Category Archives: E-Publishing

Lengthening Shelf Life Part 2

Last week I wrote about promotional options for older books and factors to think about before launching a promotion, based on an article I’d read in the June 2017 issue of The Writer by Brian Feinblum entitled “Shelf Life: How to Promote an Older Book.” This week, it’s time for me to look at my strategy compared with what Feinblum suggests in his article.

Updating the Book

Feinblum spends a lot of time in his article on this option. Updating means taking the book off sale first, then doing revisions, changing the cover and/or cover copy, changing the price, among other possible changes. If there’s significant revisions to the text, the updated edition could qualify for its own ISBN and its own publication launch. Updating also includes publishing other editions such as an audiobook.

As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, my goal is to publish a paperback edition of Perceval’s Secret. I’ve been considering what I’d need to do to accomplish this goal once I’ve paid off my debt. First, I’d need to format the book for paperback publication. I’d probably return to the people who formatted my manuscript for the e-book. I’d need to return to my cover designer and request a full cover, i.e. front, spine, and back. I’d need to write the back cover copy, including any positive blurbs from existing reviews. I already have an ISBN for a paperback edition. Finally, I’d need to choose where/how to publish the paperback. Right now, CreateSpace is at the top of my list, but I’d want to research other possibilities.

While updating a book or publishing a different edition would provide the opportunity for another launch, there is a cost associated – I have yet to do a cost estimate for each step – as well as a time cost.

 Write a Spin-off Version

This option requires writing another book. While this is a good idea, it has the same costs in time and money that updating the book has. I’ve played around with writing a novel in which Bernie Brown is the protagonist – maybe a prequel type novel – or a novel that explores the relationship between Evan’s father, Randall, and Evan’s mentor, the composer Joseph Caine. For the moment, however, I need to focus on finishing the remaining novels in the Perceval series first. It’s possible that getting the second and third books out into the world will help sell the first.

 Sell Foreign Rights

Actually selling foreign rights, film rights, audio book rights, or any of the other rights I own for Perceval’s Secret could give the book a boost in attention and sales. Feinblum suggests it could be easier to sell in smaller countries or just other countries. If it becomes a bestseller in another country, that could be an effective selling point for the book in America. There is a logistical issue with this option – I don’t have the connections necessary to sell foreign or any other rights. I suppose if I had a literary agent, he or she could assist with this, but I don’t have one at the moment.

 Tie the Book to Current Events

I have been utilizing this option as much as possible, especially at the Perceval Novels Facebook page where I post news stories and then comment on how Perceval’s Secret is related. I’ve also written posts at this blog tying the novel to current events. It’s been kind of spooky at times that political events or trends that I had imagined for my America 2048 have been happening.

Why would a stranger care about this book?

This ultimately is the question every writer needs to be able to answer for marketing and promotion. What is the primary benefit of this “product” for the consumer? For Perceval’s Secret, the reasons for a stranger to care about this book would include an imaginative view of the near future, an interesting and different setting in the world of classical music, suspense, twisty surprises, and a story that will stick to your bones.

 Here are My Resources that offer opportunities for free promotion:

  • Facebook Page
  • Anatomy of Perceval Blog
  • LinkedIn
  • GoodReads: encourage followers
  • Amazon Author Page
  • BookBub Author Page and promotions related to it
  • Publishers Marketplace
  • Book Reviews
  • Gina Hunter’s Blog: Eyes on Life

 My next task is to take my resources and develop a promotions plan using them. Then to implement the plan over the next 2-3 months.  I’ve already signed up for a promotion at BookBub to increase my followers there to get some attention.

It’s been a very helpful exercise to go through Brian Feinblum’s article and ask myself how his ideas and suggestions relate to my promotion efforts for Perceval’s Secret. I hope my exercise has given you thoughts and ideas for your own promotion efforts!

 

 

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Lengthening Shelf Life Part 1

Brian Feinblum, a book promoter and marketer, asked in the June 2017 issue of The Writer, “What can – or should – you do to market books that are aging in the eyes of bookstores, the media, and readers?”

Lately, I’ve been fretting about my struggle to promote and market Perceval’s Secret which I published as an e-book in March 2014. The novel’s fourth anniversary as a published book fast approaches.  I’d love to give it a boost to get it into the reading public’s consciousness to encourage them to buy and read it.

