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The Successful Author

When You Need an Agent

when you need an agent

If you plan to publish your book with a traditional publisher, you’ll need an agent. Most publishers only work with agents.

Even if you find a publisher who will work with you directly, you should still use an agent.

Why is that?

Because an agent will negotiate a better contract for you than you could possibly do on your own. Even if you are a lawyer or know one, an agent is still in a better position to get you the best possible deal.

Of course, if you plan to indie-publish, there is no need for an agent.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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The Successful Author

ISBNs and Indie-Published Books

ISBNS and self-published books

Do you wonder about getting ISBNs for your indie-published books? It’s not too important to have an ISBN for e-books. I’ve heard of several successful indie authors who see no point in it.

However, having an ISBN does make a book seem more professional and part of mainstream book publishing. But aside from the image it conveys, I’m not aware of any tangible advantage for e-books.

You don’t need ISBNs for print books either, but I think they’re important. They facilitate ordering and tracking. Though bookstores typically don’t want to deal with self-published authors (unless you are local or have a connection with the manager), they will need the book to have an ISBN to order it and track it in their system.

In the United States, buy ISBNs from Bowker.

Note that you need one ISBN for each format your book is in hardcover, paperback, e-book, audiobook, and so forth. If an organization will provide an ISBN as part of its services, look carefully at what you may give up when you use their ISBN.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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The Successful Author

Citing Sources for Quotes in Books

Sources for Quotes

Each chapter in my friend’s book starts with a quotation. Most of the quotes came from internet sites. She wonders if she needs to include a page citing sources where she obtained each quote. Here’s what I said to her.

For Traditionally Published Books

For traditionally published books, your publisher will have its own requirements for you to follow. And each publisher likely has a different approach. In addition, they also have a legal team that will help keep you and them out of legal trouble.

In general, they will want you to attribute your source. I’ve even heard of one publisher who insisted on a signed release for each quotation. This is burdensome and a good reason to not use quotations.

For Indie Published Books

If you are indie-publishing your book, my opinion (not legal advice) is to cite all your sources. In my books, I try to avoid using any quotes, in any way, from any source. That’s the surest way to avoid getting sued for plagiarism.

However, in your case, this gets messy because the website where you found the quote may have copied it from someone else—that is, they stole it from the original author. Then you perpetuate their plagiarism—and their crime.

Final Thoughts about Citing Sources

If you can remove the quote and put the concept in your own words, that might be your best approach.

I am not a lawyer, so this is not legal advice about citing sources. It’s just my opinion. For a great resource on this subject—as well as other important legal considerations for writers—check out Helen Sedwick’s excellent book Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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The Successful Author

Writing Tips on Formatting Numbers

Formatting Numbers

Do you have questions about formatting numbers? There are two main rules that apply to writing numbers:

1. Write out single-digit numbers (one through nine) and use digits for numbers for 10 and higher, or

2. Write out one hundred and everything less. Use numbers for everything greater than one hundred.

Some style guides say to write out common numbers and use digits for all others. This would result in:

  • one thousand
  • 1,051
  • one million
  • 999,157

Of course, they’re exceptions and special cases. One example is that if a sentence begins with a number, always spell it. If this looks awkward, rewrite the sentence so that it doesn’t start with a number. In this case:

One thousand, two hundred and fifty-seven people were present . . .

becomes

The attendance was 1,257 . . .

Follow these pointers on formatting numbers to cover the most common situations.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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Commentary

What’s the Difference Between Self-Publishing and Indie-Publishing?

Publishing labels are important and using them properly is critical

Difference Between Self-Publishing and Indie-Publishing?

I often use the terms of self-publishing and indie-publishing interchangeably. I shouldn’t.

They mean different things. So what’s the difference?

That’s a great question. I turned to my friend Google to investigate. It turns out Google doesn’t know. It simply confirmed a lack of consensus. Here are the findings of my research:

  • Self-publishing and indie-publishing are not the same things. However, the difference is a matter of perspective.
  • Self-publishing and indie-publishing both emerge as alternatives to traditional publishing. And we need those alternatives.
  • Self-publishing may be a subset of indie-publishing.
  • The difference between self-publishing and indie-publishing may boil down to attitude.

Here are my thoughts on the matter.

Self-Publishing

  • Self-publishing finds its roots in vanity publishing, a pay-to-be-published model. (Though four years ago I asserted that attitudes have changed and traditional publishing is the new vanity publishing, offering a stamp of validation that I, for one, want.)
  • Self-publishing is all about art, and making money from art isn’t the point—or so they say.
  • The motivation of self-publishing is making books available to the public.
  • The hardcore self-publisher does everything, from the cover design to editing, to interior layout, to marketing. Unfortunately, it shows in the final product. And for that reason,I hate reading self-published books.
  • Self-publishing finds its place with the writing hobbyist.
I view my writing as both art and a business opportunity. Click To Tweet

Indie-Publishing

  • Indie-publishing finds its roots in the entrepreneurial spirit.
  • Indie-publication is a for-profit endeavor with a clear objective to monetize the value of books as a business.
  • The motivation of indie-publishing is profit from the art of books.
  • The indie publisher assembles a team, tapping others to assist with the publishing process, from cover design to editing, to interior layout, to marketing.
  • Indie-publishing finds its place with the writing professional.

