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Named to "Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites," this #SharingwithWriters blog is a way to connect with my readers and fellow writers, a way to give the teaching genes that populate my DNA free rein. Please feel free to add to the conversation using the very tiny "comment" link. For those interested in editing and grammar, go to http://thefrugaleditor.blogspot.com.

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Monday, August 13, 2012

Karen Smith Logs Three BIG Money Mistakes Authors Make

Thanks to Karen Smith for her guest blog covering some of the financial mistakes many authors make when going it alone or going an alternative route. This is a subject near and dear to my heart (and one of the reasons I wrote The Frugal Book Promoter).

Three  Money Mistakes Self-Published Authors Make
By Karen Smith
It’s hard to overestimate the role played by financial factors in the self-publishing boom we’ve seen in the early 21st century. Much as in the music industry, content creators have realized that, whatever the marketing leverage provided by the middle-men of major publishing houses, the upside for the actual author is small unless the book happens to become a massive breakout success (and even then, the largest cut goes to corporate and you’ll be lucky to see 10%).

Maintaining control over your own intellectual property is crucial to your financial independence. Yet the dinosaurs of old media retain one distinct advantage: they know how the game works. Without the proper guidance, a self-published author will not know how best to play her hand. Pay attention to the warnings in this article and you’ll be a step ahead. Here are some of the most common pitfalls to which new authors fall victim:
1. Don’t get suckered into paying too many fees up front.
The self-publishing and print-on-demand sectors are very much in flux, and there’s always a mix of reputable companies and shady operators. Do your homework before you do any deals. Much as with any service, there are plenty of extra “upcharge” options available, besides the basic costs of publishing.

Make sure any goodies you have them throw in will pay for themselves. One that you can usually acquire cheaper on your own is the ISBN and barcode purchase, which should never cost more than about $25 per ISBN.

Also be wary of marketing packages. This is one area where traditional publishers are still light-years ahead, and you’re honestly better off a) doing guerrilla marketing on your own or b) hiring a dedicated publicist.
2. Make sure you can see a finished prototype before signing off on the whole run.
Design quality is highly variable in the self-publishing racket. Sometimes they’ll do a great job and be very attentive to your needs; other times, you’ll wonder why you didn’t just go to Kinkos, or buy a bunch of paper and fire it off yourself on your laser printer.
3. Set your consignment price low if you want to be sold in stores.
When bookstores buy books for their inventory from wholesalers, they usually get a 41% discount compared to the list price. When they buy directly from publishers, that discount can be as high as 45-50%. In other words, if a book sells for $18.95, they probably got it for $10. Keep this in mind.
Your prices, both list and wholesale, should be highly competitive compared to traditionally published books, and certainly no higher. Being represented by a known publishing house still means something: that title has been vouched for by an experienced, knowledgeable middle-man. If you want to make your (comparatively uncertain) proposition worth the bookseller’s while, lowballing can only help.
One’s pride can easily come into play here, but that doesn’t serve the book or you. Be realistic and professional, being careful not to make any moves that would play into the old stereotypes about “vanity publishing.” It may be a new world, but those preconceptions are still alive and well in the industry, fed by experience.
So to take a sports analogy, you’ve got to play like you’re ten points behind. Be hungry for success, give 110%, and don’t fall into a financial hole that will restrain your flexibility in the future. Do it right, on the other hand, and the proceeds from this book will pay for you to write and print your next!
 ~Karen Smith is a versatile freelance writer who also maintains her own business degrees blog. While her writing focus is trends in small business, she also enjoys writing about the challenges of parenting, continuing education, health, and more. Karen welcomes comments below!
Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and how to books for writers including the award-winning second edition of, The Frugal Book Promoter: How to get nearly free publicity on your own or by partnering with your publisher; The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success; and Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers . The Great First Impression Book Proposal is her newest booklet for writers. She has three FRUGAL books for retailers including A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. Some of her other blogs are TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor . If your followers at Twitter would benefit from this blog post, please use the little Green widget to let them know about this blog:

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