You Have an Agent….What Happens Next?

Nothing can bring more joy, and then confusion, than when an agent asks to see your manuscript and then subsequently sends you a contract. But before I begin, let’s start with your work. Do not, under any circumstance, submit your work to any agent unless your manuscript is complete, and has been edited.  By edited I mean edited by a professional editor. If an agent loves your submission they will ask to see your work. . . . every word until The End.

An agent will send you a contract. Whether you are self-published, or have waited patiently for years to find an agent, when the contract arrives you must shelve your excitement and shift into business mode.

Writing is a business. Remember that sentence; it is important.

Authors tend to experience what I call, “A Sally Field” moment. When an agent, or publishing company, asks to see your work we think: they like me . . . they really like me.

However, an agent didn’t request to see your manuscript because s/he likes you. Your agent requested to see your manuscript because they saw something in your submission they thought they could sell to a publishing house. Something in your characters, or your story- or both – caught their eye and at that moment your agent, or publisher, thought I can turn this manuscript into a sellable book.

Publishing a book, while exciting and euphoric for you, is a business transaction for the team working on your manuscript.

Here are your agent’s duties:

* Read through your manuscript and locate a market for your work

* Work with you to create a sellable manuscript. This means editing your submission (This is a non-negotiable step. Your manuscript will require additional edits (plural) once a publisher accepts it. More on that later.

*  Network with everyone they can think of to sell your book

*  Sell your book

*  Negotiate the best price possible for your book

*  Negotiate the legal contract with the publisher (authors should prepare for a two-book deal)

*  Receive royalties and distribute them to you, the author

*  The agent will not, help you market your book.

My Agent Sold My Book . . . Now What?

At this phase, you, the author, are ready to see the printed book.

You still have months, (more like a year) to wait until your book is ready. During that time, please work on your second manuscript. (You will thank me later).

Once a publisher has expressed interest and your agent has sent you another contract, the manuscript goes into what I call “the hopper.” Big publishing houses meticulously schedule the release of their titles. By September, publishers know every title they will release the following year. Your book will have a “birthday.” Its birthday is non-negotiable. Remember, writing is a business. The publishing company works hard to stay in business. Therefore, the team working on your book knows the precise moment the readers will welcome your book. You, the author, do not.

What Do You Mean I need to Re-edit My Book?

Fledgling authors and those who have previously self-published often get confused when they learn that their book will require further edits. Let’s be honest, editing is an expensive step that most self-published authors skip. If you have previously self-published, most likely you have asked your spouse, your momma, and your best friend to read your work. These are the same people who won’t tell you when you have spinach in your teeth, or toilet paper attached to the bottom of your shoe. They maybe teachers, English majors, and your most trusted advisor, but riddle me this, what do they know about the business of books?

Publishing houses have staff devoted to editing your book. They edit books for breakfast. Not to offend, but your Momma does not.

What is my editor’s job?:

In short, your assigned editor has one job. Molding the manuscript your agent submitted into something readers will like well enough to read from cover to cover.

Your editor’s job is not:

Being your new best friend; your editor already has friends.

Tiptoeing around your ego; your editor is paid to work on paragraphs, not your psyche.

Arguing with you about the finer points of Southern Vernacular or local slang.

So What is My Editor’s Job?

Your editors (notice the plural) will take your manuscript and cut it, mold it, then send it back to you with cryptic messages like: tighten this.

What does that mean?

When I work with authors I try to ease them into the real world of publishing, but here are the facts, most authors who have previously self published did so because they needed control. They wanted to “own” their work and they did not want to go through the painful gestational book-pregnancy-period. Secretly, they wanted an agent and a large publishing house, but only if that meant they could control every aspect of their book.

Ouch. Did you expect anything but honesty from me?

Veteran Authors understand that editing is a crucial phase. They trust their editors. Editing will occur. Authors can either work with their editor to create something wonderful, or bash themselves against stones and burn out on the publishing process.

Have you forgotten, you signed a two-book deal?

In short, editing is about trust. You no longer own your book, you signed those rights away during the agent-euphoria process. Your endorsement of the contract meant I trust you to convert my manuscript into something readers will love.

What does Editing Look Like?

I know what you are thinking, what a ridiculous heading. I know what editing looks like. Oh my friend, perhaps you do not. Editing has many faces. Consider this example.