From all this, I realize that when I say I plan to self-publish some of my books, I really mean indie-publishing. Though I view my writing as art, I also see the results as a business opportunity. And I’ve been an entrepreneur longer than I’ve been a writer—though not by much.

Yes, I still have a goal to traditionally publish some books. I also plan to indie-publish other books. Together they will help me to one day make a living writing full time.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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Commentary

When We Should and Shouldn’t Self-Publish

Writers need to balance the considerations of self-publishing and traditional publishing

When We Should and Shouldn’t Self-Publish

There is much debate in the writing community about going with a traditional publisher versus self-publishing. Neither is a panacea. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Considerations include career objectives, time investments, speed to publishing, potential revenue, and personal goals. Though I am pursuing a traditional publishing deal, I will also self-publish (indie-publish) other works.

The key is to know when it’s the right time to self-publish.

Here’s When You Shouldn’t Self-Publish:

  • Publishers Reject Your Book: It’s an unwise reaction to self-publish your book just because a couple of publishers said “no.” Some well-known books and classics were rejected scores of times, but their authors didn’t give up and kept trying new avenues. And I’m sure they continued to work on improving their book in the process.
  • Agents Won’t Sign You: The same thing applies to agents. Agents only make money when they sell books, so if they don’t think they can sell your book, they won’t take you on as a client. Not being able to land an agent may be the worst reason to self-publish because you’re probably not ready.
  • You’re Tired of Hearing “No”: Rejection is a part of writing. It’s often a sign that you or your book isn’t ready. Self-publishing prematurely will just give more people a reason to reject your book.
  • You’re Weary of Waiting: Traditional publishing takes time and requires patience. Being impatient with long production times is not (usually) a sound reason to self-publish.

Here’s When You Should Consider Self-Publishing:

  • You’ve Written The Best Book Possible: When your book is the best it can be you might want to consider self-publishing it. This means you have carefully edited and proofed it, you’ve received feedback from others, and you’ve hired people to make it shine.
  • Your Book Has Been Professionally Edited: There are three types of editing and you need a different editor for each type. Usually, you need to hire these people. If someone gives you free editing, you often get what you pay for. First, there’s a development edit (the big picture stuff), copy-editing (sentence structure, flow, and word choice), and proofreading (grammar, punctuation, and typos). bctt tweet=”There are three types of editing and you need a different editor for each type.” username=”Peter_DeHaan”]
  • You, Will, Invest In Your Book: In addition to hiring editors, you will need to pay for a front cover design. Since “a book is judged by its cover,” don’t skimp on this. Other considerations include the book jacket, the interior layout, and file conversion. Each one cost and your book will look “off” if you try to do these yourself.
  • You Are Ready to Market Your Book: Successful self-publishing requires marketing. While traditional publishers will also expect you to help promote your book, when you self-publish, it all falls to you.

Consider both of these lists before you self-publish your next book.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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Writing Tips

Recommended Podcasts for Writers and Content Producers

Podcasts Provide Practical on-the-go Instruction

Podcasts

I listen to many podcasts, between ten to fifteen hours a week, that cover writing or publishing. I listen in the car, during lunch, on walks and as I work around home. I access all through iTunes and listen on my iPod.

I select podcasts to help me become a better writer and indie-published author. With so much content to listen to, I don’t want to waste my time.

Here is a list of my current podcasts. They are in approximate order of how long I’ve listened to them.

Though I don’t listen to every episode of every podcast, I do listen to most of them. And I never skip a single one of my favorites.

This list is long and, no doubt, daunting. Don’t let it overwhelm you. Pick one to check out and go from there.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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Commentary

May is National Short Story Month (Sorry for the late notice)

Last week I was disappointed when I learned that May is National Short Story Month. Gee, the month was all but over before I discovered this. We could have spent the whole month talking about a short story, but I missed the opportunity. Maybe next year.

A short story is one category of short-form fiction, generally with a length of 1,000 to 7,000 words. As a person used to writing and editing 1,000-word articles, a 1,000-word short story feels right to me.

Until recently there weren’t many options for writers to publish short stories (or any fiction shorter than a novel, for that matter), but with the advent of e-readers, new opportunities have opened up. With e-readers and self-publishing, the short story has been resuscitated as a viable option for writers.

