Category Archives: on writing

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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Filed under Amazon, blog, book, dreams, editors, frustration, hopeful, income, indie writer, job, luck, on writing, Pamela Ferris-Olson, perseverance, publishing, royalty, success, writers, writing, writing block

One Author’s Experiences in Publishingland

This second part of an interview with Kathleen O’Keefe Kanavos focuses on her experiences as an author, and her views on traditional verses self-publishing.

Kathy’s first book Surviving Cancerland: The Psychic Aspects of Healing is being shopped by NYC literary agent at Scovil, Galen & Ghosh. Kathy is currently finishing the second in her trilogy SURVIVING RECURRENCE IN CANCERLAND.

As a two-time cancer survivor Kathy saw the need for books designed to help cancer patients advocate for their successful recovery. She clearly has struck a nerve. In only 8 months on the Internet Kathy has gathered a huge.

Q. Prior to Surviving Cancerland, what was your experience as a writer?

A. Other than writing papers for high school and college classes, none. I never wanted to be a writer, but sometimes life’s occupations are like kittens, they choose you! Writing chose me.

Q. What motivated you to write the book?

A. There is almost always a point in the process of illness where logic, reason, and medical expertise fails. It’s at this point a patient slips through the cracks, sometimes never recovering.

I survived cancer—twice…I survived by using something many in the medical field do not even acknowledge as being real. My innate intuition.

Surviving Cancerland: The Psychic Aspects of Healing is my account of how I used my intuition to self-advocate a course of treatment, often against the vehement advice of my doctors, in my healing process. Always work with your doctors, but never forget you make the final decisions. I wrote my story to help others faced with this ordeal make better decisions. I don’t tell others how to survive I show them how I survived.

Q. Did you self-publish or did you choose a more conventional route? How did you decide which route to take? How long ago did this publication journey begin?

A. I went the conventional route and sought representation by a literary agent who had contacts with the large publishing houses. My publishing journey started with my second diagnosis with breast cancer. I was quite sure that my story of having the medical industry miss my cancer twice was not that unique. This was confirmed when I became a phone counselor for the Bloch Cancer Foundation and heard similar stories to mine. However, the outcome was less favorable because the patient had followed the doctor’s orders to, “Go home and come back for more tests in six months.” I wanted to teach others what tests they needed to find cancer and how to self advocate to get those tests. I also wanted to share the importance of the dream world during crisis. I searched bookstores far and wide for a book that could give me information on the day-to-day needs of patients undergoing treatment that included the dream world of crisis. I could not find any that were from a patient’s point of view. There were plenty of books written by doctors that were full of interesting scientific information, but I found them difficult to read and frankly, scary! So, I wrote one.

Q. How would you advise other writers who are considering self- vs traditional publishing?

A. Although I have not self-published I’ve been active in my husband’s self-published book Pope Annalisa. So I do have a comparison to my conventional route. Here’s the main difference, as I see it. With self-publishing, the author puts money up front to publish the book and then is responsible for the book’s distribution and the PR, and often signs away many of their rights. Most chain bookstores such as Borders, will not put self-published books on their shelves because they sell space by the inches to publishing houses. That is why most publishing houses will not publish a large book that is not written by a big money making author. They would rather place two smaller books on a shelf. Despite the fact that the self-publishing industry is growing, it still has a stigma attached to it. Most newspapers and magazines will not write reviews for it and many traditional publishing awards are closed to them. A positive note is an author planning to self-publish does not need to write query letters, book proposals, or deal with the rejections that often accompany them.

Conventional publishing requires time and money also, but in a different way. My book, Surviving Cancerland: The Psychic Aspects of Healing went through seven revisions by me and another two by a freelance editor and copy editor I hired. Most publishing houses have cut back on employees, and one of the first cuts was editors. Very few editors are kept in-house. Manuscripts sent to publishing houses must be nearly perfect. After I got my manuscript back from my content editor, I sent it and the Book Proposal and the first three chapters of my proposal to a copy-editor who works in a children’s publishing house in New York. She   made sure every sentence was perfect, and every t was crossed.. This all takes time and money. But the biggest difference is that big publishing houses pay the author money up-front in the form of an advance an advance.  They also take care of the printing and distribution to the bookstores. If you are a first time author, they are minimally helpful with PR. That is where a good platform comes into play. If you do not make back the advanced money in sales and begin collecting royalties, chances are very good that your other books will not get picked up by the publisher. Your sales record is your report card.

