Tag: writing (page 1 of 2)

Why I’ve Become a Hybrid

This article was originally posted on Kim Rempel’s blog on March 31, 2017 under the title

What 16 Publishing Contracts Taught Me About Ego, Publishing, and Making Money as a Hybrid Author-Preneur

I used to think finding an agent and securing a traditional publishing deal was the pinnacle of writing success. It would prove I was legit. I’d finally be able to call myself a writer without feeling like a fraud.

Since my first book came out in 2009, however, my thinking has changed. I’ve signed sixteen traditional contracts, had an agent, said good-bye to that agent, used a vanity press twice, and self-published using both Createspace and Lightning Source. I’m a hybrid – a new breed of writer trying to use the best from both worlds.

The Truth About Traditional Publishing

Before we go any further, I should set the record straight about what some of these terms actually mean. Traditional publishers do not charge any kind of fee. Period. These can be big New York firms or small boutique houses, but there is no cost to the author in a traditional contract. Instead, the writer gets paid for their work, through an advance, through royalties on books sold, or both.

There are still many pros to traditional publishing. Besides the assurance (most of the time) of a quality product, one’s books have access to the company’s distribution channels. There are none of the headaches of managing all the production and bookkeeping responsibilities. However, there are some serious downsides, too. Authors have minimal control over their own work. There can be restrictions on the cover, launch date, and promotions. Less of the profit goes to the author since he or she is also fueling the larger machine of the publishing company.

Don’t Make These Newbie Publishing Mistakes

I’ve had a few less than stellar experiences with books that were traditionally published. My first book deal was for my book, And The Beat Goes On. I later learned that this particular publisher also charged for services (a vanity press), but in my case there was no charge of any kind. I worked with multiple editors, cover designers, proofers, etc. I didn’t know much about contracts, so I signed a seven-year deal for a 6% royalty on the cost price. The book originally came out in hardcover and sold for $30. Since my royalty was on the cost price, not the list price, I ended up making about $.87 per book. Even if you’re not a mathematician, you can see that I would have to sell a lot of books to make any money! However, I was just thrilled to have signed a real book deal and I was naïve enough to think that my books would suddenly start flying off the shelves.

I had a rude awakening when I realized I was still expected to do much of my own marketing. As well, my hands were tied when it came to giveaways, pricing, or sales. Add to that, the fact that I could not make any changes of any kind for seven long years since I no longer had the rights to my own work.

Here’s another story about my agent. I will not name him here, but he was a very nice man, and again, when he agreed to represent me I was thrilled, thinking I’d finally arrived. (This was a few years after that first book deal.) The first contract he found me was for my book, Wind Over Marshdale, with a small ‘boutique’ publishing house. The deal was for a much more substantial royalty, but remember, he was entitled to a 15% cut of whatever royalties I made. After hearing from readers who wanted a sequel, I decided to write a novella length story called Lone Wolf, which basically answered the question on everyone’s mind, “What happened to Thomas?” My agent felt that pitching a novella, even to the same publisher, wasn’t a smart move. I asked him if I could pitch it myself and he said, “Go ahead.” (In my case, my agent had first rights to any subsequent work I might produce.) I pitched it to the same publisher and they wanted the book, so I signed with them without my agent – meaning more royalties for me!

The story doesn’t end there, however. He had in his possession another of my manuscripts called, Three Strand Cord. He was busy pitching it to various large houses with no success. Again I suggested trying the same boutique publisher, but he didn’t feel that the royalties or distribution channels would produce a high enough return to make it worthwhile. In the meantime, that manuscript was floating around from publisher to publisher for more than a year, totally out of my control. Finally, after much prayer and a few emails, we decided that it would be best if we parted ways. It was a very amicable parting and I have nothing against him. He did his best for me, but I was beginning to realize that the bureaucracy of the traditional system, with all its gates and red tape, was not something I was interested in pursuing anymore.

A Warning on Self-Publishing

One of the biggest issues with the modern era of self-publishing is the glut of poor quality books out there. I’m not, by any means, saying all self-published books are poor quality. On the contrary, modern author-preneurs are becoming savvy marketers. Part of that means realizing that substandard quality may begood enough for the first book, but it will not sell future books. It’s worth the investment to outsource such things as editing and cover design.

 The Freedom of Hybrid Publishing

Authors no longer have to be bound by seven-year contracts or agent’s wishes. We have the means to take control of our own writing careers and maybe even make some money at it. While I’ve signed a fair number of traditional deals, I’ve also seen the wisdom in learning the ropes of self-publishing using Createspace and Lightning Source, two of the most well know DIY platforms.

