Webcast: Understanding Publishing (with Stephanie Chandler and IngramSpark)

hello NaNoWriMo thank you for joining us today for this podcast I'm Grant Faulkner and we are gonna start talk today about that wonderful but intimidating and overwhelming next step of the creative journey publishing it's intimidating because there's so much to know you know before this this podcast I was thinking I've self-published before I published with a small press and I published with a relatively large press and I still feel like there's just so much to learn I don't know at all every time I learn a little bit more but I'm still it's there's there's vast areas of knowledge that I do not have and and so we're gonna we're gonna cover a lot of that today with with our special guests Stephanie Chandler we're lucky to have her she has done nearly everything in the book business I think I was reading her her bio and she has written a number of books she's owned and run a bookstore in Sacramento in fact at that bookstore she she held NaNoWriMo write-ins they're writing down around writing gatherings she's a frequent speaker at writing conferences and she even hosts her own it's all online is called the nonfiction writers conference and this year the special speaker is Gretchen Rubin who is also done NaNoWriMo and Stephanie is also an entrepreneur Ana marketing expert so she's going to kind of cover the gamut of what it means to to publish your book and we're very very thankful to have our sponsor Ingram spark sponsor this this webcast if you don't know Ingram spark they're a self publishing platform and they've been awarded four distinguished service to the literary community community alongside Toni Morrison and James Patterson and in with Ingram you can access the same distribution enjoyed by major traditional publishers and that means that you can share your book with thirty nine thousand retailers and libraries like think Barnes & Noble and other indie bookstores and then there also have access to a seventy plus major online retailers like Amazon and Kobo and Apple iBooks and here's the key thing to remember the Ingram spark they sponsored NaNoWriMo in in November and their sponsor offer is still good now it has not expired so upload your book for free through March 31st 2018 with the promo code nano 17 and if you can't remember that go to our sponsor plus our offers page on the NaNoWriMo website it's under the inspiration tab so yeah I hope you upload your book to Ingram after this webcast so welcome Stephanie thanks so much for joining us hey grant so glad to be with you today thanks for having me yeah I'm looking forward to learning a lot okay good me too and my first question is is since you've worked with so many writers I'm curious what's the most common question your app you're asked in terms of how to get published where do I start like that's that's the number one question because this our industry is so overwhelming and a lot of authors don't know if they should seek the self-publishing route or or seek the traditional publishing route so it's always where do I start and that's not an easy question to answer because it really depends on what your goals are yeah well that's that's what I oftentimes hear from our NaNoWriMo authors is is whether they should go the traditional route or the self-publishing route where would you go if you were if you were totally in the dark about this and didn't know which way to go with your novel how would you figure out what's best for you I think it's a very personal decision some of us I was one of those people really want that traditional book deal they want that validation and if that is your goal then by all means go through the process it takes a long time you know be prepared for that process because by the time you query and you hopefully get an agent and then you go through the pitching process it can take a year and then the publisher that acquires the book can take another year to get it out so if you're patient and this is the goal of yours go through the process but if you don't want to go through all of that then by all means you know self-publishing is easier than it's ever been and it doesn't cost as much as it used to cost and and it gives you so much more control so having done both myself I still feel like it's a very personal decision and either way we talked about this before the call that you're gonna end up doing most of the marketing yourself anyway usually yeah interesting you know I forgot to mention this in my intro but but for those people who are viewing I'm gonna interview Stephanie for for 20 or 30 minutes or so and then we're gonna we're gonna take questions from from you so so please be thinking every questions and put them in the chat window and and our great producer Catherine will shoot them to me and we'll try to get them all answered but like just to touch base a little bit on traditional publishing Stephanie I guess some people I've heard the question do you really need an agent and and what what does an agent even do for you and and then and then the big question is how do how do you find one so I didn't have an agent when I got my first book deal I went with a smaller press and then they sent over this 25 page contract and my head exploded so I am a huge advocate of agents I signed with an agent after that agents have the contacts they know what can be negotiated they know who's looking for what so I think it's completely worthwhile to have an agent if you're going to go the traditional publishing route so a smaller presses will take authors directly but big presses like Random House you can't pitch them directly they will only work with agents so there's a lot of reasons why working with an agent makes sense mm-hmm yeah I know I know definitely no no big publishing houses or you'd be extremely lucky to find a way in without an agent and it would probably have to work or fine fine you know meet somebody at a conference or something like that and even that that's a huge huge long shot one thing that I think the key part to finding I mean there are a couple key parts to finding an agent one I think it is a dizzying process to figure out I mean there's thousands of agents mm-hmm to find the one not only that that will will take you on but the one that's good for you that believes in your work and will represent it well not just leave it on his desk but I think one key to that is writing a good query letter and I think query letters actually don't just apply to finding an agent they also are part of your overall you pitch for your yourself yep you self-published so I was wondering if you could uh talk a little bit about what's the difference between a query letter and the pitch and and and why does one need a pitch for a book so a great question and I failed to answer your last question but where to find agents you mentioned writers conferences also the association of authors representatives aar online org is a great resource and publishers marketplace you're looking for the agent that handles your genre of writing now as for your pitch and your query letter every author needs a pitch so whether you're self-publishing or traditional publishing the concept of a pitch is that if you get stuck in an elevator with somebody in 30 seconds or less you can tell them what your book is about in a captivating way so we all have to do this we have to figure out how to describe our book and captivate an audience and make people want to read it and once you have that pitch you work it into your query generally we open a query letter with the sizzling copy that makes the agent or the editor want to read that book so that pitch becomes part of that and it gets worked into the query does that make sense yeah totally I mean and within the query you probably have what about a paragraph or two for that pitch you do and