Posts tagged Think Like A Publisher

Think Like a Publisher: 2015… Chapter 5: Return on Investment

Chapter Five:

Return on Investment

As a professional writer, when I am asked by another writer what they would be better off writing, my standard and correct answer is “Anything you are passionate about. Any story that motivates you. Any topic that scares hell out of you or excites you.”

And when asked “What’s the best length in this new world?” my answer has been “Whatever length the story demands.”

Those are my writer-to-writer answers and they are correct. No second thoughts at all. Those answers come from the art of writing. Those answers come into play for all writers and should be followed where possible by all writers. Those answers will help a writer find their best work, their best art.

That is my opinion, my answers, and I am sticking with them as a writer.

Now… let’s switch hats and think like a publisher. Or better yet, the accountant working for a publisher. And that’s where this chapter is going to be a problem for some people.

This chapter is my attempt to answer all the questions I keep getting about what length is better because my writer answer sure doesn’t seem to satisfy some people. 

Indie publishers are, for the most part, writers first and foremost. So back to the advice I always give above. It is the right advice, the best advice to turn out the best stories, and that’s what matters.

But… let’s pretend for a second here to help you learn how to figure “return on investment” as if you are not a writer.

Some of my background here as a writer.

Can I write to length? Oh, heaven’s yes. You must have that skill if you work for any time in media of any sort. If a novel needs to be seventy thousand words to fit a contract, it better darned well be within a thousand or so of seventy thousand words. Period. Every time. No exceptions.

If I need to write a short story under six thousand words to fit a certain topic of an anthology, can I do it? Of course. Easily.

Would a book be better if I let it go to its natural conclusion as a writer? Most of the time I would say yes. But often when working with traditional publishing I didn’t have that wonderful freedom to do that. I had to hit word count within a certain time and at a certain quality.

That’s called being a professional commercial fiction writer. It’s a good job. And not a job that most writers can do, actually.

Being a professional commercial fiction writer takes the ability to mimic a voice in words so the readers hear the character’s voice. (Think trying to write the cadence and syntax of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Picard, Janeway and so on in a way that readers hear the actor’s voices in their heads as they read your words.)

Being a commercial fiction writer takes the ability to spend long hours doing nothing but being creative. It takes the skill of being able to understand author voices and even mimic another author’s voice if you get hired to ghost write, which I did a lot as well.

Most writers are lucky to get to the end of a novel with anything more than a gut sense of what they did. Commercial fiction writers have to know exactly what we did, and why, and we do that to length, and on demand.

And the demand is usually for a very short deadline. Commercial fiction writers must learn extreme control of most aspects of fiction writing skill. (Which is why I can teach craft and help other writers.)

But all that said about my writing life, I still tell other indie writers to just let a story go its natural length to create the best art possible.

Granted, sometimes you can create art within the constraints of being a commercial fiction writer hitting deadlines to length. Not often, but sometimes.

Art is better left free to roam where it wants to go and for how long. And as an indie writer, you have that option. I now have that option, where I didn’t as a commercial traditional fiction writer.

And I love that freedom.

So what do you do as a publisher when you put on the publisher hat?

Can you pretend that because math says one way is better than another, one length of story is better than another, one genre sells better than another, should you push to write that way? Oh, heavens, NO!

But you must understand the business. As Kris and I have shouted over and over for decades now, writers are business people. Writing is a business. And an art.

We all must keep working on the art AND the business. Learning both.

So I am going to try here (for just a short moment) to pretend I am just a publisher, not a writer, and work out some expected return on investments. In a vacuum. Without any thought of being a writer. A publisher talking to other publishers who are not writers.

In other words, I’m going to pretend to look at this business like an accountant in a publishing company would look at it. (In very, very, VERY simple terms.) And again, remember, I am doing this chapter in direct response to hundreds of questions on this topic from writers who might think they are in control of their writing enough to write to length and to topic in a quality fashion. Chances are they are not, but at least I have given an answer.

If you have any fear that this post will change your writing in any way, just skip this one. Please.

What is Investment in Indie Publishing?

We covered all that in the first chapters. It’s expenses, overhead, and time.  Time is the critical element here, since the rest are pretty set per project.  So I’m going to just assume all of the overhead and expenses are wrapped into the total and focus only on time from here on out in for this post.

The time it takes to write a story or a novel.

(Publisher/accountant hat firmly on.)

Let’s say a product can be produced at a rate of 1,000 words per hour. Each hour is valued at $50.00. (Set your own.)

So it takes 10 hours for a 5,000 word short story to produce and post to sales channels .

Short story has a cost of $500.00. (10 hours)

A 50,000 word novel is 10 times as long, so $5,000 cost. (100 hours to produce and put out)

A 100,000 word novel is 20 times as long, so $10,000 cost. (200 hours to produce and put out)

(I said I was going to be simple, didn’t I? So don’t quibble on the small stuff, follow the logic and then do your own math for your own work and time and value of hours and add in all the factors you want.)

Income Projections

Before we go any farther, I need to lay out what I use as minimum sales numbers for this kind of mind game we are playing here with this chapter.

As I have said in the past and many writers’ numbers seem to back this up, the following sales figures apply if you have 50 or more titles up under the same name. (And yes, I know, genre and series help a lot.)

Assumptions of Sales for this chapter. (Again, this comes into play when you have a lot of titles under one name.)

Short stories average over all titles about 5 sales per month total through all sites around the world. (Average)

Collections average over all collections about 5 sales per month total through all sites around the world.

Short novels and novels tend to average about 25 sales per month total through all sites around the world.

Now I’m going to ignore all the details of pricing and percentages (again, I’m being simple here) and just assign a figure for gross income per sale per item. (Again, I have talked about this a great deal in other posts on my blog.)

Short story  $2.00 per sale gross.

