Tag Archives: writing

Self-Publishing Versus Pursuing a Traditional Book Deal: A Writing Q & A

Question: With so many self-publishing options out there, why should I bother to pursue a traditional publisher for my book?

Writing Q and A: Traditional Book Deal

Answer: I love this question!

Here’s my short response: Traditional publishing requires less of the author, will likely result in more book sales, and carries the prestige of a publisher selecting your book for publication. The negatives include the effort to find a publisher, the length of time to publish the book, and earning much less per copy sold—if anything at all.

A commonly sighted reason to not self-publish is the requirement to market and promote our books. While it’s true that if we self-publish our books, we must market them if we expect to sell any, traditional publishers also expect you to help promote, market, and sell your books. If you can’t or won’t do that, the publisher is unlikely to decide to publish your book. In short, they want authors who can move books.

There is no one right answer. It depends on the goals and priorities of each individual author. Also, some authors do both, depending on the book. They’re hybrid authors, going with traditional publishers for some books and indie-publishing (self-publishing) for others.

Should You Be a Writer or an Entrepreneur?

Authors are advised to treat their writing like a business

Entrepreneurial

If you write solely for the fun of it or treat writing as a mere hobby, then don’t read this post. Seriously, it will just make you mad.

But if you want to succeed as a writer, regardless of how you define success, then this post should give you some ideas to consider. Please read on. Then let me know what you think about it.

Writing is a Business

When we treat our writing like a business it means we strategically pursue actions to meet the needs others have. We hope to earn a profit doing so. This need we strive to fill is information, inspiration, or entertainment. Maybe all three. For nonfiction we know things (or can find out things) that most people don’t know. For fiction we tell stories others want to read. We write to fill these needs. When we charge money for meeting the needs of others, we ensure we have the means to write more—and meet more needs.

A Book Is a Product

Yes, our books are creative works. Books are art, but they are also products; books provide a service to our audience.

A Series is a Product Line

If one book is a product, then a series is a product line. This is why beginning authors need to stay within one genre or one theme, so they can develop a product line and build a following around that line.

A Book Proposal is a Business Plan

At its most basic level an author’s business plan is a book proposal. Look at the elements of a proposal. It outlines the theme and purpose of the book (the product), it lays out a vision for what it will accomplish, it talks about the need for the book, and it addresses the competition. It also proposes follow-up books (a product line).

At the very least, a book proposal informs our writing and guides us to producing a marketable book (product). No business will ever produce a product people don’t want. An author shouldn’t either.Writing is a business, a book is a product, and a proposal is a mini-business plan. Click To Tweet

We Need Backing

The purpose of a business plan is to raise funding, to procure investors. When it comes to publishing a book our business plan (our book proposal) is the means to get a publisher to back us, to invest in our product (our book).

In theory an advance is money to live on while we develop the product (write our book). Our publisher will produce the book for us, distribute it, and sell it.

If we self-publish our book, we may go to Kickstarter to raise funds or solicit friends and relatives. They’ll want to see a plan before they fork over cash. Even if we self-fund our book, we would be foolish to do so without treating it as an investment.

Marketing Plan

Our marketing plan—often part of the book proposal—addresses how we will let others know about our book. Even if we go with a traditional publisher, they will expect us to market our book. If we self-publish, marketing is even more critical.

Writing and publishing a book requires thinking like a businessperson; we must become an entrepreneur, especially if we choose to self-publish.

Do you think of your book as a product? What do you think about treating writing as a business?

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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A Book Need Not Be Perfect to Succeed

Book success can occur without it being perfectA few years ago, I finished a novel I was reading, the first in a series.

The first chapter grabbed me, but by the second or third, some of the scenes began to irritate. They were unrealistic at portraying real-life situations. Likewise, some of the dialogue didn’t work too well for me either. It was artificial, contrived. I certainly could have done better.

Yet the plot was intriguing, so I kept reading.