Self-publishing Editing

Momma and ’em have looked at your work and pronounced it (and you) perfect. Just cross a couple t’s and add a few comas and you’re good to go. (They do not mention the spinach in your teeth).

Vanity-press Editing

For clarity, the term “vanity” press is industry-defined as a company the author pays to take their document and convert it into a bound book. Very little editing-other than a cursory read-through- is done. You pay them. They deliver a book and off you go to pound the pavement and sell your book. Perhaps you have tried this in the past and determined there was a better way, hence the agent and larger press.

Small-press and Academic- Press Editing

Small presses are legitimate, hard-working presses who release a dozen or so carefully selected titles. Their editing process goes like this. You deliver a hard-copy manuscript. An editor marks on it, returns it to you and expects you to make the corrections they suggest.

That is phase one.

Phase two comes after you have made the suggested corrections. The editor reviews your corrections (not the entire manuscript again, they do not have time), the book goes to the next phase, and the next employee. I should also add that most-likely you will not know your editor. Small presses rarely reveal the identity of their editing staff. That protects their employees from fledgling insecure authors who believe their submission will be a NYT bestseller.

Middle and Large-Press Editing

Most editing is done electronically.

The author receives an e-document that has been edited using the “track changes” option.  Portions of the manuscript may have moved from one place to another in order to create “better flow.” The editor, who is a professional and expects that they are working with the same, writes what may appear as cryptic messages: (remove echo, tighten, dialect, flesh out character, more movement, redundant, this is a “darling, kill it”) just to name a few.

By the way a “darling” is perhaps your favorite part of the manuscript. Don’t get married to it my dear, odds are you love it too much. (More on darlings in a later post).

An editor works for your manuscript, not you, the author. The editor is devoted to words, sentences, paragraphs, chapters. If an author becomes angry, puffed up and argumentative their road will be long and rocky. Enter into this the time-frame. Readers are wishy-washy. They love vampires one day, zombies the next. As an aside, do not write about either. And, since the book industry is ever-changing one should expect this. Authors should be very careful during the editing stage. Learn to separate yourself from your emotions. People talk and it takes one word to ruin your career. One. Making a correction to your manuscript is not the end of the world; it is part of the pruning process. Pruning makes you a better author (we can all use a little pruning); and, pruning your manuscript allows it to grow

I have a New Editor . . . Now What?

Employee turnover is common, perhaps even expected, in the publishing industry. It is rare to have the same editor two books in a row. It is also rare to have an agent for an extended period of time. The same editor who worked on the last New York Times Bestseller had honed her skills for years. She knew the business, knew the readers, and knew how to take a good manuscript and make it better. She has just received a promotion within the company. She is an Agent now and has just handed your manuscript over to someone who now works for her. That new editor may send you a second “round of edits” because the new editor knows how to hone a good manuscript into a great book.

My First Book is Out and Now Everything Has Changed Again . . . What do I do?

You have experienced the emotional highs and lows of editing, and survived. Now it is time to write the second book in your two-book contract. You’ve learned a lot: shelved your emotions, perfected your craft. Congratulations. Your next manuscript will be better than the first. But wait, you have been assigned another new editor who wants you to submit your content as you write.

Yes. As you write.

By your second book, the publisher expects that the author has learned to submit their best work. Your editor is investing their time in another fledgling author, which is why they ask you to submit your work in fifty page increments. If you have a completed manuscript editors will, of course, accept it as a whole. However, if you have incomplete work they want to see it as well. They will edit as you write, which may or may not be a comfortable situation for an author. This new process allows an editor to mold the story from the beginning. Once completed there will be another round of edits before copy-editing (which is proofreading and fitting the words to the pages as they will appear in the finished book).

Hopefully, this lengthy blog post has explained the editing process. If you have questions, please leave them in the comment section. Feel free to share any editorial experiences you have had. As always, I believe that knowledge is power. The more educated you can be about the process, the less stress you feel during the book gestation period. There is a reason seasoned authors call their work a “book baby.” The delivery process is rarely without pain, but once you hold your baby for the first time everything you have experienced is worth the journey.

My best to you, always.