you know you want to open with it you want to reel them in right away before um you got much into who you are why you're the best person to write that book you know think about the number of query letters agents receive on a daily basis and these days they used to come by postal mail right today most of them come by email and I imagine that agents just sit there with their finger on the Delete key right there just waiting to hit nope that's not going to work for me so you want to reel them in right away and and really make it exciting this is why you want to attend things like writers conferences and go to pitch practice sessions where you can get feedback from other people and really develop a powerful pitch that gets people's attention this is so intimidating and so frightening to do that and I have personally never done it but I've watched people do it and I admire them so much and I think like you said like just by doing it any getting feedback that's how that's the way to go I mean I I wish I could say I was brave enough to do it I've been somebody that helps people with their pitches but maybe if you're in a small writers group that might be a little less intimidating and do it with that with that group yeah so I'm curious I was gonna mention since you mentioned publishers marketplace that remind me one one tip to find an agent is is to to find out the agent who represents your favorite authors usually they have the agent in their acknowledgments or you can find them somehow online and I heard this other great tip recently is you know a lot of those favorite authors might have a big superstar agent and those big superstar agents oftentimes aren't accepting debut debut novelists so sometimes going for a more junior agent and are in a really big great firm can be the way to go that might be more receptive to representing you but publishers marketplace is a good way to find out all that information let's talk about self-publishing a little bit there's some publishing you I mean as you were saying earlier it's it's it's grown so much in the last five to ten years and there's so many different ways to go about it and so many people are self-publishing if you go that route what are what are the main tips you would advise people in order to prepare their novel to publish lots of eyeballs on your manuscript I think this is really key you know there's that balance of too many cooks in the kitchen but at the same time wanting it to be the best that it can be and you know Stephen King's memoir on writing is one of my favorite books and he said he doesn't send it out to dozens of people he is a I think a couple of really close context that he has read and give him feedback on the book so even Stephen King is getting feedback on his work so I think that's so important that you have some sort of group of beta readers and then of course lots and lots of editing is really important too mm-hm for those beta readers do you have any advice about you know I know I know every writer is different right we need feedback at different stages I personally don't wait I wait until I've probably revised it three or four times put it through three or four drafts before I get beta readers do you have any advice about when and maybe who people should go to yeah that's a great question I think it's another personal choice I don't like a lot of input on my manuscripts either until I'm at the very end but if you're a new writer and maybe you're you know not so sure where you are then then round people up early I would reach out to friends and family people that you trust hopefully you're building a mailing list because as writers we should all have mailing lists reach out on social media and bite people into your beta reader group you know the benefit of being a beta reader is that they get early access to your book that they've got direct interaction with the author and then down the road when the book comes out you've got all of these people out singing your praises and posting reviews so there's a lot of benefits to beta readership Guy Kawasaki talked a lot about beta readers when he wrote his book for authors and publishers I think he had like hundreds of beta readers and he had them but going through and editing and sending him feedback on punctuation and spelling so you know it's a very personal decision that would make me personally crazy so I would not do that but if that sounds like fun to you then by all means do it and create maybe a private Facebook group where you can organize everybody that's a really easy free way to kind of coordinate the activity mm-hmm I was gonna say using the NaNoWriMo forums you know your buddies in NaNoWriMo they're there in the exact same writing position you are and they're you know I mean I say that in part because I think sometimes going to friends and family can be a dangerous proposition once I asked or I gave my a good friend of mine a piece of my writing this is when I was a very young writer and he didn't say anything for a long time and I and I finally asked him I was like hey did you read this story and and he you know he very blaze a very blunt guy and he very bluntly said you know I'm your friend I didn't ask to be your critic and at the time I thought that was a little rude but but in retrospect I think it's it's true in a lot of cases that to foist to have a friendship or a family member and to say you know read my novel and give me great feedback it's a lot to ask and sometimes when you have that personal emotional relationship those people it can be a tough thing to go through especially if they have a perhaps harsh critique so I like to give it to people who are who are writers you know who think about writing and and hopefully right in my Chara and also give them direction write ask questions maybe have a list of questions was this clear to you is the character development does it make sense do you understand who this character is so give them some guidelines so that they know what you're looking for back from them as well yeah I think that's really crucial I try to ask just like three questions just to keep them very focused on what I want and it helps me to because like you said earlier you can get a lot of different voices in your head and a lot of different opinions actually muddy the waters more than then clear them up exactly yeah well let's talk about you know on that note I think one another great resource that we have these days that we maybe didn't have as much in past years is there are a lot of editors out there and some people hire an editor do you do you advise hiring an editor for your manuscript thousand percent no matter which way you're gonna publish editing really makes a manuscript better if you're working with the right editor or editors I'm so every author is different and there's basically three levels of editing there's developmental editing and that's where the editor goes in and actually works on helping to make your manuscript better it's kind of a back-and-forth relationship it's a very comprehensive it takes a lot of time the second level would be copy editing where they're going in and maybe they're making some suggestions you could clarify here this doesn't make a lot of sense that kind of thing so that you're going back yourself and making adjustments and then you get down to the proofread which is basically your grammar punctuation spelling so every writer is different some need all three levels of editing some just need kind of the basic copy edit and I proofread but my feeling is you can never have too much editing you can never have too many eyeballs because I don't care if you go through five versions of proofreading your book is still gonna have a handful of typos in it it's just the reality of a human job so the more editing the better is really my suggestion I agree you know I've worked