Posted in Books to Travel By, publishing

Free RVing Book

This year my husband and I mark our ninth year as full-time RVers. It’s been an amazing ride! And, writer that I am, I’ve been making notes for years about the experience. While a more in-depth book is still percolating, I did settle down long enough this past winter to pull together some A-to-Z thoughts about what full-timing can involve.

It’s not really a how-to book (plenty of those for folks who want to ditch their sticks and bricks house for one on wheels), and not really a travelogue or essay collection. Instead it’s an oddball collection of insights, I guess you’d say.

RVing Alphabet covers some of the normal stuff (like — how full-timers get their mail on the road) to the more unusual (why not being a xenophobe is a good thing for RVing), to the kinds of things most RVers don’t discuss except among themselves (like dealing with the Lords and Ladies of the Laundry Room).

RVing Alphabet is free via Smashwords here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/736824

 

Yep, I’m still working on the Rollin RV Mysteries, but I’ve been curious about Smashwords, eager to offer something free, and this seemed the perfect combination for that.

I hope you enjoy it!

 

Posted in publishing, writing advice, writing motivation, writing prompts, writing resources

The Value of Writing Groups

WritingGroup

Last December I posted about two different types of writing groups. That brief overview was related to a couple of columns I wrote for a private writing group’s newsletter. Even then, I didn’t feel as though I’d said all I wanted to on the subject.

Result?

An expanded how-to guide, with suggestions for getting a group started, identifying your group, and setting some rules, for starters. I included some prompts and other tips, all based on years of experience as a member of both creative groups and critique groups.

Now you can get that 8-page guide FREE. Just click here.

WritingGroupGuide

Oh… and in the critique group section I include an idea for making those groups even better — something I’ve never seen in practice before.

What do you think makes a great writing group? What have your experience been? Do you agree with the ideas in the guide? Let us know what you think!

Posted in publishing, writing resources

Interview with Gordon Williams – Traditional Publisher: Part 2

Last time at ellenbooks, Gordon Williams, publisher at Babora Books, offered some thoughts on why, given all the information and advice that is freely available, so many independently publishing authors have lousy experiences. This time he gives us the nitty gritty on separating the wheat from the chaff. Before you think about signing any publishing agreement, you must read what Gordon has to say.

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A lot of indie publishing choices are out there — some good, some predatory. Are there any tell-tale signs an author should look for to avoid the latter?

“Indie” covers a lot of ground — from small press, to DIY self-publishing, to “self-publishing” companies. Any of these streams has its own set of warning flags so I’ll try to be generic as possible about some of the key things I tend to notice.

Baffling Business Schemes:

Publishing is actually pretty simple. The three basic business models are:

  • Traditional: The publisher pays the entire cost of publishing the book under its imprint.
  • Pay-to-publish (aka “self-publishing company”): The author pays the cost of publishing and the book comes out under the publishing company’s imprint.
  • DIY Self Publish: The author owns the imprint and pays directly for whatever services he or she needs to publish the book.

There are variations but if you visit a publisher’s website and it takes you more than about 30 seconds to fully understand which business model a publisher uses, it’s probably a good sign you need to look elsewhere.

Indy Publishers Quick Sniff Test: The “Author discount” on print books

The “author discount” reflects what the author pays the publisher for books for his her own use. One of the best-known “self-publishing” companies offers author copies at 30 percent off the regular retail price. When a reader buys that same book on Amazon, the retailer takes 40 percent of the sale price (the standard retail discount), and publisher pays the author a royalty out of what is left. In the end, this publisher makes more money by selling books to the author than by selling books to readers.

SNIFF TEST FAIL!!!

Claiming to be a “traditional publisher” while selling author services:

This is a huge potential conflict of interest. The author seeking a traditional contract can easily be lured into buying services (e.g. reading fees, editing, marketing) in hopes of getting a contract. These services might be provided directly by the publisher or indirectly through an associate that has an interest in the company.

A variation on this theme is what I call the “mixed model” of publishing — a company that bills itself as a traditional publisher while offering pay-to-publish services. This always feels like a bit of bait and switch to me because, again, it brings authors in the door with the expectation they are querying a traditional publisher. The author may get all kinds of encouraging signals, only to be offered a costly pay-to-publish contract at the end of the process.

