For Writers


I am a writer, and I would like to publish my book.
Do I need an agent? Where do I start?


 

That’s great! Congratulations on your accomplishment. The following is for U.S authors only, as I am not familiar with the process anywhere else.

What you're about to read is some straight-to-the-point, no nonsense, tough love facts from an author who's been where you are, and has learned from many.

The first thing I will ask is: Is your book finished? And when I say finished, I mean edited until you’re sick of looking at it, and then given to someone you trust, preferably someone with basic grammar and spelling skills, to read it over for you. You know what you mean because the story is in your head. But does every description make sense to someone else?

Once you feel your book is complete, you can either begin the querying process to find representation from a literary agent (if you do this, be VERY CAREFUL. Never give an agent money. NEVER. I don’t care how excited they may be about your book, or if they say they need expenses covered. NEVER NEVER NEVER give an agent money to represent you. They get paid when they get you a publisher. If they are confident they can do this, they will never ask you for money), or you can begin the process of self-publishing (which I recommend).

If you don’t know what querying an agent is…Google it. That’s a whole other beast. Keep in mind the novel The Help was rejected over 100 times over a three year period, as was any other author you’ve ever heard of, apart from Stephenie Meyer.

If you would like to get your book out there now, be in control of the entire process, and keep 70% of your money: Self-Publish. This used to be a huge NO-NO. Not anymore. Authors have left their publishing houses in favor of self-publishing. More traditionally-published authors are self-publishing their back lists every day.

The Basics

To self-publish: 

You will first start with a completed, polished book, and go to http://www.copyright.gov. That website will walk you through the process of copyrighting your work. NEVER let ANYONE outside of close, trusted friends or family members read your work without a copyright. This includes anyone you're hoping to sign on as an agent. You can submit your manuscript electronically, and it costs approximately $35.00. You can thank me later.

Next, decide if you will put your book in print, or just make it available as an eBook. My personal opinion? Do both. Format your book as an eBook to get your name and the title circulating, and format for print and upload it to a print-on-demand like  Lulu or Createspace.

If you choose to go through a printing company, your eBook sales will give you a better idea of a unit number to order. However, it is my recommendation that you release your book as an eBook and upload to a print-on-demand (POD). These avenues cost you nothing. It’s free money. Distributors (AmazonB&NSmashwords) don’t make money unless you sell a unit. You won’t have the storage issue when you go digital/POD. If you absolutely must print, I suggest a print-on-demand. I was always under the impression that POD’s were evil. Not true. You won’t have stacks of boxes sitting in your living room, and you don’t have to come up with the cost of the books upfront.

To format your book (in a NEW file. ALWAYS keep your original file untouched by new formatting) to an eBook, Smashwords has a great how-to. I cried, pulled my hair out and screamed at my computer the first time I did it, but I DID do it, and you can do it, too. Just be patient, and follow the directions carefully. Eventually it will become second nature to you. You can also use Draft2Digital

Keep in mind when you create an eBook or POD book, your title page, copyright page, acknowledgement page, etc will need to be included in the same file. With non-on-demand print, you can save them separately as PDF.

Decide on what genre best fits your book.

You will need a cover. eBook covers are easier. Authors on a budget can make their own cover from a stock photo, a nice filter, and some cool font. Pic Monkey is a great online photo editor. I pay $35.00/year. Between covers, FB banners, and promotional banners, it pays for itself!

Note: Never use a stock photo you have saved from a Google search. Always search for stock photo sites, such as Stocksy, Shutterstock, or iStock (there are dozens), and purchase photos legally. There are also a few great (watch for scams) free stock photo sites. My favorite is pixabay.com. Read more about the consequences of using copyrighted images without permission here

For covers, pay attention to the pixel size and dpi. Most sites require 300 dpi, but if it looks good as a small picture (what Amazon and B&N use), then use it. You can download free software (such as Irfan View) to help you, use Photoshop, Pic Monkey, or hire someone. I recommend hiring someone if you decide to print, because you will also need a spine and back cover, and the resolution will have to be 300 dpi.