with editor's in so many different capacities you know whether it's a newspaper editor or a book editor and not once every single time the piece is improved because of somebody else's eyes and especially professional editors eyes it is tough though I mean making that leap and actually hiring somebody with your own money to do it can you give a sense of like you know what one maybe should pay or where one should go to look for an editor I mean it's it's a tough thing I mean to take that yeah it's one of the most expensive parts of the publishing process because it is so labor and time intensive so honestly you can spend thousands of dollars on editing proofreading is going to be less than you can maybe get that done for around $500 but here's another thing I see riders run into don't ask your English teacher friend to do it for you you know good editors follow the Chicago Manual of style you've got consistency with things like serial commas and parallel bullets and just there's there's rules that need to be followed so I'm a huge advocate of hire a professional editor who does this for a living and you can ask around with other writers and whose work who they've worked with associations I'm sure you guys recommend resources we have recommended resources and nonfiction authors Association I love up work up work is a freelancers directory where you can find editors and book designers and website designers and their user reviewed so they will tell you what kind of projects they've done before and how the people that hire them fared with those projects so there's lots of places to find and there's also the editorial freelancers Association that's a great organization to find experienced editors I think it's it's so I mean with their their wealth of resources out there and and I've even heard is the publishing industry has changed you know a lot of editors have actually been left you know laid off and and now they're offering you know and they've worked for you know whatever random house on great projects and stuff and now they're doing about a freelance basis so you can actually hire a bona fide professional editor to look at your stuff absolutely a lot of the big publishing houses are outsourcing all of their editing to freelance now so people who edited that New York Times bestseller could be editing your book if you've got a budget for it yeah yeah well you know I'm gonna talk a little bit about cover design because I think one challenge for a self-published author is is to to have it to present have a book that's that looks like a traditionally published book that has that sort of professionalism and again this is like usually hiring somebody and I I've heard critiques of self-publishing books that sometimes you know it's self-published by looking at the cover so so tell me a little bit about cover design why it's important and and how one goes about getting a good one so speaking as a former bookstore owner where authors walked in every day wanting us to carry their books and we had a big shelf dedicated to local authors I could immediately tell the self-published books because the covers didn't look like they came out of a New York publishing house so the reality is we do judge books by their covers your cover is the most important first impression you're gonna make on a potential reader so this is where you want to go and invest in a professional cover designer somebody that's all they do is book cover design and I can't tell you how many I'm also gonna publisher for 10 years and how many authors have coming and said oh my grandson is finishing up art school he's gonna do my cover and you know they don't understand the balance of the fonts on the page and there's just when you shrink that cover image down to an inch on Amazon you still want it to be to be able to read that title so there's little details that a professional cover designer is going to understand better than anybody else so spend the money and and by the way you're gonna spend anywhere between $50 to $1,000 and up on a good cover design and my experiences in that department you kind of get what you pay for mm-hmm definitely I think it's one thing that's really interesting about cover design that I think a lot of people forget that the the most important image might be the thumbnail online so you're really designing for that small space because that's what's gonna get shared them you know they're just certain confines there yeah well let me go in a little bit like once once you've you've finished you've got your book edited and formatted in the cover design and now you're like excited to get it out there and there's this question you know this is where I think like as authors we're entering this new realm often which is called the business world and so we've got to figure out like how to price our books and and you know these days there's just such a spectrum right you can get books for 99 cents and or 20 dollars or more how do you figure out what what the right price is well you start by looking at your competitors and what they're charging and you want to fall in in that range you don't want to over price your book because then you'll you could potentially lose readers especially in the fiction world but if you under price you risk that same you know perception of value that maybe this is discounted for a reason so I like to fall somewhere in the middle of whatever you know is currently trending in that genre and stick with that price with eBook pricing you know I am an advocate of price the first in a series lower so 99 cents to $2.99 or even a free giveaway is a great strategy if you're writing a series because you want to get people hooked on that first book so that they come back and they want to read the rest of your books so lower prices may be on the the first in a series on the e-book but for the others stay within the genres common price scheme and and you know I know there were a lot for a while there there was a lot of pricing pressure where things were getting lower and lower and lower like who could have imagined a 99-cent book ten years ago are there still trends like that or what are the kind of going on I think it's getting better I love to follow mark poker at Smashwords he puts out a great industry study every year and the last one I saw the prices were trending up again in eBook world so I think we saw a lot of low pricing for a while and then you know a lot of people in the publishing industry were like hey you're undervaluing what you're offering here so and I I don't know about you but I'm a Kindle reader and I see a lot of the New York publishing houses are charging 1099 1199 for the Kindle edition so they're I think helping to drive ebook prices up I don't buy an e-book based on its price I pay it based on the fact that I want to read it mm-hmm I don't think pricing needs to be low necessarily to gain readership how to route his work if you're self-published author what can you expect what's a good good rate traditionally published published I guess the traditionally published there just as a kind of contrast so people understand the difference yeah there's actually a great contrast there so with traditional um presses believe it or not they actually pay authors about a dollar a book on average so if you get let's say you get a ten thousand dollar book advance which is actually pretty good in today's climate you will have to sell ten thousand books and earn earn your advance back a dollar at a time before you ever see another dime so this is definitely a factor in deciding if you want to traditionally publish yourself publish with self-publishing when you're creating distribution to Amazon for example you set your distribution discount so retailers typically get between forty to fifty five percent discount there's a lot of controversy about what you should set but