Category Archive: Books

Other Books

Jul 21

Melodee’s Rules for Authors — Number Three

 

 

Number Three

Never Pay For Cover Art

 

See also Rules One, Two, and Four as they are closely related to this Rule.

As outlined in Rule Number One, cover art is a part of the cost of doing business, but that cost belongs to the publisher, NOT the author. Just like with editing as detailed in Rule Number Two, the biggest reason is Rule Number One itself, that money flows TO the author, but there are other more subtle reasons.

I know a few authors who do their own cover art, and I envy them to a large degree. I’m horrible at anything even hinting at graphic arts. PhotoShop is an absolute mystery to me. I just can’t do it. I need an artist who can make all of this work.

The exact same arguments for using the publisher’s editors apply to cover artists, but to an even larger degree…I would estimate that 90% or more of the advertising for a book is directly from the cover art. Think about it…

A potential buyer is strolling through the bookstore (brick-and-mortar or online, it doesn’t matter). Before they read the blurbs or thumb through the book to get an idea of the story, they see the cover. Does the art make them pick up the book to read the blurbs or thumb through the content? If not, a sale just passed you by.

Just like with editors, it all has to do with motivation.

A contracted artist will create a cover that the writer likes. Yes, that’s important, but it’s only number two on the list of priorities, and that’s being generous. The writer is not the person we need to sell the book to…not even close.

An artist working for the publisher will create a cover designed to market the book to the public. In other words, something that will make the aforementioned shopper pick up the book and look deeper.

Once again, the motivation is money, but the difference is where the money comes from.

Contracted artists make their money by pleasing the writer. Ideally the artist will read the book before doing the art. In practice, this almost never happens.

Publisher’s artists make their money by selling books. All real publishers require the artist to read the book before doing the art. In practice, very few small press and e-pubs even pretend to do this.

If you’re one of the lucky ones who can (and has the time) to do your own artwork, then you’re ahead of the game, but there is one thing you need to do…if you’re providing the cover art, then demand a couple of extra percentage points on the royalty. After all, the publisher doesn’t have to pay an artist, and you deserve to be paid for that part of the work.

But the real bottom line is that no matter the details of the publication (self, small press, or major print house), the cover art is of supreme importance. We’ve all seen great works sit on the shelf because the cover sucks. Make sure this is done right and well.

As an aside, you will often hear small press authors complain that they have no input to the cover design. Stop whining and start reading and changing the contracts before you sign them. If the publisher balks, walk away. Insist on right of veto on the cover art.

Keep Loving!

 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://melodeeaaron.com/blog/2017/07/21/melodees-rules-for-authors-number-three-5/

Jul 18

THWT Question for 18 JUL 2017

 

 

The Two Hundred Word Tuesday question for 18 JUL 2017 is:

 

What is the message in your books? How do your readers react to it?

 

Keep Loving!

 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://melodeeaaron.com/blog/2017/07/18/thwt-question-for-18-jul-2017/

Jul 14

Melodee’s Rules for Authors — Number Two

 

 

Number Two

Never Pay To Have Your Book Edited

 

See also Rules One, Three, and Four as they are closely related to this Rule.

As outlined in Rule Number One, editing is a part of the cost of doing business, but that cost belongs to the publisher, NOT the author. The biggest reason is Rule Number 1 itself, that money flows TO the author, but there are other more subtle reasons.

The biggest of these has to do with the attitude and approach to the editing task.

A contracted editor working for (and being paid by) the writer makes their money by getting writers to come to them to edit their work. A huge percentage of that income is from repeat business where a writer keeps coming back to have books edited. There is also the word-of-mouth advertising where a writer tells their friends how great John Doe edits their books. This all means that the editor has a vested interest in getting the writers to like them.

As a group, writers have pretty big and fragile egos. We sweat blood, laugh, cry, pull our hair out in clumps, fall in love with our characters, learn to hate some other characters, and in general see our stories as our children. Just like a momma bear, we will defend our stories to the death. If someone attacks our story, we will come to hate that person. In business, we will look for someone who treats us—and our stories—better and likes them just the way we write them.

See the problem here?

The contracted editor will tend to tell us what we want to hear. This may or may not be intentional, but the tendency is to say what the writer wants to hear so we like the editor and will come back to them and tell our friends how great they are.

In other words, for a contracted editor, they have no interest in if the book sells or not. Their income is based on how much the writer likes them. The contracted editor must have the writers like them in order to make a living.

Now let’s look at an editor that works for the publisher…

The publisher’s editors are paid by the publisher. They might be paid on salary (or hourly), or they might be paid per book that they edit. Some publishers even pay a royalty to their editors. It varies, but the bottom line is that the publisher—not the writer—pays the editor.

