Author Learning Center, authors, book marketing, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, self publishing, writing

7 Things Every Writer Needs to Become an Author (Part 2)

This is the second part of the post I wrote as a guest blogger on Lulu.com. If you want to know the first three in the list you can read those here.   

#4 Advice along the way

The fourth thing you’re going to need as you work toward your goal of publishing is advice. As I suggested, a plan is like GPS, and if you think about it, GPS gives you instructions along the way to make sure you reach your goal.

Turn left.

Take this exit.

Recalculating.

The right information at the right time assures you will reach your destination. The same thing is true on your publishing journey. You will come to points where expert advice and encouragement will keep you on the right track and help you keep moving forward.

Writing and publishing and marketing are learned skills, so finding people and resources that can serve as the voice in your GPS is vital. Identify people and sources you can trust and listen to them. Seek out a small, trusted few rather than the opinion of the masses.

There are websites where you can seek out the opinion of the crowd, but I question how valuable that type of feedback can be. You could put your manuscript out there and have a hundred people comment. Fifty of them may think it’s great and fifty may think it’s terrible, but that doesn’t really help you. So find a small, trusted group rather than the unvetted crowd.

Now, you can accomplish this a number of different ways. Depending on what community you’re in, there might be local writing groups you can join. The Author Learning Center also gives you that opportunity to get feedback through your Author Circle if you have a book project. No matter how you do it, just don’t try to take this journey alone.

#5 Persistence

The fifth thing you need to become an author is persistence. As the saying goes, it takes years to become an overnight success so persistence is really, really important. You will meet challenges and even face discouragement and rejection along the way, but you have to believe in yourself. You have to believe that you have something important to share with others. In fact, throughout history there are numerous of examples of well-known and successful authors being rejected multiple times before they were published.

Take L. M. Montgomery, author of Anne of Green Gables for example. Her series of books has been a must read for young people for decades. It’s inspired by her own story growing up on Prince Edward Island. A number of years ago, I had a chance to visit the place where Anne of Green Gables was set.

In fact, Canada has turned the site into a national park. I was extremely impressed with how they created an experience for visitors, but one thing that really struck me was in her biography. She said she would have never been published had the post office not been in her uncle’s home where she lived.

The reason why is because back then you would send a manuscript to a publisher, and if the publisher declined, they would send it back wrapped up in brown paper and tied in string. So Montgomery said that if she would have had to go into town and walk down the street holding that package, she would have been very embarrassed. However because the package came back to her uncle’s house, it gave her the courage to continue to send it out. Eventually a publisher picked up her books, and since then, they have gone on to sell millions of copies around the world.

She was persistent and it paid off.

More recent examples include Lisa Genova, Louise Hay, and James Patterson. Lisa wrote a book called Still Alice but could not find a publisher who was interested so she self-published with iUniverse. It was subsequently discovered by Simon and Schuster, who picked it up and it became a best seller and eventually a movie for which Julianne Moore won an Oscar. Lisa’s persistence was demonstrated in that she self-published even when no publisher wanted it.

Louise Hay is another example. Louise founded the publisher Hay House when she was sixty years old. Sadly, Louise passed away in late 2017, but she has left a significant legacy in the life of people. She decided she had something to share that could really help people and largely helped create the category of Self Help. No publisher at the time would produce her books, so she first self-published and then started the company that continues on to this day.

Finally another great example of persistence is James Patterson. He’s arguably one of the more famous authors we have today, but many people don’t know he was actually rejected by thirty-one publishers.

He shared the details in an interview. “I worked my way through college. I had lots of night shifts, so I started reading like crazy. Then I started writing, and I found that I loved it. When I was twenty-six I wrote my first mystery, The Thomas Berryman Number, and it was turned down by, I don’t know, thirty-one publishers. Then it won the Edgar for the best first novel. Go figure.”

In each of these examples the authors believed in their work, and they were persistent. Now I don’t know if you are the next Lisa Genova or James Patterson; however, if you are not persistent and you don’t believe in your work, it will be tough for you to reach your goals.