I don’t plan to self-publish exclusively, though. All of my stage-plays have been published traditionally in the US and I do quite well on the performance royalties. In this case, these publishers have a reach I could never hope to duplicate. It wouldn’t make sense to re-publish them myself, since I would stand to lose significantly.

Similarly, at this time, I am not planning to get the rights back for a couple of my other books. Clean Reads, (formerly Astraea Press) a small press who published both Wind Over Marshdale and Lone Wolf, treats their authors very well. I’ve made some wonderful connections, and have been involved in some amazing promotional opportunities with them. Why would I want to leave?

There is no one answer, just as there is no ‘one way’ to get published. The advantages of being a hybrid are many. And a growing number of high profile authors are now also going the indie route. They’ve made a name for themselves via the traditional route, but now find they have more flexibility and control over their own work.

There’s nothing wrong with doing both; there is value and validity to each method. It is up to individual writers to choose what path makes most sense in any particular situation. Like never before, writers have truly become the authors of their own destiny.

 

Reviews – How Much Trust Can You Put In them?

Read any good books lately?

I discussed the quandary of book reviews in a previous post awhile back. The bottom line is this. Not everyone is going to like what I, or any other author, has written. There are books that I don’t care for that have lots of positive reviews on Amazon and elsewhere. The fact that I didn’t like them simply means that we have different tastes in reading material.

I don’t think many readers understand the impact of reviews, however. For some, it just seems like too much bother to write and post a review on Amazon, goodreads, or other places and I’m sure many readers feel like their two cents really won’t make that much difference. Think again. Reviews have a huge impact on both ranking and rating, not to mention the fact that they help other readers choose what to read next. If you are one of the people who have read a good book but have not bothered to write a review, may I implore you to take ten minutes and post one. It doesn’t have to be long, just honest.

Which brings me to another point. Honesty is all important when it comes to reviews so in a way I am glad to have a few less than stellar ones. It shows that I am not paying or otherwise coercing anyone into writing a positive review.

Rather than dwell on the negative, I try to focus on the positive feedback I’ve received. Precious to me are the hand written notes I’ve gotten in the mail from both family and friends, but also from complete strangers. One elderly woman wrote to say she really enjoyed my book AND THE BEAT FOES ON, and although she didn’t know how to write an online review, she wanted me to know how much she felt the story impacted her. She said she was planning to pass it on to others.

Another reader contacted me through facebook and expressed how she loved PLAY IT AGAIN. She said it made her feel like she was back in the 80s and mirrored some of her own experiences. My daughter lent a copy of MY MOTHER THE MAN-EATER to a colleague and after reading it, she wanted a copy for herself and for her sister-in-law. She said the ‘realism’ of Joleen’s struggles really hit home for her. She felt that her sister-in-law, a non-Christian, might respond well to the message of redemption and grace because of her own checkered past.WIND OVER MARSHDALE has had more than one similar remark from readers, either on facebook, via email, or verbally.

To my knowledge, none of these people bothered to write a review on Amazon, but the fact that they contacted me personally perhaps says even more. I can’t think of the last time I contacted an author to tell them I enjoyed a book, even though I regularly write and post reviews on Amazon and elsewhere. Sometimes the personal touch is so much more validating.

In the end, I have decided to leave reader response in God’s hands. There is always a risk – quite a substantial one, I might add – that someone who reads and dislikes a book I’ve written will write a nasty review. It happens. Honesty is the best policy, after all. Knowing that even one person was affected in a positive way is enough for me to want to persevere.

To leave a review visit my Amazon Author page or my goodreads author page

The Dreaded One Star Review

One star reviews. Nobody likes them, least of all an author. When someone – usually a stranger – expresses their less than enthusiastic opinion about something I’ve written, it hurts. I’m not going to lie and pretend that it doesn’t. The good news is, experts say a few less than stellar reviews actually add credibility to one’s author platform, since nobody can appeal to everyone.

I get it when a person just doesn’t like a book. There can be many reasons for this. However, the ones that I find most irritating are those that say something like, “This is just too religious for me.” Duh! Did you read the blurb? Did it mention that this is a work of ‘Christian fiction‘? What about the keywords and tags? If the word faith, Christian, or inspirational is in there, chances are it will have those elements.

Somewhat more problematic, however, are those that are expecting a squeaky clean Christian read and find that my work may be a bit edgier than they had anticipated. A case in point is my NEIGHBOURS Series.  ‘A Contemporary Christian Romance’ is right there in the subtitle, but several readers found it was not Christian enough for their liking.

