Conversations: 10/6/2017

CONNECT WITH EXPERT ASSISTANTS

Have you ever considered working with a Writing Assistant (Editor/Coach), or Ghostwriter? If you have a novel, memoir, poetry collection, or any other manuscript that is buried in your basement, I hope you will consider bringing it back to life by joining forces with an expert collaborator. Here are two True Stories I hope will encourage you.

True Story: My friend Sue (not her real name) and I met at a writers’ conference last year. Instantly we knew we’d be good friends because we had so much in common. On the last day of the conference we exchanged cards and wished each other well in our writing adventures. Several months later Sue called me and asked to “get together.” We met at a local coffee shop and barely sat down with our steaming cups of caffeine before she announced, “This idea hit me—like an epiphany—and I know it’s supposed to be a book. It just has to be written, so I need your help.” That was the beginning of a two-hour conversation that sent us on a wild ride. I became her “writing assistant,” her editor, writing coach and friend. The manuscript is now with a traditional publishing house.

True Story #2: While sitting at dinner with our neighbors, Bill mentioned that he’d written a little poetry over the years. “When I’m looking at the beauty of nature, words just seem to come to me.” Of course I encouraged him to continue writing because his observations of the world around us are as unique as a finger print—no two are alike. Not long after that conversation, Bill called and asked if I’d like to take a look at some of his work—poetry that he’d matched to his prize-winning photography. To my delight, his extended dining room table was covered with small “prints” of his favorite photographs. Then he handed me a thick stack of hand-written poetry. Over the next three years we worked together to produce two beautiful collections of his photography and verse: From Delicate Lily Pads to Sculptured Peaks, and Impressions of Nature in Black and White by William A. Carlson. Would these books have ever been published without the friendship connection and the TLC of expert assistance? Maybe. “But doubtful,” says Bill.

As my writing life developed into the business of being a “writer’s assistant” I discovered a whole new level of JOY walking through the creative process with another writer and helping their works “find the light of day.” Writing a book (fiction or nonfiction) is a big commitment, and having support from a trained and experienced writer is just what the “book doctor” ordered. Assistant classifications include:

  • The Writing Consultant who can brainstorm the plot/concept with you and help you smash through any writer’s block.
  • The Coach/Editor who reads and offers editing, word choice, and enhancement ideas.
  • The Ghostwriter who develops your original ideas to complete the manuscript. And, like one Ghostwriter is fond of saying: “When it comes to our clients, we are as silent as Jeeves.” Yes, indeed, the professional Ghostwriter never reveals the names of their clients—unless, of course, the client gives permission, places their name on the cover as, written with, or decides the Ghostwriter’s input deserved the co-author title.

How do you find these experts? Most of us are proficient using Google to find any category of experts we’re looking for, including writing consultants, editors and ghostwriters. Their websites may be big and beautiful, however, finding the right FIT with someone you can work with is the real Key to Success.

Most writers’ conference (like the one that I attended with the author in the first True Story—above) set up a panels of experts for writers to talk with which is an excellent way to meet experienced assistants. Even if you’re not able to meet with them at length, and discuss your project, you can at least take their card and contact them later.

However, my go-to place to find professional help is the self-publishing company where I (and several clients) have published. If authors don’t find a perfect fit with one of their Consultants, Editors, or Ghostwriters, they offer other in-house expert connections. AND, unlike traditional houses who hire experts to create books that meet the “projected value” of their business, self-publishing companies hire professional individuals who will listen to each author, and offer their very best help to complete the book that the author has written.

