Category: Publishing

Moving Website Hosting!

Hello everyone! I’m changing website hosts this week, so if you want to continue to follow me, you’ll have to re-follow my blog when that happens. I will be letting everybody know a few times so there’s no surprise.

My URL will still be ThirteenCentsShort.com, so that won’t be changing for the foreseeable future. I’ll also be updating this site to reflect the change when it happens (it may be a few days before the domain change goes through), so don’t be dismayed. I’m not leaving you; I’m just switching website hosting.

E. Prybylski has been in the publishing industry as an editor since 2009, starting at Divertir Publishing and eventually partnering with her close friend Richard Belanger to begin Insomnia Publishing.

Ever since childhood, E. has been an avid reader and writer of fantasy. The first chapter book she remembers reading is The Hobbit, followed swiftly by most of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series. In high school, she perfected the skill of walking while reading without slamming into anyone. Mostly.

When she isn’t reading or writing, E. is an active member of the Society for Creative Anachronism and has a B.A. in European history from SNHU. In addition to her many historical pursuits, E. is a musician of multiple instruments, a cat mom, and a loving wife to her husband, J. E. also speaks out for the disability and chronic illness communities being a sufferer of chronic migraines and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.

Productivity for Writers

Productivity for Writers

First, before all else, I want to share the announcement that my novel, “Fallen” is up for pre-order on Amazon. I could not be more excited, to be honest. After a decade on the publishing side of the writing world, I am finally entering it as an author. I’ve put out a bunch of short stories over the years, but this is the first novel that’s seeing public release. I still can’t quite believe it’s true. If you’re a fan of urban fantasy then my novel may be of interest to you.

Let me start by saying I am not the most productive individual in the world. I’m just not. Being disabled and having ADHD makes it difficult to get everything done that I want to get finished. That’s just a reality I have to deal with, however, there are some techniques that work for me, and they’re things that I think would for anyone. I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this intro because I know you’re here for the tips.

#1: Set Aside Time

I know this sounds like it’s just basic advice, but it’s true. If you want to be a writer as a profession, you have to set aside time for it. Just like any other work. It doesn’t have to be constant or excessive, but making time for this is important. For me, I don’t tend to do much personal writing during the week because I am working on other people’s writing most often. So I give myself weekends. For some people it’s getting up at 5am for a few hours of quiet before they have to wake up the kids for school. Look at your schedule and see when you can give yourself some time to get words on the page. There’s no right or wrong here other than ensuring that you leave space. If it’s fifteen minutes or three hours, you are still creating the space.

 

#2: Set Goals

These goals don’t have to be huge. It could be “write for one Pomodoro” or “write 1,000 words.” It may be “finish one chapter.” Whatever your goals are, create reasonable and achievable goals that you can put down. You can even break them into categories, like with NaNo. The goal with NaNoWriMo is to write 65k words in a month. That means you have to break it down into a certain number of words per day. While you can gain or lose ground each day, you still are sprinting toward that goal.

Now, I’m not saying you need to write 65k words a month every month. Honestly, I think that leads to rushed writing and poor story craft a lot of the time. However, I can  write a first draft in 3-6 months. Whatever your goals are, make sure they’re reasonable and attainable. Also, they must be attainable. Don’t set yourself up for failure. It’s important to recognize that life happens, and sometimes writing just has to take a back seat to whatever is happening.

#3: Accountability

When in doubt find a partner or group. My Discord Community has a channel for folks to put up their plans and goals, and we celebrate when people achieve them. Things like this can be key for folks who need the extra push to get things done. It’s like having a gym buddy. It’s easy to say “I just don’t feel like it” when it’s just you. But when you’ve got a gym partner who is encouraging you, our brains will engage and be less likely to cancel. Writing (and most art) can be the same. If you know people are waiting on you and are looking for your efforts, then it’s easier to tell the lazy parts to STFU.

#4: Boundaries

This is particularly important for authors who have families, but you have to make your writing time sacred. If anyone thinks that your writing time means you’re free to do things, they need to be informed otherwise. It’s incredibly important to create that space and enforce it. This can be difficult when you have children or a partner who need things, but if they know that you’re going to be writing at “x” time every day for “x” time period, they can learn to leave you alone. This also means boundaries for yourself: don’t give in to the temptation to answer that text message, work e-mail, or check Facebook. That doesn’t do you any good and will pull you out of the headspace immediately.

#5: Breaks From Social Media

I know, I know, this sounds extreme, but it works. I do my best writing at my family’s remote cabin in New York where there is no internet, no television, and no cell service. It’s quiet there, and I can really zero in on my writing. The digital world, as much as I love it, is distraction city. Particularly for anyone with focus issues (like me). There are constant notifications on my phone, people messaging me on various apps, and this feeling that I need to reply to things now.

It isn’t true.

Taking a break from social media for weeks at a time has taught me that, absent emergencies, there’s nothing I need to reply to now. If there is an emergency, of course I’m on deck. But if it’s just a meme or a work email that could wait until later to answer? I’ll deal with it then. Much similar, you should structure your writing time as a social media dead zone. Turn off data on your phone, close your web browser (unless you’re using it for music, in which case, hit “play” and then minimize it and leave it there), and let yourself write. I’d also suggest limiting social media when you first wake up or right before bed. It doesn’t really help anything, and you could use that time to read or schedule out your day or do yoga or whatever it is you feel like doing in that space.

