It goes without saying that, first, you have to write the book. But if you are at that glorious stage where the book is actually written (and edited, and redrafted) then you might be asking – now what?
So, here is some handy info to help you answer that question:
Stage 1: Submission
- Read the subs guidelines! I know they’re annoying and it’s a pain to have to format (I submit too, so I have a lot of sympathy for the never-ending task of re-formatting things) but it really does make reading easier.
- And on the same note, please send the amount asked. If the guidelines wants 10,000 words, a little under or over is fine…but don’t send your entire manuscript.
- Having a synopsis is nice; it gives the reader some idea of how the story unfolds. They often won’t have time to read the entire thing, so the first 30 pages and a synopsis is excellent.
- Tell them something about you; you don’t have to seem quirky, but just some insight into who you are is nice. However, your work will speak for itself, so if (like me) you’re fairly self-conscious when it comes to showing off, you won’t miss out by not giving a huge bio.
- And lastly (again) – read the guidelines! You want to make the publisher’s job as easy as possible – and that means sending what they’ve asked for. Yes, it sucks when every single submission wants a different style and set of information, but them’s the breaks. Just do it.
Stage 2: Waiting. And waiting. And more waiting.
However, there is quite a lot going on behind the scenes…
- Slush-pile read; this is simply someone working through the submissions. At this stage, if you get rejected then you’re likely to get a form rejection. It sucks, but take it as a learning opportunity. Was there anything you could have done better? Did you submit to a publisher who might not want your genre or type of story? Are there better forums for your work? Or, put bluntly, does your work stink? (Most awful writers seem to believe they’re amazing, so if you’ve got a healthy dose of self-doubt then you’re probably fine.)
- The deafening silence. If you don’t get an immediate rejection, take heart; they’re considering your work. Most publishers will have guidelines for when you can bug them; please do remember that reading takes time, and the publisher might have 50 or 100 things to read!
- Request for a full manuscript. Yay! They liked it!
- Acceptance or rejection! You may get more feedback at this stage; most publishers are too busy to go into much detail, but they won’t lie – so if they say they liked it, then they liked it. Usually the choice simply comes down to tone or style. Again, treat it as a learning opportunity; was there anything you could have done better? What could you improve?
Stage 3: Editor’s read
Your story will get read by The People Who Matter – usually the editor(s). The manuscript may come back to you with comments; you might need to change a lot or a little, and then it goes back to the editor. This could be repeated multiple times, and you might find that it’s a repeat of your alpha- and beta- process…but this is up to the individual editors, and up to you how much you want to change your story. Again; you are the author, and you have the final decisions on changes. Take their comments into consideration, and weigh up how much you want to be published against how much your story is changing. Hopefully, your story is good enough that the edits will be minor!
Stage 4: Book creation
This involves quite a lot of administration, usually involving external services. The big publishing houses will have in-house copy-editors and cover-artists, and it’s rare that the author is involved here. With a smaller indie press, more of this work is done externally, and there’s more chance for the author to be involved.
- Copyedit & proofread (again!).
- Typeset – and you’ll usually get a PDF proof at this point to check on the typesetting.
- Cover produced.
- Manuscript sent to printers, and – if you’re doing hard copy – a proof is produced.
Stage 5: Publication!
Hard copies get distributed to shops, and records get created in electronic stores. You’ll be given a release date and whatever copies you’re entitled to; you may get paid at this stage if it’s a flat fee, or if you’re getting royalties then they will trickle in. And you get the wonderful satisfaction of seeing your book in print or on the screen; it’s out there for everyone to read.
And if you’ve got this far, congratulations! You’ve got a piece of your writing published.
Everything you need to know about Self Publishing, right here:
In Part 1 we had a little self-publishing history and info. In Part 2 we start to drill down to the nitty-gritty. So for the specifics and some recommended providers, read on.
Designing an E-Book Cover
There are a number of special considerations for e-book covers, not least of which is how little control you have over how the cover displays. People may see your cover in black and white, grayscale, color, high-resolution, low-resolution, thumbnail size, or full size. It needs to be readable at all sizes and look good on low-quality or mobile devices. For these reasons (and many more), it’s best to hire a professional to create an e-book cover for you. One designer I frequently recommend is Damon Za.
Maximizing Your Sales
With print books, your success is typically driven by the quality of your book, your visibility or reach to your readership, and your cover. With digital books, the same factors are in play, plus the following:
- If you check the e-book bestseller lists, you’ll see that independent novelists charge very little for their work, usually between 99 cents and $2.99. Some argue this devalues the work, while others say that it’s appropriate for an e-book from an unknown author. Whatever your perspective, just understand that, if you’re an unknown author, your competition will probably be priced at $2.99 or less to encourage readers to take a chance. Typically, the more well known or trusted you are, the more you can charge. Note: Nonfiction authors should price according to the competition and what the market can bear. Sometimes prices are just as high for digital editions as print editions in nonfiction categories.
- As of this writing, Amazon Kindle accounted for at least 60–70% of e-book sales in the United States. Your Amazon page (especially as displayed on a Kindle) may be the first and only page a reader looks at when deciding whether to purchase your book. Reviews become critical in assuring readers of quality, plus the Kindle bestseller list is watched closely by just about everyone in the business and can be a key driver of visibility and sales.
- Price + Amazon. Amazon is well known for paying 70% of list to authors who price their e-books between $2.99 and $9.99. The percentage plummets to 35% for any price outside this range, which is why you find authors periodically switching their price between 99 cents and $2.99. They maximize volume and visibility at the low-price point (and attempt to get on bestseller lists), then switch to $2.99 to maximize profits.
This is but a scratch on the surface of the many strategies and tactics used to sell and market self-published work. Read these guides for in-depth coverage.
Should I Set Up a Formal Imprint or Publishing Company?
Much depends on your long-term plans or goals. You don’t have to set up a formal business (e.g., in the United States, you can use your Social Security number for tax purposes), but serious self-publishers will typically set up an LLC at minimum.
For the basic information on how to establish your own imprint or publishing company, read Joel Friedlander’s post, How to Create, Register, and List Your New Publishing Company. It also discusses the ISBN issue.
What About Agents Who Offer E-Publishing Services?
