Category Archives: The Business of Being an Author

Methods of writing, tricks, tips, and other things related to the business of being an author. It’s not just about putting words on the paper.

The Road to Publishing – On the Street (Part III)

Wow! I have my manuscript edited, the self-publishing is finished, and now….  what do I do with my book?

If you are going through a vanity press or other self-publishing service, it is a little easier; they do all the “leg work” for you. If not it is just a matter of creating accounts on the various distribution channels (websites) and uploading the book that the formatting service should have prepared for you. The sites that I am currently using are:

CreateSpace and Ingram Spark will distribute your books to a variety of sales points, including Amazon and Barns & Noble On-line. This is important because, according to one publisher’s content editor that I recently heard speak, Amazon currently sells over 70% of all books.

Once you have your book uploaded it takes as much as a couple of weeks for the cover to appear, but the text and opportunity to purchase the book is quicker.  So, where are you?  You are now on the edge of the marketing cliff. The lake is deep so jump in… you can’t just wade around in the shallow spots.

Marketing P bulletsTraditionally, marketing included product, price, placement, and promotion, but the internet, social media, and spamming ads are changing that approach.  Unknown, image downloaded from Google. I intend to write more on marketing in the future.


Everyone should agree, the key is making the connection with readers. It is easy to get lost in the crowd, but you cannot ignore Amazon if the speaker I heard is correct. There is a lot of debate how effective social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, etc, are at 1) reaching readers, and 2) encouraging sales. There are also genre specific author coops like who specialize in Fantasy and Science Fiction authors/books. Recently, I submitted an article to LeRue Press‘s paper, What’s the Story. Lastly, plan on going to book signings; other than Amazon, getting in front of readers is essential. Word of mouth promotions is always a good thing.

I would encourage you, the writer/author, to use as many of the above channels as possible, time allowing. Keep in touch.

The Road to Publishing: The Publisher (Part II)

So, how does it feel? You have worked your manuscript through the editing process – red lines and mark ups. It is a hard, often lonely road, but you’ve made it. Again, congratulations. Now, it’s time to determine your publishing options. The question is whether it will be a traditional publisher, a publishing service, or self-publishing?

Each of these routes has its Pros and Cons, its rewards and pitfalls. The most important thing at this point is knowing what you want. Why are you writing in the first place? One of my favorite topics, strategic planning, but that is for another post…

Traditional Publishers: Fame and fortune painted in your eyes? This route typically starts with a query letter to a literary agent who will represent you with a publishing house, presumably leveraging their acquaintance with the publishing houses to get your manuscript seen. If you have chosen to pursue this route, do a Google search. There are some traditional publishers that accept direct submission. You should be aware, however, that this route offers a steep challenge.

Tara K. Harper writes an interesting article about the likelihood of being published. In short, 3 out of 10,000 manuscripts are reported published by a traditional publisher. As I understand it the publishing house will only provide about 3 months of marketing, but will probably get your book placed in brick and mortar bookstores. The cost – a portion of your royalties…

Publishing Services: This method involves hiring a professional publishing service, but you are still considered an indie author. The biggest benefit is that the service will (should) manage all of your business logistics: manuscript formatting, cover design, channel placement/distribution, and book orders. Some may even offer some marketing.

I am very thankful for Friesen Press. I was treated well and learned a lot from them about the business hidden behind being an author. My debut book, The Legend of Jerrod, won two awards and was ranked about 180,000 with Amazon. With the exception of marketing (which I was disappointed with), everything they told me was “right on the money”. I retained all rights to my book and received the royalties as they promised while they did all of the posting logistics; retaining all rights was the biggest issue for me. It was a good way to break into the business side of being an indie author (non-traditional publishing).

That said, be careful about your publishing services. When I started selecting my first publisher I didn’t know too many authors. The one I knew best told me she had paid twice what Friesen was requesting, and she had signed the rights to her book and to any movie away for 4 years. Ouch! One of the publishing services that I considered for Amanda’s Quest required me to use its editor if they were going to published the manuscript, which included some marketing. If I paid for the publishing it would have cost the same amount…. hmm?

I discovered some local favorite publishing services who would have taken some of the business burdens off my back, but they were 3 to 4 times as expensive as the true, self-publishing route.

True Self-Publishing: As I have gained experience I have met some wonderful, mutually supporting authors and mentors. I am a member of three author groups: (fantasy & sci-fi authors), World Literary Cafe, and High Sierra Writer; thank you all. Based on their experience and encouragement, I am about to jump into the deep end without flotation devices.

I selected Streetlight Graphics to format Amanda’s Quest into the various formats required by the distribution channels. Streetlight was recommended by a number of authors, appears on the title pages of numerous books, and offers pricing and payment plans that were as reasonable as any others I could find. I have been very happy with their service.