Brand new in the business – e.g. less than one year in publishing:

Think of your book as having a lifespan of many years. The majority of start-up publishers fail within their first year or two of operation. This has nothing to do with integrity. It is simply a cold fact of being in the publishing business. Having your publisher shut down could leave your book in legal limbo and possibly put you back at square one. If your publisher goes bankrupt you may even have to battle with a receiver company to get your rights back. The best predictor of a publisher’s stability is a proven ability to stay in business for a few years.

Should an author be concerned if a publisher won’t provide a sample contract when asked for one?

Very much so. Not providing a sample contract on request gives the impression that the company has something to hide. While it is true that every contract can be tailored to specific project, common variables like contract length and advances (if applicable) can be blanked out if necessary.

How a publishing agreement is structured can tell you a lot about how the company approaches its authors. How is the company dealing with subsidiary and derivative rights? What recourse do the parties have if one or the other is not fulfilling its obligations? Under what conditions can the contract be terminated and rights reverted to the author? Is there a “save harmless” clause that puts the author on the hook for any potential legal costs?

Any of these items can represent a hidden cost to the author, whether that is giving up more rights than expected or the cost of getting out from under a publishing agreement that has soured.

What are five key things an author should be sure an independent publisher provides before committing to their services?

    1. Everything in writing.
    2. If the author is paying for services, exactly how much each service being provided will cost, and what you are getting for your money.
    3. Contact information for other authors who have worked with the company.
    4. A sample contract.
    5. Time to think about it.

Thank you, Gordon, for your time and patience! This is very helpful information for ellenbooks readers!

Gordon Williams is an editor and publisher with more than 25 years of experience in writing, publishing and communications. A long-time science fiction fan, Gordon and his partner founded Babora Books in 2010.

Babora Books is not actively soliciting manuscripts at this time; your best bet is to take a look at the Babora Books Web site to see if your work fits what Gordon publishes and if they are seeking submissions: http://www.baborabooks.com

Posted in publishing, writing resources

Interview with Gordon Williams – Traditional Publisher: Part 1

With so many publishing options available, how do you sort out the best option for your own book? How do you keep from getting swallowed whole by the sharks that swim the waters? How can you be sure you’ll end up with a book you’re proud of, instead of something that leaves you wondering if it ever saw an editor or cover designer? Gordon Williams, whose small Canadian publishing house Babora Books [http://www.baborabooks.com] specializes in action-adventure science fiction, graciously agreed to answer a few questions from ellenbooks, ranging from understanding what he believes are the three key publishing models to sniffing out the bad guys.

gord2014-sm

Lots of great articles on the Web (and books galore) deliver advice on how to find a publisher and what the publishing process entails. Why is it we find so many writers suffering from lousy independent publishing experiences, given all this free advice?

The short answer:

A lot of the information out there comes across as very negative and I think writers get enough discouragement in their lives. Those of us who are committed to helping writers avoid the pitfalls of indie publishing have to constantly stay involved and active in communicating with writers. I personally use LinkedIn discussion groups on a regular basis. Just about every day I get an opportunity to share information and opinions on the questions indie authors need to be asking of publishing companies. And, yes, I also get to engage directly with publishing companies and ask them detailed questions about how they operate.

The long answer:

Two main reasons authors are regularly disappointed in the indie publishing sphere are: unrealistic author expectations, and misleading claims by predatory publishing companies.

Just about every author who ever sent off a query letter to a publisher or agent hopes he or she is going to be discovered, offered a lucrative publishing contract, and become an international bestseller. Most of us know that, in reality, very few people are ever going to make a lot of money in this business.

The self-publishing boom has created many expectations that are at odds with reality. With very few exceptions, as an indie published author:

  • Your books will not be stocked on bookstore shelves.
  • You will not be doing book signings at mainstream bookstores.
  • Your books will not be featured in the New York Review of books (or similar publications).
  • Writing books is not going to pay you a full time income.

Predatory self-publishing companies actively court inexperienced writers. Many spend a great deal of money on online advertising to keep their companies and proxies at the top of search results for queries like “finding a publisher.”