Increasingly, agents are starting to help existing clients as well as new ones digitally publish their work. Help might consist of fee-based services, royalty-based services, and hybrid models.
Such practices are controversial because agents’ traditional role is to serve as an advocate for their clients’ interests and negotiate the best possible deals. When agents start publishing their clients’ work and taking their 15% cut of sales, a conflict of interest develops.
In their defense, agents are changing their roles in response to industry change, as well as client demand. Regardless of how you proceed, look for flexibility in any agreements you sign. Given the pace of change in the market, it’s not a good idea to enter into an exclusive, long-term contract that locks you into a low royalty rate or into a distribution deal that may fall behind in best practices.
How to Produce a Print Edition
There are two primary ways to make print editions available for sale:
- Print on demand (POD)
- Traditional offset printing
As described earlier, print-on-demand technology allows for books to be printed one at a time. This is by far the most popular way to produce print copies of your book. If you’ve investigated services like AuthorHouse, iUniverse, or any of the many subsidiaries of Author Solutions, then you were looking at services that primarily offer POD publishing packages. Traditional publishers also use POD to keep older titles in stock without committing to warehousing and inventory costs.
Pros of print-on-demand
- Little or no upfront costs (if you avoid full-service packages)
- Your book can be available for sale as a print edition in all the usual online retail outlets (Amazon, BarnesandNoble.com, etc), as well as distributed through Ingram, the largest U.S. book wholesaler.
- Most readers cannot tell the difference between a POD book and an offset printed book.
Cons of print-on-demand
- The unit cost is much higher, which may lead to a higher retail price.
- You may have very few print copies on hand—or it will be expensive to keep ordering print copies to have around!
Most books printed by U.S. traditional publishers are produced through offset printing. To use a traditional printer, you usually need to commit to 1,000 copies minimum.
Pros of offset printing
- Lower unit cost
- Higher quality production values, especially for full-color books
- You’ll have plenty of print copies around.
Cons of offset printing
- Considerable upfront investment; $2,000 is the likely minimum, which includes the printing and shipping costs.
- Increased risk—what if the books don’t sell or you want to put out a new edition before the old one is sold out?
- You’ll have plenty of print copies around—which means you have books to warehouse and fulfill unless you hire a third party to handle it for you, which then incurs additional costs.
Important: While it can be fairly straightforward and inexpensive to get a print book in your hands via print-on-demand services, virtually no one can get your book physically ordered or stocked in bookstores. Services may claim to distribute your book to stores or make your book available to stores. But this is very different from actually selling your book into bookstores. Bookstores almost never accept or stock titles from any self-publishing service or POD company, although they can special order for customers when asked, assuming the book appears in their system.
Also, think through the paradox: Print-on-demand services or technology should be used for books that are printed only when there’s demand. Your book is not going to be nationally distributed and sitting on store shelves unless or until a real order is placed.
Should I Invest in a Print Run?
The 3 key factors are:
- How and where you plan to sell the book. If you frequently speak and have opportunities to sell your books at events, then it makes sense to invest in a print run. Also consider if you’ll want significant quantities to distribute or sell to business partners or organizations, stock in local/regional retail outlets or businesses, give to clients, etc. I do not recommend investing in a print run because you think bookstores or retail outlets will stock your book. If such an opportunity should arise, then you can always invest in a print run after you have a sales order or firm commitment.
- Where you’re driving sales. If you’re driving your customers/readers primarily to online retailers, you can fulfill print orders with less hassle and investment by using POD. Ultimately, you do have to use POD regardless if you want to be distributed by the largest U.S. wholesaler, Ingram. (More info below.)
- What your budget is like. Not everyone is comfortable investing in a print run.
You also need to anticipate your appetite for handling the warehousing, fulfillment, and shipping of 1,000+ books, unless a third party is handling it for you, which will reduce your profit. When the truck pulls up to your house with several pallets piled high with 30-pound boxes, it will be a significant reality check if you haven’t thought through your decision.
The majority of independent authors report selling about 100 e-books for every print book. Much depends on the genre, but in the U.S. e-books represent 30-35% of all books sold. So also keep this in mind as you decide how many print copies you need.
If you choose print-on-demand, then I recommend the following:
- Use Ingram Spark to produce a POD edition for all markets except Amazon. By doing so, your book will be listed and available for order through the largest and most preferred U.S. wholesaler, Ingram.
- Using CreateSpace (a division of Amazon) to produce a POD edition for Amazon sales. For many authors, the majority of sales will be through Amazon.
I recommend using both Ingram Spark and CreateSpace to maximize your profits and ensure that no one is discouraged from ordering or stocking the print edition of your book. As you might imagine, independent bookstores aren’t crazy about ordering books provided by CreateSpace/Amazon, their key competitor. However, if you use Ingram Spark to fulfill orders through Amazon, you will reduce your profits because Amazon offers more favorable terms when selling books generated through CreateSpace. So it’s much more advantageous financially to use CreateSpace—but limit the scope of that agreement to just Amazon orders.
As soon as your printer-ready files are uploaded, POD books are generally available for order at Amazon within 48 hours. With Ingram Spark, it generally takes 2 weeks for the book to be available through all their channels.
Wait, How Do I Get Printer-Ready Files?
As with e-book retailers/distributors, Ingram Spark and CreateSpace may offer you fee-based services related to editing, design, and marketing. These package services may work OK for your needs, but try to hire your own freelancers if you need someone to produce printer-ready files.
I Still Have Questions
I would expect so! This is just the tip of the iceberg. You can read more on this topic at the following posts:
- How to Publish an E-Book: Resources for Authors
- The Basics of Self-Publishing by David Gaughran
- 10 Questions to Ask Before Committing to Any E-Publishing Service
- 4 Key Book Publishing Paths
- Mick Rooney’s Independent Publishing Magazine offers in-depth reviews of just about every publishing service out there. Read his review before using any service. You can also hire him for a consultation if you need expert guidance.
I Want to Pay Someone to Self-Publish My Book
Here are high-quality, full-service publishing provider recommendations.
And that concludes Part 2, hopefully this will have helped you consider your options. If you decide to go ahead with self-publishing – best of luck!
Everything you need to know about Self Publishing, right here:
The following post is an introductory guide to the major self-publishing options available to authors today, and how to choose the right service and approach for you.