#6: Change Your Mentality

If you want to be an author as your day job, that means you need to treat it as that: your job. This includes viewing your writing time as a professional space, not just fun time. Once you make the choice to publish your work, you are no longer a hobbyist writer but a professional one (even if you aren’t yet making money). This means that your work is professional development, and you should take it with the same seriousness you take anything for your day job.

The uncomfortable reality is that if you don’t treat your writing as a business it will never be more than a hobby, no matter how many books you publish. With that in mind, your writing time is work time. That scheduling I mentioned earlier? Those boundaries? This is your job. You wouldn’t just let your family come charging in if you work from home. You wouldn’t get up and wander off to watch TV if you were working from home. (Or at least I’d hope you wouldn’t.)


The theme here you may have noticed is that you need to treat this as work. Writing is a wonderful creative thing. I love writing, and I love writers. There’s nothing I will be more excited about than talking to writers about their writing. Truly. However, the reality is that too few of us view this as a vocation and too many see it as just a thing we do in our spare time that we halfheartedly hope will make us money. To quote the indomitable Yoda, “Do or do not. There is no try.”

E. Prybylski has been in the publishing industry as an editor since 2009, starting at Divertir Publishing and eventually partnering with her close friend Richard Belanger to begin Insomnia Publishing.

Ever since childhood, E. has been an avid reader and writer of fantasy. The first chapter book she remembers reading is The Hobbit, followed swiftly by most of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series. In high school, she perfected the skill of walking while reading without slamming into anyone. Mostly.

When she isn’t reading or writing, E. is an active member of the Society for Creative Anachronism and has a B.A. in European history from SNHU. In addition to her many historical pursuits, E. is a musician of multiple instruments, a cat mom, and a loving wife to her husband, J. E. also speaks out for the disability and chronic illness communities being a sufferer of chronic migraines and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.

What It Means To Be An Author

What It Means To Be An Author

Being an author is more complicated than just writing a novel, uploading it to Amazon. Sure, those are a part of the process, but authorship means more than just being somebody who typed a whole lot of words in a more-or-less coherent order. It, in fact, means more than just pitching your book to agents and publishers. All of those things are important and necessary to the process, but they’re pieces of a bigger whole.

Authorship means your brand, your expertise, and your book. It means you are no longer just a private citizen. You are a public figure. You have a brand. You have the weight of authority. This means you’re also an expert, as much as you might not want to be or feel qualified to be. Don’t let that go to your head, though. You’re an expert about your book series and maybe about creative writing.

Authorship means your brand, your expertise, and your book. It means you are no longer just a private citizen. You are a public figure.

E. Prybylski

Being an author also means you need to maintain that public-facing image. Which means marketing, acting appropriately in your public spaces, sharing parts of your life with the world (not all of it, but some), and so on. You are an author, not just a private citizen.

We have all dreamed of being Stephen King or Anne McCaffrey or Neil Gaiman as far as our readership goes. But what does that mean for us as a person? Are we prepared for being, well, famous? I’m not claiming any of us here are going to be those people, of course, but assuming we do get a following and get known, it will mean we live in the limelight to some degree or another. Things we say and actions we take will have weight to them, and people will see us and judge us. Is that something you’re prepared for?

Do you know what your author brand is yet? Have you thought that through and figured it out? Do you know what it means? These are all considerations you need to make and conversations with yourself you need to have. That isn’t to say you should quit now if you don’t like the idea of walking the red carpet because chances of us ending up there are slim. But you need to be honest with yourself: is that something you want?

If it isn’t, it’s okay to write as a hobby. Many people do it and love it. They write because it’s what they’re passionate about, regardless of any desire to publish. I fully and wholeheartedly encourage such endeavors. However, to those who are looking at the journey to the next steps, that means you have to be an author.

When considering what I wanted to do with my life, being an author was always the top of my list. It was: author, veterinarian, and then farmer. In that order. At least when I was a kid. As I grew up, my priorities changed, but being an author was always at the top of my list. However, when I started understanding what publishing really entails, I realized that dream was more complicated than it sounded as kid.

Even after going to business school, I didn’t make the connection between authorship and business. Nor did I until I started working in the industry. I read Dan Poynter’s books and came to realize and internalize that as much as writing is an art, publishing is a business. That reality clicking in my brain triggered a series of changes. For one, I started this blog.

The last decade has been a slow gathering of steam toward becoming the author I have dreamed of being since I was a child. That also means growing comfortable in front of people. Even if I only share a portion of myself with my fans (thinking about having fans gives me all sorts of feelings I can’t quantify), I do have to share. Which meant deciding what to share and how vulnerable to be.

These are decisions all of us authors have to make. How much to share, when, and with whom is an important part of deciding what our plans for the future are going to be. That, and leaning into the fact that when we are acting as our authorly selves (as opposed to the us that we are in private) we need to be “on.”

This may feel like it’s disingenuous, but I’m not suggesting you lie. However, I can tell you with certainty that, as a musician, the me on stage performing is a different me than the one who is curled up in their cozy PJ pants writing this blog. (My PJ pants have pictures of sheep on them and say, “I love shleep.”) Any performer will have an on-stage and off-stage difference, and we as authors must do the same with our public-facing media. Sure, still be you, but be a more focused, polished, professional you.

[Authors] treat their social media and blog as an extension of their personal space and don’t censor themselves or think how their target audience might receive what they say.

E. Prybylski

It’s a mistake I see many authors make—particularly indie ones. They treat their author social media and blog as an extension of their personal space and don’t censor themselves or think about how their target audience might receive what they say. I’m not saying you can’t have opinions and use your author platform to speak about them, but doing so mindfully will help you avoid a lot of misery in the future. Once your name becomes associated with something, you will likely never get out of it again. (wild gesticulation to JK Rowling’s behavior).