About midway through, some foreshadowing suggested an implausible ending. Surely, this was a ruse. I imagined two other scenarios I deemed more satisfying. Yet, further foreshadowing pointed towards a conclusion I didn’t want. As I raced towards the finish line, the improbable ending unfolded just as I feared. The book left me unsatisfied. I was irked, bordering on mad.

And I wanted to read the next book in the series.

What? Why would I wanted to read another book in a series when the writing of the first one frustrated me?

Quite simply I’ll read more because the author did a wonderful job creating characters I care about. I wanted to see how their stories unfold. I hoped to see them continue to grow as individuals and realize the potential I see for them.

Yes, the writing could have been better, and some readers would not tolerate it. But for light entertainment it was good enough for me; the book was a success.

As writers, we need to make our books as good as we possibly can, while at the same time not becoming paralyzed by the pursuit of perfection—because there’s always something we can improve.

Book success can occur without being perfect. And I couldn’t wait to read the second book.A book can succeed without being perfect. Click To Tweet

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!

Writing is an Art; Publishing is a Business

Producing and selling booksConsider all the really great books that don’t sell. Consider some of the poorly written books that do. Although this is unfair, it is also reality. Fortuitous timing aside, these two situations point out the fact that producing and selling books is part art and part business.

I’ve been in business much of my adult life: managing businesses, owning businesses, starting businesses, running businesses, and buying businesses. Being a businessman is in my blood; it’s part of who I am. Producing and selling books is part art and part business. Click To Tweet

Writing is Art

I’ve been writing even longer, but in the past years, I’ve taken writing seriously, moving it from hobby status to professional. I’ve worked at improving my work, at communicating clearer, and at understanding the craft. Along the way, I realized writing is art. For a person who didn’t think of himself as creative, seeing writing as a form of art is huge. I embrace the role of an artist who writes. Writing is my passion. It’s in my blood; it’s part of who I am.

Publishing is Business

In accepting the reality that writing is art, while publishing is business, it would seem that as a businessman writer, I have the best of both worlds. My creative side produces content and my business side turns it into product that sells. Unfortunately I have trouble connecting the two, at least as far as my work is concerned.

Many writers also struggle with the business side of their art. And while I am closer to connecting the two, my struggle is no less real.

Though the reason why I have this issue still evades me, the solution is clear. As Nike says, I need to “just do it.” And with all the evolving technology in the world of publishing, it has never been easier to do.

Are you more artist or businessperson?

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!

Why We Need a Book Proposal for Every Book We Write

Book ProposalI’ve never met an author who likes to write book proposals, yet if we hope to sign with a traditional publisher, we need a book proposal—a really good book proposal. Aside from being tedious and time-consuming, parts of a book proposal are challenging, such as researching competitive titles, selling ourselves as the ideal person to write the book, and talking about our platform (a.k.a. how we can move books). If we hope to sign with a traditional publisher, we need a book proposal. Click To Tweet

To further complicate things, there is no standard format for the ideal proposal. True, there are some common expectations, but the list varies. Even the order is a matter of preference. To further frustrate matters, some people advise including items that other equally knowledgeable folks say to ignore.

Writing Book Proposals Is a Chore

This all conspires to make writing a book proposal a chore. Thankfully we only have to write book proposals if we’re going the traditional publishing route, right? No. The gurus say to do a proposal if we’re going to self-publish too. Yeah, like I’m going to do that.

However, I gained some insight into this when attending a book proposal workshop by Andrew Rogers at the Jot Conference. In addition to giving the most helpful information I’ve ever encountered on the subject, the act of writing parts of a proposal in class was insightful.

For the purpose of the exercise, I used my then current WIP (work in progress, which I’ve since published) Women of the Biblefor which I did not have a written proposal. Noting the title and subtitle was easy, since I already knew that. A synopsis paragraph affirmed my vision for the book, while describing the target audience was insightful. Though we didn’t have time for it, writing the hook—a compelling one to two sentences to sum up the book—would provide additional clarity. Last is the table of contents, which effectively is an outline to guide the writing. (I realized that to self-publish I could skip the other items of a typical proposal, including a detailed outline, platform information, author bio, and sample chapters. Yea!)