#6 Accountability

A sixth thing every writer needs to become an author is accountability. This is an important one because without accountability most things don’t get done. John Di Lemme suggests, “Accountability separates the wishers in life from the action-takers that care enough about their future to account for their daily actions.”

In fact, the likelihood that you will transform your desires into reality increases tremendously if you share your written goals with a friend who believes in your ability to succeed. One author calls it having “a partner in believing.” I think that is such a great phrase because that’s what you need—someone who believes in your idea as much as you do.

Someone who believes you have something to say or share that is worth preserving and telling.

That’s why, along with persistence, you need to be accountable and you need someone to keep you accountable. That way when you get discouraged or stuck, there is someone to help you stay focused on your milestones and goals.

#7 Encouragement

Writing a book takes time and can also include periods of self-doubt or discouragement. That’s why you need someone to help you stay motivated when you may be ready to give up.

Even prolific authors like Stan Lee needed encouragement. Stan started Marvel Comics and has helped create some of the most well-known superheroes. At one point before he had made a name for himself, he was ready to give up. Like most salaried employees, he had bills and a mortgage, but at age forty writing action scenes became unfulfilling, and he wanted to quit. His wife told him to create a script that he found meaningful, and the rest is history.

So do not ever underestimate a well-timed word of encouragement. We all need them.

Information alone is not enough.

This truly is the best time to be an author because there is more opportunity to get published and more information for authors than ever before. But information alone is not enough to help you get to your goal. You need these seven things to transition from just writing to publishing:

  1. an idea
  2. a deadline
  3. a plan,
  4. timely, expert advice
  5. persistence,
  6. accountability
  7. encouragement

A GPS for your publishing journey

If you are looking for an easy way to have these elements available at your fingertips, I invite you to visit the Author Learning Center. There you will find a unique combination of expert advice, author-inspired tools, and a community to help you reach your publishing goals. www.authorlearningcenter.com

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Author Learning Center, authors, book marketing, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing, writing

7 Things Every Writer Needs to Become an Author (Part 1)

This is reposted from the Lulu.com blog where I was a guest blogger. Part 2 is coming soon.

ALC-icon

The ALC is a GPS for your publishing journey.

Researchers have estimated that 200 million people have an idea for a book, and yet most aspiring authors never get published. Why is that? That’s because having an idea for a book is easy. Starting to write a book is easy. Finishing the book is a much more difficult task. Not to mention marketing the book once it’s finished. So what does it take to turn a writer into an author? From my personal and professional experience, plus conversations with thousands of aspiring and accomplished authors, I have identified seven key things writers need if they are going to reach their publishing goals.

 

#1 An idea

Having an idea may seem obvious, but there is a big difference between an idea and a well-thought-out idea. The idea is the foundation for the book, yet many writers don’t take the time to really think about their ideas.

The five key elements of a great story

If you are writing a fiction book, there are five key elements of a great story you need to make sure are part of your book.

  1. An inciting action—This is the action near the beginning that kicks off the story. A dead body is found or a car chase ensues or two people kiss. Something needs to set the story in motion.
  2. A protagonist—This is often the main character who you want readers to cheer for and care about.
  3. An antagonist—This is the person who is working against the protagonist and putting up obstacles or making it difficult for the protagonist to accomplish whatever is set before him or her.
  4. A conflict or challenge—This is whatever must be overcome for the protagonist to succeed. What happens if your protagonist doesn’t stop the asteroid from hitting the earth? What happens if someone takes over the world and inserts a virus into computers? What happens if the murderer isn’t caught? Too often, writers start out with a really good idea, but they don’t draw the reader in by making it clear what’s at stake. It sounds simple, but surprisingly many writers don’t make this easy to spot when this is what typically propels the story forward and gives context to the characters.
  5. A resolution—A story without closure isn’t really a story. Readers don’t want to be left hanging. So even if you are writing a series, you want to provide a satisfying ending. All good stories do.