The Pro to this route of publishing is that the royalties and copyrights are all mine, and the price is much less. Using Ingram as one of my distribution channels may enable me to be in brick and mortar book stores, if I chose to pursue that path. The Cons, I am taking on all the business logistics.

Recommendation: The route to publishing you select must optimize your goals. If you want to be in brick and mortar book stores or traditional publishing is the only way to be eligible for an author group, then pursue a traditional publisher. If you want to publish quickly and retain control all of your copyright decision, then pursue either a publishing service or self-publishing. Chosing between these two options depends on cost/royalties and the amount of business transactions you want to manage.

Keep in mind, in May 2014 The Wire – News from the Atlantic reported that Amazon’s share of all new books purchased was 41 percent. Amazon also held 65 percent of all new online books (in both print and digital) and 67 percent of the e-book market.  Additionally, in July 2014 The Daily Dot reported that 2013 eBook sales surpassed the number of books sold in brick and mortar book stores, although the total revenue due to price disparities were still less.


The Road to Publishing: The Editor (Part I)

Finishing a manuscript is a monumental task; congratulations.  Now you need to make some choices, the first of which is who is going to edit your manuscript?

If you are unfamiliar with the types of editing you should do some research. There is copy editing, line editing, and content editing to name a few. Also, as you consider editors, keep in mind whether they have edited in your genre before.

Editor Selection. In my debut novel, The Legend of Jerrod, I rushed into editing. I gave the manuscript to a recent college graduate at a bargain price and rushed to publishing. After The Legend of Jerrod was released in January 2013, I immediately hired an established editing service to complete a second edit and my debut novel was re-released in January 2014.

I wasn’t completely happy with the second editing company, but my debut novel earned two awards (noted on the home page) and a rather remarkable critique. Still, I did not have a good rapport with the second service. They did not communicate with me between submission and their returned product. They provided very little feedback other than to say they wanted to completely rewrite the already published novel (I may still do this someday); they suggested cutting out several sections that were included in the debut novel to set up book two in the Kingdom of Torrence series; and they continually bragged on staff credentials. While they were nice enough people, I did not consider them in my selection for the Amanda’s Quest manuscript.

For Amanda’s Quest, I considered several options. I received an editor recommendation from an established author whom I meet on-line in social media (yes, it works). I got to know her personality and reputation to the point I trusted her opinion. I also contacted several other editors, including a book publishing company and another author who offered in-depth editing services. Other potential sources for editing service included my writers group, High Sierra Writers.

In order to select an editor, I first determined which services were within my budget, highlighting those that offered a payment plan. I was comfortable with the input from my beta readers that the manuscript was logical and consistent, so I was focusing on line and copy editing services. I provided the first chapter of the manuscript to my top three candidates and interviewed each to determine their philosophy and how well we might communicate. Part of my selection process included a reference request, but even the references for the selected editor did not respond to my inquiries. Thus, I was left with reviewing the books listed on the editors’ web pages.

For me the two largest factors were the sample editing each candidate provided and how well we communicated. An editor needs to be able to tell you where your manuscript needs improvement, but there is a positive way of stating a concern and a destructive way. Most importantly, I didn’t want an editor who would remove lines that were setting up a subplot or major point in my pending, third book, The Light of Ak’ron. As a fantasy writer I provide description of the scenes and “head hop” to give the reader more information about the world and the characters; I needed an editor that could work with the fantasy approach and guide me towards improving my writing.

For the Amanda’s Quest manuscript, I ultimately selected Toni Rakestraw as the editor. We agreed to a service contract that included pricing, details of the editing service, recourse in the event of a breach of contract, etc. Toni has done a remarkable job and the manuscript will be published this fall (2015).

Summary. There are professional editor services, such as The National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (I am not a member), available that will help find an editor and attest to the editor’s credentials. Vanity and self-publishing publishers/presses also have editors on staff, but don’t accept them at face value even if it means not using their editor may preclude your manuscript from being picked up as “one of their books”.

It has been my experience that the more organized a group of services is the more it costs, but the risk may be far less. I spent nearly as much on the two editors of The Legend of Jerrod as I did on Amanda’s Quest, but got less than half the quality and service that Toni Rakestraw provided. I am reminded of a line in Indiana Jones, “You chose wisely.”

I had contracts with both the college graduate that I initially worked on The Legend of Jerrod and with Toni Rakestraw, who edited Amanda’s Quest. Although the second contract was better written and provided more protection, I am uncertain how much would have been gained if I had to try and enforce the contract. However, we did refer to the contract at one point during the Amanda’s Quest editing, just to refresh our memories on an issue (re: intended direction, not a controversy). Remember, you need a friendly relationship with your editor, but hiring an editor is a business function: a provided service for monetary compensation.