My advice to anyone considering self-publishing over conventional is to save self-publishing as a plan B. You can always go that route. Prepare to go the conventional route and do the hard work. Write the best manuscript you possibly can. Keep it between 70,000 and 120,000 words. Anything larger than that takes up too much space on the bookshelves. Edit it yourself many times and then hire a professional content editor to do it again twice. (This will not cost as much as self-publishing.) Most agents will not accept a manuscript that has not been edited twice. Then work on identifying your platform. Who would be interested in my book? How can I contact them? Then look for your competition on bookshelves and see how you can make your book better. Study books on query letters and proposals. Make yours stand out. Then send the proposal and the first three chapters to the editors again to perfect them before sending them to agents. Research your agents. Be sure you submit what they want and the way they want it. As the old saying goes, “Cut wood, carry water.”  Do the work.

Getting a book published is not easy no matter what road you take. But if you try the conventional route first and it just doesn’t work, it is easier to switch to plan B than to have already published and try to go with Plan A. That will be swimming upstream while doing all the work required for conventional publishing.

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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Hope for Indie Writers: Pulitzer Prize Awarded to Freelance NonConformist

“Since third grade, I have dreamed of becoming a professional novelist. During 6th grade, I began to realize that accomplishing my ultimate goal would be more difficult than I thought. It has been said that chances of publishing are one in a thousand. I know to get a book published; I have to work hard to practice writing as much as possible. I need to get other people’s feedback on my writing, from adults and not just peers. I need to get a job that involves writing on a regular basis to get practice after I graduate from college. Then, I have to try to get published and never give up, for I know chances are slim.”

This is worldly wisdom from a seventh grader. The above is an excerpt from one essay I recently judged. The young lady who wrote it has clearly done her homework. Good writing definitely requires practice, but in this competitive, fast changing digital world there are no guarantees that a living wage can be made from writing.

Fifty years ago hard work and perseverance was a pretty safe bet for landing a writing job. These days I wonder if there is consensus among professionals what it takes to make a career of writing. One thing is certain this new era is full of surprises.

For example, there was an unexpected recipient for this year’s Pulitzer Prizes. One of the most coveted prizes in journalism was awarded to animator Mark Fiore.  Fiore nominated himself because he had no colleague to nominate him. Fiore is not employed by any newspaper or Web site. He syndicates his own cartoons.

Fiore’s editorial cartoons used to appear in newspapers until he started experimenting with animation in the late ’90s. In an interview with NPR’s All Things Considered Scott Shafer Fiore said: “I hope I’m a pioneer and not an anomaly. And I just think the significance of it is that it shows that people are actually starting to realize that all news doesn’t have to come across on paper.”

Such news suggests that there is hope for writers like myself and illustrators like Fiore who embark on their own experiment with the Internet. May there be many more successes for independent artists so that when the seventh grader essayist graduates college she’ll have a well-worn path to success to follow.

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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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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Filed under art, editing, editors, on publishing, on writing, publishing, self-publishing, social media, technology, writing

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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She Writes Novels, I Write Blogs…Should I Be Jealous?

I’ve got a friend who’s a nationally-known, successful novelist.  Let’s call her WF for WriterFriend. WF doesn’t use twitter or Facebook, although her agent suggested WF should start. WF has a Web site, but she doesn’t handle the content. When WF writes, she working on her books. She’s working on her fourth or fifth novel. WF is a very sweet woman. I value our friendship which isn’t based on writing. There’s no competition between us. So when she told me her agent had taken her to dinner the other night I lost it, at least the space behind my eyeballs was seeing red. I also felt a bit blue. Like the saying: the rich get richer and the poor get poorer WF has the luxury to work on her novels because she has an agent and a publisher. She’s got help to promote her book. She, therefore, can focus her attention on writing. I, on the other hand, spend most of my time focused on SM. There’s no time or energy at the end of the day for me to focus on the novel I started several months ago.

Question: Should I feel jealous? Does my WF have a better deal because she has the luxury to focus on a singular purpose – her next novel. This gives WF the satisfaction to see her work progressing. WF knows at the end of the process she’s got an agent to shop the work and an editor to promote in. And me? I can’t focus on one project. I need to manage and grow my presence on the Web. I admit I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learn how to set up the different SM sites, and everyday I manage content. I also SUFFER all the frustrations that come with these things. In addition to these practical aspect I am expanding my horizons by the people I am connecting with on the ‘Net.

In terms of dollars WF is in a more secure position. I’m still throwing money at things like Web site promotion, sending complimentary books for PR purposes, etc. I haven’t seen a positive income stream yet, and have no idea what, if any, the potential is.