But first, here’s the “I don’t have time to read the whole post” version if you’re simply looking for service recommendations:
- CreateSpace: for print distribution to Amazon (zero upfront cost)
- IngramSpark: for print distribution to non-Amazon universe ($49)
- Amazon KDP: for ebook distribution to Amazon (zero upfront cost)
- Draft2Digital: for ebook distribution to everyone else (zero upfront cost)
These services provide little or no assistance. That means you have to do all the work of preparing and uploading your files for publishing and distribution. If you’re looking for a fair service provider (or a one-stop shop) to help with print and ebook formatting, design, and distribution, try BookBaby.
Now, to get down to Self-Publishing 101.
First, A Little History
For most of publishing’s history, if an author wanted to self-publish, they had to invest thousands of dollars with a so-called “vanity” press (or otherwise study up on how to be an independent publishing entrepreneur, a la Dan Poynter or Marilyn Ross).
That all changed in the late 1990s, with the advent of print-on-demand (POD) technology, which allows books to be printed one at a time. As a result, many POD publishing services arose that focused on providing low-cost self-publishing packages. They could be low cost because—without print runs, inventory, and warehousing—the only expense left was in creating the product itself: the book. Outfits like iUniverse, Xlibris, and AuthorHouse (which have merged and been consolidated under AuthorSolutions) offered a range of packages to help authors get their books in print, though most books never sat on a bookstore shelf and sold a few dozen copies at best.
What’s Changed Since 2007
Just as traditional publishing has transformed due to the rise of e-books, today’s self-publishing market has transformed as well. E-books comprise 30-35% of all US book sales. Furthermore, 60% or more of all US book sales (both print and digital) happen through an online retailer, primarily Amazon. You can make your book available for sale in the most important markets yourself, without a third party helping you.
That means the full-service POD publishers that used to make a killing are now largely irrelevant to most self-publishing success, and make little or no sense if you’re focused on publishing and marketing your e-book. However, because of self-publishing’s history, you may still think they offer something you need. For most authors, they do not.
Today, you can get access to the same level of online retail distribution as a traditional publisher, through services such as Amazon KDP, Pronoun, Draft2Digital, CreateSpace, and IngramSpark. One could say that distribution through these channels is free. You don’t “pay” until your books start to sell. Every time a copy of your book is sold, the retailer takes a cut, and if you use a distributor, they’ll take a cut, too.
First, I’ll address how the e-book side of self-publishing works. Then we’ll return to the question of print.
Before You Digitally Publish
Even though e-books are skyrocketing in adoption, ask these questions before you begin:
- Do your readers prefer print or digital?
- If you don’t know what your readers prefer, is it common for authors in your genre to release e-books only? If digital-only publishers exist in your genre, that’s a good sign.
- Is your book highly illustrated? Does it require color? If so, you may find there are significant challenges to creating and distributing your e-book across multiple platforms.
- Do you know how to reach your readers online? People who buy e-books will probably find out about your work online.
An author who is primed to succeed at self-publishing has an entrepreneurial spirit and is comfortable being online. Ideally, you should already have an online presence and an established website. You also need to be in it for the long haul; sales snowball over time, rather than occurring within the first months of release.
How E-Publishing Services Work
The first and most important thing to understand about e-publishing retailers and distributors is that they are not publishers. That means they take no responsibility for the quality of your work, but neither do they take any rights to your work. Here are the characteristics of major services:
- Free to play. You rarely pay an upfront fee. When you do pay upfront, usually in the case of a distributor (such as BookBaby), you earn 100% net. If you don’t pay an upfront fee, then expect a percentage of your sales to be kept. However, there is even one ebook distributor that charges nothing upfront and still pays 100% net: Pronoun.
- At-will and nonexclusive. With all e-book retailers, you can upload your work at any time and make it available for sale; you can also take it down at any time. You can upload new versions; change the price, cover and description; and you can sell your work through multiple services or through your own site.
- Little technical expertise required. Major services offer automated tools for converting your files, uploading files, and listing your work for sale, as well as free guides and tutorials to help ensure your files are formatted appropriately.
Again, it’s important to emphasize: By using these services, you do not forfeit any of your rights to the work. If a traditional publisher or agent were to approach you after your e-book has gone on sale, you are free to sell rights without any obligation to the services you’ve used.
I should also acknowledge here that some of these retailers/distributors may have services they try to sell you—for editing, design, and marketing. When possible, I recommend authors retain their own freelancers rather than hiring through a middleman. You want to know exactly who’s doing work on your book and have them be accountable to you, not the middleman service.
Two Key Categories of E-Publishing Services
Most e-publishing services fall into one of these two categories:
- Single-channel distribution. These services—which are retailers—distribute and sell your work through only one channel or device. Examples: Kindle Direct Publishing and Barnes & Noble’s Nook Press. Single-channel distributors do not offer any assistance in preparing your e-book files, although they may accept a wide range of file types for upload.
- Multiple-channel distribution. These services primarily act as middlemen and push your work out to multiple retailers and distributors. This helps reduce the amount of work an author must do; instead of dealing with many different single channel services, you deal with only one service. The most well-known distributors are Draft2Digital, Pronoun, BookBaby and Smashwords.
Multiple-channel options are multiplying, and each works on a slightly different model. Some act as full-service publishing operations, requiring no effort from you, the author. However, in exchange for the services of a multi-channel distributor, you typically have to pay an upfront fee and/or give up a percentage of your sales.
One popular approach for independent authors is to start by distributing through Amazon KDP, and to then add multi-channel distributor Smashwords, which has no upfront fee and distributes to all major devices and retailers except Amazon.
A note about ISBNs: While an ISBN is not required for basic e-book distribution through most retailers, some distributors and services require one. Therefore, to maximize distribution, you’ll need an ISBN for your e-book. Some self-publishing services will provide you with an ISBN as part of the fee for their services, or you can obtain your own ISBN. (If you’re US-based, you can buy through MyIdentifiers.com. Unfortunately, US authors pay a lot more than authors in other countries for their ISBNs.)
Converting and Formatting Your Work
Nearly every service asks you to upload a completed book file that is appropriately formatted. Services vary widely in the types of files they accept. Because standards are still developing in the e-book world, you may find yourself converting and formatting your book multiple times to satisfy the requirements of different services.
