August #AuthorTip: Self-Confidence and Humility

Continuing this post series with a tip for trusting yourself and your book:


Don’t look to others for validation. You can never please everyone, and trying will only make you miserable.

It’s no secret that you need pretty thick skin in this business. Critics lurk in every corner of the world, including right at home. And “haters” will go out of their way to make you feel like complete and utter shit, sometimes under the pretense of “helping you.”

Here’s the thing. No one starts out a best seller. You have to write a million words before what you put on paper starts to resemble an enjoyable book. You are always learning, and growing and the feedback won’t always be glowing praise. But there’s a huge difference between constructive criticism, which points out issues and suggests ways to fix it, and just plain hateful critique that just breaks you down to make the other person feel better.

You have to learn to accept the former with humility and grace and look at the comments objectively. It’s not personal, it’s an opportunity to learn–because we are all constantly learning and looking for ways to do just a little better than last time. It’s part of the journey and if you reject it, the only person you’re cheating is yourself. Your readers won’t put in the effort into reading your books if they see you’re not willing to put in the effort to write them as best as you can.

The latter, you’re under no obligation to listen to, whether it comes from your mom, a well-known author, or your best friend. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t still hurt, especially if it comes from someone whose opinion you deeply value. When there’s a strong emotional connection, it can be difficult to separate a personal opinion from constructive feedback.

And we’re talking about your book baby here; there will always be a strong emotional response to anything anyone says. So how can you tell if the feedback is constructive or just plain cruel? It helps to distance yourself, take a breather and take an objective look at what they said. Is there anything in their feedback that you can use to improve the story? If so, swallow your pride do it. If not, let it go and move on.

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August #AuthorTip: Remember Your Origin Story

Continuing this post series with a tip for staying grounded:


Never forget where you came from and how hard you had to work to get where you are now. Your toils are your badge of honor–they prove what you’re capable of and that any new obstacle can be overcome. But don’t mistake confidence with arrogance. Your achievements don’t give you the right to put down others. If anything, they give you the responsibility to help raise them up.

If you see someone struggling, offer to help them along. If someone asks for guidance or advice, give it. That doesn’t mean you go around randomly pointing out mistakes people have made (seriously, don’t be that person, it only makes you look like an idiot). It means making yourself available to those who can benefit from your years of experience if they need it and ask for it.

Your success was likely a complex formula of your own perseverance and the help of any number of other people. Honor their contribution by paying it forward and helping another fledgling writer find his/her wings.

Hybrid Royalty Share with Findaway Voices

An unplanned BREAKING NEWS type post for anyone looking at audiobook production.

Two days ago, I got a notification from Findaway Voices that they have started a new program for hybrid royalty sharing.

For those who don’t know, Findaway Voices is an audiobook production and distribution platform. Prior to this announcement, their program was strictly pay-in-full. Meaning, once your audiobook was completed, part of the author’s approval process was paying the full amount of production costs before the audiobook could be distributed. It was (and still is) a pricey proposition which not many authors can afford.

But it’s important to look at what you actually get for that price: Full and unlimited ownership of all rights.

That means, once you pay for your audiobook, you can do whatever you want with it. You can use Findaway Voices to distribute your audiobook to their partner stores and libraries, or to do it yourself. You can also do both: distribute through Findaway Voices and sell it yourself on the side. No restrictions. You set the price. You call the shots. You get what you pay for.

Now, they have a program they call Voice Share and you can click the link to read the announcement. The basic gist of it is this:

You get the option of paying in full at the conclusion of your production, or using Voice Share. If you use Voice Share, you pay only 50% of the full production cost and agree to have a share of your royalties go to your narrator. Narrators have to sign up for this program, and authors have to prove some past sales trends to qualify.

Once the agreement is made, the book is distributed to all the same Findaway Voices partners with the only restriction being that the author cannot publish it on his/her own elsewhere. If, somewhere down the line, the author decides they want to stop sharing royalties, there is a buy out option to pay 2 times the original payment (for a total of 1.5 times the full production cost) and they can reclaim their full rights. Narrators get to keep any royalties earned up to that date.

It’s still a pricey proposition, I will say that right off the bat. But it’s an option, and I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you about it.  Now, let’s compare with a direct competitor, shall we?

 

Findaway Voices Amazon ACX
Distribution Channels iTunes, Audible, Amazon,
Google Play, Scribd, Bibliotheca,
Audiobooks, Chirp, Walmart,
Hibooks, Hoopla, Storytel,
Rakuten (Kobo), Overdrive, Playster,
Nook Audio, Audiobooks NZ, Baker & Taylor,
Beek, Downpour, EBSCO, eStories,
Follett, Hummingbird, InstaRead,
Libro.fm, MLOL, Nextory,
3 Leaf Group, 24 Symbols,
Odilo, PermaBound, Wheelers
Amazon, Audible, iTunes
Author/Publisher Sets Retail Price* YES NO
Standard Royalty Rate 80% 40% (Exclusive)
25% (Non-Exclusive)
Royalty Share Options Voice Share Royalty Share
Royalty Share Plus
Royalty Share Upfront Cost 50% total production cost 0 (Royalty Share)
Negotiable PFH rate (Royalty Share Plus)
Royalty Share Rate to Author 60% 20%
Royalty Share Restrictions Distribution exclusive through FW to all partners Distribution exclusive through ACX to all partners
Contract term Indefinite 7 years, automatically renewed in 1 year increments
Cancellation option Any time At end of contract term
Cancellation fee 2 x original payment (100% production cost) N/A

*Findaway Voices allows authors/publishers to set the retail price for their audiobook and it can be changed at any time. This pricing does not carry over to retail partners who set prices automatically based on audiobook length, such as Audible, and those who pay out of a royalty pool, such as Scribd. When publishing through ACX, authors/publishers have no control over the retail price at any of its retail partners.