Five-Story Collection $4.00 per sale gross. (Say $.75 per story per sale for a five story collection.)

Novel $5.00 per sale gross.

So to the math.

Short story: $2.00 x 5 sales = $10.00.

Then add in the amount per story from sales of collections.  $.75 x 5 = $3.75.

So that means you would get $13.75 gross income per short story per month total.

Novel: $5.00 x 25 sales = $125.00 gross income per novel per month total.

Say the novel is 50,000 words long and took 100 hours to write and produce.  Each short story took 10 hours to write and produce.

So to equate the two you would take the short story and multiply by 10 to get the same amount of time used on the novel.

Ten short stories = $137.50 per month gross income. (36 months to recoup the $5,000 investment in time on those ten short stories.)

One 50,000 word novel = $125.00 per month gross income. (40 months to recoup the $5,000 investment in time to write the short novel.)

If your novel is 100,000 words, it would take 200 hours to write.

Twenty short stories = $275.00 per month gross income. (36 months to recoup the $10,000 investment in time on those twenty short stories.)

One 100,000 word novel = $125.00 per month gross income. (80 months to recoup the $10,000 investment in time to write the novel.)

Summary of rough math.

If you take the writing side out for an indie publisher, it is clear from the math that writing shorter novels is better than longer novels and writing short fiction is the best when looking at only income.

36 months to recoup investment on short fiction

40 months to recoup investment on a 50,000 word novel

80 months to recoup investment on a 100,000 word novel.

Other factors:

— It has been proven that writing in series helps increase sales.

— It has been proven that some genres sell better in some forms than others.

— It has also been proven that new product out helps sell older stuff. (Which goes back to writing shorter novels and short fiction because you have more product on a regular basis.)

— Novels have better outlets in paper than short fiction.

— Novels can sometimes take off.

— Short stories can make you money selling first to good magazines and also will be great promotion for your other work.

So if you are mercenary and are only thinking like an accountant, writing short novels (40-50 thousand words) and a ton of short fiction in certain genres in series is the best way to go. You get the best of both sides.

That means turning yourself into someone like me who can write to length, in any genre, and quickly and knows story and fiction at such a deep level that you can mimic anything with words.

Yeah, that’s going to happen.

Considering your stories as an actual investment.

Understand, in the first part of this, I looked at your story as a form of inventory that costs will be returned at a certain point. That is how 99.9% of all writers think about their writing. “When will I break even?”

That, of course, forgets about the next 100 plus years of the story’s existence. But writers are always short-sighted and looking only to the next year, at best.

So that’s cost of inventory thinking, the “when will I get my money back.”

So what would happen if you actually considered your finished work an actual investment, like socking money into the stock market or some other retirement plan???

After all, in this new indie world, you retain all rights and those rights last for 70 years past your death.

So for fun, let’s go back to those numbers above and look at them as investment capital.

Take the short novel at $50 per hour and 100 hours of time. You have an investment in the novel of $5,000.

And over a year’s time, on average sales, you are going to make about $125.00 per month or about $1,500 per year on that novel at 25 sales per month. That’s a 30% annual return on investment. Wow.

And yet indie writers I know think a book is failing at those numbers. (It won’t make Amazon bestseller lists… Oh, no! Dean shaking head and moving on.)

So kick the sales down to only 10 books per month on the novel across all sales platforms (Average over a year). Making $5.00 per sale gets you $50 per month or about $600 per year. (Most new writers would think that a failure of a book. And it will never, ever make an Amazon bestseller list)

But what percentage of return is that on your $5,000 investment???

12% annual return.

Investors would kill for a regular 12% return on investment. Given enough investment, you can live on 12% return on investment.

Traditional publishers take a book and look at how fast it can return its costs of production so they can forget it, toss it away. Indie writers learned that from traditional publishers.

Smart writers (indie publishers) look at a book lasting far past their death and think of each story, each book as an investment in the future.

Now back to reality.  

Most indie publishers are writers first and the best way to produce good stories is write what we care about, what we love, what we are passionate about. If your novels go long, let them. If you hate short stories, don’t write them.

And the truth of the matter is that if you write great stories and novels from your passion and keep learning how to tell better and better stories, they also sell better. No math needed there. It’s a fact.

So this chapter was to answer a bunch of questions I keep getting about which is the best length to write in indie publishing.

Short fiction and short novels are the best.

But even better is to write what you want and say to hell with the accountants.

And have fun.

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Copyright © 2014 Dean Wesley Smith

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Think Like a Publisher: 2015… Chapter Four: Production and Scheduling

  

Chapter 4

Production and Scheduling

The first three posts in this series were designed to be a unit and help you get set up as an indie publisher. You should have a business name picked out with a web site domain reserved, understand your upfront costs and have made decisions on how to deal with those costs. Then you should have done a rough guess on income and when each project might break even.

If I had to summarize those first three chapters, I would say this: “Be prepared, set up correctly, keep your costs down, and understand the possible cash flow.”

So the next logical step is the question: “How Do I Get My Books Out To Readers?” In other words, how do I produce and distribute my book? You can’t have distribution without production, so I am starting with production right now.

The first major steps in production are inventory and scheduling.

So to really think like a publisher, you need to understand publishing lists, deadlines, and how distribution must be planned far, far ahead of the actual launching of books.

Basic Production Schedule Organization

Traditional publishers have what are called “Lists.”

Lists are basically a publishing schedule of the books being done each month and how much attention each book will get.

In traditional publishing, the list works like this: If your book is number one on the monthly list, you get better covers, better promotion, and all the attention. And more than likely your advance was higher. If your book is in the number two or three slot, you are called a “mid-list” writer.  If your book is down in the number five or six slot, good luck.

As an indie publisher, you also need to set up a publishing schedule and then, as best as possible, stick to it. And always remember one major thing:

Publishing is an industry driven by deadlines.