If you use a cover designer, be sure they give you the layered file for foreign publishers to use. Often foreign publishers will want to use their own cover that will appeal to their market, but if htey wish your US cover, they will need to remove the title and sometimes your name for the translated version. Giving them the layered file is the easiest way to do this.

Create a description, or summary of your book, and an author bio. Read other author bio’s for ideas. Here is mine. Here are a few other very different, but very good examples:

Colleen Hoover

Abbi Glines

Rebecca Donovan

Jessica Park

E.L. James

Ryan Winfield

George RR Martin

Hugh Howey

They can be short and sweet, or long and fluffy. You decide what makes you look best, and go with it.

You might have noticed all of the above authors have a website. Do you need one? Unless you're tech savvy, it's not necessary for success. At least, not at first. What you will need to do is buy your name with a dot com attached (ex: JamieMcGuire.com). If you wait until your books are selling well, you'll risk someone having already bought the domain with your name. Yes, it happens. In fact, people actually make a living from this. You could end up paying thousands to own the domain name instead of the $10-$30 it might cost now. You might also consider buying your name with a .org, .net, or even [Your Name]books.com or .net. Keep up with the annual cost of your domain name. If you let it lapse, someone could buy it, and you could be faced with having to cough up some serious money just to buy it back.

Unfortunately, Facebook no longer allows pages to feed to your audience. Only a small percentage of people who have voluntarily liked your page will see your posts. A website is a great second avenue for marketing. You can save or spend as much as you'd like on the development, just be sure it looks professional. Your website is like your appearance, it's the first thing people see, and yes, it is a direct representation of you as an author. So, be it modern, whimsical, bright, monochrome, or vintage, keep the look you, and keep it professional. 

The only sure way to get your information to your readers is a newsletter. Unlike Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or your website, a newsletter will come straight to their inbox. I recommend Mail Chimp

Decide on a price for your book. Readers will buy an unknown author’s eBook for .99 cents just because of the price, but some readers think at that price it’s not a full-size novel (at least 70,000 words). In the beginning of my writing career, I set my novels at 2.99-4.99 because of their size and the royalty system. For a self-published author, a low price-point is your secret weapon. For print, you must decide on a price that will offset the cost of production, and it must still be reasonable for the buyer. (I suggest under $15.00--again, depending on size. A fantasy novel might cost more to produce.) I'm not a fan of the .99 price point. I've never set my price under $2.99 unless it was during a temporary promotion. When you set the price, the price reflects what you think your book is worth. Temporary promos are always a great experiment.

Set up a time with a photographer for a head shot. You can ask a friend, or you can have it professionally done. My suggestion: Spend the money. A professional image is important with any job. Include this beside your author bio. 

If you must have a picture of your kids, of you and your husband, or you making a peace sign with a duck face as your profile pic, create a separate author page and keep that profile pic professional. You don't have to be boring, but the name of these days is to stand out from the sea of self-published authors. If your profile pic features you in the same pose and facial expression as your next door neighbor's daughter, don't count on anyone taking one look at that and thinking, "author". 

Create a professional Facebook page. This marketing tool has been invaluable to me, and it’s free. You might also want to create a page for your book or series. Announce the release date or release of your book. Ask them to read it and REVIEW it. As an unknown, this and a modest price will be your saving grace. I see a lot of new authors creating Facebook pages to announce they are writing a book. I see a lot of new authors releasing covers before they finish their book. I do not recommend this. First, life happens. Don't put the stress of announcing a release date on yourself while you're still writing. Something may come up, and not living up to your (now very public) word right off the bat sends a message to your would-be readers. Concentrate on your CREATIVE PROCESS, first. Once you're finished, put on your marketing hat. As a brand-new author, you need to concentrate on perfecting your craft. The best books I've read were written without thinking anyone would read them. **I do not recommend combining your author page with a personal page. It's best to separate them from the beginning. You can thank me later.**

