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Are All Editors Created Equal?

March 31, 2020 by in category The Extra Squeeze by The Extra Squeeze Team, Writing tagged as , , ,

Dear Extra Squeeze Team,

Are all editors created equal? Do you need one type of editor for adult fiction, and a different type of editor for a picture book?

Rebecca Forster | Extra Squeeze

Rebecca Forster 

USA Today Bestselling author of 35 books, including the Witness series and the new Finn O’Brien series.

Not only are all editors are not created equal, there are many people are promoting themselves as editors even though their only credentials are that they like to read and they were good in English. So, before you spend a ton of money are a few things to think about.

1) Do you need a story editor, a line editor or just someone to double check for typos? Personally, I always need a story editor. My books are intricate, and I am known for twists and turns. A story editor* keeps me on track with red herrings, challenges me to push the envelope, and gives me perspective on the plot/story as a whole. I couldn’t live without this input.

2) Overall editors are hard to come by in my humble opinion unless you are willing to pay the price. It is no easy job to take a book from start to finish when you’re an editor. When I was traditionally published, I often had three separate editors, each charged with perfecting a different part of the process. If you’re looking for just that one person, make sure you are clear up front so they can price their bid accordingly.

3) An editor works for you and you should select one carefully. I tested a reader who swore she was an editor. She had found some things in a published book, and I was impressed with the detail and her attitude. However, when I sent her test pages (for which I paid her), she missed the typos and grammar issues that I purposefully left in to gauge her level of expertise. She was a great reader and had caught some mistakes, but she was not an editor.

4) When you find a great editor, it is a thing of beauty. Remember, some are literally brilliant* and the good ones will be able to work on any book in any genre. This is because they understand that individual marketplaces call for different sensibilities. They will read a romance differently than they read a mystery. If you find one of those, hang on to her/him.

*For transparency, the fabulous story editor I have worked with since my first book is my Extra Squeeze colleague, Jenny Jensen.

Jenny Jensen | A Slice of Orange

Jenny Jensen

Developmental editor who has worked for twenty plus years with new and established authors of both fiction and non-fiction, traditional and indie.

All editors are created as equally as all dancers, or singers, politicians or writers, but that’s not really what you’re asking. A good editor wears different hats, each for different genres. And then there are the specialists who focus their skills, most notably in academics, poetry and children’s literature.

I’ve worked on USAF manuals, fiction of all flavors, history and biography and business materials. I wore a different editing hat for each. A lot of the rules are the same, but each genre has a different intent and any useful editing must be done with that intent top of mind. The flow, pacing and characterization of a thriller are light years from those of business material (though maybe marketers should rethink that). Each of those hats comes with my confident understanding of the author’s intent so I can see any problems and add to the intended message. I think this is true of most editors.

I’ve turned down work twice. The first was a treatise on the physics of string theory. At least that’s what I think it was. I had no hat for this and so could offer nothing but a suggestion for a more suitable editor. The second was a children’s picture book. I love children’s books. I read the manuscript and tried to find a hat that fit. I soon realized this required a special knowledge, an insight into the reader’s mind and the author’s intent; knowledge and insight for which I don’t have a hat.

So yes, I do think that an author of a children’s picture book should find and build a relationship with an editor whose specialty is children’s lit. That doesn’t mean she would be better created, just that she was the best at dancing and singing to that tune.

H. O. Charles | A Slice of Orange

H.O. Charles

Cover designer and author of the fantasy series, The Fireblade Array


I would say it depends on the experience of the editor. Some are quite capable of understanding the different styles and switching accordingly. Some are not. Look at the work they’ve previously done and see how it aligns with your own.

That said, sometimes an editor from another genre can bring a fresh perspective that could help you break away from the norm and set your work apart from that of other writers. Great books are often ones that cross genres and re-purpose other styles.

The Extra Squeeze | A Slice of Orange

Ever wonder what industry professionals think about the issues that can really impact our careers? Each month The Extra Squeeze features a fresh topic related to books and publishing.