A Mini Book Proposal for Self-Published Books

Having these five key items established would help me write and hone any book I want to self-publish. Plus, they wouldn’t take too long or be burdensome to develop. Armed with this insight, I intend to write a mini book proposal for all my future self-published books to guide my writing and clarify my vision.

The items for a mini book proposal when self-publishing are:

  1. Title and subtitle
  2. Hook
  3. Synopsis paragraph
  4. Target audience
  5. Table of contents

This is not an overwhelming list and won’t take much time to pull together. Remember, this will make our book easier to write and the finished product, better.

What’s your experience writing book proposals? Do you see yourself writing a mini book proposal for your next self-published book?

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!

Peter’s Law of Reciprocity as It Applies to Writers

As writers we must seek to learn and to teach

When it comes to learning and sharing information, I developed a guiding principle to direct me along the way. I call it Peter’s Law of Reciprocity.

Peter’s Law of Reciprocity states: “Everyone you meet knows something you don’t, so politely and tactfully learn what it is. Conversely, everyone you meet doesn’t know everything you do, so be willing to graciously share whatever you can when asked.”We are both teacher and student.

I started this blog to share what I know about writing and publishing. I’ve been writing most of my life and have been a published writer for over three decades. I’ve learned a lot along the way and am willing to share what I’ve gleaned on my journey as a writer.

I’ve also been a magazine publisher and editor for the past seventeen years. In that time I’ve edited thousands of submissions. While doing so, I’ve picked up a thing or two. And I’m willing to share these experiences as well.

I use this blog to give back to the writing community. In this way I try to fulfill the second part of Peter’s Law of Reciprocity, of sharing whatever I can. I blog to give back to the writing community. Click To Tweet

However, there are things I’m just learning about, too, things for which I have little experience. In these instances, I tap the first part of Peter’s Law of Reciprocity, of learning whatever I can from others.

I talk about this new information in this blog, too, not as an expert, but as a fellow traveler. These new areas include writing fiction and book publishing. (Yes, although there are many similarities, publishing a book is much different than publishing a magazine.)

As I pursue my just-in-time learning to gather the information I need when I need it, I’m willing to share that, too. And I learn from you in your comments, both on this blog and in person.

We’re in this writing journey together. And as we travel down our path, we can learn from each other, as both teacher and student. That’s the guiding principle for this blog. And as I often say in my newsletter, write on!

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! 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!

Pursue Just-in-Time Learning for Effective Education about Writing

Writers should consider just-in-time learning to round out their education

I work at home. My office window looks out at the bus stop. Each school day I see kids waiting to get on the bus. And each afternoon the bus returns them home. They’re mostly excited, but more so when they’re learning for the day is over.

They remind me of my time as an elementary school student, followed by middle school and then high school. Various colleges followed. First a bachelor’s degree and then a second major. Then a master’s degree was next and a PhD and then a second one. I have a lot of formal education. Fortunately, this is behind me. No more tests!Writers should never stop learning.

Though my formal education resides in my past, I’ve been pursuing informal education all my life. I call it just-in-time learning.

Most of my recent education about writing comes from the usual sources:

  • Blogs
  • Podcasts
  • Webinars
  • Magazines
  • Critique groups
  • Conferences

I learn whatever I can from whoever I can whenever possible. Along the way I’m also willing to share what I know with others.

However, I’ve recently begun paying people to teach me specific things—what I need, when I need it. This is just-in-time learning at its finest. I’m custom designing my own courses based on exactly what I need to know. Paying people to teach me what I want to learn costs less than one university class. Click To Tweet

Though paying people to teach me what I want to learn has cost several hundred dollars, it’s still far less than the cost of one university class. Plus, taking a class covers many things I don’t care about or need to know at this point in my writing journey. If I take a class I must sift through the material to get to what I need to know.