Feinblum, in his The Writer article “Shelf Life: How to promote an older book,” writes about how a book’s “window of newness” has been shrinking over the years. If it doesn’t make a big splash in the first three months it’s on the market, selling it after that could be a struggle. But fiction usually does not lose its relevance, accuracy or current status for a long time, while nonfiction could become dated faster depending on the subject matter. Fiction should be easier to promote after the magic three-month period, right?

Promotional Options for “Older” Books

It’s important to know what the possibilities for promotion for an older book are just like for a new book launch. Feinblum describes them as follows:

  • Let the book die and hope for a miracle that someone finds it, reads it, and sparks a word-of-mouth campaign that will boost sales. I call this the “wishful thinking” option. However, if a writer has constraints on time, it could be just as viable as fitting in promotional activities in a busy life.
  • Create and execute a social media strategy. This option demands the writer be on more than one social media platform, and that there is daily participation on those platforms to talk about the book. I’m assuming that a writer’s blog falls into this slot, along with online book bloggers who review books.
  • Target promotional efforts using traditional media, like print, radio, TV. Interviews on radio programs that cover books, book review sections of major newspapers and magazines, or doing interviews on morning news programs be they local or national are some of the possibilities here. Some of these activities could be done in conjunction with a book tour or locally. Having a publicist could be extremely helpful for this category; otherwise, the writer will be doing all the press releases, making the calls and connections, and setting up the engagements.
  • Travel for the book, i.e. do a speaking tour, paid or unpaid. Book tours require careful planning, utilizing connections in book stores and libraries, and getting the word out about a writer’s visit via press release. It’s helpful if the writer can also help with promoting locally his or her appearance in the bookstore’s location by doing interviews or helping with advertising the event.
  • Advertise the book. Print advertising, for example, in publications that the novel’s target audience reads. I continue to consider running ads in Playbill for Perceval’s Secret. This option has a huge drawback: it can be quite expensive not only for buying the media space, but also for producing the ads. Writers can also utilize social media for advertising, working with the platform to create the ads. When I launched Perceval’s Secret, I did a postcard mailing to the musicians of eleven major American orchestras, and would consider another one.
  • Cross-promote with other authors. This is especially helpful if you know a writer who is fairly well known and has a readership, and who writes in the same genre and related genre as you. The better known writer can spark initial interest and give the lesser known writer a bit of a boost. I’ve heard of this most commonly done for book tours when two or more authors hit the road to do readings and book signings together.
  • Have a giveaway. Everyone loves free stuff. Do a free giveaway for a couple weeks and promote that giveaway at GoodReads, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media, as well as on your blog. Keep it a specific time period to generate urgency. If you have a hard copy version of your book, you can do a giveaway on GoodReads (this site is working on setting up procedures for e-book giveaways but don’t yet offer that option). If you have the money, BookBub also offers effective promotion possibilities.

Before deciding which promotional options will work for your book, it’s important to think about the factors listed below, and this is where I am at the moment with Perceval’s Secret. I’ve looked at all my options and have done some cost estimates – for example, to advertise on Facebook or promote the series’ Facebook page, to do a BookBub promotion – then made a list of where I can heighten my presence to talk about the novel, for example, creating a series of short videos to post at my Amazon author page, on BookBub, at GoodReads, and at my page on Publishers Marketplace. These videos, as I envision them, would be a mix of reading a short excerpt from Perceval’s Secret and just talking about my experience writing the book or why I think someone should read it.

The Factors to Think About

  • What are your needs and desires for promoting the book?
  • How much time and what resources (money) do you have available?
  • How strong is your belief that your book is worth more promotion?
  • Would your time be better served by letting promotion go of this book and focus on writing new books?
  • Have you figured out why your book didn’t sell as well as hoped during launch or why it failed to generate more reviews?

