Archive for the 'Progress Toward Publication' Category

The Death of Traditional Publishers? Final Post: Entrepreneur Jimmy Thomas

Last week I posted about the new entrepreneurs that will rise as traditional publishing descends. One of those entrepreneurs is cover model, Jimmy Thomas of Romance Cover Novels. He is a very, very busy man, but I finally pinned him down for an interview about his unique and brilliant business:

How long have you been creating and selling your own cover photos?

Almost a year. On the 1-year anniversary date of the launch of my site, I will be having a 50% off ALL my images for the entire day! That date won’t be revealed until a few days before, as I don’t want to lose sales until then. (Hint: it’s next month!)

What made you decide to do so in the first place?

I’ve always shot ‘couples’ images, from fitness, lifestyle, editorial and stock, to romantic, sensual and erotica for the past 12 years. I wanted to be on more romance novel covers since I’ve always had the knack to pull off that style.  So between that, and getting involved in the romance novel industry back in 2002, I figured why not make it happen, instead of waiting for it to happen.

Are you able to track who buys them? If so – have you seen any market shifts? Like paper to e-pubs to individuals? Or surges in purchases?

Yes, I know who buys my images and I keep very good track of everything. I’m a perfectionist so to keep sane, and for business sense, I make sure I know my biggest buyers, which publishers I have more covers with, authors, cover artists, etc.  As for e-publishers vs. print publishers, it’s about equal. (All the print publishers now put their print books out in e-format anyway; either at the same time if a well-known author, or they wait until the e-formats sell enough to take it to print.)  As for surges in purchases, no, it stays pretty steady.

Do you know of any other models doing the same thing?

Nope, none. It’s not something that just anybody can do. And again, I have 12 years experience in creating all ranges of very marketable ‘couples’ images. I have many participating photographers who have signed my contract and over 175 female models wanting to shoot. I’m a web designer so I have control of my site and editing the images, plus I have a knack for directing, producing, wardrobe, what looks good, what makes something look better, etc.  I just don’t see others coming around having all of the same abilities.  Plus, I already have the head start if someone does!

Have you considered creating your own “stable” of models and photos – expanding your services by taking on others on a percentage basis?

I will be, once I’m on more covers than John DeSalvo (1,600 will clear the air, but I’m targeting 2,000 by next Romantic Times Booklovers Convention – April 2011).  Then yes, I will allow any photographer or model, who has rights to sell and publish their images, to submit them to me. If I find them suitable for novel covers, I’ll post them for sale..  RomanceNovelCovers will be then be THE only site everyone will go to for those types of images.

Do you realize how “cutting edge” you are?

While trying to stay humble… yes, I do. *wink* But I don’t mean me personally as a model or my look, but because of my combination of abilities that allow me to create and run RNC! 😉

The beta version of Goodnight Publishing’s website is up: http://www.GoodnightPublishing.com Would you like me to list you as a resource?

Yes, I’d love to have you list me as a resource for their cover images!

THANKS, Jimmy!