So DIG OUT your old manuscript(s) and find the specialized collaborator who will pump life back into it. You owe it to yourself and your Readers! ⚓︎

 


Royalene

ABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene has been writing something since before kindergarten days and continues to love the process. Through her small business—DOYLE WRITING SERVICES—she brings more than 40 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their projects. This is a nice fit as she develops these blogs for Outskirts Press (OP) a leading self-publisher, and occasionally accepts a ghostwriting project from one of their clients. Her recent book release (with OP) titled FIREPROOF PROVERBS, A Writer’s Study of Words, is already receiving excellent reviews including several professional writer’s endorsements given on the book’s back cover.
Royalene’s writing experience grew through a wide variety of positions from Office Manager and Administrative Assistant to Teacher of Literature and Advanced Writing courses and editor/writer for an International Christian ministry. Her willingness to listen to struggling authors, learn their goals and expectations and discern their writing voice has brought many manuscripts into the published books arena.

Defining The Hybrid Publishing Experience

If you’ve spent much time on this blog or researching your publishing options, you probably have a fairly substantial definition in mind for the terms “self-publishing” and “traditional publishing,” but can you say the same for “hybrid publishing“?  We use the term rather often here on Self Publishing Advisor as a catch-all for every company and business model that doesn’t fit neatly into the aforementioned binary––but what does it mean, really?  It’s not enough to define a thing by what it is not … we need some basis for a positive, holistic understanding of what hybrid publishing has to offer the indie author.

What qualifies as “hybrid”?

Biologically speaking, a hybrid is “the offspring of two plants or animals of different species or varieties, such as a mule (a hybrid of a donkey and a horse).” Most of us are familiar with a different kind of hybrid, which is to say the mythological kind, where different species find themselves mashed up into one single creature on a physical but not cellular level.  A centaur is a mythological hybrid between man and horse, the Sphinx between a woman, lion, and raptor.  Is a hybrid publishing company, then, the offspring of two warring traditions (self- and traditional publishing)––or is it some oddball thing that adopts the best or most distinctive features of other publishing traditions to serve an entirely different narrative?

Says Jane Friedman of Publisher’s Weekly, it has become “nearly impossible to categorize certain publishers and services; some wish to avoid being labeled altogether. They consider themselves innovators, providing an important alternative for authors.”  These companies self-advertise as providing a third way altogether, not just cutting the difference between the two established publishing modes.  This reality would seem to indicate that hybrid publishing shares more with a centaur than it does with a mule, but perhaps we’re splitting hairs.

Perhaps, when it all shakes out, we can safely define hybrid publishing on its own terms.  Brook Warner of Huff Post Books suggests  four categories that fit the catchall term:

Traditional publishers who’ve been brokering hybrid deals for years. […]

Partnership publishing models. […]

Agent-assisted publishing models. [… and]

Other assisted publishing models.

All four of these categories acknowledge “assistance” as a defining feature, but here’s the problem: assuming that self-publishing and traditional publishing don’t  offer assistance as a part of their mechanism creates a false dichotomy that does nobody justice, and many companies that Warner might call “hybrid” do in fact distance themselves intentionally from the term because it implies too heavy a reliance on paid assistance––or authors “taking the easy way out,” so to speak.  This just in: elitism may be the bread and butter of gatekeeping traditional publishing, but it doesn’t have to be the same for self-publishing!

This still leaves us with a problem, however: How to define hybrid publishing?  Let me suggest a new definition:

Hybrid publishing is any publishing model that allows authors to enter into direct, flexible, contractual collaborations with industry professionals that in traditional publishing would be indirect (they would be paid by the publishing house, not the author) and are not traditionally available to self-publishing authors.  This includes companies like Outskirts Press, which offers a range of collaborative services, and excludes the so-called “hybrid author,” or someone who has moved from traditional publishing into self-publishing or vice versa.

Playing the field:

As Friedman goes on to point out, each of the companies that might fit into the hybrid category operates on a different business model, making it difficult to compare them against each other.  She advocates asking a series of questions, such as “How will your books be distributed?” and “What marketing and promotion support do their titles receive?” before committing to a certain choice.  But this doesn’t exactly help new authors decide whether hybrid publishing and a “third way” is for them––and with so many options now available, narrowing the field is an important part of the decision-making process. Ultimately, the choice of whom to choose may rest on individual features such as those Friedman suggests evaluating … or it may rest instead on the complicated matrix of human need.  Hybrid publishing companies, despite their extreme differences, do seem to collectively meet authors’ desires for a human-driven, relational publishing experience.

