Category Archives: Author

The Cost of Independent Publishing

Independent publishing is substantially cheaper than its ever been.  With Amazon and other distributors offering to distribute your ebook for a small fee and print your print book on-demand with nearly zero up front costs, publishing your book on your own has never been easier.

However, to be taken seriously in the market and compete against other high quality traditionally and independently published works, it is still going to take an investment, like any other business.  Two must-have items you hear over and over again are quality editing of your manuscript and a professionally designed book cover.

Thanks to the explosion of independent publishing these two necessities can be outsourced to professionals willing to do the work.  But, that has a cost.

In very general terms, book covers can range between $300 – $800 depending on whether or not you want an ebook cover only or a print book cover as well.  It also depends on the designer, how good they are and how busy they are.

editingThe cost variance in book editing is even greater.  First, there are many different types of editing options (proofreading, copy editing, developmental editing, etc.).  Each of these involve different work efforts by the editor and therefore have varying prices.  That being said, for a standard novel (50k – 65k words – which are short novels BTW), it can cost anywhere between $500 – $3,000, depending on the editor.

Let’s take the middle ground of those two very broad ranges, meaning your book cover could cost about $550 and your editing $1750.  That’s a $2300 investment per book.

You sure better be ready to publish and then be VERY patient on getting a return on your investment.  Why?

At the current Amazon 70% return on each ebook sold over $2.99, if you offered your ebook for that price, you get about $2 per sale.  That means you have to sell 1150 books to break even.  For some people, that may not sound like a lot .  For others, that may sound impossible.

To put it into perspective, the average self-published book sells under 200 copies.  That leaves you $1900 in the red.  Granted, most of those self-published books have crappy editing, awful book covers and zero marketing effort.  The numbers are daunting, none-the-less.

Now, some people have contacts or talented friends that can help and you may be able to reduce the cost, but, whatever you decide, do NOT reduce the quality of the end result at the same time.  Writing is an art, but publishing is a business.  You need to go into it with your eyes wide open and with realistic expectations of cost and return-on-investment.

I will say this.  If I have to invest $2300 in my first novel, you can bet your ass I’ll be marketing the living crap out of it.  Otherwise, my Chief Financial Officer (i.e., the wife), won’t allow me near the credit cards again.

I haven’t decided on an editor or a book designer yet, but I’ll let you know when I do and how the process worked for me.

If you’ve had any experience with either editing or book design, please share your insights in the comments section. We’d all love to hear from someone whose been through it.

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Podcast 13 – Marketing and Finding Your Voice

Pete Bauer and Dorothea Bauer talk about the various marketing research and strategies they plan to employ with the release of their first book.  They’ll also talk about the process of finding the correct voice for a novel and how that impacted the other work.


Running Time: 32:27

  • Writing Systems
  • 10 A.M.
  • Don’t Waste Inspiration
  • Approaching from Plot vs. Character
  • Production Schedule
  • Marketing Phases
  • Marketing Strategy
  • How are your Customers Interacting with your Product
  • – Problem Recognition
    • Marketers are Problem Solvers
    • Customers Search for Problem Filler
    • Customers will Research
    • Customers will Try out Product
    • Customers will do their own Evaluation
    • Creating a campaign for each of your Market Segments
  • Bridging those who have Aged Out
  • Marketing Validation, Awareness & Growth
  • Marketing Research & Testing
  • Finding Your Voice
  • Novel Approach
  • Character Introduction
  • Purgatory

 

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The Ampersand Dilemma

Now that we’re turning the novellas into novels, we’ll have to change some of the titles.  Here’s why.

ampersandThe original titles of the five books included an ampersand.  The first two are Water & Blood and Shadows & Lies.  For marketing purposes, we’d want to make all of the titles consistent, so we’re going to change the novellas to include the ampersand as well.

Fortunately, the second novella, Lost & Found, already had one.  The third novella, Tears & Miracles, had one as well.  So, it comes down to renaming novella one, The Homecoming Incident, and the fourth one, Skyway, into ones including an ampersand.

What is frustrating is I love both of those titles, however, when looking at it as a marketing strategy, you want the same look and feel for all of the books.  Like Koontz’s Odd Thomas books, for example.

So, we’re hashing out ideas for what the stories will be retitled as they grow into novels.  The only thing we know for certain is that an ampersand will be in the middle of it.

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Writing as a Business

Whether you are independently published or traditionally published, the majority of the ownership for your success falls on your shoulders.  It is up to the author to write good stuff, build a fan base, establish beta readers and street teams and marketing plans.

It’s why real writers treat writing as a business.  It’s where the term authorprenuer comes from.  If you treat writing as a business, then your books are your product.  They require planning, time to execute, and a marketing plan.  There should be sales goals, expenditures, statistics, and analysis to know whether you are hitting your mark.

In an attempt to take what I have in my head and turn it into something tangible, I threw together a production schedule.  It’s aggressive.  It’s a rough draft.  It’s more of a what-if than a real plan.  But, by doing so, it put into sharp focus just how much work lay ahead of me.

sample-schedule

From the sample graph, you can see I’ve documented in fiscal quarters which month I will write, which month(s) marketing research needs to be done and when each subsequent marketing phase would occur.  I also added time for research and overlapped the release of the beginning of a new series in the middle of the release of the first series.  I don’t know if that’s a good idea, but I know I don’t want to wait until one series is over before kicking off the second one.