Thank YOU Kris!

~~~~~

And now we have – July.

I will be taking a much-needed break for a few weeks. Who knows what the publishing world will stir up in the meantime? Please subscribe so you don’t miss whatever comes next; and thank you for your support and comments thus far. I appreciate every one of you! Kris 🙂

The Death of Traditional Publishers? Part 12: Unveiling A Business Model that Didn’t Exist – Until Now

I am about to take a huge and scary plunge. I’m going to reveal my secret.

During the past year I have been actively exploring the world of independent publishing. The reason is simple: while my writing itself has been praised, the setting of my American/Norwegian historical trilogy doesn’t fit into publishers’ “kilts & dukes” boxes. (See Jerry Simmons’ June 17th post here about “safe” trumping “new.”) So my choices were to:

1. bury the books, or

2. hope that the manuscripts I have – which DO fit the “boxes” sort of – sell to publishers, and generate enough interest that the publisher might take a risk on them, or

3. publish them independently and let them stand on their own.

With my agent’s blessing, I’m taking the trilogy directly to the readers. But the issue I have with 99.9% of self-published books is that they look… well… unprofessional. Cheesy. They use ugly or mismatched fonts, over-use bold lettering, or don’t have a sense for how a page should LOOK. It’s like these authors have never read a book!

But to be fair, so do some print-on-demand books from some established e-publishers! Editing there, too, is an issue. Because e-books are cheap, somehow that translates into shoddy work.

Readers deserve better.

So, I decided to find a way to give it to them: GOODNIGHT PUBLISHING.

I soon realized that I have no interest in getting in between an author and their royalties. Or an author and their rights to their books, for that matter! So Goodnight Publishing is NOT an actual publisher, per se. But it fills a need that no other company does that I know of. It begins with:

  • Manuscripts being evaluated by professional editors before they are accepted.
  • Once accepted, the author will either learn how to do all of the following tasks themselves, or take training classes through the Goodnight Publishing website ($15 per class per 30-day instructional window).

Authors are asked to:

  1. Sign up for a free account with Amazon’s Create Space – for their POD copies – procure a free ISBN through them, and determine the physical properties for their book(s).
  2. Format their manuscript per the selected properties, or have it professionally formatted (classes and/or references provided).
  3. Edit their manuscripts, or have it professionally edited (references provided).
  4. Design their own book covers, or hire a professional designer (classes and/or references provided).

Now, this is where the genius of Goodnight Publishing kicks in: when the book itself looks professional and the proof is approved, the author will be given permission to add the TRADEMARKED logo for Goodnight Publishing.

  1. The book now has Goodnight Publishing’s logo printed on the back, spine and the title page.
  2. Goodnight Publishing’s website address appears under the logo.
  3. All book covers will appear on Goodnight Publishing’s website.
  4. Readers who go to Goodnight Publishing’s website will see all the other authors “published” by Goodnight Publishing. Just like any traditional publisher’s site.
  5. For their first four books on the website, authors will pay $2 per month for one live link from their book cover, or $3 per month for two. (Their fifth book will be linked for free.)

These live links can send readers to the author’s website, Amazon or another site for purchasing, to YouTube for their book trailer (classes and/or references provided), their blog, etc. Wherever they choose. By being listed on a publisher’s site along with other authors, the author gains legitimacy in the eye of the reader. Readers don’t care where royalties go. They just want to be able to find more books.

More key points of genius:

  1. This business model exists to enable the independent author to present their works to readers in a professional manner.
  2. Authors retain all rights to their work.
  3. There are no contracts.
  4. Live links are prepaid for 12 months (renewable/non-refundable) and pulled when the payment expires. However, the cover stays on the site. That’s good for all of us.
  5. No manuscript will be refused or removed because previous ones haven’t sold well. Each book stands on its own.

Because – this process is not about selling books. It’s about authors linking arms to BUILD READERSHIP. Long term goals are realistic, overnight bestseller is not.

Goodnight Publishing will accept submissions from all genres, but I do confess an affinity for Historical Fiction and Romance.

Do you have a manuscript that you would like to take on this path? Are you willing to do the work? Then get ready:

Submissions will be accepted beginning August 1, 2010 at www.GoodnightPublishing.com

The Death of Traditional Publishers? Part 11: Spawning New Entrepreneurs!

In the new world of “Author-Straight-To-Public” publishing, tasks done by the traditional houses now fall on the author. But few of us are graphic artists/video competent/promotional whizzes. And we have already discussed how impossible it is to successfully edit our own work!

This is the moment when energetic go-getters will sit up and say, “But I AM a graphic artist/video competent/a promotional whiz/an experienced and competent editor! I should offer my services!”

Bingo.

Let’s say I want to independently publish my Ecuadorian same-sex vampire historical time-travel epic because – at 250,000 words – I’m having a hard time convincing the NY publishers to take a chance on it. Where do I start?

Obviously, the first thing is to get it polished. Enter ENTREPRENEUR #1: Independent Editors! For a fee (a penny a word is what I’ve seen bandied about) they will edit your manuscript and clean it up. Make it shine. Worth every – literally – penny!

