This is a post about practical things I wish I’d known sooner. I don’t have an RWA chapter close and it took me awhile to hook up with some local authors. Some of this might seem super obvious, but it’s stuff I seriously did not understand/know early on.
Publishing contracts. My first contract was a no advance/% of earnings type contract. Super straightforward and easy to understand. My second contract was an advance-type contract. Y’all. I did not know how the advance worked. So here’s a run-down so you won’t be as ignorant as I was (hopefully was, maybe still am!)
First thing you need to understand is that an “advance” is just that…an advance on profits. So you have to make that much money back in earnings before you make any more money. Only the % you earn counts toward that number, not a total earnings on the book. So, for example, if you are given a 1k advance on a book that sells for $4.00 and you make 50% on the book AFTER the distributors take their cut. You’ll need to sell more books than you think to make that 1k back. If Amazon takes a 30% cut for distribution, then the author is only making $1.40/book sold. That means the author must sell 714 copies before they make any more money or “earn out.”
The other thing to understand about an advance is that it is paid in chunks. The way mine works is that if I sign a 3-book deal, each book has an $X advance attached for a total of $3X. Once I sign, I get half of the total advance or half of $3X upfront. Then, after I finish developmental edits with my editor I get the other half of the advance for that book, or half of $X. So when you hear a number for your advance and it sounds really great, just remember depending on how fast/slow you write that money will be doled out over the course of a year or two. And when you think about how long it takes a book to make it from contract to release to earning out…you’re not getting rich quick.
Speaking of publication times. This pertains to traditional publishing only. One of the advantages of indie pub is the turn-around speed of releases. Traditional publishers are slow. I just turned in a finished manuscript today (yay, me!!) My publisher St. Martin’s Press has already set their spring 2018 publishing schedule. This book won’t come out until summer 2018 at the earliest. That’s a long damn time.
Mailing books. Did you know that if you’re mailing books to readers or for prizes that you can request USPS to send by Media Mail. It is cheaper and super easy. They say it’s 5-7 days shipping, but things I send usually end up there in 2-3 days.
Speaking of USPS. I would recommend renting a PO Box at your local post office to use as return address and in your newsletter. Unless you feel comfortable putting your home address out there.
Teasers. Do you see incredible looking teasers on FB or Twitter and think…how do they do that? Are they hiring professionals? In some cases yes, but there are several awesome free tools to create teasers. My favorite at the moment is Canva (google it) but I like to use PicMonkey to add affects like B&W or fuzzy edges, etc. It’s free too. As far as pictures to use, Deposit Photos usually runs deals for pictures. If you have money to spend or are looking for cover material then iStock is great.
I’m sure I’m forgetting some great tips, so leave them in the comments!