Archive for 'authors'
Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012 by Bob Mayer
Did you ever think you’d pay 5 bucks for a cup of coffee?
At a conference I heard an editor use the comparison of instant coffee versus brewed coffee when discussing eBooks and print books. She pointed out that when instant coffee first appeared everyone thought brewed coffee was dead. Brewed coffee is still around. Her point: print won’t die because eBooks are here. I agree to an extent, but print is going to be hurting, especially hardcovers and mass market. But I also take it a step further. Not only is brewed coffee still here, Starbucks appeared. They made buying a cup of coffee an ‘experience’. Really, is a cup of coffee at Starbucks that much better than McDonald’s? But you can’t get that extra-mocha, whatever, whatever, whatever (I get decaf, black, I’m boring) at McDonalds. And it’s like, way cool, to be able to stand there and say all those words, like I really know what it means and really like this stuff. I’m too intimidated. We used to chew the instant coffee from our LRRP meals when I was in Special Forces while we were deployed to stay awake. I think I might order some grounds next time I’m at a Starbucks.
I digress. So Starbucks blossomed across the country, like zombies with aprons. You can’t cross a street without hitting one. But then the economy, like, collapsed. Bummer. And people have had to cut back. And, well, $5 for a cup of coffee, started to seem like, of all things, an extravagance. So Starbucks began hurting (join the club).
Let’s talk bookstores. First there was Amazon. Mail order book retailer. There were grumbles when it first appeared on the horizon back in the days. It took a slice of the market. B&N also opened an on-line store. Overall, though, the brick and mortar stores and the on-line stores co-existed, much like, well, the human race and the Borg. Then Amazon started selling used books, which kind of sucked for publishers and authors to an extent. You can argue whether used books sales take royalties from authors or find them new readers.
But then came eBooks. A murmur in the distance as long ago as January 2010. Now it’s a roar. Borders is gone. B&N is trying different. Indies, first besieged by the chains, then the on-line retailers, are now attacked on all fronts, although in some places they are making a come-back and I submit those that are succeeding are following what Starbucks did.
Back to Starbucks. Some smart people over there, right? So what do they have planned to combat their eroding sales? They’ve come up with an approach, which has a single concept at its core: go local.
It seems counter-intuitive for a national chain to go local. But what is becoming apparent in retail is that niche is the future. For Starbucks, the décor of each store, rather than being cookie-cutter same, is going to feature local artists and furniture. They’re going to cater to, well, the local people. They’re reinventing the ‘experience’.
I submit where goes Starbucks, there might be a path for bookstores to survive. Become a gathering place for like-minded people. But the real thing is: Niche is the future. Not only will indies have to adapt to their area, but for chains like B&N to survive, they must specialize and localize. One size does not fit all. All books do not fit all.
The Espresso machine is a lifeline. Books will be printed in the stores. So anyone can walk in with a thumb drive and print out their Great American Novel and give it to mom and pop and sell three copies to friends who really like them and put up with them. But it’s a money maker. Rack local authors. People who would come in and hang out in the store every so often and talk to readers and interact. Rack books about the area. So if someone wants to know about kayaking in Puget Sound, because they happen to be in a bookstore in a town on the edge of Puget Sound, they can find a book about it. We have to break away from the single buyer in NY determining what goes in every bookstore around the country (plus B&N just laid off some of its National buyers, which makes you have to wonder how exactly they’re going to decide what and how many of certain books to buy). We have to get back to local buyers, who have the pulse of the area, who know the readers, determining what goes on the shelves. Make apps where you can sell eBooks by local authors and about the local area. Mirror your physical store on-line.
The future of publishing with eBooks and bookstores, is the key to the future of understanding that the retail outlets for books has fundamentally changed this year. When the outlet changes, the business has to change. And that means us, publishers and authors.
As writers, you really need to stay on top of the retail end. Because if you do decide to go it yourself, how are you going to actually sell your book to the most important person? The reader?
Something to think long and hard about is where could you place your book that isn’t traditional? Jack Canfield did this and Chicken Soup became a mega-success. He put books in stores that hadn’t racked books. Your protagonist is a fly fisherman? Perhaps contact those stores and see if they will rack your book. Your book is about the Civil War? Every major National Park reference the Civil War has a gift store.
We have to be innovative for the future. Where do your readers go? That’s where your book must go.
Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012 by Bob Mayer
Listening to the editor/agent panel at Desert Dreams and I’m going to shoot from the hip with reactions to what is said.
Let’s see we’ve got a Harlequin editor; agent; editor; agent; St. Martins editor; agent; agent; agent;
Everyone is looking for a “unique voice” it seems. Which makes me wonder at the value of the one-sentence pitch we all preach. Jenny Crusie is a great writer, but she couldn’t one-minute pitch her books at all. You have to READ her writing to get it.
One agent has made the point that she only reads hard copy about ten times in her introduction. Okay. Got it. And she doesn’t have a web site. Okay, Well then. The year is 2012. Digital publishing is here. My own agent has a web site via the agency, but it’s not much. But when you have a stable full of #1 NY Times bestsellers, you don’t have to worry about it. But if you, well. And I don’t have to worry about her reading this, right?
I do almost feel such a panel is an anachronism, but publishing is still selling tons of books and isn’t going away any time soon. One thing I always find interesting is how agents and editors rarely attend workshops. I know they often have to do one on ones, but they do have some free time, but it seems like they don’t feel they have anything to learn from authors. Several of them said they were scrambling to stay on top of things, but one of my pet peeves about publishing is that the people who know the most about digital publishing are the top selling indie authors like Barbara Freethy, Bella Andre, JA Konrath, Barry Eisler, etc. Yet their phones aren’t ringing off the hooks from publisher and agents wanting to learn. Ah well. Blind leading the blind.
First question to the panel is answer: Please don’t send me another manuscript about:
That’s a poor question. It’s negative. Also, I’m sure there are writers in the audience who have sweated for a year and written exactly what someone is saying they don’t want and can’t sell.
And please send me a manuscript about: Good writing, yada, yada.
The thing I’m picking up is the same attitude of we have to figure we can sell this. But the reality is few people know what will sell until it sells. What I love about being indie is the person I have to sell to is THE READER! Not an agent. Not the agent selling to an editor. The editor selling to the publisher. The sales forces selling to the outlets, yada yada, I told you about the bisque, didn’t I?
One agent just said she wants her clients to come up with 6 ideas before writing, so they can find the one that has breakout potential. That’s a smart idea.
What advantage does a publisher have over going on your own in digital:
HQ: We’re the biggest. Well, okay. And? What are your royalty rates? We’ve been around over 60 years. And? How is that an advantage to an author? She’s boasting of having Nora Roberts’ first book. Which means the contract locks rights in forever and sucks for the author.
SMP editor: Downpricing books and cannibilize print sales. Print sales is still a much bigger market. Which is why Amanda Hocking moved to SMP. Okay.
Agent: I have to educate myself on electronic books. Honest. Need to know more about marketing.
There’s an undercurrent of anxiety—someone mentioned the saying: May you live in interesting times. Indeed.
We’re all still trying to figure everything out. Another honest agent. Had to sign a non-disclosure agreement with Argo Novus just to look at their contract. Interesting. What is there to hide? The royalty rate I suppose. I sense that’s a lazy way out for agents to get their authors “Self-pubbed”. Drop Cool Gus a line. He’ll listen and send you his fact sheet on what he does. But we’re only taking on four more authors this year so it’s tight.
Why use an agent/editor: marketing and discoverability. HQ and SMP have marketing departments. Yes, but the reality is they put 95% of their money and effort into 5% of their titles.
So the panel is getting a little defensive now.
What print publishers do is try to get you longevity. Huh? How is print a long tail? If your book didn’t work, we work with you to help figure it out. Huh? I’ve never had a publisher do that. Guess I was incredibly unlucky.
Yes, they do put tens of thousands of dollars of co-op money behind some authors. The 95/5 rule.
One agent is boasting of suddenly getting eBook royalties from books long out of print. Which means she negotiated sucky contracts for her authors since they don’t have the rights back.
One agent is talking about how she had a book she loved but no one could figure out where to shelve it so they didn’t buy. That’s a big problem. That’s the person she needs to help self-publish.
Agent: e-royalty rates are changing. There’s a false dichotomy. The wild success in self-publishing vs the failure in trad publishing. There is no one publishing story. True. It’s as hard to succeed in self-publishing as it is in trad publishing. You just have more control in indie world.