Taking the four points above as an example, here are just a few of the things that authors are regularly told [and what those statements actually mean]:

    • “Your books will be available in thousands of stores.” [A customer can special order your book through Books In Print at any bookstore.]
    • “You can have a book signing event at your local store.” [For $1,000 extra, copies of your book will be shipped to a chain store in your local area (e.g. B&N or Chapters) and held for 90 days. Note: it is up to the store to put the books on their shelves and you will be totally responsible for promoting your signing event.]
    • “Your books will be reviewed by some of the most prestigious sources in the publishing industry.” [Paid reviews in Kirkus and Publishers Weekly.]
    • “We provide opportunities for authors to be discovered by traditional publishing companies.” [There is absolutely no indication that this route provides any better chance of being picked up by a traditional publisher than the usual query route.]

When the claims above are used as selling points for self-publishing services the result is very often a lot of disappointment on the author’s part.

Have you seen Jane Friedman’s graphic describing what she considers the four “Key Book Publishing Paths”? If so, do you agree with her categories and examples? Which category fits your publishing company?

There are a few points where I might disagree with her divisions, though I appreciate the effort to make sense out of all the different publishing options. Friedman restricts the definition of “traditional publishers” to those that pay an advance on royalties. There are divergent views on whether a press that doesn’t pay advances should be considered a traditional publisher. Paying an advance certainly gives a strong indication up front of the publisher’s commitment to the project. At the same time, advances are shrinking all over and may well become a thing of the past for new authors, even at the “Big 5.”

The term “partnership publishing” has been applied to pay-to-publish companies where the author pays most of the cost of publishing. That arrangement is now classified as “Fully Assisted publishing” though many such companies like to refer to themselves as “Hybrid Publishers.”

I really see three main paths to publishing: traditional, DIY and self-pub company. I divide that along the lines of who owns the imprint and how much the respective parties invest in moving a book from the completed manuscript to a published work.

I would describe my publishing company as a traditional small press with a digital focus. In the Friedman chart we would be considered a “Partnership model” because we don’t pay advances on royalties. Three quarters of our sales are ebooks. Ninety percent of our print sales are through online vendors like Amazon, Barnes&Noble.com and Ingram. If we select a manuscript for publication, we pay for editing, book design, layout, cover art and promotion. We do expect authors to take an active role in self-promotion but we never ask authors to pay for publicity.

Gordon has much more to say about how to distinguish the good from the bad from the ugly – next time, in Part 2.

Gordon Williams is an editor and publisher with more than 25 years of experience in writing, publishing and communications. A long-time science fiction fan, Gordon and his partner founded Babora Books in 2010.

Babora Books is not actively soliciting manuscripts at this time; your best bet is to take a look at the Babora Books Web site to see if your work fits what Gordon publishes and if they are seeking submissions: http://www.baborabooks.com

Posted in Books to Travel By, publishing, reading, writing life

Read “Pea Body” on Your iPad!

My newest novel, Pea Body, featuring amateur sleuths — and full-time RVers — Walt and Betty Rollin, is now available via iTunes!

You can purchase this e-version directly from the iTunes store via this link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/pea-body/id854711250?mt=11

Or you can select the print version via Lulu from my author spotlight page here: http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/ellenbooks

As always, thanks for your support and encouragement!

[Now… excuse me while I get back to writing the next Walt and Betty Rollin RV Mystery 🙂 ]

Posted in publishing, reading

Now on Kobo

I’m pleased to announce Pea Body is now available on Kobo. You can link to it directly here (or copy and paste this link into your browser’s address bar: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/pea-body ).

At just $2.99 with an immediate ePub download, this is just another way to plunge yourself headfirst into the first Rollin RV Mystery with Walt and Betty.

Waiting for the Kindle or Nook version? Coming soon…..

Posted in publishing, writing advice, writing life

A View of Self-Publishing from Canadian Author Lin Weich

On our journey to Alaska this past summer, we traveled through much of British Columbia, Canada, and were rewarded with amazing food, great shops, and wonderful people. At a farmer’s market in Quesnel, we paused to peruse the booth set by the local writers’ group. A novel caught my eye, and a conversation began. Lin Weich has had a fascinating life and now writes stories born of her experiences, which she self-publishes.