This boils down to the fact that the editor (and publisher) doesn’t care if the writer likes the editor or not. The editor’s job is to massage the story into something that will sell. If they fail to do so, they won’t work for the publisher for very long.

Both of these editors are motivated by money, but the source of the money is the difference…

Contracted editors only make money if the writers like them.

Publisher’s editors only make money if the story sells.

See the difference?

I have seen various authors (and we’re talking about self published authors here) post messages here and there about how wonderful some editor or another is. They rave about what a great job the editor did on their latest book and how it only cost $800 to have their story edited. When I have read some of the books, they are riddled with simple mechanical errors and have issues with flow and logic.

On the other hand, I have seen writers wailing about some editor at a publisher who absolutely shredded their book. The manuscript came back with more red ink than black. I hear how the author cried for a week over how harsh the editor was. And at the end of the message, the writer will say how much better the story was when all was said and done.

In the interest of being totally fair, I have seen a few cases where this was reversed, that is, a contracted editor doing a great job and a publisher’s editor being horrid. It happens on both sides.

Again, with self-publication the writer and publisher are the same person. But this is another reason to keep the two roles isolated in your mind…you The Publisher must be able to attack you The Author and make it stick. Not an easy thing to do!

Keep Loving!

 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://melodeeaaron.com/blog/2017/07/14/melodees-rules-for-authors-number-two-4/

Jul 11

THWT Question for 11 JUL 2017

 

 

Here’s the Two Hundred Word Tuesday Question for 11 JUL 2017:

 

What was your first job and how did you get it?

 

Keep Loving!

 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://melodeeaaron.com/blog/2017/07/11/thwt-question-for-11-jul-2017/

Jul 07

Melodee’s Rules for Authors — Number One

 

 

We’ve reached the point in the cycle where the Rules for Authors return to the beginning.

I repost the Rules instead of pointing to the prior iteration because the Rules are in a constant state of flux, just like the entertainment industry itself.

So, here we go again!

 

Number One

Money Flows TO The Author

 

While most of the Rules for Authors are not in any particular order of importance, this is number one for a reason: It is THE most important Rule and actually summarizes many of the other Rules into one easy to understand concept.

So, what does it mean?

Simply stated, the author should always be paid for their work and should never pay in order to create their work. See Rules Two, Three, and Four in particular.

As stated in Rule Number Four, if an author pays a “publisher” for editing, cover art, or anything else, you don’t have a publisher at all…you have a printer.

Think about it…

If you need some business cards, you go to a printer. They will, if you desire, create the artwork, layout, and other technical details for you, and then they will print, cut, and package your cards and ship them to you. You pay the printer for these services, and the printer deserves to be paid for these services. The only place they make any money is by providing those services to you.

A publisher makes their money by selling books. Editing (from acquisitions, to line, to content, and every other stage) is simply getting that product ready for market. The cover art is just marketing. These things are a normal part of the costs of doing business—just like the electric bill—for the publisher.

In other words, these costs are NOT the direct responsibility of the author.

Yes, I know…

The higher the costs of the publisher, the less they can afford to pay the author in terms of royalties, but this is another problem most writers have in their thought processes…an editor (or artist) working for a publisher can process more books for less money than can an independent contractor.

They also do a better job.

If you hire an editor to work on your book, they have a vested interest in saying everything is perfect. Why? Because you are paying them. The more you like them and the more they stroke your ego, the more likely you are to bring them more work in the future.

The publisher’s editors get paid no matter if you like them or not. They keep their job by editing books into something that will sell for the publisher, so they don’t care about your feelings.

And never lose sight of the fact that this is a business. We are all—authors, publishers, editors, artists, etc.—here to make money.

Oh, don’t give me that crap that you write for the joy of writing or that you want to change the world.

You’re going to starve to death with that attitude. Get over it.

Finally, changes in the industry have created a flood of “self published” works. In these cases, the author and the publisher may be the same person. That doesn’t change anything…when you are writing, you wear your author’s hat. When you are publishing, you put on the publisher’s hat. There are a ton of reasons to keep the roles separate, mostly financial…but a few will protect your sanity.

Remember that writing is a lot like sex…

At first you do it for a few close friends.

Then you do it because it’s fun.

But if you’re any good at all, you end up doing it for money.

Keep Loving!

 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://melodeeaaron.com/blog/2017/07/07/melodees-rules-for-authors-number-one-4/

Jul 04

THWT Question for 04 JUL 2017

 

 

The Two Hundred Word Tuesday question the 4th of July 2017 is:

 

How long does it take you to write a book?

 

Keep Loving!

 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://melodeeaaron.com/blog/2017/07/04/thwt-question-for-04-jul-2017/

Jun 30

Melodee’s Rules for Authors — Number Thirty-Six

 

 

Number Thirty-Six

Advertising Bang versus Bucks

 

Many people think of promotion and promoting their books. In more general terms, promotion is just a subset of advertising. But no matter what you call it, you need to get the most bang for the buck when you are trying to sell your books.

Now, if you’re really not interested in making a living as an author and/or don’t care how much you make (or lose), you might as well skip this rule. It won’t make any sense to you and some will even puff up like a bullfrog and fuss about the art or craft or some other thing in order to get the entire world of writers to see the light and make as little money as you do.

For the rest of you who want to (or already are) make a living as an author, read on…

I want to make sure you understand that I am NOT talking about the basic promoting needed from the author of any book. What we’re looking at here is extra promotion down the road.

First off, you need to set a price on your time. This isn’t easy, though. In a general sense, you need to know how long it takes to write a book (from concept to release) and how much you gross from each book on a yearly (or other time frame) basis. Obviously, both of these values vary, but think in terms of averages. Let’s assume you can write a book (as defined above) in six months and in the first year of release you’ll gross $100,000. This means in a year, you’ll write two books and get $200,000 from them. Using the standard working year of 2,080 hours (40 hours a week for 52 weeks) you made just over $96 an hour from writing.

Now we do something similar on the promotion work…how many hours do you spend promoting and how much gross income is made from that? In short, the dollars per hour spent on promotion must be less than the dollars per hour earned from the book.

This is MUCH harder than the book income and to simplify the numbers, we’ll make a few assumptions that seem to fit a good number of professional writers. We’re going to cut the dollars per hour from the book to 25% of the above value. This is to allow for “normal” promotion and deviations from the averages. So, instead of considering $96 per hour, we’ll call it $24 per hour.

In other words, if you spend two hours on promo, sales must increase by at least $48 to stay in the black.

Just as an aside, if you have a person employed to handle promotion and you pay this person $20 an hour, using the above numbers you still come out ahead.

DISCLAIMER: All the above numbers are 100% fictitious and many were selected just to make the math easy. You’ll need to plug in real numbers that fit you and your situation.

One thing you’ll notice is that, no matter the values used, as you become more successful and your books sell more and your gross income goes up, the value of your time writing also goes up. This means the payback from promotion must get greater and greater to be worth your time and extra effort.

Maybe…

Promotions, especially live appearances like signings, can be a lot of fun. You can also combine such trips with a vacation (about 80% of which is deductible if you’re incorporated) and that’s worth something, too.

The real bottom line is to carefully weigh the costs and benefits of promoting beyond the basics. Is it really worth it?

Keep Loving!

 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://melodeeaaron.com/blog/2017/06/30/melodees-rules-for-authors-number-thirty-six/

Jun 27

THWT Question for 27 JUN 2017

 

 

The Two Hundred Word Tuesday question for 27 JUN 2017 is:

 

Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.

 

Keep Loving!

 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://melodeeaaron.com/blog/2017/06/27/thwt-question-for-27-jun-2017/

Jun 23

Melodee’s Rules for Authors — Number Thirty-Five

 

 

Number Thirty-Five

Ignore the Critics

 

As a group, critics are pompous morons.

Sorry, but I call ‘em like I see ‘em.

Anyone remember Phil Collins? How many of his albums did you buy? Want to know what the critics thought of people who bought Phil Collins albums? Try https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phil_Collins#Criticism_and_praise on for size.

And critics today are no different.

If you DARE not to think, act, dress, and eat like them, or if you disagree with them in any way, then you are stupid. See link above.

Personally I don’t even read reviews of my stories. Part of that is I don’t like critics. Part is I just don’t care about the reviews.

I’ve had books get terrible reviews at the same time they sold 40,000 copies in the first weekend of release. I had books called, “…the worst writing since the room full of monkeys tried to write a sonnet…” that made $5,000,000 gross sales in the first six months.

I really don’t care about reviews or critics.

They don’t buy my books.

I care about the readers.

They DO buy my books.

Keep Loving!

 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://melodeeaaron.com/blog/2017/06/23/melodees-rules-for-authors-number-thirty-five/

Jun 20

THWT Question for 20 JUN 2017

 

 

Today’s Two Hundred Word Tuesday question is:

 

Do you travel much concerning your books?

 

Keep Loving!

 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://melodeeaaron.com/blog/2017/06/20/thwt-question-for-20-jun-2017/

Older posts «