Here are the most commonly used formats for e-books:
- EPUB. This is considered a global standard format for e-books and works seamlessly on most devices. While you cannot directly create an EPUB file from a Word document, you can save your Word document as a text (.txt) file, then convert and format it using special software.
- MOBI. This is the format that’s ideal for Amazon Kindle, although you can also upload an EPUB file.
- PDF. PDFs can be difficult to convert to standard e-book formats, and do not display well on grayscale reading devices.
Many e-publishing services accept a Word document and automatically convert it to the appropriate format, but you still must go through an “unformatting” process for best results. All major services offer step-by-step guidelines for formatting your Word documents before you upload them for conversion.
Important to note: There is a difference between formatting and converting your book files. Conversion refers to an automated process of converting files from one format into another, without editing or styling. It’s often easy to convert files, but the resulting file may look unprofessional—or even appear unreadable—if not formatted appropriately.
Useful tools for formatting and converting e-books include:
- Calibre: Free software that converts and helps you format e-book files from more than a dozen different file types.
- Sigil: Free WYSIWYG editing and formatting software for e-books in the EPUB format; you can start with plain text files saved from Word.
- I’ve listed more tools here.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed at the idea of converting and formatting your own e-book files, then you may want to use a distributor or service that’s customer-service oriented in this regard, such as Draft2Digital or BookBaby. If your ebook has special layout requirements, heavy illustration, or multimedia components, you should probably hire an independent company to help you (eBookPartnership is one option).
But if your book is mostly straight text – such as novels and narrative works – then you might be able to handle the conversion and formatting process without much difficulty if you’re starting with a Word document or text file.
And that concludes Part 1, check back tomorrow for Part 2.
So you want to write a book and have it published. That’s great. But before you give up the day job, here are 10 awful truths about book publishing that you should be aware of:
1. The number of books being published every year has exploded.
According to the Bowker Report (September 7, 2016), more than 700,000 books were self-published in the U.S. in 2015, which is an incredible increase of 375% since 2010. And the number of traditionally published books had climbed to over 300,000 by 2013 according to Bowker figures (August 5, 2014). The net effect is that the number of new books published each year in the U.S. has exploded by more than 600,000 since 2007, to well over 1 million annually. At the same time, more than 13 million previously published books are still available through many sources. Unfortunately, the marketplace is not able to absorb all these books and is hugely oversaturated.
2. Book industry sales are stagnant, despite the explosion of books published.
U.S. publishing industry sales peaked in 2007 and have either fallen or been flat in subsequent years, according to reports of the Association of American Publishers (AAP). Similarly, despite a 2.5% increase in 2015, U.S. bookstore sales are down 37% from their peak in 2007, according to the Census Bureau (Publishers Weekly, February 26, 2016).
3. Despite the growth of e-book sales, overall book sales are still shrinking.
After skyrocketing from 2008 to 2012, e-book sales leveled off in 2013 and have fallen more than 10% since then, according to the AAP StatShot Annual 2015. Unfortunately, the decline of print sales outpaced the growth of e-book sales, even from 2008 to 2012. The total book publishing pie is not growing – the peak sales year was in 2007 – yet it is being divided among ever more hundreds of thousands of print and digital books.
4. Average book sales are shockingly small, and falling fast.
Combine the explosion of books published with the declining total sales and you get shrinking sales of each new title. According to BookScan – which tracks most bookstore, online, and other retail sales of books (including Amazon.com) – only 256 million print copies were sold in 2013 in the U.S. in all adult nonfiction categories combined (Publishers Weekly, January 1, 2016). The average U.S. nonfiction book is now selling less than 250 copies per year and less than 2,000 copies over its lifetime.
5. A book has less than a 1% chance of being stocked in an average bookstore.
For every available bookstore shelf space, there are 100 to 1,000 or more titles competing for that shelf space. For example, the number of business titles stocked ranges from less than 100 (smaller bookstores) to up to 1,500 (superstores). Yet there are several hundred thousand business books in print that are fighting for that limited shelf space.
6. It is getting harder and harder every year to sell books.
Many book categories have become entirely saturated, with a surplus of books on every topic. It is increasingly difficult to make any book stand out. Each book is competing with more than thirteen million other books available for sale, while other media are claiming more and more of people’s time. Result: investing the same amount today to market a book as was invested a few years ago will yield a far smaller sales return today.
7. Most books today are selling only to the authors’ and publishers’ communities.
Everyone in the potential audiences for a book already knows of hundreds of interesting and useful books to read but has little time to read any. Therefore people are reading only books that their communities make important or even mandatory to read. There is no general audience for most nonfiction books, and chasing after such a mirage is usually far less effective than connecting with one’s communities.
8. Most book marketing today is done by authors, not by publishers.
Publishers have managed to stay afloat in this worsening marketplace only by shifting more and more marketing responsibility to authors, to cut costs and prop up sales. In recognition of this reality, most book proposals from experienced authors now have an extensive (usually many pages) section on the authors’ marketing platform and what the authors will do to publicise and market the books. Publishers still fulfill important roles in helping craft books to succeed and making books available in sales channels, but whether the books move in those channels depends primarily on the authors.
9. No other industry has so many new product introductions.
Every new book is a new product, needing to be acquired, developed, reworked, designed, produced, named, manufactured, packaged, priced, introduced, marketed, warehoused, and sold. Yet the average new book generates only $50,000 to $150,000 in sales, which needs to cover all of these new product introduction expenses, leaving only small amounts available for each area of expense. This more than anything limits how much publishers can invest in any one new book and in its marketing campaign.
10. The book publishing world is in a never-ending state of turmoil.
The thin margins in the industry, high complexities of the business, intense competition, churning of new technologies, and rapid growth of other media lead to constant turmoil in bookselling and publishing (such as the disappearance over the past decade of over 500 independent bookstores and the Borders bookstore chain). Translation: expect even more changes and challenges in coming months and years.
So there you have it. If like me, you are now feeling thoroughly depressed, go pour yourself a drink or eat a bar of chocolate, pull yourself together and then get back to writing that damn book! After all, yours just might be the one to break through…
There can be many reasons why a book fails to grab readers, and while this post concentrates mostly on the technical aspects and marketing side of publishing rather than the actual writing process, the choice of book genre can have major implications on both writing and marketing.
