Monthly archives for April, 2012

Think Like a Publisher: Chapter 3: Projected Income

Here we go with Chapter Three, the last of the “Early Decisions” set up chapters.

It’s been some time since I wrote the first version of Think Like a Publisher. Since I wrote those first chapters, Scott William Carter and I have taught three workshops by the same name, plus an advanced workshop helping indie writers make more money from their books. This fall I will be teaching a POD workshop on all the aspects of designing and selling paper books. (Watch for the announcement.)

And during those workshops and from comments and from hundreds of sources I learned a ton more information.

Plus the publishing company I helped start (WMG Publishing) now has a full-time employee and has published over 240 different book titles.

And the overall publishing business has changed as well. Amazing numbers of changes, actually.

As traditional publishers grab for more rights and become even more difficult to work with, more and more writers are moving to indie publishing. As they make the jump, they ask basic questions on how to do it, how to be treated with respect as a publisher, and even how to do simple things like setting up a publishing business.

An indie publisher is still a publisher, the same as any traditional publisher.

Think Like a Publisher 2012 is an updated version of the book from over a year ago, including some of what has changed and what I have learned over the last year or more. I’m sure in another two years I’ll do a third edition. Some things are changing that fast.

Every three or four days I will post a chapter for free here with a link under the tab above. But the entire 2012 edition is now available in both trade paper and electronic editions in all electronic bookstores (Kindle, B&N, Smashwords and so on) if you want to jump ahead of these posts. (B&N link also has the paper version through Barnes & Noble.com) Make sure you get the green cover. The red cover is the first edition.

Comments on each chapter are welcome and help us all learn, but keep the comments focused on the topic of the chapter, please.

I hope these chapters help you get a jump on learning how to be a publisher.

 

Chapter Three

Projected Income

To actually get a profit-and-loss calculation for a book project, you must now make some pricing decisions and projections of income.

Yeah, I know. I know. This is all so new, how can anyone predict how much money they will make on any project? Well, you can’t. Not really. But you can try. And you want to know a dirty little secret. New York traditional publishing can’t predict how much they will make on any book either.

But they try.

And that’s the key. To really act like a publisher, you need to understand what you are trying to gain. You need to know how many sales will get your expenses back. And you need to know at how many sales will you start making a profit.

So this chapter is about why you need to try to determine set income ranges, and how to do that at this moment in 2012.

This is the last of the basic three set-up chapters. After this one, we start getting into more detail on specific areas.

Caution!!

Here we go again, back into pricing. Remember, this discussion is about acting like a real publisher, not a hobby writer. Real publishers are in the business to make a profit. That’s the focus now, so please keep that in mind. If that is not your intent, fine.

Pricing

To determine any kind of income and sales potential, you must first make some pricing decisions. And you must decide as a publisher what your long-range goals are.

(Holy smokes have we had discussions about this topic here on the blog. Feel free to bring up the old questions again if you feel they have not been answered yet.)

Those of us involved with the starting of WMG Publishing sat down and talked about long-range goals. We all wanted WMG Publishing to become, down the road, a decent mid-sized publisher of fiction of all types from many, many authors. You might decide that your publisher is just to publish your work. That’s normal for indie publishing and nothing wrong with that at all. Or maybe your business mission statement isn’t to make any money, but to have a lot of people read your work. Fine as well, if you are clear for yourself on that.

The choice of mission statement will also determine your standard pricing. And your pricing will determine also how you sell books, both electronically and in paper editions.

READ MORE »

The New World of Publishing: Respect

I did a New World of Publishing post a few posts back talking about how I could find the balance between short fiction indie publishing and short fiction traditional publishing. And then I did another post about how I could NOT find the balance between traditional novel publishing and indie publishing. And from some of the comments that came in, I think I didn’t talk clearly enough about the main point I was trying to make.

So let me try once again from a slightly different angle, and, I hope, a little more directly on my point.

First off, I need to clear up one thing. I still have two books under contract with traditional New York publishers and I plan on writing both to the best of my ability. So I haven’t jumped completely to indie publishing just yet. And unless a few things change, as I said in the last post, I find it hard to imagine ever doing another book for traditional publishers except for rare exceptions.

Unless things change.

That’s the key.

Unless things change. And the changes I am asking for are in the contracts and are fantastically simple.

Do I Want More Money?

