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Lonnie Hicks

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How To Get That Book Published and Not Lose Your Soul
By Lonnie Hicks
Posted: Monday, June 27, 2011
Last edited: Wednesday, June 29, 2011
This short story was "not rated" by the Author.
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So You Want to Be a Writer Huh?
(This is re-published from my web site:
www.Lonniehicks.com

(I will update this article in about two weeks)

 

"Publishing That Book"

February 7, 2010 - "Publishing That Book" Chapter 1

The first step in looking at publishing that great novel is to understand what does the publishing environment look like today. More pointedly, "never go into the water without first checking for sharks." And sharks there be mate in these publishing waters, disguised as sharks.

Some intial points:

1-Apple just signed a deal with the major book publishers to sell books at its new ebook store. This means that itunes has a companion store now, or soon; lets call it Apple Books for now. Amazingly the brick and mortar book giants demanded that the cost of the e-book, (Kindle downloads) go up from the current Amazon price of 9.99 to something higher, like 12.99. Amazon caved and apparently agreed to change its pricing struture after posturing like it would fight this move. Now all of the players are ready to pick some serious consumer pockets. Why the move? Apple was selling at a dollar a tune and that business is sliding down and besides you have to sell a lot of tunes to make money at one dollar a tune. Now an e-book at 12 or 14 dollars is much more profitable, no shipping involved, just have the thing downloaded after you have cornered the market. It is a virtually cost free product. These e-books can be printed and easily downloaded. Another flavor will be the audio book. Google, not to be left out in the cold in the scramble to mug the consumer and authors too, is contemplating its next move--after having threatened the entire publishing industry by scanning everything in print. How can you sell a book if Google is tooling up to give it away free? Google makes money because everyone goes to Google to get the book but meantime in the back, in the alley, the authors and publishers are getting stuck up. Hence the move by the publishers to take the Apple deal. At least they get to sell something in the new emerging e-b00k and audio book market.

So what about us poor peons slaving away in the "aren't we the only ones producing an actual product" category are ignored. Why? Because with unemployment, with the economy and millions of retirees, the number of people writing books, screen-plays, memoirs etc is enormous. One figure is fifteen million available manuscripts. The publishing world has it pick of the lot but due to declining sales and readership it actually publishes fewer and fewer books seeking to go only with "block-buster" sure thing authors. The new author, no matter how talented, gets only a "good luck" if that. Moreover, the big companies burdened with huge overhead bills and yacht payments have for some time now made authors pay more and more the costs of publishing as they disinvest in expensive marketing and promotion campaigns. Advances drop. You will be lucky to get 1,000 a month to live on, just enough to keep you in Lima beans.

Meantime, the self-publishing outfits, like Lulu, Xlibris, Strategic Books etc have stepped up to the plate to meet the demand--for a price. For anywhere from 600- to 5,000 dollars you can get that book in print and pay their yacht bills instead of the big five publishers' yacht bills.

So, in this first look into these shark-infested waters what is a poor talented author to do? Let's look at this tomorrow.

February 8, 2010 - "Publishing That Book" Chapter 2

The first step in the decision tree is to decide what your goals are in publishing. That will influence which companies or folks in the publishing environment you will choose to work with in seeking that goal.

If you just want to publish something for family or friends, say a genealogy, then your path is very different than one seekiing commerical success, world-wide recognition and loads of money.

The personal publishing goal is one where you don't particularly care about the number of books sold, you just want something for the family to have or to put on the bookshelf for the grandkids to read later on. The path here is simple: I would recommend self-publishing with a local print on demand printer. Cost is about five-. seven dollars per copy and you can order one copy at a time. What is involved is decisions about the cover you will use, editing the books (grammar matters even at this level) and the issue of whether or not to copyright the material, and whether or not to get an ISBN number for it, in case you decide to publish it broadly.

Those decisions made you get your book back and you decide it is handsome indeed and you want to put it out for sale just to get your investment back. In this area, (let's assume self-publishing here) you have many choices. Let's step into the self-publishing world. Step lightly.

Self-publishers are all over the internet and offer you everything from covers, book interiors, place on search engines, adds in trade papers, book fairs, marketing services, publicity services, help with major book publishers, all of course, for a price, and of course, there is no guarantee that your investment of 600-5,000 dollars will produce a single sale. Yep. Imagine paying the local mechanic 5,000 dollars and your car  does not get fixed. So, you ask what am I paying for if I likely end up with sales of under ten books (the average.) Well you get educated in the publishing business and you get satisfaction and bragging rights on the block as being an "author."

Humm, is that enough for you? If so you can stop reading here. If not, read on.