My approach to just-in-time learning is so much more valuable. As you continue to work on improving as a writer, maybe just-in-time learning might work for you, too.

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!

What Are You Willing to Give Up So You Can Write?

Being a writer requires giving up other things, and making it a priority requires sacrifice

It’s been said that some people really don’t want to write, they want to have written. They want to see the results, without putting in the work. Yet writing requires effort and that effort necessitates that we prioritize the things we do.What Are You Willing to Give Up So You Can Write?

It seems everyone I know is too busy. This includes writers. We struggle to find time to write. Yet by adjusting our priorities, we can make the time. What will you give up to get there?

If writing is important to you, if having written is your goal, what will you sacrifice so you can write?

Television: I don’t know anyone who doesn’t watch TV. I try to keep my viewing habits in check, but I still spend too much time watching TV. Though this often happens late in the evening when I’m too tired to write, I also know that if I watched less TV I would have more time to write.

Social Media: The lure of social media distracts many writers from doing what they need to do. They sit down at their computer to write but decide to check Facebook first. An hour later they haven’t written a single word for their project, but they have read lots of updates and made a couple posts themselves. Next they slide over to Twitter or LinkedIn or Goodreads or Pinterest or whatever else beckons them. They never get around to writing. Scale back on social media to ramp up writing time.

Sleep: I’ve heard of many writers who give up sleep to find time to write. Personally I wouldn’t recommend it, because if I’m tired I have trouble writing or at least writing anything worthwhile. Yet I am disciplined to get up early in the morning and write, when I could roll over and sleep for a few minutes longer.We need to make some sacrifices, or we’ll never have enough time to write. Click To Tweet

Recreation: Another consideration is the things we do in our leisure time. Call this rest and relaxation. While taking time to rejuvenate ourselves is wise, too much recreation only serves as a distraction and offers no additional benefit.

Relationships: Another area is relationships. Since many writers are introverts and in some cases, recluses, be careful about giving up relationships that are meaningful and helpful. Yet some relationships aren’t beneficial. We may persist out of habit or guilt or obligation, but instead of adding to our life, these relationships suck the life from us.

It’s been said that we become a composite of the five people we spend the most time with. We need to make sure we’re spending time with the right people and avoid relationships that warrant less attention or no attention. This then becomes found time to write.

It’s wrong to assume we need to give up everything to write, but we do need to make some sacrifices or we’ll never have enough time to write. Even worse we may never even start.

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!

What to Do When You Can’t Do It All

The list of advice for writers is long, seemingly more than is humanly possible to accomplish

What to Do When You Can’t Do It AllAdvice for writers is never is short supply. Just when we regularly carve out time to write, another requirement piles on our plate and then a third and a fourth. Before long we grow overwhelmed and want to give up.

I struggled for years to find time to write on a regular basis. Just as that skill began to solidify, someone dropped a bomb on my writing world. That missive said, “You need to read as much as you write.”

Yeah, right.

Now I have to take not enough time and cut it in two.

The next bomb, the most devastating of them all, demanded I build a platform. More requirements soon piled high on my list of impossible tasks.

Here are the main ones:

Write: As a writer, we need to write every day. Or at least we must write on a regular basis. For some people that means only a few minutes a day or maybe a couple times a week.

If we claim the title of writer and aren’t writing, something’s wrong. Writing is the first requirement of being a writer.

Read: To write well, we need to be informed. This means, we must read. We need to read in our genre and outside our genre. Through reading we see what works and what doesn’t. We discover the techniques we like and the ones we don’t.

By reading widely, we cultivate our voice, develop our style, and feed our muse. Reading fuels our writing. But while the goal of spending as much time reading as writing makes for a compelling quip, it makes for better rhetoric than reality.

Still, as writers, we must read.

Build a Platform: I’ll never forget the day an agent turned me down, not because of my writing or my ideas or my ability, but over the lack of a platform. Ouch. That hurt.

It seems writing and reading were not enough. I needed to build and then grow a platform, too. How much time should I invest in platform building? One piece of advice was as much time as I spend writing.

If you’re good at math, you’re seeing the rub: 50 percent of my time writing, 50 percent reading, and 50 percent on platform. If that seems impossible, it is.

The next question is when should we start building our platform. Unfortunately, if we’re asking that question, we’re already behind.

Study: While writing is a good practice to help us improve, we improve faster if we study about writing. That doesn’t mean going back to college or enrolling in a MFA program, but it does mean taking intentional steps to improve. For me that includes reading books and magazines about writing, listening to podcasts, and taking relevant online classes. These things take time.

Network: Next we must network. We need to know other writers. We need to meet agents, editors, and publishers. It’s good to have these contacts before we need them.

Market: Last is marketing. While this mostly takes place as our book nears publication, we must also market ourselves beforehand. We need a professional writer website, an active presence on some social media platforms, and the accoutrements of being a writer, such as a headshot, business cards, an author bio, and so forth. Writers need to juggle an impossible set of expectations. Click To Tweet

Does all this seem overwhelming? It is? Does it seem impossible to give everything its due? It is.

Somehow as writers we need to juggle these expectations. We need to prioritize and squeeze things in and make sacrifices.

A few weeks ago, I ended the day with the irrational assessment that I can actually balance all these things. My satisfaction lasted for all but one day. I usually reach this place a couple times a year, which means for the other 364 days of the year, I’m pulling my hair, screaming, and crying that I just can’t do it.

And you know what. I can’t, no one can.

But as we try to negotiate this list of impossible requirements, there’s one thing we must never forget.

We must write. Everything else is secondary.

What well-intended distractions get in the way of your writing?

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!

Are You Okay as a Writer?

It’s hard not to compare ourselves with other writers and dangerous when we do

Are You Okay as a Writer?As a teenager I remember reading the book I’m Okay—You’re Okay by Thomas Harris. As I recall, the book explained that we consider ourselves in one of two ways, either as being okay or as not being okay. Conversely, we judge others the same way, either as okay or not okay.

Combined, these two dichotomies result in four distinct perspectives of how we view and interact with others:

  1. I’m okay—you’re okay.
  2. I’m okay—you’re not
  3. I’m not okay—you’re okay.
  4. I’m not okay—you’re not

The first view is healthy, and the other three are not, with the book explaining what to do.

I fear a lot of writers struggle with the third scenario. They compare themselves to other writers—the popular, visible ones—and wrongly conclude everyone else is doing better than they are. By comparison they fall short, often way short.

I get this. I struggle with this from time to time. Perhaps you do, too.

We hear of writers who receive lucrative book deals with huge advances, ones we hoped for ourselves. We see authors who make some prestigious best sellers’ list or win a coveted award—sometimes on their first book—which we dream of for ourselves. Others have their books made into movies, which we yearn to experience. Then there are the indie authors who make six and even seven figures annually just on book sales, an outcome we secretly covet.

Then we feel small. Even our best accomplishment seems insignificant in comparison. Then that writer voice inside us says “They’re okay, but I’m not. They’re a success and I’m a failure.”Writers compare themselves to others and wrongly conclude everyone else is better. Click To Tweet

We need to stop that. It’s not healthy to our wellbeing, and it’s not helpful to our writing.

Instead of comparing ourselves with others, we need to compare ourselves to us. Ask two questions:

First, did I do the best I could with what I just wrote? If so, then be proud over our accomplishment.

The second question is, how could I do better? Pick one area, and set about to get better. Then our future self can look back at our present self with the firm knowledge over having improved. That’s success. Then we can say, “I’m okay.”

My hope for you is that you can truly say, “I’m okay—you’re okay.”

What steps do you take to avoid making unhealthy comparisons?

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!