setting between forty five forty to fifty five percent so let's say you set it at fifty percent and your book is on Amazon for $10 just for math purposes Amazon's gonna take fifty percent off that price so they're gonna pay you five dollars and then you deduct the cost of what of printing that book so maybe you printed the book for two dollars now these aren't very realistic numbers but what's left after the cost of printing the book is your royalty earned so in that case you'd make three dollars per book and you will always make more money when you sell books directly so if you're doing author events and things like that and you don't have to give up that 42 or 50 percent discount all you're earning is the difference between your wholesale costs and if your with Lake Ingram spark for example your wholesale cost might be three or four dollars a book and then you're selling it for $14 you're making a really nice profit of maybe up to ten dollars per book so there's a lot of profit to be made on the self-publishing side not so much profit to be made on the traditional publishing side that's just the reality mm-hmm well since we're talking profits I think I think then the next step is like actually it's tough to sell 10,000 books right you just put it up on Amazon it's not like they're ten thousand people waiting there to buy your book what are your I'm I was asked what are your three top marketing tips well you know I'm a huge fan of blogging I think every writer needs a blog and we are writers there we really have no excuse not to be blogging and blogging to me at the heart of your social media strategy and so you know take each blog post share it in social media and start building your audience that way next would be book reviews book reviews are critically important and I can't emphasize this enough book reviews sell books on Amazon they also factor in we believe to Amazon's algorithms Amazon doesn't tell us how it ranks books and when it shows based on a keyword search like if I search for murder or mystery I don't know how Amazon is deciding but my guess is Amazon is factoring in how many reviews the books have how because that tells them how popular the books are so lots and lots of reviews my favorite way to get Amazon reviews is to look at my competing titles competing books and scroll down to their book reviews and click on each book reviewer every book reviewer on Amazon has a public profile and eight times out of 10 book reviewers list their email address because they want to receive free review copies it's to their benefit to do that so you can actually go through and find and build a list of people who are reviewing books in your genre and send an email and say hey would you like a review copy of my book and by the way be willing to give away those review copies that's so so important factor that into your budget and offer them whether they want to print or a digital edition because everybody's different today and then third I would say get out and use Internet media industry blogs are great romance writers you have such an advantage and the mystery writers as well there are networks and networks of reader review blogs so get out there and send your review copies out to the people who are reviewing the romance novels and the murder mysteries and things like that because they've got a following – who are looking for your books and you can get on Google and search for you know Western book review and find websites and blogs that are reviewing those books and start getting them out there because not only do you want reviews on Amazon but you want reviews on other people's blogs on their podcasts on with any kind of influencer that reaches a broad audience that's so interesting I've heard I've heard that about Amazon how they whatever they position your book differently depending on the number of reviews do you have any a lot of people I know I don't know I know they don't broadcast or is not out there but there are a lot of rumors are there do you know anything about the different levels how many reviews you need to get over that like first tier I've heard 20 or 25 you know I've heard so many different numbers I've heard 85 I've heard 75 my experiences it depends on the genre – because if you're in a really small niche category it's a lot easier to get ahead of the curve but if you're in a big broad category like a general fiction it's gonna be much harder to stand out so you know I would say a minimum of 30 reviews should be your goal because that tells people that book is being read but the another thing to do is get in the habit of always asking for reviews you're going to hear from readers you know when you get an email from a reader that says hey I loved your book just wanted to give you a shout out reply hey thank you so much would you mind posting a review for me on Amazon we have to get in the habit and I forget to do that myself so get in the habit of always trying to add more book reviews so this is like so were tough for for introverted writers we're kind of taught not to ask for things I think that that also carries over to to social media in general that you know how many like when you mention blog posts how often should people be writing blog posts how often should be they posting those links on Twitter and Facebook or whatever you know like is there a degree of frequency that matters or is it more about the the conversational tone what makes an effective social media campaign so statistically the more often you blog the more traffic your site is going to receive that's just the reality so if you blog once a week you're gonna get X number of traffic if you blog five times a week you're getting at five times the traffic so part of that is up to you a big missing factor for a lot of writers is finding your your niche your subject matter what are you going to write about right so you've got to find a theme within your book or some sort of cause that you can weave through the books that you write that gives you a foundation for your blog your blog needs to have a focus it's not about where you just went on vacation and you know the great Thai food you had last night at dinner right you want to be entertaining your audience and I'm thinking of an author Beth Albright she writes these really cute chicklet novels which are set in the South Alabama and so she blogs about southern living and you know recipes for sweet tea and you know she's found her hook so you know that's the first step if you really figure out the right content to be blogging and then sharing it on social media your audience is going to grow because you're you're pulling them in but that's probably one of the biggest challenges for every writer is figuring out what that's going to be mm-hmm yeah and you don't want to look so me-me-me all the time right exactly you want to be serving your audience in some way for sure well we've got a lot of viewer questions here I'm going to switch over to those but I want to – one last question since since your you're a marketing expert what is what was your personal biggest marketing challenge when you started doing this well it's the same marketing challenge I still have it's making time right and I think every author is probably nodding along right now I don't have time for this but so here's a reality even the New York Times bestselling authors have day jobs you know I don't know a single author who has the luxury of marketing their books full time not one you know even Stephen King doesn't have that kind of time right so we have to carve out time and I like to view marketing a kind of like gardening I like to compare the two so if if you walked out into your garden every day and you drop three seeds and then you walked away and then the next day you dropped three more seeds over time you're going to have a beautiful garden Marketing is