Trust me, if you don’t have deadlines, things will just slip by and books won’t get done or published. How you set up your own deadlines is personal to you and your writing. There are thousands of articles and blogs about this topic to help on the writing side.

Inventory

A publishing business is a business of selling product. I know, as a writer, your story is your baby, your work-of-art. But once you move it into the publishing business it is a widget (sort of), something to be sold to readers to enjoy.

You are in the sales part of the entertainment industry.

So as you start your business, you first need to know what inventory is available to you, what will be available, and what can be created.

So do an inventory. Count all your finished short stories and novels. Then count all the short stories and novels that have been published but might revert to you soon, or count stories mostly finished that would be easy to finish.

Then look at your writing schedule and figure out over the next year how many stories or novels you can write.

You will come up with just a simple list. And list them by title under each category.

1) Finished Novels and Stories.

2) Stories or novels available soon. (List each with possible date.)

3) Stories or novels to be produced. (List dates for finishing…deadlines. If you have more than five or so short stories, don’t forget collections as future products.)

This total number of your inventory may surprise you, disappoint you, or scare you to death (as it did with me and Kris). But at least you have a list of inventory now.

Time In Production

In New York traditional terms, a “list” is also the number of books that can be produced every month.  They take into account numbers of employees and all that it will take to produce the number of books on the list. Traditional publishing is very good at figuring the time it will take for each step of production.

So now you need to take a hard look at how you are going to run your business, which is back to the decisions from the first three chapters.

Even if you hire everything done, it takes time. If you do it yourself, and haven’t tried it yourself yet, and maybe need to take some classes to learn, plan a lot of extra time for the first books because of the learning curve involved.

After you have done a few books, got a few things up electronically, you will have a pretty good idea on how long each step will take with your own work and writing schedule.

And then don’t forget to add in getting the books and collections into paper as well. Another calculation that will take some time to figure and learn.

Here are the general categories you need to take into account when figuring production time.

Manuscript Preparation:

— Proofing time?

— Electronic formatting time?

— POD formatting time?

Cover Preparation:

— Finding art time?

— Cover formatting time?

— POD cover formatting time?

Launching Time:

—  Electronic Launching?

— POD Launching, including proofing time?

A couple of hints. Try a couple of short stories electronically first to get the hang of this and figure out your times. And POD times will always be factors longer, so maybe wait on POD until you get comfortable with doing much of this.

But don’t put them off too long. Paper versions are critical to reaching as many readers as possible.

Putting a Publishing Schedule Together

So now you have an inventory and a rough idea how long each project will take to complete and get published.

So take into account the amount of time you want or can afford to spend on this kind of publishing business, then just do a publishing schedule. Some writers I know just set aside one day per week as a “publishing” day.

Set the date for publishing each title.

If you have a lot of inventory and not a lot of time, this schedule might be a couple years long. If you have little inventory and more time, you may only have a few months of schedule. And then planned books to fill spots on out.

Add in a little extra time for each project.

And then act like that is a concrete deadline.

Writers in general hit deadlines, but there are always a few writers who think it is all right to miss a deadline by a year and still expect their book to be published. And then they get upset when the publisher kills their contracts and asks for their money back. This is a business, a deadline-driven business, so act like a publisher and treat your deadlines like that as well.

Adjusting

Just as traditional publishers, don’t be afraid to adjust at the end of every month. If things are taking longer, which they will at times, adjust the deadline and shift all deadlines at the same time. But be warned:  Too much shifting will really get discouraging.

Say you did a publishing schedule for the next twelve months and wanted to get up two stories or novels or collections a month. You think that in one year having twenty-four projects up electronically and some into paper would be great for your business and your projected cash flow.  (And honestly it would be.)

But then you start slipping deadlines and not giving the deadlines the attention a regular publisher would give them. And you discover at the end of the year you only have ten items up. You will get less than half the income and now you still have a half-year of inventory to put up that should have already been up. Not fun.

So when you set the deadlines, be realistic, don’t be afraid to adjust, don’t get in a hurry, but at the same time do everything in your power to not miss a publishing deadline.

In other words, act like a business.

Time in the Channel

Okay, realize that if you have an internal business publication deadline, don’t announce the exact date because it takes days for a book to come live on Kindle and PubIt and Kobo and iBooks, a month of time at least for any POD with proofing, and such. And to get through Smashwords or another aggregator (and out around the world) at least a month or more sometimes. They claim they are faster, but

So your publication date for your internal business use is when you launch it on Kindle, Smashwords, Kobo, iBookstore, and PubIt!.

However, for the public announcement, you would be better served to announce a month later. That’s how most traditional publishers do it as well. Books are often in stores weeks ahead of the official publication date.

Distribution takes time. When setting deadlines, keep that in mind.

Why Deadlines Are Important

A deadline on a book being published allows you to announce the book out ahead. And do promotion on the book ahead of time. And get readers interested and expecting a book to arrive at a certain time. As readers, you all understand how this works. “Coming In May” is a powerful promotional tool, especially for a sequel to a book.

And preorders on books means your book can be selling far before your official publication date.

Using Production Deadlines in Your Writing

This is a wonderful new aspect of this indie publishing. You can set publication deadlines for a book far, far before you are finished with the book.

Of course, this is normal in traditional publishing. Publishers often buy two or three books at a time from an author. And when they do, they have book #2 and book #3 already penciled into a publication schedule down the road.

As an indie publisher, you can use your own publication deadlines to help drive yourself to finishing and releasing books.

Many beginning writers can’t seem to finish a project, or when they finish it they spend years rewriting the poor thing to death and having workshops turn it into a monster with an arm sewn onto the forehead.

Having a publication deadline will do wonders for getting you to write, finish what you write, not rewrite, and get it out to readers. (Wait, those sound like Heinlein’s Rules, don’t they?)