I’m working on a course that will be available through my website to help you, as a writer, explore what authorship means to you and help you craft your author identity, though it may be a bit since I’ve never made a course before. PowerPoint is, by far, not my area of expertise, that’s for sure! But do keep an eye out for that and several other courses that I am going to be launching in the upcoming months as I gear up for my book launch in January.

E. Prybylski has been in the publishing industry as an editor since 2009, starting at Divertir Publishing and eventually partnering with her close friend Richard Belanger to begin Insomnia Publishing.

Ever since childhood, E. has been an avid reader and writer of fantasy. The first chapter book she remembers reading is The Hobbit, followed swiftly by most of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series. In high school, she perfected the skill of walking while reading without slamming into anyone. Mostly.

When she isn’t reading or writing, E. is an active member of the Society for Creative Anachronism and has a B.A. in European history from SNHU. In addition to her many historical pursuits, E. is a musician of multiple instruments, a cat mom, and a loving wife to her husband, J. E. also speaks out for the disability and chronic illness communities being a sufferer of chronic migraines and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.

The Realities of Author Life

The Realities of Author Life

In case you don’t know, I’ve been in the publishing industry over a decade and worked for two small indie publishers and done editing work for many self-published authors as well as several larger writing websites (now defunct). Sometimes it doesn’t feel like a decade, but when I look back and realize how much time has gone by, my brain hurts, and I my joints ache. I don’t like to feel old. So I try to ignore it. However, this week’s blog is germane to that experience, so I get to own up to my age for once and lean into it.

On average, publishers invest about $10,000 in your book and in you when they pick up your book. That is almost as much as an in-state four-year college degree in some states. (At least according to Business Insider’s metrics based on 2020’s numbers). If you are self-publishing, you may end up paying a similar amount in editing, cover design, formatting, ISBNs, distribution, and marketing. That number comes both from personal experience as well as Dan Poynter’s Self-Publishing Manual (a book I recommend to all authors).

You don’t necessarily have to spend that much money on a book to publish it well if you have some skills, access to well-priced editors and cover designers, and so on. But that isn’t an unrealistic number as far as investment goes. That said, some of that investment may be in billable hours you put in rather than just in money out of your bank account, and it doesn’t count the time you spent writing your story or revising it.

While I cannot speak for every publisher (some out there just slap books out without much attention and likely do not invest that kind of time or money into their authors), I can certainly speak to myself when I say that this kind of relationship is an investment. I am putting my money where my mouth is and betting that you can earn back what I’ve put into your book.

There is this insidious mythology out there in the writerverse that once your book is picked up by a publisher (or you self-publish), you no longer need to do anything except sit back, bask in your own genius, and rake in the profits. Unfortunately, that cannot be further from the truth. In fact, being picked up by a publisher is just step two in your author journey. What it means is someone thinks your book is good enough to invest in.

If you are writing a book with the intent to publish, you are embarking on a business journey.

E. Prybylski

If you are writing a book with the intent to publish, you are embarking on a business journey. You are, in some ways, an entrepreneur. Moreso if you are self-publishing. While, yes, you can write for fun and invest nothing and hurl your book at Amazon for friends and family, if you want to really live those dreams of being famous and having anyone care about your writing outside of your nearest and dearest, it is hard work. Worse, it is hard work that has nothing to do with writing.

Publishing a book is, to a lot of authors, this mythical unicorn in a forest they imagine they can catch just by writing the next world’s greatest novel. Writing your book is good, but it’s just the beginning.

If you are going to go into the business of authorship, you need to be prepared to do a lot of miserable leg work. For example, I spent twelve hours yesterday sniffing out bloggers who read books in my genre and adding nearly two-hundred of them to an Excel spreadsheet so I can track my pre-release review requests. This list is available if anybody wants it; I don’t mind sharing. But these reviewers are mostly geared toward Urban Fantasy, so you’ll want to make sure your book fits into what they read.

That kind of work doesn’t fit with how many people view their life as an author. It was exhausting and tedious, but it was also necessary. My book doesn’t come out until January 13th, 2022 (which is Make Your Dream Come True day, for those curious about why I chose that day), but I am going to be starting to send out review copies in November and have already approached a few reviewers who have said they are booked six months out and require in-advance registrations. (That was a nail-biter for sure.)

In addition to that, I’m in talks with a fellow author and friend of mine, Dr. Joe Weinberg, to get my podcast back up and running as the two of us having chats about writing-related subjects a few times a month. I also write these blogs which are, make no mistake, a form of marketing. That said, I like to think I give enough value in what I have to say that I’m not hammering anyone over the head with “PAY ME FOR STUFF.” Which is kind of the point.

My life–outside of my editing and publishing work for other people–is full of scheduling blog posts, making graphics for said scheduled blog posts, networking on social media, reaching out to blogs/podcasts/vloggers/bookstagram to see who might want to collaborate, interview me, have me write a guest post, or review my book, and studying my social media metrics.

All of that, and I don’t even have a book out yet.

Which isn’t to say this is an all day every day sort of thing; I typically write and edit my blog posts in about an hour each. Sometimes I really get into the groove and write an entire month’s worth in an afternoon and get all of that out of the way so I don’t have to think about it for awhile. Or, if I am going to be traveling (like I am in early September for my wedding anniversary), I plan things in advance so content gets created while I’m gone. I also spend about 20 minutes of targeted networking time on social media a day. I don’t limit myself to one platform and am still feeling out where my target audience is. I think it’s probably Twitter, but I will be honest that I haven’t really started to hit Instagram yet and need to start working on my branding there.