Answers to these questions could steer you in one of two directions. The first is simply to proceed with the new promotional efforts.  The second could be to revise and repackage the book and do a re-launch. This second direction offers the opportunity to make improvements if you decide they are needed or to add promotional items like testimonials from readers, quotes from reviews, or getting blurbs or a writer to actually write an introduction. I know that I want to eventually issue a paperback of Perceval’s Secret once I’ve paid off completely the debt I incurred for the e-book. This might serve as my repackage of the novel with a specific paperback launch. But for now, I’m concerned about promoting the e-book edition.

Next week in Part 2, how my strategy does or doesn’t fit with what Feinblum wrote in his article in the June 2017 The Writer.

Have you ever been faced with promoting an older book? What did you do?  

Ready? Set? Go!

Being a Creative Writer in 2017

Yesterday, while cleaning out e-mail, I ran across several Funds for Writers newsletters I hadn’t yet gone through. One contained a brief musing from Hope Clark on “How to Make Time for Writing.” What really caught my eye were these 2 sentences: “When someone thinks writing is about squeezing it into an already busy schedule, they’ve already discounted it (the writing). Instead, writing ought to simply be more important than something they are already doing, and they stop doing that other thing because it just makes sense.”  To which I thought, “Clearly, Hope Clark doesn’t need to work to pay the bills like most writers in 2017.” Usually that “something they are already doing” is a fulltime job because writing doesn’t pay the bills.

Clark goes on to say: “Fulltime money means fulltime writing, and even so, fulltime writers struggle making enough income to live on.” I’ve been a fulltime writer. Most years I made $0 income from writing and lived off my retirement savings while I continued to write and seek out paying markets. The reality is that getting paid for writing, especially writing fiction, is a tremendous struggle nowadays, and I suspect it always has been. But you can write for free all you want on the internet of course, and websites will welcome your writing.

If you are a writer with a fulltime job to pay the bills like me, you know what I’m talking about. I’m fortunate if I can get an hour a day for writing, and afternoons on the weekends. That’s for the writing and research for writing. That doesn’t include marketing for Perceval’s Secret or promotion for it, networking for shorter pieces like essays and short stories, or reading.  I’m fortunate to have a commute of about 40 minutes in the mornings and 60 minutes in the evenings, so I’m able to read on the bus. If I didn’t have that commuting time, I’d not be reading either. I’ve thought of writing on the bus, but handwriting is hard because of the stops and starts, and bringing my laptop on the bus when I don’t use it at work ends up being too heavy and too much, and too much of a risk it’ll be damaged or stolen.

So, it’s fine to dream about writing fulltime, make money with your writing, and maybe even having a substantial readership someday. To get there you need not only hard work but time in which to do that hard work. Being a creative writer in 2017 means that you will be expected to do everything yourself: writing, publishing, marketing, promotion, and perhaps even distribution although Amazon has made distribution much easier as well as other online sites. And going into debt to do it all.

If you choose to go the traditional publishing route, you’ll need to secure representation from a literary agent which means research, writing query letters, sending query e-mails, and repeat. You could also research publishers to find out which ones publish your genre and accept unagented manuscripts. If you get an agent, then that agent starts shopping your manuscript around. Chances are, you’ll be asked to do more revision work on it as well. Let’s say your agent lands a publishing deal for you. The publisher’s editor now takes over your manuscript, perhaps will request more revision work. Writers working for the first time with a publisher won’t generally be given any say in the title of the book, the cover, and production decisions like font. You will be expected though by the publisher to market and promote the hell out of your book because the publisher won’t. But you won’t have to set up distribution yourself.

This is the reality of being a creative writer in 2017. And in my humble opinion, it’s perfectly OK to squeeze in writing in my busy schedule whenever I can because I need to write, I need to market my writing, and I need to keep writing. That is not discounting writing at all. I’m saying it’s important and as much a part of my life as the job I have to pay the bills.

Do you squeeze writing into your busy schedules? How do you do it? Do you think that’s discounting your writing?

 

 

 

The Cost of Being Independent

The May 2017 issue of The Writer is chock full of helpful and interesting articles! Since I’m working to pay off debt incurred from e-publishing Perceval’s Secret, I was particularly interested in the article, “Going Rogue: Is Self-publishing right for you?” In this article, Kerrie Flanagan compares the traditional publishing model and the self-publishing/independent model, covering all aspects of production, publication, marketing/promotion, and distribution. I recommend this article highly, highly, highly — especially for anyone who believes it doesn’t cost much at all to self-publish.