Speaking of Facebook, use it wisely. For more on this, read my blog here

If you use a print company, you will need:

  •  An ISBN and Bar Code. I recommend Bowker.com. Some printers will make you a bar code for free.
  • A cover, spine and back cover (some print companies offer this at an additional price.)
  • To choose paper color, weight, and book size (typical is 6×9, your text will need to be formatted to this size)
  • Copyright page
  • Table of Contents

You might also like to include (for either eBook or print):

  • Title page
  • Dedication page
  • Acknowledgments
  • Table of Contents
  • Thank you page to readers for reading your book, and advertising any future works, website, Facebook page and any contact info you wish to include. (This should be at the end)
  • Author bio and picture.

Some as-you-write tips I have learned to make it easier for you at print/upload time:

  1. When you begin your document, go to “Paragraph” in your “Home” tab, and hit the small box in the lower right corner (this is for Microsoft Office, btw). In the new window, under Indentation, select “special”, and then “first line indent”. This will save you five million headaches, later. I also suggest changing the “after” spacing to 0 point.
  2. After the last period of each chapter, insert a “Page Break”. This keeps both your print versions and eBook versions from starting a chapter on the same page. It looks clean and professional.
  3. Spell check and grammar check aren’t always right. Don’t auto change everything. Always review what the program wants to change before you change it.
  4. Always review your uploaded eBook before you publish it. If you notice weird indents or spacing and you've heeded tips 1 & 2, try saving a file as .html, and upload that html file. It might correct the problem.
  5. eBooks do not need page numbers.

Additional notes before you upload:

  • For an eBook, you do not need to spend the money for an ISBN or bar code. AmazonB&N and Smashwords will all provide you an eISBN (or ASIN for Amazon) for free.
  • BE SURE to keep all of your cover and final manuscript files safe on a flash drive, or an online file keeper such as drop box. If/when foreign publishers come calling and want to use your cover, you'll be glad you did.

The most important writing advice I've ever received:

Author Jessica Park has been doing this a long time, and I owe her a lot for giving me the following advice early on in my career:

Do not accept all changes! 

I don't just mean that not every change your editor makes won't be correct (because it won't. Sometimes they correct a style choice that you may want to leave in.) At first, I thought it was common sense. During the editing process, your editor will correct common misspellings, point out your crutch words and phrases, common punctuation mistakes, plot holes, awkward wording, and sentence structure. This is a customized writing lesson for you, included in the cost of editing. If you accept all changes, you will miss this invaluable opportunity for your writing to grow. But you will begin to notice books that have the same mistakes, crutch phrases, repeat actions, and poor or repeat sentence structure from the first novel to the tenth. These authors accept all changes, and do not learn from one book to the next. 

Use the editing process to its full potential. Like everything else in life, part of the writing process is to learn and grow. 

Another editing tip ---> If possible, use three separate editors. I prefer hiring a different editor for line edits, copy edits, and proofreading. Some authors like to use different editors for content and flow. It's taken me a while to find the right editor with the strengths for each type of editing my manuscript needs--and for the right price. I've had editors who needed three to five more passes to catch what they missed who charge $500.00 for a 90k word novel. I don't care how much money you're pulling in ... that's nuts. 

No one person can catch every mistake. I have yet to find a novel without a single typo, but do strive to make your product the best it can be. I've realized a fresh pair of eyes for each level of editing works best. 

 

Now what?

 You're ready to upload your book!

On which platforms would you like to sell your title? There are many!

eReaderRetailerLogos.jpg

I can only help you with a few because I only upload directly to Amazon, Smashwords, and Google Play. 

Smashwords, like Draft2Digital, is a publishing distribution platform. Some authors more tech-savvy than I upload directly to Apple (iBooks) and Kobo (the primarily-used eReader in Canada). Apple requires a Mac, which I do not use. Since Smashwords works great for me, I continue to use it to distribute my self-published titles to all other retailers except Amazon and Google Play.

