Self-Pub Writers Distributing Print Copies of Their Books

Blog 64 ImageI have two more posts left about distributing a self-published book.

This post discusses a self-published writer selling print copies of his book to readers directly or by consignment with a book store. In this case, the writer needs to buy inventory of his book. The last post will be about distributing print copies through resellers without the writer buying inventory.

As I wrote in my overview blog about distribution, when I first published The Case for Killing, I only offered it as an eBook. That seemed to me to be in the spirit of self-publishing, but it was a mistake.

A self-published writer who is serious about building a readership needs print copies of his book available for sale. Print remains the format that many readers prefer. Some like paperbacks for their look and feel, and maybe their place on their bookshelves. Other readers don’t have an eBook reading device or the interest to learn the related app.

For a significant number of print sales, the self-published writer will need his own inventory of books. For example, the writer needs to be prepared, at a moment’s notice, to give or sell print copies of his book to friends, neighbours, distant acquaintances…to anyone, really, showing a flicker of interest. Further, if a writer appears at library readings, book clubs or similar events, he’ll definitely want print copies of his book to sell at the end. And some writers may try to make direct print sales online (see my post on direct sales).

A writer might also try to get his book stocked in bookstores. In general, this is tough going, but some independent bookstores will carry well-crafted self-published paperbacks on a consignment basis for somewhere between 20% and 40% of the retail price.

For the self-published writer who wants an inventory of his book, various companies will print copies of his book and ship them to him. If the writer is willing to order a large minimum number, he can consider traditional offset printing. However, most self-pubs won’t want to take the risk of printing too many copies. Making money self-publishing is already a long-shot and having several thousand dollars of unsold inventory in the basement is just annoying.

Print-on-demand (POD) has answered the need of a self-published writer to manage his inventory carefully. A writer can order the exact number of books he requires for the short term. For example, for some upcoming library presentations, I’ll make sure I have fifty copies of False Guilt on hand and my experience is that I’ll sell most of them.

I have used POD from IngramSpark and from CreateSpace (an Amazon company). The basic process is this. A writer gets an estimate of the total cost per book based on the number of pages in his book, the printed format and the number of books ordered. From this, the writer can set a retail price with a decent margin. The writer uploads files in the required format for the interior and cover of the book and provides ISBN and other book-related information. When the POD company has completed set-up, review procedures ensure that the print copies meet minimum industry requirements for publication and the writer’s quality expectations. If all goes well, the books will be couriered to the writer in two to three weeks.

I recommend that self-pub writers speak to other self-pubs about the POD companies they’ve used and their experiences with service and quality levels. Also, there’s much more about POD and traditional offset printing in Ape: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur – How to Publish a Book by Kawasaki and Welch, though offerings are evolving quickly.

Finally, be sure to order a print copy of your book just for your writing desk. It’ll provide inspiration.

Copyright © 2015 Peter Fritze

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Buy The Case for Killing.

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The Writer’s First Edit

Blog 64 ImageI’m deep into the first edit of my third book. A shorter blog this week, then, as I’m pushing hard to the finish.

My approach to writing a book’s initial draft is to follow a flexible outline and to use a construct, which gives details about the characters and puts them in a chronology so I know what they’re doing at any time. I’m not a writer who knows from my outline whether I have a good story. I do the initial draft for that. Indeed, as I write the draft, I update the outline.

The initial draft might feel pretty good once I’m done, but when I re-read it, I quickly see a lot of work to do. In fact, I think the first edit is the hardest work in writing a book of fiction. That’s because I’m revising to:

  • Reflect new research
  • Identify and fix many plot problems
  • Deepen the characters, which often leads to new plot problems
  • Make structural changes
  • Improve and shorten the writing
  • Catch the many grammar problems and typos
  • Add some more creativity.

What makes the first edit especially challenging is that those areas of revision seem to involve different types of thinking. I can’t explain this beyond saying it’s like different parts of my brain are used. And It’s tiring to switch between those parts. The initial draft, at least, is largely a long exercise in creativity.

Anyway, right now, the first edit of my third book is going well. I’m an optimist in editing. I actually think that the book will be just about perfect once the first edit, or at worst the second, is done.

Then I’ll hear back from my editor and beta readers, shake my head a few times and edit a whole lot more. Mind you, while I’m working on the third, fourth and tenth drafts of the book, I’ll think each of those will be perfect, too. Quite a good strategy, really.

Copyright © 2015 Peter Fritze

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Buy The Case for Killing.

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Publishing Contracts: Promises by the Writer

Blog 62 ImageIn my two most recent posts about a first-time writer choosing between traditional publishing and self-publishing, I looked at copyright and the promises made to a writer in a publishing contract.

This post gives an overview of the promises made by the writer in a publishing contract. In other words, it’s about the writer’s obligations, and since a contract can have a long term, a writer should fully understand her obligations before signing.

Once again, though, I need to give some important cautions.

  • My posts are not intended as legal advice and shouldn’t be relied on as such. They’re for general information.
  • Contract laws vary by jurisdiction.
  • Contract terms vary according to jurisdiction and negotiations.