One editor who is an author says negotiate your eBook rate. Now she’s talking about her own book, which kind of isn’t appropriate for this panel. And going on about the dog on her cover.
SMP and HQ won’t buy print without e-rights. 25% of net receipts. Pretty poor. My experience with SMP is I sell more eBooks in a day than they manage to sell in six months with three NY Times bestselling titles. So I’m not sure where the marketing muscle everyone is talking is at. Again 95% for 5%. And if you’re the 5%, you’re probably like Scott Turow and making speeches about the curators and defending the status quo. When the status quo is good for you, of course defend it.
This panel has kind of gone off the rails a little. Interesting how personalities come out in such a short time.
What do you want to hear in your pitch: First answer was: I don’t want to hear . . .
That is often the tone that is so negative that comes out. What we don’t want. Another I don’t want to hear . . .
Overall, everyone was pretty honest and up front. And, of course, they are defending their turf, which is what we all do. The reality is that success, no matter what the path, is extraordinarily hard in publishing. The good news, with digital opportunities, the author has the opportunity they never had before.
Wednesday, March 21st, 2012 by Bob Mayer
We get paid to invent stories. How cool is that? We invent something from just our imaginations. Amazing.
So why are writers squirming masses of insecurity?
A lot of it is external: little validation, an uncertain business, isolation, bears.
But deep inside almost ever writer is this feeling that what we do, what we produce, isn’t real. That we are perpetuating a fraud on the world. That we’re ‘fooling’ everyone. We believe we got where we are via luck and contacts.
When I teach Write It Forward the #1 fear of writers is feeling like a fraud. The word just keeps coming up, over and over.
How To Deal With Feeling Like A Fraud.
Writers aren’t the only creative people who experience these feelings of being a fraud or concerned the world will found out they are an imposter.
“I still think people will find out that I’m really not very talented. I’m not very good. It’s all been a big sham.” Michelle Pfeiffer
“Sometimes I wake up before going off to a shoot, and I think, I can’t do this; I’m a fraud. They’re going to fire me. I’m fat. I’m ugly . . .” Kate Winslet.
It’s important to realize everyone has doubts. What’s debilitating is if you feel like you are the only one. You’re not. Studies of people who are identified as feeling like frauds range in percentage, but the overall number is high. In fact, studies show that many of the most successful people feel it the most. The higher up the ladder one goes, the greater the fear is of ‘being found out’. The higher the stakes become. The more people are watching. And, honestly, the more people who want to see you fail. Thus those magazines at the checkout counters in supermarkets. The headlines don’t scream: Actress Has Great Day And Loves Husband.
Doubts can be good: they can inspire you to become better. If you combine your doubt with your passion, it can motivate you to great success. Studies have shown that women who score high in the area of feeling like a fraud tend to compete harder to compensate for their doubts. Interestingly, men who scored high on feeling like a fraud, tend to avoid areas where they feel vulnerable to avoid looking bad.
There is a thing called The Imposter Syndrome. It’s when you difficulty internalizing your accomplishments. All those things they’ve achieved: degrees, promotions, publication, best-seller lists, etc. are thrown out. The more you agree with the following statements, the higher your Imposter Syndrome:
I can give the impression I am more competent than I really am.
I often compare myself to those around me and consider them more intelligent than I am.
I get discouraged if I’m not the ‘best’ in an endeavor.
I hate being evaluated by others.
If someone gives me praise for something I’ve accomplished, it makes me fear that I won’t live up to his or her expectations in the future.
I’ve achieved my current position via luck and/or being in the right place at the right time.
When I think back to the past, incidents where I made mistakes or failed come more readily to mind than times when I was successful.
When I finish a manuscript, I usually feel like I could have done so much better.
When someone complements me, I feel uncomfortable.
I’m afraid others will find out my lack of knowledge/expertise.
When I start a new manuscript, I’m afraid I won’t be able to finish it, even though I’ve already finished X number of manuscripts.
If I’ve been successful at something, I often doubt I can do it again successfully.
If my agent tells me I’m going to get an offer on a book, I don’t tell anyone until the contract is actually in hand.
Women who feel like imposters tend to seek favorable comparisons with their peers.
Men who feel like imposters tend to avoid comparisons with their peers. Often, they work hard so other people won’t think them incapable or dumb. It’s called spinning your wheels faster even though you aren’t going anywhere.
