Getting Ready for BEA and First Look at New Book

Book Expo America is coming up in just a couple of weeks and we have a booth there!

Getting Everything Ready

Getting Everything Ready

We’ll be doing the trade show portion this year.

The really exciting thing we’ve got at the booth is the first look at our new book Crossing The Line by Caitlyn Armistead. We will be handing out ARCs to the first few lucky people and we will also be passing out cards with a coupon code to download it free from Smashwords when it comes out in September.

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We’re bringing plenty of other swag with us too. Looking forward to getting our name out there!

Criticism Is Inevitable (Small Press Publishing)

The reviews on books can be frustrating at times. You put so much money, effort, and energy into creating a great reading experience and then anyone can come along and say “this sucked.” In the world of Amazon and book blogs and the Internet in general, every single person has an opinion and they’re ready to share it. As is their right. You shared your perspective by writing the book and now it is their turn to share theirs.

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Let’s take Love In Touch as an example.

  • I went over the manuscript and suggested changes, Lucy worked on those changes and sent it back.
  • I hired an editor to go over the manuscript, Lucy worked on those changes and sent it back.
  • I hired a proofreader to go over the manuscript and those changes were made.
  • I went over it again.

At this point I’m pretty confident that we’re in great shape and the typos and grammar mistakes have been caught and corrected.

Then after getting a bunch of glowing reviews, one reviewer on Amazon blasts us, saying that the book is “riddled with errors” and is “unreadable” and “the publisher should be ashamed.”

And it being an Amazon review, there’s not really any opportunity to respond to this criticism.

I am unable to find the errors she is talking about and no other reviewers say this. I leave a comment on the review to ask for examples but she doesn’t respond.

So what can you do about criticism?

Nothing.

A bad review might sometimes clue you in to something you could be doing better with your books, but I’ve found that that’s rare. Usually it is one person’s opinion and it says more about them that it does about you or your book (or your author’s book).

And every person is allowed to feel however they want to about your book. It’s out there in the world making its own friends and enemies. It’s not in your control anymore. If you don’t want anyone to say bad things about it, don’t publish it.

Because tastes vary and there’s definitely going to be people who don’t like your book. There’s nothing you can do about that. Focus on the people who did like it!

The most frustrating part is that that bad review, that opinion, is now connected to your book and other potential readers are seeing it. It’s dragging down your overall rating.

But still there’s not much you can do about it.

It always, always, always looks bad if you respond to a review. No matter how politely you try to approach it, you’ll always look like the big bad guy trying to silence the underdog reviewer (and more than just look it, that will pretty much be exactly what you are). You’re likely to come across as insecure and desperate which is also not a good look.

The best thing to do is to completely ignore it.

Assuming the review is just hateful and an attack on you rather than the book, treat it like your annoying little brother who will get bored and wander away if he can’t bait you. Not to mention if you don’t grace the person with a response, then they’re left looking shrill and alone.

If the review is focused on the book, then it’s not a bad review. It is doing what it’s supposed to do. No matter how much you might disagree with it, negative reviews have an important purpose and it has nothing to do with you.

Trust the readers.

Trust them to read the review and know whether or not it applies to their enjoyment of the book. If it’s just a personal attack, new potential readers will just roll their eyes and buy the book anyway.

If it brings up things in the book that the reviewer didn’t like, then maybe the potential new reader knows they dislike the same things and then they don’t buy it which saves you from a second bad review!

When I’m trying to decide if I’ll buy a book, I start by reading the lowest reviews. I’ll see if the things that bothered those reviewers are things that would bother me. Often they are not and then I feel confident in trusting the higher rating reviews.

I admit that the accusation of typos is a particularly difficult one to deal with. Numerous typos in books is something that I find difficult to deal with so if I see a review claiming a book has them, I might avoid that book (although I usually read the sample chapter, the “look inside” to see for myself).

That’s why for the Love In Touch situation, I attempted to get in touch with the reviewer. What she is claiming is simply not true.

If you’re a reader and a book buyer (which if you’re here, I would assume you are!) please don’t take reviews at face value. Every review is written by a person with his or her own biases and assumptions. There are cases where reviewers will claim there are typos in a book in order to sell the author on their own editing services! Always check out the sample yourself before you believe a reviewer who claims there are typos.

If you’re an author, I highly suggest never reading your reviews. Tough perhaps, but you’ll be saner for it and better able to focus on creating your next masterpiece.