The bottom line is the level of professionalism Toni Rakestraw provided, which improved the manuscript; I was only able to find such outstanding service through research and due diligence. Selecting an editor is not just a mouse click-and-go process.

Part II will be on selecting a publisher on The Road to Publishing. Watch for it at


Fallacies of a Book Rating

By D.M. Stoddard, MBA


Is that rating of 4 stars really going to tell me whether I will like the book? There are many components to a rating, but two of the predominate ones, the rater’s average and familiarity with the genre, can be managed.

 If a rater typically gives 4 stars on the books they rate, what does it tell me when they give a book a 3 or 5 star rating? That is a ± 1 off their average. If they typically give a 3 star rating and a book receives 5 stars that is + 2 points. This is probably the book I would want to read. How do the raters’ average ratings really contrast?

 For example, Rater A has an average 4.5 star ratings and Rater B has an average of 3.2 stars. They both read My Next Book and rate it 4 stars. Hey, I got 4’s. Seems like they liked my book, or did they?

 Rater A:  4 (rate) ÷ 4.5 (average) = 0.88 per star; or 4 X 0.88 = 3.52 stars

Rater B:  4 (rate) ÷ 3.2 (average) = 1.25 per star; or 4 X 1.25 = 5.00 stars

 Apparently, Rater A did not like My Next Book so much after all (even though I have 4 stars!). Averaging the scores together for the readers’ benefit the book’s rating would be:

 3.25 + 5.00 = 8.25 total stars; or 8.25 ÷ 2 = 4.125 average stars.

 The same principals are true for the raters’ familiarity with the genre. No matter what people claim, the rules for writing differ between genres. My favorite article on the point was written by Charlie Jane Anders, 10 Writing “Rules” We Wish More Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors Would Break, 10/26/12. An author asked my opinion about her Erotic Romance. I realized very quickly that I was not someone to rate that genre.

 Raters who typically read Historical Fiction, for example, will have problems reading a Fantasy author who writes as described in Ms. Anders’ article. They (Rater A) will probably rate the out-of-genre book as 3 stars while someone who typically reads fantasy (Rater B) may rate the book as 4 stars (or 5 stars). Therefore,

 Rater A: 3 (rate) X 125% (out-of-rate modifier) = 3.25 stars

Rater B: 4 (rate) X 100% (no modifier) = 4 stars

 Averaging the scores together for the readers’ benefit the book’s rating would be:

 3.25 + 4 = 7.25 stars; or 7.25 ÷ 2 = 3.63 average stars.

 Because we have identified two primary influences on the rater’s final opinion, the rater’s average and familiarity with the genre, they need to be combined to provide a more accurate book rating. Assuming these two influences equal, each component would be worth 50% of the final rating. Thus,

Rater Rate Average Per Star Value 50% Rate Modify Value 50% Final
A (HF) 5.0 5.0 1.0 5.0 2.5 5.0 1.25 6.25 3.1 5+
B (HF) 3.0 4.0 0.75 2.25 1.13 3.0 1.25 3.75 1.88 3.01
C (HF) 4.0 3.0 1.33 5.32 2.66 4.0 1.25 5.0 2.5 5+
D (HF) 3.0 3.0 1.0 3.0 1.5 3.0 1.25 3.75 1.88 3.38
E (SF) 5.0 5.0 1.0 5.0 2.5 5.0 1.0 5.0 2.5 5.0
F (SF) 3.0 4.0 0.75 2.25 1.13 3.0 1.0 3.0 1.5 2.63
G (SF) 4.0 3.0 1.33 5.32 2.66 4.0 1.0 4.0 2.0 4.66
H (SF) 3.0 3.0 1.0 3.0 1.5 3.0 1.0 3.0 1.5 3.0
Averages 3.75 3.75 3.96

Table Note: green indicates an adjusted rating higher than the original rate; orange indicates an adjusted rating lower than the original rate.

 In the example the book would be a Science Fiction novel. Raters A through D typically read Historical Fiction so a 25% bonus adjustment has been applied (one of many methods to compensate for out-of-genre rating). Raters E through H typically read Science Fiction so no adjustment was made. Averaging these eight ratings, the final adjusted rating is higher (0.21) than the average rating data without analysis. The adjusted rating would give a potential reader a truer picture of the book’s value.

 The more ratings a book receives the great probability that the present star system does not accurately present the book’s value. This gives the potential reader a less accurate impression of the book. With technology, this adjustment could be made automatically.

 The basic question is, if you use the star system to help choose your next book and you have two books to choose from, one with 3.75 stars and one with 3.96 stars, which book are you going to choose?