Well, duh. Who doesn’t?  But I am not asking for more money from traditional publishers. I know how the math works, I know how they calculate a profit and loss statement, I know what a range for an advance means in sales. If an offer is fair for the product on the money side, I would not turn down an offer. And I have written books over the last ten years from $5,000 advance and on up.

I have always felt that my advances were fair for what I have been writing. In fact, for about ten years, I felt as if I were the most overpaid writer working, because I did rescue jobs at times in which I was offered far more of an advance than the book could handle in sales. I took it. Because the publisher needed me to help them with a larger problem.

But if I wrote a nifty little midlist romance right now, I’d be happy at the advance for a midlist romance right now. And those advances range from $4,000 to $20,000 depending on a ton of factors. And more than likely I could make more money than that indie publishing the same book over a period of years. That’s a factor in a decision, but honestly not my main factor. When you can write a novel as fast as I can, (meaning I am willing to spend the hours at the computer in a short overall span of time) then I can often make choices that have nothing to do with money.

So in the decision of more money, if the offer is fair from a traditional publisher, it’s usually fine with me.

So Bluntly, Why Did I Say There Was No Balance?

Simply put, I want traditional publishers to respect me as a writer and supplier of their product. Nothing more.

And nothing less.

One more time. Here are the respect contract terms I would demand and are far more important to me than money in this new world.

So to TRADITIONAL PUBLISHERS, here are the respectful terms I are asking for.

And I hope many other writers ask for as well until these terms start to happen.

(Notice, no extra money. Just asking for respect.)

One… 

The contract has a firm termination date.

If you (traditional publisher) are offering me a small midlist contract of say $5,000.00, the contract terminates completely in five years from the day of publication or six years from the day of signing on the contract. Period. If the publisher feels they can continue to make money on the book, they must come and negotiate a new contract with me.

If the contract advance amount is larger, I will go up to ten years max. Again, the term in negotiable, up to a point. No more “forever” contracts in publishing. They are disrespectful to the owner of the copyright. (Ummm, that’s me.)

Two…

Not one breath in the contract of trying to control my other work.

And if you (traditional publisher) try, then we add into the contract how you must give me rights to walk into your business and tell you what you can and cannot buy from other authors. It’s only fair. And respectful.

Keep your hands and control out of my business except for one book under the one contract. Nothing more, nothing less. Those kind of restrictions do not belong in a single book contract. No amount of money gives you the right to control my business beyond the contract. And no amount of money gives you (traditional publisher) the right to tell me what I can and cannot write.

Three…

You (traditional publisher) must allow contract terms that allow me to cancel the contract at any moment if you (traditional publisher) do not perform up to the contract terms.

It’s a form of consideration (if you want the legal term.) You (traditional publisher) demand that I turn in a book at a certain time and there are repercussions in the contract if I do not. I should be able to have cover approval and demand that you publish my book within a certain time frame as well. The repercussions of failure on both sides need to be the same: termination and complete reversion of the right and/or return of money.

That’s it.

Three simple things.

Of course, there are many other clauses that do not belong in a publishing contract, not the least of which is the agency clause. But I don’t much care about that because I haven’t had an agent in seven years now. (If you are still silly enough to give a perfect stranger all your money and the paperwork with your money and allow that agency clause to be in your contract with a publisher, you need some major business classes and should watch a bunch of fairly recent news programs about a guy called Bernie.)

For now, I would be happy with the three major changes I outlined above. They are very simple, they don’t cost the publisher extra money. Nothing. Not one dime.

And all short fiction publishers have no trouble with any of those three. They are standard in short fiction.

Yet traditional NOVEL publishers across the board are turning down those terms and demanding even more control over a writer’s work.

And sadly, some writers are signing. And their agents are too afraid to stand up for their clients to even ask for any of this. (Shame on you, agents. When did you lose your courage to fight for your clients?)

That’s how really, really screwed up traditional publishing on the novel side has become.

And that’s why I say there is no longer a balance for any smart writer between indie novel publishing and traditional novel publishing.

Indie publishing, where we writers (copyright holders) are in control of our own work, wins every time over giving away our copyrights, our control, and our art.

I am not asking for more money from traditional publishers.

I am simply asking for respect.

But traditional publishers think so little of writers, they are not willing to even give that in return.

And so many writers have so little respect in themselves, they are willing to let traditional publishers take all this from them.

Not me. After I finish these two novels that are under a very old contract, unless those three simple terms are in a contract, I’m not signing.

I respect myself just a little too much to do that.

 

 

Think Like a Publisher 2012: Chapter 2: Expected Costs

Here we go with Chapter Two.