Next, I need a cover. If I don’t have any art background, or am not techie enough to do it myself, I’ll want to hire someone to design it for me.

Enter ENTREPRENEUR #2: Freelance Book Cover Designers! These professional artists will design your cover to match your expectations – and your actual characters. Here are two I have met, though there are many more out there: Anastasia Rabiyah: www.rabiyahbooks.com and Dawne’ Dominique www.dawnedominique.com (Contact info is on their websites.)

But what if I DO have some skills? Where can I get the components to put together my OWN cover? Enter ENTREPRENEUR #3: Freelance Cover Models! Okay, I used the plural here. But honestly, the only one I have found (Do you know of others? Please share!) is Jimmy Thomas.

On his site, Romance Novel Covers Jimmy poses both alone and with female models in a variety of costumes and settings. Don’t be put off by the name: professionally shot, the photos are perfect for a variety of genres! And they are very reasonably priced.

Brilliant, Jimmy.

Now that I’m edited and have a cover, I can upload to CreateSpace, Kindle, Nook, iBooks (But only if I own a Mac. In typical Apple fashion they aren’t playing nicely with others), and Smashwords (who covers ALL formats – even iBook. So there.) on my own. But how do potential readers know I’m worth it?

ENTREPRENEUR #4: Freelance Reviewers! There are a ton of blogs and websites that will review your book for free. One, however, takes it a step further: Apex Reviews. For a very reasonable fee, they will review your book, create a trailer, and post it everywhere.

Speaking of which, ENTREPRENEUR #5: Book Trailer companies! A caveat to this: most of their prices are so high that I’m not sure they drive enough traffic to justify the expenditure. But you CAN make your own trailer very simply with PowerPoint and a conversion program.

Which brings us to ENTREPRENEUR #6: Teaching Other Authors! I teach classes on creating your own Book Trailer through Savvy Authors (Check it out if you are interested!). MANY authors teach classes through a variety of websites! And we all make a little money doing it. But the entrepreneurs RUNNING the classes? They make a lot.

Are you getting the point? If there is a corner of the publishing market that independent authors need filled, quick-acting and skilled entrepreneurs can jump in… ARE jumping in.

Is there an unmet need that you have as an author? Post it here and we’ll see if anyone can help… Or start a business! 🙂

The Death of Traditional Publishers? Part 10: Why It’s So Hard to GET Published by Jerry Simmons

Kris says: In light of all the changes in publishing, I asked Jerry D. Simmons of Nothing Binding to give us his take.

It’s probably hard for any writer to believe that large New York based trade publishers are constantly on the lookout for new product (books). In fact, it’s crucial to the life of a trade publisher to have a constant influx of new product, i.e. new titles, new authors, possibly even new categories. Publishers need product to keep their seasonal lists fresh and well rounded. This means they cannot simply publish best-selling authors, the kind that everyone sees on the New York Times bestseller list. They need to publish a complete list of books.

And booksellers are always looking for what’s new, too. When a publisher presents their list to a book buyer, the typical first question is: what’s new? Books by John Grisham, Danielle Steele, Stephen King and the other well-known authors are exciting but also very predictable. They will sell a predictable number of copies and that of course is a very good thing for books sellers. They need these authors to bring customers into the stores and to generate a large number of sales. But they also need the next sleeper, the newest and different title that has the potential to rise from the bottom to become the next big book.

Agents, too, are always looking for new books and new authors because their existence depends on it. So if the publishers and agents are on the hunt for new and different, why is it so hard to get published? Certainly the intensely competitive nature of the publishing industry is one answer, but the truth is that your largest trade publishers (Random House, Simon & Schuster, Harper-Collins, Penguin Putnam, Holtzbrink and Hachette) are risk averse!

In other words they want new, but safe. They’re looking for different, but the same. Make sense? Of course not, and this is why getting a contract to have your book published is so hard and why recognizing these titles are so difficult.

Publishers today are not willing to take financial risks on books that are not reasonably predictable. A first time author of a romance or mystery novel for example, depending on the writing, will sell a predictable number of copies. Books on cooking, business or other related non-fiction categories, for example, will sell a predictable number of copies. Manuscripts that are new, different, and predictable, yet offer the slightest possibility of breaking out of the mainstream, are what they want, what they desire, and what they are constantly seeking.

Because of this, every writer should have a thorough grasp of their genre. Who publishes the titles in their category, which are the best-selling authors, how are they packaged, priced, etc. Then you must ask yourself: how is my writing unique? What makes my book new and different? If you’ve read most of the best-selling authors in your category and you can provide a good answer, then you have what publishers and agents need.

Now you must aggressively market yourself to the agents and be confident enough in your work to say, ‘my writing is new and different’. It is also critical that you have a basic understanding of the business side of publishing and a good idea of what is happening in the marketplace. To summarize, you must write something that is new and different, you must be confident, have a basic understanding of the business, and knowledge of the marketplace, all of which are possible! Who said getting a book published was difficult?

