Category Archives: editors

Author Finds Success through Ebooks: Royalties, Publishing Deal, Even a Movie

Today I heard a story on the radio that caught my attention. It began with a story not unlike my own. A writer discussed how she’d received complementary letters from publishers and editors in response to her manuscript submissions. Although they liked her work respondents didn’t think they’d be able to market it. As this was my experience, I wanted to hear what happened.

Also like me, Karen McQuestion had been a freelance writer, and had written on a regular basis for a local newspaper. Karen loved to write. Her heart’s desire was to write novels. Karen had written several and had even had an agent. Unfortunately, she was unable to sell her books.

A year ago McQuestion began to think she’d never be a success as a novelist. When her freelance work dried up, she realized it was time to take a serious look at her options. During this time Karen learned about a writer who published his novels as e-books.  After 7,000 download the author had earned a small royalty and a publishing deal.

Karen didn’t know the basics such as how to design a book cover or determine pricing, but decided publishing on the ‘Net was worth a try. McQuestion reasoned that if her books weren’t successful she’d have lost little, and in the best case she’d make enough money to continue writing. During the next six months she uploaded six books.

The end result?

Karen McQuestion wrote on her blog: “I’ve had (to me) unbelievable success. The first few months I was stunned that anyone was actually buying and reading my books. I’d wanted it for so long that I was afraid of it all going away. Some small part of me thought that my sales would peak and then taper off to nothing. But despite my worries, my sales numbers kept growing, partially because I was adding books and also because more people were buying e-book readers.

“The best part–I got emails and reviews and comments on the message boards from readers who liked my books and were recommending them to others! Without this word of mouth I never would have had the kind of numbers I had. Some of the posters are people I now consider to be Internet friends. My world became wider, and happier too, for that matter.”

Karen’s story doesn’t end there. She’s had one of her novels optioned for film. She also was contacted by an editor who wanted to publish her books.

Karen’s success didn’t come overnight. Her love of writing kept her going. Not every writer is likely to have Karen McQuestion’s success; however, if you love writing, the process is its own reward.

Patience is the hardest part of the writer’s journey. Karen McQuestion offers advice to writers who are yearning for validation of their work through publishing:

“To other writers I say–please, keep the faith. Keep writing and improving (that’s a given, I know) and keep up with the latest news and opportunities, because you never ever know.”

What keeps me going? A commitment to the women who contributed to my book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories; the positive comments and support I’ve had since I released the book and it’s companion blog Living in the Heartland; and the faith that something good WILL happen.

To read stories of other extraordinary women go to Living in the Heartland.

Read how three women overcame life’s challenges on the way to success: Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories on Amazon.com.

Click Living in the Heartland video preview.

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One Writer Tells of Her Success on the Internet

Kathleen O'Keefe Kavanos, author and cancer survivor

Once again I wish to thank Nancy Burke Barr for her guest post on Facebook.  I respect both her wisdom and views on social media. Nancy has generally been patient with me, but my comments to her post resulted in a suggestion that I tone my skepticism done a notch.

I responded saying we are yin and yang on social media. Yin and yang are complementary opposites. They do not, however, represent good and evil. Yin is the shady side, and yang the sunny one. In Wikipedia the definition of the Chinese philosophy of yin and yang includes this description: “As the sun moves across the sky, yin and yang gradually trade places with each other, revealing what was obscured and obscuring what was revealed.”

Nancy stands in the light. She has faith in the power of social media. I stand in the shadows looking out at the social media wondering if the promise of  its  brilliance is real or perceived. I also ask whether there are more risks than benefit.  Nancy clearly lives in sunny Southern California, and I in a more pragmatic northern cline.

One area where Nancy and I occupy the same position on social media is in its networking potential. In the six months since I have began learning about social media I’ve met some good people. One of the most amazing is Kathleen O’Keefe Kanavos. She is a two time cancer survivor. Kathy is also the author of a book designed to help cancer patients advocate for their successful recovery. This approachable, generous lady has achieved enormous success in only 8 months on the Internet. She has more than 5,000 followers on her FB page one and more than 3000 Twitter followers.