Also knowing a book has a hope of getting read by readers and making you some money does wonders for pushing a writer to write and finish.

So, when setting up your publication schedule, look not only at your existing inventory, but slot in an unfinished novel or two. That gives you a firm deadline and not only will your publishing company help you make money and find readers, but it will also drive your writing.

Summary

Count your inventory, figure your future inventory, figure your time, figure how much time it takes for each step of each project, and then think like a publisher and set a publication schedule.

And maybe use that schedule to help you finish new books as well.

Deadlines drive everything in publishing. And all deadlines are set by publication schedules.

Think like a publisher and set the schedule.

You will be stunned at how much of a difference it will make for your publishing company.

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Copyright © 2014 Dean Wesley Smith

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Think Like a Publisher 2015: Chapter One… The Early Decisions

Here we go again. It’s been over four years since I wrote the first version of Think Like a Publisher. And over a year since I updated it into a 2013 edition. Stunning how time goes by.

Since those first words all those years ago, the indie publishing world has gotten by the early years of the “gold rush” thinking and has now settled into a new normal that should last for years, if not decades. 2013 was the first year of that new normal.

Yes, things are still changing, but massive changes are now going to take place on the traditional side as major publishers scramble for their lives.

Also, the publishing company I helped start, WMG Publishing Inc. now has four full-time employees and three part-time employees and has published over 400 different book titles, with another hundred scheduled. 

As traditional publishers grab for more rights and become even more difficult to work with as they fight to stay alive, more and more writers are moving to indie publishing. As the writers 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.

And questions such as how they get their books into bookstores. You can do that. Honest. I’ll talk all about it in coming chapters and I have talked about it in the chapters of Killing the Top Ten Sacred Cows of Indie Publishing.

But the key on almost everything these days is that you, the author, are starting a publishing company.

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

Kill the term self-publishing from your vocabulary and start thinking of yourself as a business person with a business to run. A publishing business.

Think Like a Publisher 2015 is an updated version, 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 another edition.

Every few days I will post a chapter for free here with a link under the tab above. The 2013 edition is still available in trade paper and electronic form. After I get done with these posts and reformatting the book, this edition will appear replacing the old one. But that will take a month or so.

And it will have a new cover. Trust me, it needs it. (grin)

Comments on each chapter are welcome and help us all learn, but keep the comments focused on the topic of the chapter, please. I’m going to cover a great deal in this book. 

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. It is 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.

CRITICAL!!!  Make sure the name is not being used and go get the domain address. Do not wait. If there is any chance of using a name and it is open, grab the domain address. Just by simply checking on it being available might cause someone else to buy it. Grab it quickly.

If there is no available domain address with a .com in your business name, pick a new name for your business. Your publishing company must have a web site. (If you doubt this, take the Promotions online workshop we offer. You will understand a lot more about what I am talking about in this book from that workshop.)

Also, make sure that your author name is not in your publishing name. Stay away from any “self-publishing” thinking and act like a business.

2… Pick a Business Structure.

You basically have two choices. One, keep the business as a sole proprietorship. That means you own it all and on your taxes in the United States you file a Schedule C business form with your yearly taxes. Unless you are planning on growing your business very large or making a lot of money, this is the easiest way to go.

The second way is go to an attorney and an accountant and have them set up your publishing company as a corporation of one type or another, depending on your long-term plans. If you need to ask why you would want a corporation instead of a sole proprietorship, you don’t need a corporation. All a corporation will do is cause you more costs and get you in trouble if you don’t know what you are doing.

(Note: WMG Publishing Incorporated has a corporation structure. But we have employees and over four hundred titles and we know what we are doing.)

3…Open up a dedicated checking account under your business name.

This is easy to do in both types of business. For a regular sole proprietorship in most states, you simply get a form from your bank called a “Doing Business As” form. (There are different names in different states, but most call it a DBA.)

File that with the state and give the response to your bank and you can open up the business checking account.  Then, as you have money flowing in from all the sales in all the different sources, have the money go directly to your business checking account. And take all publishing expenses out of that account as well.

For heaven’s sake, keep all your receipts, just as you do with your writing.

If you started a corporation, you will know what to do. If not, ask your accountant and think twice about starting a corporation.

Early Business Structure Decisions

Okay, you’ve got a business name, a checking account, and have decided what type of formal business you are running. Now you need to decide what kind of structure your business is going to take inside the publishing house.

To determine that, ask yourself these simple questions and write down the answers.

Question 1:

Over the next five years, who is going to do all the production work?

A) You do it all.

B) You do some and hire out contract work for other parts.

C) Other people do it all.

D) Combination of the above depending on the project.

If you are going to do it all, ask yourself:

—Do you have all the tools to do covers and the computers and the software to do them? Or can you take classes to learn them. At WMG we actually teach six week classes in how to do book covers, paper book interiors, and electronic books that produce clean epubs and hold formatting.

— Do you have the ability to design covers? Or can you take a class and learn it? It is not rocket science. But it does have a learning curve. Just understanding branding and genre for covers takes some learning.

— Can you layout books for PDF files for POD publishing, both interior and cover? Or can you take a class and learn it?

And if not on any of those questions, what is it going to cost and how long will it take to learn how to do all these things? Most tasks are not difficult, but there is a learning curve that takes a little time.

(An aside: I did some pretty ugly covers starting off with an old computer and no good software in helping out WMG Publishing get started. It takes time to learn. Take the time if you plan on doing more than a few books and collections per year.)

If you are going to hire some jobs out, do you have the upfront money to do so? And do you even know a good cover when you see one? Be honest.

Upfront money. Yes, I said that. Welcome to being a publisher. Traditional publishers can spend a lot of money on your book before they ever earn a penny. You are now a publisher, not a writer. Expect up-front costs, but extreme caution on scams. Check with other writers and warning sites before signing up with any “publisher help” site.