Amazon mover and shaker Rebecca Forster and her handpicked team of book professionals offer frank responses from the POV of each of their specialties — Writing, Editing, PR/Biz Development, and Cover Design.

Send us your questions.

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Dear Extra Squeeze Team, Beta Readers?

February 29, 2020 by in category Featured Author of the Month, The Extra Squeeze by The Extra Squeeze Team tagged as , , , , ,

Ever wonder what industry professionals think about the issues that can really impact our careers? Each month The Extra Squeeze features a fresh topic related to books and publishing.

Amazon mover and shaker Rebecca Forster and her handpicked team of book professionals offer frank responses from the POV of each of their specialties — Writing, Editing, PR/Biz Development, and Cover Design.

Do you have a question for The Extra Squeeze Team? Send them to us by using this handy link.

Dear Extra Squeeze Team, What Are Beta Readers and How Do I Get One?

Robin Blakely | The Extra Squeeze Team | A Slice of Orange

Robin Blakely

PR/Business Development coach for writers and artists; CEO, Creative Center of America; member, Forbes Coaches Council.

If you want to write a better book, consider finding a few Beta Readers.

The big idea behind working with Beta Readers is to test drive your finished piece on folks who will provide you with valuable insights that could improve your work before it reaches the general marketplace. As an author, you know that the reading experience matters. So you want to discover how the book is perceived by readers when you still have the opportunity to tinker with the mechanics of the experience, if you need to. It’s like your book is a roller coaster ride–you are the engineer who built the roller coaster and who wants to make sure the experience of the ride is everything you imagined it would be. Your Beta Readers are going to take a ride and tell you how it feels.

Here are three rules to abide by:

  1. Pick Beta Readers who already like, love or super-love your genre. If you have a vampire book, you want somebody who has read a few vampire books to weigh in on how your story stacks up. In roller coaster terms, the ones who know the difference between the almost flat, slow-moving Wacky Worm and the fast and jaw dropping Coney Island Cyclone are very important to you. A bit of experience means they have context and perspective and can tell you more about the ride than folks who don’t know what to expect. That is not to say that only those with experience are valuable, but it is to say that it is important to know the level of experience of the rider before you consider redesigning your roller coaster to suit them.
  2. Stay focused on the Beta Reader’s experience. Ask Beta Readers about where and when things were good, surprising, or breathtaking. Ask about when and where things were too slow, too fast, too sharp or too unexpected. Focus on their experience and see if several Beta Readers say the same thing independent of each other. Then do the critical thinking needed to adjust your ride. In roller coaster terms, don’t expect the Beta Reader to know what caused the ride to be too slow or too fast. Some may intuitively know solutions but really those problem-solving issues are up to the engineer or the mechanic—not the rider. Readers have different preferences so listen and watch for the patterns that emerge as Beta Readers share their experiences with you. If everyone remarks upon the same twist or turn in the ride, take a closer look at that place. Don’t try to rebuild to suit every preference. This is your roller coaster.
  3. Define where the Beta Reader fits into your production process. Don’t confuse the role of the Beta Reader with the role of the Editor. The goals are different. You either want the Beta Reader to help you make the best book for the editor or you want the Editor to help you make the best book for the Beta Reader. Be clear about when the Beta Reader is most valuable to you and how you will use the info that you acquire. The big idea is that the first impression is valuable, and you can’t have a first impression more than once. Value that first impression and leverage it.

How do you find Beta Readers? Not everyone is a good Beta Reader. Ask people who love to read to recommend their friends. Make it known to family, friends and colleagues that you want Beta Readers, what the role will involve and when the readers will be needed. Be organized and clear and very grateful.

Rebecca Forster | Extra Squeeze

Rebecca Forster 

USA Today Bestselling author of 35 books, including the Witness series and the new Finn O’Brien series.

