A publisher is interested in some devotionals a friend wrote. They pay an honorarium of $35 per item, and then they want full rights forever. My friend wonders if this is typical and fair to sell full rights for a piece?
First, I don’t think anyone can make decent money writing devotionals. They do it for other reasons.
I earned $15 each for some I wrote several years ago. They wanted full rights for one year after publication. Now the rights have reverted to me. I heard of another publication that pays $60 per piece, also with a one-year stipulation.
In another case, I did sell full rights in perpetuity for some teen devotionals for $30, but it wasn’t for the money. I had other motivations. Though they wrote fast, by the time I had finished several rounds of edits to make them just right, I suspect I made minimum wage for my efforts.
I don’t give anyone exclusive rights in perpetuity—unless I have a strategic reason to do so. To be able to say my work appeared in a prestigious publication is one good reason, but I wouldn’t give them something I wanted to use elsewhere or was part of a series.
The publisher’s offer isn’t untypical. (Fairness is another issue.) It boils down to are you willing to give up your words forever for $35?
Finding an agent is easy. Just do an online search for “literary agents.” However, getting an agent to agree to represent you is hard, very hard.
Unlike hiring an accountant or attorney to represent us where we can vet them and pick the best one to meet our needs, agents vet their clients so they can pick the best ones.
Remember that agents only earn money if they sell one of their clients’ books. So unless a client is a polished writer, there’s a good chance the agent will spend a lot of time working for the client and have nothing to show for it. Therefore, they have a strong incentive to only take on clients whose work they think they can sell.
How to Impress Agents
This means we need to sell ourselves to agents. Here’s what’s required:
Set up a professional online presence. They will check for one and will expect to find it.
If you’re on social media, make sure it’s professional and conveys you in a positive manner. Do everything you can to remove negative comments and unflattering photos. But remember that once something’s online, it never really goes away.
Learn about agents you’d like to have represent you. Follow their blogs and make respectful, thoughtful comments.
Ask other writers, who you trust, to give you an honest answer if your work is ready for agents.
Know that writing ability is only part of the equation.
What Agents Look For
Agents will also want you to have a platform so that you can help sell books. When I was looking for an agent, one agent declined to represent me, not because of my writing, but because they thought my platform was too small.
Be Patient When Finding an Agent
A final item is to be patient. Finding an agent to represent you takes time, usually several months and often years. As you wait, keep working to improve as a writer and building your platform.
Many successful indie authors do not use ISBNs (for their e-books), and they see no reason why they should. The number Amazon provides works just fine from a practical standpoint.
Having said that, an ISBN gives your book added credibility and has more universal recognition than an ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number) when searching for a book by number. So I opt for an ISBN.
However, buying an ISBN costs money. In the United States, buy ISBNs from Bowker. Currently, the standard price for one ISBN is $125, ten costs $295, and one hundred costs $575.
Note that you will need one ISBN for each format your book is in: Hardcover, paperback, e-book, and audio, so that’s four ISBNs. Given the costs, I see why many indie-published authors skip them.
If you want to write a book and blog, what should you do? It’s a book versus blogging debate. Too many writers starting out try to do both and end up doing neither one well. Or they try to write a book before they’re ready.
Then they end up with something not suitable for publication, waste a lot of time, and cause much frustration. That’s assuming they finish the book, but more likely is that they’ll give up before they finish—because they’re not yet ready to write a book.
Unless you’ve done a lot of writing—say about one million words and invested about 10,000 hours honing your skill—I recommend you start with blogging or writing short articles, essays, or flash fiction.
Blogging and short pieces offer several advantages:
Blog posts are short and easy to write.
Blogging is a great way to hone our writing skills and find our voice.
Feedback is quick.
Errors are easy to fix.
Bloggers develop a habit of writing regularly, even when they don’t feel like it.
Blogging according to a schedule—which is what all bloggers should do—helps prepare us to meet deadlines.
Blogging prepares us to write longer pieces, up to the length of a book.