GEORGIAWRITERSPHOTORenea Winchester is the award-winning author of Farming, Friends, & Fried Bologna Sandwiches which  Mercer University Press will release in September and Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination.  Those confused about the publishing process should purchase a copy of her book, Stress-Free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author.  Renea is the judge of many prestigious Georgia Author awards, and is part of the Make Your Mark Publishing editing team. Meet Renea in Savannah at the Red Clay Conference Georgia’s Moveable Literary Feast where she will lead a workshop and offer critiques. Reserve a space for your manuscript here. Email her through her website at www.reneawinchester.com. She welcomes new friends on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter Here.

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Stepping over to the e-side Why I released Mountain Memories exclusively through Kindle

 

Readers who have either met me briefly or who are life-long friends know that I am a champion for the printed word and Independent Booksellers. I’ll do just about anything to help those folk out which is why I dressed up in overalls and rode a stick pony while filming the Harlem Shake at The Book Exchange in Marietta, Georgia and why I delivered a jug of “the recipe” for the “Mountain Women” event at FoxTale in Woodstock. When I’m not in a bookstore, I’m in the library giving readers the opportunity to meet Billy Albertson, the man behind my first book. I am a self-appointed author cheerleader, linking their latest releases and events the moment I learn about it. I prefer, without debate, a real printed book. So why did I release Mountain Memories: True Stories and Tall Tales from Appalachia exclusively through Kindle?

 

In a word: Money. mountainmemoriescover

 

Just writing those words make me feel dirty. Y’all know me for my honesty and there it is: money.  I don’t have any pie-in-the-sky notions about becoming independently wealthy with Mountain Memories. Honestly, I am very nervous about this e-book release. My tummy is all queasy, I’ve been weepy. I am just not myself. I want in my heart, to release a printed version, but I am eyeball deep in my novel. There is a conundrum authors’ experience, the fear of loosing readers. My first book came out in the fall of 2010, a lifetime ago in the publishing world. I know that I must act, must keep engaging readers who fell in love with my first book In the Garden with Billy. If not, they will forget about me. That is the cold hard truth we don’t discuss at the dinner table.

 

This May my critique buddy, (and pretty fantastic author) Carmen Slaughter, noted that it was National Short Story Month. I already had the twitch to return to short stories, where I cut my teeth and first put pen to paper. Yes, I write every single word on paper first. I can’t help myself. While I wrote Amazon established a new division for “shorts.” Acceptance into the shorts program requires approval by an employee of the company. Like them or not, Amazon recognizes trends, or perhaps sets them. I dunno. I have long said the trend is toward more short stories, what with our constant interruptions and no-time-to read.

 

My collection gives voice to my people. My people aren’t stereotypically southern, we’re rural Appalachia. There is a difference. I also know that no publisher, unless it is a vanity press, would print my regional collection. I know this. Independent Booksellers know this. You, the reader, now know this. My words had no home and y’all know how desperately I need a home.

 

As Carmen monitored my progress I typed and challenged myself to write words that might surprise readers. I want to grow, remain fresh, unpredictable. Feeling like I was handing a chunk of my heart, I sent a story to Carmen, then to Beverly who was my first reader, and finally to Laurie, who is a bookseller. While they read I polished Mountain Memories. Then, a miracle happened. Mercer University Press accepted Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. Cue the Peanuts Happy Dance and Hallelujahs!! I am over the moon, humbled, honored and deeply indebted to Mercer University for taking a chance on this terrific book, which is a sequel to In the Garden. The publisher is excited. I am excited. Billy is excited. However, the book won’t be ready until 2014, and 2014 is a long way away my friends, which brings us back to money.

 

Dental bills, car repairs, and the high cost of everyday living; writing is my job. Not to mention the emergency garage door repair (don’t y’all breathe a word to my husband about that….promise?). I know I am preaching to the choir. I know that some of you are nodding as you read this. And (hang on here comes more honesty), authors only receive about one dollar per copy of every book sold. Doesn’t it always come down to money? And don’t we always feel punched-in-the-gut about our lack of money. So there you have it.