the same thing so if you do three things every day you write a blog post you pitch yourself to a podcast you know you reach out to a small trade publication and offer to write an article whatever it is three things every day I promise you that over time your audience is going to grow it has to it's just how it's going to work out sorry little questions I love that metaphor three things three seeds a day I've heard something similar advice to just do not because it can be so overwhelming right just like you said every author's challenge is time and so I've heard some people say seven minutes a day on Twitter or seven minutes a day on social media something that's very doable but very contained and that you build it incrementally and let me say about social media because that intimidates a lot of writers too you don't have to do it all you don't have to be on snapchat and Instagram and Twitter and LinkedIn you know pick one or two and do those really well and do the ones where your audience is spending time if you're going after a younger audience go ahead get on Instagram if you're going after an older audience you probably want to get on Facebook so you know pick one or two and do those well you do not have to do it all thank God can't keep up with them all I'm gonna switch to some some of our great viewer questions Claire Chamberlin asks how does paying agents work paying ages agency IRNA percentage they actually pay you so when an agent when you sign with an agent they're signing on for and I'm totally during a bank on the percentage that they get 15% right yeah I think it's 15 and and that's gonna be part of your agreement and then if you get your book deal the payments from the publisher are gonna go to the agent and the agent is going to take their 15 percent out and cut you a check for the rest so that's how it works you're not you know mailing checks to the agent the agent staking out of what you're earning yeah thank god this comes from Yankees loving bat does the rule about sending a manuscript to yourself for copyright purposes still apply I would not count on that as protection the best thing to do is go to copyright gov and register your manuscript you can upload it digitally it costs about 30 bucks it takes about 20 minutes to fill out the paperwork and that gives you the legal protection that you need so what do you know I hear this question a lot where people writers fiction vendors will say they'll be wary of sharing their concept of their idea for a novel because they're worried about somebody else stealing it and in my position is that that that I've never met a writer who didn't have too many ideas well I like I don't know any writers who are looking to steal other people's ideas even if they did they would execute and write those ideas so differently that the novel I don't even know that they would really compete with each other how do you feel about that 100% I don't worry about anybody stealing my work sharing my work you know even once it's written you can go to the library and borrow books for free right so if my book gets shared great I've just gained a new fan you know last year we had Seth Godin as our opening speaker for our annual conference and he said your problem is not piracy your problem is obscurity one of my favorite quotes ever because it's the truth that's where our energy should be it should be on getting known and building an audience not on worrying about somebody taking our ideas or sharing our work with their friends because that's only gaining you more and more fans right yeah definitely that's a great quote I was gonna say for our viewers who don't know who's up Godin is he's a big-time marketing guru business guy right he's amazing publishing go read tribes that's my favorite book he wrote tribes it's about how to build your community it's brilliant ok cool I'll check it out this one comes from diana duncan she is wondering a good place to look for cover designer this is a great question where would you find a cover designer for a novel you had one upwork.com is a great place to find freelancers in general I don't know of a cover designers association so you're looking at probably the freelance directories and you know ask around with authors whose books you like because you know if you're involved in author circles are on the NaNoWriMo forums asks for recommendations there will be no shortage of great cover design recommendations and then check the cover designers portfolio and make sure you like their work because they may have great work but it may not match your style and that's really important too yeah I was gonna say there are a lot of marketplaces out there like reads these one of our sponsors and like they have editors and cover designers that you can choose from and you can see how they're ranked and they'll bid on projects things like that when I so published I found it a really interesting experience I fortunately had a friend who recommended like ten different designers to choose from but I still felt a little blind I was choosing on all you know what I could determine about their aesthetic on other books the thing I liked about it though is that as a self-published author working with a designer you're really in this highly collaborative creative environment you know and and I would I would have certain notions of where I want the cover to go and she very expertly guided me in a different direction because that was her job she knew a good cover so I thought it was a very interesting creative process well you just spoke to the benefit of working with a professional cover designer because they do understand those intricacies that maybe we don't know maybe you're you know I've had situations where the cover was too busy I work for the author once he'd gone so far to have a logo design bring it on shirts he came to us for publishing and I got to tell you and he's giving me permission to tell this but it was an awful logo it was a de made a terrible cover and I said please please let's let the book cover designer come up with a concept and if you hate it we'll scrap it but let's just and you can't believe what a difference great cover design makes it was night and day my author was so thrilled with the end result the throw away a lot of t-shirts but you know it was worth it in the end I bet yeah I was gonna say curry earlier estimates I think he mentioned some dollar figures for cover designers and I don't know if I was just lucky but I think I paid two or three hundred dollars and I couldn't have gotten a better cover so I might have paid for the photo that went on the cover in addition but anyway and you do have to buy this stock art right so that's something to be really aware of that you've gotta buy um images that you're gonna use on the cover you can't go to Google and pull an image for your blog for your book for anything there are huge fines involved so you want to go to like a nice stock photo or a one two three RF comm to acquire images for cover yeah good advice this is a great question from Samantha Zeng how do you get books into brick-and-mortar bookstores if you are self-publishing great question absolutely it's called book distributors book distributors I it have their sole job is to go out and get books placed in book stores and retailers Airport bookstores gift shops all different kinds of places the thing about working with book distributors is that it's expensive because they're gonna expect probably around 65 to 70 percent off your cover price because keep in mind they need room to make a profit on that book too so they're gonna expect a big chunk off your cover price and you also have to apply that you just because you have a book doesn't mean they'll take you they need to know that you're doing marketing that you're creating demand because if they get your book placed it earns a