People who feel like imposters are constantly judging their success against the achievements of others rather than viewing what they do as an end in itself. For writers, this can be very dangerous, because there will always be someone who is doing ‘it better’ or ‘is more successful’. I’ve seen bestselling authors fall into this trap.
A technique to fight feeling like a fraud is to use a version of my Warrior Writer HALO concept on yourself. HALO stands for High Altitude Low Opening parachuting. The technique is to start from way out, and work your way in with an open attitude to try to see things differently. Most of us see thing from our inside out. Reverse it. When I approach a company or team where I know nothing about what they do, the HALO concept allows me to see what they’re doing very differently from the way they see it.
Basically, the HALO approach starts from way outside yourself, diving in until you can see things clearly. Step outside and view things as if you are a stranger to yourself.. Look at your resume. Look at what you’ve accomplished in life. Ask yourself what kind of person would have achieved these things? Could a fraud have done this? When I query a conference to teach or apply to lead workshops or do keynotes, I have to send my bio. Sometimes I stop and read it and ask myself: what would I think of this person, if I didn’t know them, but just read this?
Focus on positive feedback. However, don’t ignore constructive negative feedback. The key is not to let the negative overwhelm you. I don’t look at Amazon reviews or rankings any more. First, you have to realize that only a certain segment of the population posts reviews on Amazons. It’s not a true sample of the population. Also, the motives for posting reviews often have nothing to do with your book.
One way of dealing with ‘feeling like a fraud’ is to internalize more of your accomplishments via real, external symbols. In the military, we always joked that everyone had a “Look At Where I’ve Been And What I’ve Done” wall in their home, covered with photos, plaques, flags, etc. Those walls serve a purpose, though. (In our A-Team room, we had to wire down all the knives, hatchets, edged weapons that were usually on the plaques because people might start using them after a few beers.)
I have all my published books in my office on the top of two bookcases, all lined up. The row is over three feet wide. I look at it sometimes to fight the feeling that I can’t write another book, that I can’t get published again.
I love this quote from a Python:
“Talent is less important in film-making than patience. If you really want your films to say something that you hope is unique, then patience and stamina, thick skin and a kind of stupidity, a mule-like stupidity, is what you really need.” Terry Gilliam
You’ve got to actively work on building that tough outer shell around your creative self. Have a bizarre belief in yourself even in the face of apparent reality. You’re being bombarded with negative messages about publishing. It’s so hard. The odds are against you.
You have to believe in yourself. If you’re unpublished, walk into the bookstores and don’t let all those published authors overwhelm you. Use them to motivate you. Tell yourself you belong there. I always look and say: “Hey, these people got published, why can’t I?”
List your accomplishments. They can range from a picture of your family, degrees achieved, awards won, whatever. Put them where you write. Use them to remind yourself that you are not a fraud. YOU ARE REAL.
Oh yes. FREE eBooks. We’ve got five books going free on Amazon starting today:
Atlantis Bermuda Triangle through Friday.
Area 51 Legend—just today and tomorrow. This is a standalone book even though it was the last one published. It’s actually a prequel to the story.
Bitter Moon Lane by international bestselling author Colin Falconer is free all week, ending Friday.
The Templar’s Seduction by bestselling romance author Mary Reed McCall through Thursday.
The Royal W.E. Unique Glimpses of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor by Victoria Martinzez through Friday.
Write It Forward!
Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011 by Bob Mayer
For many years the choke point in publishing was distribution. That is no longer true with the rise of the eBook. So the traditional route of writer-agent-editor-publisher-sales forces-book buyer-bookstore-reader has been broken. We’ve got writer-reader (of course there is editing, formatting, etc. but that can be outsourced so it’s not a chokepoint any more).
Left with those two choices, most people would say readers are now the gatekeepers. To an extent they are. But here’s the deal: writers create the product. The quality of the product is going to determine how readers react to it. The ability to promote/market the product is going to determine if readers even get a chance to react to it.
So it’s actually the writer who is going to determine their own success or failure.
99.5% of indie/self-published authors will be gone in two years. Other will take their place. And be gone in two years. The gatekeeper to a writer’s success is the writer. Here are the trends I see that will determine the few who get through the gate:
- In it for the long haul, rather than thinking you’re playing the publishing lottery. I see way too many writers who want success now. They check sales figures every day. Instead, they need to think about perhaps succeeding in 3 to 5 years with at least a half-dozen titles under their belt.