Both traditional publishers and Hollywood executives look for these elements in a story, which is why you will see them in most successful books and movies. However, what I have found is most first-time authors are missing one or more of these key elements in their stories so the book fails to satisfy. I encourage you to take a hard look at your book and ask yourself if you have these elements clearly defined. If not, make sure you add them to your story. It seems like a short list, but it is critical if you are writing a fiction book.

What about a nonfiction book?

If you’re writing a nonfiction book, you still need to have a framework, but it is different from a fiction book. One big question you want to ask yourself is how will readers be impacted by reading the book?

  1. What outcome can I expect after I read your book?—Will I quit smoking? Will I be a better parent? Will I invest my money more wisely? Will I lose weight? Will I have better health? There is any number of outcomes that can come from reading a nonfiction book, but you need to be clear what your book offers.
  2. Are you going to give me a process that is repeatable?—Just because something worked for you doesn’t mean I will find it interesting if there is nothing I can apply from your experience. So you need to consider how others can use what you have learned. Give readers a process they can implement.
  3. Are you simply going to inspire me?—If you’re writing a memoir, yours might be a story that inspires and motivates a reader. That can be the power of a true story, but if that is your goal, do consider how you tell the story. A series of facts is not nearly as interesting as a book that includes the five elements of a great story—even if it is a memoir. Just because it happened chronologically doesn’t mean you have to tell the story in that order or even include every detail.
  4. Serve them PIE—As you start to develop your chapters, think about structuring them around the acronym PIE, which stands for Principal, Illustration, and Example. In other words, as you begin to write, try to include the principal you want to convey, but then couple that with an illustration of how it might work. Finally, offer an example of someone who has applied the principal in a real-world setting. This simple, proven structure can help readers more easily grasp the key points you are trying to make.

With an idea established for your book, you can start doing the real work of creating your book; the writing, editing, and developing.

#2 A deadline

The second thing that every writer needs to become an author is a deadline.

You must pick a date when you want to hold a copy of your book. With no deadline, you will probably never have a book.

If you work with a traditional publisher, they will set a date for you because your publisher or your editor will give you a deadline for when you need to turn in your manuscript. If you are self-publishing, you need to set that date for yourself because, without it, you most likely will never get to your goal. So make sure that you set a date when you want to hold a copy of your book.

And writing that date down makes a difference. Research shows you become 42 percent more likely to achieve your goals and dreams simply by writing them down on a regular basis. Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at the Dominican University in California, studied the art and science of goal-setting, and she concluded those who wrote down their goals achieved them at a significantly higher rate than those who did not.

If you want to increase the odds of becoming an author, set a deadline for finishing your book and write it down.

#3 A plan

You’ve got an idea and you’ve set yourself a deadline to complete that idea. How do you take steps to meet that deadline? A plan of course.

A plan is like GPS. Once you set your destination, you need a path with the steps to get to your goal. It’s also helpful to have milestones along the way to mark your progress. Think of the milestones a mini-deadlines.

If you are a writer and you want to become an author, these are some key milestones you want to mark on your journey.

  • manuscript complete
  • editing complete
  • submission for production
  • design
  • final revisions
  • printing

With the proper support and information, you can achieve these interim goals, and most importantly, celebrate success along the way. The key to remember is no date, no book; no plan, no book. In short, without a date and a plan, it is very unlikely you will get your goal.

Stay Tuned…

We’ll be back with the four remaining pieces to transforming yourself into an author, along with Keith’s conclusion!

 

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Author Learning Center, authors, book marketing, book selling, Hollywood, Indie book publishing, self publishing, writing

The good, the bad, the scary and the future of book publishing

Recently I had an opportunity to participate on a panel and I loved the title: The good, the bad, the scary and the future. It caused me to reflect on the state of the industry both in terms of where we are now and what can we look forward to in the near future. Here are my thoughts from that panel. See if you agree. If you have any other ideas you would like to share, use the comment section to do that.