I present her story in two parts: the first is a discussion of the value of social media for writers, the second contains Kathy’s views on traditional vs. indie publishing.  Her posts are both encouraging and cautionary, but above all else Kathy is genuine.

Q. How long ago did you get involved in Social Media? Where did you start (eg. Twitter, FB, blogs)?  Why did you decide to use SM?

A. I got involved in Social Media after I signed a contract with my agent. He felt a social presence on the Internet was important for my book’s platform. He suggested that I set up a Web site, get on twitter, and Facebook. That was ten months ago. I now have 5,000 followers on FaceBook , over 3,000 on twitter,  and I share my blog http://survivingcancerland.blogspot.com on over 10 sites.

An author’s SM presence reflected in the book proposal’s platform is one of the most important areas at which a publishing house will look. It doesn’t matter if you have the best book in the world if you cannot tell others about it to sell it. Publishing companies are not in the publishing business to sell books. They are in it to make money. You, as an author, must show them that you have the contacts to do that.

Q. Did you find SM helpful from the start or did it take time?

A.I found it extremely helpful. I made many friends who were helpful in building contacts. I am followed on Twitter by many publishing houses. One of them contacted me to answer a questionnaire about the future of publishing. I was pleased, honored and shocked. Me, Miss Doesn’t-Know-How-To-Turn-On-A-Computer one year ago giving advice to publishing houses. I was rewarded by a free book of my choosing.

Q. What are your stats? Have they grown slowly, steadily or only recently jumped?

A. I found that they grew steadily and then started to snowball. My FB page became very lively with comments and sharing. Before I knew it I had 444 requests a day before I quickly hit my 5000 limit. If I had known then what I know now, I would have started off with a fan page and just let it “Rock ON!”

Q. How has SM helped as a writer? If you weren’t promoting the book, how has SM helped you?

A. I believe writing is a skill that improves with use.  Developing a “voice” takes time and patience. When I review old blogs I realize I may have stated things differently, although the main topics would have remained the same.

Q. How important do you view SM to the success of today’s writer?

Social Media is booming. It is easier now more than ever in the history of communication to contact and interact with people all over the world. Unless you are Dan Brown and already have a following, SM is very important.

To learn more about Kathleen O’Keefe Kavanos connect with her on Facebook Facebook PAGE II,
http://www.facebook.com/editprofile.php?sk=contact#!/pages/SURVIVING-CANCERLAND-The-Psychic-Aspects-of-Healing/142803307934?ref=m. Follow her on Twitter @psychichealing.

Next time we’ll explore Kathy’s book and the publishing industry.

To read more stories of extraordinary women go to Living in the Heartland.

Read how three women overcame life’s challenges on the way to success: Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories on Amazon.com.

Click Living in the Heartland video preview.

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Filed under agents, Amazon, blog, book, editors, Facebook, frustration, good read, media, networking, Pamela Ferris-Olson, publishing, social media, Twitter, voice

Social Media or Old-Fashioned Networking: Which is Right for Writers? Twitter Part 1

I decided not to do any promotional work until my book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories appeared on Amazon.com. As I’ve said in previous posts, I chose to independently publish my book after I’d received about two dozen ‘no thank you’ letters from agents and publishers. I thought: “How can I go wrong selling my book on America’s largest online behemoth, a retailer with nearly three times the Internet sales revenue of its nearest competitor?”

Since my book was cataloged among Amazon’s thousands upon thousands of other offerings, it seemed obvious that I needed to focus my marketing energies online. So began my social media (SM) education.