Question 2:

How much inventory do you have or will you have in the next five years?

How many books are finished, but unsold? How many short stories? How many novels or stores sold are now reverted to you?

How much new product can you produce in the next five years? (Be realistic.)

If you only write one book every few years and have no inventory, frankly you don’t need to do much of this.

If you have a number of novels, numbers of short stories in inventory, and can write two or three novels a year and some side stories, then mark that down. Publishers work on a “publishing schedule.” Start setting that up as well and be realistic with yourself.

Inventory is critical in any business.

I will talk about inventory-in-business aspects of publishing in a later chapter. But for now, imagine opening a bakery and having only one kind of doughnut in the entire shop. You won’t get many customers.

Question 3:

Editing and Proofing.

Every publisher has proofreaders. How do you plan on handling that?

— Do you have a good first reader?

— Do you know whom you can hire for copyediting? You can often find someone at a local newspaper or an English department that will be reasonable. These are not book editors, only copyeditors.

— Can you trade with other indie publishers (writers) for proofing, with you working on reading their books while they read yours?

— If you hire a copyeditor, can you afford the up front fees?

There are other basic questions, but for now that should be enough to get you thinking on the right track as a publisher. In this new world, your books must be as clean as possible. There is no such thing as a perfect novel or a totally clean novel or story. But make them as clean as you can without going into stupidity.

In other words, spend the money or time to try to get them as mistake-proof as possible. Then release.

Early Business Chores

As you are setting up your publishing business, there are numbers of just basic chores that need to be taken care of.

I am assuming you plan on being both an electronic and POD publisher. If not, why not? Why make a decision so early on to limit your possible markets? Electronic only consists of about 20% of all trade book sales. (Higher in some genres.)

Plan to do it all, so that means you have chores to do. And trust me, these are chores.

Chore #1:

After you have your business checking account, so you don’t have to change these later, set up publishing accounts on Amazon, PubIt! (B&N), Kobo, Smashwords, and CreateSpace.

Note: there are many other book sales sites such as iBooks and OmniLit, but you can get to them later. (iBooks you can get to through Smashwords and other places until you get it all figured out.)

Chore #2:

Set up a PayPal account, hooked to your business account if possible.  You will need this in more ways than you can imagine, including down the road putting shopping carts on your web site among other things.

Chore #3:

Set up a placeholder web site, even if it is under construction as WMG Publishing website was most of 2014. You’ll get it fixed later. For WMG Publishing Inc., later has finally arrived the second time. And we are still on only stage two of the process as I write this in the summer of 2014.

There are other chores, like starting to explore how to get books in libraries and how to get ISBN numbers if you even want them, but for now, just stay with the first three. I’ll talk about ISBN numbers and library sales in future chapters in this series.

Early Decision:

What Kind of Publisher Do You Want To Be?

Okay, to keep this basic, there are three major types of publishers in publishing, and I don’t see this model changing at all. In fact, I see it becoming stronger. You can be solidly in one category or actually can function in all three if your readers are clear. But my suggestion is pick one to start.

1) Traditional-Style Fiction/Nonfiction Publisher

2) Discount Publisher

3) High-End Publisher

I will say right off that my first publishing company, Pulphouse Publishing Inc. (1987-1994), was a high-end publisher for the most part. In the late 1980s and early 1990s I sold some books for over $50.00 each and most of our books were signed and numbered and retailed between $20.00 and $35.00 each. Very high-end, and although we were trying to change it in the last few years with short story paperbacks and magazines, we never really made the shift before the end.

I will talk about each of these types of publishers and the different business models they demand in future chapters. But for now, here is a very quick summary of the three choices you have to make early on as a publisher.

High End:

I believe that High-End publishers will make great money in this new world with all sorts of enhanced products. This new world is gold for high-end collectors books. But it will take a publisher who can publish top names, do enhanced production and books, and knows how to put out top-quality leather and signed work. This area is difficult at best for a beginning publisher.

And this takes a large amount of cash to make work. Many, many start-up publishers have tried and mostly failed to get this kind of cash from places like Kickstarter.  Also, note that the number of collectors are way, way down these days.

Traditional-style Publishing:

Basically, this is the New York publishing model.

Books sell for all the traditional prices, go to the traditional outlets, and are bought by regular readers.  All bestsellers for the most part are traditionally published.  We have positioned WMG Publishing Inc. in this model. Traditionally published novels will continue to be the vast majority of all books published and where the highest profit margins are per product sold.

I would highly suggest this is your model as well. (Yes, you are setting up a small press in the traditional publishing model.)

Discount Publisher:

This area is very large in the publishing world in general and has many large companies working it. But to most writers and readers, it’s been kept a secret.

The outlets for discount publishers consist of discount shelves in normal bookstores, discount mall stores, and other types of discount stores. Many books beyond the bestsellers that you see at Costco are discount books.

In electronic publishing, the price being set by discount publishers is 99 cents. Now here in 2014, readers look to the 99 cent area with distrust UNLESS the book is on a sale.

That price was flooded with a ton of garbage and still is flooded. Caution going there with your electronic work now. Use that price range only down the road when you have a large inventory and want to do special promotions and sales.

In this area of publishing, the margins of profit are thin and the publishers depend on volume of sales to make even a decent profit margin. Very few traditional publishers have discount arms, but they do high discount at times to some stores like Wal-Mart. That is different than discount publishing as a business model.

Most discount publishers only focus on being discount publishers and go for the volume of sales.

Again, more on all three of these major types of publishers in future chapters.

As a new indie publisher, you want to decide what area of publishing in general you want to fit into. Make the decision as a business decision, not because you think you are a bad writer and your work has no value.

