Thursday, March 29, 2012

Should Novels be Rated like Movies?

A question popped into my mind while reading The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Should novels be rated like movies are? Mind you, I kept reading and didn't pursue the issue. Recently, a fellow author posed the same question on Facebook. My antennas shot up and the analytical side of my brain researched the issue while the creative side continued writing. I was surprised to find Wall Street Journal articles, author blogs, and publishers not only discussing this issue, but acting on it.

AKW Books, an eBook publisher, has adopted the industry standard for movies as their standard for the novels they release. Check out their guidelines at: PanHistoria, an outlet for role-play authors has done the same thing. Visit In both cases, they rate the type of novel or play following industry standards.

This raises the question for us as authors. Should we consider voluntarily rating our novels based on their content? I had a discussion about The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo with some friends who either read the book, saw the movie, or both. The consensus was that the book was as graphic as the movie. One lady said, "I had to skip about ten pages. I couldn't bear to read the rape scenes."

I thought about Room 1515. If I applied the rating standard guidelines for movies, my novel is PG-13. I have another novel coming out later this year that I would give an R rating. I'm actually thinking about rating that novel R voluntarily. Should these types of ratings be imposed upon us? Should we rate ourselves? Is either of these choices a form of censorship? Weigh in on this subject.

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Monday, March 26, 2012

Key Final Thoughts on Self-Publishing

#1: Market everywhere and in every medium you know how to use. Self-Publishing is not for the shy. I call this shameless marketing. Authors tend to hold back, fearful to promote themselves. Well, others are going to leave you behind. However, give something useful in return, share your experiences, offer information of value, and give others credit for good work. Shameless marketing is okay. Selfish marketing is not. Don't you cringe when someone you don't know asks, "Follow this link and like my author page."

#2: The rising cost of printing hurts the pocketbook. After publisher and distributor costs, the author typically receives 30 percent of the net. The more pages in the book the higher the printing cost. I priced my paperback at $14.95 to hit a reasonable percentage after everybody took their cut. Any higher would have priced me out of the market.

#3: Don't believe the myth that being on the bookshelf at your major bookstores means you'll make more money. First, self-published authors rarely have their books in bookstores. The industry requires certain standards be upheld. The ability to return unsold books looms large. Your publisher won't print a book until it's sold. The bookstore won't stock books unless they can return them. A few POD companies offer a Book Buy Back program. You pay for the cost in your contract with the publisher--$600 to $800 dollars. What if distributors and bookstores ignore your book anyway? You are out the money. Your best avenue for both eBooks and paperbacks are Amazon, Barnes & Noble's Nook, Sony, and like venues, not bookstores.

#4: I'm sorry folks. My view from a reader's perspective still is that self-published books are inferior in quality. With the exceptional training and coaching available today, the quality has improved, but except for what I write (lol), the average self-published book is still of poor quality. I believe honest reviews by our peers is necessary. Example: A friend of my published a book. Three months later the book had twenty-plus five star reviews. Does this happen in the real world? James Patterson never got twenty-plus five-star reviews. My friend admitted having friends and family review the book. So there you go. I've rated twenty-one books on Goodreads. I gave one five stars. My novel, Room 1515, has been on Amazon for over a month with not one review. I think this is because I haven't recruited and people are busy. Self-published authors need to give honest reviews for each other and the industry. If we don't improve our quality, the perception will continue and rightly so.

#5: Let's end on an upbeat. A nice author advance from a traditional publisher used to be a major reason not to self-publish. Not today, this perk has grown smaller and smaller. When it is offered, the advance is likely to be a $1,000 against future sales.

Shameless Marketing Works!

Here is my book trailer.

Here are the links to my books on Amazon.

Comments on book reviews are appreciated.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Advantages of Self-Publishing - Part II

Self-publishing has vastly improved over the past decade. The quality of the printed books, the formatting, book cover design, and feel, give self-published books the look and the pricing of royalty publishing. Depending upon how much you can do for yourself, you should reap a greater profit.

