Traditional vs. Indie Publishing

I am a multi-published author. I am under contract with a small, traditional press, Pix-N-Pens, the nonfiction arm of Write Integrity Press. I currently have one book I have authored, three I have co-authored, and am contracted to co-write four more under this line. I also have one indie published book and another that barely missed getting a contract with a large traditional publisher, but in the end, it too is in the process of being published independently. So, I have some first-hand knowledge and experience with both types of publishing which I will share.

Differences Between the Two: 

Traditional publishing means that the author does not pay for any of the costs of publishing his or her book. She has a contract with a publishing company allowing them to publish the book as she agrees to split royalties with that company. It is more difficult to get a book traditionally published because the publishing company is pretty selective in the books /authors they choose. They must believe that the book they agree to publish will sell enough for them to at least recoup the money they spent on the publishing process.

There are several types of traditional publishing companies: large press, small press, and boutique presses. Large press are companies like Thomas Nelson, Harper Collins, and such. Boutique presses are usually medium-sized presses that cater to a specific niche audience. Small presses are just that—small, but traditional in that they do not require any payment of any kind from the authors they publish. These also vary in types of publishing with small press most often using print-on-demand (POD) technology.

The most important thing about traditional presses is the wording of the contract an author is asked to sign. Read your contract carefully! They all differ in many ways, including how, when, and what percentage of the royalties they will pay their authors. But even more important than the royalties in my opinion, are the rights you as the author will keep or give up to the publisher.

The book I co-wrote that was a near miss for a large traditional publisher, got picked up by a Boutique publisher but their contract stated that they would own all rights to the book. This differed from what they had told us on the phone and had we not read the contract carefully, we might have signed our rights of ownership over to this company believing the contract was what they said it would be when we spoke with them. As it turned out, it was not a contract we could sign, and we walked away from that offer. By that time, we were tired of dealing with publishers and decided to move ahead with indie publishing of that book.

With Indie publishing, the author assumes all of the responsibility and costs of publishing her book. Because of this, any person can indie publish a book, but the quality of that book will vary greatly depending on how carefully the book has been written, edited, and packaged. If you choose the indie route, I have a few suggestions.

1) Write the best book you can and make it consistent in its word count with traditional books in the same genre. (For instance, my small press requires that nonfiction books be at least 40,000 words. When I see a nonfiction half that size, I almost instantly assume it was indie published by someone who did not know the market standards.)

2) Pay for a professional editor.

3) Pay for a professional cover.

Pros and Cons of Each: The pros of indie publishing are that the author has complete control of the writing and publishing project and he or she will also receive all royalties. The cons are that usually having more than one set of eyes on a book during the publishing process makes the finished product a better book, especially when some of the people working on it are professionals.

The pros of traditional publishing are that the book is usually a high-quality product because of the many people who worked on it and usually the market reach is larger. This is true even for small presses since most small presses do make marketing efforts and the book will reach a larger number of readers than if it’s all up to just the author. The cons are that the author makes less per book and has less control over the publishing process.

So, which do I recommend? It really differs from book to book. I am extremely happy with the small press for whom I write. But I am signed under its nonfiction arm so when I wrote my first novel, I decided to go the indie route and have been happy with that too.

In the case of my other indie book, I think it would have been nice if that large traditional publisher had not decided against publishing it after six months of considering it extensively, but I really don’t know since we didn’t go that route. It may not have been a good experience after all. What I do know, is that walking away from the faulty contract offered to us by the boutique publisher was absolutely the right thing for that book.

Why didn’t I just pitch it to my small press? Again, the reason for that lay in the book itself. It is different from the other nonfiction I write for that small press and I did not think it was a good fit for them. So, yeah, there really isn’t one “right” way to publish. Much depends on the circumstances you as an author are facing and even the content of the book itself.

Click to Tweet: Interested in becoming a published writer? Know your choices up front. Here’s a look at the different types of publishing by author, Harriet Michael via @InspiredPrompt.