Now you want to sell some books and make some money. One advantage is that if you invest in selling some books with a self-publisher you can expect to putout a considerable sum of your own money in the deal and it will take substantial amounts of time because self-publishers don't do anything for you basically except produce the books and charge you for them. The rest will be entirely up to you and costs extra. Remember the rule of publishing is no book is worth much if it is not marketed and publicized. Major companies will spend miillions on this facet of the game and movie companies spend lots more. Marketing in a mass market is queen and king combined.

So tommrow we present David and Goliah in the publishing ring. What will be the outcome? Humm....

February 9th, 2010 - "Publishing That Book" Chapter 3

The news today is that the US Department of Justice put the brakes on the Google deal whereby Google had lower court permission to scan every book in the world for free. (An exaggeration, but that is my way.) Google has gotten rich by essentially scanning all the newspapers and magazines in the world and then not paying a dime for the privilege. (Doesn't sound fair does it?) They had proposed to do the same with books. Naturally authors, and big publishing houses found this proposal troubling, (free again!!?) and went to court. Meantime, Google went right ahead with its mad scanning anyway and basically said "lets see if you people can stop me." Google won the court case, essentially, until the DOJ stepped in.

But that is not the real news. The two will work something out--why? Because the DOJ needs Google to keep an eye on terrorists and you and me. So a deal will be struck, trust me. DOJ will posture and then give Google what they want--which is Google Editions.  Here is the real news. Just like Amazon, Apple and the big six publishers Google now wants to be a book publisher, (should I say scanning company?) In case you haven't noticed this means they are fighting over who gets to pick our literary bones. I feel weak don't you? So Google will publish your book and pay you in really good gruel, determine how many people get your book on searches, get you to pay it for any ads for the book and scan it and offer it at any price they choose so as to get people to come and use Google.

Its a mean world Virginia. So here comes Johnny "way too naive" walking up to the giants mentioned above and says will you publish my book? Sure they say "but you have to pay us, and not complain if we take the property and do whatever we want with it. If you don't go along with this arrangement then no one will ever hear of your book, unless you spent millions, as we do, to publicize the book and then we will have our house critics pan it such that we will make an example of you.

Is this too cynical? No, not cynical enough. It is probably worse.

So now as we pass out the Zolof, what do we do now?

Well, the first suggestion is to take the best bargain out there right now--Amazon's createspace publishing arm, the last real bargain in author based publishing. First you can finish your book and get it up on Amazon in two days, pay only about 5 bucks to get copies and don't have to pay Amazon a dime for all this. Power to the people's authors. This is the best deal ever. Go now because the other publishers will likely try to shut this down.

As mentioned, writing a book is about 20% of what it takes to sell a book. The rest in publicity and marketing and that is what costs real money. Aside from family members you might talk into buying your book, what do you do after those less than seven copies are sold? How do you market and compete with books the big six are putting millions into for publicity and marketing? This is a problem I can solve as long as I do not have to solve it today. Let's see what comes up tomorrow. See you then.

February 10, 2010- "Publishing That Book" Chapter 4

This is the "not for the faint of heart" section. You can, at this point, go the traditional route to get your book published and if successful save your self a lot of heartache, if you get so lucky.

Traditionally, you would seek out a literary agent, who in turn, would become your representative to some publishing house, all for a percentage (10-20 percent.) The publisher then takes your book and maybe suggests, or edits it preparing it for the market they market to. Keep in mind that a best seller in this country is only about 25,000 copies. Million seller block-busters are rare and many companies take on only less than ten books a year because the costs as so high these days. So, you will likely not get an agent and not get a publisher. If you do, great, the party will be at your house with the 1,500 advance they will likely give you. I will bring the Lima Beans.

So the agent route is not going to likely happen. What now? I mentioned the self-publish options above. The one I like is Amazon. At least the book gets out there, is seen on the Amazon website and you can get this done for relatively little money. You can pay an extra 40 dollars if you want to get into their "Distribution Channels." Still not a bad deal if you have no money and less time.

But part of even this arrangement involves many, many other decisions. I have a few modest examples listed below:

1-Do you want to go with Amazon's cover and have one done by your own cover designer. If the latter: Cost about 600 dollars. Covers matter. Bad cover, bad sales or none. Good cover; two maybe three sales. (LOL) My advice; invest in a good cover. Amazon templates are serviceable but not really that great.

2-Do you want to invest in copyrighting your book. The industry tells you "oh, don't worry about that, things are automatically copyrighted the minute you write them." Really. I don't think so. While that is the letter of the law you can and probably should look at copyrighting your book formally and getting it registered internationally (there be book pirates abroad) if the thing has any chance of being popular. Cost 345 dollars. And while you are at it you might invest in getting your own ISBN (International Standard Book Number.) Look it up. The deal here is that self-publishers look to own the ISBN as do the big six because books usually are ordered by that number and the owner is the one who is communicated with. Also there is the matter of the bar code which is on the back of every book. This costs money too. (I didn't say it would be easy.) You have to decide if you want to control these things or if you want the publisher to have control of them. Being a control gentleman, I have chosen the latter.