A beta reader will give you objective input on your work before publication. These dedicated readers want you to succeed and they read extensively in your genre. I’m lucky to have a handful of trusted beta readers. They are smart, well read, and thoughtfully tell it like it is. I have been able to smooth over rough patches, deepen characterization and recognize pure silliness in my work because of them. Is love too strong a word for what they do for me? That being said, the wrong beta readers can shake an author’s confidence, undermine a vision and create chaos. One good one is worth five divisive ones. You can find them in critique groups, within your group of dedicated fans, or online in book groups. I found a wonderful article on beta reader etiquette.

This might help when you are trying to decide who you would like to invite into this very essential group: Helping Writers Become Authors Beta Reader Etiquette

Jenny Jensen | A Slice of Orange

Jenny Jensen

Developmental editor who has worked for twenty plus years with new and established authors of both fiction and non-fiction, traditional and indie.

 

Just like the software industry where a new, unreleased program – the beta version – is given to a group to test, writers ask a person familiar with their genre to read their manuscript. In both instances it’s a great way to work out kinks before publication.

A Beta Reader is not a critique partner. Those are the individuals who review your manuscript from a writer’s perspective. The Beta Reader provides a review from a reader’s perspective; their response more likely reflects how your intended audience will react to your story. That’s a critical perspective and gives the writer useful much useful fodder for improvement. Think of them as quality control.

Don’t confuse the Beta Reader with an editor. A professional editor, depending on the level of edit you use, will look closely at your manuscript for style issues, plot holes, inconsistencies etc. The Beta Reader simply tells you if the book was readable, or enjoyable or boring. Don’t expect them to tell you why or how it struck them that way, but value a reader’s opinion and use it when you reevaluate and revise.

You can find Beta Readers among friends or family members whose honesty you can trust. It’s good to reach outside your own circle, to a book club member for instance. The best place is to look to the writer’s community. Goodreads Beta Readers Group is great. My Writer’s Circle is an active writer’s platform also. Seek Beta Readers on Google and ye shall find.

Most writers work with more than one Beta Reader. Be careful to keep that within reason — info overload can paralyze your brain. And remember, this is a service you look to have donated; reciprocate by acting as a Beta Reader yourself. Every writer needs one or two.

H. O. Charles | A Slice of Orange

H.O. Charles

Cover designer and author of the fantasy series, The Fireblade Array


A beta reader will read the early, pre-publication versions of your books and identify any errors, plot holes, or editing problems. They could be pretty much anyone with an interest in reading. There are good betas and not-so-good betas. I picked several from amongst my fans – the ones who were desperate to read the next book, but I made sure I stuck with those who were the pickiest! The more errors they found, the more they questioned me, the more likely I was to choose them to be betas for the next book. They are very useful people!

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Sensitivity Editors, Yes or No?

February 21, 2020 by in category Featured Author of the Month, The Extra Squeeze by The Extra Squeeze Team tagged as , , , , ,

Each Friday in February we’ll be featuring The Extra Squeeze Team.

Ever wonder what industry professionals think about the issues that can really impact our careers? Each month The Extra Squeeze features a fresh topic related to books and publishing.

Amazon mover and shaker Rebecca Forster and her handpicked team of book professionals offer frank responses from the POV of each of their specialties — Writing, Editing, PR/Biz Development, and Cover Design.

Have you a question for The Extra Squeeze Team? Send them to us by using this handy link.

Today’s topic for The Extra Squeeze Team came from this article in the Chicago Tribune.

Dear Extra Squeeze Team, Sensitivity Editors, Yes or NO?

Rebecca Forster | Extra Squeeze

Rebecca Forster 

USA Today Bestselling author of 35 books, including the Witness series and the new Finn O’Brien series.

When I was a new author, I received a letter from a reader accusing me of being racist for using a certain adjective to describe a character of color. I was disturbed because I had offended the reader but upon reflection, I came to believe I had done nothing wrong.

