Under the Weather Winter

Hey all….

Between being sick with some nasty bug roaming our county, then same bug wreaking havoc on our home, coupled with trying to be human enough for making another round of book edits….

I apologize for the sound of crickets here.  Things are looking up, and should be back to posting regularly this coming week.

Happy New Year!

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Publishing: Traditional, Self, Vanity

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A recent conversation sparked this post.  What is the difference in types of publishing.  I knew of two, traditional and self.  However, there is a third.  It is called vanity.

Traditional publishing is when an author pitches their book to a publishing house, the publishing house accepts the manuscript, and the author is paid by the publishing house.  First form of payment is the advance, then it moves to royalties.  An advance is the publishers best guess at how many books they expect to sell.  The author is essentially getting their royalties on those books ahead of time, in advance.  The author receives no additional payment until the sales of the book have met the advance.  Then any additional books sold over that projected number result in a royalties.  Each pay cycle, the author will receive a check based on the number of books sold in that period.  Traditional publishing is very difficult.  Some publishers take on only as few as 12 new (previously unpublished) authors per year.   In traditional publishing, the publishing house will work with the author to finesse the final product, design cover, market the book, etc.   This is the route I have gone with my book, and it is a real blessing having a publishing house carrying part of the load.  The publisher will handle all the details that will land my book in bookstores, shipping my book to those locations, and individual internet sales through their site.  I have an option to buy books at an authors cost, so that I can sell them at events.  Any unsold books, I can return to the publisher.

Self publishing, is exactly what it sounds like.  The author finds a publishing service that will help take their book to market.  Some self publishers do more than others, but the key is the creative control of the author.  They will decide what they want to spend their money on, how much they want to spend.  For example, an author may choose to hire an editor to polish the book.  Another author may feel confident in their skills, and choose not to.  Some self publishers offer an array of services in a one price does all package, and others do only parts and the author is left to source out their other needs.  Generally speaking in self publishing, the author has full creative control.  Also the author is entirely responsible for the sales and marketing of the book.  The author will purchase a minimum order of books, which they will sell directly, or find sites to sell them through as a 3rd party seller.  However, there are some self publishing firms that are expanding their services to include marketing.  The author pays for services, that is how the self publishing firms make their money.  The author purchases the printed books at wholesale and then sells the books at market price.    The author will manage their inventory and ship the books to customers.   Any unsold books are the responsibility of the author to deal with, at their expense.  Self publishers want your book to be successful.  The more books you sell, the more you will need to order, and the more money they make.  Many self publishing firms are divisions of traditional publishers.  If they see your self published book is doing well, you may get an offer to move to their traditional publishing division.  Some authors exclusively self publish for a myriad of reasons.

Vanity publishing is a bit different than self publishing.  Vanity publishing is a form of self publishing, where the author pays to be published in a book that is usually an anthology (many contributing authors).  But, the key difference between self publishing and vanity publishing is the buy in and the terms of the contract.  In vanity publishing, the author does not have as much (if any) creative control.  They can not dictate who is included in the anthology along with their name, which matters if you are trying to build credibility in your field/topic.  The vanity publisher will pick a topic or theme, they will create a buy in package, and then first to pay will get those spots.  The buy in package for vanity publishing will usually cost significantly more than self publishing.  Unlike self publishing, the package will usually include some sort of writing workshops, video/web seminars, etc.  When the book is completed, the contributing authors will receive a set number of books to sell that was included in their package, as well as the opportunity to order more.  The vanity publishers are making their money off the buy in package.

This concept was new to me, and when I heard about it there was immediate research on my end.  The appeal to vanity publishing, is that it feels like a more comfortable entry into the publishing world.  Being responsible for writing only one chapter versus ten, is definitely an appealing way to dip your toes into the pool.  There is even something to be said about having multiple authors promoting one book to their various circles.  It could help get your name out there to new audiences.  On the flip side, you give up a lot of creative control and end up spending more money than if you would have just published yourself.

After reading all the info I could find on vanity publishing, I have come to the conclusion that vanity publishing is like a timeshare.  I know people who consider timeshares a big scam, and I know of people who love having a timeshare.  The key is knowing what you are getting into, researching all of your options, and deciding what is best for you.  Maybe, it is worth it for you to put the extra money into going the anthology route with a vanity publisher because you want to get your feet wet before diving in.  So long as you understand what is going on behind the scenes, going into it eyes wide open.

One article I read strongly would recommend skipping vanity publishing and heading right into self publishing.  If you are going to be doing so much of the work yourself anyway, why not put a little more elbow grease into it?  Start off with a pocket sized book that has five or six chapters, or write a full trade book of nine chapters or more.  If you have the knowledge, experience, and passion… the information is probably already in your head and at your fingertips.  You will accomplish more for less financial investment.