Now self-published or regular published you should be aware of these issues. Have I mentioned national vs international rights, royalties etc. That is why you need time. Have I mentioned issues of the audio book, the e-book and movie rights? There is TV, if you are so lucky, publicity, marketing, book tours, social networking sites and sanity to consider.  Maybe if you want to hold on to yours, you should try the agent thing and ponder all this anew.

If not then, in the full book I will go into detail about the above, but for this blog I will tomorrow go over some of the headlines of what would be involved if you decided to do it the hard way.

February 11, 2010 - "Publishing That Book" Chapter 5

The blog was written today but the computer ate it. So here I will have to give the short version. Then I will work on retrieving the longer version.

If you are determined to publish on your own, print, market, publicize etc the short version is that it will cost on the low side 6,000 dollars. On the high side 25,000. Making the self publishing companies asking 6,000 look good huh? But no that is only apparently true . If you go that way for 6,000 dollars you do not own the cover, the ISBN, bar code and other things you would  like  to own , not to mention royalties in various sale markets. So you could go with them if you are in a hurry but you could emerge embarrassingly naked having been stripped of all of your worldly goods, including the shirt off your back after the experience.

Now how many books would you have to sell to re-coup your 6,000 dollars? Well if you assume a sales price of 15 dollars, shipping at about 4-6 dollars depending upon the size of your book and how far away the customer is, and the cost of printing the book at about 6 dollars that leaves you with 3 dollars profit. Now, now there is no crying in self-publishing. So lets take the 3 dollars and divide into the 6 thousand and 2,000 books have to be sold. Humm. The best seller is 25,000 so look closely and you will see the exact size of the mountain you have to climb. Impossible? No, because you have more that one product to sell. What about the e-book, virtually no cost here. What about the audio book, (part of the 6,000 assumes you can get an audio book done for about 500 dollars. I did, minimum but it sounds great, done by a great narrator. So sell the audio book as download. No cost. 
Then you could sell CD's ( I have lots of poetry and lets not forget the possible TV or movie deal. Ok not likely, not right away but most authors have to work at it for a least five years to get any where. So it is not hopeless.

You could in year one make with the above parameters about 10-12k and would be out of the big Mac's you could have had working at Mcdonalds over the first six months period. But after that things improve.

But this will  require additional math and I know you will hate that, so I am signing off for today.

February 12, 2010 - "Publishing That Book" Chapter 6

The above steps out of the way we now move to the really tough part of this ordeal--marketing the book. Well there are some cheap steps to take.

1-Use the free press release services. I like briefing wire, where you could do it for free or pay 49 dollars for a more extensive release. Besides they give you a real time indication of how many folks read the release. Other pay for release people often don't or make you wait a month for results.

2-Go to as many social or relevant web sites and make comments there or introduce the books to that audience. Twitter, Facebook, My Space come to mind. Try Flock it has the advance of allowing you to combine your social efforts.

3-Get your own web site. I have the luck and advantage of a son who is a genius built this one for me. But there are templates out there you might use. Otherwise building a site might cost 600 dollars up to your right arm. Then of course, you want to drive people to your web site to see your material about your book, with the above web items already mentioned.

4-You could place internet ads, like Google but that can in the end be high cost, even at five dollars a day.

5-You could try email blasts to relevant audiences. But Google gmail will quickly label you a scammer and threaten to close your account. You might try a email hosted sever of you own. The cost can be low, but you run into the problem of securing those emails in the first place. You could buy them, or cull them yourself from the web but either way you run into expense, time commitments or both.

6- You could send the book to critics and reviewers, but there is a cost to that, and beside what if all you get is passel of negative reviews for your efforts.

7-You have audio and I think it is worth the effort to get an audio blurb done about the book and send that around as an mp3. It is novel, quick and cheap. I like voice 123 to get the job done quick and cheaply.

8-You could concentrate on getting the full audio book done and then market to audible.com, Itunes, Apple book store, satelliite book radio and other audio channels out there. They are growing.

9-Finally, you could concentrate on the e-book, and e-book stores. That way the product is cheap, easy to download and can be more profitable that paperbacks which cost money to print and ship.

In fact I think points 7 and 8 are the way to go. These markets are growing.

So there is a quick primer on what I have learned about this business.  I plan to do a book on this topic.

 

Web Site: www.lonniehicks.com  

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Reviewed by Annabel Sheila 6/28/2011
You're absolutely right, Lonnie.....getting into the publishing/agenting world is extremely tough! Been at it for nearly twelve years....one must have broad shoulders and eternal patience...and the courage to chase your dreams!

Anna

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