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How Much Is a Book Worth?

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Legacy publishers have decided that you’ll pay whatever they tell you to for a book, simply because they decided it was worthy enough to sell. Still trying to process that fact, but whatever.

Amazon and Hachette have been locked in a heated battle over who gets to decide how much readers will pay. Sadly, authors have now jumped in the fight and declared that their “fans” will back them, no matter how stupidly they behave.

But the real question for the rest of us is in terms of indie authors pricing their books.

To that end, Amazon launched a new tool called KDP Pricing Support. Basically, while you’re looking at your pricing and rights page for your book, there is now a button that lets you see what books like yours are selling for. There’s a graph that shows you the different price points, and how they correlate in terms of sales.

Obviously, there’s a lot more to this than what you can see on a graph. Are those other books any good? Are those authors really out there promoting, or did they just kind of slap their books up on Amazon and hope for the best? See, things like that.

But it’s free to use, and there’s nothing on Earth your book needs more than as much information as you can possibly have.

While you’re checking out the comparisons in your book prices, be sure to follow the Author Earnings reports, generated by Hugh Howey and his cohort Data Guy. These two take a significant scraping of the bestsellers lists to determine what authors are actually making. The reports can all be found at AuthorEarnings.com.

How Long Did It Take You To Write Your Book?

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I absolutely love NaNoWriMo, that annual November lite-competition in which authors around the world attempt to each write a 50,000-word novel in thirty days. It’s fun, it’s a great discipline tool, and it can leave you with a great “start” to a manuscript (notice I didn’t say publishable book).

But NaNo is not the norm. Most of us do not write a full novel every month, though there are some authors out there who have the time management skills and the talent to do so. They also have a fan base who is breathing down their necks for more content, so they’re driven, as well.

Here’s my problem: if it took you a year or more to write your book, why do you think I can edit it in ten days?

Yes, I’m an editor, and every so often I get clients who waltz in with a manuscript, negotiate the process, then commence hounding me for their edits. (NOTE: I have knowingly taken on two “emergency” projects whose details I don’t have to go into here…if you two are reading this, you guys are NOT what I’m referring to!)

Ask yourself this question: if it took you months…whole SEASONS of the year…to write your book, do you REALLY want me to rush? I can hand it back to you in three days, if that’s what you really want. But IS that what you want?

Of course not.

The real problem is that a lot of authors have no idea what editors do. We’re not just looking for typos. We fact check. We compare to other books. We question your tone, your message, your intent. We even remember that on page thirty-one you said he had blue eyes, but on page nine hundred they’re now brown.

We do it all.

Unfortunately, a lot of the problem stems from authors who might be suffering from a little bit of a superiority complex. After all, they’re such amazing writers that these edits should take me about twenty minutes, right? They also work under the impression that I somehow pay my mortgage, my car payment, and my child’s orthodontist despite having only one client…them. That’s a really interesting mathematical anomaly when you think about it.

Please remember that your editor cares about you and your book, or he wouldn’t be doing this. We don’t edit because we love destroying dreams or watching you wait nervously for your manuscript to come back, we edit because we love books and want the world to have plenty of great things to read. But we can’t help you make your book great if you’re not willing to understand and acknowledge what it is we do.

The Difference Between Editing and Proofreading

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One of the most misunderstood aspects to preparing a book for publication is exactly what kinds of help the book needs. When it comes to editing, proofreading, and self-published authors (you know, the guys who are now going to foot the bill for these services), there is a lot of murkiness out there, mostly due to the fact that a lot of people decided they could make a quick buck by running your book through a spell checker.

I want to illustrate the difference between editing and proofreading…

RPSTS II

There you have it.

What, you don’t see it? You don’t see the correlation between a car that was actually stopped next to mine at a red light, and the publishing industry?

That car–which happens to be a new, red, expensive Mercedes–has a license plate that says, “RPSTS,” or more accurately, RAPISTS. Yes, this individual spent about $30,000 on a car, then plastered the word “rapists” on the back of it. I do hope it was a mistake.

Now here’s where publishing comes in. A PROOFREADER will read the word “rapists,” or in this case, “RPSTS,” and make sure it’s spelled correctly (or at least spelled accurately for a license plate, text speak, or some other abbreviated but acceptable form of language), and will go so far as to ensure that your main character wasn’t trying to explain that he performs rap music for a living, thus requiring the use of the word “rapper” instead of “rapist.” That would fall under proofreading because the author has used the wrong word in that sentence.

An EDITOR will look at your car, read that license plate, and give you an entire diatribe in the margin about why in the world you don’t want to slap the word “rapists” on your expensive car without really thinking it through. The editor might point out the word origin, its etymology, the first time that word was used in known written literature, the fact that the term “rape” from its Latin root actually once meant “kidnapping” rather than sexual assault, etc.