However, by performing this simple exercise of playing around with what-ifs… if I release the novellas three months apart and the novels six months apart, I’ll have 20 novels in seven years.  And for that to occur, I have to write everyday for the next seven years.

Let me say that again.  I have to write everyday for the next seven years.

If anyone ever tells you being a writer sounds easy, show them a schedule like this and let them fully digest the work involved.

As I mentioned, this schedule is a draft.  A guess, at this point.  But, it was eye-opening to do it, to see how much time I’d have to write a novel, when I could be writing two at the same time, and added research time frames as well.

Looking at this I’m both excited and daunted, both of which make me feel like my head will explode.

There’s a 99% chance the actual production schedule won’t look anything like this.  But, you have to start somewhere and, looking at the next seven years, I’m glad I got started sooner than later.

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Word Count and Wreaking Hovac

Been very efficient this past week, typing out over 12,000 words.  I’m nearing the end of the first draft of Lost & Found and I must say I’ve really enjoyed putting Gabby through hell.

Writers have an odd relationship with the characters they love.  They create them, cherish them, give them hopes, dreams, goals, loves and then expend all of their energy trying to destroy every single one of them.  Not all at once, of course.  Just a little bit at a time.

GW-Wordcount-062514

When I started this novella I didn’t intend to make Gabby’s life so miserable.  It just sort of turned out that way.  And for the better, from a story perspective.  In crisis is where we see what someone is truly made of, what friendships really mean, which convictions are founded in stone or sand.  I’m not sure how much suffering still awaits Gabby in final chapters of Lost & Found, but I’m sure it’ll be just a little more.

As long as it makes the story stronger, its worth it.  She won’t mind.

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Writing is a Lot Like Golf… or an Ex-Girlfriend.

Writing is a lot like golf. It only takes one good swing to keep you hacking away for another 18 holes.

While working on the first draft of Lost & Found I inadvertently setup a really awesome situation.  The options were limitless.  With that came pressure not to screw it up.

So, I tentatively started into the scene, worried about letting myself (and the reader) down.  Yet, as the scene unfolded, the goals, the obstacles, the failures and the victories became clear to me.  The words were visual and creative and descriptive and effective. (A lot of ‘ives’ I know).

I was so excited when I was done.  I felt like I hit a homerun in the bottom of the 9th to win the game.  Or, to stick with my original analogy, hit the ball off the first tee with force, driving it straight and deep down the fairway.

Remember, preceding this moment of zen, I had been whining on this blog about how much of a struggle the writing process had been for me; having to write the outline backwards, writing words and hoping most of them would remain in the second draft.  Stuff like that.

golfIt’s like I had spent the previous day slicing the ball, digging it out of hazards and high grass and fishing it out of the water, with triple bogies and impatient foursomes behind me screaming to let them hit through.  But that one drive made me sign up for a lifetime membership.

That’s how addictive this writing thing can be when rare moments of inspiration hit.

It reminds me of painful relationships I was involved in while in college.  You date a girl.  She’s cute.  She likes you.  Then she stops calling.  You wait by the phone. Nothing happens.  You still wait by the phone.  Nothing happens.  You see her in class, she barely acknowledges your presence.  Then, one day you happen upon her in the cafeteria and you share a lunch.  You laugh, have a good time, she touches your hand, thanking you for picking up the tab.  Your heart flutters and you forget all of the anguishing minutes waiting by a silent phone.  You have hope once again that your relationship can be saved.

It’s that kind of false hope, but in writing, it’s more like fleeting awesomeness.

I may never get another one of those writing nirvana moments for the rest of this novella.  Or the next one, for that matter.  More than likely all of the future words I ever write will by 99% work and 1% inspiration.

But, it doesn’t matter.

I had one of those extraordinary moments where it all clicked.  Like hitting that perfect drive or the touch of a thoughtless girlfriend; momentary joy that makes all of the prior and future suffering not so bad.

I have the second half of the novella ahead of me.  And, for the first time in a few weeks, I’m really looking forward to writing it.

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Word Count and 50,000

Plotting out Lost & Found has really come in handy.  In a week I’ve written nearly 8,000 words.  The story is humming along.  I’m about half-way through, so it should end up in the 30,000 – 40,000 range, like the rest.

GW-Wordcount-061714I have been amazed how changes in the market, or new information I have come across during the learning process, has altered my approach.  These novellas exist because of a podcast I heard a few months ago.  The more I learn, the more I want to set myself up for success.  Sometimes, that requires changing my path.

There is one option out there that I have not yet decided on.

Bookbub is “a free service that helps millions of readers discover great deals on acclaimed ebooks while providing publishers and authors with a way to drive sales and find new fans.”  This has been used extensively, and often with great success, by many independent authors.  Just because you want to use Bookbub doesn’t mean you can.  They are selective about who they promote and you have to meet their criteria.  One of those criteria is that the book has to be at least 50,000 words.