Most of my marketing efforts I set aside to do in small chunks every day, but an ambitious or busy individual may take one day a week and put them all in there (scheduling social media posts for when they aren’t around, for example). I know several authors who operate that way, including my dear friend Jayce Carter who writes delicious erotic romance, if that’s something you’re into reading. I cannot recommend her highly enough. Also, she’s just a delightful human being.

All in all, if this sounds like an awful lot of work, you’re getting the idea. It is. What you’re doing is launching a business like any other. You have a product to sell, and you have something you want the world to see. Even if you did manage to write the next world’s greatest novel, if nobody knows you exist, they can’t read it.

Even if you did manage to write the next world’s greatest novel, if nobody knows you exist, they can’t read it.

E. Prybylski

Even Raymond E. Feist, author of the Riftwar Cycle and man who has sold more than fifteen million books, told me that when he started out as an author, he was beating feet around his downtown in the 1980s, approaching local bookstores and trying to sell his wares. His publisher didn’t do that work for him, and he didn’t gain his fame overnight. He was very frank about the fact that marketing is necessary for authors, and it’s going to take a lot of hard work. (Also, he’s a super nice guy and tries to reply to everyone on his social media.)

Author life is more than book signings, events, speaking engagements, and sitting alone with your whiskey at 3am while you wrestle with your words. Any lingering idea that you can just “make it” without marketing yourself or putting in the un-glamorous backend work is a lie authors are telling themselves and each other. While, sure, lighting could strike, you also could win Powerball. The odds are about the same.

E. Prybylski has been in the publishing industry as an editor since 2009, starting at Divertir Publishing and eventually partnering with her close friend Richard Belanger to begin Insomnia Publishing.

Ever since childhood, E. has been an avid reader and writer of fantasy. The first chapter book she remembers reading is The Hobbit, followed swiftly by most of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series. In high school, she perfected the skill of walking while reading without slamming into anyone. Mostly.

When she isn’t reading or writing, E. is an active member of the Society for Creative Anachronism and has a B.A. in European history from SNHU. In addition to her many historical pursuits, E. is a musician of multiple instruments, a cat mom, and a loving wife to her husband, J. E. also speaks out for the disability and chronic illness communities being a sufferer of chronic migraines and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.

Marketing And EEK!

Marketing And EEK!

I’ve done posts about this before, but I will say it again: Marketing is probably the hardest part of being a writer. Sure, writing is difficult, and editing can be painful, but marketing is often so anathema to the very foundations of our souls that doing it feels like the psychic equivilent of nails on a chalkboard. Most writers are introverts, and the idea of going out of our way to scream from the metaphorical rooftops like a 17-year cicada scares the heck out of us. Well, if we’re doing it as a marketing technique. What you do at midnight after drinking too much tequila stays between you, the roof, and your neighbors.

However, the cold, hard reality is that no marketing means no sales. No sales means no money. And your publisher will not do all your marketing for you. No matter what you’ve been told, your publisher cannot and will not do your marketing for you. Some of it they absolutely will pick up, but the bulk of it will land squarely on your shoulders because they cannot do a large portion of it for you. Not just because they don’t have money for publicists (or don’t want to invest that money in you) but also because they cannot replace your voice with their own and have books sell.

Most writers are introverts, and the idea of going out of our way to scream from the metaphorical rooftops like a 17-year cicada scares the heck out of us.

E. Prybylski

Trust me. I’ve tried it as a publisher. It just doesn’t work. No matter how much yelling, cajoling, and approaching people I do, I cannot replace an author because most outlets small enough to be accessible to me as an indie publisher don’t want to hear from me. They want to hear from the author. They want to talk to you because you’re the interesting party here. And the expert, no less.

So how do we handle this? Well, after spending some time today working on a plan, I have put together a three-part snapshot of how I am telling the authors my company has published to handle their marketing. I’ll put a download link at the bottom of the blog post so you can download it, too. The ideas aren’t unique to me; I just put them together in this three-phase plan. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by marketing, so I broke it down into three categories for average, everyday use.

This document is separate from a lot of the things you’ll want or need to do for a book launch, so don’t use this as a launch guide. This is a maintainance plan for when you have a book out and are past the launch push. Book launches require a completely different approach. Many of the same actions are part of it, but during launch time, there is a lot more required, and instead of spending a couple hours a week, you’ll probably spend the first week giving it a couple hours a day.

This guideline also does not include things like Amazon/Facebook ads or other such things because this was written for the authors published by my company, and Insomnia handles much of that kind of paid marketing. For a self-published author, you will want to look into Amazon advertising and things like BookBub and other paid promotions, but that’s beyond the scope of this blog, and I am by far not an Amazon ads expert. That’s my business partner’s job, and he does a good job of it.

The three categories in the attached file are:

  • Things you can do once and not worry about.
  • Things you need to do every week.
  • A list of multiple options you can choose three of to do per week and change it up however you like.

Now, you can take that last one and do more of those items per week, or if you’ve exhausted one of those resources, you can just not bother with it for that week (or at all, in the case of vlogging or podcasting if you just are not going to market that way). But I pulled together a pretty big list of options that if an author tackled some of those every week, they would find themselves making progress.

Personally, I try and do the following every week (with the understanding that sometimes it just isn’t happening due to disability, illness, or life).