Note: If you've read over my FAQ for Writers in the past, you might have noticed I've removed Nook Press from my list. I now use Smashwords to upload to Nook Press because of their failure to allow me to offer my last four books for pre-order, and because of the frustration caused by the time-consuming and unreliable uploading process on their site. You could have a different experience, but Smashwords works better for me. 

Uploading directly is super easy, and by doing this, you can keep track of your sales. KDP (Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing), in my opinion, is the easiest. Go to the website, and if you don't already have an Amazon account, create one. Click ADD TITLE, and fill in the blanks. 

When I uploaded my first title to Amazon back in 2011, I remember it taking several days. It might have only been two, but it felt like a week. Now, I have both experienced and heard newer authors report that Amazon publishes your book within hours. Be aware that if you click the little ARE YOU SURE? box and hit "SAVE AND PUBLISH", your book will be live and ready to peruse and buy (read: vulnerable to reviews and complaints about editing, formatting, and other errors).

You will also need to fill out your payment information. This includes your bank account number (more on EIN, LLC, and separate accounting later), routing number, and your social security number or EIN. Legal name, address ... all that jazz. KDP and Nook Press pay sixty days behind, every month. That means that after you publish your first title, you'll have to wait sixty days before getting paid. You will receive January's royalties in April, February's royalties will hit your bank in May, and so on. I don't know about Draft2Digital, but Smashwords pays every quarter through PayPal. I love this, because I use Paypal to pay my cover designer, editor, formatter, and publicist. In and out. Easy peasy. 

*Be sure to double check your information, especially grammar and spelling in your description. This info is front and center on your book's product page.

Barnes & Noble's Nook Press has a little work to do, but their site is easy to navigate. The information is easy to input, however it took me multiple time to upload one of my titles, and, unlike Amazon and Smashwords, Nook Press does not offer the option to make your title available for pre-order. 

That brings us to the big decision. Amazon has a popular program called Kindle Unlimited. It is a subscription program for Amazon users to borrow up to ten books per month from eligible titles. Self-published authors can opt in for a 90 day period (and choose whether or not to automatically renew) by choosing KU or KDP Select. In order to do this, you must refrain from using other platforms, and your book can be borrowed (as well as being sold) for whatever price-per-borrow Amazon  allocates for that month. This article by author Lindsay Buroker explains it quite well. Ms. Buroker goes on to say enrolling in KU/KDP Select is great. Is it?

Some things you should consider when choosing: 

Kindle has a free app that can be used on most devices, but not everyone knows that. In order to inform your would-be readers, they would have to be already following you or know about the free app. This makes you invisible to anyone who isn't aware, and doesn't own a Kindle.

Any title exclusive to one retailer is not eligible for a placement on the bestseller lists.

Amazon makes up roughly 60% of my eBook sales.

Amazon offers several perks when you opt in for KU/KDP Select. It is rumored that KU/KDP Select titles have a leg up in the Amazon Top 100 algorithm, therefore more easily climb the rankings, and have more visibility. Visibility = sales.

Closing doors to potential customers, aka putting all of your eggs in one basket is not good business, nor is lending to a monopoly.

All things considered, I have maintained a policy to make my books available to all readers, and have uploaded all but one of my works onto all platforms. In fall of 2014, I chose to experiment with my novella, AMONG MONSTERS and enroll in KDP Select. I watched sales during my 90 day trial, took the perks into consideration, but I will not be renewing. 

During an RT 2016 panel, I learned the following:

**Some authors consider KU a niche audience, and consistenly cycle different books into the program for readers who only download KU books. I did a quick poll in the room of about 60 people. Approximately 10% subscribed to KU. Only one person in the room only downloaded KU books. To me, this is certainly a niche audience, but not big enough to warrant removing a title for 90 days from all retailers.

** Top-selling KU books only make approximately $4,000 per month. This might be more than you're making now, but when you take into consideration that a top-selling non-KU book could make six figures, along with a bestseller title you can use forever you are immediately block yourself from when exclusive. If you plan to make writing a long-term career, thinking long-term is best.