 

Now you know, the reason why I chose to release Mountain Memories: True Stories and Tall Tales from Appalachia via Kindle. I’m no technical guru. I don’t own an iphone or any thing that starts with an i; but a little birdie told me that you can also read Mountain Memories by other avenues. Amazon has links that allow you to read using Windows 7, Windows 8, Mac, ipad, iphone, or even your eyeball (haha). Click the link here to choose what works for you. And know, truly know, that I appreciate every single one of you. I do not take lightly your purchase. $ 2.99 might not be much for some, but for me, it is and I am thankful for you. In appreciation, if you leave a review on Amazon and email me the comment through my website HERE I will email you a short story FOR FREE.

 

Those who don’t have an e-reader, can purchase a pdf copy directly from me through my website www.reneawinchester.com

 

Here’s a little tease. An example of a  true tale and half truth.

 

From: Remembering:[this is a true tale] 

 

We are here.

 

Here, where wild hogs have ploughed the ground and the ditch doesn’t drain well anymore. Here, where Cinnamon ferns throw spores to the wind, where fronds unfurl and ferns grow tall; already four feet even though it is only mid-May. Here, where our ancestors rest in peace. The gardeners in the group covet Mother Nature’s ability to hide treasures such as this. Mother Nature does an excellent job hiding the graves of our people behind a hedge of brambles. For that we are thankful. Otherwise their resting place might be disturbed by folk who don’t understand the importance of heritage.

 

We are here, in our place heart longs to visit, where our soul finds rest. We are here, where we our people expect us to be each year at this same time. We are in a place others know as western North Carolina. In a place millions know as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We are here, in a place our people fought to save; in a place they never wanted to leave.

 

We are home.

 

Feeling their spirit, I quickly wipe away tears and gather the flowers made of tissue paper, just like Aunt Edna used to make. I think she’s pleased her tradition remains. Each year I assemble the flowers using recycled paper and pick buds from my own garden. I am unwilling to adorn graves with plastic, partially out of concern for the environment, but primarily because I want to honor the old ways. There were no plastic flowers back then; only fresh-cut stems placed in glass jars, or colorful paper twisted around pipe cleaners.

 

The hike to the cemetery is strenuous. Even the youngest family member stops to rest or beg the nearest adult for a piggyback ride. As we ascend, native flowers such as Jack-in-the-pulpit and trillium, greet me. As does the rose bush my great grandmother planted where the combination church and schoolhouse once stood. Again I smile. There is still something left of her in these woods, even if I am the only one who remembers. The government may own the land, but I own my memories.

 

From Nathaniel Preston’s Funeral [this is a half truth]

 

Mittie Cleveland walked down the aisle of the First Baptist Church like she once had many years ago. Fifty years had passed since her feet last touched the maroon-colored carpet. On that day her future husband had fiddled with his watch while she marched slowly toward the minister and a man she adored, a man who would never return the adoration. Mittie interpreted the gesture−a toe tap anticipation−as eagerness, that her future husband was excited about their new life together. As she inched forward the baby growing inside her womb kicked for the first time. Smiling then, she had looked into the pale blue eyes of a man she barely knew and pledged her life to his, until death parted them. She had not known then, because it is impossible to know ones husband well on your wedding day, that impatience, not eagerness caused him to wind his watch. Mittie quickly learned that neither patience, nor fidelity, was her husband’s strong suit.

 

Do Authors Need an Author Page?

Do Authors Need an Author Page?

Or, is a Personal Page Sufficient?

This week  I was discussing the pros and cons of creating an author page with  Amy Hill Hearth. Amy is a New York Times bestselling author who created an author page at her publishers insistence. In order to be honest with y’all, Amy and I were actually discussing the cons of an author page.  We really can’t ascertain any benefit. Anything that causes an author to manage two pages (personal and professional)  is inefficient and nonsensical.

Amy explains: The emphasis from S&S is never to have a page devoted to a single title. It should be under your name. We are supposed to be building our “brand,” that is, ourselves.

Publishers want their authors to tweet twice a day, blog at least weekly and have a social media “presence” on Facebook. For that reason, I have noticed several friends who are shutting down their personal page and opting for an author page. The problem is this: will people move with you? If they do will they be pleased with an impersonal author page? (most are not)

So I posted a comment on my wall stating that I would not create an author page (because I enjoy a more personal interaction with people). My sweet friend, Theresa Shadrix, explained that I didn’t need both.

Oh Theresa, my angel, tell us more!

She explained that if one sets their “permissions” on FB to allow followers, then there isn’t a need to create another page.