I take my craft very seriously, choosing every word carefully to create a deeply visual reading experience and to express various points of view. If sensitivity editors become the norm, I will begin to second guess those words and the result will level a playing field that should be filled with intellectual and emotional obstacles. I believe it is better for a reader to close a book and to reject a writer’s work than to hobble the creative exploration of the world around us.

Jenny Jensen | A Slice of Orange

Jenny Jensen

Developmental editor who has worked for twenty plus years with new and established authors of both fiction and non-fiction, traditional and indie.

Part of editing is sensitivity — to the tone of the book and to the needs of the market.  I’ve worked on manuscripts where the content is offensive. I ask myself, is that offensive to me, or to the market?

I’m not in the business of censorship; my personal sensibilities are not the point. However, as a story editor it is my business to point out when the narrative is boring, adds nothing, or employs language that is likely to offend the intended market.

‘Sensitivity’ is relative. To edit only for insensitive material blurs, to near invisibility, the line between editing for good writing and suppression of open expression. A good editor will point out insensitivity. It is up to the author to accept or reject the edit.

Robin Blakely | The Extra Squeeze Team | A Slice of Orange

Robin Blakely

PR/Business Development coach for writers and artists; CEO, Creative Center of America; member, Forbes Coaches Council.

I am in the business of promoting author brands, so my interest in the trend of hiring a sensitivity editor is focused on the impact such a thing can have on author PR and book publicity.  To cut to the chase, I’m not a fan—yet.

Here’s why… For many readers, a book can help reflect what is wrong in the world even if the author was not trying to paint the picture of the world that the book ultimately reveals. Straight up, I think most readers are smart and I know they deserve to be treated with honesty and extreme care. From a PR perspective, it is important to me that the reader always meets the real author—no masks. That means reader/writer relationships must be authentic to the writer and genuinely tied to the writer’s real work.  Readers trust real and I trust that most writers are sensitive enough to choose words that accurately reflect their point of view and their reality.

If the author is heavily censored, overhauled, and cloaked by a sensitivity editor, then the reader is shaking the hand of a gloved stranger. From a PR-perspective, I have encountered authors who need a wake-up call regarding the impact of their voices and their word choices.  Sensitivity editors can offer feedback that broadens the author’s awareness. Or, the sensitivity editor can enable the author to be masked in a way that is unfair to the buyer of the product.

Many years ago, as a young mom, I encountered a parenting handbook that had not been edited by a sensitivity editor. The medical expert was biased against me. The author’s words perpetuated the myth that infertility was a cosmic sign and that chronic childhood illness, particularly asthma, should be largely blamed on the parent, especially if the mom was a working mother.  Luckily, I was not hurt by that book’s lack of sensitivity editing; in fact, I believe I was protected by the lack of it.  The author’s own uncensored words made it easy for me to discern that he was not good enough to offer advice to me about my baby.  I threw that book away and found a better author.

Today, when I am asked: “sensitivity editor or not?”; I like to say: “That’s up to you.”   I remain on the fence. I don’t like censorship…but, I don’t like dumb stereotypes either—especially hurtful stereotypes about young moms, children with chronic illness, people of color, single parents, older adults, immigrants, communities of faith, families living in rural areas, or the inner cities, or the suburbs. When it comes to sensitivity, there are as many stereotypes as there are people.  The real world is not very sensitive.  As a reader and as a PR professional, I like to know exactly who wrote the words I am reading…and if you had to use a sensitivity editor, I would likely wonder why.

H. O. Charles | A Slice of Orange

H.O. Charles

Cover designer and author of the fantasy series, The Fireblade Array


 

I think there are two types of offensive content in this context. One is where the author knowingly intends to shock or set a certain tone by using language that some/many will consider offensive. The second is unknowing offence, where the author – either through ignorance or accident – employs language/story lines that are unintentionally patronising to, or dismissive of, one group of people.