  • Post at least twice on my author social media accounts.
  • Have two blog posts prepared per week (sometimes I write well ahead).
  • Post in my “street team” group once a week to update them on where I am in my process.
  • Create marketing images in Canva for my blog posts and book.
  • Schedule my blog posts and promotional posts.

That is my usual weekly rotation. That will change some once my novel comes out in January (I’ll be adding a few things), but absent writing a blog post (which takes me about half an hour to forty minutes on average), most of those things I can get done all at once in about half an hour if not less, depending on how much time I spend noodling in Canva. (It’s kind of addictive.)

I have taken to Pomodoro timers, so I can usually get most of my marketing work done in a single “pomodoro” (a unit of 25 minutes with a 5 minute break.) My blog posts typically take two pomodoros. One to write, one to edit and schedule (which includes making a promotional image).

Sometimes they take more or less depending on the subject, but that adds up to about an hour and a half a week of straight marketing work. This doesn’t count the time I spend on Twitter hanging out in the #WritingCommunity hashtag or meandering through writing groups on Facebook and leaving comments for folks. While I should ration that time out and dedicate some time specifically for that every couple days, I usually do it at 3am when I should be sleeping and am instead staring at my phone. You know, as one does.

My point with this blog is that marketing doesn’t need to be an eldritch horror of a process. You can spend an hour or two a week on it and get a lot more done than you expect, and if you schedule your time effectively, you can pack a lot into a tiny time period and be very productive about it.

Marketing shouldn’t cut heavily into your writing time except maybe for a short time around a novel launch. Other than that, you should ration your time so you make the most of it without overwhelming yourself. When the world returns to in-person, you may need to spend more since you will want to schedule in-person events, but it shouldn’t be terrible. And a lot of this work may be fun and exciting.

I hope you find this list helpful. At the bottom of it you’ll find a bunch of links, including a link to a personal YouTube playlist I have put together including some of my favorite book marketing videos that I think share a lot of really good advice.

If you like the list, feel free to use it or take pieces and parts of it to create your own marketing plan. Like I said, I am not coming up with any new or revolutionary suggestions here, so I’m not territorial about it.

Also, be aware that if you’re coming to this list in the future (it’s August, 2021 right now), the components may change and need updating based on the changing markets, so that’s something you’ll want to be aware of as you venture into the wide world of marketing. Though I suspect a lot of the fundamentals will remain the same.

E. Prybylski has been in the publishing industry as an editor since 2009, starting at Divertir Publishing and eventually partnering with her close friend Richard Belanger to begin Insomnia Publishing.

Ever since childhood, E. has been an avid reader and writer of fantasy. The first chapter book she remembers reading is The Hobbit, followed swiftly by most of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series. In high school, she perfected the skill of walking while reading without slamming into anyone. Mostly.

When she isn’t reading or writing, E. is an active member of the Society for Creative Anachronism and has a B.A. in European history from SNHU. In addition to her many historical pursuits, E. is a musician of multiple instruments, a cat mom, and a loving wife to her husband, J. E. also speaks out for the disability and chronic illness communities being a sufferer of chronic migraines and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.

Why Your Epic Isn’t Being Published

Why Your Epic Isn’t Being Published

Let me start by saying I don’t hate long books. I read most of Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” series (stopped at Dragon in Winter) as well as Terry Goodkind’s “Sword of Truth” series. I’m here for epic fantasy. Truly. However, when it comes to the book publishing industry, there are a lot of reasons why your epic fantasy isn’t being published. And, contrary to popular opinion, it has absolutely nothing to do with dwindling attention spans or readers not wanting it.

Also, fair warning, this article has a lot of math. If the math is off somewhere, please tell me. I am, in fact, dyscalculic, so sometimes I reverse things when looking at them or typing them into a calculator.

The cold, hard truth is that your epic novel isn’t being picked up for two intertwined reasons. The first is that nobody knows you. If they don’t know you, they don’t know how well you’re going to market and how well your book will sell. Most first books don’t do very well, and very few of the well-known writers of epic wordcount fiction started their careers with huge works. The second is the cost of production. The second point is going to dominate the bulk of this article.

The cold, hard truth is that your epic novel isn’t being picked up for two intertwined reasons. The first is that nobody knows you. (…) The second is the cost of production.

E. Prybylski

Many editors, like myself, charge by the word. I’m not marketing here, just giving you data. Whether it’s a publishing house or a personal edit, an “average” length novel (65,000 words) doing average difficulty line edit will cost about $2,600 using the minimum EFA rates. I charge a little less, personally, but for the purpose of this illustration, I’m using the EFA’s metrics. That’s for your average 65k book. A decent metric of the going rate for line editing (which focuses on sentence composition, passive voice, etc.) is about $0.04 – $0.049 per word (per EFA rates). Most publishers do 3+ rounds of editing with an editor (I know mine does). Typically a book at a publishing house will receive developmental, line, and copy editing, however. All of which have different price points.

If you pitch a novel to a publisher that’s, say, 200k words long, you’re looking at the publisher having to invest a minimum of $8000 for line editing. With three passes of the three different types of editing, that’s $8,000 for line, $4,000 for copy editing, and $6,000 for developmental using the low end EFA’s rates.

Then there’s typesetting. Assuming both print and e-book, you’re looking at around $4,000, then for the ebook it’s going to be a little less, you hope, but still around $1,000 (I did NOT use the EFA’s metric for this one; they charge more for ebook than print which makes no sense to me at all). Then there’s cover design which is several hundred more dollars (minimum for a composite image is around $250ish). Then there’s the ISBN, marketing materials, printing fees (some printers charge to upload; Ingramspark is $25/upload, $35 with print and ebook) and so on.