**Because of KU's per-page payment system, scammers have learned how to game the system. Because Amazon offers a set amount from a pot every month, these scammers are walking away with a large portion of that pot. Until Amazon fixes this loophole, KU isn't a great option for legit authors.

 

Ultimately, this is a decision you must make for yourself, and one that may change as your career grows. 

Audio books:

For my indie titles, I use ACX. This is an Amazon platform, and even with exclusive sales, distributes to Amazon, iTunes, Audible, and their world partners.

I have in the past chosen to give ACX exclusive rights because it's 40% royalties vs. 25% royalties, and they distribute to all the major audio retailers, however, with the rising popularity of Bandcamp, for me at least, that's changed.

What is Bandcamp?

Bandcamp is a social media/audio hybrid site. Similar to Goodreads, but you can download and/or listen to audio directly, either from the Bandcamp site or the app. Artists (music, podcasts, and audiobooks thus far) can start a profile and upload for free. The site is super user-friendly, even for the tech unsavvy, like myself. 

Lucky for you, I've done all the research!

Why I'm excited about Bandcamp: 

Bandcamp offers an unprecedented 85-90% royalty on sales. Listeners can download and listen directly on the site or app. Listeners can follow one another, and once someone downloads something on the site, it is shown to all of their followers (i.e. on-site marketing). They can follow you to be updated each time you upload something new.

Set your own price, and even choose a base price with the listener able to pay more. More often than not, listeners pay up to 40% more of the base price because they want to support the artist.

At anytime you can set up a discount code to send out, so for a limited time fans can enjoy a discount on select titles.

 

bandcamp-features.jpg

Another feature I'm excited about is the ability to start a podcast, or even read my Wattpad story, Endlessly Beautiful so it is available as a free audio book, as well. 

Artists can bundle your audio books with other audio books, a series, or with T-shirts or other items. You can also offer a monthly Skype/Google Hangout to answer questions or just chat. Opt to offer a monthly subscription, where listeners can receive your entire backlist and new material (if you offer a podcast or similar). You can also create pricing tiers. For example Tier One could receive your backlist, Tier Two (priced higher) could receive the backlist plus a monthly T-shirt, and Tier Three could have all of that plus an exclusive monthly Skype or Google Hangout session for Q&A's. 

The possibilities are endless.

How to get your audio files on Bandcamp: Either contact your audio producer to send you the files, or download directly from ACX. 

Tips:

.flac files are best, but .wav and .aiff files are also accepted. You can also research how to convert these files. 

Start a free account. Be sure to upload your audio book as an album, and then upload each chapter as a track. Add cover art and metadata. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Some features are exclusive to pro members. This is an upgrade from free. I suggest doing this after you've poked around a bit and are more familiar with the site.

Important:

ACX states that if your title is not engaged in a royalty-share agreement, you can upload to other sites. Before you do this, make sure you chose NON-EXCLUSIVE when you signed up. Just go to your ACX dashboard, and click the Completed Projects tab. Click on one of the listed titles. There, you can see if your titles are exclusive or non-exclusive. 

Chances are you chose exclusive because that means 40% as opposed to 25% royalties. No problem. If your title has been released for a full year, ACX allows you to change to non-exclusive. Simply email ACX at info@acx.com to request this change.

A sample of my email to them is below:

McGuire-ACX-email.jpg

You'll notice my indie title Among Monsters is not listed. This is because I opted for a royalty share, and it is not eligible. My reasoning for this at the time was that my first title, Providence still had not (and still hasn't) earned out on production costs, much less Requiem or Apolonia. This is why I haven't started production for Eden, book three of the Providence trilogy. Now with the option of Bandcamp, I've decided to go ahead and finish out the trilogy in hopes that I'll earn out faster with the 80-90% return of titles purchased there.


