Best Business Advice for Writers: February 2013


Best Business Advice for Writers is a monthly link round-up where I share the best online articles focused on the business of writing and publishing. Share any best reads you’ve found lately in the comments.

Second-Class Contracts: Deal Terms at Random House’s Hydra Imprint by Victoria Strauss (@victoriastrauss)

New York-based corporate publishers are launching digital-only imprints with unattractive contract terms: no advance, editorial/design costs are applied against your net earnings, and a 10% marketing/promotion fee is applied against earnings as well. Strauss comments:

If Random House indeed intends to reach out to self-publishers with these new imprints, it may want to re-think its contract terms. It’s hard for me to imagine even moderately successful self-publishers finding a deal like this attractive.

I agree. I’m not sure what value Random House is really providing here, except their brand name and a method for authors to get professional assistance that they ultimately pay for out of pocket. Read the full article at Writer Beware.

What Makes for a Good Book Event? by Togather (@togatherinc)

This interview with Tumblr’s Rachel Fershleiser discusses how to do a meaningful and fun book event. Fershleiser says:

I think there’s still this ridiculous cliché that book events are one author standing at a podium, droning on and on, and in my experience that’s largely untrue. But maybe I just go to good events? You know, ultimately people are coming out for a night of entertainment, they’re not coming out to be sold to; they’re not even really coming out to learn. For the most part they’re going out to have a fun and interesting time, and so I always think there should be more than one voice.

Read the full interview at Togather’s Tumblr.

On Getting Paid and Knowing What You’re Worth by Virginia Sole-Smith (@V_Solesmith)

If you’re new to the freelance life, then you should read what eventually becomes, after a brief rant, a practical post about setting rates and knowing when to work for free. One tip she offers:

[Write for free] if the assignment is a personal essay or fiction. This kind of writing is very difficult to assess from a query letter so it’s standard practice for editors to ask to see the whole draft on spec. You have to do the work upfront, then get paid — or if they reject it, take that work on to the next potential client.

She also has some excellent advice on the content mills. Click here to read the full article at Medium.

Sorry, the Short Story Boom Is Bogus by Laura Miller (@magiciansbook)

Rumor has it that the short story is going to make a comeback, in part because of new technology. (The theory goes that all those people killing time at the doctor’s office will start reading short fiction on their smartphones and tablets.) Miller debunks the rumor, hard:

The idea that today’s time-strapped and mentally scattered readers will find short stories more congenial is far from new; I remember hearing variations on this plaintive theme from authors, editors and publishers since before the rise of the Internet. Yet there is little to suggest that it is any truer now than it was, say, when we started Salon in 1995. In fact, a survey of Amazon, New York Times and USA Today best-seller lists suggests that most readers crave ever longer and more complex fictional narratives, such as George R.R Martin’s mammoth fantasy series (the basis for HBO’s “Game of Thrones”) or the “Fifty Shades” trilogy, in which one couple’s kinky courtship is drawn out over a preposterous three volumes.

Read the full article at Salon.

How E-Book Readers Shop and the Importance of Sampling by Joanna Penn (@thecreativepenn)

If you’re planning to e-publish, or already do, make sure you’re offering free samples. In one of her tips, Penn writes:

Get into the meat as soon as possible. Put all the acknowledgements and extra stuff at the back, not within the sample. I was severely annoyed recently to download an Angela Carter anthology of short stories to find that the entire sample was an essay about her work and the stories didn’t come until later. I looked for a better version.

Read the full article at The Creative Penn.

Does Social Media Sell Books? Gillian Flynn’s Agent Gives Her Perspective by Fauzia Burke (@FSBAssociates)

The answer is: it depends. Flynn’s agent tells Burke:

It’s important for authors to leave no stone unturned and consider how social media can work for them, but also important to consider the whole picture of getting the word out about their book and reaching readers. I’m sure there are examples of authors whose success is directly related to their social media strategy/efforts. But there are also authors whose success has come mostly without that. Without diving too deeply into it, I think there are different kinds of readers out there who use and don’t use social media indifferent ways — when there’s a match between the author’s efforts and the potential readers they are reaching, that can be magic. But when there isn’t, a lot of energy can go to waste. Not to mention that things are always changing in the social media world.