As I said, with Pulphouse Publishing Inc., I started as a high-end publisher and that was our plan from the start. It was only years later that we decided to try to move to the traditional model. And the move, once we were established as a certain type of publisher, was difficult at best.

WMG Publishing Inc. now is a traditional publisher. We are still in the medium press level. Most everyone reading this will be a small press in the traditional publishing model. That’s a great place to be.

Summary

That’s most of the basic early decisions you have to make once you decide to publish your own work. Get the business set up, do the chores, look at your start-up inventory, and then look hard and fast at what kind of publisher you want to be.

Being a publisher is fantastic fun. And it can be frustrating and sometimes downright scary. Don’t expect to get rich instantly on your first or even your fifth book.

The gold rush is over and now you must produce quality product with professional covers, active blurbs, and clean pages that readers want to read.  Your book must be able to sit on a shelf beside any other book being done by traditional or indie publishing.

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Copyright © 2014 Dean Wesley Smith

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Think Like a Publisher 2014: Production and Scheduling

 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.

And questions such as how they get their books into bookstores. You can do that. Honest. I’ll talk all about it in coming chapters.

But the key on almost everything these days is that you, the author, are starting a publishing company. An indie publisher is still a publisher, the same as any traditional publisher. Kill the term self-publishing from your vocabulary and start thinking of yourself as a business person with a business to run. A publishing business.

Think Like a Publisher 2014/2015 is an updated version of the book from about 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 another edition.

Every few days I will post a chapter for free here with a link under the tab above. The 2013 edition is still available in trade paper and electronic form. After I get done with these posts and reformatting the book, this edition will appear replacing the old one. But that will take a month or so.

And it will have a new cover. Trust me, it needs it. (grin)

Comments on each chapter are welcome and help us all learn, but keep the comments focused on the topic of the chapter, please. I’m going to cover a great deal in this book. 

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 4

Production and Scheduling

The first three posts in this series were designed to be a unit and help you get set up as an indie publisher. You should have a business name picked out with a web site domain reserved, understand your upfront costs and have made decisions on how to deal with those costs. Then you should have done a rough guess on income and when each project might break even.

If I had to summarize those first three chapters, I would say this: “Be prepared, set up correctly, keep your costs down, and understand the possible cash flow.”

So the next logical step is the question: “How Do I Get My Books Out To Readers?” In other words, how do I produce and distribute my book? You can’t have distribution without production, so I am starting with production right now.

The first major steps in production are inventory and scheduling.

So to really think like a publisher, you need to understand publishing lists, deadlines, and how distribution must be planned far, far ahead of the actual launching of books.

Basic Production Schedule Organization

Traditional publishers have what are called “Lists.”

Lists are basically a publishing schedule of the books being done each month and how much attention each book will get.

In traditional publishing, the list works like this: If your book is number one on the monthly list, you get better covers, better promotion, and all the attention. And more than likely your advance was higher. If your book is in the number two or three slot, you are called a “mid-list” writer.  If your book is down in the number five or six slot, good luck.

As an indie publisher, you also need to set up a publishing schedule and then, as best as possible, stick to it. And always remember one major thing:

Publishing is an industry driven by deadlines.

Trust me, if you don’t have deadlines, things will just slip by and books won’t get done or published.

Inventory

A publishing business is a business of selling product. I know, as a writer, your story is your baby, your work-of-art. But once you move it into the publishing business it is a widget (sort of), something to be sold to readers to enjoy.

You are in the sales part of the entertainment industry.

So as you start your business, you first need to know what inventory is available to you, what will be available, and what can be created.

READ MORE »

Think Like a Publisher: 2014. Chapter Three: Projected Income

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.

And questions such as how they get their books into bookstores. You can do that. Honest. I’ll talk all about it in coming chapters.

But the key on almost everything these days is that you, the author, are starting a publishing company. An indie publisher is still a publisher, the same as any traditional publisher. Kill the term self-publishing from your vocabulary and start thinking of yourself as a business person with a business to run. A publishing business.

Think Like a Publisher 2014 is an updated version of the book from about 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 another edition.

Every few days I will post a chapter for free here with a link under the tab above. The 2013 edition is still available in trade paper and electronic form. After I get done with these posts and reformatting the book, this edition will appear replacing the old one. But that will take a month or so.

And it will have a new cover. Trust me, it needs it. (grin)

Comments on each chapter are welcome and help us all learn, but keep the comments focused on the topic of the chapter, please. I’m going to cover a great deal in this book. 

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 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 2014.

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 over the years. 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 Incorporated 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 »

Think Like a Publisher 2014. Chapter Two: Expected Costs

Here we go again. It’s been over three years since I wrote the first version of Think Like a Publisher. And a year since I updated it into a 2013 edition. Stunning how time goes by.

Since those first words all those years ago, the indie publishing world has gotten by the early years of the “gold rush” thinking and has now settled into a new normal that should last for years, if not decades. 2013 was the first year of that new normal.

Also, the publishing company I helped start, WMG Publishing Inc. now has three full-time employees and three part-time employees and has published about 400 different book titles, with another hundred schedule in 2014. 

The overall publishing business is now stabilizing with traditional publishers holding their own and indie publishing doing great for the indie publishers who know what they are doing.

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.

And questions such as how they get their books into bookstores. You can do that. Honest. I’ll talk all about it in coming chapters.

But the key on almost everything these days is that you, the author, are starting a publishing company. An indie publisher is still a publisher, the same as any traditional publisher. Kill the term self-publishing from your vocabulary and start thinking of yourself as a business person with a business to run. A publishing business.

Think Like a Publisher 2014 is an updated version of the book from about 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 another edition.

Every few days I will post a chapter for free here with a link under the tab above. The 2013 edition is still available in trade paper and electronic form. After I get done with these posts and reformatting the book, this edition will appear replacing the old one. But that will take a month or so.

