Tired of Seeing Your Book Being Illegally Sold?

December 11, 2013

piratesTired of seeing your book pirated on free download sites? This drives me insane, and I spend a lot of time sending DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) take-down notices to the bastards. Some obey, others flick their nose in my direction and keep on illegally selling.

Authors and editors think they have no choice, but they do. Whenever I find a pirate site that’s illegally offering up our books, I reach for Twitter and blast out their web address and claim they attach viruses to their free download files. Think how this would impact the pirates. Hit ’em where it hurts, dear authors, and meet fire with fire.


April 24, 2013


I met Amanda Adams under the craziest of circumstances, but the end result is that I loved her book, HEART WARRIORS, and couldn’t wait to sign her. Amanda is a bright and articulate author who truly is a warrior for congenital heart disease. She had no choice, since her adorable son, Liam, was born with it. She has spent every day of his young life fighting, and Liam couldn’t have a better mom.

But HEART WARRIORS isn’t just another disease of the week – it’s a bible/survival guide for anyone who has a loved one suffering from CHD. In fact, her Survival Guide at the back of the book is a fabulous reference for all things congenital heart disease.

Amanda artfully writes about the battles, the pain, the immense joy, and everything in between. She gives permission to parents to have the thoughts and feelings they try so hard to sweep under the carpet…and that’s vital to mental health. CHD isn’t like a cold, so parents have to be physically, mentally, and financially prepared for the long haul.

I admire Amanda immensely, and I’d like for readers to see what an amazing woman she is, and how her book can help anyone touched by CHD. So for starting today – Wednesday – and ending Thursday at 3 p.m. EST, anyone may email me (lynn_at_behlerpublications.com) for their free e-book version of HEART WARRIORS. Please put HEART WARRIORS e-book in the Subject line.

Here is an article Amanda wrote for Scrubs magazine which I thought was fabulous; “What Nurses Taught This Mother.” Also, here’s a very cool review of HEART WARRIORS.

Amanda, you rock.



About your e-book…

February 15, 2013


For the love of all that’s holy, CHECK YOUR E-BOOK FILES before you take them live. I’ve read quite a few e-books from authors whose publishers are giants, yet their e-books are a hot mess. I’m talking about major conversion blunders that arbitrarily cut dialog, mid-sentence, into several carriage returns, so you’re not sure who’s talking. It looks
something like

Then there are the quote marks around narrative instead of dialog, missing scene breaks, and a whole host of other problems.

From all appearances, publishers aren’t taking the time to test the e-book files before uploading them to online databases like Amazon and BN.com, so lots of authors have embarrassingly horrible-looking e-books. If you see your e-book is filled with a shop of horrors, scream at your publisher to fix them. I’m in the middle of reading an e-book, and I’d give my left ear lobe to tell the author – because I do know her – but I don’t want to offend her. What’s worse is I’m not sure her publisher would fix it – and it dearly needs fixing. I’ve never struggled so hard to read an e-book.

There is a well-known author whose e-books are horribly converted. I’m in the process of reading every one of his gazillions of books, and I have yet to find a clean conversion.

I know exactly squat about e-book conversion, but my very dear buddies in India know a bucket-load. I test the little blighters before I hand them over to Consortium for distribution because I really want our readers to enjoy their books – not wish they could rip their eyes out with a toothpick.


E-book pricing – what are you worth?

May 7, 2012

My aunt, who is a lovely woman, equates retail price to quality and will bypass a modestly priced something-or-other in favor of the most expensive because she places her value on quality. She has no clue what the item cost to produce, and she doesn’t care. She knows that a particular brand or particular shop sells quality stuff. And what they hey, she can well afford it.

I agree with her philosophy to some degree – even if we do run in different economic groups – because I want the biggest bang for my buck. Reminds me of the time when the beagle bought cheap tequila to mix up a batch of margaritas, and we spent horrified hours watching little pink cheese graters float above a box of worm-infested Twinkies. Consequently, we stick to the good stuff.

“You get what you pay for” holds grains of truth. So when Amazon became the Great Yoda of establishing e-book pricing, they set an artificially-generated worth to e-books of $9.99. Since they were the first, they had the advantage to make the call – even if that 9.99 was a loss leader for them. Publishers were forced into this retail price, kicking and screaming, until Amazon got into a slugfest with Macmillan, who wanted to set the retail price for their e-books.

Agency pricing turned the whole e-book pricing issue on its head. Readers howled at the higher prices, while smaller e-book publishers and DIY’ers – good capitalists that they are – dropped their e-book prices to .99 in an effort to gain traction for their books. In the real world of tight wallets (quite unlike my aunt), buyers gravitate to the best deal. This gave way to the insistence that consumers “deserved” lower priced e-books, and any publisher who charged near-bound book prices was a heretic.

The justification for this demand has been varied, but the prevailing consensus is based on the fact that publishers costs are lower. Eh? Whazzat? True, there are no warehousing fees and print run costs – but those are minimal when you consider the production costs, distribution, marketing, and promotion. And let’s not forget the author’s advance…

Given that logic, why should I have to pay huge bucks to buy the Photoshop program? If you consider the R&D costs that went into product design and implementation, Adobe has made money hand over fist – yet no one barks about how Adobe should drop the price to $15.95. Instead, we pay the retail price because we attach worth to the product.

