Friday, February 23, 2018

Writing: Book Distribution

I'm far from an expert in this area, but I'm learning...little by little. Here's a question I received right after my first indie-published novel came out--"Why doesn't my local store stock your work?" As is always the case, there are several parts to the answer, but here's what I've learned.

Book stores are profit-oriented. Gasp! Even Christian ones? Yep. And who can blame them? If they don't make a profit, they don't stay open--whether we're talking about a single store or a large chain. When they stock a book, they order from a large distributor, such as Ingram. They buy several copies of the work (it may surprise you how few) at a discounted price, but if those books stay on the shelves for awhile, that's dead space. So what do the book stores do? They return the books. That's why traditional publishing contracts have a clause that allows the publisher to hold back a certain amount of royalties as a reserve against such a return.

Print books are like any other bit of merchandise--some are proven sellers, others are not. Thus, the merchants who stock them are more likely to go with those that are most likely to sell. And, unfortunately, many mid-list authors and quite a few newbies in the publishing industry, fall into the category of also-rans.

Most of us who indie-publish go with Amazon for distribution of our work. The publish-on-demand model allows a print book to go out within a day or two of an order being placed. There's no hold-back for volumes that don't sell, because the customer has already bought it.  My indie-published books, for example, are available in hard copy from Amazon and Barnes and Noble, but not other venues. Will that change? It can, but at this point I haven't chosen to invest to make that happen. (More on how that works in another post).

As for e-books, the vast majority of readers use Kindle, and free apps available from Amazon allow reading a Kindle book on a computer or smart phone. Those of us who go with Amazon initially are willing to ignore some of the other versions of e-books for now. And don't forget that you can check at this site to see if a library in your area allows you to "borrow" a book you want to read in e-book or audio format.

There are lots more questions to answer, and I'm not an expert in this area, but I'll attempt to answer them or find someone who can. Just let me hear via the comments.

Tweet with a single click. "Why aren't indie-published books readily available in some book stores?"

SPECIAL NOTE: I've put together selected blog posts from my first couple of years entering the blog-o-sphere, to share what I've learned, some of the trials of the newbie writer, etc. It's available for 99 cents in Kindle format (although a free app from Amazon lets you read it on your phone or computer also). The link is here.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Thoughts About Golf (and Life)

For various reasons (including the weather), my golf partner and I haven't gotten out for our usual game for several weeks. However, he recently sent me a long list of golf true-isms, and I thought it would be appropriate to pass a few along. I suspect that even the non-golfers in the audience will appreciate them.

Never wash your ball on the tee of a water hole.
The less skilled the player, the more likely he is to share his ideas about your golf swing.
Confidence completely evaporates in the presence of a water hazard.
(A book I read years ago says it this way: The water hazard, where the golfer feels he must do with a 5-iron what Columbus did with a boat.)
The more your opponent quotes the rules, the greater the certainty that he cheats.
The wind is in your face on 16 of the 18 holes.
You can hit a two-acre fairway 10% of the time and a two-inch branch 90% of the time.
Your straightest iron shot of the day will be exactly one club short.
No matter how far the shaft extends, a ball retriever is always a foot too short to reach the ball.

A ball you can see in the rough from 50 yards away is not yours.

The ball teetering on the edge of the cup and failing to fall (as is illustrated above) is typical of the frustration felt by every golfer at one time or another. But it's not just golf that frustrates us, is it? When things don't go your way, remember the golf shot pictured...things could always be worse.

Have fun, and try not to take things too seriously. Oh, and fill in your divots--even when no one is watching.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Writing: Getting The Word Out

Rather than longing for the "good old days," when all a writer had to do was write, we have to realize that about a million books a year are published (according to figures that are five years old--I suspect the number is higher now). The task of an author is to make their book stand out so someone will purchase it--and read it--and tell someone else about it. It's still a matter of writing the best book possible, but we need to enlist others to help us get the word out.

