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.

 

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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.

Expressing Yourself!

Recently I attended a workshop where someone asked the question: “How many exclamation marks should my manuscript contain?”

The instructor replied: “Before I answer that question,  tell me how many your manuscript contains.”

“Approximately one hundred and thirty.”

The (multiple-award-winning) instructor’s response: “That’s one hundred twenty-nine too many.”

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Recently I edited a chapter in which the words “of course,”  appeared eight times. 

After reading the chapter I wondered, what in the world was this author thinking?

Unfortunately, the author was me!!!!

Don’t you hate it when you read something you have written and then wonder, what in the world was I thinking?

Of course. Upon re-reading the work I realized that the phrase was, of course, completely unnecessary.

So are most exclamation marks! Especially sentences where the author uses multiple marks as a way to really express emotion!!!!!

Our job as the author, and storyteller,  is to choose words that adequately express emotion. While it is grammatically correct to write: “Watch out!” It isn’t necessary to decorate emotional dialogue with punctuation as in the example below:

“No!” I screamed as Angela inched closer to the edge. “Stop!”

While reaching toward her I said, “Take my hand!”

Shaking her head, Angela took another step backward. “Stay away from me!”

“Please!!! Don’t do this! You mean too much to me!”

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Be honest, didn’t you get tired of seeing an exclamation mark at the end of every sentence?

Of course you did.

Readers quickly tire of exclamation marks and repeated phrases (which my critique group calls “an echo”).

Using a yellow, orange, pink, and light blue highlighter, re-read your work and mark phrases that repeat and unnecessarily punctuation. Then take a moment to review how much color appears on the pages. You might , of course, wish to remove every single word that doesn’t strengthen your manuscript.

As always, I welcome your comments.

Blessings and bestsellers to you!

Renea Winchester is an award-winning author of the book In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes, (Little Creek Books 2010) and Stress-free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author (Make Your Mark Publishing 2011). Visit Renea’s website at www.reneawinchester.com and her other blog at http://blogthefarm.wordpress.com

NaNo and Emerging Authors Beware

Newbie and NaNoWriMo authors will soon discover a legion of businesses eager to publish their manuscript. Wanting to capitalize on inexperienced authors, these  “reputable companies” whose names we all recognize, basically accept every single manuscript submitted. They are printers, not publishers. 

Don't trust your manuscript with just any ole printer

These printers realize that authors want more control. They are preying on giddy authors who have accomplished a significant goal and now want a finished product.  While I do not advise against self-publishing, I do warn authors to enter with caution. Recognize that there are many businesses who can destroy your reputation in a blink. Also recognize that you may be too “in love” with your manuscript to be rational.

First, prior to publication, step away …pause…and then pass your manuscript to someone to read, and ko-wreck(t) the misstakes [sic].

While the life of an author is filled with people willing to help fledgings through the process, few will read something you’ve written and bleed red ink across the pages. Why? Because authors are notorious for drama, fits, tantrums and other outbursts which (quite frankly) people just don’t have time to deal with.

This is one of the reasons why New York publishing houses will not take a risk on a newbie. They have zero time for drama. They also have zero time to deal with a stubborn author who refuses to see mistakes, or bend to improve their manuscript. They are weary of highly educated authors who believe “The End” means perfect.

Second, ask a self-published author about their results. Filter their response with the knowledge that some printers offer “author incentive” programs. Meaning, if they refer an author to their services they earn a reward. You aren’t asking if they like their printer or were satisfied with the results. You are asking about sales after the end-product was shipped to the author’s home.

You are not one of the suckers born every minute who will fall for a sales pitch. You are seeking the truth.

You understand the importance of distribution, distribution, distribition versus: unsold stock, unsold stock, unsold stock.

Ask point-blank questions. If the self-published author only offers eBooks ask: “How do you direct readers to your ebook?” If the answer is vague, file the response in the “Danger, Danger” category. While it is rude to ask how many copies the author has sold, ask; “where do you garner the most sales?”

Do not under any circumstance upload an ebook in December and expect it to sell.  Let the words rest. Let the words commune with their friends the sentence, the paragraph, the page. Do not be in a hurry to make a mistake. As always, I welcome any questions.

Remember, Kindle owners can order a copy of Stress-free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author for $ 2.99 until the end of 2011. Amazon Prime Members can upload it for free.  Also: In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love  & Tomatoes has  once again been added to book clubs across the south. (Hello, Texas and Mississippi readers!)  It is also available wherever books are sold. Click this link  to your favorite bookstore.  (you might have to ask them to order it); Garden with Billy is also available on Kindle and Amazon.