The sensitivity readers in that article seem to be dealing exclusively with the second type, and my initial response is: Great! An editor like that will help the writer produce a contemporary novel that speaks from the social outlook we should be aiming for today (even if we write historical fiction). On the other hand, this sounds like research the author should have already done themselves. If the author is writing about a specific group of people who use language in a manner that is different from their own, then surely that writer should have researched such a group thoroughly already? Perhaps employing a sensitivity reader instead of doing one’s own research is easier now we have the interwebs, and it involves less travelling, so there’s that(!).

 

But the downside is that the writer will be relying upon the opinion and outlook of **one** reader. I do not believe I represent ALL northerners (in the UK, that is), and while I may be worried about stereotypes of people from Yorkshire having low educational attainment, the next Yorkshire person might think it is even worse to be conflated with a Lancastrian! And then there are the Scots, who are technically northerners in the UK too, and could feel the term’s applicability to Yorkshire/Lancashire reflects the Englishman’s arrogant tendency to forget they exist…

 

Another thing worth considering is that the nature of offence changes over time, and in spite of our best attempts, no single book will ever be truly inoffensive to everyone. What we write innocently today may be judged differently tomorrow (let’s imagine, for example, that meat-eating or using gendered pronouns becomes abhorrent to future generations – how would that alter the way you write your characters?!). That’s not to say we should abandon conveying our own sense of morality in our novels, or rejoice in our own ignorance, or that we should aim for anything other than the best book we can write, just that we should be aware that pleasing everyone for all the years to come is impossible.

What do you think of Sensitivity Editors? Scroll down to the comment section and tell us what you think.

If you would like to know more about Sensitivity Editors, here are a few links:

Writer Unboxed

WRITING IN THE MARGINS

Publishers Weekly

Do you have a question or topic for The Extra Squeeze Team? Use this LINK to send us your ideas.

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Dear Extra Squeeze Team, How Do You Plan a Book Launch?

February 14, 2020 by in category Featured Author of the Month, The Extra Squeeze by The Extra Squeeze Team tagged as , , , , , ,

Each Friday in February we’ll be featuring The Extra Squeeze Team.

Ever wonder what industry professionals think about the issues that can really impact our careers? Each month The Extra Squeeze features a fresh topic related to books and publishing.

Amazon mover and shaker Rebecca Forster and her handpicked team of book professionals offer frank responses from the POV of each of their specialties — Writing, Editing, PR/Biz Development, and Cover Design.

Have you a question for The Extra Squeeze Team? Send them to us by using this handy link.

Dear Extra Squeeze, How Do You Plan a Book Launch?

Rebecca Forster | Extra Squeeze

Rebecca Forster 

USA Today Bestselling author of 35 books, including the Witness series and the new Finn O’Brien series.

When I published my first book over thirty years ago I assumed the publisher would have all sorts of glittery, fantastic promotions planned that would shoot me to literary stardom.

Not!

In those days – just like these days – the author is responsible for launching their book and establishing their brand. The good news is that now the opportunity for promotion is controllable. I maintain a new release plan that has proven manageable and effective over the course of more than thirty books.

1) Write a good book: professional, exciting, as error free as possible and packaged beautifully. All the promotion in the world will not support an inferior product.

2) Set up your pre-orders and then create excitement with a sneak peek of a few chapters on your website (don’t forget buy links at the end of these chapters).

3) Alert interested parties starting with distribution channels. Smashwords, for instance, has an alert for author’s running BookBub ads. Once they know your ad date, they will pass the information along to their bookstores, those bookstores will consider your book for further promotion. BookBub Partners has an automated per-order alert for your followers. Amazon has the same. Read the distributor’s newsletters and find out what free opportunities are there for the taking.

4) When your manuscript is ready, start submitting it for reviews (I love PRG and InD’Tale).

5) Continue to nurture and grow your social media followers and plan affordable advertising geared toward look-alike audiences. Try sites like LitRing (have loved the 4 promos I’ve done with them). Many advertising sites won’t take pre-order advertising but purchase spots for immediately after your launch while your book is new. I am not a fan of blog tours. I have only paid to do one but I couldn’t quantify the results so for me this isn’t part of my strategy.

