Publishing Stress?

As far back as I can remember, I’ve been possessive of my time. I felt like my time actually belonged to me and I had the freedom to avoid anything that interfered with my concept of how my time should be used.

Unrealistic, huh? Undoubtedly.

One reason I quit teaching school was the impossibility of avoiding taking work home and having to use my personal time. Then there was the time I convinced myself I was doing the right thing leaving work at quitting time while everyone else was still working hard at what I apparently considered less important; I got in big trouble over that.

Retirement promised to give me plenty of free time to do only the things I consider important. Like writing full-time. However, I soon discovered that “writing full-time” and “spending all of my time writing” were not the same, and I couldn’t spend every hour of every day writing. I had to be open to other uses of some of my time.

I’ve continued to carefully evaluate any request for the use of my time, however, and I’ve had to convince myself that relaxing and doing nothing is justifiable–even necessary–some of the time. But I feel guilty if I spend too much time being non-productive.

My life seems pretty well balanced now–especially regarding time-related projects; if I don’t think I can finish something well before time, I’ll probably avoid doing it at all.

Last week, however, I started to wonder. I received email from the publisher of seven of my twelve novels: “Hey, I’ve noticed you’ve ventured into self-publishing. Do you want the rights back to the books I have or shall I keep them?”

At that stage, I’d independently published (used to be called “self-published”) ROSA NO-NAME and my three most recent teen novels. I’d thoroughly enjoyed doing the teen book cover designs, hopefully getting better with each one but definitely learning as I went. I even enjoyed working out the formatting of the content files.

Because marketing falls largely on the author’s shoulders and I haven’t been very good at it–yes, I think my time issue is part of the problem–I’ve felt guilty about not helping my two publishers see more of a profit from having me in their folds.

So taking on the re-publishing of seven novels would free me from that guilt and give me a chance to do something I really enjoyed by doing what was necessary to release those seven books myself. In such a timely way they wouldn’t temporarily be out of print.

My wife and I prayed and talked and we talked and we prayed. Sometimes God doesn’t seem to say yes or no, and this was one of those times. So, for the reasons given in the previous paragraph, we decided to proceed.

My publisher and I agreed she wouldn’t unpublish those books until the end of September. That meant I had a little over three weeks to do everything.

One little problem, though. We have an eight-day vacation between now and the end of the month. Yes, I’ll be taking my laptop, but the idea of having to work on this project then was not very appealing.

So I got right to work, spending a number of hours daily on this project.

The book cover designs were a challenge, but they ultimately didn’t take as much time as I’d feared, and I’m pleased with the results.

My publisher gave me her copy of the formatted content files, which was really great. I thought finishing up would be a breeze. Ha!

I soon realized I wanted certain things changed, and doing that in such a way KDP (Kindle Direct Processing) would accept and make look the way I expected turned out to be really tricky.  Not to mention more time consuming–I spent numerous hours getting rid of blank pages–than expected.

Because of vacation, I’ve really pushed to get everything done. I’ve just ordered proof copies of all seven books.  Unless they arrive before vacation, we’ll only have a couple of days to look over them before the end of the month.

I’ve barely started work on the Kindle versions, but that’s far less of a concern.

Was I wrong to be concerned about the possibility of those seven books being unavailable on Amazon at the very beginning of October? Especially considering how few people know about them or would be apt to buy any during a short blackout period.

Maybe I didn’t need to push so hard, but doing everything I could this far ahead of time is a real relief. And now I can focus on something else without stressing about whether I could get those books ready in time. Not to mention a publishing-free vacation.

(If you’re interested, compare the covers on the two graphics below.)

What about you? Are you sometimes involved in projects that you tend to stress about because of the time factor? How about sharing in a comment.

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

     

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When Is a Book a Success?


My first two novels, Found in Translation and Lost in Dreams, both came out in 2011. They were Barbour Publishing’s first venture into Young Adult literature, and I’m sure the  advance I received for each of them reflected their confidence in my books’ success.

