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Mailbag Round 1 - Writing, Editing, and Publishing Questions

This is the inaugural mailbag post. Taking some of the questions we've received on writing, editing, and publishing and sharing our answers in hopes this will find other authors or soon-to-be authors wondering the same things. Hope to do many more of these in the future.


Question - I've started writing a book, got a few chapters written (or an outline or even just a big idea). What advice do you have -- besides "just do it" or "start writing" -- to finish a draft?


Here are six pieces of writing advice:


1. Share the work in progress via blog posts / LinkedIn posts. Don't do all of your work in hiding.


2. Increase dishwashing time. Clean the basement time. Any repetitive chore where your brain can wander back to your book


3. Increase reading time. Same genre as yours (but doesn't have to be 100% that). Subconsciously studying, "Ok, this writer does it this way, this writer that way. How many pages? Length of chapters. Length of paragraphs."


4. When reviewing an outline or rereading a chapter, the South Park guys plot out "But/Therefore" vs. "And Then." Any time they run into a patch of "And then this happened. And then this. And then this" they revise to get more "But this happened, therefore this. But then this happened, therefore..."


5. When finished with your first draft, build a Feedback Circle of 3-5 people to read it. The more specific questions you can have them answer the better


6. Start thinking about the next book(s). Going from "I've got this one shot to say everything I have to say" to, "Oh, I think I might have 10 books in me" will take some of the pressure off that can delay the writing/revising process or later the publishing stage


Question - What are some high-quality book printers you recommend?


The printer we love and have worked with the most so far is Diggypod. Love the quality of their work, especially for children's book illustrations. If you've seen our book Safe Landing, that was Diggypod as the printer. The side-by-side comparison of the Diggypod version vs. "print on demand" of the same title (Amazon and Ingram Spark are Print on Demand), Diggypod won by a large margin.


For board books, we used Pint Size Productions for Oh Mother How Funny and were really pleased with their work. We used Print Ninja for Oh Baby it's a Clear Lake. Of the two, I like Pint Size better.


Other options out there:

  1. Blurb (used them for Safe Landing family book, very impressed)

  2. Bookbaby (haven't used, looking at them for an upcoming cookbook)

  3. Lulu (haven't used)


Question - Why not just use Amazon as my printer?


Definite advantages to using Amazon. Since it's print-on-demand, you don't have to order copies and store boxes at your house. Also you don't have to worry about shipping. Those are really nice features.


Why we go with Diggypod and use our own bookstore for orders on our website is 1) Quality of the work but 2) Amazon doesn't show you the names or emails of the people who buy your book. So you're not able to build your subscriber list or keep fans/readers updated in between books.


I've taken my fair share of Jeff Bezos jabs in these newsletters, but I will give him credit on one thing: Amazon has done a great job removing the financial barriers of self-publishing. It's not uncommon for an independent printer like the ones listed above to have a minimum order size of 25 copies, and because the volume is low, the cost per book (+ shipping) might be $10. Without factoring in cover design, book interior, or editing, the author has to come up with $250 to print their books. Amazon KDP, on the other hand, doesn't cost any money. Just post the files, order comes in, Amazon prints the book, ships the book, and you make your royalty.


Question - Can I expect to make any profit from my book sales?


Okay, let's tackle this one head-on and I'll make sure to avoid any "well, it depends" type of non-committal answers.


First, we got to break down the three publishing categories (with a short note next to each)


  1. Traditional - Publisher covers the costs

  2. Hybrid - Author covers all or most of the costs. Hybrid publisher then acts like a traditional publisher, helping to create a professional book and invested in the results

  3. Self-publishing - Author covers costs and all promotion


Traditional Publishing


In traditional publishing, yes, you can expect to make a profit. You're not paying for the book cover design, interior, or editing. That's all on the publisher's dime. So, there are no costs, besides your time.


But here's where it gets tricky. Outside of the Big 5 publishers, author advances are falling into the $1,000 to $2,000 range. The tradeoff of 2-3 years of hard work finding an agent and getting your book out there was worth it if the advance was $50,000+ guaranteed but at $1-2k that's not as clear cut of a decision to make.