The bottom line is this: write well, be aware of what is available, be as genre specific as possible in your target marketing and remember that the launch is the beginning and not the end of your marketing efforts for your book and your brand.

Jenny Jensen | A Slice of Orange

Jenny Jensen

Developmental editor who has worked for twenty plus years with new and established authors of both fiction and non-fiction, traditional and indie.

Marketers say someone has to see your book 7 or 8 times before they buy. I’m not a marketer, so I can’t vouch for that but all the on-line exposure of a blog tour must be good. It can’t hurt – or can it? Just as a poorly written book will not sell, a poorly presented blog tour will turn off your audience before they even turn on. You need to leave a positive, compelling impression.

 

Prepare Several Blurbs

 

Since the content should be unique to each site you’ll need to prepare several blurbs – those enticing peeks at your story – not to mention tweets and whatever other social media is on offer. You can approach a blurb in different ways: lead with the most startling action element, lead with the dilemma, lead with a spotlight on character or setting, but lead with a sentence that hooks.

 

Describe Your Story Well

 

However you describe your story it’s critical that it be well written. This is, after all, the reader’s first taste of your voice. I’ve read choppy, unstrung blurbs that show what might be an interesting plot if you overlook the way the words are strung together. Regardless of how intriguing the plot sounds my immediate reaction is: This person can’t write. I won’t be reading this one.

 

Edit. Edit. Edit.

 

Of course, you’ve written a great book. It’s been carefully crafted, closely edited for errors in all respects from plot and character development to syntax and grammar. Your beta readers love it. Now you have to craft the words to sell the story without a single spoiler and with the same silver voice of the book. Craft your blurbs and interview responses with the same care you gave your book. And edit, edit, edit.

Robin Blakely | The Extra Squeeze Team | A Slice of Orange

Robin Blakely

PR/Business Development coach for writers and artists; CEO, Creative Center of America; member, Forbes Coaches Council.

 


You need a PR plan to succeed. Straight up, any plan is better than no plan…and even if you are working with a traditional publisher, your plan may be the only plan that is ever created with much concern about building your long-term career. Accept early that your success as an author is not your publisher’s concern. Their business is centered around the products they have curated for their brand; it includes the book you created–not you.

The reality is, take care of yourself and build your own business.

Phase One is prep time.

 

Build or refresh your website. Connect your social media platforms to your website. Make sure that you use one author picture across platforms so that your brand has a singular face. Establish a media page to create and post your downloadable press kit. Include links to downloadable high-resolution images of your book cover and your author photo. Make sure you have a landing page for book sales.

Prepare a press release that offers the announcement of your book to share with your local paper, bloggers, industry influencers, and reviewers. Don’t know who they are? Figure it out. Clearly define the top four niches of your audience and start building a database of contacts to help you reach each target. In Phase One, fully create the day-by-day choreography for book launch week.

Phase Two is book launch week.

 

Synchronize your PR efforts to reach every corner of your world with news about your book in the seven days of the week that your book is first released. Everyone you can imagine needs to know now, all at once. Either plan a parade of activity or nothing will happen.

Phase Three is steady-to-the-course season.

 

PR efforts must be sustained. That means shift your message from new book announcement to relevant reasons to discover your book, reasons to peek inside, opportunities to read and buy.

How does a blog tour figure into all this? Up to you. The key is to decide when, how, and if you want a blog tour. It is hard work with lots of moving parts. It is a godsend for some authors and hellish for others.

H. O. Charles | A Slice of Orange

H.O. Charles

Cover designer and author of the fantasy series, The Fireblade Array


I wish I knew the answer to this one because if I did, I would be a ££££££££££££-ionaire by now! I can tell you what NOT to do. When I launched my first book, I did little more than list it on Amazon and submit it to Smashwords. I had no idea about advertising (still learning on that front), and I published in secret, under a pseudonym, so had no friend or colleague network to exploit.