The Good

Publishing options—there continue to be more ways for authors to publish books and get them into the hands of readers. Services, formats and distribution opportunities all continue to increase.

Connecting with readers through social media—savvy authors are taking advantage of social media to find potential readers and have them share about the book with their connections. Technology like Meet Edgar and Bookgrabrr have made it much easier.

Authors aren’t as isolated—writing a book is a solitary activity, but the journey doesn’t have to be. Platforms like The Author Learning Center help authors get connected with others who can provide help and encouragement along the way.

Still Alice

Still Alice started as a self-published book and became an Oscar winning movie.

Hollywood is more interested in ever in books—I think I read somewhere that there are 28 movies being released in the near future based on books.  That means more opportunity for authors no matter how they publish.

The Bad

Anybody can get published—with self-publishing still growing, it means almost anyone can become an author. That means there are more books available to readers than ever before so it has never been more important to have a well written book and compelling story.

Competing for attention is challenging—there are so many things vying for our attention that it is more important than ever to have a targeted marketing campaign.

The Scary

How hard it is to write a good book—I think people who start out with an idea underestimate how much work and skill it takes to write a good book. That is why it is more important than ever that a writer be committed to the craft and business of being an author.

….it is more important than ever that a writer be committed to the craft and business of being an author.

Reading for pleasure in some countries is declining—studies have confirmed fewer people are reading as a leisure activity. There are still some exceptions. Book clubs create power readers. Emerging countries seem to be cultivating more voracious readers, but in a number of established countries, the potential customer base could be shrinking.

Opportunities with bookstores and traditional publishers are waning in some markets and genres—As operating bookstores becomes more challenging and traditional publishers consolidate, there can be fewer opportunities for authors. That is not always the case depending on the market and type of book, but there has definitely been a decline in opportunities from even 10 years ago.

The Future

Self-publishing will continue to grow—since we first drew pictures on a cave wall, we have always wanted our ideas and stories to have permanence. Because of that I believe self-publishing will continue to expand to more people and more countries.

Hollywood will find more first time and self-published authors—as the demand for new ideas and stories continues to grow to feed the number of cable and streaming channels, Hollywood will expand where they look for ideas.  Movies like The Martian starring Matt Damon and Still Alice for which Julianne Moore won the Oscar started as self-published books which I believe opens the door for other authors who have not published traditionally.

Book shops that become a community focused will thrive—while bookstores have been challenged in some markets, we have also seen a number of retailers flourish who use their store as a place to gather people around ideas and events.

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Author Solutions, authors, book marketing, book selling, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, self publishing, writing

4 Reasons Why Attending a Writer’s Conference Is a Really Good Idea

GLAWS presentationOver the past few years, I have had the opportunity and privilege to attend and speak at writer’s conferences in the US and abroad. I find it to be one of the more enjoyable activities I perform as part of my duties.  I think if you are in the midst of a manuscript, or trying to understand what it means to be an author today, attending a well-run writer’s conference can be a good investment of time and money.

It can be overwhelming, but worth it.

If you have never been to a conference, or if you are new to the publishing world, or if you have been previously published through a traditional publisher, attending a writer’s conference can prove very helpful for a number of reasons.

You will be inspired and encouraged by like-minded people.

Writing a book can be a lonely process. Many times, it is you and your notepad and keypad, working through the excitement and doubts of finishing a manuscript. While in most cases, you can find support with friends and family, it is not the same as sharing the experience with someone who knows the joys and struggles of writing a book. But at writer’s conferences, you will find people who know exactly what you are going through. They can provide tips and suggestions. In fact I am always amazed at the relationships, connections and even friendships that can be built in a weekend at a conference.

You will learn about all the options you have as an author.

Speaking at GLAWS

Always enjoy the Q&A at conferences. Spoke recently at the West Coast Writer’s conference. 

