Books, Publishing, and the Creative Life

Posts tagged ‘book publishing’

Author Collaboration, For Better or Worse

Author collaboration 2NorLightsPress has published several books as collaborations between two authors and/or artists. In most cases this is a win-win-win situation, but not always. A few of our authors have ended up hating each other. A book partnership can quickly turn dysfunctional when the partners fail to work out certain things in advance.  Then they find themselves squabbling over a book that binds them together, for better or worse. Consider these possible scenarios:

You write the entire book and then your partner decides it shouldn’t be published, for whatever reason.

Your partner decides she wants cash up front from you (a buyout) instead of half the royalties.

Your partner doesn’t meet deadlines and you end up doing most of the work, yet she still wants her name on the book and half the royalties.

You and your partner can’t agree whether to self- publish or seek a traditional publisher.

Your partner is obsessive about details and you’re the opposite. You drive each other nuts.

Your partner turns out to be crazy. (This happens more often than you’d believe).

At NorLightsPress, we suffer along with the authors when personal feuds erupt. If a publisher senses there will be legal issues over royalties, negative comments in social media, and overall bad feelings about a book—they will cancel your book contract in a heartbeat.

How can authors avoid collaboration hell? The post below from Helen Sedwick is the best advice I’ve seen for working with other writers, artists, and editors.

21 Tips for Creating a Successful Writing Collaboration

Author collaboration 1 By Helen Sedwick for (Joel Friedlander’s excellent web page)

When a writing collaboration works, partners inspire and complement one other. The creative process is less lonely. But when collaborations fail, the drama may be as ugly as a Hollywood divorce.

For every successful writing partnership, there are dozens of failed ones despite the best of intentions. Not everyone is a team player, and not every team is a winner.

To improve the odds of a successful writing partnership take the time to put the collaboration agreement in writing. Most people resist this idea. Like a prenuptial agreement, it kills the romance. They don’t realize the process of preparing an agreement may be more valuable than the result. If writers do a good job discussing issues at the start, they are less likely to have misunderstandings later.

Making Decisions

So before you jump into a co-writing project, discuss and write out the following:

  1. Describe the Project
    Fiction, nonfiction, memoir? Try to craft your elevator speech. Even better, create an outline.
  2. Draw a Creations Box
    I mean this literally. Draw a box and write down what creations are inside the box (and project) and what creations are outside the box and may be used by the partners separately. Sequels, prequels, and competitive works? What about rejected ideas, characters, and scenes?
  3. Discuss Personal Goals
    The most successful partners share common goals. If one partner’s objective is to make money with a genre piece and the other dreams of creating literature, expect friction. I suppose the partners might agree that their diverging goals will be complementary, but head-butting may be unavoidable.
  4. Describe the Writing Process
    Will one partner write out the story in narrative form, and the other flesh out scenes and dialogue? Will you draft chapters and trade them for comments? Some writers work well brainstorming together; others prefer a silent room. How often and how will you meet?
  5. Set Ground Rules for Critiques
    How will you give and receive criticism and comments? Some partners handle bluntness and sarcasm without missing a beat, but most require a gentler touch. The longer you work together, the easier it gets. Remember your partner’s criticism may be a gift; she cares enough to help make the work better.
  6. Set Realistic Deadlines
    Expect the project to take at least twice as long as planned.
  7. Specify Ownership
    Unless you agree otherwise, all partners own equal shares in jointly-created work. Plus each partner has the power to sell or license the work without the other partner’s consent (although income must be shared). Yes, a partner who contributes 5% gets an equal share UNLESS you agree otherwise. Put your ownership percentages in writing. Agree that no partner may sell, license, or transfer any interest in the project without the consent of the other partner. Register the copyright under all names, or the pen name, or all of the above.
  8. Allocate Income
    I recommend the partner who had the original idea own the majority interest, even if it is a token amount (51%/49% split). That little bit saves resentment later. If one partner handles readings and conferences that partner should keep a larger portion of sales made at the events.
  9. Decide on Credits
    Will both names appear on the work and in what order? Will credits be listed as A and B, A with B, or A as told to B? Will you use a pen name?
  10. Deal With Expenses
    If one partner pays for research, editing, design, and marketing, does that partner recoup expenses before income is shared? If income never covers expenses, does the other partner kick in his share?
  11. Assign Non-Writing Tasks
    Who will engage editors and designers, negotiate contracts, handle interviews, and manage social media? Assign tasks. Don’t take the shortcut of saying responsibilities will be shared equally. It never happens. People gravitate to the tasks they do better, and unpleasant work will be left undone.
  12. Plan for Conflict
    You will have disagreements. View them as a sign that something is not working in the manuscript. Listen to each other. Let go of your ego, and look at the problem a new way, your partner’s way. If you cannot agree, decide up front who gets the final say. If the project was one partner’s idea, typically that partner decides. Or pick a third party trusted by both sides.
  13. No Door Slamming
    Agree that neither of you will quit without giving the other party notice of what’s not working and a chance to fix it. Respect requests for cooling-off periods.
  14. Address Legal Responsibilities
    Each partner should promise that all work contributed will be original, will not be defamatory or infringing, and will not invade privacy or other rights. If the partner breaches, that partner should cover costs and liabilities. Don’t be foolish about this. If your partner introduces material you suspect is problematic, rewrite it or reject it. No matter what your agreement says, both of you may be responsible to third parties.
  15. Call it a Collaboration
    Although I have referred to writing partners, the agreement should state that the parties are collaborating for a specified project and are not creating a general partnership.
  16. Face Death or Disability
    What if one of you gets hit by the proverbial bus? Does the other have the right to finish the project with an equitable adjustment in ownership and income? Does all decision-making authority transfer to the surviving partner, or will the heirs or representatives of the deceased or disabled partner have a say?
  17. Deal with Termination
    If the partnership terminates, who owns the work? Who has the right to complete the project? There are no right answers here. The partners need to talk this out.