I have since added a ‘warning’ label to the product description and I’ve made sure to include it on all future descriptions, especially as the sequel to NEIGHBOURS – KEEPING UP WITH THE NEIGHBOURHOOD – is currently being released. (Thanks to Beta reader, Violet, for making this suggestion.) Here it is:

NOTE TO READERS: Although this series is categorized as ‘Christian fiction’  and has a strong redemptive message toward the end, there may be events that some Christians find troubling, such as the use of alcohol and references to sexual activity, although this always takes place ‘off camera’.

In the end, I must content myself with the fact that many readers have given me positive feedback about the series, and even asked (repeatedly!) for the sequel. Unfortunately, not all of these readers like leaving reviews on Amazon.com or goodreads.com – the too most sought after places for reviews. Perhaps they don’t understand the huge impact that reviews actually have on a book’s sales. (Even though I’ve mentioned it a time or two!)

Here is my final appeal to any readers out there. If you read a book and like it, take a few minutes to leave a review. It means A LOT – probably more than you realize.

Having said that, if you’ve read any of MY books and liked them – please leave a review. ( I said please!) I would especially appreciate a few more positive reviews to balance the negative ones on the first volume of NEIGHBOURS. Things like ‘This is too short” or “It ended too abruptly. It needs a sequel” kind of missed the point…   (It’s a novella and it’s supposed to end abruptly like a TV episode so that readers come back for the next part.) I could use a few more ‘thumbs up’ to boost its creds. *smile*

New In the Neighbourhood Volume 1
Neighbours Series 1 Complete

 

Also, don’t forget that the sequel KEEPING UP WITH THE NEIGHBOURS is currently being released in instalments! Here is the line up:

Vol 1 – Neighbourhood Tangle – JED

Vol 2 – Neighbourhood Watch – BO

Vol 3 – Neighbourhood Rebel – REBA

Vol 4 – Neighbourhood Upstart – PIP

Vol 5 – Neighbourhood Freedom – WILL

Vol 6 – Neighbourhood Cupid – ZEB

 

 

Accountability Progress Report

If I was in business, I would say that the first quarter of 2017 has come and gone. In fact, we’re two weeks into the second quarter. But wait… I AM in business. I’m a writer, and I set some pretty lofty goals for myself at the beginning of this year. In fact, my ‘word’ for 2017 is ACCOUNTABILITY, so this post is one way of maintaining that focus one quarter in.

While I’m not one hundred percent up to the mark with all of my writing and publishing goals, I feel like I am making very good progress. In fact, you may already know that Volume 1 in the NEIGHBOURS sequel released on Saturday.

NEIGHBOURHOOD TANGLE – Volume 1 – JED is now available on Amazon. It is the first novella length instalment in the continuing series. (There are seven in all) I shared the blurb in a previous post 

Here is how the rest of the series is shaping up:

NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH – Volume 2 – BO – release date April 30

NEIGHBOURHOOD REBEL – Volume 3 – REBA – release date  May 15

NEIGHBOURHOOD UPSTART – Volume 4 – PIP  – release date May 30

NEIGHBOURHOOD FREEDOM – Volume 5 – WILL – release date June 15

NEIGHBOURHOOD CUPID – Volume 6 – ZEB – release date June 30

NEIGHBOURHOOD WRAP  – Volume 7 – FINALE – July 15

KEEPING UP WITH THE NEIGHBOURS COMPLETE SERIES 2 – release date July 30 (paperback and ebook)

Please stay tuned for more details on the final launch. I am releasing each novella separately, but hope to make the final book launch of the complete series a bit more ‘splashy’.

 

How I Spent My Spring Break – WorDshops!

Steinbach

It was a whirlwind WorDshop tour this past few weeks, with three stops on my schedule. First up, the Steinbach, MB event where I was hosted by the wonderful Barbara Ann Derksen – an amazing mystery writer in her own right. I was the keynote presenter with two sessions on the ‘Call to Authenticity’. I also did a workshop on a marketing model I’ve put together which I call ‘Get Your Platform Moving’ and author Celesta Theissen did a session called “How to Overcome ‘I Can’t'”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Regina

The next weekend I attended the Regina, SK WorDshop and did some ‘light duties’ as Inscribe’s VP. I also sat on a panel about ‘Time Management’. There were several awesome sessions by Janice Dick, Sharon Plumb, Alison Lohans, and Sally Meadows.

 

Fast forward another week and it was off to Blackfalds, AB to another WorDshop event with organizer Marcia Laycock who gave some profound keynote addresses along  with poet Susan Plett, who led us in some free writing. It was a deep day with lots to reflect on later… (And I had the privilege of teaching a session on blogging.)

it was a fantastic two weeks of learning,  sharing and re-connecting with other writers. But alas… it is back to reality today and my ‘day job’ teaching – which isn’t so bad since I like what I do!

Plus, I’m looking forward to one more WorDshop in May in Fort St. John, BC.

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