Although I didn’t have a contract for a third book, I was already 30,000 words into writing one when Barbour informed me that they were doing away with their young adult line. Consequently my books would be going out-of-print and they had no need for the third book.

What had happened? 5,000 copies of the 10,000 print copies of Found in Translation had sold, and 2,500 of the 5,000 print copies of Lost in Dreams. Not enough, apparently.

Although I hadn’t gotten much feedback from teens, what I’d received was encouraging. An upper teen I met in a restaurant said, “You wrote Found in Translation? Wow! I loved it!” Even better, however, was an email from one young lady who said she’d been inspired to start reading her Bible and going to church again.

A number of adults loved those two books as well. Even just a year-and-a-half ago, my surgeon’s nurse emailed me, asking if I was the author of the Altered Hearts books. A reading group she was in had just read them, and she wanted to know when would the next book would be coming out. I hated to tell her it wouldn’t be.

The Devil and Pastor Gus came out in 2015. Although its fifty-four Amazon reviews have a 4.1 star average, Pastor Gus hasn’t sold large numbers.

I revised Rosa No-Name, which has always been my wife’s favorite, paid for editing and a professional cover, and self-published it. Despite its fourteen Amazon reviews and 4.9 star average, it’s not a best seller, either.

I finished writing the third Altered Hearts book, Overshadowed, uncertain what to do with it. But then Barbour gave me the rights to the first two books, and small publisher Winged Publications was happy to release all three. (We changed the name of Lost in Dreams to A Season of Pebbles.) Winged Publications has also published three of my quirky romantic novels. We’re struggling to boost sales.

Going from a big-name publisher like Barbour and reaching so many readers initially and then going to a small publisher and a questionable sales record might make the average person say, “You’re not a very successful author, are you?”

Sometimes I’m tempted to think that way, too. I never hoped to become a New York Times bestselling author, but I’ve never given up the hope of being “successful.”

After all, God gave me whatever writing ability I have, and He’s inspired all of those novels. I don’t mean to say He dictated them to me, but He’s certainly helped me to write each book to the best of my ability, always striving to do better than the one before.

I consider Him my most critical reader…and my biggest fan. If I’m pleasing Him with my writing, what greater success could I ask for?

Still, I do want my books to sell. Not because I care about making money from them–I would like for my publisher to earn something, though–but because I believe they have something important to say and they say it in an entertaining way. That’s why I like to sign books, “May this both bless and entertain you.”

I’m learning. Too slowly at times, it seems. The success of a book–one of mine, anyhow–won’t be determined by the numbers sold, but by the souls touched. And I will probably never know the extent to which a book has done that until I arrive in Heaven.

Please feel free to leave a comment.

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

          

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The First Seven Years of Retirement

ThreeBooks

When I retired seven years ago at the age of sixty-two, my intention was to become a full-time novelist. By that time I’d already written two or three novels. I hadn’t found an agent yet, however, and I hadn’t succeeded at getting anything published by a traditional publisher. The self-publishing of my first novel several years earlier had proven a good way to spend money, but not a good way to make a name for myself.

But at least I had time to read writing books by the dozen, attend writing conferences, and–most important–I had time to write. Although I kept cranking out more manuscripts, I wasn’t getting anywhere.

Two things changed that. James Scott Bell, a fine novelist in his own right and one of the best writing teachers around, looked at the first page or two of Found in Translation. “Roger,” he said, “this doesn’t even begin with a scene.” That led me to scrap the first fifty pages and write a new beginning. Had that not happened, who knows whether that manuscript would ever have been considered publishable.

And then Kimberly Shumate, who at that time was an editor at Harvest House, not only gave me a great deal of encouragement in spite of the fact that Harvest House couldn’t use any of my manuscripts but believed so strongly in Found in Translation that she went out and found an agent for me. Mr. Terry Burns, who has since retired, served nobly in that role until recently. And he got me the contracts with Barbour Publishing for my first two books.

I’ve since learned that even some of the most popular authors struggle to find publishers for the next book. Especially as a newbie, I found that to be true. Especially when Barbour discontinued their Young Adult line when I was 30,000 words into writing the third book in the series.