The Not-So-Fun Stuff:

You are not just an author. You are a business.

Set up a bank account (I suggest creating an LLC, and setting up the bank account under that. You will need your LLC information and an EIN number to do this. This sounds difficult. It’s really not.). THE BEST thing about eBooks is that the funds you make can be electronically deposited into your account. It’s a good idea to keep these funds (especially when making substantial amounts) separate from your personal. It’s easier to keep track of for tax purposes. Distributors typically hold back your first payment for 60 days. I get my July earnings October 1, for example. Smashwords pays every quarter.

Before you can sell ONE printed book at a book signing, you must get a tax id number for sales tax (if you live in a state that requires it) and keep up with it RELIGIOUSLY. The last thing you want to do is get behind or in trouble with the government. I created an LLC. Once you start making substantial income, you’ll want to find an accountant. Spend the money. You’ll be glad you did.

Every time you leave to take a book to the post office, drive to the airport for a book signing, or go to the office supply store, write down the date, mileage start and end, and a short description. This is called a mileage log. Give it to your accountant at the end of the year. Every mile you drive for business is a tiny tax write off. It's better than keeping a gas receipt.

Drown in receipts. If you're on a business trip (book signing, meeting with a publisher or agent, or research trip), keep receipts for eating,  cab fare, air fare, dinner with readers, etc. A better way to do this is to get Quick Books and enter all of this in as you go, instead of paying an accountant to do it all at once at the end of the year.

The best business advice I've ever received:

Never, ever, EVER piss off the IRS. Pay your taxes. Keep back 30-50% depending on your income level. Put it in a separate saving account. Don't touch it, and don't get creative with deductions. The IRS takes tax fraud very seriously, and you could lose everything. 

More Business FAQ:

Should I quit my job and write full-time?

 I was still working at the hospital part-time when I had made the New York Times, and just signed with Warner Bros. Make sure writing is a full-time income before you make it your full-time job.

How long will it take for that?

it's different for everyone. Market hard, do your rounds, and stay in contact with your fans. Be patient. I don’t care how awesome your book is; it won’t happen overnight.

How should I market my book?

Word of mouth is the #1 best way to market your book. The question is, how do you get people to talk about it? I wish I could give you a better answer, but I don’t know how you should market your book. Every book is different, and every book has a different audience. Beautiful Disaster was released almost a year before it hit Amazon’s Top 100, so this was not over night. I only paid for an advertisement once, and didn’t see a difference. You just have to experiment with different avenues until you find what works for you.

Current strategies include: Bookbub, Facebook promotions, newsletters, Instagram, giveaways, Twitter parties (with another author is best--cross promotion is great!), and small groups of authors who share each other's releases. Joining Facebook reader groups is also helpful, and they love talking to authors. Just don't spam their page. Be respectful. (For more on this, read my blog We've All Been a Noob: What Not to Do.)

 

Miscellaneous

 

What is the word count of a full-size novel?

Everyone has a different answer. Here's mine: Any word count over 65k can be considered a full-sized novel. 

Short story: 5-20k

Novellas: 20-45k

Personally, I wouldn't publish a "novel" that was less than 60k, but if your manuscript falls in the gray area between a novella and novel, I would price accordingly.

Word count also varies by genre. Romance ranges from 50k-100k. Fantasy readers wouldn't blink at 180k.

My recommendations for freelancers:

Note: HONESTY, DEPENDABILITY, AND CONSISTENCY ARE THE BEST QUALITIES OF A FREELANCER.  If someone burns you (meaning there is an issue that they don't make right--unfortunately it's common), don't give them the chance to do it again, and let your fellow authors know without feeling a second of guilt. Free lancers charging money up front for services they aren't capable of happens every day. PROTECT YOURSELF and OTHERS.

Editors: 


*I prefer getting as many services as I can from one person, but make sure they can actually do every service adequately. If they're a great cover designer and a novice formatter, find another formatter.