~~~~~

Jerry is a 32-year veteran of publishing, 25 in New York with Random House and the former Time Warner Book Group as Vice President, Director Field Sales. His sales division generated hundreds of millions of dollars in book sales across the United States and Canada.

Over the years he has worked on thousands of New York Times bestselling titles and hundreds of New York Times bestselling authors including James Patterson, David Baldacci, Sandra Brown, Nicholas Sparks, Nelson DeMille and Michael Connelly.

Founder of www.WritersReaders.com Jerry’s eNewsletter “TIPS for WRITERS from the PUBLISHING INSIDER” is read by thousands of writers in over 24 countries. He is also the founder of the free online marketing platform and resource for writers and authors www.NothingBinding.com. In 2009 Jerry launched the INDI Publishing Group, establishing a new publishing model for publishing while creating opportunities for writers choosing to publish independently.

His book, WHAT WRITERS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT PUBLISHING is described by the #1 New York Times Bestselling author Sandra Brown as “The good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of book publishing, told in a straight-from-the hip manner. New writers take note.” New York Times bestselling author Allison Brennan said “The information was absolutely incredible! I would recommend your book to all aspiring and new authors.”

You can reach Jerry via email Jerry@WritersReaders.com or direct to his office via phone 623-556-2751. You may quote from or use this article all or in part, under the condition that the author, Jerry D. Simmons, and this web site, www.writersreaders.com are referenced.

The Death of Traditional Publishers? Part 9: The Rebirth of Print Books!

Every major publisher and bookstore should be preparing right now for the future. It will make sense to begin to launch books with a no-inventory strategy, and to encourage sales and move stocks of current press runs with returns allowable. The idea of printing and distributing on speculation and consignment will make less sense as the print market diminishes in its overall share.

There’s an inevitable downward spiral of brick-and-mortar retail inherent in this forecast because sales are moving online. The nearly-limitless online selection – for both eBooks and print –  plus the ability to shop in your jammies, have been increasingly powerful magnets since the day Amazon opened its virtual doors.

In fact, by the end of 2012, half of all book sale potential could be reached without requiring local inventory, shipping, or revenue collection, beyond digital distribution and its print-on-demand partner.

So what’s a bookstore to do?

The GOOD news is: the paper book will never disappear. But the HOW is going to be radically different. Enter The Espresso Book Machine by On Demand Books.

I read about this transition a couple years ago. In the near future, forward-thinking bookstores will have shelves of book covers – much like a video store has shelves of empty DVD cases. Buyers will pick up the covers, read the quotes, the back-cover blurb, the reviews. Probably a chunk of the first chapter. If they like what they see, they’ll take the cover to the cashier, pay for the book, and in a few minutes, the book is handed to them LITERALLY right off the press.