What should you do instead?

I suggest having an email address for your writing that you share on social media. The emails from readers will give you a much clearer picture of your work.

When someone privately emails you that means…

  1. They are highly motivated and not someone who is just going to dash off the first things that come to their mind. They had to put some effort in to find your contact info.
  2. Because it is private, you know that they want to help you and commune with you, not show off their literary criticism skills to the world

There’s nothing more special than getting an email or a letter from a fan telling you how much they loved your work. And when someone reaches out to criticize through email, it is much more often stated in constructive ways.

Respect and value the book bloggers even when they don’t like your book. They are serving readers and not you. Just step away and let that process do what it’s meant to do. And go write another book. Strive to make it better than your  last. But know that you’ll never write the perfect book that every person on the planet will adore.

Check out the reviews for classic books. It’ll make you feel in good company.

Starting a Small Press Publisher: Setting the Terms

It’s possible to just make up a name for a fake company and slap it on your books when you’re self-publishing. But once you decide to publish other people, you’d better gets some legal things in order first.

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Choose a Name

I did a poor job of this one. I didn’t take my time and just picked a name quickly. I didn’t think about how important a name is and how I needed to be able to say it with pride, tell friends and family about it, put it on everything. I think our name is okay but it’s not great.

So don’t do what I did!

If you’re starting your own company, take some time to think about the best name for it. Particularly think about the connotations of the name and what people (like your target audience) will think when they hear it.

The book The Brand Called You recommends always using your own name but I’m not sure how well that advice works for forming a publishing house. Perhaps your last name will sound good and elegant as a publisher name. I agree with a lot of the premise of the book, which is that the brand you are creating is centered on you and who you are as a person. I don’t think that means you have to name it after yourself, though.

Form an LLC

Okay, so it turns out some of my background actually has come in handy! For the previous five years I’ve worked as an office manager handling a lot of accounting for a small company. Before that I took a number of night classes in the paralegal field.

Both those things helped me understand how to go about setting up a legal entity and running it!

The LLC stands for “limited liability company” and this means, to my understanding (and please know this is NOT legal advice) that if something goes catastrophically wrong or you get sued, you personally are not responsible for the money. Just your company is. Keeping yourself a little separated from the entity of your company is a wise move.

It’s been two years, but if I remember right, I think a DBA, or “doing business as” is another option. You can find out what you need by doing some Internet searching. How to get an LLC or a DBA depends on where you live. I found the process to be very simple and easy. So easy I wasn’t sure I’d done it right! (One thing I did need to have was a mission statement/explanation of what my company is. See more about that below).

Apply for an EIN

An EIN is an Employer Identification Number and it is your business’s equivalent of a social security number. You’ll use that number rather than your personal ssn when doing anything connected to money and taxes with your business.

Apply for a Bank Account

Use that EIN to set up a business bank account separate from your personal one.

This is easier for taxes and it gives you a clear idea of what money is for use within your company and to pay your authors and which money is for you to take home. You’ll pay yourself either a salary or a royalty from the profits of your company and you’ll transfer it over to your personal account with the same level or paperwork you would for any of your authors.

I can’t stress this enough: keep your business’s money separate from your personal money!

How much money will you need as seed money? Not that much.

Some businesses require a lot of money in start up costs: renting a space, furnishing it, getting the things to sell. This is not like that. You’ll need money to pay for things like editing, cover design, ISBN numbers. The way I have started is by using print-on-demand for physical paperbacks and that means not having to pay to print thousands of books or warehouse store them. I’d say probably $1,000 to $2,000 will get you started.

Write a Mission Statement and Business Plan

A business plan doesn’t have to be the size of a PhD thesis. The word can be intimidating, but in reality it doesn’t have to be more than a single page laying out your intentions. Answer questions like why you want to go into business, what your company offers that’s different from what’s already available, your practical steps to get books visibility. It’s like writing a query letter for your business instead of your book!

As part of this you’ll want to create a profile of your target audience. Who do you think is going to want to buy the books you publish? Get as specific as you possibly can because you can use that profile to figure out where to go to reach those people.

Having a niche is a great thing. It gives you focus and allows you to remember what you’re doing that’s different from the big guys. On the other hand, you have to be careful in selecting your niche that it’s not so narrow that you have no audience.