- Plan for the long haul. At Who Dares Wins Publishing we’re looking at least three years ahead. We have a writing and production schedule laid out that keeps us on task.
- Stay one step of ahead of the trends. Act, don’t react. This means sometimes you must take risks. Many of these attempts will fail, but the ones who succeed will be on the front end of the trends.
- Writing good books. This one seems so basic, but I see too many writers spend so much more time worrying about promotion than worrying about the quality of their craft. I’ve learned more in the last two years about writing than in my first 20.
- Sweat equity. This aint easy. Never has been. I’ve watched the careers or many writers. The majority of writers who are having the most success as indies have backlist, which is the sweat equity from the time they spent in the trenches in traditional publishing.
- Running an efficient business. Most writers just want to write. They don’t want to deal with all the details of running a business but being an indie author means you are self-employed. I know people who were great doctors or lawyers but went bankrupt because they couldn’t run their business.
- Networking and team building. “Indie” is an interesting term because in fact, I believe it’s very difficult to succeed on one’s own. You’re going to need help with the books (editing, covers, formatting, etc) and you’re going to need help with the promoting.
- Building a platform that as a specific message. At Write It Forward I view my platform as author advocate. I see too many writers whose platform seems to be “buy my book”. People have to have a reason to read your blog, RT your tweets, listen to you.
- Stay informed. Things are changing fast. Many people are trying a lot of different things. Some will work, some will fail. But staying up to date on everything that’s happening can help you make informed decisions.
- Be assertive but not obnoxious. I’ve grown much more assertive in the past six months. One of the largest mistakes I made coming out of Special Forces and going into traditional publishing was trusting that other people would do their jobs without having to look over their shoulders. This cost me. Now I push others, gently, but consistently, in order to achieve goals.
In sum. Writers, your fate is in your hands now. This is why I continue to update Write It Forward: From Writer to Successful Author
Wednesday, November 16th, 2011 by Bob Mayer
I received a couple of “rejections” not long ago. As a professional writer with over 20 years experience, I’ve had more than my share of rejections. In this case one was from Amazon regarding publishing with their Encore program and something else. The other was for a book we’ve already published but I was looking to see if a major publisher would pick it up considering the success I’ve had the last two years.
My reaction, as is normal for most when they get a “rejection”, was negative. But as I teach in Write It Forward I didn’t respond. I sat on it, thought about it and talked it out with my wife and business partner.
Then, the following morning, I had a moment of enlightenment.
Re-reading Amazon’s response, I realized they weren’t rejecting me. They were complimenting me. They basically were saying the royalty cuts and exclusivity they wanted in exchange for their Encore program were for a long list of things they would do for me; except we’re already doing all those things at Who Dares Publishing. So it made no sense and they understood that.
Jen Talty and I formed the company in November 2009, not long after Amazon had launched their Encore program (and most people hadn’t even heard of it—I hadn’t) and long before there was a Thomas and Mercer. Even before Borders went down the drain. Before eBooks took the publishing world by storm. When people were laughing at eBooks at the January 2010 Digital Book World Conference, saying “Why should we worry about something that’s only 3% of our income?”
I formed it because my experience as a Green Beret A-Team taught me that a small, highly efficient team can do things which larger, more cumbersome, and less efficient organizations couldn’t. An A-Team is a force multiplier, which can have an effect far beyond the scope of most teams. It’s the most formidable military organization in the world.
Jen worked full time for all of 2010 and neither of us were able to take even a single dollar out of the business. We had to put every hard-earned dime right back into it. In essence, working for nothing. Very few people would have worked as hard as Jen did for as long as she did, with little reward and no guarantee it would work.
The first author we brought on board besides my books was Kristen Lamb with We Are Not Alone: The Writers’ Guide to Social Media. I think that’s telling. We knew back then that the key to success in the electronic world was promoting via social media, and it’s the first thing we published. And we incorporated the things she espouses in the book; the primary one is have your content first, before you start blasting things out on social media. The fact Jen and I were able to evolve into the Write It Forward blog we now have here and the new Write It Forward book that was just published this summer is a key part of our success.