Now, I have very little faith that bookstores will overcome their greed and roll the stocking-shipping-and-returning savings into the cost – BUT THEY SHOULD! And they might. It would certainly beat shuttering their doors!

What I do know is that any author whose book is on Amazon, for example, should be available in any bookstore through this method. Log on, select the file, hit print, go.

Could the print future look any brighter? Can you see the genius in this path? Why aren’t bookstores starting the transition? Ordering these machines NOW and making all CreateSpace (and all other indie-publisher) authors available today? The more unique books and authors that are available – without the hassles and expenses of the traditional system – the more books a bookstore will sell. And the customer’s choices are expanded exponentially.

Harvard University has taken the step. Harvard Book Store’s new Espresso Book Machine turns PDF files into a high-quality paperback book in minutes. Genius, I say! …Well, it IS Harvard.

And a year ago, Blackwell Bookshop on Charing Cross Road in central London took the step as well. And think about this: NO INTERNATIONAL SALES or FORMATTING ISSUES! E-files fly across The Pond at the speed of internet – in both directions! Shoot, how about Australia and back?

After the machine itself, the only costs are the actual paper and ink. Think about that in a world increasingly desiring to be “green”! Think about the costs of print books going DOWN not up! And think about more of that money going to the AUTHOR.

I’m positively giddy over the prospect. Aren’t you?

The Death of Traditional Publishers? Part 8: The Date of Their Demise

Michael Shatzkin, a respected book industry consultant, weighed in with an interesting article about how soon the publishing crash could come. His analysis is fairly solid and he sees a “serious disruption” in book distribution as early as November, 2012.

The latest game-changers are Apple’s iPad – which reached the 1 million sales mark in only four weeks – and the now-available iPhone 4.0.

This new generation of iPhones (and iPod Touches) all have a built-in version of iBooks, Apple’s book-reading software. This will add over fifty million eBook readers to the market, with readers being able to order books from anywhere at any time.

This will be a slow, steady and serious blow to brick-and-mortar stores. Predicting the death of traditional publishing, he says, is not a case of figuring out how it will happen, it’s a matter of pinpointing the when.

Early last month, Simon & Schuster announced that first-quarter sales from its digital division had more than tripled, to $12 million, and now account for nearly 8% of income for the publishing house. If by the end of 2012, 25% of sales for a new book are digital, then about half of new book sales will be made through online purchases. Print books are never going to go away; but the current distribution model will.

Shatzkin believes that once eBook sales hit 20-25% of total sales, print run numbers will fall to a point where the current system for sales will break down. Currently books can be returned for credit, so for every book sold, two are printed. EBook sales will create smaller print runs, driving up the per unit cost, forcing higher prices which, in turn, will kill sales. Game over.

The monthly release of eBook sales figures by the IDPF provides a regular reminder about how fast this market is growing. Project the curve into the future and think about the implications!

Author Michael Stackpole thinks the transition will be sooner: he says June 2012. He believes the most serious blow will be dealt in December 2011, when a second wave of tablets becomes the hottest holiday gift item.

The second point which propels Stackpole toward his conclusion is the ease with which authors themselves are able to create and market eBooks: “In just over an hour, I converted a 192,000 word novel into an eBook. Putting the book up for sale in my website’s store, and blogging about it on Twitter and Facebook to let readers know it exists, was work of a morning. And the cost to me of capitalizing story inventory that would otherwise sit idle is, well, a morning’s work.”

He knows that authors can easily produce eBook versions of any length: anthologies, novels, novellas and short stories. Authors will make far more on those eBooks through direct sales than publishers are offering, even with their inflated (and sale-discouraging) pricing.

There is no incentive for authors to sell those rights to traditional publishers which means, in the fairly short term, publishers run out of material to sell. Their backlists will vanish as authors sell the books themselves.

If these men’s estimates are right, we are only two years away from a publisher (or author) being able to reach half the market for a book without inventory/monetary risk! And that disruption could take place before many books under contract now will reach their publication date.