So what about e-books? What are they worth, and who sets the gold standard? E-books are still in the evolutionary stage, so the gold standard hasn’t been established, especially since Amazon’s initial attempts got blown to bits. It’s a tug-o-war between the publisher and the marketplace. Since it’s still the Wild West, publisher’s have to individually decide what they feel their authors’ books are worth.

Deciding what we’re worth comes down to perspective. I’m of the opinion that e-books can’t be quantified strictly by production cost because it doesn’t allow for the actual product – the story. I would LOVE to pay $3.99 for a John Lescroart or Joan Didion book, but that ain’t gonna happen. Evah.Their publishers have placed more worth on their books, and charge accordingly.

Does that mean I should cry foul? What would it get me if I did? Nada, that’s what. My options are to:

  • Buy their physical books, which are priced about a dollar or two higher than the e-book
  • Buy the e-book
  • Go without

John and Joan are worth it, in my opinion, so I pay for the e-books because it’s my preferred reading option. It doesn’t matter that they have no print run costs or warehousing fees. It’s about the fact that authors and the production team, which consists of the editor, art dept., sales, marketing, promotion peeps, work just as hard regardless of how the book is published.

Of late, I’ve seen a lot of “You get what you pay for” remarks from readers, who feel those .99 e-books lack the same kind of attention to editing, story organization, plot structure, and writing ability – so the very marketing tool that was used to attract readers is now repelling them. I would agree. I’m a huge e-book reader, and I’ve bought a number of .99 e-books that turned out to reflect the price I paid for them.

Absent from this group are authors who jumped ship from their commercial publishers and are now DIY’ing their books, or those few lucky duck authors who made a boatload of money – this group is the minority. I’m talking about the huge majority of DIY’ers who have, for whatever reason, decided to strike out on their own.

Just scrolling through the .99 bin at Amazon is dizzying because there’s no way to determine the diamond among the coal. The thought processes are, “Ah well, it’s only .99, so if it sucks, I haven’t lost much money.” I don’t look at as the money aspect, but of the time suck. I’ve read some .99 and thought, “Well, there’s a few hours I’ll never get back.”

I consider the entertainment factor. Dinner and a movie costs a whole lot more that a John Lescroart book. Heck a movie costs just about as much if you include the popcorn and Sweet Tarts (and why bother going to a movie if you can’t have the popcorn and Sweet Tarts?). The $15.95 I spend on an e-book gives me far more pleasure for far longer. I may carry around a book’s impact for weeks or years. I can’t say the same for movies.

I guess it’s a matter of perspective. Readers complain that don’t own the e-book and, therefore, it shouldn’t be as expensive. Well, movie goers don’t own the Hollywood movie, either, yet they’ll shell out $20 for two-hour’s worth of pleasure and a sweet-tooth fix. And do we even want to talk about the price to go to Disneyland?

No one really knows how the Great E-book Pricing War will shake out, but the adage of “You can’t get something for nothing,” holds true. If you want something of quality, you’re gonna have to pay for it.

E-book pricing – dart, meet bull’s eye

October 28, 2011

There is a flood of opinion regarding e-book pricing. Should they be .99 or have a sticking point of $9.99? Or is the sweet spot between $5-$6? The truth is that with any new enterprise, there’s a lot of shake-out and no one knows quite sure where pricing will end up. For now, it’s a lot like covering your eyes and tossing a dart toward the bull’s eye.

This is undiscovered territory, so what parameters are used to calculate retail price?

Retail Pricing

Retail pricing is an agreement between the producer and the marketplace. A new product hits the market, and consumers decide whether the price fits within their collective ability and willingness to pay, based on desire for the product.For example, when iPads hit the marketplace, people stood in line for hours to fork over their $600 because Apple had done such a fantastic job in creating desire, which took demand to new heights.

If a product moves too slowly, the producer drops the price in order to lure in consumers. We can see this with Amazon’s Kindle. They were the only game in town, but when other e-readers began to cut into their market share, they dropped the price to undercut their competitors. Who won? The consumer!

Retail pricing is a bit more static with physical books. There’s an accepted agreement about the retail price for a hardback book, trade paperback, and mass paperback. You get outside that norm, and buyers balk, and authors scream, “Gah! SkanyPantsPublishing is charging $21.95 for my 150 page trade paperback!” Books that fall outside accepted norms suffer poor sales.

Those outside of publishing believe that production costs (editing, cover design, interior design, discounting, marketing and promotion) determine pricing. It doesn’t. Mainstream publishers (and if any of you call it Legacy Publishing, we can never be friends) shell out a ton of money to produce a single title, and we all make our money on selling a lot of units in order to not only collect our initial costs, but to also make some money in the process.

E-book Pricing

E-book publishing is a whole new can of worms. Not only are publishers discovering e-books’ viability and trying to come to some agreement regarding standard pricing, but DIYers are added into the mix, who are all too happy to undercut the market. The result is that there’s a lot of confusion over the disparity of e-book pricing.