For myself, I made the choice to go with traditional publishing.  I’m learning a LOT through this process.  It is helping me to become a better writer, and articulate my thoughts with more flavor and variety.   I like having multiple people editing through the manuscript, as they see things I may have missed.  I’m over the moon that I don’t need to hunt and hire a design team for the book jacket, and that I have a marketing team working for me.  Getting my first advance check didn’t hurt either, ha!

And, as a final note, not all anthologies come from vanity publishing.  I’ve read anthologies from traditional publishing (who pay the authors), and self publishing (where the authors divide the direct costs, and keep their own profits).  Chicken Soup for the Soul is a great example of anthology that is self published.  In case you didn’t realize it, Chicken Soup for the Soul books are not published under any of the major publishing houses.  They self publish and are in complete control of their product.  However, if you contribute a story to Chicken Soup… you get paid.  You do not pay to have your story included in their books.  Chicken Soup books are a great way to get some experience under your belt, and a few titles too.

The Other Conversation

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Generally speaking, I tend to not engage about current events and controversies on my page.  I tend to stick to the wisdom of the Scriptures and avoid the fray, because Titus 3:9.   Today, I am going to dip my toes in the conversation pool.  A different perspective needs to be addressed.

In case you have been under a rock, here is a brief timeline of events: Lauren Daigle rises as a Christian artist with crossover merit.  As she gets more accolades, so come more opportunities.  Daigle performs on the Ellen Show, which comes with accolades and criticism.  Accolades acknowledge the opportunity Daigle had to give a glimpse of the Gospel to a huge audience.  Criticism was the choice to perform on a show hosted by a Lesbian.  All of which culminated in what everyone could see coming down the pipe… someone was going to out right ask Daigle to draw the line in the sand.  Does she believe homosexuality is a sin or not?

I really don’t believe that there was anyone who didn’t think that this question was going to come up in an interview.  We have enough experience by this point to know that it was bound to happen.  I, for one, was caught off guard by how it happened.  My expectation was that the question was going to show up in a secular interview.  After all, is that not what we tell ourselves to expect of “the world”?  The world is going to try and trip us up, discredit us, diminish us, shut us up, and shut us down so that we can not share the Gospel.  That nefarious world, the world we are told to be nothing like.

And, yet, it was not the world that struck the first blow at Ms. Daigle.  In an interview, with a fellow Christian, is where she was asked to draw the line in the sand and make a definitive statement.   Daigle didn’t need to fear the world, the trap was set among her own family of believers.

Yes, I said it.  It was a trap.  In the majority of conversations regarding Daigle’s answer is a missing element of accountability.  Who is holding the interviewer accountable for putting her in that position in the first place?

The interviewer framed the question with a caveat that interviews are ended with a controversial question.  This means that the interviewer knew, before the question was even asked, that it was going to stir up trouble for Daigle.  Those very words betray the heart of the interviewer.  From the beginning, the interviewer had every intention of creating drama, stirring up controversy, and creating trouble for Daigle.

There was no single answer that she could have given that didn’t have a consequence.  If Daigle said firmly that she believed homosexuality was sin, it would probably secure her with her conservative audience that criticized her performance on Ellen.  It also would have alienated those whom she was trying to reach, as they would turn a deaf ear to her music.  On the other side of the coin, if Daigle said with conviction that she did not believe homosexuality was sin, it would have cost her even more criticism among her conservative critics, and had a major impact on her career.  Just look at what happened to author Jen Hatmaker after her affirming statements.  There is a third option, which is to say nothing.  At which point Daigle still would have been criticized for not making declaration one way or the other.  She could not answer this question unscathed.

Daigle was asked a question that was a trap.

Now, you may be pumping the breaks and feel like throwing scripture at me (just as people have done to/about Daigle) related to speaking hard truths, not being lukewarm, or watering down the Scripture in order to appease people.

I would ask you to simple open your Bible and take a look at how Jesus would answer questions.  Jesus was Truth.  He spoke truth.  He didn’t mince words.  He called a spade a spade.  If we are to be like Jesus, then so should we.  Right?

Jesus was also incredibly wise and discerning.  When Jesus encountered a person with less than pure intentions, asking questions in order to trap Him… Jesus didn’t fall for it.  Who were the ones who liked to ask trap questions?  Not the world.  Not the multitudes.  The religious leaders.  They would come and listen to his teachings, then ask him questions in order to make Jesus stumble.  To discredit Him.

When the Pharisees and Saducees would ask Jesus a trap question, He didn’t answer.  In fact, His response was to answer their question with a question.  Examples:  Matt 15:1-3, Luke 20:1-4, Mark 12:14-17, etc.