Niche books sell the best. Non-fiction religious books have a nice built-in appeal. Books on self-improvement do well. How-to books can be winners. In fact, books on self-publishing are among the biggest self-publishing sellers. Fiction writers have to be able to find and reach their audience. Unfortunately, this is a huge problem, since genre writers can find each other far easier than they can find readers. Hence, we receive and delete thousands of emails a month trying to sell each other our stuff. lol

If you are a serious author, you must have patience. Don't expect to sell a thousand copies the first month. In 2006 Publisher's Weekly estimated the average book sold 500 copies in the first year. With today's economy, the average has dropped to closer to 250, and less than 3000 in its lifetime. Put your book out on the market and market consistently and persistently.

Okay, if you are consistent and persistent, self-published authors have an advantage. The publisher can't Backlist your book for poor sales. Typical houses pull novels off the shelves after eighteen months. A new author needs more than eighteen months to build a following, a platform, and generate a readership. The lifespan of a self-published book is unlimited. Score a point for self-publishing. Don't give up.

Enough for today, I'll be back with Part III in a few days.

Link to Room 1515 sales on Amazon.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Advantages of Self-Publishing - Part 1

Before I begin my second series on self-publishing, you need to know I will present both sides of the issue, the pluses and the minuses. In fact, most of the points I'll bring up can be looked at as an either or, depending on people's situations and opinions.

Advantage 1. Your book will be available in a matter of weeks, not a couple of years. I chose my publisher on January 9, 2012 and my book, Room 1515, came out February 22, 2012. Unless you are an infamous celebrity, you will search for months, maybe years, for an agent. The agent is not a magic genie. He or she may never sell your book to a publisher. Once the book is sold, you will get in line with the publisher's schedule, an average time of another year to publication. I'M RETIRED. I COULD DIE BEFORE THIS ROUTE PAYS OFF. Just saying.

Advantage 2. Timeliness: If you're writing about a hot topic or in a hot genre today, will that genre or topic be so hot two to three years from now? One month, I think you're safe. Three years, you've missed the bus. Fact: eBooks have changed the ballgame. Today, to publish in one month is a reality.

Advantage 3: Control and Rights: A well researched, self-published author retains the rights to the product and its uses--foreign sales, movies, and television. Note: The percentage of self-published books being made into a movie is minuscule. The author controls the content and the cover design. There is no editor demanding you rewrite whole sections of your book. THIS COULD BE A REAL NEGATIVE IF YOUR WORK NEEDS CORRECTION. lol

Enough for now, below is the link to my novel. The topic is timely. International politics, betrayal, seduction, and romance. plus nasty villains and a lot of action.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Beware of Pricey Extras

As I've said in past posts, if you are going to self-publish, you need to create everything you can yourself. Then you pick a package that provides the rest. You need to know your rights. What do you own the rights to do? What is owned by the publisher? Can you set your own prices?

I have a friend who went with a recognizable POD publisher. That publisher set the price of the paperback and the hardcover books. My friend had no say. She was priced way out of range and had difficulty selling those books, except for the meager few free copies she was sent. Who is paying $22.00  for a paperback and $33.00 for a hard copy today? She has changed publishers now, but that's a hard lesson to learn.

In my case, I was given the publisher's cost, plus shipping, as a zero profit figure. I was then able to price both my eBook and paperback with a reasonable margin. However, it's the pricey extras that will kill you. I compared one (they shall remain nameless) publisher's low cost option to their first step up program. The difference was $800. What did the author get for $800? The author's book was made available in an overpriced hard copy book, one-hundred copies of promotional materials, and the Look Inside the Book  feature on Nook and Kindle. You can design and have all the promotional materials printed for around $160. Many publishers offer the Look Inside the Book feature at no charge. Remember, overpriced hard copies don't sell.

Shop around. Read the whole contract and all the instructions before you sign up. How many books do you have to sell to earn the extra $800.00 in profit? The add-ons can go as high as $10,000. But it's only money. Right?

Remember, my book Room 1515 is now out in paperback and eBook. Here's the trailer if you haven't seen it.