Writing Prompt: Story Starter! Using the above picture for inspiration, start a story. Maybe it’s going to be a short story, flash fiction, or an epic novel. We want the first sentence. 🙂

Take Time to Look at the Past

Writing in the Historical Genre.

When I started writing it wasn’t hard for me to choose a genre.  As a young girl I loved reading Nancy Drew. Nancy was everything I wanted to be, smart, popular, and fearless. When I turned thirteen all that changed with a book I checked out from the bookmobile. It was called “The Distant Summer” by Sarah Patterson. Romance had taken hold of my page turning habits.  Boy meets girl just made my heart zing. In high school I found a new love, history. Putting my love of history together with romance just made my world complete.

My first novel is set during the American Revolution. With some help from a writing group; a brainstorming session created my hero and heroine. The historical facts took a bit longer. A lot of research goes into historical fiction writing.

There are many sources available to research a historic period. Books, the internet, libraries, and historical societies are all a wealth of information. This summer my husband and I went to Washington, D.C. for a short trip. About two hours south of that city in Virginia is  Colonial Williamsburg, a living history museum. I fell in love with the place! Doing a research trip is totally worth it. I found so many interesting stories while doing my research. There are truly so many real characters who played instrumental roles in forging our country that adding  your interpretation of those historical characters to your novel can add a bit of authenticity.

Throw a dart at a map of our original thirteen colonies and land on a spot rich in history to use in your historical novel. You could choose any time period and do the same. Some of my favorite historical novels are not necessarily considered romantic. You can weave a historical tale without the romance. A character study of a type of historical figure like a spy during the American Revolution, or the Civil War, who happens to be a romantic is a great historical story.  The possibilities are endless.

I have learned through this writing journey to listen to the advice from those who have traveled this worn path. Save everything. Not that you need to become a hoarder mind you, but there may come a time when your historical facts need to be proved. Keeping track of your sources will make this less stressful. A notebook, or three ring binder for keeping documents and the ideas you’ve chicken-scratched on little bit of paper. I also keep a notebook on my nightstand, I can’t tell you how many times an idea will present itself while I lay in bed at night.

There is also a computer application called Scrivener which will allow you to keep all your sources, documents, notes, pictures, and your manuscript all in one place. It will even help you format your book. So, think about those days gone by, there just might a story there.

 

Take a page from the #past

 

Writing Prompt: You just found a diary in a dusty old trunk in your Grandmother’s attic. It tells a story of one of your long lost ancestors. Tell me about him/her and the time period they lived in.

Freelance Writing for Newspapers

by Shirley Crowder

newspaperRecently I was asked, “How did you get your articles published in a newspaper?” I laughed and said, “I read my Facebook (FB) comments.” I knew from the confused look on this man’s face that I should fill in more details. I continued, “I called an FB friend whose comment on one of my Christmas posts was, ‘Call me’ followed by his telephone number … I called!”

This friend, Harry Butler, coordinates writers for “Paper Pulpit” in the Faith section of  The Gadsden (Alabama) Times. He told me to expand one of my posts and email it to him. Why limit carols to Christmas? was published in the online and print editions in February 2014. My articles continue being published—when I have sense enough to write and send them!

Let’s look at some things I have learned about writing for newspapers. I hope some of these will spur you on to identify, investigate, and submit articles for publication in newspapers.

Aren’t Newspapers Obsolete?

Not at all! Newspapers today are not the same as they were when I grew up. In those days you had four main sources of news: television, radio, print newspapers, and news magazines. You couldn’t find the news any time of the night or day, you had to wait until the newscast came on, the newspaper was delivered, and for the magazine to hit the stands or your mailbox. Not so, now. You can go online and find news about events, places, and people all over the world, at any time of the night and day.

Don’t limit your scope.

When you think of newspapers, be sure to include the online news sources, not just the daily newspapers. Think print AND online.