Writers often start writing a novel without giving their end product much thought, so when finished, it may sometimes be difficult to find a precise category or book genre for the book when it comes time to publish.
So here is a useful guide which explains with absolute clarity what the major genres represent, and what readers expect from each genre:
Often begins with the crime as the inciting incident (murder, theft, etc.), and the plot involves the protagonist uncovering the party responsible by the end. The crime has already happened and thus your goal in plotting is to drive toward the Big Boss Battle, the unveiling of the real culprit.
Mysteries have a lot more leeway to develop characters simply because, if you choose, they can be slower in pacing because the crime has already happened. Mysteries run roughly 75-100,000 words. Mysteries on the cozy side that are often in a series commonly are shorter. 60,000-ish. I’d recommend that you consult the Mystery Writers of America of more information.
Generally involves trying to stop some bad thing from happening at the end. Thrillers have broad consequences if the protagonist fails i.e. the terrorists will launch a nuclear weapon and destroy Washington D.C.
Suspense novels have smaller/more intimate consequences. i.e. The serial killer will keep butchering young blonde co-eds. It is easy to see how thriller, suspense and mystery are kissing cousins and keep company. The key here is that there is a ticking clock and some disastrous event will happen if the protagonist fails.
So when plotting, all actions are geared to prevention of the horrible thing at the end. Thrillers can run 90-100,000 words (loosely) and sometimes a little longer. Why? Because some thrillers need to do world-building. Most of us have never been on a nuclear sub, so Tom Clancy had to recreate it for us in The Hunt for Red October (Clancy invented a sub-class of thriller known as the techno-thriller).
Pick up the pacing and you can have a Mystery-Suspense. Think Silence of the Lambs. A murder happens at the beginning, and the goal is to uncover the identity of the serial killer Buffalo Bill (mystery), but what makes this mystery-suspense is the presence of a ticking clock. Not only is the body count rising the longer Buffalo Bill remains free, but a senator’s daughter is next on Bill’s butcher block.
When plotting, there will often be a crime (murder) at the beginning, but the plot involves a rising “body count” and a perpetrator who must be stopped before an even bigger crime can occur (Big Boss Battle). These stories are plot-driven. Characters often do not have enough down-time to make sweeping inner arc changes like in a literary piece.
Pick up the pacing and raise the stakes and you have a Mystery-Thriller. Think Killing Floor by Lee Childs. The book begins with a murder of two unidentified people at a warehouse, but if the killers are not found, what the killers are trying to cover up will have global consequences. And I am not telling you what those consequences are because it would ruin the book… 😀
When plotting, again, there is often a crime at the beginning with rising stakes, and the protagonist must stop a world-changing event from happening (Big Boss Battle). The focus of your plot will be solving the mystery and stopping the bad guy.
For more information on this genre, consult the International Thriller Writers site.
Guy and girl have to end up together in the end is the only point I will make on this. Romance is all about making the reader believe that love is good and grand and still exists in this crazy world. The hero cannot be your Big Boss Trouble Maker. Yes, the guy will likely be a scene antagonist, but that is different.
Romance, however, is very complex and I cannot do it justice in this short blurb. If you desire to write romance, I highly recommend you go to the Romance Writers of America site for more information. This is one of the most amazing writing organizations around and a great investment in a successful romance-writing career.
Word count will depend on the type of romance you desire to write. Again, look to RWA for guidance because there are SO many categories of romance that it could make a book.
Is character driven. The importance is placed on the inner change, and the plot is the mechanism for driving that change. Literary fiction has more emphasis on prose, symbol and motif. The events that happen must drive an inner transformation.
Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Road is a good example. The world has been destroyed and only a few humans have survived. The question isn’t whether the man and the boy will survive as much as it is about how they will survive. Will they endure with their humanity in tact? Or will they resort to being animals? Thus, the goal in The Road is less about boy and man completing their journey to the ocean, and more about how they make it. Can they carry the torch of humanity?
When plotting for the literary fiction, one needs to consider plot-points for the inner changes occurring. There need to be cross-roads of choice. One choice ends the story. The character failed to change. The other path leads closer to the end. The darkest moment is when that character faces that inner weakness at its strongest, yet triumphs.
For instance, in The Road, there are multiple times the man and boy face literally starving to death. Will they resort to cannibalism as many other have? Or will they press on and hope? Word count can vary, but you should be safe with 60-85,000 words (The Road was technically a novella).
Note: Literary fiction is not a free pass to avoid plotting. There still needs to be an overall plot problem that forces the change. People generally don’t wake up one day and just decide to change. There needs to be an outside driving force, a Big Boss Troublemaker, and a tangible physical goal. Again, in The Road, the man and boy have a tangible goal of getting to the ocean.
The only difference in literary fiction and genre fiction is that plot arc is now subordinate to character arc. In commercial genre fiction the plot generally takes precedence. In Silence of the Lambs catching Buffalo Bill is top on the priority list. Character evolution is secondary. In literary fiction these two arcs reverse. The character growth and change is of primary importance and plot is merely the vehicle to get them to change.
For instance, in Joy Luck Club, June’s impending trip to China is what brings the women together and what forces each of them to change the patterns of the past. The trip is irrelevant save for two purposes: 1) bringing the women together to face their demons and 2) when June actually makes the trip to China to meet her mother’s twin sisters (the lost babies) we know the change has occurred and the chains of the past have been loosed.
Fantasy and Science Fiction
Will involve some degree of world-building and extraordinary events, creatures, locations. In plotting, world-building is an essential additional step. How much world-building is necessary will depend on what sub-class of fantasy or sci-fi you’re writing. Word count will also be affected. The more world-building, the longer your book will be. Some books, especially in high-fantasy can run as long as 150,000 words and are often serialised.
In regular fantasy, we will generally have a singular protagonist. In high fantasy, the various parties each become protagonists. Think Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings.
Consult the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America for more information.
This is another genre that breaks down into many sub-classifications and runs the gambit. It can be as simple as a basic Monster in the House story where the protagonist’s main goal is SERE-Survive Evade, Rescue, and Escape. The protagonist has only one goal: survive. These books tend to be on the shorter side, roughly 60,000 words.