Being small, we don’t have a lot of overhead so we can afford to take on these quirky books that wouldn’t find a home in a bigger publishing house. Also, because it’s our sole focus, we know where to market them to.

Having a Niche: It’s a double edged sword, as they say. You want a narrow focus so you know exactly who to market to but you also want an audience large enough to sustain your company. The balance that I try to find with Dev Love Press is to take on books that my core audience, people like me who enjoy “wounded hero” romances for whatever reason, will love but also promote the books to general romance novel readers who have never considered giving a disabled hero a chance. I love when we see reviews where someone says that they would never expect to find one of these guys sexy but they totally do. A mainstream person comes to realize that a guy with a disability is still a guy and still a viable romantic partner. Now that’s what I call success!

Make a Contract

Again my paralegal classes prepared me pretty well for this. I had taken one class specifically in business law and contracts because at that point I knew that I was heading towards creating a company.

I got a lot of inspiration and ideas from the book Business and Legal Forms for Authors and Self Publishers.

You’ll need to decide on a fee structure. How much royalty will you be giving your authors? Will that be gross or net? How much will you take as your own salary (in any) and what percentage will go towards advertising, towards getting new business, towards maintaining your office systems?

I regret the current way we’re set up. I think for future books I’ll do things a little differently. One thing that is a priority for me is getting the author’s a good royalty rate.  You’ll need to figure out what percentage of profits you’ll want to:

  1. pay authors
  2. pay yourself
  3. put into advertising and other promotional activities
  4. put towards physical copies for reviewers, giveaways, conferences
  5. save for taxes (I’ve been setting aside 14% for that)
  6. put into office supplies
  7. put towards future editing, cover design, ISBN numbers, etc.
  8. put towards future advances
  9. put towards professional development like conferences or organization fees

Since it’s a start up, you may want to not pay yourself for a while and put all your profits back into the business. That’s up to you. Luckily with Print on Demand and ebooks there is not much initial cost. I’ve focused on those while I build up enough money to branch into more traditional physical books.

In a later post I’ll talk to you about my favorite budget software and how to keep all these categories separate!

And make sure that you are clear on what rights you are getting! If you’re going to focus on e-books (as I do) then you’ll have to make sure that you have both digital and print rights!

Get an Accountant

Your taxes are about to get more complicated.

So get a professional to help you with them. No more TurboTax or Dad doing your taxes for you!

It’s going to be worth it because someone who understands taxes for small businesses will know what deductions you can get and will often save you money. So far for the last two years, my accountant’s fee has been completely covered by the refund he’s gotten me (and there was leftover too).

So you’re prepared for tax time, use having a business bank account (or budgeting software that I’ll talk in more detail about in the future) to keep totals of certain categories like: money spent on advertising, money spent on business travel, money paid to authors, money paid for office supplies and equipment (and keep receipts too)

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Does this sound horribly unsexy? Perhaps surprisingly, I found it fun. I enjoyed the process of getting all my ducks in a row.

 

Recommended Reading:

business and legal formsbrand called you(This last one recommended by Jane Friedman)

Last Week: Taking the Leap             Next Week: Finding Your Manuscripts

There But For the Grace of Low Overhead Go I

Yesterday I heard some very sad and disturbing news: two publishing imprints shutting their doors.

Strange Chemistry and Exhibit A were closed by its parent company because they have  “been unable to carve out their own niches with as much success.” [as parent company Angry Robot]

These imprints were at a level that I’m still only dreaming of: releasing a book a month, having multiple employees, being able to release a paperback to bookstores in both the US and the UK at the same time, having journalists waiting with bated breath on their releases! I’m told also that Strange Chemistry has the most unique and interesting YA books on the market today.

To have all that and still say that you can’t compete in the marketplace is pretty terrifying to hear.

It’s a strange business, book publishing. You may have heard how most books never earn back the money that was put into them. Big publishing houses depend heavily on there being a few run away best seller successes to carry the cost of all the loses.

Defining loss is a matter of perspective, of course. Even though I don’t sell as many books as I’m sure Exhibit A and Strange Chemistry did, I also have low overhead costs and can afford to wait for books to make a profit over a much longer time period than traditional publishers can. We only have one full time employee (me) and I don’t make a living from this yet. But we’re continuing to grow bigger and stronger with every passing year. For me I see no reason for that to change even given that our niche is extremely small and unusual.