It is the best time in history, but it is also the most confusing time to be an author because you have more choice and opportunity than ever before. So it is important you have a clear understanding of what options you have and what publishing path is the best one for you to pursue for your book or project. That’s why it is important to check the keynote and breakout sessions for the conference. If they are only focused on one area of publishing, such as agents, I think that is less optimal.  Look for a schedule that includes a variety of perspectives and experiences. I think that is most beneficial.

You will hear tips on how to improve your skill as a writer.

Writing is a craft and it is work. So it is important to learn from those who have experience and success. As with any skill, you can learn from others and they can help you get better at what you do. For example, one of the best tips I ever heard at a writer’s conference was a successful author shared that she took acting classes. Not because she ever wanted to become an actress, but because she thought doing that would help her write better dialogue in her books. I thought that was brilliant when I heard it and showed what type of commitment it takes to improve your skill.

You will develop a better understanding of marketing.

Most first time authors do not always understand what part they will have to play in marketing their book. In fact for many authors, marketing is a mystery. I personally enjoy speaking about marketing to authors so they can better understand what they need to do to build a platform and a following for their book. Good conferences will include a variety of workshops on marketing so look for those in the schedule in the mean time, I have written a whitepaper titled, The 3 Phases of an Effective Book Marketing Campaign that many authors have found helpful.

So which conference should you attend?

Over the years I have had the opportunity to attend and speak at a number of conferences. I am sure there are more than what I have listed and linked to below, but I can say each of these offers writers  a great opportunity to improve their craft, make some great connections and be inspired to get to their goal. If you plan to attend one of these let me know. I have already committed to speak at some of them and look forward to meeting you in person.

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Author Solutions, AuthorHouse, authors, book marketing, book selling, Ebooks, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing

3 critical design ideas to make your book interior look great

If you search, you can find lots of information on how to design a killer book cover. In fact, I have written a number of blog posts on the topic.

Six tips from wicked good book cover designers

How to make your book cover attract readers: A conversation with book designer Adam Hall

While your cover is certainly vital, you do not want to neglect the importance of the interior of your book. As one writer put it, “It’s your cover’s job to flag down readers, but it’s the interior’s job to put on a show.”

So what should you keep in mind as you design the interior pages of your book.

Make it readable

While it is tempting to get “creative” with your type face and try to be different for the sake of “standing out”, the most important thing to remember is your book must be readable. Readability depends on a number of factors.

The Oscilating Brain by Timothy Sheehan M D title page

A clear title page is a good start for any book.

First is the font style used for the body text. There are many good options, including popular fonts such as Garamond, Caslon, Electra, Palatino, Fornier, ITC New Baskerville, Bembo, Futura, Myriad, and Helvetica. The main font used in a printed book is typically a serif font. However, san serif fonts are easier to read on a screen so they may be preferred for e-books. Serif fonts have little ‘serifs’, or feet, at the ends of the letters and san serifs do not.

Another factor in the readability of the text is the font size. A typical novel uses a ten to twelve point font, depending on the font style, genre, book length, and audience. You may choose a larger font if your book is targeted at an older or a very young generation. Line spacing, or ‘leading’ as it’s called in the design world, impacts readability too. Generally books are spaced slightly more than single spacing, about 120–125 percent of the font size. For example, a twelve point font would have a line spacing of about fourteen or fifteen points.

“It’s your cover’s job to flag down readers, but it’s the interior’s job to put on a show.”

A third factor that affects readability is the presence or absence of white space on the page. The margins (the white space that exists between the text block and the edge of the page) vary from book to book. Reducing the margin size condenses the book to fewer pages, but it can also make the book feel more claustrophobic and difficult to read.

I always recommend you start to collect sample pages of books that have very readable designs to use as a guide when designing the interior pages of your book.

Be consistent

Another key element that makes a great book design is consistency. From chapter starts to dashes and ellipses, maintaining a consistent style throughout the book helps the reader flow through the book more easily. Remember the design is not to draw attention to itself, but rather help the reader move through the book. When there are jarring, out-of-left field design elements introduced on the pages of the book, it can actually interrupt the reader’s enjoyment of the story.

