Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Holy jibberjab...

Over the last few months, I've been helping a new author. Granted, I've only answered a few questions here and there, offering advice and telling her about my personal experiences, but today I sent her this very long email on what to do now that the book has been written. Please keep in mind that I'm not trying to sway anyone in any particular direction, these are just thoughts from my own experience. I'd love feedback from other authors as well in order to help these new up-and-coming authors.

So, what do you do now that the book is done?

Yay! Congrats on finishing your book! I am sooooooooo sorry I turned out to be such a jibberjab on this email. I had no idea it was going to go this far…

It’s really hard to choose who to go with and/or which path to take. From here, you’ll want to decide if you want to submit the book to agents (to try to get picked up by one of them and then they’ll try to get you picked up by a publisher). Another option is to submit directly to publishers. Some publishers (pretty much all the big-name ones) only accept submissions from agents, and won’t even look at submissions sent directly from authors. A third option is to go the self-pub route. With my first book, I sent to agents but never got picked up (and rarely even received an answer after waiting for months) so I started to research publishing houses and each one’s specific submission guidelines. I got accepted by two publishers and chose which one to go with based on the terms of their agreements.

I would probably write out a Pros and Cons list for each option and choose which one you’re most comfortable with. For example (in my opinion):

Pros: They have an in with publishing houses and can get your manuscript in front of more eyes. They also know who would be most likely to pick up your book. They may also work with the publisher on your contract and royalty rates. Many will also work with you to polish the heck out of your MS, synopsis, and blurb so they shine before it is seen by publishers.
Cons: They get a portion of each book sale, so your royalty would be X% of the sale price, minus X% the agent would get (might not be a biggie if they get you in a big box publisher and you become a bestselling author).

Pros: For the most part, publishers have a following of readers, and the authors generally support one another. They (your fellow publisher authors) may try to help market your book through blog hops, spotlights, etc., especially if you’re willing to return the favor. Publishers also handle all costs associated with getting your book ready for publication. They pay for/create the cover, pay for editing, and pay the ISBN fees to get your book assigned the different numbers needed to get it out there. They will likely also have an in with different vendors to get your book available on different sites.
Cons: You’ll be in a contract with them, and many of your rights to your book will basically be on hold until your contract is up. They set your price, and decide when/if to do promotional prices on it. You really don’t have control over it once it’s all said and done. Also, they usually get more than half of the money you would normally get on your royalties. When vendors sell your book, they keep a big chunk of the sale price (let’s just say 30% for example), so 70% of the sale price is sent to the publisher. The publisher then keeps whatever % was agreed on in the contract (we’ll say 55% as an example) and you’re sent the rest. So if your book’s sale price was $2.99 and we used the sample %’s above, you would end up with roughly $0.94 on each book vs. roughly $2.09 if you’d gotten the whole royalty. However, that being said, it’s to start paying the publisher back for all those upfront costs. With the big publishers, many only offer you a 6% royalty because they will usually pay to have a bunch of books mass-printed, which isn’t typical of the smaller ones.

Pros: You have full control over absolutely everything. You’re in charge of the cover, the editing, the formatting, the marketing, and the pricing.
Cons: Not all vendors will let you upload to them. Many will only allow books from publishers. Also there can be costs to self-publishing. Since you’ll need to create (or buy) a cover, those costs are up to you. Same with editing and formatting your books. In my case, I bought a cover that I absolutely fell in love with because it fit the book so well. I did my own editing (many times over) until I was happy with it, so there wasn’t a cost for me there other than my time and sanity. I also did all the formatting myself as well for the different vendors that would accept my book as a self-pubber. One cost I hadn’t realized I’d need to pay was for the ISBNs. Many vendors will let you use an ISBN that belongs to them, but I have found that there are usually some downsides to doing that (one, for example, claimed that if you used their ISBN then they would own the cover of your book). Needless to say, I forked out the money and got my own ISBNs, and now I have enough for a few books when I’m ready.

Now that I’ve summed up a few Pros and Cons for those, I’ll move onto what your actual next step is, no matter which option you choose: The Blurb.
I’m not sure if you’ve done one yet, but you’ll want to try to write something that will really draw a reader to your book. If you’re anything like me you’ll probably write a bunch of different versions of it, and pick and choose the most compelling parts to go in it.

Another step you’ll want to do (and so not my favorite step) is the synopsis. This is really only needed if you’re going with an agent or publisher. When I first started to submit my MS to agents and publishers, I found that each one had a different page-count on the size of synopsis they wanted. Some wanted 5, others, 1. So I wrote out my synopsis, got it to 5 pages and saved it. Then I tweaked it down until I had one that I saved at 4 pages, and then 3 pages, and 2 pages, and finally 1 page. That way I was covered no matter what size they wanted. If you need any tips on how to write this let me know (I won’t go into it now since I’ve already gone like 400% more than I’d meant to, hahahaha).

And finally, if you’re going the Publisher or Agent route, you’ll want to write your query letter. With this one, you’ll want to remember this: The Hook, the Book, the Cook.
This is the letter that will either make the Agent/publisher fall in love with your concept enough that they want more, or they’ll read it and move on. Make that first line really stand out and punch them in the face, then move onto your blurb (or if your blurb had that awesome first line, then just start off with the blurb). After your book details, tell them about you (“the cook”): Whatever credentials you have, if you’ve received any awards, any degrees in writing, anything that will make you stand out. If you don’t have anything like that, just add that this book is your first one and try to sound like the awesomesauce person you are.

Anyway, I hope that helps. Let me know if you need help with anything. I know we’re heading into scary-territory now. Just know that you’re not alone. :)

What about other authors out there? Any advice or Pros and Cons for new authors?

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