It depends, of course, on what you want. If you just want to publish an e-book, your costs may not be that high compared to a paperback or hardcover.  I took the advice and suggestions of others, some were writers I knew who’d been successful with self-publishing, and made certain that I found a good-to-excellent editor and a collaborative cover designer for my e-book. Editors can be expensive, anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000 depending on what you want and who it is. Shop around, but also shop local if you can. I’m fortunate to live in a literary urban area full of colleges and writing resources. The cover design for me was actually the least expensive cost. I went with a designer who’d done a friend’s book covers. There are writers who are talented in design also, and they can design their own covers, saving money there.

My next expense was to turn my Word document into ePub and Mobi files for Kindle and other e-readers.  For me, this was a painful learning experience. Fortunately, I found an excellent and very patient formatting company, BookNook.biz. Because I had not cleared my Word document of all icky formatting glitches, and Word is notorious for them, there were all sorts of issues with the electronic formatting that cost me more to fix than it would have if I’d cleared the Word document at the beginning. I didn’t know. I paid for my ignorance.  It won’t happen again.  Some writers know a lot about formatting or aren’t scared off by the conversion process. They will save some bucks by doing the conversion themselves.

Flanagan doesn’t go into the cost of ISBN numbers, registering your novel with the US Copyright Office, and marketing/promotion costs.  The last can cost you significantly more than producing the book, depending on what you want, of course.  I worked in advertising at one point in my life and know a bit about marketing.  The most important thing about marketing that you need to know is that unless you are famous or have an irresistible platform, it’s going to be very difficult making yourself heard in the cacophony of promotion at any given moment. In the US, at least 50,000 books are published every year. You’ll be competing with all of them for readers’ attention and hard-earned money. Adjust your expectations for sales accordingly.

With traditional publishing, the writer has no up front costs as with self or independent publishing. The writer also doesn’t have the control that she has as an independent publisher. Traditional publishers take over all the production, with some limited input from the writer about covers, titles, and then proofing galleys. They will also provide very limited marketing and promotion, but are honest with writers that they depend on them for the bulk of this work. It can take up to 2 years for a traditional publisher to publish your book.  If you do it yourself, it can be done in 3-6 months. Perceval’s Secret took 8 months because I slowed the editing and revision process at the beginning.

Photo: aliyasking.com

There is one important thing that traditional publishers (and literary agents) do that writers cannot really do on their own. That is: tell a writer if a book is in publishable shape or not. Even before I contracted to work with my last editor, I’d already been through several edits including a really close line edit. I knew that there would be no major changes or issues for that last edit. There was polishing, however, and that is an important process also. In the last few years, I’ve been asked to read self-published books on occasion. I love helping out a fellow writer, especially if a book is truly worth the attention my review might be able to get for it.  But in all cases, the books were in such terrible shape with grammar, language, sentence and paragraph construction, narrative structure, and in one case, checking facts,  I was shocked. How could a writer allow their work to be published like that? So I’d caution anyone thinking of going the self-publishing route to be absolutely certain that their writing is the best it can be, and do not depend on self-publishing services to provide competent editing for you.  Find your own professional editor.

As I mentioned at the top, I’m still paying off the debt I incurred for publishing Perceval’s Secret in digital form.  I’m coming up on the end of the promotional period on July 1 for the 0% interest rate from the credit card I transferred the debt to (it was originally on another credit card with high interest). I set up a GoFundMe project to raise the funds to pay off this debt, so if you’d like to help out, every $10 or $20 will be a big help. It’d be great if I could raise another $600 in the next couple weeks.  The GoFundMe page is here.  Thank you!  Or please buy Perceval’s Secret at Amazon or B&N, and leave a review there after you’ve read it.

Taking Perceval to the Next Step GoFundMe Page

The Copyright Conversation

copyright symbol

Recently, I attended a potluck picnic of a bunch of friends, and at one point the conversation turned to the length of time that copyright is in effect for creative product such as novels, TV shows, and movies.  It began with one friend telling us about some new Star Trek fan videos that included some actors noted for their Star Trek characters like Walter Koenig who played Chekhov.  Paramount Studios, the TV and motion picture company that bought Desilu Productions, the original producing company for the show, had taken legal steps to stop any more fan videos from being produced.  Paramount owns the Star Trek franchise, and the copyright, which began with the original series in 1966.  Several friends jumped on Paramount for stopping fan creativity and fans using their creativity to “move the Star Trek universe forward.”