Nobel for example and that book doesn't sell within 60 days Barnes and Noble is gonna send all those books back and you're gonna have to issue a complete refund for all of those books the book industry is one of the screwiest industries in the retail perspective because retailers expect to be able to return books you can't really do that in other clothes like a clothing industry if they don't sell out on jackets those jackets don't get returned to the manufacturer they get sold off at t.j.maxx right the book industry expects to be able to return so book distributors are tricky I tell others it you know unless you're creating a lot of demand focus on selling online and the other way to get into bookstores is to create reverse demand so if you're doing the work and you're getting publicity and people are walking into Barnes & Noble and asking for your book I guarantee you brides know what's gonna reach out to you and want to be able to buy your books from you directly or through Ingram so if you know if you're publishing with Ingram spark you're distributed through Ingram then Barnes & Noble can order your book so create reverse to man put your efforts there and then you don't have to spend all that extra percentage points on the distributor's does it help especially for a self-published author to begin with trying to get into local bookstores where they might have a relationship yeah it doesn't hurt at all at speaking as a former bookstore owner we definitely support local authors you can do events at local bookstores but you know a bookstores gonna carry two or three copies you know in general and if they don't move again you know they get sent back or they're they get put away somewhere so I really think it's best to focus your efforts online you could just get more bang for your buck doing that stone productions asks what are the three questions you ask of your beta readers to keep them focused and I was just gonna say I personally it depends on the writing project itself those three questions tend to change but definitely I think if I was just gonna broadly answer it for general things it's just like where are the weak points where does the story stop captivating you I always like the question of how would you revise this anything to that that's perfect yeah I just like what's going on like well good let's see here I got to dig up another question so this is interesting because I think a lot of authors are juggling numerous projects there they're writing while they have a project in motion that's while they're publishing it and they might even have a project that's already published and out there that they're doing and doing a promotion for so so via slash asks as an author how do you pace yourself that is how do you write new material while revising other material while querying while getting things published etc what is your method the question every writer wants in there you go read getting things done by David Allen it's a great time management book if that's a time management issue we all struggle with it myself included another book I love is miracle morning by Hal Elrod and in you know in a nutshell how talks about getting up before the Sun because if you want your goals badly enough you've got to make some sacrifices and you know the most successful people do things before we all have breakfast right so it's carving out the time I like to do blocks of time in my day maybe you've got you start your day with two hours of writing time and then you carve out a time for marketing and an hour for marketing and then you carve out another hour for writing queries and then you take lunch and you drink a lot of coffee and then you go back and keep doing it because you know it's the an eternal challenge for every one of us is how to manage that that time but when you were just answering that question do you do things and blocks of time like like when you're writing your writing and when you're promoting you're promoting or do they bleed into each other that's how I personally like to work I like to carve out time what I do on a typical workday is I sit down at my desk and I always have a running to-do list and it's like a mile long but I pick at least three tasks I'm going to accomplish that day and I carve out the time for those tasks and then if I have extra time I might work on a marketing project or write an extra blog post but I always pick three tasks every day and carve out that time yeah we work the same way I've got this big long list that never never ends but it's true you gotta prioritize a few things that you that are manageable I'm selfish with my writing time I like to like lock myself up in a hotel and right for a weekend and that's how I've done the last several books is literally at the Hampton Inn five miles from my house I will lock myself up for weekend and right for twelve hours straight so we all have our little quirky habits I can't work in a cafe some of you thrive in cafes so you have to find what works best for you I do the same thing I call them mini writing retreats and I do other than like NaNoWriMo which is a big kind of writing retreat or boot camp mini writing retreats like to take a weekend or a 3-day weekend it really is a great way to jumpstart a project and really just kind of fuel it you know and in a way that an hour here and there just doesn't do it it's so true and if your discipline you know love your taste the water in and have your pizza delivered and just write like crazy it is the best feeling ever I love that yeah good Carly birch asks this great question can you do both self-published then try to find an agent or publisher you can it depends so here's the catch-22 if you're self-published book doesn't do well that becomes an issue when you're trying to get a publisher now the publishers rarely want to acquire a book that's already published right they want to acquire maybe your next book so and this is what I personally did so I self-published my first book it was a business startup guide and in that process I was building an audience a high-traffic website a mailing list and the book actually sold really well first self-published book I sold several thousand copies so a year later when I was ready to get a book deal I was able to say we sold X you know thousands of copies have got this kind of website traffic the mailing list has grown to this many people and the publisher was I I had a I sent out two proposals I got a book deal within you know weeks so if you're doing the work and building your platform with your self-published book you can absolutely go after a publisher with your next book but if your first book doesn't do so well you're gonna have to be able to answer that question – mm-hmm yeah it's tough this is a great question in terms of marketing Michael Anthony reuleaux asks isn't one of the it's a traditional publishing that they do the marketing for you and leave you with more time to write what do you think that is one of the biggest myths and publishing I'm so sorry to tell you that some times the publisher dedicates some marketing budget but for the most part the publishers are putting their marketing budget in there already known authors and even that bookstore space when you walk into Barnes & Noble and you see the endcaps and the tables of new releases that's not arbitrarily picked that is being paid for by publishers publishers pay for placement in bookstore shelves so no I and I've had this situation – I had a I'm one of the publishers said to me oh we're gonna sign you a publicist gonna do great she got me one radio interview and when a blog interview that was it and I could do that myself in the next hour I could book you know six times not many interviews so absolutely do not count on the publisher to do your marketing for you and do not expect that in your proposal in your proposal when