For a lot of publishers, success of a book is defined by earning back their advances. I have not yet been able to offer advances at all. And even though that is changing, the advances I am able to offer in the near future are going to be very low. Someday I hope to give good advances, but in the meantime I make sure that authors get a high percentage in royalties.

For me publishing books is a lot more about a passion for stories than it is about making money. Of course I want my business to be profitable and to be able to keep devoting my time to the books I care about, but the top priority of Devoted Love Press is making great and unusual books available.

Writer Beware is where I first heard this news. They linked to this author’s blog and reading her story makes me very sad. I would do everything in my power to avoid leaving an author in the lurch like that.

[Side note: I live in fear of Writer Beware. It’s one of my very worst fears that I ever end up on their blog! I read them religiously. ]

My heart goes out to the authors and the staff of these imprints.

Books From Strange Chemistry

Books From Strange Chemistry

How do we measure the success of a book?

You dream of getting your novel published.

You want it to be a success. But what does that success look like?

How do we know if a book has sunk or swam? How many copies does a book need to sell to be considered a success?

There really isn’t an answer to this question.

  • Some may say that a book needs to get onto a bestseller list in order to be considered a success.
  • Some may say that a book needs only to make back its advance to be a success.
  • Some may have a number goal.

Our goal for The Boy Next Door is to sell 10,000 copies in one year and we’re making great progress! But it’s definitely a stretch that will require us to push ourselves.

What is your definition of success? If you get a book published (or have a book published) how many copies would you need to sell before you felt like it was a success?

Happy Dance

We just found out that we’ve won a video scholarship from Rory Gordon Photo!

What does that mean?

Well, Rory has a business where she tells the stories of people and businesses through photo and video. She had a contest last year for someone to win a free video about their small business.

Dev Love Press was in the top three and now it’s just been announced that we won the video!

So Ms. Rory is going to be coming to see our little office and make a video about what we do. I’m so looking forward to sharing it with you.

It looks like she’ll be coming to film in the spring when The Boy Next Door launches on platforms like Nook, Smashwords, and Kobo.

I’ll keep you posted about it!

Read more here: http://rorygordon.tumblr.com/post/39944065478/2012-video-scholarship-recipient

Guest Post: The Thrill of a Published Book

by Ruth Madison

We who dream of being authors anticipate for years holding a book in our hands with our name on the cover, the pages filled with out own words.

It is an amazing moment.

 But if can also feel a bit…unreal.

You’ve waited years for what you’ve written to be a proper book and now when you flip through the pages and see your own words, it feels like it must be a joke. These are your words and someone has put a binding on them, but they still look to you like the words you typed into Scrivener and saw scrolling by on your computer screen every day. Who hid them inside a book cover?

And then for us worrying types, it gets worse.

You’re on a high for a week, showing your book to everyone you know. But then worry catches up with you. You’ve accomplished this huge goal, but there’s another one waiting for you.

Will anyone buy it? Will anyone read it?

You start to worry that it will just sit there and not move a single copy and your publisher will wonder why they gave you this chance.

Then you see your sales figures. And it’s selling.

Another huge thrill that lasts a week or so. People are reading your work! People are connecting with the story that you have told!

Until worry catches up again. What if everyone hates it?

What if they think it’s awful and feel cheated and get angry at you? And you become consumed with anxiety again.

Then some reviews get posted. And they aren’t terrible. No one is yelling. Several people liked it and they thank you for writing it and you read their words with tears in your eyes (authors need your reviews like faeries need your claps!)

Yes, having your book published is quite a roller coaster ride.

I feel a little foolish for exposing the truth of my feelings like this. Aren’t I supposed to be just glowing with pride from the moment I get a contract until…well, forever? Is there something wrong with me that the thrill wears off and is replaced by worry each time?

Maybe there is! But I think it also helps me in being a career author. The high has to wear off so that I can go back to writing the next book, seeking to feel it again. Writing and drug addiction. Yeah, that’s totally the comparison I wanted to make. It’s true, though. Thrills never last forever, but they feel so good that we go back to doing whatever it was that allowed us to feel them in the first place. I’m glad for me that’s writing books. I’ve got plenty more ideas and I’ll keep chasing the elusive high that lasts.

Ruth’s first two books have just come out in their second editions…

(W)hole 

Paperback / Kindle /NookSmashwords

 

 

 

 

 

Breath(e)

Paperback / Kindle /Nook/ Smashwords

Visit Ruth at her site www.ruthmadison.com!