And it will have a new cover. Trust me, it needs it. (grin)

Comments on each chapter are welcome and help us all learn, but keep the comments focused on the topic of the chapter, please. I’m going to cover a great deal in this book. 

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, Kobo, iBookstore, and Smashwords (which then gets your story out to Sony and others). Use the free ISBN feature on Smashwords and Kobo and use the free tracking numbers (which are like ISBNs) for Kindle and B&N.

READ MORE »

Think Like a Publisher 2014: Chapter One…The Early Decisions

Here we go again. It’s been over three years since I wrote the first version of Think Like a Publisher. And a year since I updated it into a 2013 edition. Stunning how time goes by.

Since those first words all those years ago, the indie publishing world has gotten by the early years of the “gold rush” thinking and has now settled into a new normal that should last for years, if not decades. 2013 was the first year of that new normal.

Also, the publishing company I helped start, WMG Publishing Inc. now has three full-time employees and three part-time employees and has published about 400 different book titles, with another hundred schedule in 2014. 

The overall publishing business is now stabilizing with traditional publishers holding their own and indie publishing doing great for the indie publishers who know what they are doing.

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.

And questions such as how they get their books into bookstores. You can do that. Honest. I’ll talk all about it in coming chapters.

But the key on almost everything these days is that you, the author, are starting a publishing company. An indie publisher is still a publisher, the same as any traditional publisher. Kill the term self-publishing from your vocabulary and start thinking of yourself as a business person with a business to run. A publishing business.

Think Like a Publisher 2014 is an updated version of the book from about 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 another edition.

Every few days I will post a chapter for free here with a link under the tab above. The 2013 edition is still available in trade paper and electronic form. After I get done with these posts and reformatting the book, this edition will appear replacing the old one. But that will take a month or so.

And it will have a new cover. Trust me, it needs it. (grin)

Comments on each chapter are welcome and help us all learn, but keep the comments focused on the topic of the chapter, please. I’m going to cover a great deal in this book. 

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. It is 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.

CRITICAL!!!  Make sure the name is not being used and go get the domain address. Do not wait. If there is any chance of using a name and it is open, grab the domain address. Just by simply checking on it being available might cause someone else to buy it. Grab it quickly.

If there is no available domain address with a .com in your business name, pick a new name for your business. Your publishing company must have a web site. (If you doubt this, take the Promotions online workshop we offer. You will understand a lot more about what I am talking about in this book from that workshop.)

2… Pick a Business Structure.

You basically have two choices. One, keep the business as a sole proprietorship. That means you own it all and on your taxes in the United States you file a Schedule C business form with your yearly taxes. Unless you are planning on growing your business very large or making a lot of money, this is the easiest way to go.

The second way is go to an attorney and an accountant and have them set up your publishing company as a corporation of one type or another, depending on your long-term plans. If you need to ask why you would want a corporation instead of a sole proprietorship, you don’t need a corporation. All a corporation will do is cause you more costs and get you in trouble if you don’t know what you are doing.

(Note: WMG Publishing Incorporated just moved to a corporation structure. But we have employees and four hundred titles and we know what we are doing.)

3…Open up a dedicated checking account under your business name.

This is easy to do in both types of business. For a regular sole proprietorship in most states, you simply get a form from your bank called a “Doing Business As” form. (There are different names in different states, but most call it a DBA.)

READ MORE »

Think Like a Publisher 2013: Chapter 6: Sales Plans

This chapter is a pretty extensive revision of an early version of Think Like a Publisher. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to put this chapter and the next few here on the web site. I didn’t in the 2012 version, but now figured why not, a good discussion can always help if anyone is interested in having that discussion on the topic of this chapter.

And honestly, this chapter tends to scare people something awful. So hold on.

Think Like a Publisher 2013 is an updated version of the book from about a year ago, including some of what has changed and what I have learned over the last year or more. And some new chapters such as this one. I’m sure in another two years I’ll do a fourth edition. 

Every week or so I will post a chapter for free here with a link under the tab above. The 2012 edition is still available in book and electronic form. After I get done with these posts and reformatting the book, this edition will appear replacing the old one. But that will take a month or so.

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.


Sales Plan: Some Basics

This last winter Kris had a book dealer complain to her. The dealer said that in the old days it used to be “Push, push, push, now it is pull, pull, pull.”

Not a clue what that means, right? But Kris instantly understood it and when she told me the dealer’s comment, so did I.

Back in the old days, in Pulphouse Publishing, we paid for the two-story office complex and nineteen employees and all the expensive leather book production by getting indie bookstores and specialty stories to buy our books.

Did we just sit there in that two-story building and wait for bookstores to find us?  Of course not. We pushed our books to them. There often wasn’t a month that went by that the bookstores didn’t get a mailing from us. We did major catalogs every three months and we put ads in every product we did for our other products.

We pushed the books to the stores. And to readers.

And we did it in a way that would help the dealers buy the books.

I’m not saying you need to do all that. But for some reason now, indie and specialty publishers think that just because they produced a POD book, bookstores and readers will flock to them. Or find their book in the tiny print in an Ingrams’ or Baker and Taylor catalog. The poor bookstores are reduced to pulling the books they want for their customers from the indie publishers, when they finally realize the book exists.

Push, push, push vs pull, pull, pull.

So, without the stupidity of going to fifteen different cities and trying to do signings and sending useless bookmarks to five hundred stores or doing blog tours that take weeks of time and gets you no readers, I’m going to try to describe some ways to promote and push your indie-published books to readers and bookstores in a sane manner.

And cheaply. In ways that work. Just as publishers do.

Is This A Change For Me?

Since the romance writers started the stupidity of authors needing to self-promote their own books, I have openly laughed at any author who does any self-promotion beyond a web site, Twitter account, and Facebook. Let me say this clearly again: If you are selling your books to traditional publishing, don’t waste your time with anything I am talking about here. This is for publishers. For writers selling all your work directly to traditional publishing, most of what I am about to talk about really is a waste of time.