Slowly, we brought other authors on board. Amy Shojai, a well known multi-published pet expert and speaker. Natalie C. Markey, expert in special needs dogs and also teaches Writing Mom’s. Victoria Martinez, an expert in unique and unusual tidbits of Royal History. Marius Gabriel, best-selling author of Romantic Thrillers. What we were looking for, besides great content, were authors who were willing to promote, to be part of a team.
We also had some authors shy away, not willing to take a chance with us. Some ran back to their traditional publishers and signed deals with very low e-royalty rates, but they were going for the known, rather than be willing to take a chance. I’ve seen none of those author’s books doing much of anything on Kindle or PubIt, in fact, most have not even been published yet as many epublishers work on almost as slow a process as traditional publishers. I imagine those titles are sitting somewhere in that publisher’s queue waiting for it’s chance. Meanwhile, they are earning nothing.
In the space of 24 hours I went from feeling bummed over a rejection to feeling very excited with the realization that we did it right at Who Dares Wins Publishing and we’re continuing to do it right. That a rejection is actually a blessing, that frees me once more to focus on taking Who Dares Wins to the next level. The key is that we can move to the next level because we’re not reacting to try to achieve what others are scrambling to do right now, because we already did all those things that publishers and authors are trying to comprehend. We’re moving into the future because we’re acting, not reacting.
Write It Forward!
Wednesday, July 27th, 2011 by Bob Mayer
This is the final part of my dialogue regarding the state of publishing with Randy Ingermanson. This is a timely discussion, not just because its coming on the tail end of Digital Book World Conference, or even the current state of publishing, but my own publishing company’s recent review of the last year, which has led us to make a few changes. I’ve touched on a few in this interview, but even since then, as we’ve watched what is going on around us in the world of publishing, we’ve made adjustments. We are already seeing some excellent results for efforts. Next week we’ll post about some of the changes Who Dares Wins Publishing is making and what you can expect from us in the future.
Randy: Part of the publishers’ problem is that contracts written more than 10 years ago don’t really cover e-books. Books published in the last few years will never go out of print now, because of e-books. Unless you put clauses in the contract to redefine what out of print means.
Bob: There are clauses being built in on that. RH says less than 300 sold in two reporting periods, which is pretty low.
Randy: My agent friends tell me that publishers are rewriting the contracts.
Bob: Yes. The 25% eBook royalty isn’t going to work much longer.
Randy: I think it has to go up to 50%, which is still low compared to 70% or 90%, but most authors would be willing to take that to avoid the work. But 25% seems unfair to most authors.
Bob: Yes. We offer 50% right now. It’s currently higher than pretty much everywhere else.
Randy: This is a time of chaos for publishing.
Bob: Yes. And the key is to stay on top of all the latest information and try to sift through it all.
Randy: Right, things change every month.
Bob: Reading blogs, things like your newsletter, PW, going to conferences. It’s all key. Twitter is a good information source. I hit probably five or six links from people who have good information every day to stay updated.
Randy: One thing that’s changing is the required lengths of books.
Bob: Yes. We’re focusing soon on shorts. 10-15 thousand words at $2.99. And, on the other end, it doesn’t cost any more to do a 170,000 words book.
Randy: The nice thing is that you could write a 10k book in a week.
Bob: Or pull it together from a bunch of blog posts.
Randy: Whereas most authors would be stressed to do a 100k book in a month.
Bob: Yes. I’m getting some experts to put together shorts on their particular fields.
Randy: And as you say, books that were formerly too long (more than 150k or so) can be done economically. It only adds a few cents to the Amazon cost to the author to do a really long book. I think they charge the author about 5 cents in delivery fees for a normal sized book.
Bob: Yes. The other interesting thing is going to be enhanced ebooks. We’re not sure how that’s going to work, but we’re playing with it.
Randy: Meaning “director’s cut” editions? Something I’ve been thinking about a lot.
Bob: Adding in links to photos, maps, etc. And, like Baldacci did, extra content.
Randy: Most of the e-book readers won’t support video.
Bob: No. And it could be distracting if done badly.
Randy: The iPad could handle it, I think, but not the current Kindle.
Bob: Readers read. That’s why I’m not a fan of film trailers for books. Different medium.
Randy: The thing with video is that it requires really good production values or it looks hokey. I don’t like them either. I looked at trailers for a while and found that I was unimpressed with every trailer I’d seen. And a 3 minute video feels like forever. I’d rather have text so I can skim.