Amazon was the first to introduce e-books, and they began with a flat price of $9.99 or lower. Consumers got used to those prices and believed they should remain static because publishers don’t incur printing costs or warehousing costs. This justification is flawed because, as I’ve already pointed out, pricing has little to do with production costs, and everything to do with established norms for book prices. E-books are the Wild West without a sheriff.

The larger publishers inverted their navels because they wanted to charge whatever they wanted for their e-books, and this brought on The Great Amazon/Big Publishing BitchSlap Fest, which saw Amazon removing the Buy buttons from certain publishers until they sat down like quasi-civilized folk and came to an agreement. The result is that publishers can charge whatever they want and determine whether they want to allow Amazon to discount the e-books.

Personally, I think it’s nutty not to allow Amazon to discount the e-books…after all, they still pay royalties on the retail price. If Amazon wants to sell our e-books for $5 less than retail, who am I to quibble? I’ll sell more books and get royalties on the retail price. Win win.

But now we’re getting into murkier waters because prices are all over the map, and we have yet to achieve pricing stability. So what should determine the retail price of an e-book?


People readily understand that a hardback book sells for roughly $25 because it costs so much to produce them. Guess what? They don’t. Depending upon your print run, printing costs for hardbacks are extremely low, so the profit margin is delicious. Where’s the consumer outrage?

No one quibbles about paying $600 for an iPad or paying higher prices for Apple/Mac software. They pay it because they want it. Yet in both those cases, the production costs allow for Apple to make a LOT of money. Consumers could easily buy a less expensive tablet or buy an IBM compatible and pay a lot less, but they don’t because they realize these are quality products.

Retail Costs doesn’t = Production Costs

Many  believe there aren’t many costs associated with an e-book because we already incurred those costs with the print production. Because e-b0oks are so popular, publishers aren’t selling as many print books and they need to recoup their production costs. There’s also the matter of employing someone to feed the e-books out to all the online venues. Those venues are growing almost daily – and so are the hoops that we have to jump through to upload and maintain the titles. It’s a full time job, and that isn’t free.


There are readers who won’t buy an e-book that’s priced over $6. That’s their right, and I can’t argue with that logic any more than I can argue my own opinion that it’s insane to pay $600 for an iPad…regardless of how much as I love them. I’ve based my personal boundaries on the price, the quality, and my desire. If I get to a point where I can justify the cash outlay, my views may change.

E-books are simply a different reading option. You can either buy the physical book or the e-book, whichever is more convenient for you. Amazon threw a dart at the bull’s eye and established a retail price they felt would attract attention to this new reading option. Publishers understand the importance of e-books and have wisely gotten into the market.

Just because more reading options exist doesn’t mean it must be given away. Competition and buyer reaction will eventually lead us all to a standard. But it will boil down to quality. The retail price will reflect the quality of a book, just like everything else. Otherwise, why would anyone pay several hundred for a pair of Manolo Blahniks?

What to Charge?

The problem is how much to charge for an e-book. Answer: Who knows? This is a new modality, and we’re all scrambling around trying to create a new normal. As I mentioned above, I look at e-books as simply a different buying option. I read off my phone or iPod, so I’m an e-gal all the way. If I see a new book that I really want, I buy it regardless of the price. The publisher has offered their author’s book with two reading options, trade ppback or e-book. I don’t feel I have the right to a book for $5.99 just because someone has said anything higher is “unfair.”

We don’t know what’s unfair yet because books are being produced in all sorts of manners.


The DIY set have fewer production costs associated with their books. Invariably they’ve written their books, maybe paid a couple hundred for cover art and formatting, and uploaded the title to Amazon. The editing and quality of writing is often spotty, but hey, they’re published. And because they’re eager to sell, they price their books at .99 because they normally lack a platform, a readership, or experience.

So the fix was in – .99 is the new norm…until new data comes out suggesting .99 is too cheap and can actually hurt sales because the perception is that the low price = inferior writing. Today I read that the new sweet spot is between $5-$6, and that anyone charging $14.95 for an e-book is a diseased yak on crack.

I think what we all need is patience. We should resist flinging arrows about how stupid mainstream publishers are or poking fun at DIY (which really is ignorant). This will shake itself out eventually. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a date with my e-reader…

E-book Country: Why I won’t settle for just the physical rights

September 7, 2011

My post yesterday brought up some interesting questions and comments on various social media venues. A few that really caught my eye were asking why I wasn’t satisfied to only buy the physical book rights and leave the e-book rights alone – especially in light of the fact that some agents are keeping those rights. They wanted to know if I’d kill the deal.

The answer is yes. Absolutely. And here’s why.


Competition is hard enough as is. We compete with other publishers who publish the same kinds of books we do. We compete for the attention of millions of readers, and we compete with the ever-shrinking shelf space. So why would I compete against my own book?