Certainly puts things into perspective, no?

With this move, Findaway Voices will appeal to authors/publishers who like a little flexibility in payment options. The terms of their hybrid royalty share program are a great deal friendlier to authors than those of ACX, and with a worldwide distribution network and their partnership with Smashwords, they are in an excellent position to level the playing field a little bit and loosen Amazon’s monopolistic hold on the book industry. Little by little, in 7-year increments. (ACX launched in 2011, some of those early projects have their contracts fulfilled, and Findaway Voices does give you the option of uploading a completed audiobook *hint hint*)

And now I return to my August #AuthorTips.

August #AuthorTip: Diplomacy is The New Cool

Continuing this post series with a tip on how to present a positive public image:


These days, authors are inseparable from their books. Readers want to connect with you, get to know you, sneak a peek at the mysterious life that had spawned their favorite books. That means you are no longer a private citizen. What you say and do reflects not only on yourself as a person, but on your brand as an author, and it can have an impact on your business as a publisher.

It’s ultimately up to you to set limits on how much of your personal life you want to share with your audience. But one thing you should always be mindful of is diplomacy. Think before you speak (or post/comment) and consider the ramifications of your actions. There are proper ways to disagree with someone without it spiraling into an ugly, drawn-out public fight. Keep personal conflicts out of the spotlight, and don’t air your dirty laundry on social media. Pretend you’re an ambassador visiting a foreign country and preserving good relations is your first priority. It’s perfectly acceptable to infuse a little personality and character into your interactions, but be conscious of the boundaries and do your best not to cross them.

Also, never underestimate the power of a sincere apology.

August #AuthorTip: Make Friends with Multimedia

Continuing this post series with a tip on how to grab attention and hold it:


A picture says a thousand words. Videos speak volumes. Both of these mediums can be highly effective means of grabbing someone’s attention, and you should utilize them whenever possible when promoting yourself and your books.

Things to keep in mind:

  1. Let the images speak for themselves. Don’t overwhelm them with text, unless that text is the point (i.e. as quote graphics).
  2. Put your best foot forward. Lead with the most impressive image/video to make sure it gets seen. Keep in mind that your video will only have a few seconds to grab a viewer’s attention, so make them count, and try to keep it under 60 seconds. 30, if you can.
  3. Quality matters. Invest in quality content and always go for the highest resolution available–it gives you more room to play and makes a more powerful impact.
  4. If you don’t own the license, don’t use the image/video! Always read the license agreements. They vary. If you’re just grabbing images from Google, Pinterest, or other such sources, you are breaking the law, and you can and likely will get sued for massive damages.
  5. Consolidate your message and stick to a theme. This is brand development. It’s why companies use logos and slap them on everything. When you present yourself and your books in a uniform way, it becomes recognizable and instantly identifiable. That’s what you want.

For a list of free and low-cost resources and tools, check out my Resources page. Keep in mind, this page is only meant to provide a starting point and in no way absolves you from doing your own research into licenses and permissions of those resources.

August #AuthorTip: Stock Images/Videos

Continuing this post series with a tip for anyone who creates their own covers and other collateral:


If you’re making your own covers, invest in good stock images. They don’t have to be expensive; you can get them at about $0.60/image with one month’s subscription. Make a free account at a stock site like Depositphotos or Bigstockphoto, look for things you like and save them. Save dozens of them, because yes, you will need them. If you have books in the works, books planned, promo graphics planned, website graphics needed, you need licenses for all of those, so why not get them in bulk? Save up for a one-month subscription, plan ahead, save all the images you like, then buy that subscription, and download them all for pennies on the dollar they would cost otherwise. It not only teaches you to think and plan ahead, but saves you money in the long run, and gives you room to play, experiment, and evolve your future covers.

Bonus Tip: Bookmark this AppSumo webpage or sign up for their newsletter. They send you fantastic deals on apps, subscriptions, stock materials and more. Their most coveted deal comes by only once or twice a year and it’s for 100 Depositphotos stock images for $49. You can get as many of those deals as you need and, unlike with a monthly subscription, these downloads never expire so you don’t have to rush looking for pictures you like. Last year they introduced a Depositphotos video package, too. If you make your own book trailer/teaser videos, this is worth buying. Trust me, I know.