In conclusion … for now:

The world of hybrid publishing is perhaps a bit too complicated to break down in its entirety within the constraints of an initial foray such as this one, but it is a world we will be returning to again and again here on Self-Publishing Advisor.  As the world of publishing evolves and diversifies, so too must the companies who serve to send our stories out into that world.


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

Marketing BASICS : Call Your Own Shots

Last week, I tackled a fairly unpleasant reality when I itemized a few reasons why paying for a little advice isn’t such a bad idea––why it is, in fact, a fantastic idea––but I wanted to follow that lengthy tidbit up with an equally lengthy reminder that the whole reason self-publishing is worth exploring is the fact that it allows us––the authors––to call the shots when it comes to our own work.  And there’s no getting around the fact that free things are wonderful, just as there’s also no denying the reality that sometimes it’s best to do a few things really well and bring others alongside who can do the rest instead of doing everything decently and nothing exceptionally well (or worse, doing everything poorly).

Paying a little out of pocket doesn’t negate the value of an author’s hard work, and it certainly doesn’t erode our creative control, but rather reinforces it; when we foot the bill, graphic designers, copyeditors, and other paid publishing consultants become our employees, and our vision becomes their mission.


Welcome back to my series on marketing B.A.S.I.C.S.!  This is the fifth in a series of blog posts where I tackle the fundamentals of marketing in hopes of making things a little more manageable for you, the self-publishing author.  Four weeks ago I launched the series with this introductory post, followed by:

This week, as you might have guessed, we’re taking a look at:

  • C. Calling Your Own Shots

applause applause applause we live for the applause plause

There is, of course, an upside and a downside to being your own boss.  The upside is, as previously mentioned, you’re in control at every step of the process (that you want to be).  The product of your labors will turn out exactly the way you want and pay for it to do.  Your masterpiece, made your way by the people of your choosing.  Perfection.

The downside is: Bosses abide by deadlines, just like everyone else.  Better still, they set their own deadlines.  This is quite a leap to make, if you’ve never been self-employed or self-directed before––but it’s not the end of the world!  As Tom Wood of Killer Nashville Magazine writes, “self-imposed deadlines might be the hardest of all—precisely because only three people will push you to complete the book: Me, myself and I.”  Says Wood, “It’s not easy to find the time to write in a day full of work, chores, raising a family or whatever.”

Maybe deadlines aren’t actually a downside.  Some people thrive at the challenge of creating their own internal structure and abiding by it!  I don’t hate deadlines, even after the requisite years of working under the thumb of many such requirements, but I do hate falling behind and I have a tendency to fall into cycles of unproductive self-loathing when I do so.  It’s not hard for me to finish projects if nothing else (Wood’s “whatever”) interrupts me … but it’s really hard to re-hone and focus my attention if (or when) it does.  My main problem is I forget to write things down, and if it’s not on paper … well, it doesn’t happen.  Period.

The best investment I ever made was in a large––I mean, large––calendar planner, broken out into days on top of the usual weeks and months.  It doesn’t exactly solve all of my problems for me, and it doesn’t magically give me the motivation to do things I didn’t want to do in the first place, but it reminds me of the bare minimum.  And some days, we can all take pride in doing the bare minimum since even that is an insurmountable difficulty in a busy life and a busy world.  On days when I do more than what I write in my calendar … well, let’s just say that I’m not above keeping a chocolate stash in my desk drawer to celebrate.

Whether it’s buying a planner or tracking down an accountability partner, take some time to figure out your best fit when it comes to setting––and keeping––deadlines.  We may or may not like ’em, but we definitely can’t avoid living among them.  In the wild moors of self-publishing, singing with the echoes of a dream-laden wind, we call the shots.  Every.  Single. One.