Follow industry standards

Creating a professional book layout takes more than simply throwing a title page and some page numbers on your manuscript. There is an order to things that tell readers this is a professionally designed book. Even more important there are certain standards that readers, book buyers, retailers, and librarians expect in a professional book.

Chapter start

An interesting opening page can draw readers into the story.

The inside of your book is divided into three main sections: the front matter, text, and back matter. Front matter introduces your book to your readers. Appearing before the main text, front matter is comprised of pages that include information about the book, about you, and about the publisher. Next is the text, which is the main narrative that makes up the meat of the book. The back matter falls after the main text and includes any supportive material to the text, such as the glossary and index. Let’s look at each of these individually.

Front matter

The front matter is found before the main text of the book and may include the following sections. Your book should at minimum include a copyright page and title page.

Half title page: The half title page is the first page of your book and contains only your title. This page does not include a byline or subtitle.

Series title page: Use the second page of your book to list any of your previously published books by title. It is customary to list the books chronologically from first to most recently published. Listing the title only is standard, but in nonfiction works, you may also list the subtitle if you feel it is essential. A common way to begin this page is, “Also by [author’s name]…” For authors who do not have previously published works, this page may be left blank or feature a frontispiece, which is a decorative illustration that is opposite the title page.

Title page: The title page is the part of your book that displays your full book title, subtitle, author, and any co-writer or translator. The publisher’s logo is featured on this page as well.

Copyright page: The copyright page contains the copyright notice, which consists of the year of publication and the name of the copyright owner. Depending on your publishing path, the copyright owner may be the author, an organization or corporation, or your publisher. This page also lists the book’s ISBN, and if applicable, the book’s publishing history, permissions, and disclaimers.

Table of contents: A table of contents lists the chapters, pertinent front and back matter, and the corresponding page on which these sections can be found. Typically, only nonfiction books require a table of contents. Additionally, all e-books must include a table of contents regardless of the genre.

List of illustrations: If your book includes several key illustrations that provide information or enhance the text in some way, you may need an illustrations page. However, if the illustrations are simply for comic relief or visual aid, the listing may not be necessary.

List of tables: Similar to the illustration listing, this page provides you with the opportunity to list any important tables and the page on which they can be found.

Foreword: The foreword contains a statement about the book and is written by someone other than the author who is an expert or is widely known in the field of the book’s topic. It is most commonly found in nonfiction works.

Preface: The preface usually describes why you wrote the book, your research methods and perhaps some acknowledgments if they have not been included in a separate section. It may also establish your qualifications and expertise as an authority in the field in which you’re writing. Again, a preface is far more common in nonfiction titles.

Acknowledgments (if not part of the preface): An acknowledgments page includes your notes of appreciation to people who provided you with support or help during the writing process or in your writing career in general. This section may also include any credits for illustrations or excerpts if not included on the copyright page. If the information is lengthy, you may choose to put the section in the back of the book, as the first section in the back matter.

Creating a professional book layout takes more than simply throwing a title page and some page numbers on your manuscript.

Body Text

Within the pages of books, you commonly find elements such as page numbers, running heads, and chapter-start pages. Here are some of the standards related to these standard design elements.

Page numbers

Unless you are publishing a very short children’s book, it’s essential to include page numbers. E-books do not require page number since the idea of a “page” isn’t static from one e-reader to the next device. Page numbers are most commonly found at the top of the page on the outer right or left corner, but can also be found at the bottom of a page.

Running heads

Many nonfiction books include running heads, which is the text at the top of pages that identifies the author, the book title, the section, or the chapter. Novels rarely use running heads unless there is some helpful purpose to the reader. There is some leeway in how the running heads are used, so there are many combinations of what the running head features. Some examples are: part title, chapter title; chapter number, chapter title; and chapter title, subhead.

Chapter starts and subheadings

The treatment of your chapter starts is a chance for your book design to be more expressive. While the font of your main text should be highly legible as its top priority, the chapter starts can be a bit more creative. It is common to see chapters that start on a new page from where the previous chapter left off, and the chapter starts one-third to halfway down the page.