So I haven’t changed at all in that opinion. Self-promotion for traditionally published authors beyond a basic web site and social networking is a complete waste of time. I have always said that and that hasn’t changed. If you are selling traditionally (meaning to New York publishers), stay home, write the next book. Hit your deadlines and let your publisher alone.

But now, as an indie publisher, you have changed hats from being a writer to a publisher. And you need to learn to think like a publisher. So you need to know what kind of promotion works for publishers and what doesn’t.

Basics of Publishing

Most indie writers just take a few old short stories, maybe a novel or two, toss them up on Kindle and sit back and watch the numbers every day. And then, for the most part, are disappointed.  Let me simply say: Duh!

The major part of a publisher’s job, either traditional or indie, is to sell books to readers and into the distribution system that will get those books to readers. And that takes some thought and planning. And an understanding of the distribution system to begin with.

READ MORE »

Think Like a Publisher 2013: Chapter 5: Return on Investment

This chapter is brand new to any version of Think Like a Publisher. I’ve honestly been afraid to tackle this issue for some time, but think I might have a handle on it.

Keep something clearly in mind as I talk about this: An indie publisher is still a publisher, the same as any traditional publisher.

Think Like a Publisher 2013 is an updated version of the book from about a year ago, including some of what has changed and what I have learned over the last year or more. And some new chapters such as this one. I’m sure in another two years I’ll do a fourth edition. 

Every few days I will post a chapter for free here with a link under the tab above. The 2012 edition is still available in book and electronic form. After I get done with these posts and reformatting the book, this edition will appear replacing the old one. But that will take a month or so.

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 Five:

Return on Investment

As a professional writer, when I am asked by another writer what they would be better off writing, my standard and correct answer is “Anything you are passionate about. Any story that motivates you. Any topic that scares hell out of you or excites you.”

And when asked “What’s the best length in this new world?” my answer has been “Whatever length the story demands.”

Those are my writer-to-writer answers and they are correct. No second thoughts at all. Those answers come from the art of writing. Those answers come into play for all writers and should be followed where possible by all writers. Those answers will help a writer find their best work, their best art.

That is my opinion, my answers, and I am sticking with them as a writer.

Now… let’s switch hats and think like a publisher. Or better yet, the accountant working for a publisher. And that’s where this chapter is going to be a problem for some people.

This chapter is my attempt to answer all the questions I keep getting about what length is better because my writer answer sure doesn’t seem to satisfy some people. 

Indie publishers are, for the most part, writers first and foremost. So back to the advice I always give above. It is the right advice, the best advice to turn out the best stories, and that’s what matters.

But… let’s pretend for a second here to help you learn how to figure “return on investment” as if you are not a writer.

Some of my background here as a writer.

Can I write to length? Oh, heaven’s yes. You must have that skill if you work for any time in media of any sort. If a novel needs to be 70 thousand words to fit a contract, it better darned well be within a thousand or so of 70 thousand words. Period. Every time. No exceptions.

If I need to write a short story under 6,000 words to fit a certain topic of an anthology, can I do it? Of course. Easily.

Would a book be better if I let it go to its natural conclusion as a writer? Most of the time I would say yes. But often I didn’t have that wonderful freedom to do that. I had to hit word count within a certain time and at a certain quality.

That’s called being a professional commercial fiction writer. It’s a good job. And not a job that most writers can do, actually. It takes the ability to mimic a voice in words so the readers hear the character’s voice. (Think trying to write the cadence and syntax of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Picard, Janeway and so on in a way that readers hear the actor’s voices in their heads as they read your words.)

Being a commercial fiction writer takes the ability to spend long hours doing nothing but being creative, it takes the skill of being able to understand author voices and even mimic another author’s voice if you get hired to ghost write, which I did a lot as well.

Most writers are lucky to get to the end of a novel with anything more than a gut sense of what they did. Commercial fiction writers have to know exactly what we did, and why, and we do that to length, and on demand. And the demand is usually for a very short deadline. Commercial fiction writers must learn extreme control of most aspects of fiction writing skill. (Which is why I can teach craft and help other writers.)

READ MORE »

Think Like a Publisher 2013: Chapter 3: Projected Income

Here we go again. It’s been over two years since I wrote the first version of Think Like a Publisher. And a year since I updated it into a 2012 edition. Stunning how time goes by.

Since I wrote those first chapters for the first volume, 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. And in the fall of 2012 Allyson Longuiera and I taught a Print on Demand workshop to help writers get their books into print and learn how to sell them. We are doing the full POD workshop again in May and doing Covers and Interior workshops online now.

And during those workshops and from comments and from hundreds of sources I have learned a ton more information. The indie publishing world has gotten by the early years of the “gold rush” thinking and has now settled into a new normal that should last for years if not decades. 2013 is the first year of that new normal.

Plus the publishing company I helped start (WMG Publishing) now has a full-time employee and three part-time employees and has published about 300 different book titles. And Kris and I have started a new distribution program called Ella Distributing Inc. that will launch in early 2013. (I will announce it here.) That company already has a full time employee and one part timer and will be growing quickly over the spring of 2013.

And the overall publishing business is now stabilizing with traditional publishers holding their own and indie publishing doing great.

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 2013 is an updated version of the book from about 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 fourth edition. 

Every few days I will post a chapter for free here with a link under the tab above. The 2012 edition is still available in book and electronic form. After I get done with these posts and reformatting the book, this edition will appear replacing the old one. But that will take a month or so.

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 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 2013.

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 Incorporated 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 »

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.

Shortcuts to Posts

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

My Publisher

WMG Publishing Inc. is now my major publisher of all my coming novels, collections, and short stories.

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Just click on the image to go to my new Patreon page.