With these fees all added up together, a publisher would have to invest the following:

  • $6,000 Dev. Edit
  • $8,000 Line Edit
  • $4,000 Copy Edit
  • $4,000 Print Typesetting
  • $1,000 eBook Typesetting
  • $250 Cover
  • $50 ISBN
  • $25 IngramSpark upload

The total adds up to: $23,325

Printing costs for something that size from Ingram Spark, which does POD printing, is $11.51 per book. Since the market will only support your book being priced at around $14.99 to make the math easy. You MIGHT get away with $15.99, but not much higher. Offset print runs will let you drop printing prices by a lot, but then you have to print 1,000 or more books at a time, and good luck storing those. Let alone selling them.

This image shows a screenshot from Ingram's price calculator. It displays that unit selling price per book of this size is $11.51. Handling fee is $1.99. Shipping for one book is $4.05. The total to print and ship a single book of this size is $17.55.
Screenshot from Ingram’s price calculator.

Bookstores, assuming you want to work with them, require a 40% discount off the cover price. That means in order to sell to bookstores, you have to make less than your printing costs to sell there if you want to sell at a market value. So bookstores? Right out. You’d have to sell copies to them for $5.99, and since it costs $11.51 just to print that monstrosity, you’re going nowhere with bookstores.

Since the average author sells (being optimistic) 200-300 books their first year, we are looking at over six-hundred years before we break even.

E. Prybylski

The shipping costs on a book like that are easily going to be about $6/book, which is expensive to say the least. Boxes will be cheaper, but since they’re so big, fewer books will fit per box, increasing shipping charges by a lot. Also, Amazon takes a 15% bite out of any book sales off its site plus a flat $1.85 from each sale.

You will likely be getting 15% royalties (net, not list) on your book for print copies. 40% – 50% on ebooks is average. But right now I’m focused on print copies.

So, all this math in mind. Assuming the book is selling for $15.99 on Amazon, the numbers look like this:

  • List Price: $15.99
  • Printing Cost: $11.51
  • Amazon Charge: $4.29
  • Total Profit Per Book: $0.19
  • Author profit: $0.02
  • Publisher Profit: $0.17

At that rate, it is going to take 140,000-ish sales for the publisher to make back what they’ve invested in you. Since the average author sells (being optimistic) 200-300 their first year, we are looking at about over six hundred years before we break even. So you can see why we aren’t interested.

Also, most well-marketed indie books sell, on average, about 2,000 copies in their lifetimes, so you’re never going to get to that 140,000 mark because chances of you breaking 1,000 are entirely dependent on your success at marketing. And most authors I’ve worked with have no idea how to do that.

Unless you’re Stephen King, G.R.R.M., J.R.R. Tolkein, Robert Jordan, Terry Goodkind, or Tolstoy, there’s no way we can afford to do an offset print run of 1,000 or more books (which would take the printing price down to around $7.50/book based on calculators I’ve seen). For one, there’s no guarantee they’d sell. For another, that would be another $7,500 we’re investing in you before we see a penny. And furthermore, while I do have a barn, I don’t have room for 1,000 books in it. My goats would eat them.

If you’re self-publishing, you should consider the costs I mentioned above. (…) Consider how long it will take you to recoup your investment.

E. Prybylski

If you’re self-publishing, you should also consider the costs I mentioned above. While you are going to be getting around $.19 per book, consider how long it will take you to recoup your investment. Even if you only do a single round of editing, cross your fingers, and pray. Also, while you can charge more for your book, it’ll start severely limiting the number of people who will purchase it. You can play with your pricing, but on average, readers won’t want to pay much more than $17.95, and even that is pushing it for an unknown author whose book they may not enjoy.

Even if we’re just talking an ebook version, and we cut out all the printing costs and some of the typesetting costs, you’re looking at $19,325. Ebooks often sell for about $5.99ish for a book like this. So let’s do the math for that:

  • Book List Price $5.99
  • Amazon Fees: $1.80
  • Total Profit Per Book: $4.19
  • Author Profit: $1.68
  • Publisher Profit: $2.51

If we’re doing just ebooks, it would take 7,699 copies for the publisher to break even. Assuming, again, that you manage a consistent 200 copies a year, it would take them nearly forty years to break even on the costs of picking up your book. Most indie authors or new authors cannot guarantee 200 books a year. They’re lucky to sell 200 books in the lifetime of their book because so many of them don’t market because they don’t know how. Also, again, I remind you that most books don’t break 2,000 in lifetime sales for indie authors. In order for them to break with that number, even with ebooks, they’d need a profit of $9.67 per book. Which is more than you can sell most ebooks for per book. Amazon allows you to get 70% of the royalties on prices between $2.99 and $9.99. Outside of that, you get a royalty of 35%.

The long and short of this is: the math just don’t add up. New, untested author with a HUGE book to sell, no certainty of returns, and with profit margins thinner than one-ply toilet paper? Nobody’s going to touch you with a ten-foot pole. Not because marketing or readers don’t want it or dwindling attention spans–it’s because we can’t wait over six hundred years to be profitable. Heck, we can’t wait forty years to turn a profit.

Publishing books is, I’m sorry to say it, a business. And businesses must be profitable in order to stay afloat. I don’t say this to discourage or harm you in any way, but it’s a fundemental reality of publishing books. And there’s no way around it if you want to make a living as an author. While you MIGHT be that one-in-a-million author who makes it big, recognize that most publishers don’t have the capital to take that risk.