you do your marketing section you need to say what you're doing to market your book and that is a huge part of selling a book is that marketing plan within the proposal so do not sit back and hope that that publisher is going to do it for you because they're not and here's the other catch if they publish your book and you don't do the marketing work and they don't do the marketing work and the book doesn't sell you're not gonna get another deal with them right so you know it always comes back to having through the marketing work mm-hm times have changed right those times when when the publicity department would line up a whole book tour for you and then maybe even pay for the plane ticket in the hotel rooms very thin waters get that type of treatment there's yeah yeah and even even you mentioned you know Stephen King being on Twitter and I know Stephen King technically doesn't need to be on Twitter to sell his books but you you you look out there and you see so many wildly successful authors and they are they're they're I mean I think a lot of it they enjoy that conversation with their readers and that direct contact but on the other hand they are out there doing stuff to get their books in people's hands because it's such a crowded market yeah you've got to be out there actively and when tactic I didn't mention but I think is a really good one brothers is speaking you know speakers sell books it's just a fact so you know if speaking interests you put together some topics and get out there and start speaking Sacramento here we have a local author named Cindy sample she writes murder mystery she actually quit her corporate job to become a full-time murder mystery writer and one of her speaking topics is I'm if you're never – it's never too late to start something new and that's a really popular topic that she can take to all kinds of organizations and she gives a really inspiring talk and then the end of it people love her and they want to buy her books so your attack doesn't even necessarily have to be directly related to your book it just has to get you in front of people who are potential readers of your book great advice I totally went on a tangent there if I wanted it no good well here's here's a good question because I think especially beginning authors struggle with this Jessica bata asks what's the importance of an author bio in a query letter and I'm just gonna take that a step further I think if you're an author who hasn't published before and you know can't make that big case if you're here's all my work and here's how great I am how do you do that as a beginning off their what would you advise that's tricky I would say to try and get some sort of credits to your name you know write for your local community newspaper that is how I started we I live in this teeny tiny little community of gold River and I wrote for the gold river newspaper you know we have 3,000 homes in this community but that was a starting point I wrote book reviews for that I have a really bad book reviews by the way it took me to learn but anyway that you can get some experience some clips enter writing contests and any kind of acknowledgement it's gonna help boost your bio up but if you don't have that you know maybe you you've built up an Instagram following or Twitter following play up your strengths play down your weaknesses they're looking for why are you the best person to write this book and hopefully you're writing sells it for you but they are looking at that bio and they want to see that you've got some sort of credibility to visit debut novelist but that was that was good advice because I mean the great thing about the Internet is there are so many places you can write and and so many actually online magazines that need writers reviewers you know so I think there are opportunities out there sometimes you you might not get paid but you are developing your chops and building a resume let's see if I've got any other questions here let's see clam Crenshaw I know you're gonna answer this I think the maybe will surprise me he asks how worried do I need to be about making sure the names places and story ideas that I've made are unique and not being used elsewhere I don't think that it really matters if you're if your settings and your names and things are match others you can't copyright the title of a book unless it's a series you can't copyright a character in a book you there are a thousands of books written that are set in San Francisco so you really don't have to worry much about that I actually think setting is a really cool way to find your audience you know Campbell Scott is the novelist who his books are based in San Francisco and he found a great readership there by publishing a literary journal in San Francisco and then he ended up writing a column for the New York Times and so you know you've got to find your your audience within that setting and not be afraid to overlap with others mm-hmm well good well I'm gonna remind people these are great questions please put more in in chat if you have them and Katherine will send them to me I'm gonna see if I have any more questions for Stephanie here so I'm curious if you could say one thing to a new author looking to publish what would it be just take it one day at a time honestly I know it's overwhelming and there's a lot of mixed advice out there but you don't have to do it all you just take it one day at a time the the other thing about publishing is it's a marathon right it doesn't have to be a race and you know I'm gonna say something very controversial here but I couldn't I could care less about Amazon bestseller lists I don't care they really don't mean much I had an author once who she actually hired a company to help get her book onto the Amazon bestseller lists and this company got you know a number of people to tweet about the book on the release day and and we're watching it and it's kind of slowly climbing and it makes it into the top 2 of this teeny tiny financial category on Amazon and the author was so excited and she called me and she said I can't wait I'm gonna write a big check to my you know charity and you know how many books did I sell and we looked it up and guess how many books she sold that day oh my gosh she put me on the spot I don't know 3830 okay that is nothing to write you know a charitable check for she spent thousands of dollars to have this company manage that campaign and quite honestly that company was probably sitting there just ordering the books themselves because that's all it took was 30 sales um and that she stayed in that category for like an hour and never went back it had no long-term value so focus on the long game is my point here you are always on tour you are always looking for opportunities you're always available for interviews it is a long game don't put so much pressure on yourself to get it all done at once and and be a best seller I hate that term now it's just devalued the real bestseller lists which to me are you know like the New York Times y jug that everyone's the best for these days well that's the fact in it and it really it doesn't mean much anymore and it doesn't have a long-term value for the book yeah yeah I think you also you know I was gonna say like yeah I do think being an author is is full of so many different types and levels of rejection or you can feel rejected and I think you're it's a marathon not a sprint advice is really good it's about it's because it's so much about having endurance and staying in the game and also finding a reason why you're doing it I mean I know everybody has different reasons I'm more gratified when somebody I'm so test when somebody like tweets an image of my book that that's like better than a thousand book sales so let's see we got some oh we got a great question here from sue she must write on building that presence