Rising Costs for Authors

I have never been one to enjoy grocery shopping.

Lately, I have disliked the task even more.

Rising prices is the main reason. 

All the foods I enjoy cost much more than they did six months ago. I find myself feeling angry, sad, disheartened.

What about authors? 

The cost of paper, publishing, editing fees, and cover design are bound to go up, too.

So should we think about raising retail prices on our books? Should we consider changing advertising strategies? Perhaps refrain from participating in so many giveaways? 

Until I started writing this blog today, I hadn’t really thought about how our current economy might impact authors’ incomes.

Should we just “ride it out” or do we need to make some changes?

If you are an author, would you please share your thoughts? 

Vanity Presses

A vanity press is a publishing company that offers publishing services for a fee. They are often associated with publishing scams because of the exorbitant fees they charge to do everything an author could potentially do for themselves. 

A vanity press will accept any and all works—even those who would not be commercially successful.

The most eye-opening difference between commercial publishers and vanity publishers is this:

Commercial publishers focus on the general public as their intended market.

But, vanity publishers focus is on the author, because they pay high fees and buy copies of their books themselves.

With a vanity press (which will print anything for money), the books don’t go through approval or editorial processes.

But, hey, some famous authors self-published some—or all—of their works. Recognize these names?  Zane Grey, Edgar Allan Poe, Carl Sandberg, Mark Twain, and Walt Whitman.

Not all were financially successful. Mark Twain’s publishing business went bankrupt!

Make Your Imprint

You may not be familiar with the publishing term Imprint

Simply put, it is the trade (brand) name owned by a larger publishing house which often publishes books targeting specific niches and reading demographics.

Imprints are essentially branches of the same company.

They all tend to have their own resources like editorial and marketing staff, but share production, design, and sales teams with their larger publisher.

Imprints have the advantage of the larger parent company’s ability to get books into stores/retailers, such as Barnes and Noble.

If the book cover is intriguing and targeted toward the right audience, the average reader usually doesn’t care about reading from certain presses or specific imprints. 

So, you may consider publishing with one of these familiar ones next time around: Penguin Random House, Howard, and Avid Readers Press (just to mention a few).

Is Hybrid Publishing Best?

Hybrid Publishing combines elements of both traditional and self-publishing. The difference being that in hybrid publishing, authors pay or subsidize most or all of the costs of publishing and are NOT given an ADVANCE on royalties. The publisher takes care of the editorial, design, and marketing of the book. 

Hybrid publishing works well for authors who just want to write, write, write, without having to spend time in those others areas. Appealing. Yes?

Remember: Although with traditional publishers, authors may get less in the way of royalties, self-publishing lets you keep the most, with hybrid falling somewhere in between.

Unfortunately, some hybrid publishers are little more than vanity publishers, which try to scam authors and spend very little of YOUR marketing dollars toward marketing. 

Self-publishing, along with hiring a marketing person (or firm) seems to be the best way to go for the author who doesn’t want to spend their time doing their own marketing.

Spending Too Much Time Writing?

I absolutely love to write, but too much writing isn’t good for my shoulders or my mind. I don’t write well when I’m tired. My eyes burn from too much looking at the computer screen. I miss out on time with my family.

This is not a good place to be. I realize that.

So, I’ve had to schedule my writing time and enlist my family’s help in holding me to my “office hours.”

It’s been hard to let go of a passion and replace it with the most important things in my life: family, faith, and friends.

I’ve had to devote time and effort to prove—and enjoy—that truth. I have to believe my writing won’t suffer if I don’t give it one hundred percent of my time.

But, when I am writing, I give one hundred percent of my ability and skills.

And that I can do.

Don’t Chuck It!

Writing last week, I felt the need to say the same thing I had in an earlier chapter, but in a different way so as not to sound repetitive. I decided to check my “Too Good To Toss” list.

If you don’t have one of these lists, you need to start one. Inevitably you will write something that you just love, but your editor or critique group will say it doesn’t work in your current writing.

Instead of being heartbroken that the world will not get it to read your carefully-crafted sentences, simply copy them into a file you can easily access for future use.

So, I resurrected a short paragraph I had written for a prior publication (but didn’t use) and slipped it into my current document where it worked perfectly.

So don’t trash phrases, sentences, or even paragraphs that you just hate to let go of; instead repurpose something from your Don’t Toss list!

(I also have lists of story ideas, book titles, etc. You never know when they may be useful.)

From A Reader’s Point of View

Today, I’m writing as a reader—not a writer.

And, as a reader, I want to read something new. I’m tired of the hundreds of books on the market that are nothing more than variations on a theme.