What so many authors don’t realize is that when we agree to publish your book, we are instantly investing that kind of money in you. As such, your book has to be worth a minimum of the costs it would take to produce. On average, it costs about $10,000 for an average-sized novel to go through the editing, cover design, typesetting, and so on. If you want me to invest twice that in you for no profits, you’d better run the math again. I can’t do it. No matter how good it is. At the very least, the book is getting split in half, if not thirds. And that’s if I really feel strongly that I want to invest in it.

While writing in and of itself is an art form, publishing is a business, and if the math doesn’t add up to profit, we cannot risk investing in you. It’s no different than any other industry. Dollars and cents matter, and if you want to have someone invest in you, you need a product that will sell reliably in order to get someone to throw in behind you. While indie publishers may be willing to take risks on new authors and try new things, some things we cannot afford to do. And it isn’t personal. It’s numbers.

And this subject upset me enough that I had to do math. Look what y’all did to me! I hate math!

Also, as a side note, miss me with the whole “then I’ll just do it all myself and not pay anybody!” argument. I get it. Publishing on your own is expensive, and the siren call of Amazon telling you, you can do it all yourself is strong. It isn’t worth it. At the very least, if you aren’t an expert graphic designer, you will need a minimum of one pass of editing and a good cover design. Even if you ignore all the other costs, your profit margins on a book this size will take you a very long time to break even. Otherwise, listen to the experts, cut your book into smaller works (trilogies sell really well!), and market, market, market. You will stand a far better chance of getting noticed, of getting sales, and of being financially successful.

If you don’t care about the money and just want to get your work out there in front of people because you want to share it, all the more power to you. Try using sites like Wattpad or AO3 and enjoy the communities and have fun together. I’m not going to tell you never to write them. Just recognize that they are a really hard sell as a business investment.

E. Prybylski has been in the publishing industry as an editor since 2009, starting at Divertir Publishing and eventually partnering with her close friend Richard Belanger to begin Insomnia Publishing.

Ever since childhood, E. has been an avid reader and writer of fantasy. The first chapter book she remembers reading is The Hobbit, followed swiftly by most of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series. In high school, she perfected the skill of walking while reading without slamming into anyone. Mostly.

When she isn’t reading or writing, E. is an active member of the Society for Creative Anachronism and has a B.A. in European history from SNHU. In addition to her many historical pursuits, E. is a musician of multiple instruments, a cat mom, and a loving wife to her husband, J. E. also speaks out for the disability and chronic illness communities being a sufferer of chronic migraines and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.

Choosing Your Genre

Choosing Your Genre

I see it all the time: “My novel is a paranormal romance spy thriller with horror elements set in a sci-fi space opera!” I’m sorry. What? Say that again but slower. Also, please give me a chance to pull out my liquor and mix a drink first. No, wait, you know what, please don’t say it again. I’m still processing the first one.

Snark aside, choosing your genre isn’t describing your book. Not really. You’re not trying to explain every single part of your book and everything that could possibly go into it. That’s not what genres really are, and I think that’s the mistake most authors who do genre word salad on social media are making. In order to explain how to choose your genre, let’s talk a little bit about what the genres are, what they mean, how they work, and why they’re important.

So, if you look up “literary genres” on Wikipedia, you’ll see a huge list and probably panic-close the window like I do. My point here is that there are a lot of them. Finding out what genre your book is, is easier than you think. It does require eating some humble-pie and comparing your book to others, however. Genres don’t cover everything that happens in your book, so a lot of authors throw their hands up and say, “Well then what good are they?”

The point of a genre isn’t to pidgeonhole your book. The point is to market your book to people interested in what you’re writing.

E. Prybylski

The point of a genre isn’t to pidgeonhole your book. The point is to market your book to people interested in what you’re writing. While you could make crossover genre arguments for a huge number of works, Amazon only allows a maximum of two genres on any book page. So you will have to narrow it down a lot. Ultimately, the key here is to remember that your genre is nothing more than a marketing tool; it doesn’t really describe your book.

For example, Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books, until the end of the series, read very much like fantasy novels. You have fire-breathing dragons, dragonriders, bards, and the setting feels very Medieval. However, they are listed as science-fiction because toward the end of the series, we see the sci-fi elements of the story emerge. Also because Anne McCaffrey was a dedicated sci-fi author. All her other series were sci-fi, so even though it felt like fantasy, it read like sci-fi and in the end turned out to be exactly that.

Did other things happen in her books? Yes. Romance, investigation, slice of life, thrilling moments, borderline horror at times, and drama abounded. But they were still labeled strictly as sci-fi. Why? Because the people who read sci-fi are the ones who would read and enjoy her books for the most part, though you could argue fantasy elements. I’d call them speculative fiction, myself, but that descriptor wasn’t really around when she was alive and writing, so it’s a moot point.

Readers of certain genres have expectations of books in that genre. If they’re not met, the readers will leave angry, angry reviews and will destroy an author’s work everywhere they have access to. As such, choosing your genre means understanding the expectations readers have and where you can be flexible with them and where you can’t. Bending rules is a conversation for another blog, though.

For example, readers of romance novels absolutely demand a “happily ever after” ending, or at the very least a “happily for now” ending. Happy endings are a must for that genre. If your novel is about two characters who love each other but die in the end? Then it’s a drama, not a romance. I know it might suck a little to be pushed out of a genre by the expectations of others, but remember that publishing books is a business, so we have to conform to what our customers expect within certain boundaries. If you went into a shop that claimed to sell clothes only to find out they only had bananas on the shelves, you’d be pretty cheesed off, too. Not that you might not like bananas, but you wanted pants. (And we’re not talking about banana hammocks here. That’s another store entirely.)

