Tag s | Get Published

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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Book Manufacturing

If you ever get the chance to visit a printing press, do it. I’ve had the privilege to visit two of them. The first was Standard Publishing’s printing press in Cincinnati. Their plant is quite large and they do a wide variety of printing, everything from books to curriculum to Star Wars coloring books.

The other plant was Bethany Press International in Bloomington, MN. During my years with Bethany House Publishers I visited this plant many times since their building is about 100 yards from the back door of the publishing house! I watched them move from the old “film” method of processing to a completely digital technology.

The beauty of watching the books being printed is partly the fascination of cool machines, but also an insight into all of the incredible details that go into the manufacturing process.

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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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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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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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How to Know if Self-Publishing is for You

Technology and Amazon.com have opened up the world of book publishing, making it far more “democratic” than ever before and allowing anyone with word processing software and connection to the internet, to become a published author. The traditional publishing industry is a $25 billion or more industry in the United …

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Amazon Rank Obsession

Admit it. You’ve checked your Amazon.com sales ranking at least once since your book was published. You feel the need to have some outside confirmation of the sales of your book. And Amazon’s ranking are free to look at.

I’ve even seen book  proposals where the author has gone to great lengths to include the Amazon ranking for each title that is competitive with the one the author is proposing. A prodigious amount of wasted effort.

Publishers rarely pay attention to Amazon rankings unless yours gets below 1,000 or if you get in the top 100.

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Promotion: Faithful or Self-full?

“What’s the difference between promotion and self-promotion? How do we promote ourselves/our books so that we honor God, respect others, and use common sense?”

The constant tension between marketing and ministry has plagued the Christian author, speaker, bookseller and publisher forever. Why? Because Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple. Because we are commanded to die to self and to humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord….

And yet, our society…our culture insists, even demands, that we market and promote our message.

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