  • Many denominations have weekly or monthly conference or associational newspapers.
  • Communities often have their own small newspapers and are looking for articles on a wide range of topics.
  • News websites often need writers.
  • Clubs, Organizations, and Associations are looking for articles about the passion or focus of their club, organization, or association.

“I don’t even know where to begin.”

As with any writing project you need to do research. Here are some suggestions on how to get started:

INvestigateInvestigate

The most important step in writing for newspapers, as it is with any writing, is to investigate newspapers/news sources.

  • What newspaper is for and about your city, county, state, etc.?
  • Buy or download a copy each day for a week or so and read them cover-to-cover, making note of the type articles in each section on each day of the week that are things you could write about.
  • As you’re investigating and getting to know the newspaper, look on their website and get the submission guidelines and procedures. Familiarize yourself with these guidelines and procedures. (NOTE: Many newspapers now have online portals through which articles can be submitted.)
  • Does the paper accept articles from freelance writers? If not, don’t discount this newspaper. See the section below, “Other ways to be published in a newspaper.”
  • What types of articles will they accept: fiction, non-fiction, real-life accounts, humorous stories, historical accounts, etc.?
  • What is the newspaper’s preferred style of writing? Do they prefer articles that are more folksy than formal?
  • How many words do they want for articles?
  • What topics have they covered recently? What ideas did those give you for articles at different times of the year: summer, start of school, Christmas, etc.?
  • What types of people, places, events, and things do they tell about in their newspaper?
  • Does the newspaper have a foundational political point of view? If so, does it match yours?

Think about …

You may get an inroad at a newspaper by writing an op-ed piece, a letter to the editor, or a book review.

writeWrite

Now you can begin writing your article, keeping in mind all the things you learned about what types of articles the paper publishes.  

  • Make certain to follow their submission guidelines. How many words? Is there a specified font size and line spacing?
  • I always find it helpful to put whatever I am writing aside for a day or so and go back for a careful edit and proof. Then, proof it again! It is also a good idea to have at least one other person proof your writing before you submit it.

sendPitch / Submit

From the submission guidelines, you will know whether you need to send a pitch/inquiry or just submit your article.

If you are to submit a pitch/inquiry, be as concise as possible. Many editors say you should be able to state in one sentence what the article will be about. Remember Sergeant Joe Friday on Dragnet saying, “Just the facts.” The pitch or inquiry should include:

  • The headline or article title.
  • Some articles have a line that appears just below the heading that describes what the article will be about. You will know from your investigative work if articles similar to yours need to have one.
  • Write a paragraph that briefly describes the article.
  • Give them a bullet-point listing of your published articles, including the date of publication and the publication name. Do not embellish here.
  • Do not send attachments unless specified in the submission guidelines. Only send pictures if they request them.
  • Be patient as you wait for a response. Usually, the submission guidelines tell you in what time-frame they will respond to you and how they will respond, via email, snail mail, etc.
  • Keep writing and submitting articles while you wait!
  • Some newspapers pay for articles and some do not. The submission guidelines will specify this. If you are trying to break into freelance newspaper writing, you may want to write some free articles or articles that don’t pay much to get some articles in your writing portfolio.
  • If they accept your pitch/submission, be certain to meet their deadline, and if possible, get it in a little early. Editors will love you!
  • If your pitch/submission is rejected, carefully evaluate your article and submit it to another newspaper. Write another article and submit it to the same newspaper.

What idea do you have that would make a good newspaper article?

Click to Tweet: Do you have a great idea for a newspaper article? #amwriting #newspapers #inspiredprompt

How to Break Into Freelance Writing

by Jean Matthew Hall

A freelance writer is one who works on a self-employment basis. They can work for just one magazine or, more often, for several different publications at a time. The more versatile a writer can be, the more likely they are to be published and paid for their work.

Freelance writing can include magazine articles and stories, curriculum materials, coloring books, online magazines and websites for adults or for children, business websites, ad copy, testing materials and on and on.