Short stories can fill many needs for authors:

  • Offer a creative outlet
  • Supply a way to make some extra cash
  • Provide a use for good fiction ideas that aren’t extensive enough to fill a novel-length work
  • Flesh out minor characters from a novel, possibly providing backstory that novel fans will devour
  • Present content for fans to fill the gap between novel releases
  • Fit nicely in a short story anthology
  • Be compiled into your own short story collection, something traditional publishers have avoided but is viable when self-publishing.
Writing short stories is a great place to start. Click To Tweet

I primarily write nonfiction, but I dabble in fiction. While I feel confident in my ability to write nonfiction and to discuss writing in general, when it comes to skills unique to fiction, I feel I have so much to learn. Writing short stories is a great place to start. Let me hone my skills on shorter works before diving into longer ones.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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Commentary

Does the Thought of Marketing Your Book Make You Squirm?

This blog is about writing. An important aspect of writing is marketing what we write, first to get it published and then to get it to read. I don’t talk much about promotion because, like many authors, I don’t like to do it; I don’t even want to think about it.

Robin Mellom's book Perfect Timing

When Robin Mellom told me she was thinking about self-publishing her next YA book, Perfect Timing, I encouraged her to do it and promised I’d help get the word out. Thankfully it’s much easier to “market” someone else’s book than your own.

Here are some easy steps we can do to promote another author’s work (which we can later apply to ourselves when the time comes). Consider these seven options:

Blog: We can blog about the author and the book. This can be direct or indirect. Even a brief mention with a link can help. We can also post a review of the book on our blog.

Amazon: We can review the book on Amazon. While every author wants five-star reviews, a book with only five-star reviews is suspect, so give an honest rating. Perhaps more important than the rating is the actual review itself and especially the headline we give it. If you spot another review that is favorable, mark it as “helpful” so more people can see and read it. More Amazon reviews mean more exposure to prospects by Amazon and more people likely to buy the book.

Goodreads: On Goodreads, we can first flag the book as one we “want to read.” Then, as we read it, we can post our progress. When we’re finished, we mark it as “done.” Each of these steps shows interest in the book and helps other Goodreads readers to discover it. Of course, we can also write a review on Goodreads. Some book-marketing gurus think Goodreads is more important than Amazon.

Facebook: We can make status updates about the book and the author. For example, “I can’t wait to read Robin Mellom’s new book Perfect Timing” or “Perfect Timing was a real page-turner.” Of course, include links and even the cover. We can also follow the author; then “like” or comment on his or her updates. With Facebook, the more likes and comments an update receives the more people who will see it.

Twitter: We can tweet about the author and the book. Use their Twitter handle and book hashtag. We can also follow the author and retweet their tweets. All these efforts increase their reach on Twitter.

Pinterest: Technically with Pinterest, we’re only supposed to post our own images or ones we have the right to post, but what author would object to us pinning their cover? The more places it appears, the better.

In-Person: Although we think about using social media for marketing, we can also go old-school and talk about books in person with our friends and family.

Try some of these options to help your friends promote their books. Then when it comes time to market your own, it will be a bit easier.

(And please check out Robin Mellom’s new book Perfect Timing.)

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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My Journey

What Are Your Writing Goals?

Although I do not make New Year’s resolutions, I do set annual goals. (The two are different, but I won’t go into that here.) I set personal goals, spiritual goals, financial goals, and writing goals. Not only do I form new goals, but I also review last year’s goals.

Last year, I made four writing goals. (I also had several other secondary goals.) I want my goals to stretch me. Between pushing myself with my writing, the distractions of life, and other opportunities that arose, I only completed three of my four goals. Although disappointed over the missed goal, I know it was quite a reach, so I celebrate my three successes.

Now, I look forward. For this year, I have these writing goals.

  1. To land an agent: Technically, this is an ill-advised goal because the outcome is outside of my control. Yes, I can query agents (one of last year’s goals), but I’m not able to make them decide to represent me.
  2. To overhaul my website: Yes, I did this two years ago, but it’s time to do it again. It needs a cleaner look, with easier navigation, more substance, and less minutia.
  3. To self-publish some of my existing writing: I know, this is a vague goal. I should make a list or at least quantify it by stating how many. The reality is that I want to do at least one and hope for more, which one I pick doesn’t matter. This could include publishing my research, repurposing blog posts, and reworking speeches. At least a dozen ideas come to mind.
  4. To rework my dissertation into a more accessible format: This is a carryover from last year.
  5. To repackage and republish How Big Is Your Tent?: I picked the wrong name for this book, which resulted in the wrong cover. The book was judged by its appearance and found lacking. I believe in the content and need to give it the package it deserves.
  6. To relaunch The Blog Pile into an author anthology blog: The basis for this transformation is in place. I simply need to put in the time to make it happen.

I share my writing goals to encourage you to make your own (and for some self-accountability).

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!