Horror, however can blend with fantasy and require all kinds of complex world-building. Clive Barker’s Hellraiser is a good example. Stephen King’s horror often relies heavily on the psychological and there is weighty focus on an inner change/arc. For instance, The Shining chronicles Jack’s descent into madness and how his family deals with his change and ultimately tries to escape the very literal Monster in the House.
Horror will most always involve a Monster in the House scenario. It is just that the definitions of “monster” and “house” are mutable. Word count is contingent upon what type of horror you are writing. Again, I recommend you consult the experts, so here is a link to the Horror Writers Association.
I won’t talk long about YA, since YA beaks into so many subcategories. Often YA will follow the rules of the parent genre (i.e. YA thrillers still have a ticking clock, fast pacing and high stakes just like regular thrillers). The differences, however, is that YA generally will have a younger protagonist (most often a teenager) and will address special challenges particular to a younger age group.
For instance, in Veronica Roth’s Divergent, Tris is taking on a very real political battle between factions. But the plot also involves her evolving from child to adult, how she defines her identity aside from Mom and Dad and forging a new romantic relationship with Four. These are all prototypical struggles for someone in that age group.
So there you have it. A quick guide to book genre’s, which I hope has made things a little clearer for you. Picking a genre is actually quite liberating. Each genre has unique guideposts and expectations, and, once you gain a clear view of these, then plotting becomes far easier and much faster. You will understand the critical elements that must be in place – ticking clock, inner arc, world-building – before you begin. This will save loads of time not only in writing, but in revision. I hope you found it useful.
Best of luck x
When I write, I write alone.
This statement is true for most people who take on a creative pursuit such as being an author. In fact, solitude is often the key to finding ‘the flow’ or ‘the zone’ or whatever you like to call the wonderful state where words pour onto the page bringing ideas to life. But when the story reaches its conclusion, or creative flow eludes you, being alone can become simply, lonely. That loneliness can create a space where self-doubt grows, making it even harder to keep trying.
When you finally send your work out into the world, perhaps to an agent or a professional editor, you can be forgiven for being a little apprehensive whilst awaiting a response. After all, you are sending out your darlings to be judged.
However, hearing someone’s thoughts and opinions about your work will help you see your writing in a new light. There’s always the risk of getting too close to a story, whether it’s fact or fiction. The people, good or bad, and the drama can come to affect you so deeply that objectivity becomes difficult. You begin writing from the heart rather than your head, so removing yourself enough to know what to cut can be near impossible.
In the case of fiction, it is rare when an author is not emotionally involved. We create characters from our imaginations, giving them life, hopes, dreams and obstacles to overcome. So similarly, when it comes time to edit, one of the hardest things to do is ‘kill our darlings’ – as it should be!
Editors can be objective. Whether we are talking about journalism or fiction, they are not emotionally invested like the author. Their job is to take a clinical look at the piece. They are experienced wordsmiths who can examine word placement, flow, character, plot, structure and the basics of spelling and grammar in order to give constructive feedback.
Having at times been both an editor and writer I have learnt a very important lesson; editing is essential, regardless of the form of writing and it is something we need to learn to embrace. There are horror stories about bad editors who do more harm than good, so as an author it is always your job to maintain the integrity of a story or article. However, also remember good editors have just one goal in mind – to make your writing the very best it can be.
The key is not to take feedback too personally, something often easier said than done. Not all editors are gentle and sometimes they point out things you don’t want to hear, but all feedback will teach you something.
While it can be confronting to open yourself up for criticism, editors also help give you confidence in your creation by making sure the story essentials are all clear and in place. So if you’re lonely or struggling, find an editor and don’t give up.
Things to remember:
- See feedback as an opportunity to improve
- Don’t be precious or defensive – if you really don’t agree, don’t make the changes
- Keep an open mind
- Enjoy the process of sharing your work
- Be brave
Finishing a writing project, big or small, is an achievement that should not be understated. Many writers work around day jobs, family and dozens of other life obstacles. So keep writing and embrace editing, you never know where you might end up.
Read the original article here: http://writersedit.com/embracing-art-editing/
Over the last few decades, major changes in technology, the way we read and the ephemeral nature of our economies have impacted the way we produce and publish books.
The polarisation of the book industry has become an accepted idea: multinational corporations dominate while small and micro-publishers do well on their own terms as well, with little room for success in the middle space.
This special feature will examine what defines large and small publishers, and will analyse the different approaches they take when it comes to signing authors, book production, printing and distribution as well as their approach to marketing and publicity.
We’ll aim to explore the diverse environment of book production and bookselling in specific reference to trade publishing.
Defining Big and Small Publishers
In order to examine the different approaches to book production both large and small publishers have, we must first define what ‘large’ and ‘small’ refer to.
Our idea of ‘large’ publishers will be modelled on what are known as the “big six” – Penguin Random House, Harper Collins, Allen & Unwin, Pan Macmillan, Hachette, and Simon & Schuster.
These large publishers are major international corporations with multimillion-dollar parent companies such as Bertelsmann, Pearson, News Corp and Lagardère. Small publishers will be defined as those who publish fewer than 30 titles a year and/or earn no more than £30,000 in revenue (Freeth, 2007).
Other significant differences that define these publishers are the number of staff they employ. Large publishers employ hundreds of people from in-house editors, publicists, marketers, and designers to freelancers, while small publishers can operate from someone’s home, with just one or two people at the helm, using largely freelancers and unpaid volunteers.
These details alone portray the vast difference in scale between large and small publishers.
Approaches to Book Production
For the big publishers, the sheer scale of their operations can be immensely beneficial in terms of rationalising and consolidating their economies.
John B. Thompson refers to the “the reduction of overheads and the consolidation of sales forces, warehouses, distribution and other publishing services…” For example, take the results of the recent Penguin Random House merger.
Two initially separate entities, with separate offices, staff and lists are now combining, with the staff from Penguin having just moved into the Random House Head Office in North Sydney.
In addition to tens of thousands of pounds in savings in rental agreements, each department “will be scrutinised for unnecessary duplications. The redundancies will be earmarked for elimination or consolidation” (Curtis, 2012). This is just one example of large-scale consolidation.