Whatever type of writing you choose to do a few basics apply. They include (1) targeting the periodicals to which you submit and (2) creating your articles to fit those target periodicals.

Targeting Periodicals

  • Get organized and prepared—as a freelance writer you’ll be dealing with a number of publishers, website owners, etc. Create a large file for each one.
  • Decide what topics interest you—Most periodicals buy far more nonfiction pieces than fiction. Make a list of things you are curious or knowledgeable about: animals, space exploration, American history, Madagascar, inventions, etc.
  • Research periodicals that relate to those topics—this will be really time consuming. But you want to avoid sending your articles to the wrong types of periodicals, if you want to be published.
  • Start with Market Guides—Google “magazine (or periodical) market guides” and you’ll find a list for your type of writing. They cost about $30 each. Then USE them. Check the material in the front of the guides. Most have lots of information for creating and submitting the articles you are writing.
  • Make a chart—make a spreadsheet type chart for organizing the information on publishers. Include the following for each:

Periodical’s name, acquisition editor’s name, editor’s email or submissions email address, periodical’s website URL, do they accept unsolicited queries, the number of subscribers, target readers (age or business or hobby), list their regular features, what rights they purchase, what they pay, type of fiction they use. Make a column for notes.

  • Choose 5 or 6 publishers to target with your submission.
  • Read and study several issues of each of those periodicals. You can do this by requesting or purchasing copies, reading samples on their websites, reading them in your public library, using your public library’s website “Research Tools.”
  • Study the periodical’s website. Writer’s or Submissions Guidelines are often hidden. Search under “Contact Us” or “About Us.” Also look for author’s terms. Read and follow their guidelines exactly.

Now you’re ready to research and/or write your article or story.

  • Brainstorm ideas. Nancy I. Sanders suggests a “Wagon Wheel” graphic organizer that includes a hub with the types of articles you wish to write and spokes for potential ideas for nonfiction articles. On the side of the page list the topics that have already been covered in the magazine samples you’ve read. Those should help you with ideas to write on the spokes.
  • Contact the publisher with your ideas. Write a short paragraph of description for each idea. Be sure to include how you think it will fit in with that periodical’s focus or theme. Mention any other publications you have written for. Ask the editor if they would be interested in any of your ideas. Be sure to include your contact information and thanks for considering your ideas.

Sound simple? NO!

But it’s worth the effort if you:

  • Want to see your name in print
  • Want to touch the lives of thousands of people with your idea
  • dream of writing an article about the subject of your passion
  • are serious about generating income from your writing.

You can also search for freelance writing jobs in places like:

Job Boards. Try some of the free ones:

  • Problogger
  • BloggingPro
  • All Freelance Writing Job Board

Twitter is a great place to find freelance writing opportunities. Follow several freelance writing job boards like:

  • @Write_Jobs,
  • @WhoPaysWriters
  • @JJobs_tweets

Ask around among friends, family, neighbors, former coworkers.

Make it clear on your website that you are looking for freelance writing opportunities.

Guest blog for free. Such articles not only give you exposure, but also count as writing samples!

Network with other freelance writers on Facebook.

Visit local printers and web designers. Let them know you are looking for freelance jobs, give them a sample or two of your work and a business card. Ask if they will keep you in mind or mention you to their customers.

Join Face Book Groups for freelance writers. A few of these groups are:

  • The Smart Passive Income Community
  • Blogger2Business
  • The Entrepreneur Incubator

Oh! And don’t forget to pray. Ask the Lord to provide opportunities and to put you right where HE wants you with your writing.

Jean Matthew Hall spent twenty-six years teaching children and teens–and loving it! Then twenty more years teaching women’s Bible studies.  She recently signed a contract with Little Lamb Books for a series of picture books. Yipee! The first book should be available in the spring of 2019. Sometimes our dreams come true in ways we couldn’t imagine. Jean’s have.