Respect and Communicationauthor collaboration 3

A writing partnership is like any other relationship; it thrives on respect and communication. As you work on the project, keep the following in mind:

  1. Nip Resentment in the Bud
    If you are feeling unfairly burdened, take the chance of bringing it up. The sooner the better.
  2. Let the little stuff slide
    Entering into a collaboration involves giving up some control. Your partner may have a different approach to a scene, character, or problem. Consider that a good thing. This is why you are working as a team. Laugh together, especially when everything is going wrong.
  3. Reward Yourselves
    When you finish each chapter, share a bottle of champagne. When you complete the first draft, take yourselves out to dinner.
  4. Keep Communicating
    Years ago, a friend told me the motto of a happy marriage: “I can’t read your f**king mind!” The same is true in writing collaborations.

Sammie Justesen is a publisher with NorLightsPress and the author of Dialogue for Writers, released in May, 2014. She is also an artist and president of the Lawrence County Art Association.

A great investment for writers

A great investment for writers

New review of Dialogue for Writers

This is a wonderful little book. I’ve published five books — three medical books and two literary books — and I thought I had figured it all out,until I ran into this little treasure titled: Dialogue For Writers. Like Justesen, I too learned that clumsy substitutes for the verb “said” interrupt the flow, but that became even more clear when I read this comprehensive book — an absolutely must-have tool for every would-be author. This book can transform a writer into an author, so every writer must have this precious book on their desk. The book reminded me of another essential book every author must have: Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style– yes, that’s where this book fits in terms of utility.

I was surprised at the fluidity of this how-to book.  That’s because Justesen sounds like an admonishing, warm teacher; as if she is talking to you, saying “Oh,c’mon! you can do better than that !” No I’ll always remember that my character’s words are the most important elements of their personalities–without lengthy taglines or repetitive adverbs.

Justesen makes convincing arguments and cites apropos examples to convince readers about following book-saving, story-salvaging points:

1.First person lends itself well to internal monologue, but don’t fall in love with the character’s lengthy internal thoughts.
2.Use Silence. Sometime it reveals more than what could be said by a plethora of words (What? this comes from an author of the book on dialogue? Correct! It shows Sammie’s honesty and forthrightness).
3.It’s okay to use disjointed, broken sentences because that’s how people normally talk.
4.Make sure character’s speech sounds natural and reflects his/her personality, background and circumstances.
5. And finally, use dialects and slang sparingly, because alittle goes a long way.

Reading this book was a delight. It does not have the plot of a thriller or mystery but it is so funny, so convincing and at the same time so educating. It was an enjoyable, rewarding experience. I recommend this book to writers as well as non-writers, or to anyone who wants to effectively communicate by using just the right word at the right time with just the right emphasis.

Kudos to Sanmie Justesen.     –Sattar Memon, M.D.

