Tag s | Book Business

Always Be Learning

During the summer of 1978 the #1 hit on Christian radio was the classic “He’s Alive” by Don Francisco (click to listen). That same summer I attended a Christian music festival in Estes Park, Colorado, and decided to take a class on songwriting taught by Jimmy and Carol Owens. I settled into my chair near the back of the room with notepad ready.

Just as the class was about to start, a bearded man slid into the chair next to mine, notepad at the ready. To my astonishment, it was Don Francisco. (I recognized him from his album cover.)

Here was a singer/songwriter who had the number one hit in the nation, taking a class on songwriting! What did he think he needed to learn?

I have never forgotten the lesson from that afternoon. Even the best need to keep learning.

Always Time to Learn

Over the years I’ve seen numerous bestselling authors attend writers conferences as students. For example, at a number of Mt. Hermon conferences, Francine Rivers sat among the rest, taking notes. More than once I’ve seen Liz Curtis Higgs attend a fiction-writing conference as a student, not as the main speaker. Despite the considerable success of both these ladies as writers, each had the desire to continue to learn and improve their craft.

The application is obvious. Never rest on your laurels. Always seek to improve. And always remember to give God the glory in all that you do.

If you sit in first place and think the competition will never catch you, remember the 1969 Chicago Cubs. (I was a huge fan as a kid, collecting their baseball cards and scouring the daily newspaper for their results. I can still name most of their starting lineup.) On September 2 they were in first place, far ahead of the upstart NY Mets. But the rest of the month saw them lose 18 of 26 games and squander what seemed to be an insurmountable lead. History remembers the “Amazing Mets” but only brokenhearted Cub fans remember the collapse of ’69.

Anyone Can Learn

When I became an editor after being a bookseller for more than a decade, I knew very little about the publishing side of the business. I had no formal training as an editor. So I read books on fiction and nonfiction writing and books on how to be an editor. I went to writers conferences as faculty but sat in the back of other teachers’ classes, taking notes.

When I became a literary agent, I read books and attended other agents’ classes at conferences.

My point is that if I can learn this business, so can you. The fact that you are reading these words is to your credit. Thank you for being intentional about this calling we have.

Strive for Excellence

We are in the “business” of changing the world with our words. Therefore, anything less than excellence should not be acceptable. We can always learn more, improve our work, and broaden our horizons.

“I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10b, ESV).

 

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Four Questions About Publicity

by Steve Laube

Publicity is the art of telling the world about you and your book. We recently received a few questions about publicity via the green button you see in the right hand column of our blog (yes, it really works).

1.) When should a writer hire a publicist?
I think an author should wait to see what their publisher will provide in this area. If you do hire a publicist make sure they coordinate with your publisher so as to not duplicate efforts. (Don’t aggravate your local TV station with multiple PR contacts.)

But the question was “when” not “should.” So let me re-answer.

If you are on your own with regard to your PR, you should hire that firm six to nine months prior to the release date of your book. The PR firm will be handicapped if you wait too long. They need lead time especially in the area of getting reviews for your book. Few review outlets are interested in a book after it has already been released.

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What Are Average Book Sales?

by Steve Laube


We recently received the following question:

“What does the average book sell today? An industry veteran at a writers conference recently said 5,000. What??? I know it all depends….but … nowhere near 5K, right?”

My simple answer?

It’s complicated.
It depends.

HAH!

Average is a difficult thing to define. And each house defines success differently. If a novel sells 5,000 copies at one publisher they celebrate and have steak dinners. If a novel sells 5,000 copies at another publisher you find staff members fearing for their jobs and in total despair.