They don’t promote novellas.

Now they also want your book to have great reviews on Amazon and, preferably, critical acclaim from sources other than readers.  So, the word count isn’t the only hurdle, but one of the basic ones.

So, as I write, I wonder, “Should these novellas be short novels instead, 50,000 words, so promotional opportunities could be made available to me?”

I don’t know the answer to that question yet.  I don’t want to add words for the sake of word count.  I want to add words because they make the story better.  As mentioned in a previous blog, Skyway will probably leap over the 50,000 word limit by the time it is done.  But, when I look at the rest of the novellas, I’m not sure almost doubling The Homecoming Incident will make it any better.  And, at this point, Lost & Found doesn’t feel like a 50,000 word short novel.

What does all of this mean?  It means I haven’t made up my mind.

I won’t know for sure until all of the novellas are written. Because, when that is done, I want to look at them as a whole, as one large character arc, and see what has to be altered to maximize their overall effect.  Maybe that process will require additional words.

But will that turn into five 50,000 word short novels?

Only time will tell.

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Wordcount and Writing Backwards

I’ve been chugging along slowly, but surely.  Mostly slowly.  I was able to draft almost 7500 words on the Lost & Found novella before I slowed things down.  I realized that I knew the end of the story, but some of the middle parts were fuzzy. And, since I was diving head first into writing the middle section, I knew I had to clear things up.

GW-Wordcount-061014

In order to hash out the blank spots in my storyline, I decided to write backwards.  Or, better said, outline backwards.  Since I knew how it ended, I wanted to make sure every step in the story lead me there.  Plot point by plot point, I outlined backwards, identifying what happened in that plot section and what was the hook to make the reader want to continue on.  Eventually I made it through the fuzzy middle and to where my actual writing had stopped.

Now I have to move forward again, one word at a time, fleshing out those plot sections with dialogue, action and character.  Yes, that’s the hardest part, especially on the first draft, but at least I’ve devised a road map to get there.

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Pressure

Something important occurred to me this weekend.  Something that placed a crap ton of pressure on me.

As I fleshed out the plot for the second novella, Lost & Found, I realized it is the single most important book in the entire series.  Why?  Because, we intend to give the first novella The Homecoming Incident away for free, as soon as we are able (it takes time to move it from .99 to free in the Amazon world).  So, we’re hoping a lot of people will check out The Homecoming Incident for nothing and be inspired to take a chance on Lost & Found.

If they take that chance and don’t like Lost & Found, then they’re not going to invest any money in the remaining three novellas & five novels in the series.  That’s another eight potential novels/novellas that won’t be read.  And that’s a lot of work not being seen.  Hundreds of thousands of words.

So, this second novella became a hec of a lot more important.  And telling you only adds to the pressure to succeed.

It’s a good thing, though.  I should approach every story as if it’s imperative to the success of the series.  It was just that “Ah-Hah!” moment that kind of jolted me from “let me see what I can flesh out” to “Good Lord, years of work are now waiting for my timid fingers to type something brilliant.”

Only time, a good editor and reader’s opinions will tell if I’m successful or not.

No pressure…

 

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Impatience

One of my continuing challenges I have is my impatience.  I am impatient with my career.  I am impatient when I read.  And I am impatient when I write.

One of the things I have tried to temper when I began writing novels were my expectations.  Ignorance is a bad guide and I have learned from past experiences that hoping to accomplish something is very different than knowing how to accomplish something.  Basing expectations on hope will set you up for failure because it is not tethered to the real world.

plot

So, I spend a lot of time learning how a thing should be done before telling myself when I should accomplish that thing.  That being said, I’m still behind schedule.  If I had stuck to my original (and ignorant) plan, I would be publishing my first novel this week.  Gabby Wells: Water & Blood was originally scheduled for release on June 4th.

Then I started learning more and more about self-publishing.  I started reading a lot and listening to about ten podcasts a week and learned about sales funnels and permafree and mailing lists and building tribes and street teams.  That led to the idea of writing a novella as an entryway to novels.  That led to writing five novellas.  And that has altered my expectations.

All of the changes have been for the right reasons, but my impatience doesn’t really care about that.  It wants to be done.

I’m also an impatient reader.  I fight the urge to skim through in order to find out what happens next.  I must force myself to digest every word because, now writing novels, I know how much time and effort each of those words represent.

But my impatience doesn’t really care about that.

It is no surprise, then, that I am an impatient writer.  In my first draft I am very much a heads down, get from A to B as directly as possible so I can move onto the next thing that happens.  Only after the plot is complete do I go back and look for the many ways I can elaborate character or intention.  All of those layers take time.

But my impatience doesn’t really care about that.

So, as I am knee deep in daily writing, fighting to go straight from A to B, I force myself to try and be patient.  I know what is supposed to happen in all five novellas.  I know what is supposed to happen in all five novels.  I just can’t wait for them to be done.  Unfortunately (actually, fortunately) those pages are waiting on me, an impatient writer, to fill them with the stories I see in my head.

As much as I remind myself, my impatience doesn’t really care that.

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