Book Publishing and Last Minute Panic

Over the years in publishing I’ve noticed a pattern among authors I haven’t seen addressed anywhere else. I call it LMP or Last Minute Panic.NLP-Short-Logo An intelligent, cooperative, friendly author we’ve worked with for months will suddenly take a crazy turn when the book is almost ready for publication. She (it’s almost always a woman) finds something wrong with the book—an item that MUST be changed or the entire project will fail. This is usually something we agreed on previously, such as the book cover, the font, or the photographs. And it’s almost always a change that readers would never notice.

We try to be compliant because we love our authors. But an author can’t be satisfied in the throes of LMP. Nothing is good enough. We fix one problem and she finds another one. The cover designer andWoman formatter are both ready to quit. I point out to the author, in a nice way, that she’s nervous about launching her book and is channeling that energy into compulsive nitpicking. She either ignores me or blows up.

When I recently published my own book (Dialogue for Writers), I observed myself for this type of behavior. And there it was—

  • The book cover I selected seemed cheap and dumb. Other books had better covers.
  • I hated the introduction and wished I could write it over.
  • I needed more endorsements.
  • The book was too short. I needed to add another chapter.
  • And so on . . .

I had to stop this kind of thinking before it consumed me and turned into the dreaded Failure to Launch.

Do you suffer from LMJ?

If you’re getting ready to publish a book, either on your own or with a publisher, it’s important to recognize these symptoms for what they are—your psyche worrying about the big step you’re about to take. Why is this so Scaredscary?

  • You’re putting yourself out there.
  • Someone is bound to criticize you and the book. That will hurt.
  • Even worse—perhaps no one will notice the book.
  • There may be some hidden flaw you overlooked.
  • Everything you’ve done seems totally stupid.

Author Neil Gaimen offered a wonderful pep talk for writers in the NaNoWriMo project:

“You don’t know why you started your novel, you no longer remember why you imagined that anyone would want to read it, and you’re pretty sure that even if you finish it, it won’t have been worth the time or energy and every time you stop long enough to compare it to the thing that you had in your head when you began—a glittering, brilliant, wonderful novel, in which every word spits fire and burns, a book as good or better than the best book you ever read—it falls so painfully short that you’re pretty sure that it would be a mercy simply to delete the whole thing.

Welcome to the club.”

Neal Gaimen’s club is a wonderful group to join, though populated by angst-driven authors. When you publish a book you’re joining a group of writers who finish their work and then have the guts to bring it into the world. Let go of your book and be proud of yourself!

The Antidote

writing-clip-art1The solution to LMJ is simple and elegant: Write another book. Channel all that nervous energy and self-doubt into your next project. Let go of your finished book, let it be published, and watch it gently float away from you into the world.  You are a writer, so keep on writing.

Publish your book and be proud!

Sammie Justesen is a publisher and the author of Dialogue for Writers, released in May, 2014.

She is also an artist and president of the Lawrence County Art Association.

A new review of Dialogue for Writers

This book delivers. If you are a writer, you’ll find a wealth of information and insight that will allow you to assess your style and discover practical ways to make good writing better.
Even popular published authors can benefit from this book. For instance, I am a Stephenie Meyer fan. She is a master of her genre, but if she had read Sammie Justesen’s book, Edward would not have”snickered” and “chuckled” so much that these particular dialogue tags became annoying and distracting. Sammie Justesen’s book offers great advice from a number of perspectives including the all-important publisher’s perspective. I have no hesitation in rating it a five-star book.

Marketing Plans and Book Publicity

If you’re a writer who wants to publish, then you must think long and hard about marketing. Some writers love selling books, while others (most of us) would prefer having a root canal or swiming the English Channel, which Selling 1seems only a little more daunting than marketing a book in today’s economy.  Here’s the sad truth: Most publishers will not help market your book.  Even if they award you a $20,000 advance, that does not mean they’ll help you sell books.  I know this from experience as a literary agent. Ninety percent of the books I sold received almost no marketing support from publishers—and that includes the big New York firms with massive budgets.

Why? Various reasons, but here’s a big one: In large firms, the marketing and editorial departments are separate. Because an editorial committee offered a huge advance to the author doesn’t mean the marketing department will decide to push the book. Big name authors who’ve already established themselves receive 90% of the marketing budget. I’m sure you see the catch 22 situation this creates. How can you ever hope to become famous if their already-famous authors receive all the marketing money that should help new authors become famous?