* Editors are human. You'll need more than one pair of eyes to make sure your manuscript is clean. I recommend beta readers. I work with a team. I use two beta readers for the line/content editing, Jovana for the copy editing and proofreading, and a second beta reader for a final proof read. The Helpful Writer has great information about the different types of editing here.

That said, be sure your editor is not charging you for a clean manuscript and returning half-ass work. If they say, "I can't guarantee a clean MS. Be sure to get a proofreader." They're right. No one pair of eyes can catch every mistake. But if they're charging you $500 for 90k, and your proofreader finds a day's worth of editing mistakes, you wasted that $500.00. I would say the fair range for a first and second pass editor for 90k would be from $250.00-350.00. Any more than that, and you should have a nearly clean manuscript. 

 

Freelancers I Recommend:

Formatters

 Benjamin from Damonza.com.

Mark Coker, CEO of Smashwords.com also has a great list of formatters and cover designers for you to use.

Jovana Shirley with Unforeseen Editing. <---my favorite.

 

Covers:

Damon of Damonza.com. He also provides formatting (Benjamin) and book trailers which are worth every penny. He created the covers for WALKING DISASTER and RED HILL, and I've actually run into an issue with him that neither of us expected, and Damon was honest and corrected the issue at his own expense. *update: Damon now has a team of cover designers. I haven't had luck with them, but I can highly recommend Damon.

Sarah Hansen of Okay Creations. Sarah is phenomenal. She has created the covers for the Happenstance novella series, which was featured on BuzzFeed for Most Beautiful Covers of the Summer, Beautiful Redemption, Sins of the Innocent, Something Beautiful, and Apolonia, and my daughter's book, Eyes of the Woods. Full disclosure: Sarah is booked up months in advance, and she sometimes falls behind. Sarah is fairly priced and produces exceptional work, but be sure your deadline with her is at least two months before your cover release. 

Hang Le of By Hang Le. Hang's talent is off-the-charts. She just designed Beautiful Burn for me on a tight deadline and came through--as in, critics are saying this is their favorite cover design so far. I must admit that this is the most I've paid a cover designer and I was surprised at the total cost, almost twice what I've paid in the past. I haven't used all the teasers she made so can't recommend that portion of her services, but she is a cover and banner genius.

Editors:

Jovana Shirley. You might have noticed her under the formatter category as well. I use Jovana as a proofreader. She is very technical and spots things many editors don't. She's saved my ass on more than one occasion, she's fast, accommodating, professional, and reasonably priced. She has a permanent spot on my team as a proofreader and formatter. All hail, Jovana!

 

More Miscellaneous Q & A: 

A publisher from Hungary [or any other country] has contacted me, wanting to acquire the rights for my book. Is this legit? What do I do?

Ask for their contact information (many times they will contact you on Facebook). Let them know that you are in the process of finding a foreign rights agent, and you will get back with them. DO NOT SIGN ANYTHING WITHOUT THE ASSISTANCE OF A FOREIGN AGENT. For this reason, you'll also find it's a good idea to keep your foreign rights when signing with a domestic publisher.  

I am writing a children's book. How do I go about getting an illustrator/uploading illustrations?

I am not experienced in this genre. Ask children's book indie author  Eyvonna Rains how to find an illustrator (she is very happy with her recent illustrator for her indie book Horrible Hal of Halitosis.)

 

Also, Amazon's KDP just released a new program for children's book authors to make it easier than ever! Check it out here.  

Would you be interested in writing a blurb for the front cover of my book?

Please contact my publisher, Atria Books, for blurb requests, and please be aware that I only offer a few blurbs a year.

I’ve written a book called [insert your book title here]. Would you mind helping me spread the word/reading it/writing a blurb?