There are many other benefits associated with blogging, but these are some of the key ones, which is why I recommend that you start with blogging or writing other short pieces. Save the book for later.
In the world of book publishing, if we blink, something’s apt to change. Every day there seems to be a new option, a different twist, or better pricing. The best solution for a particular situation soon yields to an even better answer—often within months or even weeks.
Publishing books becomes an art of aiming at a moving target, a goal that ebbs and flows at the pace of a changing tide. New vendors emerge and existing players develop innovations to target a different niche.
How’s a person to keep up?
1. Join Industry Associations
Groups of like-minded individuals offer the means to stay abreast of changing conditions. Members share news and ideas with each other. It’s an easy way to be informed, although merely joining a group isn’t enough; participation is required.
2. Read Blogs
Find and follow blogs, podcasts, and v-blogs of thought leaders and news aggregators. They’re plenty to choose from; pick ones with a voice you like and a perspective you respect. Ironically, reading books about publishing is not the answer; things change too quickly. Even e-books risk being out of date by the time they reach us.
Connect with others. The goal is to listen and to share. Benefits abound when giving, even more so than when receiving.
4. Ask Questions
Requesting advice in a respectful way usually results in new information to consider. People enjoy it when we seek them out and usually offer their opinions to sincere questions. We honor them when we listen to what they say.
The key is to always be in a learning mode; don’t become complacent, thinking you’ve figured out all the answers. Never disregard a vendor or idea as not viable. In a moment it could become the exact solution we seek.
What do the days ahead hold for those of us who publish books? What is the future of book publishing?
Given the rapid changes the industry is undergoing, we anticipate a different tomorrow, but just how much different will it be? Will today’s roles even exist in a decade or two?
Predicting the future or even anticipating what might lie ahead in the years to come is a difficult task. Although the details are unclear, three general outcomes remain assured:
Consumers of Content
Barring a cataclysmic apocalypse with survivors reduced to a subsistence life, there will always be people who will desire and consume content. Generically called art, entertainment, or education, this content could take many forms, including print, audio, video, multimedia, or interactive, but regardless of the formats, consumers will want content.
Producers of Content
As long as an audience exists, content producers will be in demand. Writers will supply content: writing, creating, inventing, and envisioning. In a way, writers will become artists, producing art for their patrons. Their art may take many forms, beyond merely the writing out of their words.
Facilitators of Content
Idealism suggests that future content producers will directly connect with content consumers. While this may happen in limited situations, middlemen will facilitate the transaction in many cases and facilitate the creation in most instances. The transaction facilitators will mass-produce and distribute the content.
Therefore content facilitators will provide today’s agents, editors, graphic designers, and publicists with tomorrow’s work, aiding tomorrow’s writers with their content.
The future of book publishing will be much different. However, as long as we can adapt, there will always be opportunities for today’s writers, editors, designers, agents, and publishers. The future is indeed bright—for those willing to see it.
Now is a great time to publish a book and don’t let anyone tell you differently
What is your perception of the future of books? Is interest in increasing, maintaining, or shrinking? The media would have us believe the end is near, at least as far as the book business, especially print books, is concerned.
Eighteen to 29-year olds buy the most books, but those 30 to 44 are right behind them.
When combining age ranges, those 13 to 17, 18 to 29, and 30 to 44 buy more books collectively than those 45 to 54, 55 to 64, and over 65.
People over 65 buy the least number of books. I would have suspected the opposite, but I would have been wrong,
So, younger people are buying more books than older people. Who would have guessed?
Given this, there is much for writers and publishers of books to be excited about, despite the media’s dire pronouncements to the contrary—and if this trend continues, the future of books will be even brighter still.
So now is a great time to write and publish a book. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The future of books is looking up.
