Writers Beware! Protect Yourself

The writing profession starts off as a private venture. Creating ideas and stories in the privacy of your own home. But those of you who become serious about the work and slowly become more visible the issue of personal protection needs to be addressed.

I cannot emphasize this enough. Eighteen years ago I began working as an editor for Bethany House, but I worked from home. I never considered the need to keep my home address out of the public eye until I had three separate writers show up at my front door with manuscript in hand asking to see me. Very quickly I secured a mail box at a local mail service, changed my business cards, and have never made that mistake again.

I thought it appropriate to discuss a few of the simple steps you can take to protect yourself from your adoring public. I asked Ellie Kay to write down some of the ideas she has used. She started writing books for Bethany House in 1998 as a stay-at-home mom, since that time her platform has grown to national proportions.

“Be as wise as serpents and gentle as doves.” As many of you know, I’m on national, mainstream media weekly (both radio and TV) and I’m so thankful I have these safeguards set up. Before I did this, I was stalked a couple of times!
I would encourage writers to do a few basic security checks:

1) Set up a PO Box – Or use a mail service (like a UPS store) that has a physical address where you can received FEDEX and UPS packages. You should never list your physical address on any promo materials.

2) Set up an Online Contact Form — This uses code that the person will have to enter in order to send your office (or you) a note. Never have your email address listed openly on a website as there are cyber-spiders that crawl the internet, harvesting these addresses and sells them to spammers. If you do list your email, have your webmaster put a space in it somewhere and indicate to the reader that they will have to adjust the script when they mail it. I.E. assistant @ elliekay.com or [assistant at elliekay.com].

3) Set up an Assistant Account — This should be where your online contact form sends mail. Even if you cannot afford a assistant, set up this account. Then, if you feel compelled to respond to fringe people, then your assistant can do it first and there’s another layer of protection.

4) Set up Caller ID – Our phone won’t accept blocked calls. The caller has to leave a message and wait, if their ID is blocked.

5) Do Not Engage — Chuck Swindoll says he never reads an anonymous letter, I take his advice. He said, “If they don’t have the courage to put their name on it, then it’s not worth my time.” The same applies to email, you don’t have to respond or engage a looney. If you get a bad feeling about the person, then do not feel you (or your assistant) has to respond to the fringe. Pray for wisdom and act accordingly.”

Thank you Ellie! Those are excellent ideas. The one about the email is very important unless you want to be deluged by s.p.a.m. I made that mistake in the early 90s and had to change my email address to escape the flood.

In addition, consider setting up your writing business under an LLC (limited liability corporation). This will help separate your personal income from your business income. I did this for our agency at the very beginning. Ask your tax accountant for advice on how to set it up and use it. The easiest book to digest on this subject is Limited Liability Companies for Dummies by Jennifer Reuting.

A couple of our clients have gone a step further and created and S-Corporation (Inc.). This is a much more complicated procedure but has distinct advantages and protections, especially if you get sued. Again, consult experts in these areas before doing anything on your own. The best book I’ve read on the subject is Inc. Yourself by Judith McQuown . Make sure to buy the Tenth edition (published 2004) as the laws changed a few years ago.

If you plan to sell books from your home or office don’t forget to obtain a sales license for your city and state (each city and state have different laws and procedures on this). Why? Because if you sell books to anyone in your state you must collect state and local sales tax. Even if you don’t want to charge tax at your book table, you are still liable for those taxes. Again, this varies widely by state. Just make sure you are doing the right thing where you live.

If there are other idea you have or questions on these issues feel free to post below and I will try my best to help.

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E-Books Redux: Behind the Stats

I had hoped to let yesterday’s post put much of my thoughts to rest on the issue of e-books…at least for a while.

But today I came across this article “What Amazon Didn’t Say About E-Books” by David Carnoy for CNET. In the article he makes some very strong statements regarding Amazon’s claim of reaching a “tipping point” with regard to Kindle sales and its impact on e-book sales.

Do yourself a favor and read the article.

Then vow to lay it all aside for the rest of the Summer and write your book!

And no, the picture for this post is not our cat. I simply found the picture and thought it might get your attention. Feel free to submit your own caption for the photo in the comment section.

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More E-Book News: Behind the Stats

Today’s Wall Street Journal online quotes Amazon.com as saying that ebooks have outsold hardcover books over the last three months.

Additional statistics from that article include: “Amazon sought to suggest that Amazon remains the leading retailer for e-books. The company said that of the 1.14 million James Patterson e-books sold as of July 6, nearly 868,000 were from Amazon.” Also, “in June, Apple CEO Steve Jobs had claimed that his company’s iBookstore, which launched in April, had taken 20% of the market.”