We put thousands of dollars and hours into producing a book. It’s no secret that e-books are on the rise and in many cases, edging out physical books. If I only have the physical rights, then I’m competing against the e-version of a title that we edited, designed cover art, marketed, promoted, produced ARCs and sent out to all the major media and review outlets, and did print runs.

Why would I be happy to allow an e-book to ride on our coattails? When you find a book on Amazon or B&N.com, for example, the e-book is listed there as well, so all one need to is click on the link to the e-book and buy away. A sale we’ve lost, and a sale the holder of the e-book rights has gained.

Financial viability

So let’s say this happens often enough – that the e-book outsells the physical book – what do you think will eventually happen to the print publisher, who made it possible for you to hold your book in your hands? Well, they turn off their lights and bid you and your physical book adieu.

So while you’re thrilled to be getting your e-book royalties from whomever produced your e-book, your print publisher is struggling to remain afloat. I find the irony quite compelling because some authors want to drink from two different watering holes.

On one hand, some of you want nothing more than to see your book in physical format, but you want to keep your e-book rights. If more people are buying e-books – and that day is coming – then what do you think will happen to the publishers who made your print book possible? So long, physical book. So long book being shelved in libraries and bookstores.

Physical books will never disappear

And let’s not forget that physical books are still very much in play with media and reviewers. In the past three weeks, I’ve shot out nearly 70 books to various media who want to read the books and interview our authors. TV interviewers don’t hold up a Kindle or Nook and say, “Go to your nearest e-book site and download this book!” No, they hold up a copy of the book, flash it on the screen, and tell viewers to hit up their nearest bookstore.

That takes a print publisher. Where will your print book be if we’re slowly bled out?

Competition of another color

I’ve been told agents are negotiating to retain the e-book rights, and I’m extremely ambivalent about this due to the disturbing trend of a few agents deciding to become e-publishers. I can’t help but wonder whom they are negotiating for – themselves or their author client? I already know that we have stellar distribution with our e-books, along with marketing and promotion – elements that I’m fairly confident the agent lacks.

To date, I’ve never had an agent negotiate to retain the e-book rights. But as e-books become a bigger share of sales, I can see where this will become a bigger issue. That’s why we’ve taken steps to insure that our e-books are showcased in virtually every possible venue. So the question remains, why keep the rights when we can provide the best distribution and quality product?

I realize agents are having a tough time of things – heck, we all are – but I could no more assume the job of an agent AND maintain my own job with any efficiency. So I don’t see how agents can become publishers. The reasons I’ve heard is because agents need the income. But in order to do their clients justice, they have to hire people to take care of the e-book publication. That costs money, so I’m still seeing a disconnect that doesn’t jibe with their ability to do their primary job of selling their clients’ books and still paying the bills.

A Tale of Two Versions

As a print publisher who sinks thousands into your book, the last thing I want to see is two versions of your book on the market. Your cover will have to be different, and so will your text file. Our name goes on the spine of your book, and I don’t want to be judged on the quality of the e-book if I’m not involved with its production.


There’s no doubt that publishing is undergoing a tremendous change. I find it hideously exciting. But with change, we all have to be mindful of the consequences. Making knee-jerk decisions without considering the impact down the line will result in the very thing authors want to avoid:  becoming irrelevant.

Sure, the short run thinking is that authors will make bigger royalties if they do their own e-publishing, or let their agents do it, but the end result is less money in their pocket overall because a team of dozens can accomplish far more than a team of one. We do this for a living, so we have expertise in selling books – physical or e-book.

I”m all for change, but I’m also one for ensuring that the decisions I make today will enhance my success in the future. I certainly don’t want to become irrelevant, and that’s why we have such great e-distribution. So if you or agent want to negotiate keeping your e-book rights, I hope you take the time to consider what I’ve written here because a very good print publisher may turn you down for that book deal, and you need to know why.

Doing the writer’s conference bugaloo

August 16, 2011

I love conferences. I say that all the time, but I mean it. It’s the only place where I get to talk to my favorite people (authors) while taking the pulse of how people perceive the direction of the publishing industry. As it turned out, authors had many questions on their minds.

What about agents adding publishing services?

Hooboy, this was a hot topic that revealed varying opinions. Authors were confused. Editors shook their heads in wonderment, and agents both defended and reviled the idea. Many agents were very uncomfortable with the idea, saying exactly what I’d said: “I’m very uncomfortable with this idea. My job is time intensive enough as it is. If I added publishing services to my day, I wouldn’t have time to do my main job – which is selling my authors’ manuscripts. Besides, I don’t want to give the appearance of there being a conflict of interest.”

And that is the crux of the problem – time and perception – and I’m glad to see agents whom I admire and respect feel the same way. As I’ve said before, I know how time and labor intense my job is. If I decided to also represent authors and sell them to other publishers, not only would I be accused of a conflict of interest, but I wouldn’t do my own authors proper justice.

The other side of that coin is that agents who have become publishers claim they’re hiring people to take care of this end of the business, thus allowing them just as much time to sell their authors as before. This flies in the face of logic for me because the reason they’re doing this is to keep themselves afloat. It’s a profit center for them, so hiring people impacts their bottom line.