Bob: Exactly. I used to have video of my presentations, but dropped it because the quality wasn’t good enough. And, interestingly, people would rather listen to than watch something. That’s another area where we get income: MP3 downloads of my workshops. We’re on iTunes with that. We also sell MP3 direct. Just got an order as we’ve been talking for my Warrior Writer presentation.
Randy: Audio has high value to the customer. They can put it on an iPod and listen on the commute or in the gym. I’ve been selling MP3 direct on my site for a long time because it’s a great deal for customers and therefore a great deal for me.
Bob: Yes. It’s one of those things that took a little while to perfect, but we’ve got it down now.
Randy: What are your thoughts on podcasting books in segments?
Bob: I don’t know about podcasts. We’ve been discussing them, but it’s a big investment in time. So it’s on our “to look at” list.
Randy: It’s something I’d love to try for promoting my novels.
Bob: One thing we thought of yesterday was a free eBook with excerpts from all our books. A sampler. So that will be done before the end of the month
Randy: That would be cool. People tend to be quick to download free, but not so quick to consume it.
Bob: Yes. But it only costs us the time to put it together. It’s hard to tell what works and what doesn’t as far as promotion.
Randy: One thing I think might be cool would be an “omnibus” version of a series — get them all in one big e-book at a price that’s much better than buying them one by one. It could work for a complete series. Not so much for a series in progress.
Bob: Good idea. I think we’ll try that for my Atlantis series. Have six books in it. Pull them all together at a discount. (We’ve already done this since the interview and bundled all six books for the price of four. Also, we cut prices on all our fiction 50%, just this week).
Randy: Joe Konrath mentioned this idea on his blog a few months ago and I’ve been itching to try it.
Bob: That’s the great thing about eBooks — you can do things fast.
Randy: Right, once you’re past the learning curve. I think you’d need to price it so that it’s still a good deal if people have bought one or two books. So it needs to be a deep discount. That’s my hunch. One last thing before we break — how important is POD for an author going the e-book route?
Bob: I don’t think it’s that important, unless you have a following or are doing non-fiction. We put non-fiction on LSI right away. For fiction, we do a couple a month as they get traction in eBook to keep our overhead reasonable.
Randy: Makes sense to me. LSI is Lightning Source, right?
Bob: Yes. The good thing is you can also sell via LSI in the UK. And it’s expanding to Australia this year.
Randy: When you say “overhead” you’re referring to the cost of typesetting, correct?
Bob: Set up costs. Plus, formatting takes quite a while for the POD book. That was a steep learning curve. You only get two shots at upload or they charge extra.
Randy: Gack! What are the setup costs for Lightning Source?
Bob: $75 initially and then another $20 charge for something else. Not too bad. But when you’re doing a lot of titles, it adds up.
Randy: Right. Plus the time to do it. And time is money.
Bob: Time is the key for that.
Randy: OK, we’ve covered a huge amount in the last hour. Anything to add?
Bob: Just reiterate that it’s a great time to be a writer, but the most important thing is to have great content.
Randy: Agreed on that. Thanks for your time!
Wednesday, July 13th, 2011 by Bob Mayer
I’m going to pick up the interview right were I left off from the post two weeks ago. I will post the last part of the interview in two weeks.
Randy: Tell me more about Who Dares Wins.
Bob: We started it to get my backlist out in eBook and POD. Once we went through our learning curve, we realized we could expand and have slowly been doing that. Taking on other writers.
Randy: How does your acquisition process work?
Bob: Right now, it’s mainly authors who have rights to their backlist. Most authors think they can do it themselves, but it’s not as easy as it appears.
Randy: No kidding. There is a learning curve on the formatting of an e-book. And most e-books need cover art because they can’t use their old covers from the original book.
Bob: And we’ve done a book that needed to be out right away on social media for writers. A traditional publisher would have taken a year to get it out, which would have made it obsolete. Cover art requires an expensive program and expertise. Has to pop in thumbnail.
Randy: Meaning that a 100 x 150 pixel cover is a whole different game from a 600 x 900 pixel cover.
Bob: Yes. Simple is better. Contrast is important.
Randy: But on the plus side, the cover will appear in RGB format, not CMYK. Which means that certain colors that simply can’t be done on a paper cover will work on electronic media.