Thanks to friendships made at writing conferences, I was able to pitch The Devil and Pastor Gus to Eddie Jones of LPC (Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas). I agreed to make one basic change to my manuscript and to work with a wonderful editor to reduce it from 100,000 words to 80,000.

That was important because LPC uses POD (Print on Demand), which is a more expensive way to print, but prevents a publisher from having to make a gigantic outlay of money to print and house a certain number of copies that might or might not ever sell. My other option would have been to go with only an electronic book (Kindle, Nook, etc.).

The Devil and Pastor Gus came out in November of 2014.

I have completed nine yet-unpublished manuscripts. One spent two years under contract to a small publisher who failed to carry through with getting it published. Fortunately, a friend and editor at LPC loves that book and will do whatever she can to help.

But even if she succeeds, that would leave eight unpublished novel manuscripts–approximately 800,000 total words.

I’m working on another novel now, but it’s hard to keep going at times, knowing that only three out of a dozen novels have been published. I keep praying that God will either relight that spark or give me another idea–for something He would prefer for me to be writing.

When I started this post, I didn’t intend for it to be only about writing. Sorry about that. I’ll try to do a Part Two on the subject of my retirement next time, and I promise not to mention writing except in passing.

Are you retired? How do you spend your time productively? If you’re not retired, what do you hope to do for fulfillment once you do retire? Please leave a comment.

~*~

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I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

The Publishing Process

RogerAdvance

If you read my post this past Sunday, you know I said some very negative things about becoming a writer. Not that I wanted to discourage anyone who has real potential, but to challenge would-be authors to realize the fact that writing a book is a lot of work. And completing a rough draft is just the first of many milestones on the road to publication–or oblivion.

Today, I want to talk about some of what’s involved in having a book published the traditional way–as compared with self-publishing. With two novels published and a third coming out on November 25, I’ve had experience with both large and small publishers.

Although there’s a huge difference between the two, the goals of each are the same: to turn out good books and make money doing it. It would be foolish to criticize publishers for trying to make a profit; what good can they do anyone if they go bankrupt? I understand that only 20% of the books published today are sufficiently successful to pay for pay for themselves–and to pay for the 80% that are not.

No publisher–large or small–has found the secret to publishing only winners, but the larger companies don’t seem to be as willing to take a chance on newcomers as the smaller ones. So smaller presses are often the way for a new writer to go until he’s well established…and sometimes far beyond that if his experience with that company has been good.

Probably the biggest difference between the large publishers and the small ones is financial. Releasing a book costs many thousands of dollars. The larger publishers have deeper pockets, and they’re willing to spend what’s needed if they believe in a book, no matter how unpredictable the outcome may be.

Smaller publishers can’t afford to take as much of a chance. They must get as much mileage as they can from a much smaller money pool. No matter how much they believe in each book and hope and pray it will be a winner, they must keep their costs to a minimum.

Many small publishers now use POD (Print on Demand) to save the cost of printing and warehousing multiple copies of a book that may never sell. POD allows the smaller publishers to print one book at a time–as needed. The cost per book is higher, but if they can keep the word count of the books in their catalog at a reasonable level (for example, a maximum of 80,000 words), the cost isn’t more than most readers are willing to pay.

The larger publishers provide perks the smaller ones can’t afford. The most obvious are advances (an advance is like a salesman’s draw on commission) and free promotional copies of the book.

But the smaller publishers can offer authors appreciably higher royalties and allow the author to purchase copies of his book at a considerable discount. Moreover, their authors have the advantage of knowing their books will never go out of print. Not with each book existing only electronically somewhere rather than taking up valuable warehouse room.

My experiences with a larger and a smaller publisher have been good. Despite their differences, both turn out quality books, and that’s the bottom line. For me, anyhow.

Any questions? Comments? I’d love to hear from you.

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I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on “As I Come Singing”–check it out HERE. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

Be on the lookout for my next novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, which releases on November 25. Check it out here on Amazon and pre-order a copy if you like.

Best regards,
Roger