It’s been some time since I wrote the first version of Think Like a Publisher. Since I wrote those first chapters, Scott William Carter and I have taught three workshops by the same name, plus an advanced workshop helping indie writers make more money from their books. This fall I will be teaching a POD workshop on all the aspects of designing and selling paper books. (Watch for the announcement.)

And during those workshops and from comments and from hundreds of sources I learned a ton more information.

Plus the publishing company I helped start (WMG Publishing) now has a full-time employee and has published over 240 different book titles.

And the overall publishing business has changed as well. Amazing numbers of changes, actually.

As traditional publishers grab for more rights and become even more difficult to work with, more and more writers are moving to indie publishing. As they make the jump, they ask basic questions on how to do it, how to be treated with respect as a publisher, and even how to do simple things like setting up a publishing business.

An indie publisher is still a publisher, the same as any traditional publisher.

Think Like a Publisher 2012 is an updated version of the book from over a year ago, including some of what has changed and what I have learned over the last year or more. I’m sure in another two years I’ll do a third edition. Some things are changing that fast.

Every three or four days I will post a chapter for free here with a link under the tab above. But the entire 2012 edition is now available in both trade paper and electronic editions in all electronic bookstores (Kindle, B&N, Smashwords and so on) if you want to jump ahead of these posts. (B&N link also has the paper version through Barnes & Noble.com) Make sure you get the green cover. The red cover is the first edition.

Comments on each chapter are welcome and help us all learn, but keep the comments focused on the topic of the chapter, please.

I hope these chapters help you get a jump on learning how to be a publisher.

And on finding an audience for your writing.

Chapter Two:

Expected Costs 

The first chapter was “The Early Decisions” which included picking a business name, setting up checking accounts, and so on. There were no real costs at all in those early steps unless your state had a small fee for registering a business name. Checking accounts are free, so are PayPal accounts, and so on.

So, the question on this second basic business-planning chapter is: “What are your expected costs?”

For those of you with a basic understanding of business, you can now see the structure of how I am setting up these chapters. Before starting into a business, there are certain things that need to be figured. Set-up costs, projected production and business costs, and projected income.  You have no real data on the costs or the income, at least not accurate data, but anyone with a lick of sense who is starting a business will sit down and try to figure these factors out to some degree.

It would seem that expected costs should be tough to figure. But actually, in this business, they are not. At least for most levels. It just will take a little homework is all.

So, let me first divide this discussion into three major areas.

Cost in Money.

Cost in Time.

Set Costs.

All three areas are critical to figuring overall expected costs of producing a product.

In the first two categories I’ll divide the discussion down into three major ways of running your company: 1) Do All Work Yourself. 2) Do Some Work Yourself, and 3) Hire all work done.

And, of course, the categories cross over. If you find your time more valuable than your money, then hiring things done will be more of an option. And so on.

Cost in Money 

1) Do It All Yourself: For Electronic Publishing

No costs. None, zero, zip. No actual costs that I can see at all if you want to do everything yourself, and I do mean everything. You lay out the book in some free program, lay out the cover in some free program, find free art at public domain sites or free photos or take your own electronic photos with a camera given to you as a gift at Christmas on a computer given to you for your birthday.

There is no cost at all to upload a file to Kindle, B&N, and Smashwords (which then gets your story out to Apple, Kobo, Sony and others). Use the free ISBN feature on Smashwords and use the free tracking numbers (which are like ISBNs) for Kindle and B&N.

READ MORE »

Think Like a Publisher 2012. Chapter 1: The Early Decisions

Here we go. It’s been some time since I wrote the first version of Think Like a Publisher. Since I wrote those first chapters, Scott William Carter and I have taught three workshops by the same name, plus an advanced workshop helping indie writers make more money from their books. This fall I will be teaching a POD workshop on all the aspects of designing and selling paper books. (Watch for the announcement.)

And during those workshops and from comments and from hundreds of sources I learned a ton more information.

Plus the publishing company I helped start (WMG Publishing) now has a full-time employee and has published over 240 different book titles.

And the overall publishing business has changed as well. Amazing numbers of changes, actually.

As traditional publishers grab for more rights and become even more difficult to work with, more and more writers are moving to indie publishing. As they make the jump, they ask basic questions on how to do it, how to be treated with respect as a publisher, and even how to do simple things like setting up a publishing business.

An indie publisher is still a publisher, the same as any traditional publisher.