LinWeich1

What compelled you to start writing fiction? Have you always written or made up stories? Was there a particular incident that got the writing momentum going for you? If so, what was it?
On a trip to Prince Rupert [BC] shortly after I retired early from teaching, I passed the sign on the highway that warned girls not to hitchhike on the highway of tears; then while on a mothership kayaking tour I asked the captain of the vessel if he’d ever run across any smuggling…one thing lead to another and I wondered if I could actually write a book. The story just came together (Strength of an Eagle). My second novel Half-Truths, Total Lies was basically started by a dream. My third book (Alone) is one of several running around in my head. Now I can’t stop writing! Previous to this I had no interest in writing.

How has your real life influenced your writing?
Writers write what they know and research and embellish the rest. I live a very outdoor life, have taught for many years, am intrigued by self-sufficient lifestyles, travel both in Canada and abroad. Couple those influences with the belief that everyone you meet has a story hidden inside them just waiting for me to tweak out…

Why did you decide to self-publish your books? Did you seek a traditional publisher or an agent first, or plunge right into self-publishing?
I spent two years trying to “sell” my books to both agents and publishers rarely getting past the gatekeepers. Publishers are not interested in new talent as they simply can’t afford to take a chance on unknown writers. Vanity press (self-publishing) has evolved into a now reputable option and with the advent of e-book publishing I decided to go the self-publishing route via a known company. Some writers might consider print on demand and doing their own e-book formatting but I do not have enough technical knowledge for that route.

How did you choose your printer? Cover designer?
I chose Friesen Press after doing a lot of research. It is more expensive but it is a Canadian company based out of Victoria, BC. Part of the package included cover design. There were also modules on selling your books, deciding your focus and goals etc. I purchased editing services from another company before I chose my publishing company.

Do you take your the cover photos? If not, how do you choose them?
The cover image for Strength of an Eagle is my photo. Half-Truths, Total Lies and Alone use stock photos available from various websites. Initially I wanted to use another of my photos for Strength of an Eagle but the pixels were not sufficient for a good quality cover.

What’s been most challenging for you as writer and publisher?
Waiting for other people to do their jobs, the selling/marketing aspect, although you would have the same problems with traditional publishers because authors must do their own marketing.

What rewards have you reaped by self-publishing?
Moderate success re- selling, people read and like my books, which is the best reward.

Would you consider traditional publishing?
The jury is out on this one…I wouldn’t say no if they came knocking but I like the complete control you have with self-publishing.

How has being a member of a writing group helped?
My writing group affords some opportunities for selling books and perhaps some moral support. I have a very supportive friend who also writes and have beta readers who are quite skillful. I need to reach out to more writers and online groups.

If you could give an aspiring writer advice about whether to self-publish or seek publication via traditional routes, what would you say?
Know yourself and your goals, have a good manuscript ready and edited, consider how much time you have to devote to seeking agents and publishers, do you homework about what traditional publishers want regarding queries etc., do your homework about self-publishing companies…compare the packages…It is very expensive. Know how much control you need to have over your final product, develop an ability to take constructive criticism, know how long you want to try with traditional publishers…it truly is like winning a lottery. Most importantly, if you self-publish, have a good product if you expect to get anywhere. Do not go with a company that is willing to publish anything just to get your money. Self-publishing is coming into its own but only if the novel reflects quality work.

Thanks, Lin!

To learn more about Lin’s work, visit her web site at www.linweich.com; contact Lin directly by accessing her site, then clicking the “Contact Us” link.

Lin Weich, a retired teacher, writes suspense thrillers, enjoys freelance writing and photography. She grew up in West Africa and has lived in various places in both eastern and western Canada. She lives in Quesnel, British Columbia with her husband Brian. Her kayaking adventures, teaching experiences, outdoor activities and travels have influenced the substance and voice of her stories and photography. When she isn’t busy creating stories, she enjoys travelling both in Canada and abroad. Lin has published two novels Strength of an Eagle and Half-Truths, Total Lies. She has also published articles in Our Canada, More of Our Canada, Postscript, Rocky Mountaineer brochure, and Royal Photographic Society (Canada) on-line magazine.