The editor says, “Are you sure you want to drive around with the word ‘rapists’ on your car?” while the proofreader says, “Hell, it’s your car and it’s spelled right…okay.”

I’m not saying proofreaders don’t do anything or don’t really give a shit about how your book turns out. But proofreaders don’t undermine your editor. Before your book goes to the proofreader, it HAS TO HAVE BEEN EDITED. Let me say that again for you: your book is edited BEFORE it is proofread. So when the proofreader sees “rapsists,” his job is just to make sure you spelled it right and that you put your comma where it goes. Hopefully, the editor has already tried to talk you out of doing something monumentally stupid to your car (or your book).

Unfortunately, a lot of authors confuse the terms “editor” and “proofreader.”(This isn’t the right place to point out that many authors also confuse the terms “editor” and “best friend from high school who taught eighth grade English for a few years,” but that post is coming.) That’s why your editing phase is so much more expensive than your proofreading phase. Your editor chopped the crap out of your story and sat there beside you while the two of you lovingly glued it back together, and your proofreader made sure you didn’t get any glue on the carpet.

Both people are vital to your book. They have very different jobs, and they are not synonymous nor do they cancel each other out. Please don’t confuse their jobs and think that only one of them is important to your book.

 

How to Hijack a Bookstore and Lose Money Doing It

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I am going to give you a link to an article found in HuffPo. THIS ARTICLE is all about an author’s crazy efforts to get his book into physical bookstores, specifically Barnes and Noble. Let me point out the ridiculous levels this man went to in order to give a lot of money to Barnes and Noble.

First, he snuck into a B&N and placed a print copy of his self-published novel on a shelf. He hid in the coffee shop part while his girlfriend took the book to the register and paid for it. It worked, and she came over to his table to congratulate him. Yea for authors! B&N register scanners can read any book that has a barcode and a REAL ISBN number (not a free one assigned by CreateSpace, for example). So it didn’t matter that his book wasn’t technically in their system.

So this man went on a mission. He decorated the inside covers of his books (rather beautifully) and signed his name, and he either traveled around to different stores or mailed the books to friends to sneak into B&N stores. While B&N probably frowns on this and might not like the end result of millions of people reading this man’s article and attempting it themselves, it’s not illegal, that I know of.

Let’s do some math:

Cost of buying an ISBN number so this could all happen – $299 (that’s for 10 numbers, but you can’t buy less than that)

Cost of his own print books (approx. $7 each, times maybe 20 different book hijackings) – $140

Media mail for shipping books to friends OR gas money for driving books to stores – approx. $80

TOTAL: $519 or so, give or take.

And what did it get him? It got him the right to give Barnes and Noble $12 apiece for his books. B&N, the same company who wouldn’t touch his book with a ten-foot pole if he’d actually asked them to stock it in their stores, just made around $240 for doing nothing but not having him arrested.

WHY are authors so determined to get their books into a Barnes and Noble? The store chain is floundering, and the executives long ago announced a slash-and-burn plan to close 300 of their retail locations over the next ten years. Their flagship store, the one that started it all, CLOSED LAST YEAR. And these people don’t want your books on their shelves. So why do you want to be associated with them so badly?

There is a highly mistaken belief that people walk into a B&N and will somehow wander the aisles of every free-standing shelf and look at EVERY SINGLE BOOK in the store. Authors believe that this translates into consumers somehow finding their books and buying them. Guess what? As much as I’ve enjoyed the B&Ns I’ve gone to, even the employees can’t always put their hands on a specific book in the store! What makes you think consumers are going to?

Oh wait, you thought getting your book into a B&N meant they were going to give you display space? Noooooooooooo…

IF, and that’s a huge if, IF your book somehow got into a B&N, it will be about three copies and they will be placed vertically and get lost among the stacks. Publishers pay tremendous amounts of money for that display space. YOUR book will not be there unless you also pay that tremendous amount of money and convince B&N to abandon their contracts with the publishers who get that space. Good luck with that.

So authors of the world, let it go. Stop obsessing over the fact that you’re not welcome in a physical bookstore. Instead, focus your efforts on a) writing the best damn book you possibly can, b) having that book edited by a wonderful, professional editor, c) writing a follow up title so the fans who do find your work have something to read the following month, d) engaging with your readers on social media and other platforms (notice I said “engaging,” not TALKING AT), and e) put that marketing time and effort into connecting with indie bookstores who actually might carry your title if they like it and think their readers will want it. Stop worrying about not being accepted in one tiny subset of the entire shopping world, and go out there and do dynamic things for your book that will actually lead to readers.

 

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