The first step was to build a SM platform. SM coaches tout the importance of starting with a foundation based upon Twitter, Facebook, and a blog. So that is what I did. Twitter was easy. Facebook required more time to set up, because  more information was requested. My blog, even though WordPress makes set up pretty simple, was even more time consuming. I admit I had plenty of frustration. For example, I had to evaluate nearly 100 layouts to choose the best layout for my Living in the Heartland blog. Then I had to figure out how to customize the banner and learn how to install and operate the widgets.

Initially, I hated Twitter. The few people who I started following seemed to have established their own clique. They tweeted predominantly among themselves. Much of what they said wasn’t interesting to me. I began to realize I was stuck in an infinitesimally small Twitter puddle. It was a small droplet in a Twitterscape where oceans of Twitter folk were chattering away. I had no idea how to swim into the deeper water. As I became more confident and competent, I was able to find new people. To my dismay many of the Tweets I received were either “words to live by”, quotes attributable to famous or anonymous people, or outright marketing.

Numerous people told me to persevere. They also told me that the number one rule on the Internet is to be genuine and build trust before trying to market anything on the Internet. My cynicism grew as I wondered about the disconnect between what I was being told were “and what people were doing. The response to my questioning the rules was always the same: give it time. In time I would see the benefits.

Being trained as a scientist I wanted evidence on which to base my hopes that Twitter was going to help me make people aware of my book. What I heard on Webinars and through Twitter were merely testimonials. Needless to say this was not a good introduction to the Internet for me. I was overwhelmed by all the SM tasks I needed to do, and wanted concrete evidence that all my hours of work building a Twitter following was going to pay off . In otherwords, show me some book sales.

The sales figures I saw that first month were UNBELIEVABLE. I couldn’t believe my eyes. There HAD to be a mistake! I could have sold more books door to door on my block!

Doubt began to flood in: Had I made the wrong decision? Should I have waited longer for a publisher; after all, I had received some handwritten letters. Maybe I shouldn’t have chosen to publish independently. Should I have sent out more manuscripts?

As you can see I’m still working with SM. I am more positive than I’ve ever been. Come back soon for the next installment. As I discuss my experience you will understand how I arrived at my answer to the question: Social Media or Old-Fashioned Networking: Which is Right for Writers?

Find out about my new book which is the reason I write this blog at Amazon.com.

Click video preview to see the YouTube video of my book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories.

My other blog is Living in the Heartland.

Click here for subscription to blog on Kindle Out of the Box Publishing Blog on Kindle

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What is the Measure of Success for Self-Published Authors? The Numbers are Shocking

A while back someone asked me: What would you consider a success? I had contacted the woman in mid-January after I published my book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories. She was local, and had a social media consulting business. Carole was eager to help. As she’d never used social media to promote a book Carole contacted a colleague for advice. The contact wanted to know if I’d only view myself successful if I reached my stated goal of 100,000 book sales (something I thought at the time was reasonable given the power of the Internet) or if I’d be satisfied signing with a traditional publishing house.

I suggested a third option. After some thought I decided I’d feel successful if Living in the Heartland was picked up by a publisher who also offered me the opportunity to do additional books about extraordinary women living in America’s heartland.

It’s approaching three months since Living in the Heartland appeared on Amazon.com. Has my personal measurement of succession changed? In a pie-in-the-sky world I’d say ‘No.’ I’d love to sell lots of books. I wrote Living in the Heartland because I wanted people to read about these extraordinary women, and because I wanted to promote dialog about issues faced by contemporary women and about diversity.

If I can’t lay claim to 100,000 book sales, I am willing to redefine my personal success in terms of securing a publisher for Living in the Heartland with hopes of future contracts to write more books.

Am I giving up on self-publishing? The answer is, “No and yes.” At the moment, I am not actively pursuing a publisher. Unless one reaches out to me, which isn’t likely until I sell enough for them to consider me a success, I’m committed to working to make my book a success. I believe that the future for books lies in social media especially as more books are sold in digital format. One thing I can say for certain is that I am positioned for the future, and ahead of authors who aren’t developing knowledge and skills in using social media.