Big publishers use one team of experts to produce and sell more books than the small publishing houses, increasing their profit margins considerably. While for small presses producing far less titles, often the owner/founders work ‘day jobs’ to pay the bills, or:
Costs are often kept to a minimum by working from home or renting offices in low-rent premises such as disused factories. If there are paid employees, they often work long hours for modest salaries and much of the routine work is done by unpaid interns (Thompson, 2012).
Although small publishers have less revenue, they can take advantage of the low entry cost into the industry, as well as the virtual office. They have the ability to order, edit and correspond remotely, without the high costs of renting an office space.
One of the most significant factors to identify when considering different approaches to book production is the reputation or ‘brand’ of the publisher. This can affect their approach to book production three-fold: 1. In the quality of staff they can entice and hire, 2. In the prestige of the authors they sign, and 3. In the number of readers and retailers they attract.
When it comes to reputation in book production, big publishers certainly have the advantage. For example, Penguin Random House is a household name in the book world, making it a smart career choice for production professionals and authors.
A certain degree of prestige is associated with big publishers, which is why authors and staff are inclined to work with them over a small publisher. Both staff and authors can expect decent salaries/royalty rates, and may also see a positive effect on their own reputation due to their affiliation with a big publisher.
Readers and retailers must also be considered. As multinational companies tend to dominate the bestseller lists, it’s only natural that both readers and retailers come to associate these companies with books of quality.
Big publishers’ histories are steeped with success stories, and so retailers and readers come to trust their brands. This tells us that big publishers often have the first option when acquiring new titles due to their reputations alone.
Small publishers, however, often don’t have the same level of reputation, which can sometimes work against them in terms of acquisition of titles, and indeed, staff.
They don’t have competitive budgets to work with, and so often cannot afford the same services a big publisher can. However, size can work to their advantage when it comes to the economy of favours (Thompson, 2012).
This works in numerous ways, the most common being that small presses share their contacts, resources and knowledge with each other, and that freelancers charge small presses far less than they do to a big publisher.
For example, the cover designer for Kindling worked according to the economy of favours rather than her usual rate. By day, Alissa Dinallo designs covers for Penguin Random House however, she took on the brief from Writer’s Edit Press at just a fraction of the cost.
Working for emerging writers is a nice change of pace to working in trade publishing. Even though I love the fast-paced nature and commercial aspects of my job, it’s nice to sit back and get a little more artistic, as well as at the same time, support talented writers who are making a name for themselves (Dinallo, 2014).
Dinallo is in the group of freelancers who, according to Thompson “share the ethos of the indie presses and/or they find it rewarding to do so”. While small publishers can’t throw their weight around when it comes to scale, they can take advantage of the sense of community within the smaller field.
For the most part, large and small publishers use different approaches when it comes to the printing and distributing of books. Large publishers have longstanding relationships with offset printers, warehouses and third party distributors.
Given the sheer volume of business big publishers do with these selected suppliers, the terms are significantly better for them. “Large publishing corporations can put pressure on their key printers to turn around an urgent reprint in three days, whereas a small publisher might have to wait several weeks” (Thompson, 2012).
This means initial quantities of titles can be small, with the flexibility to reprint quickly if necessary. Small publishers cannot afford to operate on this scale.
Small presses feel the pressure of distribution and publicity difficulties far more acutely than publishers in the broader industry because of their lack of resources, both financial and human, and these are usually the make-or-break issues that will decide a small press’s fate (Freeth, 2007).
However, the rise in digital technologies has seen these smaller publishers able to compete without the upfront costs the bigger publishers face. Print-on-Demand (POD) has provided small houses with a much-needed breath of fresh air.
Print on demand is a book distribution method made possible by, and inseparable from, digital printing. It prints books only in response to orders… Due to the capabilities of digital printing, print on demand is capable of filling an order for one book profitably (Friedlander, 2009).
Numerous companies now offer POD services. However, along with new developments in printing and distribution come changes to book production that affect both big and small publishers: the age of self-publishing and the indie author.
Publishers had the power of the purse and the press… In the world of print, few authors could afford to self-publish… The Internet has changed all that, allowing writers to sell their works directly to readers, bypassing agents and publishers who once were the gatekeepers (Pham, 2010).
This impacts the publishing game in two ways: competition and acquisition. Self-publishing has certainly contributed to the overall sense of ‘doom’ that is currently circulating the publishing world.
According to Fowler and Trachtenberg, “some publishers say that online self-publishing and the entry of newcomers such as Amazon into the market could mark a sea change in publishing” (2010). However, big publishers are now looking to the sales figures of self-published authors to acquire their next titles.
Take the originally self-published author Hugh Howey. Howey published his post-apocalyptic novel Wool through Amazon’s self-publishing services Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and Createspace. After dominating the bestseller list with his self-published versions:
Howey inked a print-only contract with Simon & Schuster in the US for Wool — released in stores on March 12 of this year — and with Random House in the UK for the trilogy (Anderson, 2013).
This originally self-published author is now set to make both Simon & Schuster, and Random House UK a lot of money. However, the varied approaches to book production don’t end here.
Note Howey’s ‘print-only’ contract. Howey controls and maintains the e-book rights to all his books, ensuring that he still brings in revenue independent from the big publishers he’s signed with, and he’s not the only one:
Earlier this year, suspense master Stephen King, Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho and Stephen Covey, the author of bestselling self-help books, self-published some of their works exclusively on Amazon’s Kindle bookstore (Pham, 2010).
Although hybrid authors like Howey tend to go with the big publishers when they cross over into traditional publishing, the benefits of POD and digital technologies have made a positive impact on small publishers.
According to Thompson, “the rise of the internet also made it much easier for publishers to work with suppliers in India and the Far East, which reduced costs still further” (Thompson, 2012). Furthermore, as the SPUNC report states: “Several publishers have moved to a Print on Demand (PoD) model to reduce costs and keep titles in print” (Freeth, 2007).
Financial risk is something that influences the editorial choices of both big and small publishers alike. However, big publishers have far more pressure on them to bring in revenue in order to pay their many staff, authors and printers.