Yes. I am genuinely sorry if that sounds harsh, but if you would, please take a moment to consider how many of these requests I receive. I would be reading books all the time instead of writing my own. I do mention books on my Facebook page, and sometimes on Twitter, but these are books I have read (of my own accord) and enjoyed, and I feel confident recommending them. I am eternally grateful to my readers, and the last thing I would ever want to do is recommend a book to them that I haven’t read, asking them to spend their money when I haven’t read the book myself. There is a level of trust there that I refuse to ignore. That said, finishing your novel is a HUGE accomplishment! I know getting the word out takes time, and it’s slow going, but it’s possible. You can’t expect to build off another writer’s success [see blog, "We've All Been a Noob: What Not To Do"] hoping to achieve your own quickly. We all struggle at first, but we did it, and you can, too!

I've been approached by a publisher. Should I sign?

First, congratulations! If you've attracted the attention of a publisher, then you are certainly doing something right. Unfortunately, I can't answer this for you. There are many variables you must answer for yourself. First, what are you making per month on your own? When a business owner prepares themselves to sell, they take their last two years of profit and multiply that by 2 in order to figure a fair selling price. Unfortunately, most authors don't have that luxury, as publishers are plucking them off the bestseller list earlier rather than later. I made the decision based on my relationship with the editor, how I felt about the publishing house, other authors the house has published and for how long, and settled on figure in my head that I would be happy to hand over my baby and possibly let them change her looks, content, price and maybe even my voice. Also consider that if you sign a multiple book deal, you are now working on someone else's time. Traditional publishing is a new ballgame. You will still be marketing as hard (and in my case, harder), and no longer receive those monthly checks you're used to from online retailers. Certainly not that 70%. However, traditional publishing can significantly broaden your audience, and you will achieve the dream many authors shed tears over: seeing their books on shelves. 

My one must for this situation is that you don't sign anything without an agent (and maybe even an attorney who is familiar with publishing contracts), and make sure you read the contract carefully. Read blogs on contracts like The Passive Voice (who is an attorney, and the blog itself I find more neutral), and Joe Konrath (which is pro-self publishing, but he has traditionally published in the past), and Hugh Howey. This will give you a clear idea of what to expect in a contract. If you have author friends who have signed contracts, speak with them. Legally, no one can give you specifics about their contract, but they can certainly answer any questions you might have and give you advice.

I believe I made the right decision to sign with Atria Books, and I plan to traditionally publish and self-publish in the future. In the summer of 2014, I decided to leave Atria Books to return to self-publishing. You can read more about that here, along with admiring my very pensive photo I took just for that article. Jamie <---not a model.

First time authors may also find that smaller press are eager to sign. I have heard from countless authors who have signed with smaller press that it is, across the board, a frustrating experience. Authors still hand over 70-80% of the profit and receive little to no marketing or help. Unless there is a marketing plan in your contract that does not include your money or time, and is satisfactory to you, do not sign. Unless a publisher can give you a reason to hand over 80% of profit, it makes no sense to do so. Most of the authors I know who have gone with smaller press end up giving up on those books and going on to self-publish. I'm sure there are authors who have had a positive experience with smaller press, but I have yet to meet one.

**Note: NEVER PAY A "PUBLISHER" TO PACKAGE YOUR BOOK. If you are paying a publisher to fund the packaging of your book, and then only getting a percentage of your royalties, you are being scammed. It doesn't matter if they are an established entity, or even a Christian-based entity. If you're paying to package the book, no one else should get your profit but YOU. Certainly not the majority of it. 

The big question is, if I had to do it all over again, would I sign with a publisher? The answer is absolutely, definitely yes.

 

Will you read my contract over for me?

No, I'm not an attorney or an agent. It would be in your best interest to have one or both read over your contract for you.

How do you find time to write? 

I write at night when everyone else is sleeping. Before I had our son, I wrote when the older girls were in school. Before that, I wrote when *I* was in school. If you're serious about writing, treat it like a job. Put in the time. Every day. If not at night, get up at four or five a.m. Write on your lunch break. Go to a coffee shop or library on the weekends. Let's get real, because you've reached the very bottom of this goliath of an FAQ: you've somehow found time to watch movies or your favorite television shows. If writing is your passion, you'll make time.