Authors are right to question this idea because it impacts their writing careers. Out of all the agents at the conference, those who approved of agents-as-publishers were in a large minority. Interesting, no?


This was an interesting discussion because ebooks have really gained their rightful place in the publishing industry. Where it was easy to poke fun at e-publishers back in the day, there were two e-publishers at the conference who are making some very good money. How far we’ve come!

Of course, everyone wants to know if ebooks will edge print books out of the scene. Since no one possesses a crystal ball or tinfoil hat, all we can do is conjecture. But there is no denying that ebooks are here to stay and that more people are buying more ebooks.

The decision becomes whether authors are ready to make the leap to only see their books in ebook format. Those I talked to still wanted to see their books in print – and I don’t blame them. Perception doesn’t happen overnight, and print books have always been the litmus of success. POD and vanity publishers have taken that viewpoint down a peg, which is, again, the result of publishing evolution. But for the most part, authors still have that desire to hold a physiscal book because, as one author put it, “Holding my book in my hands makes it real.”

But publishing is expensive, and e-publishers save on print runs and warehousing costs. I spoke with one an editor from a former-print publisher who was floundering last year and was on the verge of closing their doors until they found new life and prosperity by going ebook. Now they’re doing well and are able to pay their editors and hire more because sales are booming.

I love a success story. But here’s the thing about e-publishers – they’re genre. The successful e-publishers are romance, horror, thriller, SF/Fantasy. These genres have a faithful readership and will glom onto anything genre.

Many writers are mainstream fiction, and this remains the hardest sell of all. This means that you’ll find fewer successful mainstream fiction e-publishers. In fact, I’ve noticed that the mainstream fiction section of successful e-publishers is very small. It’s the genre stuff that keeps the mainstream fiction ebooks afloat.

The same can be said about nonfiction. The readership for nonfiction is varied and fractured, so e-publishers avoid this genre. On the flip side, print publishers release their books as ebooks as well in order to appeal to those who prefer e-readers.

And this brings me to another “Hmmm” moment. If ebooks sell best with genre, then what is the future for mainstream fiction and nonfiction in terms of e-publishing? So far, those don’t exist in any great numbers, so will mainstream fiction and nonfiction remain the only viable print-publishers?

Again, without a crystal ball or tinfoil hat, it’s hard to predict the future.


This conversation went hand-in-hand with the future of print publishing. Distribution is the lifeblood of our industry, whether you’re an e-publisher or print publisher. I’ve seen many e-publishers whose books were only available on their own website. Unless that publisher is really well-known, then one wonders how they drive the marketplace to their online store.

Likewise, I’ve claim to have distribution, but it only amounted to being with Ingram and Baker & Taylor. Just to refresh everyone’s memory, this is warehouse distribution – meaning that they are a centralized warehouse for bookstores and libraries to order from. They don’t have sales teams who actively pitch your titles to their national accounts and bookstores. They don’t market and promote your books. Ingram and B&T simply fulfill orders.

Publishers who rely on Ingram and B&T are akin to the e-publishers who only make their books available on their site. In either scenario, the author will be the one responsible for making sales because the publishers don’t have the money to market and promote.

Swimming to the top of the heap

As always, authors are interested in discovering how they can swim to the top of the heap. If there was a magic bullet, I’d happily share it. But there isn’t. Success takes hard word, knowledge, and luck. And this is why I continue to promote conferences. There is no other place where you can talk to agents and editors, and get their advice, feedback, and recommendations. We are on call the entire time we’re at a conference, and it’s because we are committed to helping you swim to the top.

If it were easy, everyone would be a bestselling author. But I like to think of the diamond analogy – that diamonds are made because molecules are forged together under extreme pressure to create something beautiful. It’s that learning process – about writing and the industry – that gauges the pressure you can withstand.


Aside from the discussions that fueled the conference, there were some observations that I thought would be helpful in making for a successful conference:

Bring Money: That isn’t meant to sound as grubby as it came out. What I mean by this, is there are always book signings at these events, and it’s great to be able to support your fellow authors. Even though I read from my Kindle app, I bought a couple books because a) they weren’t available in Kindle, and b) I really wanted to read those books.

Booze: Now don’t get me wrong – as much as I kid around, I’m really not much of a boozehound. But conferences always provide a bar at the evening mixers. Depending on the hotel, those glasses of wine can run $9 per glass…which is highway robbery. That said, there is nothing that eases fears and anxiety than a pouty red or crisp white. And this is where we do so much of our chit chat with authors. Liquid courage. Besides, what better opening can you have than to offer to buy your favorite agent or editor a glass of wine. Last time an author did that to me, I ended up signing her. These special conference bars only accept cash.

Bring Pages: There were several times that I was interested in someone’s book and asked if they’d brought pages. They hadn’t. Even if no one ever asks you for pages, always bring them. Chances are that had I had those pages, I may have offered a contract on the spot because I loved their idea and knew I could sell it. As it is, I have to wait for them to email the pages to me. Be a good Girl Scout and be prepared.