This means they are far more unlikely to risk taking on unsolicited manuscripts. To combat this however, both Allen & Unwin and Pan Macmillan run special programs for sifting through the unsolicited slush pile and acquiring titles by new authors: the Friday Pitch and Manuscript Mondays.
Nevertheless, big publishers must still meet the demands and expectations of their loyal readers. This means producing the regular bestseller titles per year, generally in time for the big three calendar events: Christmas, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
The bestsellers on the New York Times Christmas list for 2013 were Stephen King, James Patterson and Nicholas Sparks; names that reoccur every year, meaning there is less diversity in the big publishers’ output. They must also find answers to the latest trends, for example: The Hunger Games trilogy called for the Divergent trilogy and The Maze Runner.
Unlike the big fish, small publishers have more freedom. According to Thompson:
Most small presses tend to be strongly editorially driven and to publish books about which the founder-owner(s) feel passionate… commercial success is generally a secondary concern [that] gives the small presses a leeway to experiment with… in a way that the large houses are less likely to do (Thompson, 2012).
Freeth (2007) notes the value of small publishers:
In general we believe that small press is flexible and has the opportunity to present new or under-represented kinds of writing to audiences… With big publishers being more cautious, there’s a huge role for small and independent publishers, who can use events, use the community, use launches and small publisher models.
Where big publishers churn out similar titles every year at number one on the bestseller charts, small publishers take more risk with the titles they acquire as they run on passion over profit. It is with these risks that small publishers can compete alongside large publishers for literary awards.
Approaches to Marketing and Publicity
Traditional marketing has changed immensely in recent years due to the rise of the Internet and the digital-savvy consumer.
The birth of the EDM (electronic direct mail), banner ads on websites and of course, social media have meant that marketing and publicity operate on a whole new level for both big and small publishers.
However, alongside these developments, one change is quite clear: much of the book marketing grunt work now falls to the author, as budgets for promotion are increasingly limited.
Authors are expected to build an author platform (website) where they can share and promote their work with a target readership they’ve built online. They are also expected to manage social media pages and attend promotional events.
Another change to the marketing and publicity of books is the decline of book coverage in traditional print media. Traditionally in newspapers and magazines, there was quite extensive coverage on books, however:
Even the New York Times, which is one of the few metropolitan newspapers in the US to have retained a stand-alone Book Review section, has shrunk the size by nearly half, from the 44 pages it averaged in the mid-1980s to the 24-28 pages it typically has today (Thompson, 2012).
Because of this decline in traditional coverage, many marketing managers are turning their attention to the online space. According to Coronel, “Books will be made successful by appealing directly to communities of readers online” (2013).
Email subscriber lists and EDMs are a major part of this strategy. This unfortunately works in favour of the large publishing houses.
Consumers recognise their brand far more easily than a small publisher, and are far more likely to offer up their personal data (email addresses) to a widely trusted brand than a newcomer.
Big publishers have had the budget to build up their subscriber lists for years, and so now when they release a new title, or an event approaches, they have an instant target market/audience of thousands.
EDMs, along with online ads placed on their high traffic websites also provide the big publishers with insightful analytics that print never offered. Through these purchased third party services, the marketers from big publishers can determine things like unique visits, impressions, page views, click through rates (CTRs) and bounce rates.
This allows them to analyse what aspects of their marketing strategies work, and what don’t, meaning that their next campaign can be better informed and more effective.
Similarly, big publishers generally have a significant following on social media. For example, Penguin Random House UK has 667,683 likes on Facebook and over 52,600 followers on Twitter according to their official Facebook & Twitter pages.
This means that on just two social media pages alone, Penguin Random House has a potential reach of over 720,000 consumers. Unfortunately, small publishers simply cannot compete in this numbers game.
Freeth (2007) reports:
A lack of resources (both financial and human) mean they often cannot put the necessary time and energy into publicity and marketing that a successful campaign requires.
In regards to publicity in retail, big publishers have to purchase store space and high visibility spots with leading retailers like Dymocks in Australia and Barnes and Noble (US). According to Thompson:
The large publishers also have the resources you need to achieve high levels of visibility within the key retail chains… the larger the publisher is, the more easily they will be able to absorb these promotional costs (2012).
Alternatively, small publishers rely on the economy of favours, hoping that both independent bookstores and the larger retail chains will support independent presses with decent in store positioning.
Finally, a big aspect of marketing and publicity strategies for both big and small publishers is participating in numerous writers’ festivals, literary festivals and book fairs that occur throughout each year.
Publishers attempt to get their authors on discussion panels, at book signings and interviews to gain exposure for their titles. However, one recent strategy combined both online efforts and the buzz of this year’s Sydney Writers Festival.
This event was the first National Book Bloggers Forum hosted by Penguin Random House. Marketing and Publicity Director, Brett Osmond said:
The National Book Bloggers Forum will be a collaboration between the growing book blogging community and Penguin Random House – we want to share news about our books and authors with leading bloggers (Random House Australia, 2014).
Random House invited approximately 50 book bloggers from all over Australia to their head office in North Sydney to hear about their upcoming titles.
This was the first event of its kind, and wasn’t without agenda. Bloggers were encouraged to use social media throughout the day, hashtagging ‘#NBBF14’ and tweeting ‘@RandomHouseAus’.
The result of this was a free social media campaign that lasted over two days. Each blogger was also given a goodie bag containing numerous Penguin Random House titles, which meant numerous book reviews on new release titles circulating online.
Combined, these tactics created much-needed buzz surrounding the PRH brand, and their authors. Valuable connections were also made with Australia’s most prominent book bloggers.
The polarisation of the book industry is now a widely accepted concept and has led to major changes to the industry that affect both large and small publishers. While this article is by no means inclusive of all the approaches to book production and marketing, various approaches have been analysed – from acquisition to promotion.
With the support of numerous sources, this special feature has also examined the differences in approach to printing and distribution between large and small publishers, explored developments in digital technology and what this means for the industry, as well as delved into the various approaches to marketing and publicity.
Book production and bookselling worldwide will continue to change as our technologies develop, and our reading habits adapt.
While there is much speculation regarding the future of publishing, the rise in book producing technologies can only mean one thing: whether the publisher is large or small, the passion for great books is still well and truly alive.
For references please go here: http://writersedit.com/book-production-big-small/