What I Wish I’d Known About Publishing — Lessons Learned the Hard Way

Guest Post by Alan Elliott

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In March of this year, I attended a wonderful writers conference called WORDfest 2019. At the conference, I had the pleasure of hearing a panel discussion on the topic: “What I Wish I’d KnownWhat Writers Learn the Hard Way About the Craft of Writing.” Alan Elliot was a member of the panel. He shared some excellent points about publishing, and he distributed a handout which I thought contained several golden nuggets for writers pursuing publication. I asked him if I could share the material on my blog, and he said yes! So, here goes. Enjoy!

1. PUBLISHING IS A BUSINESS – to be traditionally published your story/book MUST fit into standard categories – Go to a Barnes and Nobel and find the shelf where your book will be placed. If you can’t find that shelf, you can’t sell your book to a publisher. If you find that shelf, you can identify which publishers might be interested in your manuscript. See How To Make A Living With Your Writing by Joanna Penn and Brian Sanderson “Business of Writing” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C59eOLX2K-A

2. WRITING IS WORK — You MUST put your butt in the chair and your fingers on the keyboard regularly – daily if possible – for multiple hours a day if possible. You MUST write and REWRITE, knowing anything you write is probably garbage – UNTIL you fix it, edit it, reimagine it, and rewrite it (multiple times) Read the book Bird by Bird by Anne Lamont)

3. IDEAS ARE EASY – MAGIC IDEAS ARE GOLDEN – There is an unlimited number of books you COULD write – more ideas than you could ever tackle. You must decide which are the GOLDEN ideas – books/stories that demand to be written – whose title or premise makes immediate sense – books that you can describe in a single sentence that causes people to say – I want to read that – that’s so funny – what a great book idea. Concentrate on THOSE projects. (Read the book The Magic Word by Cheryl Klein.)

4. PERSISTENCE AND DETERMINATION ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN TALENT – Yes, you must have skills to write, you must learn the craft of storytelling, and you must know how to write compelling stories and/or sentences – that gets your foot in the door. What REALLY MATTERS is that you commit yourself to the (usually) LONG process of writing, perfecting, and SELLING your work. You must be prepared for REJECTION upon REJECTION – You must be able to pull yourself back together and try AGAIN and AGAIN, sometimes YEAR after YEAR. You must be an optimist – and see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel – faint at first, but brighter the more determined and persistent you are. (Read the book GRIT by Angela Duckworth.)

5. START WITH A BURNING DESIRE — You should write because you want to write – because there are stories that must be told, books that must be written. And you have a burning desire to write those stories and books. To get there you must learn the craft of writing – which is more than what is typically taught in any English class. Yes, you might be able to tell a story – but can you construct a PUBLISHABLE story? Learning any craft takes hours and hours of hard work. Like learning any skill (ice skating, piano playing, baseball), to become skilled enough to play in the major leagues you need well-planned and deliberate practice to hone your craft. This practice is sometimes tedious, lonely, and tiring. But you do it because you’re after the RESULTS – you spend time learning and growing because you know that’s what it takes to enjoy seeing your work published and enjoyed by others. See the book Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else by Geoff Colvin.)

6. SUCCESSFULLY PUBLISHED! – BUT YOU MUST MARKET YOUR BOOK! Once your book is published, you’ll need to market it yourself. Yes, the (traditional) publisher will get it to bookstores, and do some preliminary marketing, but you’ll want to do book signings (book tour?), go to conferences, be on social media, etc. to get the word out on your book. Work with your publisher’s PR department to get the most mileage out of whatever they have to offer. (See Your First 1000 Copies: The Step-by-Step Guide to Marketing Your Book by Tim Grahl (and many other webpages on this topic.)

Publishing

Alan Elliott is a native Texan with a knack for story. He is co-author of the family comedy movie Angels Love Donuts (with Leon McWhorter) filmed in Dallas and released on DVD. Two recent books include Willy, The Texas Longhorn, a children’s picture book from Pelican and On Sunday the Wind Came (bilingual) from Babl Books. Alan can be found online at: www.alanelliott.com

Who Owns It?

Guest post from award-winning author and publisher, Anita Dickason.

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Anita Dickason
“I do.” This is a typical response from many authors when I ask, “Who owns your book?” In the strictest sense, they are right. An author owns the copyright to the content. Unfortunately, ‘own’ does not always apply to the finished product: the published book. Two other components can be a significant game-changer for an independent author: the ISBN and cover.

ISBN

The ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is what I term the social security number of the publishing world. It is a unique identifier for each version of a book: softcover, hardback, eBook, etc.

Bowker is the U.S. agency that sells and administers ISBNs. For every ISBN assigned to a book title, Bowker maintains a record of the book’s details that includes the name of the publisher. The ISBN assigned to books submitted to distributors such as Createspace, Smashwords, and IngramSpark will be confirmed with Bowker to determine the identity of the publisher. If the author is not the publisher of record, the submission will be rejected. Simply stated: Whoever owns the ISBN controls distribution.

As an example, CreateSpace (CS) has three options for the assignment of the ISBN. CS will provide a number that is free, or the author can purchase one for $99. The third option allows the author to use a number purchased from Bowker.