Nonfiction books also use subheadings to further divide chapters. While the chapter starts can be more stylized, the subheads should be rather straightforward, although they can play a complementary role to the font used in the main text. 

Back Matter

The back matter of your book includes sections that support the main text but are outside of the main narrative.

Appendix or Addendum: An appendix includes any data that clarifies the text for the reader but would have disrupted the flow of the main text had it been included. It could also include information that was gathered too late to be included in the main body of the text. Some items included in the appendix could be a list of references, tables, reports, background research, and sources, if not extensive enough to be included in a separate section.

Notes: The endnotes section allows you to amplify or document certain passages throughout the main text. Endnotes are typically divided by chapter.

Glossary: A glossary comprises alphabetically arranged words and their definitions. Many nonfiction books include a glossary if terminology is used that is not generally known to the average reader.

Bibliography or reference list: The bibliography section, typically used in works of nonfiction, lists the sources for works used in the book. For samples and guidelines on proper layout, refer to the Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition.

Index: The index is an alphabetically ordered list of words and terms used for referencing your text. Indexes are important pieces to a nonfiction book.

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Author Solutions, authors, book marketing, creativity, helpful hints, Hollywood, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing, writing

3 Key Reasons Why Hollywood Will Reject Your Self-Published Book

In my last post, I outlined three reasons why Hollywood is interested in self published books more than ever before. As promised at the end of that post, I also wanted to share reasons why I see Hollywood not pursuing deals on self published books.

Hollywood sign

Entertainment execs are looking at self-published books more than ever but some authors aren’t able to take advantage of the opportunity for three key reasons. 

The three reasons that follow have come from what I see in my role with Author Solutions. Over the past five years, we have built relationships and first-look partnerships in Hollywood and created events like the Book-to-Screen Pitchfest, which have given hundreds of authors a chance to put their books in front of people who are making decisions about what makes it to the screen.

From that vantage point, I have witnessed authors pitch their books and even be offered deals, but not be able to take full advantage of the opportunities before them. Why is that

1.The story is missing one or more key elements of what makes a great story

In my most popular post, The 5 Essential Elements for Every Good Story, which was inspired by many of my conversations in Hollywood, I list what every great story needs. I would encourage you to read the complete post, but for reference, those elements are

  • An inciting action
  • Protagonist
  • Antagonist
  • Conflict
  • Resolution

Too often first time authors leave out one of these elements or do not develop it fully. Another mistake I see is the elements are all included, but it is difficult to see how they relate to one another. For example the story might be resolved, but the resolution comes out of left field. There was no foreshadowing of it or it does not tie up other details of the story. The result is an unsatisfying and confused outcome that leaves both readers and viewers, wondering, “Huh?”

For this reason, I have seen many books get interest, but not result in a deal. So if you have a story you think would play well on the screen, pay attention to the craft of telling a good story. It could be the difference between your book being optioned or not.

2. It is derivative of another work

Hollywood is sometimes criticized for recycling the same stories, but my experience is they really are looking for fresh ideas. However, if they are going to acquire a new property, they will shy away from ideas that are simply a different flavor of an idea that is already out there.  Now that doesn’t mean if you have an interesting take on a crime or police drama that hasn’t been done, they would pass on it. For example, at one of our Book-to-Screen Pitchfest, one of the authors pitched a book about what it was like to be the first African American police officers in Atlanta during and shortly after the Civil Rights movement. It was a police drama, but told from a perspective that has not been used yet. Very interesting biopic with all the elements that make for an intriguing story.

On the other hand, there was an author who pitched an idea that was simply like the Disney movie Cars, but all the characters were trucks or construction equipment. In this case, it made for a really cute series of kids books that the author was even selling through truck stops, but as a movie it was too close to Cars so everyone passed.