Not totally convinced, I visited Shawna Coronado’s Facebook page. Shawna is the knower of all things plant, marketing, and friendship. One little look and I was convinced. She has a friends section,  AND a following.

The reason authors are strongly encouraged to create an author page is that Facebook will cut you off at five thousand friends. Once you reach that number you can not add any more. Author pages accommodate an unlimited number of followers and are supposed to inform readers each time you post. To test this theory, visit some of the pages you have liked. Did their latest post appear on your news feed? Probably not. I have found that unless I have interaction with people on their wall, or visit their page,  I rarely see updates from pages I have “liked.” So asking people to “like” your page probably does not reach the target audience you intended. Why? Because when people “like” a page they rarely take the extra second to click the button “show in news feed.”

Be honest, you don’t do it either. You didn’t even know there was a drop down button. You were just asking for likes.

Shawna bypassed all of this which was why I sent her a message asking her about her decision. Here is her response;

I was speaking online to Scott Monty, who’s a famous SM expert that works as a VP at Ford. My complaint was about the fact I was double posting for a fan page and my own page and the whole “fan page” thing seemed ridiculous. He said, “It IS ridiculous. If you have your permissions set right you can just get subscribers and they can comment and follow you — you can leave comments or send them notes — SO the idea is more like a Twitter following.”

This idea I liked. It eliminated the double posting. My fan page was going nowhere because everyone wants to know the more personal side of me and I was posting all the personal stuff over on my regular page. Therefore, I closed down the fan page and kept up the personal/regular page allowing people to subscribe (“follow”) as they want to.

By the way, you should follow Shawna or at least visit her website.

Those who don’t want the burden of having two sites can make the transition in less than one minute.

Go to Account Settings  (top right of your FB page)fbcapture

Click Followers (on the left side of page).

Check the box to “Allow Followers.”

fbcapturefollowers

Answer a couple quick questions and you are done !

No more double postings. No need to create an author page and then transition everyone over to your author’s page. No more fretting that you have an author page with three followers. Readers can find you in one easy place and you can devote time to writing.

Thank you for reading. Oh, and don’t forget to follow me here.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes. In 2012 she released Stress-Free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author. 2014 will see the release of In the Kitchen with Billy: Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. She is currently working on her first novel. She would love to hear from you. Visit her at www.reneawinchester.com

Enduring the Feast and Famine of Writing

I write this during what I call a feast time. The feast time in the life of an author happens many times. It is a moment, perhaps only an hour long, where words come faster than mortal hands can type, or in my case, write. All reasoning escapes authors during this moment. We become excited, yet emotionally unstable. We embrace this time all while knowing deep in our soul that the feast-moment is fleeting. We fear the feast time almost as much as the famine. What if we can’t capture the words as they tumble through our brain? What if the characters hide and leave us with few words and even less hope.

Last week while suffering from self-loathing and immense self doubt I was certain, absolutely certain it was time to return to the “real world” and get a “real job.” My husband is certain of this as well, all the time. We have a son in college and a daughter waiting her turn. If you’re seeking sunshine and the words everything will be fine I’m not that kind of author. Writing is difficult. The journey, slow and methodical. If you are in this business for financial reward…well, (don’t stone me) you might be disappointed. Ten years ago I abandoned the corporate world, moved to Atlanta and “got serious” about writing. My journey from inspiration to publication transformed the confident women I’ve always been into one who anguishes and wrestles with words. Those awards I’ve won…well, somehow they make me more nervous than confident.

Let’s not talk about the past; let’s talk about today.

Today, I have two, yes two works in progress. Why two? Because the muse, that silent and elusive wench whispered another storyline in my ear at the precise moment I locked myself into the writing room bound and determined to either write, or die trying.

I create in a room without technology…if not I’ll spend all day on Facebook and blow every ounce of creativity I possess. I’ll end the day with self-loathing and spend the afternoon polishing my resume’.

Have I mentioned that I recently diagnosed myself with ADD? I didn’t have that before I became an author. Nope. I could sit for hours on a single project. Spend hours writing court briefs. Those days are long gone. Today I think about writing while folding the laundry, vacuuming, walking the dog… just to name a few. I write on sticky notes, used envelopes, my hand. I am a mess.