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

Marketing BASICS : Investing in a Little Advice

Your book isn’t just a product, as neat and simple as that might seem to make things when it comes to marketing; it’s much, much more.  It is, in every way and shape and form, an investment.

  • you have already invested valuable time, energy, and other resources in writing it; and
  • you will continue to invest valuable time, energy, and other resources in marketing it.

More importantly, however, you should constantly monitor how you are spending these resources in respect to spreading the word and promoting it to fans and followers and readers alike.  In a impossibly cool and detached financial sense, you need to know when you’re spending more on your book than you should be––and then be prepared to take action.  (Though, let’s face it, who of us is ever cool and detached about our precious offspring of the imagination?  Not I.)  The Return on Investment (ROI) of your book should always reflect a balanced approach and a sustainable increase of returns.


 

Welcome back to my series on marketing B.A.S.I.C.S.!  This is the fifth in a series of blog posts where I tackle the fundamentals of marketing in hopes of making things a little more manageable for you, the self-publishing author.  Four weeks ago I launched the series with this introductory post, followed by:

This week, as you might have guessed, we’re taking a look at:

  • I. “Investing in a Little Advice.”

So, what happens when your investment isn’t paying off?

First off, I’d like to remind you that no matter what profit you make off of your book in financial terms, it’s an absolutely fantastic thing that you’ve done!  You’ve written a book!  You’ve published it!  You’ve sent it out into the world for others to be changed by!

Secondly, I’d like to clear up a myth about self-publishing: you don’t have to go through it alone.  Let me phrase it a little differently:

There’s nothing wrong with asking for help.

I wish I had known this sooner––I wish I’d felt convicted of the truth of this sooner.  I’ll be the first to admit that one of the greatest appeals to me of self-publishing is that it provides a platform to and a haven for the fierce individualist, exactly the sort of person to incur the wrath of Traditional Publishing for wanting too much artistic control, among other things.  But the truth of the matter is that self-publishing is for everyone, including the insecure first-time author, including the burnt-out and disillusioned veteran author, including the technologically-challenged author, including the risk-averse author, including authors who find themselves at the end of the rope and in desperate need of assistance.

The indie community isn’t just a community of self-assured and confident entrepreneurs; we’re far more diverse than that.  And the indie community is a remarkably non-judgmental, unsnobby collection of people, in possession of vast and varied resources and an overwhelmingly supportive, generous spirit.  I promise you, if you hop on to a forum or listserv or social media group dedicated to indie authors and pose a question, you will be inundated with advice and shared resources.

Of course, sometimes what you really need is targeted advice.  If you have been posting promotional material to a blog or social media platform for a long time with very little engagement, or if you’ve been spending hours upon hours obsessing over marketing only to sell very few books, it’s time you sought professional advice.  But where to begin?  Even just a quick Google search for “Consultant for self-publishing a book” turns up “About 7,330,000 results,” which says a lot about the growth in this sector of the publishing industry––even once Google’s many duplicates, oblique references, outdated listings, and other “wrong” search results are set aside.  Seven million results!

There are a lot of marketing consultation websites out there geared toward you, the self-publishing author, ranging from freelance consultants (including many who’ve transitioned from being publishing consultants within Traditional Publishing) to personal marketing assistants with hybrid/self-publishing companies.  Freelance consultants can be excellent, but it’s difficult to know which ones have the know-how you need.  The benefit of going through a hybrid/self-publishing company is that every consultant has been vetted for expertise, experience, and the quality of their insight.  That’s a pedigree worth exploring.

marketing consultant

No illusions here: when it comes to seeking professional advices on marketing your book, you’ll have to spend some money.  Remember how I spoke about your book as an investment?  So too any money you spend on marketing is the same.  The only difference is, exchanging money to save yourself the time and energy and frustration of sorting out all the details on your own is what we might call a “fair market value.”  It’s worth it, in other words, to see your book’s future set on a solid foundation and to use your time far more effectively in writing the next book.