Is WF more successful?  WF has direct evidence that with the help of her agent and editor she can sell books and receives royalty payments. I’m still at the starting line in terms of sales of my first book. I still wondering if SM was the right choice. Maybe I was too impatient and should have looked harder for a publisher? One thing I CAN claim that WF cannot is that I am part of the ‘Net community. I’ve got my own tribe, and others who are supporting me everyday.  Am I in a better position? You might say I am. After all, the traditional publishing world is reported to be struggling to keep their market share. Instead of committing myself to the establishment, I chose to take a chance on the new frontier. While WF writes and relies on her agent and publisher to work the angles, I’m working with SM to make connections and establish associations and friendships that, I hope, will serve me well in the future. Of course, WF has hard data that demonstrates what works. At the moment I only have testimonials for the promise of the future.

While WF is working inside her protective bubble, I’m working with a ‘Net. She is a writer and I am a tweeter, FB friend, blogger, Web site administrator (here’s hoping I can get my new indie-hosted site up and running soon). I’m a writer who hopes to soon have  more time to devote to a new manuscript.

So who’s better off? It depends on what you want. How you define success? What your definition of writer is.  I do a lot of writing on my blogs. I’m writing tweets and FB posts every day. Is that writing? How important are the connections I’m making both now and in the future? It also depends on whether SM is a here to stay phenomenon or just a technology bubble.

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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OMG, What Will You Do?

In response to my last post Martin asked, “My God, I would have preferred to read something more cheerful. So what now? What will you do?”

I would have liked to have posted something more cheerful. Believe me I would like to say I already reached my goal of selling 100,000 books. Didn’t happen though. Not even close.

What will I do?  This is a good question. In any decision-making process one answer is always: Do nothing. One way I could ignore yesterday’s problem is to say, “So what if one indie bookstore in Washington can’t get my book? After all, it IS available on Amazon.com. And, I HAVE been PROMISED that Ingram WILL carry my book (Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories) in their catalog within the next 6-8 WEEKS.” Doing nothing might also demonstrate that I’m beat up, that I have no fight left in me. I have had a number of setbacks trying to make my book available to a larger audience than only those who buy books on Amazon.

What will I do? In response I ask, “What can I do?” When I decided to take the self-publishing route, I believed in the power of the Internet. We all hear about videos going viral on YouTube. Many of us have faith in Twitter, believe it is THE WAY to spread the word. Why else are so MANY people joining SM Webinars, purchasing programs to increase their Twitter followers, and using auto-messaging sites?

I spent several weeks in February concentrating on SM. I built a following on Twitter, on Facebook and on my blog. I joined a tribe. I also saw my sales on Amazon plummet. What I’ve taken away from this experience is that I have to balance my social media work with more traditional networking. I’m actively trying to arrange for book signings (the subject of my next eye-opening post), radio and newspaper interviews, and, whatever else I can think of that will make people familiar with my book and with me.

I never imagined how much work promoting my book was going to be. I thought that by using a BIG name (Amazon) on the Internet to sell my book, I’d only need to send out emails to friends and family, ask them to pass it on to their friends and their families, and twitter. Then voila I’d be a success. Well, I’m here to tell you it isn’t that easy.

I expect there are others who have had more success. I would be more upbeat if I hadn’t set my goals so high initially, and I didn’t feel such a deep responsibility to the women I wrote about to share their stories. The positive news is that since my book became available on January 11 on Amazon, I have made several good contacts via Twitter. I’ve found a SM coach who has given me good advice and emotional support. I joined a Tribe of great gals who provide much needed emotional and professional support. These are ALL pluses especially as writers are often isolated in their work. Agents and editors probably offer similar support but, I imagine, not as frequently or earnestly.

Martin asked: What will I do? I’m going to do what I’ve been doing. Rejoice in the good days. Those are the days when I receive positive comments. Whimper and SCREAM on the bad days like yesterday.  I need to find ways to breathe, so I can move forward. Letting others know about the pitfalls I’ve encountered allows me to put a positive spin on them. They become teachable moments.

Now I ask you: What can you do? If you believe in the power of SM, if you want to help prove that writers CAN succeed by self-publishing and self-promotion on the Internet, then you will help me. I’m going to continuing sharing my experience – the good and the bad. I’d really like to prove that my initial belief in the Internet was right. I’d like to believe that everyone who has counseled me to be patient, that it takes time, were also right.

So what can YOU do? Spread the word through twitter, FB, everywhere about my book and, of course, this blog. Tell your friends and family, contact your local newspaper, everywhere, anywhere. Let’s find out what works.

I’ll going to continue blogging and encourage others to leave comments. I want to collect information from others what has worked for them and what hasn’t. How long have they found it takes?

Help me make this blog a community where writers share. What I don’t want is my blog to become an advertiser. Also, I require that all criticism  be constructive not destructive.

I am earnest and passionate about writing, about my book, and about working with other writers to help each of us realize our dreams. So onwards.

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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Filed under book, dreams, on demand publishing, on publishing, on writing, publishing, self-publishing, social media, success, writing, writing block