Why then would I be happy to embrace a traditional publisher if one came to me and asked to handle my book? This blog presents some of my experiences in self-publishing. In doing background for some of my posts I’ve also come across some unsettling data. I’ve used excerpts from the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of American 2-1-2010 article Print-On-Demand Self-Publishing Services below. See if you don’t reach a similar conclusion.

E-commerce currently accounts for approximate 20% of book sales. Brick-and-mortar bookstores, especially the large chains, represent the most significant single sales source, and most of these don’t like dealing with print-on-demand self-published authors. Most books require a balance of online and offline presence to have sales of any significance.

Here are the eye-popping, gut-wrenching statistics that the article present: “The average book from a POD service sells fewer than 200 copies, mostly to ‘pocket’ markets surrounding the author–friends, family, local retailers who can be persuaded to place an order–and to the author him/herself. According to the chief executive of POD service iUniverse… 40% of iUniverse’s books s are sold directly to authors.

POD services’ own statistics support these low sales figures. AuthorHouse’s..reveals that it has signed up more than 40,000 authors, and issued more than 60,000 titles… AuthorHouse reports selling more than 2.5 million books in 2008–which sounds like a lot, but averages out to around 41 sales per title…

Stats for Xlibris were similar. According to a Wall Street Journal article, 85% of its books had sold fewer than 200 copies, and only around 3%–or 352 in all–had sold more than 500 copies. Things looked up in 2007: according to Xlibris’s own internal reports, obtained by Writer Beware, 4% of its titles had sold more than 1,000 copies. However, the averages still aren’t good. As of mid-2007, Xlibris had 23,000 authors and had published 23,500 titles, with total sales of over 3 million–around 127 sales per title.

Once independent companies, AuthorHouse, iUniverse, Xlibris, and Canada-based Trafford Publishing are now all owned by Author Solutions Inc… the average sales of titles from any of the company’s brands at around 150.”

Wish I’d read these numbers before deciding after only about two dozen rejections − some were actually handwritten and supportive – from agents and publishers. If I known what I do now I think I’d still be sending out manuscripts as opposed to complimentary copies of my book trying to establish a foothold in the market.

Read more at Amazon.com.

Click video preview to see the YouTube video of my book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories.

My other blog is Living in the Heartland.

Click here for subscription to blog on Kindle Out of the Box Publishing Blog on Kindle

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Publishers and Media: Do they conspire against self-published authors?

I’ve begun to wonder if there isn’t some type of unspoken yet accepted relationship between established publishers and the media that has made it difficult for self-published authors to get recognition in the press, on the radio and television. I can’t remember reading a review of a self-published book in a mainstream newspaper or magazine. So I decided to do a little research of my own.

First I contacted a syndicated National Public Radio show host. Her response wasn’t all bad news.

“I know how hard most authors work on their books so I know how easy it is to take everything personally but it is simply a matter of volume. I may get anywhere from three to five books a DAY, unsolicited. Some shows get easily 150 books a MONTH. There is no way all of these authors are going to get the attention they would like. I personally have done two self-published books, neither particularly well written (to be honest) but the news hooks were so strong I felt compelled. There are also documentaries to cover and other cultural works. Add to that the fact that most NPR hosts insist on reading the books themselves and you can see why we can only address a fraction of the material we receive.”

Then I queried Jane Friedman, editorial leader and brand manager for the Writer’s Digest writing community (including Writer’s Digest magazine, Writer’s Digest Books, Writer’s Market annuals, WritersMarket.com, WritersOnlineWorkshops). Her answer provided less hope for self-published authors.

“Yes, there is definitely a bias. Most self-published work is considered inferior in quality.”

Friedman referred me to a Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of American article Print-On-Demand Self-Publishing Services last updated on Feb. 20, 2010. I WISH I had read this before I’d decided that two dozen rejections, some personal handwritten notes from agents and publishers, were too many and it was time I go the self-publishing route.