Selecting the free number sets up CS as the publisher of record. Once the book is published CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform is listed as the publisher in the detail section of the book on Amazon websites and with Bowker. The book can only be sold through Amazon and distributed by CS to other retail outlets through the Extended Distribution Channel. The author cannot use the free ISBN to publish the book through another distributor such as IngramSpark. This same scenario applies to any distributor or publisher that offers a free ISBN whether for a paperback or eBook.

The $99 option provides the author all the distribution rights that would be available had the author purchased the number from Bowker. The advantage is CS will handle the title set up with Bowker using the publisher name provided by the author. A disadvantage is the expense when an author intends to publish additional books. A block of 10 numbers can be purchased from Bowker for $295, or $250 when there is a sale.

Which option to select for an ISBN is dependent on the author’s goals. I know several authors who are very satisfied to stay within the realm of Amazon and choose the free option. That is not always a wrong decision as the author has only one account to manage. If, however, an author wants to expand their book distribution beyond Amazon, which does have limitations, it is important to understand the role of the ISBN before selecting the free option.

Book Cover
The other ‘gotcha’ is the cover. Book cover templates provide an easy method to design a cover. Use of the template, however, can cost the author the copyright to the cover.

CreateSpace’s Cover Creation is an example. CS owns the copyright to any cover created on one of their templates even if the author has uploaded images. The cover can only be used on the paperback distributed by CreateSpace or on the Kindle version. If an author intends to use IngramSpark or an eBook distributor such as Smashwords or Pronoun, a new cover is required.

The second concern is images used by the designer. Images are subject to copyright. If the designer does not have the legal right to use the image, the book may be subjected to litigation. When a copyright complaint for an image in a cover is filed with Amazon, the book is removed from Amazon sites and cannot be sold until the issue is resolved.

The author should also ascertain whether the designer’s right to use the image includes full rights or is there a limitation. This can affect how and where the cover can be displayed.

Whether it is the use of a template, purchase of a pre-made or a custom designed cover, the author should ascertain who owns the copyright before electing to use the service. If the designer or company agrees to release the copyright, the author should request written confirmation along with the print-ready PDF file and JPG. The transfer agreement should stipulate the author has full rights to the final files that includes unlimited use of any images.

The publishing environment is in a constant state of flux. Companies, individuals, and websites have a way of disappearing or going out of business. Knowing your options for the ISBN and cover design can eliminate a ton of grief down the line.

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Anita Dickason is an Award-Winning Author, Publisher and retired Dallas Police Officer. Her law enforcement experience, (patrol, undercover narcotics, SWAT team, and advanced accident investigator) provides the background and plots for her FBI Tracker suspense novels, Sentinals of the Night and Going Gone!

Her publishing company, Mystic Circle Books and Designs, LLC provides manuscript and design services to assist authors in publishing their works. Anita is also the Fiction Editor for Indie Authors Monthly Magazine. Her column, ON THE HUNT, is a series of articles on publishing, distribution, and promotions and is featured in the magazine and on her website: https://www.anitadickason.com/

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Traditional Publishing – Staying the Course When You Want to Throw in The Towel

Have you ever experienced a situation when you felt as though you were completely out of your league, or the scales were somehow unbalanced — and not in your favor?

I was sitting at my computer the other day scrolling through literary agency websites deciding which ones I would query for traditional publishing. As I looked at the faces of the agents and the client lists of those agencies, I was suddenly filled with an overwhelming sense of doom and gloom, and utter defeat. I felt like throwing in the towel.

You see, none of the literary agents I considered querying looked like me. Correction, one of them looked like me. The others looked to be in their early twenties or thirties, most of them female, and all but one of them Caucasian. Undoubtedly, there could be other minority literary agents out there, I just haven’t run across them yet. And I’ve queried close to 60 or 70 by now.

So I asked myself, how in the world will either of these young people who don’t look like me identify with my story? Sigh!

Well, I stepped away from my computer to clear my head and get a glass of iced tea. After I had a moment to think, I came back with a new resolve. I reminded myself that there were a few facts that I must keep in mind in order to be successful in any given vocation and particularly in traditional publishing. I resolved these three things. And this may be helpful to you as well.

1. Deal With It.

This is the reality of the publishing industry, so deal with it. If I want to be a traditionally published author, I have to put on my big girl panties and stay in the fight. Maya Angelou once said, “If you can’t change a situation, change your attitude.”

2. Write Good Stories.

If I write good stories, they will appeal to the right agent at the right time regardless of age, race, gender, or ethnicity. Good stories transcend everything.

3. Don’t Worry.

Our fate and our future are in the hands of the Father above. He controls everything, including time. And He works through people. He knows how to make the right connections at the right time.

So, I decided not to be discouraged but to persevere in doing what is necessary to appeal to literary agents i.e., write the best stories I can in my genre, edit to near-perfection, be as professional as I can be in the pursuit of publishing, and not worry about factors beyond my control.

What about you? Have you encountered situations in your writing career when you wanted to throw in the towel? What did you do?

As always, thanks for stopping by!

Catherine