My observations of these developments are two-fold.
One. Everyone is claiming “dominance” but no one is sharing actual verifiable data. It’s like standing on the playground in pre-school and saying “my Dad can beat up your Dad.”

Two. Claiming that e-books have outsold hardcovers is disingenuous if they are counting free downloads as sales. Remember when Amazon claimed that on Christmas Day they sold more e-books than p-books? Of course they did. Everyone who received a Kindle as a gift, turned it on and downloaded books. Who else was shopping for books on Christmas Day?

Remember the news adage “if it bleeds it leads.” So just because something makes a great headline and a press release doesn’t necessarily reflect day-to-day mundane reality.

By the way, take a look at the comments section of yesterday’s blog entry. Randy Ingermanson provided some great thoughts and I responded with a couple other things to consider as well as part of the ongoing discussion on this issue.

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E-Book Sales: Behind the Stats

There is mixed news with regard to book sales in May of this year. Store sales were down 2.6% but publisher sales were up by 9.8%. Read all the various stats here. Remember these are simply comparison of 2010 monthly numbers with 2009.

The biggest area of growth, percentage-wise, is in e-books (up 162.8%).

But lets look at actual dollars, not percentages.

Publisher sales (according to the Association of American Publishers) were $715.3 million in May. Of that total, e-books accounted for $29.3 million…or about 4%. If this was a 162% jump over 2009, then e-book sales in May of last year were $11.2 million.

There is no question that this is a huge leap. But it still means that 96% of all sales are still in hard copy.

Many experts claim that in five years (by the year 2015) that e-books will “tip” and account for over 50% of all book sales. I’ve heard this from two major publishers (one was the head of the digital initiatives for that publisher) and from my friend Randy Ingermanson in his excellent e-zine (read pages 2-11 for his full report on the issue).

For that to happen a 100% growth rate would have to be sustained. That would mean 2011 would have e-books at 8% of sales, 2012 at 16% of sales, 2013 at 32%, etc.

I’m not arguing that it won’t happen.

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ICRS Observations 2010

Some have asked for my thoughts on this past week’s International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) in St. Louis. I’m glad to answer. This was my 29th consecutive booksellers convention. At its height there were approximately 14,000 in attendance, many years ago. That is no longer the case. Statistics released indicate …

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The Ultimate Sound Bite

Can you boil the essence of your novel or non-fiction book idea into twenty-five words or less?

This is one of the keys to creating a marketing hook that makes your idea sellable in today’s crowded market.

You have less than a minute to make that hook work.

It is also called creating the “elevator pitch” or the “Hollywood pitch.” The goal is get the marketing department to exclaim, “We can sell that without any problem!” And ultimately to get a consumer to say, “I want that” or “I need that” or “I know someone who should have that.”

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In Memory of John Wooden

Last night the great basketball coach John Wooden passed away at the age of ninety-nine. As you can see from the photo to the left I had the privilege of attending one of his basketball camps during the Summer of 1974.

by Steve Laube

Last night the great basketball coach John Wooden passed away at the age of ninety-nine. As you can see from the photo above I had the privilege of attending one of his basketball camps during the Summer of 1974.

It was a John Wooden and Bill Sharman (then coach of the LA Lakers) camp in Honolulu. We lived and breathed basketball 24/7 during that week. We drilled during the day, sat in classes, and scrimmaged in the afternoons and evenings. It was heaven for an aspiring athlete. (For the rest of the world that week was notable because President Nixon resigned that Thursday August 8, 1974.)

During one drill Coach Wooden pointed at me and said, “Come here young man and show me how you rebound the ball.” I sheepishly came out in front the other players and for a couple minutes Coach Wooden schooled me on how to box out. No matter what I did, spinning, pushing, hip-checking, and jumping, he always snagged the rebound. I couldn’t believe this gray haired “old man” who was at least five inches shorter than me could do that. (Coach Wooden would have been 63 years old at the time.) It was only later that I found out that he was in the Hall of Fame…as a player (inducted in 1960)! No wonder he taught this skinny kid a lesson!

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Book Review – Inbound Marketing

In February I was in the Denver airport waiting for a flight. As usual I couldn’t resist browsing the bookstore shelves. Something about the book Inbound Marketing by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah caught my eye. So, on impulse, I bought the book and began reading it on the plane. I learned a lot about this phenomenon called social marketing and thought that it would be a great book for all authors to read. But I never got around to writing a review!

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New Releases May 2010

Below are new books published last month which our agency represented. (In alphabetical order by author. Descriptions are from publisher’s web sites). May 2010 Claim – Lisa Bergren David C. CookSent west by their father to make a new life, the St. Clair siblings have done so-but hardly as he’d …

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