Agents and editors are far from blase when they see something they think has huge potential, and they are like little kids in that they want instant gratification. We’re pathetic that way.


No conference would be complete without a couple warnings, right? Here are a couple of consistent problem areas that I see.

“Everyone”:  Whenever I asked, “Who is your intended readership?” I got the requisite reply: “Everyone.” I’ve heard it so much that I call it “Everyone-itis.” We have Alzheimer groups in our Rolodex, we have heart disease groups in our Rolodex, we have travel groups in our Rolodex, but I can guaran-dang-tee you that we do not have “Everyone” in our Rolodex.

This is a question that will dog you for you entire writing career, so you would be well-served to have that figured out. Besides, wouldn’t you find it easier to know to whom you’re writing?

Eye contact:  I’m the first to appreciate how hard it is to do a one-on-one with an agent or editor. Personally, I think we’re far less scary than agents! We all honor the fact that you’ve made the move to stick your big toe in the water and test the temperature. It seems a shame not to present yourself in the very best that you can be.

When an author insists on reading their pitch rather than simply engaging us, I feel like they’ve put up a wall that I can’t penetrate. We have precious little time in which to get to know you, and I can’t meet you halfway if you’re staring at your page. Practice in the mirror or with your friends or family.

DON’T MEMORIZE YOUR PITCH!! I had a few authors who did, and it sounded canned and stilted. A few times I’d wait for them to take a breath and ask them a question. It threw them completely off balance because I messed with the playing field. I didn’t do it to be rude, but I honestly wanted to engage them, not their perfect memory.

Smell the Roses: Last of all, enjoy the process of writing, of networking, and going to conferences. You’ll go home feeling like your brain is about to explode, but over the course of time, bits of brilliance will seep through and you’ll realize you learned far more than you thought. Conferences are that diamond-making pressure I talked about earlier. Embrace it because the end product is a beautiful diamond – just like you!

Hostility, Mr. Konrath? I think not

September 23, 2010

I often stop by J.A. Konrath’s site because he’s quite an institution. He has spent countless hours helping/teaching authors the rigors of being a published author and his various ideas on promotion. His latest post discusses his e-book success. He made this comment:

If you go to conferences and ask the editors you meet about J.A. Konrath and ebooks, you’ll get blank stares, dismissals, or outright hostility.

As far as I’m concerned, nothing could be further from the truth. I’m thrilled for the man.

And why wouldn’t I be anything other than happy? For starters, I’m not his publisher – whew! But if I were, I’d work very hard to make him happy because he sells a lot of books. If an author has a winning combination, a publisher has to be a few paragraphs shy of a full chapter not to tap into that. Instead, his publisher has chosen to ignore him, so he’s gone on his own and become quite successful at it.

But let’s not forget that Konrath’s success didn’t appear out of thin air. As he states in his blog post:

I worked my ass off promoting that book.

Anything an author does on his/her own requires hard work, and I know of few authors who work harder than Konrath. And that’s the operative here.

Hard work.

Thar be no free lunch

It doesn’t matter whether an author publishes a book through a vanity press, a POD business plan press, or an e-book – being successful with any of those publishing options are dependent upon how hard the author is willing to work because they don’t have the safety net of a publisher. The author is on his own, so it’s up to him to establish a promotional plan that will allow him maximum exposure and distribution.

In the case of vanity and POD books, distribution is limited to the online databases like Amazon, since they are rarely on the bookshelves. Without a viable plan to get one’s book known, that book can sit on Amazon’s database ’til the cows come home. The same can be said for e-books. If no one knows your e-book exists – just as most people are unaware of someone’s vanity pubbed book – how can anyone buy it? Authors have to work double time to create demand because they are their own sales force.

My quibble with Konrath is they way he disses his mainstream publishers. They made him what he is today, so I feel it’s unfair to dismiss them so quickly. In his case, though, I feel it’s fair to say that he would be successful no matter whether he was mainstream pubbed or not because he understands how the business works and realizes that in order to sell, he has to promote. And he does this very well.

Just because he did it, doesn’t mean you can

However, Konrath is suggesting that everyone jump on the e-book bandwagon and take control of their publishing futures. It’s a great idea, but it’s folly to suggest that everyone can be as successful as he is. Make no mistake about it – promotion is hard work and dedication. Out of the thousands who go the self-e-book route, few have the walnuts to continue that kind of momentum.

Of course, there is always going to be exceptions to any rule, and Konrath lists those exceptional folks who have gone the e-book route and are doing very well even though they don’t have his platform. But what percentage do those authors represent out of the thousands who take the same route? I’m sorry, but I can’t help but feel Konrath is fueling the same feeding frenzy that vanity publishers employ –  “We’re giving you the chance you deserve!”

And I’ll say it again – not everyone is a J.A. Konrath. Or even those other authors he mentions.

And this is the crux of my boggle because I see many, many authors see his call to arms as a shortcut to success, not appreciating they don’t have the same kind of promotional fervor that one needs to successfully market a self-pubbed book.

I would never take away from anyone’s success, regardless of how they achieve it. But I do get cranky when I see a fever-pitched rally ’round the flag pole for an idea that simply isn’t appropriate for every author. He readily admits “I’ve been very lucky.”

