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Monday, July 25, 2011

The Business of Publishing a Novel

While working on edits for Book Two, I’ve been forced to return to that place in my brain that I usually try to avoid. Yes, the analytical part of me, the great equalizer in my mind. It’s the place that changes me from artist to nerd. While lurking in those dusty caverns, I found some old truths from a former life that can be relevant in a writer’s world.

Publishing a novel is a business. Go ahead, repeat it again so that the words sink in.
Publishing. A. Novel. Is. A. Business.

Somewhere in Nirvana, writers punch out 100,000 words, hand them off to a pixie, and then POOF, suddenly the world is bright, their book is displayed neatly on bookshelves everywhere, fans rush up to them at the grocery store, and the writer’s bank account overflows with royalty checks. Don’t we all wish that could happen?

In terms of business, take a moment and think of yourself as a brand (ex. Kellogg’s, Nestle, Hershey). The brand name is your name (or your pseudonym), you—the author. The products of your brand are the books you want to publish. Now that you have a brand and product, a number of questions arise concerning both:

What does the brand represent?
What is the brand’s mission?
How do the products fit within the scope and nature of the brand?
Who is the target consumer (reader)?
What is the competition?
What is the current market environment for this type of product (novel)?
What are the expectations of the consumer (reader) concerning your genre?
What is the cost of manufacturing?
Where will it be sold?
What is the target price?
How will the products reach the point of sale?
What are the distribution costs?
How will the products be introduced to consumers?
What are the marketing costs?
What is the operating budget?
What are the risks?

Whether publishing your novel via traditional, indie, or self means, all of these questions should be addressed and adequately resolved. We’d like to think that someone else will ultimately take care of this for us, but that may not happen with certainty. Even with traditional publishing, budget constraints and risk can limit the options available, and, of course, services to resolve these issues aren’t free—you’ll ultimately pay for them. If you plan to self publish, calculate the costs and time into your budget. Is there a savings by doing the work yourself vs. paying someone else? Do you have the skills and means to do the work yourself?

Distribution. If there are physical copies of your novel for sale, distribution becomes a major factor. One major bookseller recently announced it is closing its doors forever. Access to those stores is now lost, limiting the exposure and selling points for any novel. Because of that, remaining retailers and book stores gain leverage in negotiating prices with publishers. That effects your costs and ultimately the retail price. If you are releasing digital copies of your book, the programs offered by e-book distributors must be analyzed and carefully decided.

Have you ever thought about the production cost to “create” your novel? Sure, you’ve written the words, but what about editing fees. Each round involves someone taking time and working to improve your work. Cover art isn’t free, nor is the process to create it. What about the interior? Someone will be paid to create the layout of your novel. Are there custom fonts or artwork inside? Again, budgets will determine the amount of time and effort put forth to create your finished product.

At a recent writer’s conference, an editor was asked what advantage traditional publishing has over indie or self-publishing. Her answer: “Major publishers have an enormous marketing machine.” She was right. With time, reputation, access, and resources available, large publishing houses are able to introduce the novels they create to vast audiences. They have a HUGE advantage in this point. Because they can, does not mean they will. This comes down to cost and risk. If a publisher anticipates an author (the brand) to sell ten thousand copies of their debut novel (the product), then expect them to invest the amount of resources necessary to make a profit on those ten thousand copies. Again, this is business; it makes all the sense in the world. Why risk spending $50,000 on a product that might generate $40,000 profit? Of course, the publisher might hedge that risk of loss against future profits from upcoming novels from that author, depending on the contract. If you are an indie or self published author, then you carry that risk.

I haven’t answered any of the questions posed, because I can’t answer them. Every business is different, just as every novel is different; the circumstances will vary in each situation. Still, each of the questions listed require contemplation as your novel transitions from written to published.

Monday, July 18, 2011

All Things Faerie

During this writing adventure, I’ve had a lot of fun researching the fantastic world of Faeries.

It’s been wonderful discovering everyone’s unique views on these mystical creatures. There are countless legends and an amazing quantity of Faerie stories out there. Some people call them fairies. I prefer to use the term Faerie—it’s simply a matter of style and taste; I’m no authority. I also have a very distinct view of what Faeries look like, what they can do, and how they act. So does everyone else.

I thought it would be fun to add a unique element to this blog for you. It’s an experiment, but I believe that it will add something very special for everyone.