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

How Much Do Self-Published Authors Make Per Year?

You want to become a self-published author, but you also have bills to pay and a lifestyle to maintain. So you pull up Google (or your search engine of choice), and search for “average income for book authors” or “average income for self-published authors”. You skim the results but can’t find any solid statistics. There’s a good reason why. Ready for it? Authors aren’t paid a salary. They earn royalties based on the sales of their book. These royalties are paid to them on a set schedule – usually provided that they meet the agreed upon “minimum earning threshold”.

So, will I be able to pay my bills if I become a self-published author? That’s an excellent question. Unfortunately, there is no “one size fits all” answer to it. When you publish a book, you are essentially taking a “gamble” on yourself. Many authors keep their day jobs until they are able to earn enough to support themselves on their book sales alone. One dedicated Outskirts Press author made $100,000 in only 180 days (6 months). However, there are some authors who don’t earn anywhere near this amount in a year. Furthermore, there are some authors who may not sell even one book over the course of a year.

How do you know where you fall? Self-publishing is all about investing in yourself. Given that successfully publishing a book involves 20% writing and 80% marketing, you should naturally spend most of your time/money on promoting the book after you write it. If you need help, you may consider enlisting the services of a book marketing consultant.

The income of a self-publishing author is 100% in their own hands. No one can “predict” how much you will earn as that is only a result of two things:  the quality of your book and substantial effort in marketing it to the right audience.

What level of success have you seen as a self-published (or traditionally-published) author? Have you been able to maintain your lifestyle on royalties alone? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below…

Self-Publishing Authors Can Get Their Books on the Shelves of “Traditional” Bookstores

Even with the recent changes in the book publishing industry, a “traditional” bookstore presence should still be a goal for authors who want this. Why? Well, with this presence, authors are able to target an audience that is passionate about books. Think about it — people have to leave behind the comforts of their own home to go into a bookstore. Most likely they are there to purchase a book. If your book is on the shelf, yours may just have a chance at being the book they buy.

How can you work toward getting your book into that bookstore, though? Is it a matter of luck? Can self-publishing authors make the cut? The good news is that even if you’re not necessarily on a “lucky streak”, it’s still possible to successfully target placement in “traditional” bookstores. However, you must have a solid plan in place for doing so. Here are a few action items to put on your list as you get started:

  • Make sure your book is fully returnable. If your book cannot be returned, there is great risk involved for the bookstore. For example, if they stock 10 copies of your book and only 4 sell over the course of a year, they are losing money. If the book is returnable, though, the store can simply send the book back that doesn’t sell. Think of this return-ability as a type of “insurance” for your book.
  • Offer a sufficient trade discount. What’s sufficient? Typically that will be around 50-55% (or higher). Of course this does cut into your profits, but a higher retail margin gives the bookstore more incentive to stock your book on their shelves. No incentive? No cigar.
  • Build proof that your book is desirable. This is probably the most difficult (though not insurmountable) part of it all because authors often have a bias view of their book. However, the best indicator of a desirable book is exponential sales figures. If the amount of books you sale doubles, triples, quadruples, etc. month-after-month, that is something that can work in your favor. If you aren’t a professional marketer, you may want to seek the services of a book marketing consultant. Make sure they are able to help you draft a marketing plan and go forth on planning your publicity.

After you’ve done all of the above, you must put together a proposal to submit to bookstore contacts. You can find others specifically on their websites, but Barnes & Noble can be reached here:

The Small Press Department
Barnes & Noble
122 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10011

Other bookstores can be found through Google. Another popular site for locating independent bookstores is Indie Bound.

Do you know of any other bookstores that are small press/self-published friendly?

ABOUT WENDY STETINA:
Wendy Stetina is a sales and marketing professional with over 30 years experience in the printing and publishing industry. Wendy works as the Director of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants; and together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction, or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Wendy Stetina can put you on the right path.