Let me give you some real numbers but not revealing the author name (and there is a wide variety of publishers represented):

Author 1: novelist – 3 books – avg. sale = 8,300

Author 2: novelist – 12 books – avg. sale = 19,756

Author 3: novelist – 3 books – avg. sale = 7,000

Author 4: novelist – 7 books – avg. sale = 5,300 (Two different publishers)

Author 5: non-fiction devotional – 5 books – avg. sale 10,900

Author 6: non-fiction – 2 books – avg. sale = 5,300

Author 7: novelist – 4 books – avg. sale = 29,400

Author 8: non-fiction – 3 books – avg. sale = 18,900

Author 9: fiction – 7 books – avg. sale = 12,900

Author 10: non-fiction – 5 books – avg. sale = 6,800 (three different publishers)

So you can see it DOES depend. Depends on the author and publisher and topic or genre.

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How Long Does It Take to Get Published?

How much time does it take to get published?

I came to the publishing business from the retail side of the equation. The biggest adjustment was understanding how long the process takes. In retail there is instantaneous gratification. But book publishing is a process business.

There is no question the timeline varies from person to person and project to project. In the world of major publishers the diversity can be quite extreme.

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That Conference Appointment

You snagged one of those valuable 15 minute appointments with an agent or an editor at the writers conference. Now what? What do you say? How do you say it? And what does that scowling person on the other side of the table want? What if you blow it?

Many excellent posts have been written on this topic (see Rachelle Gardner and Kate Schafer Testerman for example) but thought I would add my perspective as well.

What advice would you give to a beginning writer about attending a writers conference and meeting with an editor or an agent?

Go in with realistic expectations.

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Who Gets Paid in Publishing?

With all the talk about Independent publishing vs. Traditional publishing and the talk about how writers can get rich if they follow a certain plan…I got to thinking. Maybe we should do a quick look at the Economics of Publishing to see if anyone is making off like a bandit. Sorry for you non-numbers people, but it is critical to understand the infrastructure (i.e. the lifeblood) that keeps your ideas in print.

The detective in the movie says “Follow the money,” so we shall. But first a disclaimer. These models are estimates based on years of reading contracts, profit and loss sheets, spreadsheets, and royalty statements. Your mileage may vary.

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Writers Expect Good News

Writers expect good news…any day now. Is it the curse of eternal optimism?There is this hope within each writer that it will be their manuscript that is chosen for publication. And the money will rain on them like a spring shower.

Despite the odds.

Despite the competition.

Despite the cynical, horrible, no-good, very-bad agents who review them.

Expectations

Are these expectations realistic? Of course they are. It is the essence of hope. For without hope there is no reason to continue the pursuit of the craft. You have to believe that you have what it takes.

Are these expectations practical? Of course not. Who said the writing profession was “practical?”

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Checked Your Copyright Lately?

Have you checked your copyright lately? I mean, have you actually gone to the US Copyright Office web site and searched for your registration? You might be surprised at what you won’t find. Here is the link to start your search.

Most publishing contracts have a clause that requires the publisher to register the copyright, in the name of the author, with the US Copyright Office. This is supposed to be done as part of the in-house paperwork process.

If you do not find your book, don’t panic.

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Many Happy (?) Returns!

by Steve Laube

Every first-time author is confronted by the reality of “Reserves Against Returns” as part of publishing economics. It is usually a shock and elicits a phone call to their agent crying “What happened to my money?”

Did you realize that book publishing is the only “hard goods” industry where the product sold by the supplier to a vendor can be returned? This does not happen with electronics, clothing, shoes, handbags, cars, tires…you name it. If it is a durable good the vendor who buys it, owns it (which is why there are Outlet Malls – to sell the remaining inventory). Except for books. Somewhere along the line the publishers agreed to allow stores to return unsold inventory for credit. In one sense, publishers are selling their books on consignment. Bargain books are actually resold by the publisher (after getting returns or to reduce overprinted inventory) to a new specialty bargain bookseller or division of a chain (which buys the bargain books non-returnable).

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So You Want to Be In Pictures? (The Sequel)

To simulate how the book-to-film process really works, I waited five years to write this sequel to my original post on books and films. Experiences with book-to-film connections are a very real box of chocolates for authors ever since the opportunity to connect the two media debuted a hundred years …

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