Do you have an idea for a memoir or novel? Have you already written a book and don’t know how to proceed? This past weekend I went to a Writer’s Guild of America seminar where we learned from top experts about the most recent changes in the e-publishing world, and most importantly, how to get your writing out there!
Morning speakers were Jon P. Fine, director of Author and Publisher Relations for Amazon, and Beth Anderson, Executive VP and Publisher of Audible. In the afternoon, there was a Q & A panel with best-selling authors Alexandra Sokoloff, Lee Goldberg, Noel Hynd, Rick Marin, Susan Rohrer, and book to screen producer Lane Shefter Bishop.
For those of you familiar with e-publishing, this will be old hat. But for me, a total newbie to the publishing world, it was eye opening. The day was primarily focused on self-publishing through Amazon, and I wanted to share with you my larger takeaways…
It’s the best time ever to be an author. Seriously. There are so many avenues of distribution, that you can self-publish and create a career for yourself without having to wait the months and years it might take to get your work published through traditional means. You can also earn a higher royalty percentage. However, you have to have an entrepreneurial spirit and be willing to work hard networking and marketing your books.
Your primary responsibility is to NOT write crap. Yep, this seems obvious, but to succeed, you really do need to write well and tell great stories.
Act like a pro. This means having your books edited by PROFESSIONALS. Not your mom, who is a high school English teacher, or your friend with an MFA. No, your book must be edited by professionals who have experience in the publishing world. Suggestions on how to meet said “editors” included checking out The Copy Editors Guild, and my personal favorite, “Attend writing conventions and hang out at the bar.” All kinds of editors go to these conventions, and lots of talented people who used to work for major publishers are now working freelance. And yes, they like to drink. Three conventions recommended were Bouchercon and Left Coast Crime (both geared toward crime/mystery writing,) and Romance Writers of America (the most savvy, expert, self-publishers in the industry.) Start networking!
When you publish through Amazon, you are the publisher. They basically just distribute your book. You get 70% of the sales proceeds. It’s important that you do lots of research on how to correctly and thoroughly fill out all the Amazon pages so you maximize the metadata to help readers find your book. Check out their Kindle Direct Publishing site. It’s pretty self explanatory. Jon Fine emphasized repeatedly how key it is to be thorough in setting up all your pages.
There’s an art and strategy to marketing your e-book. Honestly, there was so much information presented here that I got a bit lost. My big takeaway was how important it is to select a specific marketing strategy and to engage with your readers before a launch. Goodreads is a great place to start. The panel also suggested checking out several authors who write about publishing—including JA Konrath, who writes a blog called A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing. His blog is terrific– he’s an extremely successful self-published writer, fiery radical (check him giving Stephen Colbert the finger) and most importantly, he gives out tons of useful info.
It’s important to publish your books in as many formats as possible. You can publish an e-book (through Amazon), an audio book (through Audible) and paperback version of your book (through Createspace.) Yes, these are all Amazon companies, but the writer panelists endorsed (and use) them. Get those revenue streams flowing!
Beware of sharks. Now, I realize that Amazon dominated this seminar, but all the authors on the panel warned about unscrupulous companies out there that offer to help you self-publish your book for exorbitant fees. Be careful. Do your homework.
If you have old screenplays that didn’t sell, you can write them as novels and publish them as e-books. Ka-ching!
If you’ve written novels that were traditionally published in the past and have gone out of print, you can get a reversion of the rights back to you and publish them again as e-books. There’s a legal process for doing this, which involves multiple steps, and includes sending a certified letter to the original publisher, etc. However, Lee Goldberg warned that some publishers were getting savvy about not allowing these rights to revert because they smell money in their backlist. Start the process now. It takes awhile.
It’s easy to record an audio version of your book, with Broadway level actors, through Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX.) When you sign up, you can submit ten pages of your book, and listen to professional actors “audition” for you. Through Audible, you make an offer to this “producer/narrator” and they manage all the audio recording, performance and engineering for you. There are also professional audio book producers available through the system. There are two ways to pay—you can give the producer a lump sum based on the length of your finished audio book (average is $260 per finished hour, and usually the narrator can read about 10,000 words per hour) OR agree to share all royalties from the audio book with the producer 50/50. By entering this agreement, you are allowing Audible to sell your book for seven years.
Here’s a link to find out more about ACX.
Audible is accepting pitches for “original” content programs. Beth Anderson emphasized that this is “not your father’s radio drama,” but the samples we heard sounded like radio plays to me (complete with sound effects and music.) They are looking for edgy material (think Netflix or HBO) and ultimately, the programming must be 5 hours or more in length. Their submission process mimics Hollywood, but I got the impression that material doesn’t need to be submitted through an agent. To find out more, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Writers are starting their own publishing companies. For those of you who are intimidated by the marketing/publishing aspects of getting your e-books out there, authors have begun to create their own publishing companies. These companies do everything a traditional publisher does, and you pay them a negotiated percentage of the profits (usually less than the majors.) Lee Goldberg and Noel Hynd spoke about their own publishing companies– BRASH BOOKS, which launches in September, and REDCAT TALES, which publishes genre fiction and graphic novels.
The best way to sell your book to Hollywood is to have a great logline/hook. Obvious, right? But Lane Shefter Bishop, who runs Vast Entertainment, revealed you don’t even need a completed manuscript– just a great hook and a book proposal. Rick Marin told the story about having a tough year as a screenwriter and jumping in with both feet to coach his son’s baseball team. He decided to write a book based on his experiences– “Indoorsy TV writer becomes the least likely sports dad.” His Kindle Single KEEP SWINGING was optioned by Conaco and developed as a half hour comedy with Warner Bros. for ABC.
Whew– at the end of four hours, I thought my head was about to explode. The above information is really just the headlines, but hopefully there are enough links here to get you started exploring.
Take action! Do you have an old screenplay or idea that you can turn into a novel? Do you have a novel or memoir that you’d like to get out there in e-book or audio book form?
Go for it.
There’s never been a better time to be an author!