With that in mind, to categorize your book, you should consider other works similar to it and look at how they are categorized. My novel, “Fallen,” is urban fantasy, for example. I could compare it to “The Dresden Files” by Jim Butcher, “Neverwhere” by Neil Gaiman, and “Fairytale” by Garth Nix. It’s definitely different from them, but it has enough similarities that I can comfortably say it would fit on a shelf among them (as far as placement in a library or bookstore is concerned, not that I am comparing myself to literary giants). Do that same kind of analysis for your book. What books would you want yours sitting beside in your local library or bookstore?

What books would you want yours sitting beside in your local library or bookstore?

E. Prybylski

Also, think about who your target market is. Who is going to want to read your novel? Is it going to be for the YA audience? In that case, are the themes age-appropriate? For me, I am pretty sure my audience is mostly the same sort of folks who like the abovementioned books, also people who are into tabletop roleplaying games (a lot of us fantasy nerds are), people who enjoy video games, and so on. That gives me a rough demographic of readers who are between the ages of eighteen and forty and are gamer nerds of various flavors, who like fantasy books, and people who dig nerdy things like I do.

If it sounds like I’m describing myself, you’re not wrong. I’m writing for people like me because I wrote what I enjoyed writing, and since other people who are into the same stuff I’m into might like the things that I like…it’s a fair bet that I have a market there.

“But my book has elements of…”

No. Stop right there. “Elements of…” does not a genre make. Genre definitions tend to be very flexible because no book in them is homogenous. Even within romance and erotica there is a huge amount of variety based on a number of factors. While it might all seem the same from the outside if you haven’t studied the genre, there’s a lot of nuance. Same with fantasy and sci-fi. I would argue that all genres have nuances that aren’t recognizable to people who aren’t fans of the genre. This is, of course, one of the reasons that I tell authors writing in a genre to consume media in that genre. Books, yes, but also try video games, television shows, movies, TTRPGs (tabletop role-playing games), and so on. The more you become familiar with what people who enjoy your genre expect, the more you can ensure that you’re choosing the right genre and sub-genre for your novel.

In the end, your genre does not define you. Your writing defines you. Don’t agonize over your genre and instead recognize it for what it is: a marketing tool. Publishing books (self or trad) is a business, after all, and if you aren’t treating it like a business, you are, sadly, doomed to obscurity. Get to know your business and understand it just like you would any other industry. Treat it, to some extent, like a job and understand that is what is necessary for success. If you do that, you’ll be leaps and bounds ahead of the authors who don’t understand the business of writing and focus only on the art.

You’ll also sell more books.

E. Prybylski has been in the publishing industry as an editor since 2009, starting at Divertir Publishing and eventually partnering with her close friend Richard Belanger to begin Insomnia Publishing.

Ever since childhood, E. has been an avid reader and writer of fantasy. The first chapter book she remembers reading is The Hobbit, followed swiftly by most of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series. In high school, she perfected the skill of walking while reading without slamming into anyone. Mostly.

When she isn’t reading or writing, E. is an active member of the Society for Creative Anachronism and has a B.A. in European history from SNHU. In addition to her many historical pursuits, E. is a musician of multiple instruments, a cat mom, and a loving wife to her husband, J. E. also speaks out for the disability and chronic illness communities being a sufferer of chronic migraines and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.

Writing With Disability

Writing With Disability

A lot of writers I meet talk about how they aren’t sure they can write because they have ADHD, dyslexia, or various other learning disorders, neurological conditions, or other such difficulties that impact their ability to write. With that in mind, I thought I’d write about how I do it because I am neurodivergent and have multiple physical difficulties that heavily impact my ability to write. I am also dyslexic and dyscalculic.

Let me say that again: I am dyslexic, dyscalculic, have ADHD, and various physical disabilities that seriously impact my ability to write and function, but I have managed to find ways to write. I’m not saying this to shame you but to encourage you. There are ways. You don’t have to give up your dreams. As such, this blog is going to be broken down into a few different segments. While I cannot address all forms of disabilities or impairment here, I’m going to give you the strategies I’ve used that help.

Coping with ADHD

ADHD is a constant in my life. I have medication for days when I really need to zero in, but for the most part I’m unmedicated. This means my attention bounces around like a ping pong ball having a sugar rush at times. It is a challenge to manage when it comes to zeroing in to write. While my coping methods won’t work for everyone, I can tell you what I do that helps, which may make a difference for you.

  1. Focus Mode
    Focus mode in my writing software is a lifesaver. It makes my writing application (QuollWriter or Word) take up the entire screen, hides the taskbar, and blocks out notifications. I can block out all the distractions of my PC and write.
  2. Music
    I listen to music a lot when I write. It helps occupy the part of my brain that needs extra stimulation. It’s the same reason I played Solitaire or Mahjong in class in college during lectures. I was listening and taking notes, but I needed something else to do to help me focus. My professors didn’t understand, and I got a lot of crap for it, but it worked.

    I choose music with no lyrics or music with lyrics in languages I don’t speak so I don’t get distracted. Bonus points, I usually match the feel of the scenes I’m working on to my music choices. It helps with immersion.
  3. Routines
    Creating a routine around your writing can be really important. It doesn’t have to be a set time of day if you can’t make that happen (I can’t), but you can have a specific drink, open your software and notes in a specific order, listen to a specific playlist, do a few stretches…whatever your routine looks like, build one. It helps your brain click over into writing mode because it knows that’s what’s coming. