Posts Tagged ‘author’

It’s been two years since I’ve published a brand new book.  (I kind of had the first line from “One Week” by Barenaked Ladies in my head when I started this post.  Don’t remember it?  Take a second:  For 1.5 years of that time, I spent most of it as I think authors hit by “writer’s block” do.  Making excuses but no progress.  (Okay, at this point I had to shut the song off, ’cause there was no way to write this with all that yapping going on).  Finally, like a cruise ship at sea, I started to turn my perspective around.  I started to write again.  Here are two things I learned from that downtime, and that will hopefully help you get through your own when it comes (because it will come):


No, General Eisehhower, do not take this too seriously.  Don’t alienate a loving spouse.  Don’t ignore your kid’s functions.  Don’t lock yourself in a room for three months with nothing than a generator and a computer (you need Vitamin D, for Pete’s sake–another aside, who the hell was Pete and why are we thinking about his sake?)  What I mean is do not let excuses get in the way of your writing.  And, what I mean by making progress at all costs is the following.  Keep pushing your next manuscript forward.  Even if you can only muster 100 words a day, keep moving forward.  Stasis is our enemy, as authors.  Set up a Google Drive account and put the text of your next book into a file on your Drive.  Why?  This eliminates the excuse that your book is on a home computer, and you’re on a train commuting to work.  You can open your Google Drive anywhere you can get connected, on any device.  That means you can basically write anytime you want, from anywhere.  It gives a new meaning to the phrase, “Toilet Book,” doesn’t it?  (I feel like putting this into citation format: See Seinfeld, “Toilet Book” episode

All right, you’ve agreed to set aside excuses and to push forward at all costs, yeah?  Good.  Now, what was the second part of my epiphany?


I need you to notice something that is going to make you a bit sad.  I didn’t title this next section, “To be a Successful Author…”  You know why?  Because, even if you work your ass off it doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to be successful.  But, I can guarantee you that you won’t be an author, or successful, if you don’t do it.  What do I mean by “working one’s ass off?”  I say the following with a bit of pride, particularly for all of us authors who are still balancing the woes of a “regular” job and writing.  (To those authors that aren’t slaves to the grind of someone else’s dream, and who get to write 100% of their time, I salute you with a kiss blown from a hand that’s holding up a middle finger–hopefully those authors get the love and joking sarcasm that comes from this gesture).  It means waking up before the rest of the world is awake and writing down an idea that couldn’t stand being pent up in your head.  It means holding your smartphone over the side of the bed so that the light of the screen doesn’t wake your snoring spouse while you make edits to your book.  It means that instead of watching the next episode of CBS’s hit de jour, you’re reading books in your genre to perfect your craft.  It means that you will work your ass off, without knowing whether your book will sell, whether a publisher will pick it up, or even if people will like it.  Talk about a leap of faith, huh?


(I don’t think I need to reference that one for you, right?)

It’s true, you can do it.  You just need to start.  You need to run the first block, and everyday thereafter take it one block, or even one step further.  I know hundreds of authors that are doing this on a daily basis—and they would all tell you they’re successful, in one way or another.



This question is difficult.  What do I price my ebook at so that it will sell?  I’m sure some math whiz could reduce the answer to probabilities, statistics, and formulas…but, that’s not me, so I did what I do best.  Trial and error.  I was the first one to jump out of the plane.  I swam in shark-infested waters for you.  I was the damn penguin!  Enough of the pity party–here’s what I found.  (As an aside, the following is all about pricing of ebooks.  I think pricing of paperbacks is much more nebulous, and gets into word count which I don’t want to fret about in this post).


Perhaps you’re about to release your first book, and you’re looking at authors selling copies of their ebooks for $7.99, $8.99, $9.99!  You put that price into your royalty calculator, and by God, you would earn a chunk of money  just by selling a thousand books.  You smile to yourself and say, “What’s so hard about this author gig?”  Wipe that smile away, mon frere.  If you price your book in that neighborhood, I GUAR-UN-TEE you’ll soon be looking at the bottom side of the 400,000’s in your sales rank.  You’re new, and even if you aren’t new, you probably aren’t well known enough to command those prices.  That gets me to our first rule:


People simply are not going to pay more than $3.99 for an ebook from an unknown author.  Shoot, even people that know you may hesitate to pay that much.  Why?  The biggest reason is that your universe, the universe of the unknown author, the independent author, the grinder (and make no mistake about it, I’m in there too) is very, very big.  And, what’s it full of?  Many, many books by other, similarly situated authors, at prices well below $3.99.  Supply and demand, Watson.

I know what the protest may be.  “$3.99 is nothing!  It’s less than a drink at a bar!  It’s less than a hot dog at a baseball game!”  I know.  I agree.  It’s mildly ridiculous.  However, it’s reality, and that trumps.  To prove this reality, I toyed with the price of my book over the course of several weeks.  From $0.99 to $3.99.  Anything over that was so clearly a graveyard even I dared not tread that ground.  I used a nifty Google Adwords coupon, and drove traffic to my book’s Amazon site.  The result?  A significant drop off in sales when priced at $3.99.  Probably a magnitude of around 100-200% less sales.  Why?  I’m no psychiatrist, but in addition to the universe argument set forth above, I think people start comparing your book to what they can get for $3.99.  They can get that latte.  They can rent a movie, or two.  They can buy used books for cheaper.

Still, I wasn’t quite persuaded.  I thought, maybe I don’t have enough reviews.  Or, maybe my Amazon page wasn’t luring enough people in to buy the book.  So, I went and took a look at the Amazon Top 100 lists, in conjunction with some successful authors I have come across on Twitter.  Lo and behold, all of their books were priced at $2.99 or below.  The vast majority of them were priced at $0.99.  Leads us to the second rule:


First, if you don’t know who John Locke is, Google is your friend (okay, one hint, add “author” to your search).  Second, that heading sounded like Darth Vader in my head–hope that puts it in perspective.  John Locke is the king of independent publishing.  John Locke sells all of his fiction for $0.99.  John Locke has one book with 469 reviews, which is flippin’ mind boggling.  He has reached a pinnacle of writing where his name is so well known that he could price his books higher, if he wanted to.  And, they would still sell.  Why hasn’t he?  No clue, but that’s irrelevant.  If John Locke prices his books at $0.99, where do you think you should price yours?

Depends on who you are, but definitely not higher than $3.99.  The answer also depends on what you want.  When my book was priced at $0.99, I had a month where I sold just about 150 copies.  All of a sudden, I had a moment of panic and said to myself, shit, what if 75 of those 150 don’t like it, and write bad reviews?  I wanted to turn the flow of water down a bit to see some of those reviews come through, and to continue to feel out the market for whether my book was well-received.  You may have other reasons to price your book above $0.99.  What if you have a $0.99 event coming up?  May want to keep that price at a normal list price until just before the event, so that the participants get a great deal.  This leads to my final rule:


I thank the damn stars every day that I’m able to control the price of my book.  If, for instance, Enemy in Blue had been traditionally published, that would not have been the case.  And, the book would have been priced much, much too high for a first-time author.  I also wouldn’t have had enough control to throttle sales up or down.  From one control freak to another–relish fact that you can change price whenever you want.

A couple of miscellaneous notes on pricing.  First, it seems that Amazon has gotten much better at changing prices in a timely fashion, after you make the change in KDP.  In Smashwords, it is instantaneous, which is brilliant.  In Amazon, what used to take 24-48 hours now takes less than 12, and sometimes less than that.  I tried one other thing that didn’t seem to work, at least not yet.  I priced my Amazon book at $2.99, and priced my book on Smashwords at $1.99.  I wanted Amazon to match the lower price, thereby displaying a percentage off of my list price.  The thought process is that people like to see they are getting a deal.  After about 5 days, Amazon still has not matched the price, so this doesn’t seem to be a reliable method of lowering the price of your book.

The conclusion?  Remember what universe you reside in, don’t price more than $3.99, and if you really want to expand your readership, $0.99 is your key.

This…will…not…be…easy.  I’m going to admit something to you all.  I didn’t think it’d be this hard.  Call it naivete.  Call it optimism.  Call it the sheer ridiculousness of thinking, dammit, that what I wrote would take off, like a rocket ship to Planet Lottery Ticket.  Anddddd, yeah. Four months after the release of Enemy in Blue, let me give ya some thoughts and insights into what this process entails.  The hope is that this will help some understand what’s coming their way if they publish, and help others who have done so realize, “I’m not alone.”

  1. Writing was the easy part.  Huh?  I just finished 80k, 90, 120k words!  It took me 2 years to write my baby.  What you mean that was the easy part?  Writing is a joy, in my opinion.  I hardly ever had a day where I cussed and wished I was doing something else.  And, if those days came along, I just didn’t write.  No sense forcing something crappy onto paper.  On the other hand, once you’re published (by whatever means), the marketing, sales and promotion begins.  And, I can assure you of one thing–once you start those ghastly machines up, they don’t allow breaks.  You’ll be tweeting, updating your website, updating your status on Facebook, trying to get signings, trying to get your books on brick and mortar shelves, etc. etc. etc., NONSTOP.  Be prepared to work your ass off in the name of promotion.
  2. This will undoubtedly be a long, strange trip.  Do a Wikipedia on your favorite band.  Most likely, they spent years toiling in small venues.  They pumped out album after album before one hit song took off.  Realize that your journey will probably be the same–with the superstar ending, we all hope.
  3. There are tens of thousands of people trying to do what we’re doing.  Okay, not trying to be Captain Downer here, but this post is a small dose of reality, if anything.  Look at the sheer number of books on Amazon.  Look at all the authors Tweeting about their books on a daily basis.  This is a SEA, not a stream.  You’ve got to tread water, then build a super attractive yacht for people to hop onto.
  4. The hard work will make it worth it.  Growth does not come through constant success.  When you get the first review of your book from someone you don’t know, and it’s a positive review, you will glow.  When someone asks you for a signature on their copy of your book, you’ll glow.  When you see your book on a bookshelf in a bookstore, you’ll glow.  But, each one of those things will take a tremendous amount of effort to achieve.
  5. Patience is a virtue…and will be key to your sanity.  Seemingly, nothing in the book publishing world moves quicker than a snail’s pace.  You building your empire of words isn’t gonna be any different.  Just like when you wrote your book, do your best to recognize the small steps, otherwise the pace of the whole venture will make you mad!
In short, if you’re just starting out, please, please recognize that your success is commensurate with your effort.  And, if you’ve been playing the game, know that you aren’t alone!  Success has started to come to me and Enemy in Blue, but only with a tremendous amount of hard work. Best wishes to you and your fantastic book!

You can do a ton of online marketing, but in my mind, nothing substitutes for meeting a person face-to-face, discussing what they want to discuss, and selling ’em a book.  Obviously, you can’t do one to the complete detriment of the other, but it seems that in this age of a trillion online marketing prospects, we need to highlight the benefit of in-person events.  With that context in mind, I’ve just had successful signings for my new book, Enemy in Blue, and wanted to share some of the keys that made them work out for me.


I will admit, I fell into this trap.  And, I consistently hear of other authors falling into this trap as well.  Somehow (at least in my mind) having the signing/event at a bookstore gilded the entire thing with more prestige, more glamor.  That’s the same rationale that drives so many of us to pursue traditional publishing, and is similarly faulty.  Here are some “negatives” I found with trying to hold my events at a bookstore:

  1. Bookstores ain’t gonna serve food or booze: I don’t know about the circles you run in, but in my circles, lubing the wheels of conversation with some alcohol is always welcomed.  Add to that, the events I had were shortly after a 9-5 workday ended, so people were hungry.  These two facts meant a bookstore would actually have been a terrible fit for me.  I would have had to pay for both food and booze–not a cheap venture.  Plus, end of the day, our goal here is to make money and increase exposure.  At a minimum, breaking even so that we don’t have to pay for that exposure, other than with time.  So, consider other locations, where you don’t have to pay for space, food, or booze, and you could end up maximizing your profits while creating a fun environment for your potential readers.
  2. I think bookstores, simply because they are in the industry of “no response,” take the same course as some editors, publishers, agents, etc.  If you aren’t Patterson or Grisham, there’s no impetus to get back to you.  And, when you’re trying to schedule something with some semblance of a deadline, no responses or delayed responses are going to throw a wrench in your plans.  On the other hand, I have found that industries which recognize they can make money from your event, and that you won’t cost them anything (i.e. restaurants, restaurants/bars, art galleries) are responsive to the possibility of someone bringing them income, especially on slower nights.
  3. Bookstores aren’t that much fun or lively.  People are compelled to keep the noise down, even if a bookstore has a separate event room.  I believe fun attracts more participation/attendance, and more participation/attendance leads to more book sales.
  4. Space.  This entirely depends on the bookstore, but some are small and/or laid out in a limiting fashion.  I want my attendees to be able to interact with myself and other people, and a cramped space does not promote that interaction.


Choose your date/time wisely.  For signings in the summer–don’t do ’em on weekends.  No one is around.  Probably, don’t even do them on Fridays.  Wednesday and Thursday have worked out well for me so far.  Wednesday is “hump day,” and people are looking for an excuse, any excuse, to get out.  Now, people are probably more inclined to do some drinking on a Thursday, which lends itself to a more lively environment, in my opinion.  And, by lively, I mean a more open wallet and conversation.


You organize a signing, and a day before it you’re racing to get everything together in preparation for the event.  Don’t forget these things:

  1. Make sure you have enough books in advance.  If you are a POD author, priority mailing your books costs a fortune.  Plan to order books 3-4 weeks in advance for the event.
  2. Sharpies for signatures.  Pens.
  3. If you’re doing an outdoor signing, like a booth at a festival, bring things to weigh down your materials.
  4. If you have reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, etc., create a one-page sheet of excerpts from your best reviews.  It goes a lot further to have recommendations from people other than yourself.  Make it easier for potential readers to see what other people have said about your book.
  5. Have flyers for your book that include a summary of your book, your author bio, and how to buy your book.  You aren’t going to convert every “up” or contact to a sale.  Make sure they can leave with something in their hands to read, and to hopefully buy the book later.
  6. A sign up sheet, or a nice journal people can sign.  Get email addresses and mailing addresses.  Use this to start building a mailing list of your fans.
  7. Consider giving something away for free in exchange for people signing up to be on your mailing list.  It’s kind of amazing what people will do to get something for free, regardless of how mundane the free item is.  Giveaway a few books, an iPod, or something relatively slight in cost, and you’ll get a significant amount of interaction.
  8. Bring change.  Most people aren’t going to pay in checks. I have made many trips to the bank to get $100 in one dollar bills.  They look at me weird, and have even said, “Gonna be a fun night for you!”  Fughetaboudit.  I ask them to buy a book.
  9. If you have a business established, but don’t have a business bank account, don’t let people write checks to your business.  You can’t cash them without the business account.
  10. Bring a camera, and someone to take pictures.  It’s great to have pictures with your readers for a variety of reasons.  Not the least of which is to update on your Facebook fan page.  Check out my fan page for examples of photos from signings:  People love them, and you can tag them, which brings people back to your page.
  11. Have a blowup of your cover made to use as a poster.  First, it’s cool, and you’ll feel like a stud or studette because you essentially have a movie poster of your book.  Second, it makes you look professional to have something like this at your event.  Of course, don’t forget to bring an easel to display it.
I’m sure there are many more suggestions some seasoned authors can offer.  If you want to add to the list, send me an email or comment on the post.  Finally, have fun!

If you write for yourself, you’re gonna be alone.  And, you probably aren’t gonna sell more than 15-20 books, to poor souls who feel compelled to read it because of a close relationship.  Now, perhaps you’re someone like Denise Richards, who has a fabulous self-story to tell that derives from your amazing aesthetic appeal and your ability to perform hot lesbian scenes in big Hollywood movies.  If that’s you, get out of here and leave us alone.

For the rest of us, that want some modicum of success in selling our stories, we need to write what we are passionate about, but also with our readers in mind.   To get these points across, I’m combining two interrelated topics: (1) why you write, and (2) branding.


Let’s dispel something right off the bat.  I’m not suggesting you should write what you think other people will like.  You should write about what you love, and in a genre that feels like home to you.  If you see steamy romance in your head, then please, take us into your boudoir.  If you crave the life of a spy, then 007 us!  But, while actually writing, you need to always be mindful of and respectful to your readers.  Specifically, what does that mean?  Here are some examples of what to avoid:

Excessive use of big words only shows you’re a Delta Bravo.  No one is reading a book to see how many words you know.

Meandering, flowery and overly descriptive prose.  No one cares if you can describe the minutea of the entryway to a plantation.  As Hemingway said, “My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way.”

Too much character development.  I saw this in a book I recently read, and it killed the flow of the story.  Remember elementary school?  Show AND tell.  So, tell us some of the aspects of your characters through narrative, but don’t forget to show us the personalities, traits and characteristics of your characters through action.

Get off the soapbox.  Another example from the same book I just referenced.  With some frequency, the author seemed to venture into her own thoughts and beliefs, and to force them out through the mouths of her characters.  Nothing is so disruptive, and correspondingly rude, to your reader than forcing them to hear your beliefs.  If your characters don’t believe it, don’t write it.

These are just a few examples, with the thrust being that you need to build trust with your readers through respectful and straightforward writing.

Part of building that trust is also respecting the fact that your readers will come back for more because of the brand you develop.  Do you have a series with a main character?  A series with a main world?  Do you have a specific, and unique, style of writing?  Think Jose Saramago with his lack of punctuation (which drives me nuts, but it’s certainly central to how he writes).  If you do, this is a large part of what will ultimately become your brand.  If you don’t, you may want to consider the fact that most successful authors have a niche genre or an identifiable set of characters that they stick with over a series of books, or their entire career.  Sticking with your brand, and in doing so, sticking with what people have come to trust you to write, is central to success.

I got the next analogy from a recent concert by a rock band called Soundgarden.  They were wildly popular in the 1990’s, but largely fell off the radar for the last decade.  Their falling off (with fans at least) can be attributed to two things, in my opinion: (1) they changed their “sound,” becoming more mellow on their last album, and (2) when asked about the band and touring, Chris Cornell (the lead singer) replied, “We really enjoy it to a point, and then it gets tedious, because it becomes repetitious. You feel like fans have paid their money and they expect you to come out and play them your songs like the first time you ever played them. That’s the point where we hate touring.”  Guess what though Chris, that’s just the point.  And, it leads to our second rule:


We expect our favorite musicians to bring it like the first time they ever brought it.  Why?  That’s why we first fell love with them.  Can the love evolve?  Sure.  But, the passion and same general sound needs to remain.  When that passion fades, or even diminishes in the slightest, people can sniff it out like fresh dog crap on their shoes.  Same goes for all of us as writers.  One of the greatest example of having a brand, and then sticking to it and bringing the noise just like the first time, is Stephen King.  Brand?  Horror.  Then, in pretty much each book he writes, King brings the horror with the same ferocity as he has his entire career.  Getting back to Soundgarden, what about that concert I just saw?  It was amazing.  The venue was in a frenzy for two hours.  People were stomping, pounding the air with their fists, and intermittently turning to strangers and their friends with ear-to-ear grins.  Why?  Soundgarden brought it like the first time, and they won each of us back for that night.

An implied part of the discussion so far is time.  A brand does not come overnight.  Soundgarden developed its sound over time, and their brand really came to fruition when grunge became popular in the early 1990’s.  Likewise, it was only after countless novels that we knew King was a master of horror, or that we knew Koontz was a master of suspense thrillers, or that Ludlum could deliver a spy story like no other.  On to the final rule!


McDonald’s (which I could devour right now, or just about anytime for that matter) is the quintessential example of branding in our country, if not the world.  The golden arches.  If you need a dollar menu, or a cheeseburger, or a place to hit the head, you look for the golden arches.  Driving through even the remotest parts of the country, you know what you’re in for if you see the golden arches.  Similarly, people need to be able to know, and trust, your writing.  Building your own brand is going to take time (McDonald’s started in 1955) and consistency (think, Big Mac–nothing more consistent than that burger).  But, a commonality with nearly every successful writer is a brand.

In short, if you can combine writing that respects your reader, while at the same time respecting why your reader loves you in the first place (i.e. your brand), then success is just around the corner.

[This blog isn’t a vacuum.  Take the opportunity, if you’re a writer or an aspiring writer, to leave a comment as to the reason(s) why you write!]

Marketing 101

Posted: June 21, 2011 in Writing
Tags: , , , ,

It has been…too long.  Perfect example of life catchin’ up with ya.  Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you won’t have time to write, dream, or create.  Don’t let that get you down though!

There’s no better time to tackle this next subject than when I’m in the midst of preparing to market my own book.  Don’t be naive about marketing–it’s a ton of work.  And, if you’re starting with marketing right when you’re about to list your book for sale, then the bad news is that you’re behind the eight ball.  That’s because marketing is largely derived from who you know…your network.  Unfortunately, networks don’t grow overnight.  Leads to our first rule of marketing:


You don’t need a book to start building a network.  But, once you have the book, you’ll need the network to market and sell it.  So, start now.  Start with interest groups.  If you like gardening, join a gardening club.  Same for cars, painting, model trains, Star Trek, writing (duh!) what-the-hell-ever.  Just get out there, don’t be bashful, and start meeting people.  Once you meet them, suggest going to coffee or lunch.  Listen to them in order to determine what they like to do–and then ask them if they want to do it.

This isn’t a one-time thing though.  You don’t just water a plant once and then leave it alone to wither and die.   Maintain steady contact with your new network (by steady, I meant to imply you should not stalk!  Every relationship is different, but seeing a network contact every 2-3 months is a healthy frequency).  Soon, you will have “rolling” meetings with network contacts, where you may have 2-4 every week.  Why spend all the time to do this?  These are the people that will buy your book, and more importantly, these are the people that have their own networks where they can spread word of your book.  You know them, but they may know 100-300-1000 people you don’t know!  That’s power of the people!!

There’s one word that underlies building a network, and all marketing for that matter–selling.  If you hate that word, and if you think it has only negative implications, then you’re in for a tough haul to get anyone to buy your book.  If your goal is to actually sell books, rather than just using them as glossy coasters around your house, then you will need to be relentless in your sales.  Our second rule of marketing:


Okay.  Your inner salesperson may be a molecule, rarely (if ever) called upon for duty.  Your inner salesperson may squeak like a mouse.  Your inner sales person may be like the Cowardly Lion (put ’em up, put ’em up!).  Or, your inner salesperson may be the other side of the spectrum–some slick back, gel-ridden hair, big plasticky teeth, and verbal moves like a male salsa dancer.  Think Matt Dillon in There’s Something About Mary.  In either case, he, or she, or it, exists.  You just need to acknowledge its existence and begin to work on honing its skills.  Why?  Because especially at the beginning, you will be selling yourself.

For instance, to get down to specifics on avenues to market, you will be selling yourself to a bookstore to host your release party.  You will be selling yourself to your potential readers.  Remember, they don’t know what or how you write yet.  So, if they buy a book, they are buying it based on you more than anything.  You will be selling yourself to alumni magazines, local newspapers, local television, online reviewers (think Amazon reviews), agents and editors (if you go the traditional route).  In short, pretty much everything you do outside of actually writing your story is sales.  And, quite honestly, if you write without thinking about who you are going to try to sell the book to, then you’ll probably sell a handful of books for your selfish effort.  What is the core rule of sales?  In my humble opinion:


Perhaps the best thing that ever happened to me was rejection at an early age.  I won’t get into specifics, but I will say it was fourth grade, and involved getting three “no’s” from three girls in a class of about 25 students.  The next day, naturally, it was the group’s focus.  Eh, the next 2-3 years actually.  Was it devastating?  Uh yeah, I’m human.  Still stings to this day.  But, it also made me into a gorilla when it comes to the “ask.”  If you are petrified of rejection, you will never get to the ask.  And, if you never get to the ask, there can never be a “yes.”  Finally, if there’s never a yes, well, then you’ve just made a whole bunch of glossy coasters for your home.  Once you get past the idea of being rejected–because you will get rejected–then you’ll realize it’s all just a numbers game.  Some people you try to network with will say no.  Oh well–their loss.  Some people won’t want to buy your book, or won’t like it.  You’ll undoubtedly get plenty of rejections from agents and editors if you decide to go that route.  When you boil it all down though, every scenario is just a numbers game.   The more you ask, the more you get.

The summary of Marketing 101?  Build a network, build your inner salesperson, and build your fortitude against rejection.  We will undoubtedly visit Marketing 202, where more specific marketing ideas are visited, with their corresponding pro’s and con’s.  Talk to ya soon!

Check out this great blog post at Writers on the Brink entitled “Some Humbling Statistics About Getting Your Book Published”

Certainly supports the arguments that traditional publishing is going the way of the dinosaur, and explains why self-publishing is turning into such an enormous business.

So, you want to self-publish?  It’s gonna cost you!  And, just like building a house, you’ll be better off if you know the costs upfront so you can budget.  Here are most of the line item expenses you can expect, with an estimated range next to each.  If you have other expenses that you notice are left out, shoot me an email/comment and I’ll add them!

Forming your own publishing company: Be it LLC, corporation, whatever, it’ll cost you some dime to set up a company with your state’s Secretary of State.  It’s a pretty easy process (in Colorado at least, where you just have to fill out a form) and only costs $50 in Colorado.  Check your state’s requirements and costs.

Purchasing your ISBN number: Some of the self-publishing companies will provide you an ISBN number  “free of charge.”  Only catch, the ISBN is theirs, not yours.  Recommendation is to get your own ISBN, and it costs $125 for one through Bowker.  Go to to get yours.

Bar code: Again, some self-publishing companies will provide these for free, and there doesn’t seem to be a downside to accepting the bar code for free.  If you’re a DIY freak and won’t even take free stuff, there are free bar code generators online.

Cover design: Don’t judge a book by its cover?  Yeah right!  If that were the case, why not omit the cover and just jump into the text? One of the most distinguishing factors between a book published by a traditional publishing company and one self-published is oftentimes the cover.  And, people judge a book by all of its visual cues, most of which derive from the cover.  My recommendation–DON’T SKIMP ON THE COVER.  Find a great cover designer you can work with to create something that is visually on-point with your book, and that grabs a potential reader.  Especially if you are self-publishing, don’t give readers a chance to write your book off before they even buy it.  I used a freelance graphic artist named Brianne Pickert, with Izonu graphics.  Her email is, and she was excellent!  Crowdspring also seems like an interesting way to get your cover design done, because you can submit a price for the “job” and then have multiple graphic artists submit their work for your selection.  Expected cost: Approximately $400-$1,000.

Author photo: This follows cover design in that you want something that looks professional.  Now, if you’ve got a good camera, or a friend with some skill, then you could probably save yourself a couple hundred bucks.  Expected cost: Approximately $150-$300.

Website development: A lot of websites that will offer you templates for your own website.  Because of that, it doesn’t make much sense to try to learn HTML if you don’t know it already.  They charge a monthly fee which varies based upon what kind of services you are receiving (i.e., the number of templates you want to choose from, if you want to add e-commerce, what type of customer service options you want, etc.). was a great way to build my website, and Wix supports flash, which makes a website stand out.  Note that flash is slower to load, and is only now becoming something you can view on mobile media devices such as smartphones.  Flash will give you a much better looking website, but don’t go crazy with it.  The yearly cost for a website through Wix is about $100.  Expect to spend 30-40 hours building your own website and developing the content.

Of course, you can also decide to hand the website development off to someone else.  The cheapest price I’ve seen for website development and hosting is about $500, but expect to pay more like $1,000-$1,200 for someone with skill.  That will get you a webpage, some design/creative process time, hosting, and 4-5 pages on your website.

Email blasts: Proper marketing includes getting the word out, and one of the best ways to get the word out is to send email blasts to people you know through work, friends, spouses, activities, groups, etc.  Imagine anyone that could fall within your target audience, and let ’em know what you’ve got to sell.  There’s literally nothing to lose except the sale(s) of your book.  If you’re gonna self-publish, there is no room for being timid!  There are a host of companies that help you with email blasts, including giving you templates for the blast itself.  CNET did a nice review of the Top 10 companies here CNET. Expect to pay about $10/month for their premium services, and for about 500 contacts on your emails.  Prices go up with greater amounts of contacts.

Business cards: You can design them online.  Again, don’t skimp out.  Don’t mortgage the house for ’em either, but select some of the upgrades that will make you look professional (i.e. gloss on cards, or better stock).  I used Vistaprint and got 1,500 business cards I designed myself for $64 shipped.  Excellent deal!  Expect to pay about $50-$150 for 1,000 to 5,000 business cards.

Miscellaneous: It would be silly to leave out a category for miscellaneous expenses, because they inevitably come up.  For instance, you’ll need to pay for shipping on your proof, and then shipping of books you buy and intend to sell yourself.  Maybe you will want other promotional materials than business cards, such as pens, flyers, notepads, etc.  Perhaps you will pay for a professional review or press release regarding your book.  Will you pay someone to format your book, or will you?  (Expect to spend approximately $300 if you pay someone else for this service).  Will you pay someone to edit your book, or will you?  (A professional editor can cost anywhere from about $500-$1,200 for their review).  This is where your budget can really inflate, so make sure you know what your budget is going in and then you can determine how much of this icing you can slather onto the cake!

Bottom line: In short, you’re probably looking at a minimum of $1,200 to do your own book right and if you are a pretty aggressive DIY’er.  You could easily spend $3,000-$4,000 if you don’t do a lot of the aforementioned things yourself.  If that is the case, remember to determine what your expected profit per book will be, and then calculate how many copies you will need to sell in order to break even.  Not much point running an operation that loses money!!

Edits Away!

Posted: May 24, 2011 in Writing
Tags: , , , ,

Edddiiitttingg…UGH.  Let’s get this out of the way.  I hate the editing process so much, I dragged my feet to write this blog post.  Who wants to edit when you can create?  Move onto the next story, your next scene, new characters!

To bring us back to the home building analogy, editing is sanding the drywall joints on a ceiling, or cutting 400 tiles to lay a new floor, or masking off an entire room before you paint it (and dontcha hate when the paint gets under the tape despite your prep??)  I thought hard to come up with something redeeming about this process–and drew a blank.  While I don’t have anything redeeming, I do have our first rule:


Seriously, like, who’s giong to take you’re story seriously if you, like, mes up a bunch of things?  What editor or agent is going to put their neck on the block for something replete with errors.  And, no, your editor or agent isn’t  the person to find the mistakes for you.  Regardless of how much we dislike the process, truth is that if we ignore it, or half-ass it, things will never look right in the rest of the book.  If you don’t sand the joints down, or cut the tiles right, or mask off the room properly, your entire project is going to look like a joke.  This leads to our second rule of editing:


I am one of the ultimate DIY guys.  It comes from a mixture of wanting control over all the details (read–OCD) and being a bit of a cheapskate.  Hey, if it saves me some dimes, those will be handy down the road!  There comes a time though, where it makes sense to pony up and bring in the big dogs.  Point in case, do you know whether to use toward/towards, anyway/anyways, alright/all right?  (That’s just a few examples, don’t get your hopes up!)  Can you really read your book, the one you just spent a year or more of your life writing, and pick out all the errors?  Are you a grammar maven?  If you answered no to any of these, thennnn maybe you ought to consider a pro.  If you answered yes to all of them, then I think you’ve got a rewarding career in the scintillating field of editing in front of you!

If you’re like me, and you had to Google whether to use alright or all right (it’s all right by the way), and then go back and change all of those damn errors in your entire book, you start to realize that the $500 or so bucks it would take to have someone professionally edit the book may not be that expensive after all.

There’s got to be another side of the coin, right?  Sure, sure, sure.  Rule number three:


The initial edits should be your own!  Those are the edits when you’ll find yourself saying, “Man, that sentence is really awkward,” or, “Whoops!  One of my characters died earlier in the story and here they are again!”  Funny what you forget when you get 60, 70, and 80 thousand words into a story.  As a suggested process, run edits with certain goals.  First edit, spelling through your spell checker.  This will also eliminate those annoying red squiggly lines  (go ahead, do a “define squiggly”).  Second edit, grammar, punctuation, etc.  Third edit, start digging into the meat of your book.  Style, flow, character development.  Read sections out loud–or if you have a really patient dog, read the whole damn thing to it.  Your readers will read the book “out loud” in their heads, so how it sounds is critical.  Speaking of readers, here’s the final rule of this section:


I can’t tell you how valuable the input from my four readers was.  There will be aspects of your book that make sense to you, because  you’ve been married to the thing for so long, that defy common sense.  Your readers should be people that will point these issues out to you.  Choose wisely though.  You don’t want people that will crush your hopes and aspirations into oblivion.  We’re a delicate bunch, and while some of us have thick skin, it still hurts to get scathing feedback.  So, save that for all the rejection letters you’ll get from agents and editors!

Kind of like swallowing “cherry” flavored cough medicine, you’ll have to get down to editing at some point.  Tastes nasty, we hate to do it, but it’s critical to the health of your story.  Consider getting the manuscript as polished as possible, have readers give you their input, and then send it to a professional editor for a final gander.  Then we can move onto more exciting things–like getting published!

From time to time, when I think of something that doesn’t fit neatly into a full-blown blog, I’ll just create a separate, brief writing tip.  Today’s writing tip has to do with word count.


Once you get to the point of seeking out a traditional publisher, or self-publishing, the importance of word count will promptly surface.  Why?  A simple equation: Word count/words per page = number of pages in your book.  Number of pages, in turn, drive cost.  Cost, obviously, underlies profitability.  In short, the greater the word count, the harder it is for your book to be profitable.  The harder it is for your book to be profitable, well, you get the picture.

But many authors don’t!  I was just talking to someone who is starting a new fiction novel, his first.  I asked him what type of a novel it was going to be.  That matters because different genres have different word count ranges.  He told me, and I suggested that he at least pay attention to how many words he writes.  Nothing to kill that “inner muse” referenced in my full blog post, but it’s certainly something to be cognizant of.

Again, why?  Well, say you get your first draft done, and lo and behold, you are 15,000 words over the top end of the range for your type of book.  You know how hard it is to cut 15,000 words from a story?  If you don’t, I’ll tell ya–HARD!  You know what’s even harder?  Selling a book to a traditional publisher that is way too long.  If you wave this off as not meaning anything (i.e. the old, “My book is so good, those rules don’t apply”) then think again!  Remember, more words means more pages means more cost.  More cost, lower profitability.

So, don’t let this get in the way of putting that story to paper, but remember that the rules apply to you too!