For instance, for the last few years there have been a plethora of books about a young, single girl who has just had a nasty break-up with her boyfriend. Her aunt dies and leaves her a bed and breakfast near the ocean. She finds a new love and new friends while renovating the bed and breakfast and building new clientele.

The next author comes along and changes the story ever so slightly. This time it is a newly-divorced woman whose grandmother passes away and leave her a bakery on an island. She’s never baked in her life, but follows her granny’s recipes and becomes world famous.

Enter writer #3. This woman has never been married. She, too, inherits an outdated inn in a charming hamlet. She brings it back to its former glory with the help of a handsome and newly-single handyman. And, well, you know how the story goes.

There are dozens of these variations on a theme out there from the Cat Who solves mysteries to the Dog Who sniffs out criminals, and so on.

In my humble opinion, these stories are spinning out of control.

Each one may have been well-written and enjoyable ONCE or TWICE, but over and over again?

Sometimes they fool me with their titles. I purchase them, beginning to read until around chapter three when the light dawns and I recognize the familiar storyline.

Disappointed, I revisit Amazon or Barnes and Noble. I still have hope that there are other stories out there worth telling—and reading.

Lest you think I am picking on these authors, I want to say in their defense that they are smart. They find a theme and run with it and they are making big bucks in a lot of cases.

And, there really are readers who enjoy reading every new cowboy romance, or granny detective story they can get their hands on.

Think back to when you were a kid and asked your parents to read Green Eggs and Ham over and over. 

Some stories we just never get tired of.

The Necessity of the “Black Moment”

This week, I’d like to discuss the importance of the “Black Moment” when writing fiction.

No, it’s not a time when an author fails to come up with new ideas, suddenly aware that the story is a flop and cannot come up with a way to fix it.

The Black Moment is the point at which obstacles stand in the way of the main character ever obtaining the desired goal.

Defeat seems inevitable.

This often takes place at the end of Act Two, but it has been effective as the crisis point slightly before or after that. The importance is that your book have one.

It has to be something that snags the reader’s heart and takes their breath away.

This is not just a simple change of heart or the discovery of a hangnail. 

It is betrayal, the uncovering of a lie, a cancer diagnosis, a revelation that you are not the real father of the darling baby girl with rosebud lips…

And from there, the story goes on a rollercoaster ride of struggles and disappointments until unbelievably the hero wins!

Readers cheer and find it nearly impossible to wait to read the next book in the series.

Exceeding Expectations

Authors will tell you that a book should have a satisfying end.

But just what is a “satisfying end”?

As a reader, I think of it as a conclusion that leaves me feeling that everything worked out as it “should.” The guy gets the girl, the man gets a promotion, the marriage is saved, the woman beats cancer, the cops catch the killer. 

The reader is satisfied.

But, what if we try to answer the question from the author’s point of view?

What if the outcome is not popular with his readers? Maybe it is not a socially acceptable ending, touts a particular political viewpoint that the majority of readers just cannot agree with, or the ending is a cliffhanger that doesn’t answer “Who done it?” or leaves readers scratching their heads and wondering “what happened?”

What if they just don’t “get it?”

Readers are left sad, angry, or frustrated that they just spent five hours reading something that didn’t end the way they had hoped.

Readers pay “good money” for our books and deserve to get whatever the author promised on the back cover and/or in their marketing. Writers create certain expectations in their readers’ minds and—as much as possible—we need to meet them.

A good author delivers. 

And, a great author exceeds expectations.

The Pesky Semi-colon

Talking with other authors, I realized that few of them knew the correct usage for the semi-colon.

I admit it has long been a struggle for me, too.

The internet is the “go-to” place for valuable information on thousands of topics, so that’s where I went to learn about it’s use.

Here’s what I found:  

  1. The semicolon is used to join two independent clauses instead of using a conjunction such as and. The group of words that comes before the semicolon should form a complete sentence, and the group of words that comes after the semicolon should form a complete sentence as well. The two sentences must share a close, logical connection. An example would be: Paul bought Brittany flowers for her dance recital; Sam gave her a pearl necklace.

2.  A semicolon should be followed by a capital letter only if the word is a proper noun or an acronym.

For instance, Billy bought a baseball with his allowance; Shawn purchased a skateboard.

3.  You can use semicolons to divide the items of a list if the items are long or contain internal

punctuation. The semicolon helps readers keep track of the divisions between items. For example:

Juan’s plan for his date with Felicia was to visit the county library; skate at the pond; and drink hot

cocoa at the neighborhood cafe. 

4.  When using a conjunctive adverb (such as finally, nonetheless, moreover, however, therefore,

otherwise, likewise, then, and consequently) to link two independent clauses, use a semicolon.

     An example is: I wanted to go for a walk with Robert; however, I also planned to go skating with