August #AuthorTip: Author Websites

Continuing this post series with a tip for author websites:


Yes, you do need one. Here’s why…

Social media controls content and visibility. It’s not just Facebook hiding your posts; it’s Facebook deleting posts it deems unacceptable. It’s your tweets getting buried beneath a flood of millions of others happening every second of the day. It’s Instagram freezing or deleting company accounts. You are never in control of your content on social media.

And before you think your author profile on Amazon, B&N, Smashwords or your Publisher’s website is good enough, or that you can post blogs on Goodreads just as easily, think again. Those are all good things to set up to enhance your online presence, but they are not sufficient. Why? It’s still someone else’s sandbox, and you only get to play there as long as they let you. And if for some reason they stop playing nice, you could lose your content, whether it’s one post, or five years of posts. Forever.

You cannot control content on someone else’s website, no matter who it is, or how much you trust them. You can only control it on your own platform, and that is a website or a blog. Unless you post something that’s against the law, or a major catastrophe destroys the hosting company or servers, whatever you post on your website will stay there until you choose to remove it.

And now you will say that websites and blogs are dead, that everything lives on social media now. Even if that were true (which it isn’t) you can still share content from your website all over social media. The only difference is that if your social media post is removed, the original content is still live on your website. So instead of posting that image of the Birth of Venus (which FB might delete because of nudity) you can post it on your blog and share a link to it.

But websites take time, you say, and cost a lot of money! Actually, no they don’t. You can get free hosting on sites like WordPress, Blogger, or similar hosting services, and every one of them will have dozens of pre-designed templates you can use, so you don’t even have to be a coding genius to make a beautiful website in minutes (or hours, depending on how much content you want to post). My advice would be to pick one that gives you room for expansion and upgrades, and invest the $5-$25/year in a custom URL. Those babies are worth their weight in gold for an author. They move with you wherever you go.

August #AuthorTip: Know Thyself

Continuing this post series with a tip for knowing your shtuff:


Sometimes, the most difficult part of being a writer is just talking about your books. We tend to be more “show” than “tell” and it can be awkward when someone asks you to describe what you write and you don’t have a clue how to condense a 20-book multi-genre backlist into 2-3 sentences.

So be prepared. Make a printable booklist for your website with series, title, ISBN, release date, and format information (and keep it up to date). Come up with a short teaser tag line for each book/series that you can memorize and rattle off at the drop of a hat. Know the basics of your book distribution so you can direct people to where they can buy your books (online, this means a direct link to your author profile on different storefronts).

It helps if you have something they can take with them. Business cards can be good, as long as you don’t overwhelm them with info. Think more eye-catching than text-heavy. Something pretty they’ll be less likely to throw away. For a new book release, cover flats with the blurb and buy links on the back are a good idea. If you want to get more comprehensive, you can even do a folded greeting card type setup with an outside cover that has your author info and two facing pages inside with your booklist. Get creative, but don’t go overboard. Remember, these things, while fun to imagine and design, will cost money to print and ship. And if it’s too big or elaborate, people won’t want to take it.

I offer my most recent business card design as a visual example:

 

August #AuthorTip: Do It For Love

Continuing this post series with probably the most important tip I’ll ever give anyone:


Do it for love.

Writing is a passion. It comes from your heart, infects your soul, and takes over your entire life. You have to love it, otherwise it’ll destroy you. Think of how much time and effort it takes to write the book. That’s only the beginning. There is so much more to it than that. You’re constantly bombarded with countless demands from every corner. People telling you what to write, how to write, where to publish, how to publish… Even the most well-meaning piece of advice can sometimes feel like a warning you should heed, or else.

It’s difficult to balance the create side of writing with the business side of publishing. You want your book to do well, so you feel it necessary to play to the audience in big ways or small. Sometimes that can go too far and you lose sight of what made you fall in love with books in the first place.

So my tip is this:

Forget about all the creative writing courses you’ve taken, and the writing advice you got from Big Names and small, and your mother’s dismissive comments about “people don’t want to read stuff like that.” Push all that aside, and just think about your story. Imagine it playing out in your mind. Meet the characters, walk with them along their journey, connect with them and let them tell you their story, and write it down exactly like that. Write from the heart. Write the story that makes your soul sing, the one you can’t wait to hold in your hands so you can read it. That’s what makes this whole thing worth while

August #AuthorTip: Blurbs

Continuing this post series with a tip for navigating the hell that is writing book blurbs:


Try to write your synopsis/blurb/tagline before you finish writing the book.

The blurb is every author’s worst struggle. How do you condense a full novel into 150 words? Or worse, 2 sentences?! My cheat is to write them before the full story takes shape on paper. That way, I’m just telling the story to myself first, before I flesh it all out. I can always go back and nip and tuck what needs changing if the story veers dramatically off the course I set, but at least this way I have a base to work with if/when it comes to that.

It also helps to keep the book on track while I’m writing. It keeps me moving forward. I can look at that blurb and, if it’s good, I think, “That sounds like an awesome story–I want to read it!” Which means I have to write it. And if you come up with a catchy tagline, even better! You can print it big and put it up on your wall to keep you motivated when you get stuck.

Bonus Tip: Having a book cover in front of you can have a similar motivating effect.