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Anthology, Editing, Featured, Psychopaths, Publishing, Writing, Writing Style

It Always Takes Longer Than You Think

November 6, 2017

Time to share some publishing experiences from this year. I’ve been lucky to be involved with three books. One reminded me of how lucky I have been with traditionally published books. The other two were interesting lessons learned.

In February, I was honored to be part of 50 Shades of Cabernet, a delightful collection of 18 stories by 19 writers, most of us Sisters-in-Crime members, although there are a couple of “bros” in the collection. We were invited to submit stories and worked independently. Our only direction was a maximum page length, the fact that each story had to include a mystery (didn’t have to be a murder mystery) and had to mention “Cabernet.”  This winey group of stories are, for the most part, light-hearted, with a few having darker overtones. My publisher, who does the Mad Max series, produced this collection. I had to write my story, polish it until I thought it shown, and then review the edits from the professional editor. We voted on the cover and waited until we could purchase copies to sell. Easy peasy.

I decided to self-publish another anthology, The Virginia Writers Club Centennial Anthology 1918-2018. I had a selection team help sort through the stacks of poems, short stories, and essays. A different team helped with the basic editing: commas in the right places, spelling, obvious typos. Easy peasy, huh! NOT! My inside designer had holy fits getting the various formats trued up to fit into a 6″ x 9″ book. Poetry was the easiest this time, with the essays causing him to say MANY bad words. Finally, we got to the place where CreateSpace accepted our words. The cover, which had been designed and approved earlier in the summer, didn’t meet CreateSpace’s standards. And didn’t meet them again and again. Finally, we took out a swirly design element and CreateSpace took pity on us and accepted the book. What should have taken one month once the editing was complete took nearly three months before the proof copies were ready.

During this time, I was simultaneously working with the publisher of the anthology and a different cover designer to finish Eyes Without A Face, my serial killer book about a feminist killer with her own moral compass. Or immoral compass, if you will. We gave ourselves two months. The actually formatting of the innards wasn’t that bad, since I was remarkably consistent with using Word styles. Alas, the formatting program didn’t always read the styles, so every page had to be reread and edited. Once again, the cover was the hardest. The designer game me a terrific cover, but CreateSpace was cranky about bleeds, of all things. We needed nearly three months…

The bottom line: if you think it will take you two months to get your book ready for publishing yourself, double that time. You’ll need it. And just maybe you’ll have a bit less stress than I did.

Alternative Publishing, Print on Demand, Publishing, Vanity Publishing

Publishing Alternatives

June 2, 2009

Like many unpublished writers, I research ways to get published. The traditional one is to send out query letters, find an agent, have her find an editor who takes the book to a publisher, who agrees to publish and market the book. That can take years. I mean years. Not one or two, but ten or more. Nearly every major bestseller has a story behind it of the author collecting rejection after rejection before finally “hitting it big.”

Other ways are to use vanity publishers, small presses, print on demand, subsidized publishing, and more. If you read the statistics, it is true that alternative publishing surpassed traditional publishing in the number of titles last year. But dig deeper, and you find that statistics can always be spun to tell a story. It just might not be the story for you.

When you add up the number of titles and the number of books sold (for those few “transparent” alternative publishers), you get between 50 and 150 copies per title. And except for the small press, few if any of these alternative publishers take returns, provide marketing, or placement in book stores. Small presses often do take returns, may provide limited marketing, but rely on the author to gain placement in bookstores.

I looked into Lulu.com. A best seller is 500 copies. One of my friends has published five titles with Lulu.com. And he has purchased five copies each. No other sales. Why? He publishes specialized cookbooks for his family — one per year for Christmas.

Everyone should be aware of the pitfalls of alternative publishing. With no marketing, you should expect no sales. If you have a strong platform, and a strong marketing plan, you might do all right. It all depends on the numbers you want to hit.

Sometimes an author starts with print on demand, for example, sells upwards of 1500 copies, does her own marketing, and develops a readership and demand for future works. At that point, the author is moving into the realm of a small press, even though she is not printing anything physically. My friend Sally Roseveare sold nearly 2000 copies of a novel set at Smith Mountain Lake. Her second novel is due out in July. With such a readership, she should be moving a lot of “product” in the next few months.

One last point. Anyone going the alternative publishing route should pay close attention to costs. Amazon is promoting its Booksurge program. A 75,000-word book starts at $4,599. At least that was the cost on Friday.

Bottom line: There are no right answers in publishing. The best advice I’ve received is to do thorough research before jumping onto one band wagon or another.

And one observation: Didja ever think that some books should not be published?

Marketing, Publishing, Social Networks

Alternative Publishing

May 13, 2009


I went to a discussion on Monday on the pros and cons of self publishing, sponsored by the Valley Writers Chapter of Virginia Writers Club. Four members all had self-published, with varying degrees of success. The general consensus was that self-publishing works if you have something of local interest (Sally Roseavere’s novel is set at Smith Mountain Lake), is non-fiction (memoir by Rodney Franklin and history by Jim Morrison) or humor (Becky Mushko). No one is getting rich slowly this way, but their words are being read.

One prevailing theme was how involved a writer has to be in marketing his/her book. (To avoid this awkward construction, I will use “her” as the collective noun.) Hand selling at readings, out of the trunk of a car, or through local book stores and gift shops moves a few books. Not enough to garner interest from an agent, however.

I didn’t hear anyone talk about alternative publishing and alternative marketing. I would love comments about these topics:

  • Publishing to electronic books, i.e., Kindle
  • Podcasting to attract listenership
  • Using social networks, i.e., LinkedIn, Plaxo
  • Using FaceBook, Twitter, MySpace, etc.
  • I have nearly 4000 personal contacts on one of the social networks. When I posted a note that I was reading a particular book on marketing, my friend noticed a definite blip in sales.

    How else can we market our books? What are your experiences?

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