Wednesday, December 23, 2015

2015: Book Deal Survival Guide Review!

I tried writing my regular post last week and it just got so long-winded, it wasn't fair to any of us - especially over the holidays!! ;) So the Book Deal Survival Guide will begin again in the New Year!!

In the meantime, here's a review of all the BDSG posts so far. If you've missed any, you can catch up. If you've read them all, check out my Best Plot Hack Ever! Or this one, How I Deal With 'Failure.'

Here goes:

#1: Taking Notes From Your Agent 

#2: Taking Notes from Your Editor

#3: Avoid Panic Editing

#4: Assistants - The Devil Wears A Headset

#5: Your Editor Is Not Your BFF

#6: Book Advances - All About The $$$!

#7: Catalogue Copy - "We Need It By Tomorrow!"

I'm going to try and catch up on my editing over the break, so that's what I'm up to if I'm scarce. In 2016, we'll be covering book covers, copy editing, touring and a whole lot more!

Merry Christmas!!
And Happy New Year!!

Hope 2016 is the best ever!! 

Friday, December 11, 2015

#7 Publisher's Catalog Copy: "We Need It By Tomorrow."

Image result for identity
In fifty to a hundred words or so, who are you? Really?

Tell me only the best, most impressive things about yourself.

While you're at it, tell me what your book is about in 200 words or so.

Attach a great photo of yourself and get it all to me by the end of the day.

Tomorrow morning at the latest. 

Oh yeah, make it really impressive because your whole future depends on it. Or at least the success of your first book.

Okay - go! 

If someone asked you to do this, could you? And could you do it well?

Because you're going to have to for your publisher's catalog.

The catalog is a publication that resembles a trade paperback that's sent out by your publisher every season.

It lists all the titles being released by that particular publisher in the coming months. Organized by imprint - for instance, I wrote for Atria, which is an imprint of Simon & Schuster, and St. Martin's Press, which is an imprint of MacMillan - the catalog is intended to get early interest in the publisher's new books.

It's sent to important reviewers and other literary publications like Publisher's Weekly, various media outlets that focus on books, as well as to buyers at bookstores big and small.

Each new title usually gets one page in the catalog. Included in the info will be an image of the cover (I'm saving book covers for later), your author bio, your photo, a synopsis of your book and any details about promotion and/or tours because it helps buyers know what kind of support your publisher is giving you. If you've already garnered some nice 'blurbs' by other authors your editor works with, they'll be included too.

You'll eventually get a copy of this catalog with your editor's business card paper-clipped to it.

The editor will have scrawled 'You're on page 36!' on the card. 

And I do mean 'scrawl.' Editors have to write so much, so quickly, on manuscripts every day that penmanship suffers a bit. At least that's what I noticed.

Luckily, you'll already have bought new reading glasses (and, possibly, a secret decoder) because you needed them throughout the editing process - so it shouldn't take you too long to figure out what your editor wrote.

You'll flip to the page and - gasp! - there it will be. Bona fide, irrefutable proof that you're actually going to get published! It's pretty exciting.

But it's also a vital step in early promotion for your book, so you're going to want to make your page as impressive as possible.

But that's not going to be easy because you're going to be very busy editing or copy editing, depending on your release date and how much lead time your publisher needs. (Trust me, you'll be busy, no matter where you are in the process!) And just when you least expect it, an email from your editor's assistant is going to drop into your inbox and it's going to go something like this:

Image result for busy person
"Can you send your author bio, photo and a summary for the catalog? We need it by the end of day. Tomorrow morning at the latest. Thanks!"

The assistant might ask for a 'synopsis' or 'catalog copy' instead. One way or the other, you won't know what a 'catalog' is and nobody will explain it to you.

But you haven't known a lot of other things about getting published and nobody's explained those either.

However, you can probably figure out that because it has the word 'catalog' in it, it's about sales, so it must be important.

If you're  smart author - and you will be now - you'll be prepared.

But if you're like me - a naive, disorganized, confused newbie who thought publishers looked
after all this themselves - you're going to have a heart attack. Or maybe I should say another heart attack because you've probably had a few during the process already.

After reading the email, you're probably going to think the following things:

Are you serious? Don't you guys already have a synopsis? Didn't I have to send it to you to get the book deal in the first place? Ditto for the bio. And the photo, frankly. 

And, by the way, don't you actually have, like, marketing-type people who write summaries for important things like sales catalogs? 

The answer to all of those questions is: no. 

So you'll have to drop whatever you're doing and try to hunt down the old synopsis - which probably doesn't apply anymore because the book will have evolved during the editing process. Which means you'll have to spend the day - and the night - and the wee hours of the next morning (because there's no way you're getting it in by the end of the day, forget that!) trying to make your book sound like the Next Big Thing.

If you're like me, you are going to hate everything you say about yourself - and your book - and when you do get your catalog in the mail a couple of months later, and you do turn to the page your editor told you about, and you do see all the information about your book laid out professionally for the first time, you're going to think ...