I’m not going to quote the entire SFFWA article here. It’s too depressing, but I’ll refer to it again in the future. The article touched on a number of issues I’ve mentioned in previous posts. The article says that Print-On-Demand (POD) services are not a good fit for writers looking to establish a career.

“ POD services’ policies on pricing, marketing, and distribution severely limit their books’ availability…, and are likely to result in tiny sales and readership, even for authors who diligently self-promote…It’s unlikely that a book published by a POD service will be considered a professional publishing credit, or that, as many authors hope, it will provide a springboard to commercial publication (according to a 2004 article in the New York Times, out of the 10,000 or so titles published to that time by POD service Xlibris, only 20 had been picked up by commercial publishers).”

One of the few cases where the article suggests a POD service may be a good option is for writers of a niche nonfiction project. “These can be a tough sell for commercial or academic publishers, but they can do well for the motivated self-publisher who has a way of reaching his or her audience, and is able to devote time and money to marketing and promotion. Writers who can exploit ‘back of the room’ situations may also do well with a POD service–someone who lectures or conducts workshops, for instance, and can sell books at these occasions, or a restauranteur who wants to make a cookbook available to his or her customers.”

The article points out that there are people on the Internet who are eager to dispute the negatives of POD. “They’ll tell you that self-publishing is the way of the future. They’ll claim that the stigma traditionally associated with paying to publish has all but disappeared, and that it’s becoming ever more common for self-published books to be acquired by bigger publishing houses. They’ll often be able to point you to a news story about a writer who parlayed self-publishing into a lucrative commercial contract.

“But like the hype from self-publishing “evangelists,” articles about self-publishing success are often biased, inaccurate, or overstated…And there’s nothing new about big publishers picking up self-published books that sell robustly–just Google What Color Is Your Parachute? or The Christmas Box. As for the self-publishing stigma–unfair though it may be in many cases, it is alive and well.”

Click here for subscription to blog on Kindle Out of the Box Publishing Blog on Kindle

Click video preview to see the YouTube video of my book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories.

Read more at Amazon.com.

My other blog is Living in the Heartland.

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Down the Rabbit Hole continued – The Effect of the Internet on Writers

…As a freelance writer for a traditionally published newspaper I have never been assured a paycheck or a given pay rate. I have always served at the whim of my editors, and I DO mean whim. Some editors are more generous than others. I have never been clear on how they determine the value of an article. There are, of course, less material returns. My work IS published. Some of my stories are a form of community service. Many of the human interest stories I write are likely to go unnoticed. I enjoy meeting a diverse range of people, especially the kids, and giving them a few inches of fame in the paper. I get no rewards from the Internet sites that use my stories without my permission or royalty payment. The Internet has caused me to lose control of my material. I’m not sure if there’s much recourse for writers.

I know people who write for online sites. These writers are getting fractions of cents on the dollar for their content.  One writer said: “I CAN tell you that hard word, talent, and an insane number of submissions to mags equals publication –and some small amount of recognition. I don’t even know if I register on the radar screen, but I am making a teesny-weensy blip somewhere. After something like 900 submissions last year (sixty acceptances.)… I know the world is stacked against us, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Just ALMOST impossible! You keep trying!”

You do the math. 900 submissions in 365 days. 60 acceptances out of 900 submissions. If Phoebe isn’t prone to hyperbole then she is writing her heart out every day with little reward. Her time spent writing is matched, I am sure, with cruising the Internet to find places to submit content.

Content has also been changed by the Internet. In this digital age people want quick reads. Articles are shortened. Language is morphing. There is more jargon, abbreviated words, less grammatical rules. It might be argued that this laissez fair world makes it easier on writers.

As the craft of writing is morphing into shortened forms, I wonder if there won’t come a point when our written language returns to symbology, becomes the modern equivalent of hieroglyphics. I also see video images replacing the written word. For example, I have noticed an increase in the number of video tweets on Twitter.