Think Like a Publisher 2012 is an updated version of the book from over a year ago, including some of what has changed and what I have learned over the last year or more. I’m sure in another two years I’ll do a third edition. Some things are changing that fast.

Every three or four days I will post a chapter for free here with a link under the tab above. But the entire 2012 edition is now available in both trade paper and electronic editions in all electronic bookstores (Kindle, B&N, Smashwords and so on) if you want to jump ahead of these posts. (B&N link also has the paper version through Barnes & Noble.com) Make sure you get the green cover. The red cover is the first edition.

Comments on each chapter are welcome and help us all learn, but keep the comments focused on the topic of the chapter, please.

I hope these chapters help you get a jump on learning how to be a publisher.

And on finding an audience for your writing.

Chapter One:

The Early Decisions 

Some of the earliest decisions a publisher has to make can be changed down the road easily. Some are difficult to change. So, I’m going to break down some of these early decisions into basic groups. And keep in mind, there are no correct answers on any of these decisions. Just what you want to do.

You are the publisher. And it’s your business. Always remember those two basic elements and you’ll be fine.

Early Business Decisions

1… Pick a Name.

Yup, as a publisher, your business needs a name. This could be one of the hardest decisions to change down the road, so caution.

My suggestion: Pick a name that is easy for everyone to remember, that is fairly short, and that sounds like a publishing house imprint.

READ MORE »

The New World of Publishing: No Balance

It should be clear to anyone following traditional publishing now that no traditional publisher will fail in 2012 when ebook sales hit the magic 25%. In fact, because of a number of factors, even with paper book sales declining, most traditional publishers are making more money every quarter. Not all, and there will be some major publishing failures coming up over the next five years. But most traditional publishers will just fly through this with profits.

The reason, of course, is that they are raking in high margins for every electronic book sold. And that, of course, is thanks to authors and their agents caving in and changing electronic royalties from the old 50% of cover to 25% of net.

So traditional publishing is not failing and indie publishing is here to stay for a number of decades at least. So authors now have a choice for each project.

But how does an author make a choice for any book or story? That’s the tough question.

With short fiction, I think the traditional magazines can play a huge roll for an indie writer. I talked about that in the article you can read called When to Mail Short Fiction to Traditional Publishers. So for each story, there is a real choice to make.

But novels are another matter.

When I looked at the choice for novels with hard numbers and facts, the weight always shifts to indie publishing. At least it shifts until you can get advances upwards of mid-six figures. Then a balance comes back to the table. But beneath that high level of advance, indie publishing wins every category.

That fact is going to make the new world of publishing very, very interesting for smart writers.

Another way of putting it is this: We are watching the midlist slowly shift to indie publishing.

It’s just starting, but it is happening.

Traditional vs Indie

So, over the last month I’ve been trying to write an article on balance between traditional and indie publishing.

The balance with short fiction is clear. Do both.

But with novels I can not find a balance.

See if you agree.

How about some hard numbers first?

(From here on, unless stated, I am talking about novels.)

READ MORE »

Free Short Story of the Week

Starting the First Sunday in July and every Sunday night after that (very late), I will post a free short story.

Find the link each week here.

Stay tuned every Monday morning.

Smith’s Monthly Subscriptions

Smith's Monthly, an original fiction magazine featuring every month a full novel, short fiction, serial adventures, and nonfiction now available for subscriptions.

And twenty of them now exist... Amazing, huh? And hard to hold. Here I am holding the first five...

$6.99 electronic and $12.99 trade paper editions are available at your local bookseller. All paper subscription copies are signed. For more information, just click on the cover.

TWO NEWEST ISSUES

ISSUES IN ORDER

Online Workshop Schedule

These are the starting dates of upcoming online workshops. Limited to twelve writers. All have openings unless I say closed below. For sign-up and more information about each workshop, click the Online Workshop tab at the top of the page.