So, if you’re a first-time writer considering signing a publisher’s contract, you must get advice from a lawyer qualified to review the contract.

I don’t have a traditional publishing contract but I reviewed some standard forms and looked at materials from The Writers’ Union of Canada. Here are some of the obligations a writer might see in a publishing contract.

Licence to Publish: In a traditional publishing contract, the most fundamental thing a writer gives to the publisher is the right, or the grant of a licence, to publish her book, in written and probably eBook format. A writer usually is advised to ensure that her contract says the copyright in her book remains her property.

The licence will state the territories it covers. Some publishers will seek broad territories, even the world. A writer should have an interest in licensing only for the territories where the publisher has a demonstrated sales ability.

Since eBooks are now a standard reading format, a writer will likely grant the publisher a licence of the electronic rights necessary to publish in that format. A writer should get proper advice on the exact rights to grant and likely will be advised to expressly retain all electronic rights not specifically granted.

Subsidiary Rights: There is a broad group of rights derivative to a book of fiction in its first language. These include foreign and translation rights, and film, multimedia and other non-book rights. All of these are possible sources of income for the writer. Again, the writer should have an interest in licensing only those rights for which the publisher has demonstrated expertise and sales. If the publisher proposes to use sub-licencing arrangements for some subsidiary rights, a writer should understand the royalty shares and, ideally, have the right to approve the arrangements.

Warranties/Indemnities: A publisher will expect basic warranties that the writer’s work is original, doesn’t infringe copyright and is not libelous. The publisher will also expect to be indemnified, that is, to be compensated, for costs from a writer’s breach of the warranties. Expert advice on the scope of the warranties and indemnities is important.

Delivery of the Manuscript: The writer will likely be obligated to deliver a manuscript to the publisher by a specified date. The publisher will then likely have the right to decide if the manuscript is acceptable and to terminate the agreement if it’s not. A writer should review with her adviser if the publisher’s scope to determine a manuscript’s acceptability is so broad, it amounts to an option on the book. She should also ask if the time to determine acceptability is fair.

Termination: Hopefully the contract creates a happy, long-standing commercial relationship. However, both parties will have rights to terminate the contract, in which case all rights should revert to the writer. A publisher may simply have the right to terminate with written notice after a specified time (e.g. two years). It is also common to see termination rights when a book is out of print. The writer should take advice whether the definition of out of print is reasonable.

Additional Works: A publisher may ask for the option to publish the writer’s next work(s). A writer shouldn’t mistake this for feeling wanted. It is a one-sided arrangement that should be carefully questioned. If the publisher asks the writer to deliver multiple manuscripts over specified time periods, the writer should consider if she can meet, and wishes to live with, that obligation.

The Governing Law: A contract usually says that it is governed by the laws of a specified jurisdiction. If the jurisdiction is not where the writer resides, a writer should consider with her adviser if a large barrier is created to pursuing or defending a claim, both in terms of costs and convenience.

Copyright © 2015 Peter Fritze

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8 Tips to Help Writers Avoid Procrastination

Blog 61 ImageOne of the pleasures of writing fiction is meeting readers. Some readers also are closet writers. They often tell me that getting words to paper is challenging and completing a story is daunting. So they procrastinate.

This problem, I’m sure, dates back to the first writers in Mesopotamia. Here are some strategies to get the writing happening.

Let the idea carry you. Many books start with an idea that intrigues the writer enough to begin exploring it. I find the exploration most fruitful if I give the idea licence to send me in unexpected directions. Fairly quickly, words emerge, whether for an outline, some pages or a chapter. Even though these words will be revised many times, they’re not a waste. A story is evolving.

Keep the challenge small. It can be exciting for a writer to think he’s writing a book. But the sheer size of the project can create paralysis. So I prefer to think that if I regularly get an amount of writing done, the book will take care of itself. Reducing a problem to small constituents is old advice but it works in writing.

Commit to a daily amount of writing. A daily amount of writing can be measured in hours, words, pages, sunrises, etc. On a first draft, I use 4-5 hours or 2000 words, whichever comes first. For a first edit, that changes to 4-5 hours or 5 pages.

And I mean commit. Everyone I know is busy and constantly prioritizing. So when I say a writer must commit to a daily amount of writing, it probably means he must move writing up the priority list. Which means bumping other things down. Which can be stressful. Other than long walks, I don’t have a great solution for that stress.

Recharge. I find I need a day off a week to recharge the writing battery. It’s also a good time to let the story sift through my mind. I get new ideas as well as a broader perspective on the story.

Start writing the same time every day. I find this makes me more productive. It’s made easier by knowing that I’ll feel a sense of achievement 4-5 hours later.

Cut out the noise and get comfortable. I get the most done when it’s quiet, I’m sitting in a good chair and the temperature is right.

Use the smartphone. Ideas that stimulate writing can come out of nowhere. I keep my iPhone close for voice memos and quick notes. Sadly, when I tell myself I’ll remember an idea, I usually don’t. Getting an idea while at the movies is still a problem.

Copyright © 2015 Peter Fritze

Buy False Guilt.

Buy The Case for Killing.

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