Meanwhile, back at the notebook, I consider actually writing. Pieces of pulp pressed flat, lined, and bound together with glue rest in my lap. I sit pen-perched ready to launch my protagonist, Carole Anne, on a certain course when this new idea descends in a tsunami of words. For a moment I fight the new idea. I am certain this new plot is a distraction sent from the evil one whose intent is to stand between me and certain success.

Did I mention that becoming an author also made me paranoid? The paranoids were never after me when I held a job in the real world.

Knowing that if I moved a muscle, if I eased out of my seat to grab the recorder two rooms away, my muse would give my story to someone else (writing also makes you superstitious). I did the only thing possible, I wrote. Fast. Using tiny strokes of the pen that consumed the least amount of energy, I wrote, and wrote joy filling my heart, while Carole Anne waited patiently, her story−for the moment−less important.

Carole Anne understands. She arrived the same way as the current story.

For the planners among us, those who must outline, or perish, that methodology is also acceptable. I’m not trying to tell you how to write, merely explain that the ebb and flow of writing (for me) looks like a train wreck mixed with a tornado.

After writing three front and back pages I had pressed enough of the story onto the pages for the Muse to reveal an outline. Oh it is a beautiful thing, this outline. I have never written an outline before. I would share it if not for the above referenced superstition. My muse does not like me sharing her secrets. The more I talk about my work in progress, the less she reveals. The less she reveals, the less progress I make.

Grammar kind of goes out the window during the feast time as well.

Now I need y’all to insert smack-dab in the middle of this word-flood an approaching critique group meeting. This meeting, designed to encourage multiple-personality writers like myself, takes place at the Book Exchange in Marietta, GA. Writers submit five double-spaced pages of their work in progress. We read, bleed upon the pages in a loving way, discuss characters, and (hopefully) make each other’s stories better.

I will probably miss the meeting. Prior to the first meeting we voted on the rules. My (now) fifteen pages of handwritten curled-up-notebook-page prose does not meet the pre-established typed (and for the love of humanity, printed) protocol. Nor do the tiny sentences written three lines high per each line. My writer friends understand. They know that I can’t stop, can’t interrupt the flood, the flow of words. They know that next week, the tide will probably subside and a famine arrive. Perhaps that is the best time to meet with my colleagues. Perhaps their support will sustain me during the famine.

When the famine comes, it arrives bearing nothing but self-doubt, loathing and a plethora of want ads for which I am qualified.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of In the Garden with Billy: Lessons about Life, Love & Tomatoes and Stress-free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author. 2014 will see the release of In the Kitchen with Billy: Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. She loves to hear from you. Visit her at www.reneawinchester.com

 

Online Book Reviews Do Not Equal Book Sales

Online Book Reviews Do Not Equate Sales 

Without fail, every time I lead a workshop or attend a book festival someone approaches, places a book in my hand and says, “Do me a favor, go online and write a review.”

Reviews solicited in this manner disturb me. Authors should be educated about this process, not desperate to garner reviews.

To confuse the issue, many, many authors, and readers alike, wrongly believe that the individuals writing book reviews have actually purchased the title they are reviewing. This is not always the case.

In the beginning, one could not post without purchasing the book. This however has changed. Take a look at the two most popular on-line booksellers, Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Amazon’s review guidelines are puzzling at best. Read the excerpt from their website: Before you can post a review, you’re required to have an Amazon.com account that has successfully been charged for the purchase of a physical or digital item. Free digital downloads don’t qualify. You don’t need to have purchased the product you’re reviewing. There’s a 48-hour waiting period after your first physical order has been completely shipped, or your digital item has been purchased, before you’ll be able to submit your review. If you’ve purchased a digital gift for someone else, the 48-hour waiting period doesn’t begin until the gift has been redeemed.

The contradictory statement, You don’t need to have purchased the product you’re reviewing provides a loophole many authors use. They send emails to friends, family and Facebook acquaintances begging for a “positive review on Amazon.”

The Barnes and Noble’s guidelines read:Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked — or didn’t — with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

This ability to post reviews without purchasing books creates an environment where desperate authors, or less than scrupulous persons, try to manipulate the system. They link reviews to Twitter and Facebook; posts that may in fact lure people to purchase their title.

But wait! When it’s time for royalty checks, how can one determine the number of copies actually sold?

The short answer is, “you can’t.”