For smaller publishers like NorLightsPress, marketing is a matter of economics. We operate on shoestring budgets and can’t afford frills. Therefore, we ask our authors to develop marketing plans that include the desire and ability to sell their own books.  This is no different than the big publishers, except we’re up front about what we can and cannot do.

What about self-published authors? A writer/publisher is in the same situation as other published authors: do it yourself.

Book marketing gets harder every week because thousands of people are self-publishing and flooding the market with poorly written books.  Readers are tired of responding to ads for books that turn out to be sub-standard.  When a hot new marketing idea appears, within a couple of weeks it’s beaten to death and no longer works.  That includes the Amazon 0.99 cent deals.

Furthermore, you need a budget for marketing. Spend your money wisely and only after researching all the options.  Hiring a publicist is a good idea, but find a reputable one and check references.

 Should ALL Writers Create a Proposal and Marketing Plan?

 YES.  Traditionally, fiction and memoirs don’t require book proposals, but I urge you to create a proposal anyway.  I promise you, the marketing section is the second thing an agent or publisher will turn to, right after they read the topic of your book. The process of writing the proposal will help you focus on:

  1.  what your book is about (underlying themes)
  2. your target audience
  3. how you will reach that audience.

Writing the Marketing Plan

Many authors hit a roadblock when it comes to putting together and implementing a book marketing plan. You know you need one, but you only have a vague idea of what to include. This plan should describe how you will create public awareness for your book and get people to purchase it, either online or in a bookstore.

  1.   Define your market.  Who will buy your book? Don’t say “anyone who reads.”  You must be specific. Your markSelling 2et is probably about 50% of what you think it is. For example, if you’re targeting doctors, how many of them will actually want your book or even hear about it?  Probably one percent, not one hundred percent.
  2.  How can you reach these people?  How can you create a buzz about your book? Fiction is more difficult to market, as you probably know. Having a specific genre helps tremendously, because you can target readers of that genre.
  3. Be specific.  Don’t make vague statements like, “The author will use social networking to market her book to millions of people.” Or “the author will be available for interviews on national media outlets.”   National media outlets are not going to knock on your door.  (Please do not plan to appear on national television. Be realistic).  List specific magazines you’ll write articles for and specific groups you’ll target – both local and national. Consider when and where you might speak at conventions, workshops, and other events.
  4. Spend hours brainstorming, studying, and searching the Internet for specific marketing ideas.

Consider these opportunities for your book:  

  •  Interviews – in person, by phone, or on the Internet. Who, what, and where?
  •   A mini tour of bookstores, with book signings
  •  Corporate marketing
  •  Organizations to which your readers belong. How will you reach them? Can you speak at conferences and sell books in the back of the room?  Be specific these events. Promote-Graphic-TWO-5
  •  Media contacts and appearances. Again, be specific.
  •  Create a strong writer’s web site and blog.
  •  Blog tours and guest blogging are good, but you must be specific.
  •  Social media marketing. Everyone is doing this now. How will you make it work for your book? Be very specific.
  •  Book reviews – who will you contact? Do you have reviews lined up? What reviews have you already line up?
  •  Any affiliations or contacts that will help promote your book.
  •  Find ways to establish yourself as an expert in your field.
  • Endorsements from well-known people or experts, if possible.
  • Large bulk purchases make publishers happy, because they indicate you’re either going to sell those books or live with them in your garage forever.

Why do I use the word specific so often? Publishers are wise to the fact that authors will whip out a marketing plan because they’re expected to write one, yet they have NO intention of following through.  A detailed, specific marketing plan shows you have the interest, ability, and determination to sell books.

lightbulbSearch your soul.   Do you want to sell books, or is being published the only reward you need?

 Are you willing to devote time at least an hour every day to marketing your book?

 Can you keep this up for months and even years? 

 Will you follow up with more books to increase your name recognition?   Will  you brand yourself?  

 Is WRITER a big part of who you are?

 Publishers are realistic. We know your book won’t hit the bestseller list right away. We want you to be a patient and persistent marketer, building a web of networking opportunities that will support your career as a writer, year after year.   We want you  to succeed!

Please share your comments on marketing books.

FRONT cover final


Sammie Justesen is a publisher with NorLightsPress and author of the new book Dialogue for Writers.

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