There are no absolutes in this business, and this is where Konrath and I part company. He feels we’re dinosaurs. I’m not ready to turn in my scales and sharp teeth just yet. E-books are a viable option – just like self publishing can be – PROVIDED the author knows exactly what lies ahead of them and they understand how hard they’ll have to work to establish a platform.

But despite my small differences with Konrath, I give him a big huzzah because he’s earned it. And should anyone ask me at a conference how I feel about him, I’d them that very thing. And then I’d ask them to read this blog post because this isn’t a one-size-fits-all business, and authors need to know the other side as well.


I also wanted to comment on his suggestion:

Think twice, and think again, before allowing anyone to buy your erights.

Let me just say that if an agent or author refused to allow the e-book rights, many editors would withdraw the contract offer. Think about that twice, and think again.

“I want to keep my e-book rights!”

May 27, 2010

This is something that authors may start saying when negotiating contract rights. After all, they’ve seen JA Konrath do well with his e-books, so why not keep a bigger piece of the pie? As I wrote in my blog post All Writers Were Not Created Equally I outline the reasons that what rocks for JA won’t necessarily rock for you.

But this post isn’t about authors who decide to forgo publishers altogether, but are negotiating with publishers for print/e-book rights. Here is a big thing to consider: This is a deal killer.

And here’s why:

It’s true that many things in contracts are negotiable – foreign rights, movie rights, royalties, sell-through break downs, audio book rights, etc. But with the e-book phenom, publishers are about as likely to negotiate e-book rights as I am to increase the beagle’s weekly tequila budget.

For publishers, doing an e-book is the natural extension to the print rights. We’ve already spent thousands on editing, cover design, interior design and layout, marketing and promotion, so it goes to reason that we will insist on the e-book rights.

Avoiding Confusion

Physical and e-books are the peanut butter and jelly sandwich of the publishing industry. They go together. There was a comment in my prior post about how authors in the near future might have two publishers; one who does physical book and the other who produces the e-book.

Who’s on first? I don’t see that happening for a single minute. Creating an e-book is very simple for us because we’ve already gone to the expense and done the hard part. If we went to a two-publisher system for a single title, who would take precedence? Would the e-publisher rush the book out to market, thus usurping the print publisher’s ability to splash onto the market first? Print publishers put a ton of energy into marketing books, and they aren’t likely to be thrilled at having their thunder stolen.

Editing: Then there is the matter of editing. If you have two editors for a single title, you could very well end up with two different books. How I edit a book is quite different from another editor, so the door would now be opened for “which book was best?” A print publisher, who has spent far more money on their books than an e-publisher, isn’t going to sit idly by and watch sales slip past them.

Control the timing

Print publishers want to control the timing between their various mediums. For instance, publishers who print hardbacks usually keep them out there for about a year before going into mass or trade paperback. The same thing goes for print to e-book. Many are only allowing the print version to be available for six months before releasing them in e-books. Others are releasing them at the same time.

If they don’t have the e-book rights, then they lose that control. Again, no publisher wants to spend gazonga bucks only to be scooped by the e-book.

So before you insist on negotiating your e-book rights [provided the publisher hasn’t already prepared a voodoo doll in your honor], here are some things to think about:

File: You’ll have to create a whole new file since the publisher won’t release their file to you. Yes, you already have the version that you submitted, and probably the edited file from the publisher, but if the publisher has a brain in their head, they’ll have wording in the contract that prevents you from using that file. So, as I mentioned above, you’ll be putting out two different books – your publisher’s version and yours.

Cover design: What goes for the file also goes for cover design. They own the cover, and you won’t be allowed to use theirs. You need to submit cover art when putting your e-books on the online stores. Will buyers make the association between the physical and e-book if they have two different covers?

Linkability: With Amazon, for instance, the e-book automatically links to the physical book – as can be seen here with Donna Ballman’s brilliant The Writer’s Guide to the Courtroom. If the publisher doesn’t have those rights, there is no way…let me repeat that…NO WAY that they’ll allow your e-book to link with their physical book.

Remember, they’ve spent thousands on your book. This means they have a stronger marketing and promotion arm than you do [in general]. This means they will drive readers to the physical book. The only way people will find your e-book on Amazon is if they google your name or the title. Obviously you’ll put your book in all the other online bookstores, but you’ll do so without the backing of your publisher.

In a word; you’re working against each other.

ISBN: As I mentioned in my previous post, you’ll need to buy an ISBN for your book. It ain’t free.

As I said at the beginning, this is most likely going to be a deal breaker, so tread carefully and consider whether it’s worth it. You could very easily find yourself looking for another editor, or dealing with an agent who is ready to slice and dice you into a million little pieces for shark bait.

E-books – royalties, production costs, and sales, oh my!

May 24, 2010

Brian Clegg – brilliant author extraordinaire and all around great gent, commented in a previous post:

What’s interesting is how does the cost of getting an ebook into the shops compare with the cost of physical book, including production, shipping and dealing with returns, on top of all the same costs as the ebook? And how does the net revenue then compare? So ultimately, taking all this into account, how does the ratio of earning per ebook to earning per physical book compare with the ratio of royalties on the two?