Holy crap, I did a terrible job. This book is going to tank! Help!

So be prepared for this step before you get a book deal.

Start honing your skill as a professional advertising copywriter now - because you're going to need it.

If you're an indie who scored a book deal based on your success in the self-publishing world, you'll be used to doing all these things for yourself already. So when your editor's assistant emails you, all you'll to do is hit 'send.'

But if you're a wide-eyed, first-time dreamer who thinks that your publisher (even a big publisher!) is going to handle all of this for you, nope. I'm not sure what the case is for big time bestsellers, but as a newbie, it's definitely part of your job.

So, quickly, who are you and what's your book about?

I need it by the end of the day. Tomorrow morning at the latest. ;) Give it a shot. It's not easy!

Subscribe to the blog for #8 and lots more! And see you on Twitter!! @SLMcInnis

Saturday, December 5, 2015

#6: Book Advances: Don't Buy A Yacht Yet!

As my adventures in the indie world continue, I want to keep sharing everything I learned on my book deals. Because the traditional publishing world is probably not what you expect. At least it wasn't for me.

Next on the agenda: Book Advances

Besides the fame and the respect and the free champagne and the parties and the keys to your agent's house in the Hamptons, one of the really attractive things about being an author is getting a book advance. Preferably a juicy one.

If you're already famous, have  a famous parent, a really popular blog, or some other kind of impressive platform, the sky's the limit in terms of advances.

It also helps if you're a bestselling indie author already. Romance writer Jasinda Wilder recently inked a 7-figure book deal with Berkley/Penguin.

But she'd already proven herself by selling two million copies of her spicy indie e-books online. Penguin was pretty well guaranteed she'd sell a few more.

Unfortunately, most of us will have to settle for a more modest amount of money. In this economy, with a changing marketplace, the average advance for a first-time author at a major publishing house is between $1000-$10,000

And some authors at smaller houses receive no advance at all.

If your agent happens to snag you one of these lower advances, don't despair. There's actually a benefit to it. Because an advance is just that: an 'advance' against your royalties. You won't see any more money until the publisher recoups that initial investment in you.

A small advance means it's easier for your book to "earn out."

Image result for happy bossOr make the advance money back. Not only will you start seeing royalties sooner, but your publisher will be very happy with you.  So you'll be far more likely to get another book deal - and the second advance will probably be more generous.

Another great thing about a lower advance is that there will be less pressure on you to make your book a smash hit out of the gate. So don't worry if your advance isn't as huge as you expected. It can actually work in your favor.

Your advance is going to be given to you in three equal payments. 

Or roughly equal payments. The first third will be released when you sign the contract. The second when you deliver the approved manuscript. And the third when the book gets published. The whole cycle takes about 18 months.

Image result for vampireThe second installment can be a stickler though. To release that payment, not only do you have to meet the deadline, but the key words in your contract will be 'approved,' 'satisfactory' or 'acceptable' manuscript.

If you haven't made (at least most of) your editor's changes, or if for some other reason the book is not found acceptable - it's handwritten on cocktail napkins, bound with masking tape, or written entirely in Transylvanian because you were inspired to make your main character 'really authentic after the bite' - not only will your publisher withhold the rest of the money, but your book probably won't hit the shelves at all.

The publisher reserves that right in your contract. 

As for the third - and final - advance payment let's hope it's not the last money you'll see from your publisher and that you'll have reams of fat royalty checks following soon.

All payments will go to your agent first.

This was another little surprise to me. The publisher doesn't pay you directly. They will actually send all payments to your agent, then your agent will take his or her 15%, and cut you a check for the remaining amount.

I guess agents have figured out it's easier to do that than to scope every bar in the country trying to chase down clients for their share of the pie.

I'm just mentioning it because if you want to 'visualize your dream' - forget the fat checks from Big Time Publishing House. Think Big Deal Agent's letterhead instead.

Incidentally, I'm trying to go on a chronological basis here. You'd think 'advances'  would be Step #1, maybe 2 at the most. But it's all the way at six because you'll actually be editing before you see any money.

That's because the accounting departments at publishing houses must run on Old Thymie clocks or something. The cash doesn't exactly rush into your account. As a writer, you're probably pretty used to living on a budget, so that's not a big deal.

But if you have a loan shark after you and you're in danger of losing a digit or two, don't say: "Hey, I just got a book deal! You'll have your money next week!" Because you probably won't see a check for at least three months after you sign the contract. Ditto for the other payments.

btw, don't be too worried about having to pay your advance money back. Both of my book deals were in the mid-five-figure range - and neither of them sold like hotcakes (to put it mildly).

But I haven't had to return my advance money. At least not yet. ;) 

I'm convinced that if I'd been more prepared for the 'real world' of publishing, I would've had an easier, more successful time of it. Subscribe to the blog to know what to expect when you get a book deal. You'll have a better chance of hitting the bestseller lists and ...

Then maybe you can buy that yacht sooner than you think.
See you on Twitter too! :) @SLMcInnis