3. The deal you want is not in line with what the industry typically offers a first time author of a self- published book

This makes me frustrated more than anything else which is why we really try to educate authors on how the business side of Hollywood works. In each case where there is a shopping agreement or option offered, we advise authors to seek legal counsel, but make sure that person has some experience with entertainment contracts. Without that, lawyers ask for too many things or too much money at the wrong point and the deal goes away.

Red carpet

Most authors don’t see big paydays for screen rights till the movie gets made, not when an option is offered. 

Typically, there are three opportunities for authors to earn money for their books. The first is when the book is optioned. What that means is you are giving an exclusive opportunity to one producer or director to develop the property for the screen. Typically, options are for a year to 18 months and pay anywhere from $500 to $1,500. Once it is optioned, the next opportunity for an author is when the movie gets “set up”. That means the script is finalized and usually the director and actors are attached. Financing and a shooting schedule is usually also in place. At this point payment to the author could be anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000. Then the final payment usually comes when the movie is shot and released. That payment can be a fixed amount or a percentage of receipts. It too can be anywhere from $50,000 to $250,000.

The key is to understand what amount of money is reasonable at certain points in the process. Too many authors don’t get the option because they ask too much for the first phase. They get bad advice from counsel who doesn’t understand how deals in Hollywood work.

I trust this and the previous post has been helpful as you think about the increased opportunities for self-published authors in Hollywood. If you have other questions, please use the comment section to post your question and I will do my best to answer it.

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Author Solutions, book marketing, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing, writing

How to make your book cover attract readers: A conversation with book designer Adam Hall

Over the past year, I have gotten to know, Adam Hall, who is a book designer for indie authors. His website, www.aroundthepages.com  is a showcase for his work, but Adam also does design for a variety of diverse projects and audiences. He has worked with both first-time and experienced authors on one book or a series. I asked him to share some of his insights recently about designing for books. His answers to my questions follow below.

Type is as important as the image on a cover.

Type is as important as the image on a cover.

How did you start designing book covers? 

I got my start by doing a favor for a friend, Ernie Lindsey. He is an indie writer who has made the USA Today Bestseller list with his series, Sara’s Game. A few years ago he needed some help tweaking a cover. Ernie and I have now collaborated on about 10+ projects. Through his, and other’s encouragement, I decided to make it my focus in my design career.

“……a good cover won’t always make you want to buy a book, but a bad cover will most definitely make you not buy one”

 From your experience what are the keys to making a book cover design work really well?

The cover needs to convey the genre, and give a clue into the story. It doesn’t need to tell the whole story, but create enough intrigue to catch the readers’ eye. Focus on typography as much as the images. If the art is brilliant, but the title text is all wrong, the whole piece falls flat. The art and typography have to work together.

How does book cover design differ from other design projects you do?

In addition to book covers, I work with musicians and bands on artwork and websites. With music design you are basically marketing the individual or group. With book covers you are telling a story. It is fun to find that nugget in the story that you can use in artwork to capture that the idea in the book in one image. That makes book cover design more challenging than doing design for music, but that’s part of what makes it fun.

The thumbnail is what they will likely see first if they search online, so it is critical the thumbnail makes a good first impression.

What design mistakes do you see most often on book covers?

One common mistake is not considering all formats when doing the cover design. You have to make sure the cover looks great in thumbnail size AND full size. You only have a split second to catch a potential reader’s eye as they’re searching out that next book. The thumbnail is what they will likely see first if they search online, so it is critical the thumbnail makes a good first impression.

Finding the one image that captures the story is a key to good book design.

Finding the one image that captures the story is a key to good book design.

What tips would you give to first time authors?

I think two of the most important people an author can find are a good editor and designer. You have to trust both to make your work the best it can be.

When it comes to working with a designer, do your due diligence and look at a designer’s previous work. A friend of mine has said “a good cover won’t always make you want to buy a book, but a bad cover will most definitely make you not buy one”. I thought that was a brilliant point. Find a designer who can help make your cover one that motivate readers to buy your book.

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