 

Tip 1: Don’t go it alone – if you know people who can help, use them. This applies to other authors. If they see your work and like it, they might team up with you to do a newsletter promo or similar.

 

Tip 2: Don’t do what soooo many authors do and sign up to a forum, then post once about your amazing new book. It won’t get you sales, but it will get people’s backs up (may have done this <coughs>).

 

Tip 3: Don’t list your pre-orders at full price. If you’re unknown, no one will take a chance on you anyway so you may have to lure customers in by being cheap!

 

Positive tips:

  • Do look at advertising opportunities, and check out writers’ forum reviews on their effectiveness.
  • Do make sure all of your pages are set up nicely – web page, Goodreads page, Facebook page… etc. so that readers can look you up, contact you and leave reviews easily.
  • Try to get on a few blog interviews.
  • Do be careful with your PR and the claims you make. It’s perfectly okay to brag about your past achievements, as long as they’re verifiable. I’ve noticed a few writers recently who claim to have sold 200,000 books in a month – you go to their Amazon page, and their book is ranked #100,008,282,212! It’s very easy to see through such fabrications, and once a writer loses trust from their readership, it’s unlikely to be regained.

Last of all, I would say to keep your expectations low. I know that sounds dreadfully pessimistic, but realistically, very few authors do well on one book without the backing of an expensive PR agency. It’s only once you have a good body of work out there and plenty of positive reviews that more readers will start to notice you.

If you have a question or topic you would like the Extra Squeeze Team to tackle please use the this contact form.

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Dear Extra Squeeze Team, How Do I Price My Novel?

February 7, 2020 by in category Featured Author of the Month, The Extra Squeeze by The Extra Squeeze Team tagged as , , , ,

Each Saturday in February we’ll be featuring The Extra Squeeze Team.

Ever wonder what industry professionals think about the issues that can really impact our careers? Each month The Extra Squeeze features a fresh topic related to books and publishing.

Amazon mover and shaker Rebecca Forster and her handpicked team of book professionals offer frank responses from the POV of each of their specialties — Writing, Editing, PR/Biz Development, and Cover Design.

Have you a question for The Extra Squeeze Team? Send them to us by using this handy link.

How Much | The Extra Squeeze | A Slice of Orange

Dear Extra Squeeze Team, I’m ready to self-publish my first novel as both an ebook and a paperback. It’s a romantic suspense novel and about 90,000 words. How do I figure out what to charge? I don’t want to be too cheap, but I don’t want to be too expensive either. Help! How do I price my novel?

Rebecca Forster | Extra Squeeze

Rebecca Forster 

USA Today Bestselling author of 35 books, including the Witness series and the new Finn O’Brien series.

I love that this author has provided so much information. Her query is objective, communicated the pertinent information and is focused. Kudos. Many authors – first time and seasoned – simply calculate how much money they can make at different price points and choose the highest one that they believe the market will bear. What they don’t take into account are market forces and there are plenty of them.

This lady is a first-time author intending to publish as an indie. It is clear that she understands her genre. I will assume her book is awesome. Now let’s look at what she is going to face. There are currently about 2,500 new books published through Amazon a day. She will be competing with seasoned, midrange and newbie authors all of whom are publishing books at the same time she is. Some will offer their books for free and others for $.99. Many will leave those books at these price points for promotional purposes with the objective of getting their books into as many readers’ hands as possible. They will be hoping to garner reviews. In my experience it takes about 100 downloads to get one review. That’s a lot of books you have to sell. If you overprice your work, no one will buy it.   Spending $6.99 on an unknown will not be as attractive as receiving a free book or one at $.099. Many best selling authors (myself included) price their books at $3.99 and $4.99. Anything under $5.00 is considered a bargain book and is more easily promoted on advertising sites and book-dedicated social media sites. There are so many more nuances one can address regarding pricing but covering them all would be a novel in and of itself.