If you ever hear the phrase "earning back the advance" or "earning beyond the advance," what this means is a scenario when an author sells enough books that they earn both their advance and additional royalties. If the author receives a $1,000 advance and in their contract they earn $3 per book sale, that means the first 333 book sales are going toward that $1,000 number (kind of like an insurance deductible). On book sale 334, now they're starting to make additional royalties to add to their $1,000.


Make sense? No worries if it doesn't. Hopefully, these scenarios below will help.


Expected profit in 3 scenarios:


  • 100 copies sold - Author receives a $2,000 advance. Book is priced at $20. Author receives $3 for each sale. 100 copies sold x $3 = $300. Total Profit: $2,000

  • 500 copies sold - Author receives a $2,000 advance. Book is priced at $20. Author receives $3 for each sale. 500 copies sold x $3 = $1,500. Total Profit: $2,000

  • 1,000 copies sold - Author receives a $2,000 advance. Book is priced at $20. Author receives $3 for each sale. 1,000 copies sold x $3 = $3,000. Total Profit: $3,000 (the $2,000 advance + $1,000 of additional royalties)


Hybrid Publishing


Hybrid Publishers -- which is what Long Overdue Books falls under -- play the role of publisher and, just like the Traditional Publishers, we offer professional editing, book cover design, and book interior services. But the big difference: the author is paying for these services.


Because the author is essentially investing in their own book, the plus side is royalties are higher. For most of our authors, they are making $10 - $12 per $20 book sale. That's a 50 - 60% royalty rather than a 10 - 15% in the Traditional setup. (Where does the other $8 - 10 go? That covers book printing and we (Long Overdue) usually make $2 per sale as the publisher in this hybrid setup).


Alright, back to the chalkboard. Let's look at three scenarios. Hybrid Publishing costs can vary between $2,000 to $10,000 depending on the type of book and what's all required, but for this scenario below I'm going with $6,000 as the number.


  • 100 copies sold - Author pays $6,000 for some editing services and book design. Book is priced at $20. Author receives $10 for each sale. 100 copies sold x $10 = $1,000. Total Profit: Loss of $5,000

  • 500 copies sold - Author pays $6,000 for some editing services and book design. Book is priced at $20. 500 copies sold x $10 = $5,000. Total Profit: Loss of $1,000

  • 1,000 copies sold - Author pays $6,000 for some editing services and book design. Book is priced at $20. 1,000 copies sold x $10 = $10,000. Total Profit: $4,000


In terms of turning a profit, Traditional has the safety net with the advance and no costs. Hybrid

is a big hit to the wallet if the book doesn't sell. But positive with Hybrid, the author starts to make more money than Traditional if they can get beyond 1,000 copies sold.


Self Publishing


Okay, main difference here, author is in full control of their spend. So yeah, they could go out and spend $10,000 on editors and book designers, or they could be extra scrappy, have their friends do the editing, use Vellum for page design, find someone on Upwork to do their cover. Might only spend $500 on their book.


The royalties are gonna be high just like Hybrid. Last I checked, Amazon's author royalty is 60% of list price.


One more time, let's look at those three sales scenarios. And for this one I'm gonna say the author spent $1,000 on creating their book.


  • 100 copies sold - Author pays $1,000 for some editing services and book design. Book is priced at $20. Author receives $12 for each sale. 100 copies x $12 = $1,200. Profit: $200

  • 500 copies sold - Author pays $1,000 for some editing services and book design. Book is priced at $20. 500 copies sold x $12 = $6,000. Total Profit: $5,000

  • 1,000 copies sold - Author pays $1,000 for some editing services and book design. Book is priced at $20. 1,000 copies sold x $12 = $12,000. Total Profit: $11,000


As you can see, self-publishing has a lot of upside regarding profitability. But will a $1,000 or less budget be enough to fine-tune the story via editing and revisions? Make an appealing book cover? And is the author ready to go into full promoting mode without a publisher in their corner to get past that 100 book sale number.


Welp. That's all for this round's mailbag. Tune in next time and also feel free to email us your questions directly at chris@longoverduebooks.com Have a great day!

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