Sometimes authors do not solicit reviews. Friends and family members are just “trying to help.” However their “help” creates a disingenuous environment. Imagine for a moment an author scanning the online booksellers and smiling when they locate twenty-five glowing five-star reviews. Now imagine their shock when the royalty check comes.

Dear authors let there be no mistake, a review whether it be good, bad, or indifferent does not mean someone purchased a copy of your book. Remember those free books you give away? What about professional reviewers who receive comp copies? They didn’t purchase your book either.

In closing, while the system of reviewing books may be manipulated, in the end do yourself a favor and do not count reviews as actual book sales.

For more helpful information about navigating the process please purchase a copy of Stress-free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author.

Your favorite Indie Bookseller can purchase the book for you, or book me to lead a workshop. Here is a link.

Ammazon link hardcopy         ebook

Barnes&Noble hardcopy link

Renea Winchester is an award-winning author of Stress-free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author. She leads workshops and provides individual author consultations. Visit her at www.reneawinchester.com.

Questions About Keeping the Books

Recently a reader in Tennessee asked:

If I am doing a booksigning at a retail place (bookstore or other shop) what percentage of my profit must I share?

Do I have to charge sales tax? Do I have to keep track of the taxes?

First, let me clarify that my advice should never  replace that of a CPA. Consult a professional in your area with your individual concerns. Most Accountants will offer a free consultation. Please know that all income received from book sales are subject to Federal Income Tax, and probably (depending on where you reside) State Income Tax as well.

You didn’t think about that part of being an author?  Oopsie, best call the CPA immediately, if not sooner.

Authors are business professionals. They are operating a business and providing a service. Seek the advice of someone who can explain when you should form an LLC or an INC. In the beginning you can report your earnings without much difficulty when filing annual income taxes. However, if you wish to accept credit cards using those fancy cell-phone scanning devices, you will need a business account in which to deposit the funds. The bank will require an FEIN number. You will also need a business account for PayPal transactions.

As an aside, I do not accept credit card payments, the fees eat into a thin profit margin.

In order to open a business account you will need to visit the local Secretary of State website and open an account. Expect to invest approximately $200.00 for proper documentation, even if you do the paperwork yourself. If you live in the city, you may also need a business license; say goodbye to another $100.00. Each require an annual filing fee which is smaller than the initial investment. A CPA can do this for you, but it will cost you approximately a thousand dollars total. Before you make that investment please send me a personal message through my website for a response based on your individual need.

Question One:What percentage of profit must I share?

If you are traditionally published, your publisher takes care of this by entering into an agreement with book distributors such as Baker & Taylor or Ingram’s. I strongly discourage authors from entering into consignment agreements with business owners because in these economic times a business can be here today and gone tomorrow. If you insist upon placing books in someone else’s store, do so only after both have a signed a written consignment contract. Most stores expect to receive 30 to 50% of the retail price of your book.

I will pause while veteran authors laugh. Go ahead, we’ll wait.

Veteran authors are painfully aware that no one  receives 30-50% of the retail price. As the author you should kindly explain this to those kind enough to shelve your book. The printer gets paid first, then the distributor takes a cut; the publisher takes a cut; the book must be shipped (and possibly returned); and that leaves very little (12-15% if you are lucky) for the author, AND the bookseller.

Sales Tax: When money changes hands a “legal sale”  transpires. You, the author, are responsible for collecting and then reporting this sale (rate and reporting deadline vary depending per state) to the Department of Revenue. Failure to report sales will result in hefty, compounded-daily fees. Educate yourself on this process. Authors require a sales-tax id number and a calendar reminder to report sales each month. Sales must be reported, even if they are zero, every month. In Georgia, failure to report a “zero sale” month results in a $ 50.00 fine.

When a bookstore makes a sale they collect, and report, that sale to the Department of Revenue. No action is required from you regarding sales tax.

When an online distributor sells your book, either hardcopy or electronic copy, they collect sales tax. No action is required from you regarding sales tax.

Federal Tax: Royalty checks both from your publisher or any other seller, do not include a deduction for Federal Income Tax.  If book sales exceed the IRS limit, your publisher, who is acting as your employer, will send a 1099. If not, you will report this income as “miscellaneous.”  If income from book sales is a large amount, it might be wise to report income quarterly and pay Income tax quarterly versus writing a hefty check in April.