Click to Tweet: How to Break Into Freelance Writing via @InspiredPrompt with @Jean_Hall – make it clear on your website that you are looking for #freelance #writing opportunities.

 

Book Launch Party

Book Launch header picby Shirley Crowder

You have just hit send, and your galley edits are on the way to your publisher. Whew! You have about three seconds to relish the feeling of completion before you need to get back to the work of planning how to launch your new book once it is published.

While planning all the things you can do to help publicize the launch of your new book, consider planning a Launch Party aka Book Signing.

I felt a little awkward about throwing myself a Launch Party.

A wise friend told me to make it a time of praising the Lord for His leadership and the gifts, talents, and experience that enabled you to bring the study guide to publication. That, I could do!

Here’s what I did for the Launch Party. Hopefully these will get you thinking about things you can do for your Launch Party.

It is important here to tell you that the Lord has blessed me with so many very dear Prayer Warrior friends on whom I can call to help me accomplish so a myriad of things—including a Launch Party!

1.   Order Book Copies

Once you know when you will have the books in-hand, you can check venue dates and print your invitations. Remember to also have copies of other books you wrote on-hand. Consider offering a discounted price for those who purchase the book at the Launch Party.

2.    Venue

There is a wonderful chapel in our area that a dear friend owns and rents out for weddings, receptions, parties, etc. It was perfect for my Launch Party.

3.    Invitations

LuanchPartyINVI have a dear friend whose print shop is well-known in our area for producing wonderful invitations of all sorts. I kept mine simple as you see in the picture. I mailed some, hand-delivered others, and secured the jpg of the invitation to email to some folks and put on social media.

4.    Food & Drinks

sjc-cake-food tableI emailed some of my closest friends and asked if they would bring food items. I didn’t want a lot of different things, just a lot of a few things. We had sweet and salty and even healthy. Since I live in the south, sweet tea was a must. We served unsweet tea, lemonade, water, and coffee. Nothing fancy. A crew of friends came early to get everything laid out and ready to serve.

5.    Cake

If you are blessed to have a wonderfully talented baker/artist friend, you can have an awesome cake made! I wanted a Bible as the foundation of the cake as it is the foundation of our books. And, I asked that the Bible look tattered and well-used which you can see below.

Cake cu

On top of the Bible I wanted Harriet’s book on prayer and then Study Guide on Prayer (new book) on top.

Be sure to note the purple bookmark in the Bible, as well as the purple quill pen and inkwell.

6.    Decorations

White lattice and a little lace (as you saw in the picture above) made a great backdrop for the food/drink tables. Each table where people would sit had a centerpiece comprised of candles (the venue had on-hand) and purple paper flowers. A crew of friends came early to get everything decorated.

7.    Giveaways / Door Prizes

Each person was given a number for the door prize drawing. I gave away copies of all of my books and Harriet’s and a few other things. Before the drawings (we drew several numbers every half hour), I welcomed everyone and talked about the book or read excerpts.

As each person left, they took home a book cookie with the study guide title on it, These were made by another dear friend.

cookie pic

8.    Book Table

A friend manned the table and sales for me. I discounted all the prices. And, if someone brought their copy of Harriet’s book on prayer that the new study guide goes with, they received an additional discount on the study guide.

9.    Book Signing

A podium made a great place for signing books and having pics made with my friends.

signing podium

10.   Pictures

Ask several people to take candid pictures throughout the event. You may also consider purchasing some disposable cameras, placing them on the tables, and encouraging your guests to take pics.

 11.  Enjoy yourself!

With the right planning, you can spend your time visiting with your friends, signing books, and having your picture made a gazillion times!

Writing Prompt: Include Launch Party plans as part of your total plan for your new book. It will bless you and all those who are able to attend.

Click to Tweet: Make the Launch Party a time to thank the Lord for His grace that enables you to write, for a publisher who is willing to publish your book, for all the Prayer Warriors who have consistently prayed for you during the process.