The form that a published book takes doesn’t matter as much as many people think
Publishers, authors, and readers each approach the print versus digital debate from different perspectives. Among these three points of view exist an array of opinions. Consider:
Publishers are in business to make money. Never forget that. They aren’t philanthropists, seeking to advance authors’ work or serve the common good (though both are laudable secondary goals). They can make money in print or with e-books. While the outcome is not guaranteed, the potential for profit is there. Some focus on the printed word and others, electronic output, while most do both. For them, print versus e-book becomes a strategic decision with a financial outcome.
Authors often enjoy the tangible feeling of holding a book, their book, in their hands. For them, there’s an emotional attachment to the printed word. As such, they may view e-books as a second-rate, unacceptable alternative. However, the underlying desire of authors is to have their words read. So does it really matter if it’s on paper or through a device? Like publishers, authors also want to earn money for their work. Each medium offers the opportunity to do that.
Readers may be the most passionate in their opinions about print and electronic reading. I use both, and I enjoy both. So do many readers, though some insist on a book and others will only use a device.
It’s never been easier to publish a book, but that doesn’t mean we should
I once read a self-published book, a novella. I read it for several reasons: it was recommended (which turned out to be a bad reason), it would be a quick read, I’d never read a novella, and it was free (I got what I paid for).
On the plus side, the opening captured my attention, the storyline was intriguing, and the ending was a delightful surprise. On the negative side, the book did not flow smoothly, was poorly edited (or not edited at all), contained many errors, and was poorly converted into e-book format. Overall, the great ending did not overcome all the negative elements.
Self-Published Book Success
For a self-published book to be successful, it needs what all great books need:
1. A Promising Idea
If you don’t have a great story idea or theme, don’t start writing. This novella did, but its implementation fell short.
2. A Compelling Opening (a Hook)
The opening didn’t grab me, but it was sufficient to make me want to read more.
3. Great Writing
I felt I was reading a rough draft. Elements of good writing were present, but they were too sparse to be effective.
4. Professional Editing
The novella may have been self-edited (never a wise idea) or done so on the cheap, but the result wasn’t even close to professional. While publishing perfection is hard to achieve (if not impossible) the goal should be to get as close as possible.
5. A Satisfying Ending
The ending of the novella was superb. It was the most notable element of the work. But one good line does not make a good book.
6. A Memorable Title
Some titles are hard to forget and others are hard to remember. I can’t recall this novella’s title.
7. An Attention-Grabbing Cover
The cover didn’t hurt the book, but it didn’t help either. If I were judging this book by its cover, I would have passed.
8. A Pleasing Layout
In print, a self-published book shouldn’t look self-published. (We can’t always define it, but we know it when we see it).
In electronic form, the formatting should flow smoothly with no glitches, misplaced text, bad alignment, or floating words or titles. In any good book, the interior design should be innocuous.
When people notice the layout it becomes a distraction.
The above items all relate to the quality of the product. (There are more elements to consider, but these are the main ones.) A quality product requires effective marketing. A stellar book with no sales will not be a success, nor will great marketing of lousy writing work out.
If you’re considering self-publishing, be it in print or e-book, make sure you cover all nine of these items before proceeding. Your book’s success will depend on it.
Will book publishing follow the path of the music and movie industries?
When people look at the future of book publishing they often draw parallels to music and video. In many ways this is instructive, but not in all cases. What does the future hold for digital books?
Digital Music and Video
Look at the history of music. With music, there were 78-rpm records, cassettes, 8 tracks, vinyl records, CD, and iTunes/iPods.
Next, consider the progression of the video. With video, there were Beta tapes, VHS tapes, video disks, DVD, and Blue Ray.
Music and video both show a user progression of format and consumption to the digital realm. One might conclude, therefore, that printed word will give way to the digital world that print books will cede to digital books, be it e-books or audio.
I don’t see that happening, at least not completely.
To say that e-readers will completely replace printed books is like saying iTunes will replace concerts or Blu-Ray will replace theater. It’s not going to happen.
True, e-readers may one day dominate the reading public’s preference, but just as there will always be demand for concerts and theater, so too for the printed word. The key for authors and publishers is to embrace both options, not pick sides.