When I became a published author, more than a decade ago, the term "street team" wasn't in wide usage. At that time, they were called "influencers." I still recall when the publisher of one of my first fiction novels asked me for the names of my influencers. I was told that these were people who'd help me get the word out about my novel. Gradually, I've accumulated a group of a dozen people, more or less, who do just that. There are men and women, older and younger, living in many parts of the country. They read a copy of my book and tell others about it, via reviews, word of mouth, local libraries, churches, and any other way that pops up.

Now some authors call them "street teams," and have closed Facebook groups for them, offer them freebies in addition to copies of the book in question, and in general cultivate them. What's coming next? No way to tell. Stay tuned.

For those of you who've helped make my most recent novella, Surgeon's Choice, a success, thanks. If you've read it but haven't left an honest review on sites like Amazon and/or Goodreads, please do it now. Just a sentence or two means a lot to authors.

What about publishing--either via a contract with a traditional publisher or done independently--would you like to hear? Let me know.

Tweet with a single click: How do authors get the word out about their books?

Tuesday, February 13, 2018


Years ago, one of my duties for our large professional specialty organization was writing a column for our bulletin that I called "Miscellanea Medica." Today, I'm going to post various miscellaneous thoughts about a number of things, but none of these are medical.

Spring: our weather here in this part of the world has been on a roller coaster ride--from freezing cold to mild temperatures to sunshine to wind to the promise (thus far unfulfilled) of rain. I guess it's truly spring in Texas.

Sports: as a Dallas Cowboys fan, I gave up on pro football some time back. Congratulations to the Philadelphia Eagles for their win in the Super Bowl--now excuse me while I get some more coffee to rinse that taste out of my mouth. And as a baseball fan, remember that pitchers and catchers report for spring training soon. Hang on. Hope springs eternal.

Holidays: for all the men who might otherwise forget, tomorrow is Valentine's Day. Hurry to get that candy, a card, and a dinner reservation. I remember once when we decided at the last minute to go out for dinner on that day--big mistake. And for all the women affected, please forgive us. Some of us aren't that great about remembering days like this. Then again, maybe we remember the important things.

Writing: My novella, Surgeon's Choice, released last month, and is doing well, for which I think you. I've done a bunch of interviews, and have a guest post coming up tomorrow (Feb. 14) on the Southern Writers blog. I hope you'll check it out. My next release will be my novel, Guarded Prognosis, which I hope to publish this summer. Stay tuned.

Enough, I guess. Come back on Friday, when I'll have another post about the writing life.

Friday, February 09, 2018

Writing: Cons of Indie-Publishing (3)

I'm continuing my series on the "cons" of self-publication. I'll emphasize once more that I'm not saying either traditional or independent ("indie") publishing is the best way to go. Rather, since I've done both (which makes me a "hybrid" author), I thought it appropriate to balance some of the pros of self-publication with a few of the negatives.

The traditionally-published author works with the the marketing and publicity specialists at his/her publishing house to get out the word on the book. When you're an indie author, the responsibility for all this falls on you. This means sending out ARCs (advance review copies) of the book to a number of people and entities. It requires scheduling blog appearances and reviews on various sites. The indie published author has to arrange for a street team or influencers or whatever you want to call it--people who will get the word out about your book. All this is important, and (it seems) it never stops.

Ever wonder what kind of competition among readers there is for your book? It's difficult to find out the exact number involved, but according to Forbes, these are the figures for about five years ago. Anywhere from 600,000 to a million books are published in the US every year. Up to half of these are self-published. And, on average, they sell fewer than 250 copies each.

How many copies does a best-seller require? To make the New York Times best-seller list a book would have to sell about 9000 copies in the first week. Few of us do that. And even to make a living just as a writer is difficult. The admonition "don't give up your day job" applies to most authors.

Is this an impossible task? Should the writer who doesn't sign with a traditional publisher just give up? No. But, like everything else that's worthwhile, it requires work. Be prepared. But first (bet you thought I'd forgotten this), remember the first rule of marketing a book: Write a good one. Everything else is secondary.

Tweet with a single click. "How does an indie author market a book?"

NOTE: I'm the guest of author Linda Kozar today on Noir Chat radio--check this site at 12 noon central. I'll be giving away a copy of my novella, Surgeon's Choice.