Paramount has the right to earn money by selling its product whether it’s a TV show, a movie, or licensing the rights to develop new TV shows based on the characters of an old one they own. They are in the process of developing and producing a new Star Trek TV show with CBS.  They have a new Star Trek movie coming out this July. It’s not like they aren’t using their property.  Since the original show was copyrighted in 1966 (I think), it’s been only 50 years, and far less from the other shows in the franchise like Star Trek: The Next Generation.  The pro-fan fiction friends wanted copyright to end much earlier than it does and for property like the Star Trek franchise to enter the public domain much sooner.  They weren’t against the protections that copyright offers, just that those protections last too long, in their view.  One fellow suggested that others could use the original work to “build on” with their own creations.

CCY_PercevalsSecretCvr_FNL-960x1280.131107As a writer who owns copyright on my writing, including Perceval’s Secret, I was horrified. I periodically do a search of the internet to make certain that my creative product has not been scavenged and sold to benefit someone else. And by scavenged, I mean sold as someone else’s work, with a different author name, etc.  It astonishes me how many people (especially those not involved in producing creative product like writing, composing music, painting, etc.) think that writers, composers, photographers, producers, etc. should not be able to benefit from creating their novels, music, photos, TV shows and movies, etc. for the current copyright period of life plus 50 years.  One fellow commented that well then a writer should write more books.  Hmmmmm.

Let’s review current copyright law which went into effect in 1978.  For works created and copyrighted before January 1, 1978, copyright protection has two terms.  The first term is in effect from the date the copyright is secured (by publication or registration) and for 28 years thereafter.  In the 28th year, the copyright may be renewed for a second term which has a duration of 47 years.  If not renewed, the copyright ends and the work goes into the public domain. Star Trek was created before January 1, 1978, and I suspect Paramount renewed its copyright when it came up for renewal in 1994. Paramount still owns the copyright until 2041.  For works created after January 1, 1978, the duration of copyright is the duration of the creator/holder’s life plus 50 years, and the work does not have to be published or registered for the copyright to be in force.  There is no renewal.  Copyrights can be transferred but revert back to the original owner after 35 years.

Most books are not bestsellers.  In fact, I, for example, will be happy to have midlist books that earn me a consistent, steady annual income in royalties.  That money is my payment for the years of work I’ve put into my writing when I earned $0, i.e. the last 20+ years. Going forward, one book usually doesn’t earn enough per year to make a huge difference, so writers generally do write more books (as well as other things like articles, essays, book reviews, etc.), each new book adding to the royalty income stream.  I have no idea how much a midlist author earns per year on one book, two books, five books, or ten books.  And it depends a lot on the market, of course.  Some books bomb.  Others do better than average.  As a writer, I DESERVE that royalty income as payment for my work, and I want that copyright protection to be in force for the legal duration. Taking that copyright away from me, for any period of time, is like robbery.

As a writer, I’ve also done “work for hire” writing, which is probably what Gene Roddenberry was doing when he created the original Star Trek series.  This type of writing is done under an employment contract of some sort, and the product  produced is owned by the employer, including the copyright.  When I do work for hire projects, I am paid a one-time fee for the writing project. This is how I worked with my clients when I was a freelance copywriter.  However, newspaper reporters are employees for their newspapers and their job, for which they are paid, is to produce writing.  The newspaper owns the copyright. Then there is the freelance writer who sells first serial rights to a magazine for an article or story but retains copyright.  There are several sub-copyrights that can be sold in publishing such as audio, digital, print, movie and TV, first serial (for publishing excerpts), and then by geography, such as North American rights, English language rights, foreign rights. (This is a very brief overview of a complicated topic.)

Of course, I suspect that my friends wouldn’t care much about any writing or TV show or movie that didn’t interest them.  But Star Trek? They were quite certain that for that, Paramount should relinquish its copyright so that others can develop that universe for free.

What do you think?