Read the full interview at FSB Associates blog.

Book Design Quick Tips for Self-Publishers by Joel Friedlander (@JFbookman)

As usual, Joel offers practical and straightforward do’s and don’ts about designing and formatting your book. Click here to read the article at The Book Designer.

Who Really Owns Your Photos in Social Media? (Updated 2013 Edition) by Kathy E. Gill (@kegill)

I get LOTS of questions from writers about permissions, copyright, and fair use. It’s a topic that writers need to be better educated on. Here’s one article that’s a must-read whether you’re seeking to use someone else’s photos, or uploading photos to social media sites.

Half of Amazon Book Sales Are Planned Purchases by Suw Charman-Anderson (@suw)

Based on that title, you may be thinking, so what? It makes a difference because it affects an author’s marketing and promotion strategy. Charman-Anderson writes:

Self-published authors have limited resources for promotion and these figures show that you should focus not on trying to woo Amazon’s algorithm, but on building awareness outside of Amazon. Rather than hoping to gain traction within that 10 percent of people who pay attention to Amazon’s recommendations, or trying to crowbar your title into bestseller or top 100 lists, you should be focusing on building an independent fan base. No one can search for your books if they don’t know you exist.

However, there are people who disagree strongly with this conclusion. To find out why, read the comment thread on this article, PLUS read the extensive discussion right here on this site.

Don’t Quit Your Day Job: Traditional Publishing by the Numbers by Michael J. Sullivan (@amazingstories0)

An excellent primer on how the money works in a traditional publishing deal, if you didn’t already know. Sullivan writes:

When it comes to trying to determine advances for debut fantasy and science fiction novels Tobias Buckell is the best source I’ve come across, and his data seems to stand the test of time. His first author survey contained data from 78 authors and his second one included 108.  He concluded that for debut authors you can expect:

For fantasy a median advance was $5,000 with an average of $6,494

For science fiction the median advance was $5,000 with an average of $7,000

58% sold with an agent and 42% without 

Agented advances had a median of $6,000 (average of $7,500) and unagented came in at $3,500 (average of $4,051)

Read the full article at Amazing Stories.

What Writers Need to Know About Goodreads by Jason Boog (@jasonboog)

Now that the New York Times has profiled Goodreads, writers are more curious than ever about how to use the site effectively. Boog rounds up some of the most effective advice from other authors, including Michael J. Sullivan (also referenced above), who says:

The most important thing to remember about Goodreads is that members of this site REALLY hate self-promotion. Primarily because too many authors come to the site and do drive-by posts and leave. This makes their radar on such matters very sensitive. The key to goodreads is to become a member of the community first … and mention your writing only in context and when appropriate.”

Get the full scoop at Galleycat.

Did Amazon Just Kill a Golden Goose? by George Burke (@geoburke)

Amazon has instituted new rules regarding affiliate commissions that indicate they want to curtail aggressive marketing of free e-boks. Burke writes:

Is it possible that Amazon isn’t trying to save a few bucks on commission payouts, but rather is taking action against a trend of free books cannibalizing paid books?

Over the last year, incremental changes have been made to Amazon’s KDP Select policy. The “Great Algorithm Change” of March 2012 reduced the ranking and recommendations of free Kindle books to be a tenth of that of paid books, likely to minimize the number of free books that were automatically recommended to readers on product pages. Then Amazon began hiding the Top 100 Free Kindle Bestsellers list behind a separate tab on category pages.

… Amazon may be actively trying to squash the availability to readers of free books.

This is an interesting article not for the potential impact on affiliate marketers, but for the strategy that Amazon is now implementing, and what that might reveal about their overall business. Read the full article at Publishing Perspectives.

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