Bob: We just did a blog on cover art and some things we learned. We’re still learning. Also there are six different eBook formats right now, so that’s a lot of work.
Randy: Do you automate the process of putting out all the formats? SmashWords uses their “meat grinder” technology to produce them all from one Word file.
Bob: Right now, the other half of my company, Jen Talty, does all that.
Randy: The 70% Amazon royalty is huge for authors. That makes the game reasonable.
Bob: What no one talks about is 100% royalty.
Bob: We’ve formatted all our books for the various devices. When someone buys an eBook directly from our web site, we don’t have a middle man.
Randy: Right, but you still have credit card charges, which amount to about 14% of the price on a $2.99 book. Roughly.
Bob: We use Paypal right now, and I think their % is under 5%. And we’re uploading a new web site this week that will take credit cards directly and allow people to store their information securely on the site.
Randy: It is, but they also charge a $.30 base fee, which is about 10% on a $2.99 book. Both PayPal and credit card charges work out about the same, when all is said and done. I love PayPal, by the way. But on small ticket sales, there’s a hefty fee as a percentage of the sale.
Bob: Yes. Still, a 90% royalty is very nice.
Randy: Yes, it’s much better than 8% from a major publisher. Which gets paid 9 months after the purchase. With a percentage held back for fear of returns.
Bob: Yes. I earn more in one month from a book we publish than six months from my traditional royalties.
Randy: I’m not surprised. Speaking of returns, do you think the industry is going to change the return policy in the future? I’m astonished that it’s still in place.
Bob: Yes. Because Print On Demand is the future. Once the price point on the Espresso Machine gets low enough, they’ll be no more shipping of books to bookstores. They’ll be printed right there. We use POD to supplement our eBook sales. We find that for non-fiction, readers often want the physical book.
Randy: I agree. For fiction, I always get the e-book now. But for nonfiction reference books, I still like paper. You don’t think brick and mortar bookstores will die, do you?
Bob: Sadly, I think brick and mortars will die. They already are. Unless they specialize. Do what Starbucks is doing. The trend is to go local. Local authors, local books. Hold more events. Use the Espresso Machine as an income source by letting people print their own books right there.
Randy: But local has the disadvantage that it doesn’t scale. An author can only be in one place at a time. Whereas the web never sleeps.
Bob: True. And with social media an author has a much greater reach than ever before. I think it’s an exciting time to be an author.
Randy: It’s a GREAT time to be an author. You’ve got a book out on social media correct? By one of your authors?
Bob: We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media by Kristen Lamb. What’s key about her book is she focuses on content BEFORE worrying about getting on social media. Most authors are using social media poorly without a plan. For example, authors using their book cover or their pet as an avatar is wrong. Unless they’re only going to write one book or sell their pet.
Randy: A lot of authors try to just promote themselves, rather than promoting ideas. Content is still king.
Bob: Content is King. But I’ve had to accept promotion is Queen.
Randy: Promotion is a whole lot easier when there’s content to back it up.
Bob: Most writers hate promoting. Author is INFJ on Myers-Briggs. Exact opposite, ESTP is promoter.
Randy: Right, I’m an INTP myself. So maybe I’m a half and half.
Bob: Yes. Always have to have great content.
Randy: One thing established authors have is name recognition. Like David Morrell, one of my favorite thriller writers.
Bob: Yes. Being a Brand. Morrell just bypassed traditional publishing.
Randy: Right, and I bet he’ll do extremely well.
Bob: He will. Along with his backlist.
Randy: That’s one thing people don’t talk about much with e-books, but it’s huge — backlist. When you discover a new author and he has a big backlist, you can get it all. Instantly.
Bob: I’ve got 18 titles from my backlist up and it’s great to watch the money roll in.
Randy: I just started reading Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series. I started with Book 15.
Bob: His first book, Killing Floor, is classic.
Randy: Then I went back to Book 1 and started buying the whole series. That’s a whole lot easier to do with e-books than with p-books.
Bob: Yes — people who read eBooks buy more books. That’s a glimmer of hope if publishers will embrace it. But they haven’t yet.
Randy: E-books are always in stock and they’re available at 3 AM on a Saturday night in Ulan Bator.
Bob: And they tend to be impulse buys.
This is a good place to take a break. The final post will be in two weeks.