I’ll conclude with Michael Stackpole: “2012 could be a year of disaster, not because of the Mayan calendar, but because of traditional publishing’s inability to deal with the impact of technology, and their arrogant refusal to adapt. As long as publishers cling to the belief that they’re the only game in town – employing a business model that has not significantly changed since the early 1800s – it’s a matter of when, not if; and that when fast approaches.”

(By the way – if you haven’t done so, would you please click on the “HELP” tab and vote for a book cover? Or tell me where I can find blond male cover model photos? All the standard sites that sell photos have the SAME men! THANKS! – Kris) … (And subscribe to this blog if you haven’t already – big stuff is coming by the end of the month!)

The Death of Traditional Publishers? Part 7: OTHER Editorial Tasks & The Author’s Responsibility to Their Customers

Writers should already know that they cannot expect a publisher’s editor to extensively line-edit their works, as editors did decades ago. And we already know that a good number of traditionally published books – all of which were professionally edited and produced – aren’t of particularly high quality. E-pubs tend to drop the bar even lower, sad to say.

It makes me want to pitch books across the room. In my pre-Kindle days, I waited 6 months from release until a friend’s e-book went to print. POD print, that is. I paid WAY too much ($28) for a copy from Amazon, but I wanted to be supportive. When I read the book, I realized that I never want my name associated with that (large & successful) e-publisher. The plot was a copy of a best-seller and the editing was horrific.

My last blog guest made it perfectly clear that an author can not successfully edit their own work. So what’s a new author to do? ESPECIALLY a new author striking out on their own?

Let’s assume your manuscript is completed and you have combed through it many times already. You have critique partners – other writers – who have evaluated your plot and characters, plus their goals, motivations and conflicts. Your grammar, punctuation and spelling have been checked. You think it’s finally in good enough shape to put it “out there.” How can you get it ready for print?

The answer, in my humble opinion, is to:

1. Print 3-4 copies in the form the book will ultimately take.

I learned when publishing my “Primer for Beginning Authors” that it does no good to proof a book that is not in book form. Wasted effort.

2. Recruit a battery of beta-readers.

I ordered 4 copies of my debut novel – “A Woman of Choice” – and gave it to 4 friends to read. (They cost $5.05 each – comparable in cost to printing the 103,000-word manuscript at Office Max.)

When they found a mistake, they were to mark it, dog-ear the page, then keep going. Mistakes could take any form: typos, scene breaks that fell at an awkward spot on the page, action descriptions that didn’t make sense, etc.

When I got the books back, 25% of the pages had mistakes on them – in a manuscript that I thought was clean. And here’s the kicker: they all found DIFFERENT mistakes!

3. Do it again.

I tweaked the cover, adjusted lines on the pages so the scene breaks didn’t overlap the top or bottom of a page, fixed every skipped or repeated word, adjusted the font size to be more pleasing, clarified actions described.

Then I ordered 4 more copies. 4 different friends got the fixed copies.

And they came back with 10% of the pages dog-eared, marked with mistakes that were missed in the first round. And again, they all found different ones. *sigh*

4. Do it yet again.

Ditto on the changes. But this time I only ordered 2 copies. And they went to 2 different friends.

But I already spotted 2 mistakes myself. Really? REALLY??

5. Do it again, for hopefully the LAST time.

I have 2 more friends waiting in the wings for Round Four.

Does this process take time? Yes. Is it worth it? You bet it is! I don’t want my books to look shoddy either in print or on e-pub. I don’t want to give anyone reason to say, “You can totally tell she published this herself.”

I am setting about building a readership. I respect those who spend their money to take a chance on me and my stories. I want to give them the best experience possible, whether the book is electronically, independently or traditionally published. Even if they only paid $2.99 for the e-book.

Because I’m in this for the long haul.

And the long haul demands that I go the extra mile. That my books are extensively proofed. That I listen to critique. That I give 100% effort to creating a quality product.

I wish all publishers felt as strongly about this as I do. Then I could stop throwing books across the room.


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Authorpreneur Kris Tualla

www.KrisTualla.com

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