Record keeping:Emerging Authors will realize that having an account of every sale and expense is imperative. Most word processing programs include a spreadsheet such as Excel. Here you will log every expense from paper to postage stamps; number of books ordered to packaging supplies. You will also log sales, returns and hopefully royalties.

Thank you for the question. I hope my response helps.

Renea Winchester is an award-winning author. She leads marketing workshops for emerging authors and is available to speak to groups as well as personalized individual consultations. Visit her at www.reneawinchester.com

 

Knowing the Truth about Royalty Checks: Recognizing the Lies

by Renea Winchester

I have been waiting for the right time to address this issue. Hoping to find a way to tactfully deliver the message. Praying I could do so in a manner that doesn’t alienate me, offend newbie authors, and yet deliver the truth. 

Y’all know that some people can’t handle the truth. Right? 

I’ll begin with a story: Recently, I was enjoying breakfast with a friend who works as a publicist/mentor/coach for other writers. She was sharing a success story and said that one of her clients told her, “each week I receive a check from Amazon for several hundred dollars.” 

Poker-faced, I steered the conversation toward his book and his marketing techniques,  all while thinking what is wrong with me? I don’t receive a check from Amazon every week? 

Many self-published authors would have immediately contacted Amazon and raised all sorts of ruckus. They would have accused Amazon of stealing. They would have cited examples of their sales (using Amazon’s own statistical numbers as evidence). They would threaten litigation. They would make complete fools out of themselves. 

Those who have read my book, Stress-free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author, (click link to order) understand that monitoring (or boasting about) sales isn’t a productive use of time. Here is an excerpt from my book about monitoring your sales:  Caution: It is easy to become obsessed with online sales. Before spending hours monitoring sales, (which is easy to do) please understand that the ranking system is an enigma wrapped in an unsolvable puzzle. 

Being in the top 10,000 Amazon ranking doesn’t mean your book is selling millions of copies.

Truth: Amazon does not, has not, and will not ever mail authors a weekly check. Any author who tells you otherwise is telling you a lie. 

So much for tact. 

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in claiming that good things will come your way. But, I kinda-sorta-believe good things also come to those who tell the truth, not to people who purposely spread misinformation. 

Don’t you?

 A quick visit to Amazon reveals the following: (bold area highlighted by me):

             5.4.2 Payment Terms. Amazon parties will pay Royalties on their respective Digital Book sales approximately sixty (60) days following the end of the calendar month during which they make the applicable sale. At the time of payment, we will make available to you an online report detailing sales of Digital Books and corresponding Royalties. All payments will be made via check, Electronic Funds Transfer (“EFT”) payments or other method we designate in the Program Policies, in the Sale Currency or other payment currency we provide for in the Program Policies. If we give you the option to change your payment currency and you select that option using our then-current procedures, the change will be effective on the first day of the calendar month following the calendar month in which you make the change (unless we make an earlier period available). If we pay you in a currency other than the Sale Currency, we will convert the Royalties due from the Sale Currency to the payment currency at an exchange rate we determine, which will be inclusive of all fees and charges for the conversion. We may require you to register in your Program account a valid bank account for receiving EFT payments that is in compliance with the then-current Program Policies, in which case we will not be obligated to make payments of Royalties to you unless you do so. We are entitled to accrue and withhold payments until the total amount due is at least $10 if by EFT or $100 if by check, or for payments in other currencies, at least those amounts we set forth in the Program Policies.

Clearly, the man claiming to receive weekly royalty checks is spreading misinformation. Even if he were selling hundreds of dollars worth of books every weeks, Amazon wouldn’t endure the expense of mailing him a check every week. Their own policy is clear. Authors receive checks every 60 days (or longer). While I do not know the reasoning behind his actions, I know that I immediately felt cheated. I do not want you to feel the same way, hence this blog post.

Hopefully, my message will clear up any doubt. No one receives compensation from Amazon. No one.

Keep writing and looking for those checks. As always, I welcome your comments. I kindly ask you to share my blog with others. In this case, knowledge is power.

Renea Winchester is an award-winning author of Stress-free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author and In the Garden with Billy: Lessons about Life, Love & Tomatoes. She teaches emerging author workshops across Georgia, NC, and Tennessee. Contact her through her website to book her in your state.