If we are to be like Jesus, and answer questions like this as Jesus would:

  1.  We must be wise enough to recognize a trap question when we hear it.
  2.  We must be wise enough to know how to answer (or not answer) the question.

In Mark 12:14-17, we are told directly that Jesus recognized what they were up to, outright asking the leaders why they were trying to trap him.  He didn’t fall into their trap.

In her interview, I believe Daigle recognized that she was being asked a trap question.  There was no answer that was not going to stir up controversy.   She answered the best she could, in a way that pointed listeners to the Scriptures to read it for themselves.  Could she have worded it better, probably.   For a young woman, starting the rise to fame, she was very wise to not stumble in to the pit a fellow believer set before her.

Jesus wouldn’t have fallen for it either.

Before we prosecute Daigle for her answer (or non-answer), perhaps we should also be discussing why she was asked that question in the first place?  What kind of accountability falls on the shoulders of the interviewer to put her in that position? What was their intention behind asking the question?  What was the expected gain?  Should any of us set out in conversation, interviews, or blog posts with a heart of discrediting or maligning the heart/faith of another believer?  For what ends/purpose?

The truth is, we don’t need to worry about the world trying to discount us, discredit us, or destroy us… when we seem to be doing a good enough job of it within our own ranks.

Book Update…

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Hey all, it’s been a little bit since I wrote about the publishing process for my first book and thus an update is due.  The problem?  There is not much to update.  We are still in the throws of back and forth editing.

This means we are in a great opportunity for anyone reading and following along to ask questions about the process thus far.  I’m happy to answer from my experience thus far.

One Sheets & Proposals

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In preparation for my meeting with the publishing companies, I was instructed to prepare what is called a “One Sheet”.  Essentially, it is like a combination of your resume and synopsis of the book project, all on one single sided sheet of paper.   It is important to strike a balance between too much or too little information.   When we met with publishers, right out the gate, we handed over our One Sheet for their review.  I will say that in my appointments, they very briefly glanced over the information on the One Sheet.  Most of the time was spent in conversation.  Yes, you need to have a One Sheet, but also don’t stress out over putting it together.

At the end of the meeting, the publisher would then ask for the actual book proposal.  In this particular instance, none wanted them at that exact moment.  Instead, it was requested that the proposal was emailed to them once we returned home.  If you do not have an opportunity to have a meeting with a publisher, and you are choosing to contact publishers directly, a good cover letter with a One Sheet is sufficient.  Then allow the publisher to request your proposal before sending it. A cover letter and One Sheet are also a great way to reach out to literary agents before the expense of mailing a full proposal.

It is incredibly important that your proposal is complete and ready to send before you even pitch your book.  The sooner you can email them the documents, the better.  Not to mention that writing a book proposal is a lengthy process.  Some publishers have specific requests in the format or content of the proposal.  By having a completed proposal to work from, you can edit the proposal to meet those requests faster than having to write it from scratch.

For publishers who will accept cold (unsolicited) proposals, their guidelines for proposals is normally found on their website.  For those who only accept solicited proposals, you may need to ask if there are any specific details they wish to have included in the proposal.

In a nutshell, a good proposal will have:

  • a picture of you
  • your contact information
  • a paragraph or two about you, personally
  • a paragraph or two about you, professionally (education, ministry work, etc.)
  • details about your current platform (social media numbers, blog followers, etc.)
  • details about your speaking platform (past dates, upcoming dates, locations, etc.)
  • details about any previously published works (solo, contributions, etc.)
  • a paragraph or two about the book content
  • a paragraph or two about why this book is needed, beneficial
  • details about any books that might be considered “competition” and how your book differs or adds to the conversation on the topic.
  • proposed outline of your book
  • 2-3 sample chapters of your book*
  • a list of alternative titles (if you have thought of any)
  • a list of other titles you are working on

* keep in mind that for most works (non-fiction, Bible study, etc.) you do not need to have a complete manuscript in order to pitch.  In fact, some publishers prefer that you don’t.  However, fiction and memoirs are manuscripts that publishers prefer to have completed before the pitch.  In either case, if you do not have a completed manuscript, indicate in your proposal how much time you would need to complete the manuscript from the time the contract is signed.  I would also include this info with proposed future titles you are working on.

Should you need to mail a proposal, it should be single sided only, not stapled.  A binder clip works beautifully to keep it together during shipment.   In my experience, thus far, and speaking with other authors… no publisher has ever requested a full manuscript on the spot.

One the publisher has your full proposal, they will review it and present it to the publishing board (aka pub board) for consideration for print.