My advice to this author is to read over the above, take a look at the bestsellers in her genre and make a list of price points. I would include general thrillers in this list also because there is a ton of crossover between straight thrillers and romantic suspense. At the same time, assess how you are introducing yourself to the reading public. Do you have your website, your social media accounts, your branding in tip-top shape? Are book two and three almost done (indie publishing has taught me that readers will veer to an author with deep inventory because, if they like your work, they want to click for the next one). Does your cover scream quality? People pay a little more if it looks like the next big thing but not much.

To put this in perspective, I have published (traditionally and as an indie) over thirty books. I have experimented with many price points from $.99 to $6.99. $2.99 to $3.99 is the sweet spot (read Mark Coker’s blog post at Smashwords on pricing). You can make a good living at this price point but not without a heck of a lot of work.

Price this first book to sell, garner fans, ask for reviews, build up your profile everywhere and keep writing so that you have inventory. This is a long-haul profession. It looks like you’re ready for it. Good luck.

P.S. I price my paperbacks for minimal return. I might make $1.00 to $2.00. That is because I want them to be reasonably priced and I know that 97% of my business as an indie is in digital sales.

Jenny Jensen | A Slice of Orange

Jenny Jensen

Developmental editor who has worked for twenty plus years with new and established authors of both fiction and non-fiction, traditional and indie.

Two very successful authors and one savvy, marketer share this panel with me. I’ll leave the hard marketing advice to their tried and true experience and respond as a consumer.

I’m a champion of Indie publishing. I read a lot, all genres, and I love to discover new writers. Unfettered access to any voice that wishes to be heard is the outstanding feature of Indie Publishing. I know I’m not alone in this opinion so as a new, untested voice I salute your maiden voyage.

I download work by unknown authors at least twice a week. My price point for an unknown is from 0 to 1.99 and there are several criteria that prompt my choice: a compelling title, one that invites, intrigues or amuses always gets a second look at the cover and a close read of the story blurb. It’s that book description that’s the hook. It must be revealing to a tantalizing extent (no spoilers), descriptive of some feature that sets the book apart from the cookie cutter template of the particular genre — maybe a well-crafted sentence or two that reveals a great character, an intriguing setting or a particularly unique situation. It must include something of the challenge inherent in the plot — in other words, give me a reason to want to read the story.

This short sell copy reflects the writer’s style and skill so it’s critical that the voice I’m considering spending my time with comes through loud and clear. Poor grammar, clumsy wording and typos are an immediate reason to move on, as is a dry recitation of plot points. If the cover matches the level of professionalism and care reflected in the title and the description, I bite. It sounds like my perspective buyer self takes in these criteria in an orderly way. Not so; it’s the blending of all the features that makes a work by an untried author enticing.

Considering just how fierce the competition is it’s great to have access to various platforms where you can stand out. Whether it’s an offering on a Bookbub-ish bargain site, a platform like Indie Book Nexus or a genre specific site, this is your chance to cut yourself from the herd.

There are degrees of how strong the attraction of a book offering is. I’ll always try a .00 price point book if the presentation interests me. I don’t view that as a cheapened offering, rather I see it as an invitation. If I’m going to invest up to 1.99 then I need an assurance of quality. The care and passion of the book sell copy is reflective of the care and passion in the work.  It takes an excellent presentation to move me to my 1.99 limit.  That hasn’t happen often for a new author with a stand-alone book. Of course, editorial reviews help — nice stuff if you can get it, but I don’t require that.

I’ll add that when I’ve fallen in love with a new author and she has no published work to move on to I am bummed. I vow to keep a lookout for a ‘next’, but it does not stay top of mind. A link to a mailing list for the next book’s release date is pretty good compensation.

You’ve made the decision to publish so I’m sure you’ve had the manuscript thoroughly edited and it is the best product you can provide to the reading public.

Invite every potential reader and if it’s a freely given invitation then know you’ll begin growing your audience. Wow me and I’ll pay for the next book. It’s an investment.

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