how does one transition from a well-established online handle to using the name that appears on the covers for oh so you have a different name for example is that what you're saying yeah so sue she must write that that is her online handle it's well-established she's got a lot of followers she's very popular and so she's asking you know she has a name that might appear differently on a cover yeah so that's tricky you may actually want to change your online handle to match your cover Twitter lets you make that change I would imagine Instagram does too so and Facebook also lets you change page name even a page theme so if your long run is to to be with that name that pen name then then I would say try to align all of your branding with that because otherwise it's hard to invite people to a new account this is the same reason I tell people I'm not a big fan of individual book websites because if you plan to write ten books in your career you're gonna have ten different websites to manage so try to get all of your branding under one umbrella if at all possible if you're writing in the same genre if you're writing in different genres you're gonna have to have different presence you're gonna have to have your romance handle and your murder-mystery handle it's just you're gonna confuse people otherwise yeah it's a tough one isn't it yeah flock of foxes asks is reading your book chapter by chapter as a podcast or creating short sized stories set in the world of your book worthwhile uh you know I'm a big fan of podcasting I actually think podcasting is kind of on fire right now and if podcasting interests you it's great time to get in on it it's inexpensive there's lots of opportunity there I don't I don't know that it hurts you to read your audiobook in a podcast that I don't know that you're necessarily gonna attract people the thing about podcasts is you FMR that just as you do your book just as you do your blog so is it worthwhile I don't know I would almost rather suggest that you turn it into an audiobook with audible because audiobooks are selling like crazy and the website is AC XCOM where you can actually produce your own audiobook or you can work with voice talent to create an audiobook for you you can get it done for under you know $2,000 an audiobook cells are also exploding right now you know Google and apple's carplay app is now in the dashboard of cars which means that the in new cars coming off the assembly line have the podcast app have the audiobooks app right there on the dashboard of the car I mean I want a new car just so I can get that that app I think it is so cool so we are moving in the direction of audio format and I mean you can do it for free on a podcast but I think I'd turn it into an audiobook and get paid for it yeah I wasn't gonna take it this a different direction there's so many cool online publishing sites where you can publish your book in serial format and you know whether it's Wattpad or I've been counting a bunch of reading apps and in online sites that do that and it seems like it's almost like what you were saying earlier by pricing the book that first book really low in the series and then building off of that and I would assume that you can you can really create a huge community of readers for your book if you're if you're you know see realizing it absolutely it's and it's all about your content and reeling them in and keeping them engaged so everything you do hopefully is connecting with that audience and you know who your audience is because this is another piece not everybody reads historical fiction right so you have to find the people who read but they Sean they're that you're writing for well thanks so much Stephanie we're at an hour now you you answered these questions just brilliantly I'll put you on the spot for one last parting word of encouragement advice inspiration whatever you want oh my gosh this writing and publishing a book is one of most rewarding things you will ever do don't wait until you retire until you have more time until your kids are grown because this is where you know life is short i-i've been through last we've all been through loss go do it now and enjoy this ride because it is like you said when you see somebody tweet a cover of your book I just got an email last week on a book that I wrote ten years ago that shouldn't even be in print anymore because it's so outdated but the reader loved it and took the time to send me a note and that makes my whole week so this is such a fun journey don't be overwhelmed by it don't be scared by it just go have fun with it I love that because it's a very NaNoWriMo message there we did a webcast with Hugh Howey years ago right before he kind of became famous and I I noticed in the webcast he kept saying the word self-confidence you know you've got to have the self-confidence to put yourself out there you know you've got to have this bluff confidence to dive in and write the novel but then you've got to have this self-confidence to go all those other ways and and I find that I mean I like I said earlier the the path being and being an author is filled with different kinds of rejection and the way back up to be resilient is to realize that your story matters and to put it out there so and you mentioned being an introvert I I having to be an introvert as well yeah I like quiet space and nobody around me and I will be exhausted when this is over but you know you do kind of have to get over yourself and be willing to get out there but see help Clark wrote a great book called the shy writer so that's it I'm a big reader so that's another recommendation for those of you who can relate to not really wanting to put yourself out there we kind of have to find ways to communicate that are comfortable for us and sometimes you just have to get over ourselves a little bit great I love that well thank you so much again Stephanie I'm gonna remind our viewers that we thank Ingram spark again and remind them of the great offer they have to upload your book for free through March 31st 2018 with the promo code nano 17 if you don't remember this well you can watch this webcast again or you can go to our website and look for the sponsor offer under the inspiration tab so thanks again Stephanie thanks grant really enjoy thanks everyone for joining us today thank you bye bye bye

8 thoughts on “Webcast: Understanding Publishing (with Stephanie Chandler and IngramSpark)

  1. I'm sorry I missed this webcast 🙁 I have a question. I'm thinking about self publishing a romance/suspense novel in the near future, which platform should I consider to publish on (Lulu, Createspace, etc.)?

  2. Thank you for this. You touched on so many important subjects, and the given information never felt redundant or rushed. Very insightful! 🙂

  3. Would have been nice to have a speaker who did not' um er um er um um er er' all through the video. Very UNprofessional.

  4. For those of you who asked for the links Stephanie mentioned, here they are:

    Find an agent:
    Association of Author Representatives
    http://aaronline.org and http://PublishersMarketplace.com

    Hire editors, book cover designers, freelancers:

  5. There's alwaysso much to learn about publishing! As soon as you think you figure it out things change and you have to re-learn again. Great live-stream!

  6. Thank you so much for the amazing tips and links. I feel somewhat more confident now considering I am already following some of the steps introduced. Thank you for taking time our of your day for talking to everyone!

  7. I have yet to even begin my book but I feel.like I should really get into writing the damn thing today. Excuse my language. I have a tendency to use not so pretty words sometimes. I am just going to give it ago. Because NaNoWriMo literally inspires me.

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