I think writers are in the midst of a free fall. Like Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole, we don’t know what lies at the bottom. I’m using this time to learn how to maneuver in the social media world.

I want to discuss the notion that in the not too distant future that all books will be digital, but in my next post I want to return to looking at the trials of self-publishing.

Click here for subscription to blog on Kindle Out of the Box Publishing Blog on Kindle

Click video preview to see the YouTube video of my book.

Read more at Amazon.com.

My other blog is Living in the Heartland.

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Writing with Professionals – A New Publishing Scam?

Yesterday, a well-meaning friend sent me a link to a blog where the author was offering the chance to be published alongside “well-known” authors. The authors were never named. The blogger said she is involved with a series of books; the last is going to be published soon.  She’s looking for a few authors to be involved. Here is an excerpt from her blog:

“Getting published with well-known authors, looks great for your portfolio, saves you on publishing and editing costs. Just for one book it can cost well over $1500 to hire an editor. Why not take that money instead and invest it in yourself?

“You buy a set number of books for a small fee, and turn around and sell them by doubling your profit. Not only will you get back your initial investment, but you will make a tidy profit for yourself. You are guaranteed to sell your books because you are the one that will promote and sell them. You can easily set up an account on Amazon, or on your Web site.

“Talk to the experts, they will tell you just how easy it is to be published along with some very well known authors who have written best-selling books and sold millions. It’s not every day you get a chance to be connected in such a fabulous way!

“All you have to do is write a chapter about something inspiring as a speaker, author or writer. You can submit from 750 to 1500 words. The only fee is you promise to buy a certain amount of books and in turn you will sell those books and double your profit.

“How’s that for a publishing deal?”

Before I say anything else I need to tell you I’ve corrected some of the typos I found in the original message.  What I’ve pasted above is a mouthful!! Bottom line is that this is a thinly veiled pay-to-publish scam. The only one likely to benefit is the blogger or whoever gets your money for purchasing the books.

Being published with well-known authors would look good if you worked directly with the authors. Just having your essay in a book with established people isn’t likely to give your career anymore of a boost than having your essay in a book that also has works by criminals is likely to result in guilt by association.

One truthful claim is that good editors cost money. They are worth it.  They provide the author with a trained, objective eye. Editors can point out inconsistencies, mistakes, and other errors that might take away from the content of the work. This blogger’s offer implies editorial assistance but there is no direct assurance.  This project IS COSTING you money. You make a commitment to BUY books. If you are going to invest your money shouldn’t you have input on who edits your work? What kind of credential does the editor have?

Who guarantees that your book will sell? I have been working EXTREMELY HARD to promote my book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women since it was first listed on Amazon.com in Jan. I am all too aware that book promotion is not easy. It is extremely uncommon to get buyers just because I tweet about my book. Maybe you’ll be able to sell enough books out of the back of your car. Of course, the blogger didn’t say how many books must be purchased. What if you can’t sell the books to your friends and family? Most likely you’ll have to do the work publishers usually do: contact newspapers, radio, TV, bookstores, etc.  This means more than distributing press releases. There’s lots of follow-up work to do. Only a small percentage of the contacts will respond, even fewer will be interested. I’ve also encountered a number of unexpected obstacles. For example, it’s harder than simply calling a bookstore to arrange a book signing. Stores want you to have an affiliation with their wholesalers.

Selling books is a big investment in time and money. I know. I’m actively involved in this every day.

This offer appears to me to be a clever scheme to make writers feel ownership in a book, because their essays are included. The purpose is ultimately to obtain the writers’ money.  I have no idea if the blogger cares if writers sell more than their allotted share of books. If the book is a success it will be because of the sales work put in by the writers not the publisher.

Click here for subscription to blog on Kindle Out of the Box Publishing Blog on Kindle

Click video preview to see the YouTube video of my book.

Read more at Amazon.com.

My other blog is Living in the Heartland.

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