Class #1… July 6th … Pitches and Blurbs
Class #2… July 6th … How to Write Thrillers
Class #3… July 6th … How to Write Science Fiction
Class #4… July 6th … Character Voice/Setting
Class #5… July 7th … Writing and Selling Short Stories
Class #6… July 7th … Depth in Writing
Class #7… July 7th … (To be Announced)
Class #8… July 8th … Cliffhangers
Class #9… July 8th … Pacing Your Novel
Class #10… July 8th … Advanced Depth

Class #11… Aug 3rd … Advanced Depth
Class #12… Aug 3rd … Character Voice
Class #13… Aug 3rd … Pacing Your Novel
Class #14… Aug 3rd … Ideas into Stories
Class #15… Aug 4th … Pitches and Blurbs
Class #16… Aug 4th … Depth in Writing
Class #17… Aug 4th …(To Be Announced)
Class #18… Aug 5th … Designing Covers
Class #19… Aug 5th … Writing and Selling Short Stories
Class #20… Aug 5th … How to Write Science Fiction

Class #21… Sept 7th … Pitches and Blurbs
Class #22… Sept 7th … How to Write Thrillers
Class #23… Sept 7th … How to Write Science Fiction
Class #24… Sept 7th … Character Voice/Setting
Class #25… Sept 8th … Writing and Selling Short Stories
Class #26… Sept 8th … Depth in Writing
Class #27… Sept 8th … (To Be Announced)
Class #28… Sept 9th … Cliffhangers
Class #29… Sept 9th … Pacing Your Novel
Class #30… Sept 9th … Advanced Depth
Sign-up and more information under Online Workshops tab at the top of the page.

Classic Workshops

You can sign up for these and start at any point. They are the regular workshops, only you don't send in the homework and you can take them as fast or as slow as you would like.

They are half the price of a regular six week workshop.

Classic Workshops offered.

Making a Living... Classic
Productivity... Classic
Discoverability... Classic
Writing in Series... Classic
Genre Structure... Classic

Lecture Series

More information on these lectures under the Lecture Series Tab above.

#1... Heinlein's Rules... Dean Wesley Smith 15 videos... $75.00

#2... Read Like a Writer... Kristine Kathryn Rusch... 8 videos... $50.00

#3... How to Write a Short Story: The Basics... Kristine Kathryn Rusch.... 7 videos... $50.00

#4... Writer's Block and Procrastination... Dean Wesley Smith... 8 videos... $50.00

#5... Carving Time Out for Your Writing... Dean Wesley Smith.... 8 videos... $50.00

#6... How to Research for Fiction Writers... Kristine Kathryn Rusch.... 14 videos... $75.00

#7... Pen Names: Help With the Decision... Dean Wesley Smith.... 10 videos... $50.00

#8... Motivation: Starting Easier and Writing More... Dean Wesley Smith.... 9 videos... $50.00

#9... Practice: The Attitude and Methods of Practice in Fiction... Dean Wesley Smith.... 10 videos... $50.00

#10... Master Plot Formula: How and Why It Works Today... Dean Wesley Smith.... 9 videos... $50.00

#11... Prolific Lecture: How to Become a Prolific Fiction Writer... Dean Wesley Smith.... 10 videos... $50.00

#12... The Stages of a Fiction Writer: How to Know Where You Are In Learning and How To Move Upward... Dean Wesley Smith.... 11 videos... $50.00

#13... Starting Writing. Or Restarting Your Writing... Dean Wesley Smith.... 9 videos... $50.00

#14... Endings: How to Write Them and Understand What Makes a Good Ending... Dean Wesley Smith.... 9 videos... $50.00

#15... Audio Narration Lecture... Jane Kennedy.... 9 audio lectures... $50.00

#16... Your Writing as an Investment Lecture... Dean Wesley Smith.... 9 videos... $50.00

#17... How to Get Your Books into Bookstores Lecture... Dean Wesley Smith.... 10 videos... $50.00

#18... How to Think Like a Science Fiction Writer Lecture... Kristine Kathryn Rusch....11 videos... $50.00

#19... Why Some Books Sell More Than Other Books... Dean Wesley Smith.... 9 videos... $50.00

#20... How to Write a Page Turning Novel or Story: Basics and Tricks ... Dean Wesley Smith.... 8 videos... $50.00

#21... The Basics of Designing Science Fiction Covers ... Allyson Longueira .... 8 videos... $50.00

#22... The Basics of Designing Mystery, Cozy, or Thriller Covers ... Allyson Longueira .... 8 videos... $50.00

#23... Paying the Price: A Working Writer's Mindset ... Dean Wesley Smith.... 10 videos... $50.00

#24... Writing into the Dark: The Tricks and Methods of Writing Without an Outline... Dean Wesley Smith... 12 videos... $50.00

#25... Reviews: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly... Dean Wesley Smith... 10 videos... $50.00

#26... Organization... Allyson Longueira... 8 videos... $50.00

#27... Confidence... Dean Wesley Smith... 10 videos... $50.00

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