often does, involve an agent to work on your behalf, and finding one can be as long and discouraging as finding a publisher.  It’s a process that’s been in practice since the beginning of the industry, and because of that and perhaps its difficulty it’s often seen as a more legitimate form of publishing.  Comparatively few authors find success with this method.

Self-publishing is a process made possible by ebooks and print on demand.  An author can bypass finding an agent and publisher, and retain control over how the books are published, marketed, and sold.  Because of the idea that “anyone can do it,” self publishing is often seen as less legitimate and the easy way out of getting a book published.

Vanity publishing is like self publishing except the author pays for the book to be published.  This process get a bad reputation from certain vanity publishers using deceptive language and tactics to make money off of naïve authors.

Personally, I prefer to self publish and will be taking this step in the very near future.  There is a certain charm to being traditionally published (probably because of aforementioned bias) but I also feel it’s a method more confined to market demand and archaic rules.  Self published authors , I think, are less constrained by this and there’s the potential for more variety and experimentation.

Amy Morris-Jones

I’m actually trying to decide which of these I prefer, so I’m not the best person to answer perhaps. For me, there’s a credibility that comes with traditional publishing—the knowing that someone (more than one someone actually) who knows a LOT about books loves my book as much as I do means something to me. The downside is the time trad publishing takes—at least a year most of the time.  I definitely appreciate that self-publishing allows so much more flexibility. In trad publishing, if a book doesn’t sell well in the first three months, it’s dead. In self-publishing, a writer has the ability to rebrand, remarket, whatever—and try it again. I think I’ll take a crack at trad publishing first—and then perhaps go the self-publishing route I better understand how the industry works.

Caren Rich

I can’t recommend any of these, I’ve only tried self-publishing once. So I have no experience to add to this conversation.

Jean Davis

Say no to vanity publishing. The rest all have their merits depending on your goals and where your story fits into the market. Your level of patience also plays into it quite a lot.

Self publishing can be very quick from writing the end to being published. To do it well, it shouldn’t be quite so quick, but that’s a tale for another day. If you have patience, try for indie publishing with a small press, where you can get some support with marketing and have the cover, editing and formatting of your novel taken care of in return for a portion of the profit  If you have high hopes that you’d like dashed and enjoy waiting for over a year for a response, then try traditional publishing. Personally, I’d recommend indie or self publishing.

D. T. Nova

I think vanity publishing is a fairly outdated term; modern self publishing doesn’t work quite the same way as what used to be called vanity publishing.

Since I’m not yet published I don’t feel qualified to actually give a recommendation, but I will likely go with self publishing for my first novel.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

These days there are so many different kinds of publishing that it’s really quite difficult to keep track. For instance, there isn’t just “self” publishing as a blanket option; you can design, print, bind, and sell your books all by yourself (“author” publishing), or you can engage the help of sites like CreateSpace, who do all the printing and everything for you (“indie” publishing), or you can share your writing through services like WattPad (not even sure what you would call that, exactly). Then there are the more traditional paths, such as querying big name publishers, submitting your writing to agents, or delving into “vanity” publishing (which, I’ll be honest, I don’t QUITE understand). Long story short, it’s hard to decide which road to take sometimes.

I think that all the possible paths have their merits and their hardships. For instance, being traditionally published means that your book will find its way into a much bigger market, but it is the slowest of the methods and you could easily find yourself waiting years to see your book actually land on a shelf. Self-publishing is much quicker, but you are left with 100% of the burden to market the book, which can be even more difficult than writing it in the first place.

Long story short, I think that every writer should research the possibilities beforehand and use that information to decide for themselves which option best suits their needs. I would have loved to be traditionally published and see my novel in book stores, for example, but that would have involved a great amount of time spent querying and waiting, querying and waiting, and I figured zombies might not be popular anymore by the time something ever came of my efforts. Thus I decided that CreateSpace was for me, allowing me to create my novel with no overhead costs and put it out there in the market while chances are still good that some people might actually want to read it!

S. R. Carrillo

It’s really very simple, from my perspective. Self-publishing vs. traditional publishing/vanity publishing. Self-publishing can encompass all the rest in one form or another. Self-published authors are un-agented and un-contracted, ergo, independent (“indie”). That’s the way to go if you want control of how your story reaches its audience. It’s hard work, but it’s so worth it, if you really put the time and dedication into it that a good story needs in order to be a good book. There’re are so many resources and so much support that’s available that really makes it impossible not to wanna try at least once.

Come to the dark side, friend. We have more fun here.

Paul B. Spence

I would clump indie publishing, author publishing, and self-publishing together; they’re basically the same thing.

Vanity publishing, as I see it, is done by the people who put their books out there with no regard for proper grammar, spelling, page layout, decent covers, etc.  They just want to be able to say they have a book published, and they really need to be classified differently from the indies, etc. As far as traditional publishing goes, there’s nothing wrong with it, and good luck if you can do it, but traditional publishers seem to be taking fewer and fewer new authors.

Jay Dee Archer

I haven’t been published yet, but I do know how I’ll be doing it.

Indie publishing is the big thing these days through services like Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace. There seems to be a more than 50% share of profits from this method now. You have complete control over your book. You decide the design of the cover, how it’s written, you arrange the editing, and you do all of the marketing. It’s all about how you want to do it.

Vanity publishing has a bad reputation due to the fact that the author pays to have their book published, and likely won’t see any profit.

Traditional publishing is what many authors want to do, but it’s incredibly difficult to get into. You need an agent and the publisher must like your book enough to publish it.  The process tends to take a long time, too. You may have to wait a very long time, and you may go through years of sending in your manuscript to publishers with no success.

I personally like indie or self-publishing. I’m likely to go through KDP for my first book(s). If I gain the attention of a publisher, I’d have to see what kind of offer they have. If it’s favourable, I’d go for it.

How about you?

Which method of publishing do you recommend? Leave your answers in the comments below.