On the right, you’ll notice I’ve posted a box called All Things Faerie. I’ll upload my own images, as well as images that are sent to me. I’m looking for photos, original art, or doodles that incite a feeling of Faerie lore or deep mystical emotion. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy—although FYI—I’m partial to nature. You’ll notice one of the images there is a photo of a Faerie Ring. I discovered that ring in my yard. It inspired me to write about Faeries. Here’s my post about it.

I’d love to hear what you think. And if you have an image you’d like uploaded, send it to onfallenwings @ gmail . com That’s it for today. I’m editing book two like crazy and preparing to start a detailed outline of book three soon. J

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Thanks to the Boy on Privet Drive

Ten years ago, while visiting my in-laws in Southern Utah, I found four colorful books neatly placed on their piano. I picked one up and read the title: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. “They’re good books,” my father-in-law told me as I flipped to the first page. I was skeptical. Truthfully, I hadn’t read a page of a book for enjoyment’s sake since living in France. There, I was able to discover Dumas, Hugo, and Voltaire in their native languages. I had experienced rich description and a flow of writing that I never thought I would see again.

I flopped on the couch and started reading.

Before leaving their house, the next day, I had finished the first two books and borrowed years 3 and 4. I was hooked.

A lot has happened in the ten years since learning about the little boy wizard. The world has changed. I have changed. Through it all, I’m grateful to have experienced that wonderful series. I haven’t stopped reading because of it, and I still read The Deathly Hallows every few months, because I don’t want to forget.

It’s also been a lot of fun to follow the movies. Though they don’t equal the brilliance of the books, they’re a way for my younger children to experience Harry Potter with us. My kids scream at the scary parts and cheer for little Dobby. We had a Harry Potter marathon this week and laughed together and we lived the story all over again. Tomorrow night, at midnight, the last movie comes out. I’m a little sad.

As the experience closes, I must wonder: What’s next? Who has the great story to lift the world to a better place? I’m searching for that story.

In the meantime, thank you, Harry. Thank you for the inspiration. Thank you, Ms. Rowling for daring to dream and sharing your world with us.

Monday, July 11, 2011

WIP It!

After a 3-week reprieve from my Work In Progress, I’m back. I must say, it’s refreshing to see it again. Even though it needs a lot of work—I’ll repeat that: A LOT OF WORK—I’m enjoying seeing my characters again. There’s so much I had forgotten and much more that I can’t believe is on the pages—that’s a good thing.

During my time away from my WIP, I polished up On Fallen Wings, sent out a couple queries, researched, and took some time to think about where I want this story to go. In my head, I have four books, based on the current story and characters, outlined, making this a series. On paper, I have three books outlined.

I’ve noticed quite a few writers who create stories, titles, and even trilogy names before finishing, or even starting, their books. I’m jealous of that. While I’m good at planning, I’m horrible at names—I’m worse at naming books. It took so long for me to finally come up with On Fallen Wings that I’m struggling with a sequel title to match the tone. I’ve also thought of adding a series name to the titles, but the one I’ve chosen creates a huge dilemma—it gives too much away.

I’ve also thought a lot about the genre of my books. I originally wrote them as YA, with fantasy elements; however, the YA market seems to lean more toward current stories about high school kids experiencing paranormal or fantastic events—hence the name of the genre. While my characters are high school aged, they aren’t current. They don’t live in New York City, or attend the local High School, or didn’t just move to a new town; they live, breathe, and die in a place very far from what we know. My story is fantasy. It’s not high fantasy, it’s not epic, just fantasy. It’s about Faeries.

So, while my mind struggles with names and genres, I continue editing my WIP. Still unnamed, still needing work, and still needing a home, it keeps me occupied and engaged. I love this journey and, while I strain to solve some elemental problems about publishing, I’m still working hard, hoping to give you all a fantastic adventure to read soon.

In the meantime, I thought I would share a little link to an 80s band that didn’t do so much. They are the inspiration to the title of this post. Please enjoy the You Tube video by DEVO.


Monday, July 4, 2011

Go where you want, die where you must...


This is a poor copy of a photo I took in 1995 at Kaibab National Forest in Arizona. It was Memorial Day weekend, and this is what I woke up to. You can't see it, but to the far right is the Grand Canyon. I still remember every detail about the day I took this picture. It was magical and full of inspiration.

On my wall, I have a poster of the original photo. At the bottom of that poster, I inscribed an old French proverb: "Go where you want, die where you must."

In a way, this photo and the proverb are my motto.

I hope this post reaches you in good health and peace of mind. I hope it offers you a little inspiration. Life is wonderful. Find its beauty, then share it with your words.