I thought it a great discussion, so I decided to make a separate post to discuss these issues. There is a lot of comparing apples and oranges with e-books and physical books in terms of who’s doing the publishing – authors or publishers. So for this post, I’m going to take the viewpoint of publisher and we’re trying to figure out how all e-books vs. physical royalties and advances will eventually wash out.

Of course, it comes down to cost.

Cost comparisons for the bookstores – physical vs. e-book

The eventual resting place with books is, of course, in readers’ hands. The easiest, most efficient way for that to happen is in bookstores. Brian asked how e-book costs compare to physical books in terms of getting them into the shops, using production, shipping, returns as our list of parameters. I’m adding discounting to the list as well.

Well, for starters, e-books aren’t yet being sold in physical shops [at least here in the US], so right off the bat, we’ve parted company in the comparison game. Powells.com is terribly clever in that they sell e-books on their online site. To my knowledge, they’re the only mainstream bookstore who does. I suspect that at some point physical bookstores will offer e-book sales.

Before I can break this down, I need to make a few assumptions. I’m not talking about the self-publisher, but a mainstream publisher who creates physical books and offers the e-book version as well.

Production: The production costs are established with the physical book and runs into the thousands when you consider all the elements I wrote about in my previous post about e-book costs. I’m talking about editing, cover design, ISBN, interior layout and design, distribution, marketing and promotion.

Print Runs: I’m separating this from the normal production costs in order to highlight the case that print runs vary depending on the book. For instance, we may print 2500 units for one title and 8,000 units for another because it has a wider audience potential. So our mileage varies depending on the title.

Shipping: Shipping costs are all a part of doing business with physical books. Everyone has UPS or FedEx accounts and gets discounting because we’re all shipping so much. Still, it’s an expense that rises with the number of books we’re shipping.

Discounting: Any distributor or national account like Borders, B&N, Powells, Waterstones, etc, buys publisher’s books at a discount. The normal range is between 45 -55% depending on the number of units being sold and the company doing the purchasing. So that book whose retail price is $15.95 is being sold to B&N for $7.975 per unit.

So remember, publishers are making money off that discount price, not the retail price. When you add up the production and printing costs, you can see why it’s vital to pick books we think will sell very well because while printing costs may vary depending on the units printed, the production costs are static.

Returns: Ach, the bane of every publisher’s existence and what very nearly killed many publishers a couple years ago and put thousands of editors out of work. We have to allow for the possibility that some books don’t sell within a bookstore’s sell window, and they’ll return them in order to make room for newer books. That’s why it’s so important to hit the deck running when your book comes out. If sales are tepid, they’re going to clear you out for someone else. And yes, publishers withhold a percentage of royalties in order to allow for the possible returns.

E-Books – they ain’t as free as you think

Ok, so here comes the comparison. E-books don’t have returns and they don’t have print runs or shipping costs, so the only things left are discounting – which is the same as physical books – and production. And here is where a lot of people find their biggest issue.

Production: Many people believe that the production costs are tied up in the physical books and that e-books are this marvelous freebie gift from the Great Cosmic Muffin. This is plain wrong thinking from where I sit. Yes, we expended the money to produce the physical book, but had we not done so, the e-book wouldn’t exist. E-books are simply another printing medium, so it goes to reason that our production costs bleed over as well.

E-book conversion: Almost not worth mentioning because it’s negligible PROVIDED the e-book version sells enough units to offset the costs.

Royalties: And this is where the big brouhaha rears its ugly head. Since so many people believe these e-books are free for us that they should have higher royalty rates. It wasn’t that long ago when the royalty split was 50-50, and that’s because e-book sales were negligible. But now with Kindle, Nook, Sony e-Reader, iPad, etc., e-books sales have dramatically increased and become an issue that publishers need to deal with head on.

Now you’re seeing more contracts that have a 80-20 split, and it has agents and authors howling. On one hand I can see why. Publishers were once willing to offer a 50-50 split because sales were weency, but now we’re getting all greedy like because e-books are making a much bigger impact on sales. In other words, publishers saw e-books as a throwaway, but now we want a bigger piece of the pie.

As a publisher, I can’t apologize for that. We fork out thousands in production costs for each title. E-books are quickly becoming a viable reading option, and it goes to reason that we will use those sales to recoup – and make money – from those sales.

Brian asked: So ultimately, taking all this into account, how does the ratio of earning per ebook to earning per physical book compare with the ratio of royalties on the two

Because publishers don’t have to worry about print runs, shipping, and returns [which are the only real costs that can’t be tied to e-books], royalty rates are generally increased from 8-10% to 20% or higher for authors to reflect the decreased risk.

In the end, who knows where and how all this will shake out? We’re in a transitional stage where ideas are being tossed about. And just like the old argument of Beta or VHS? this, too, will have an ultimate winner. The important thing is to always keep the lines of communication open and understand there are always reasons why we do things the way we do.

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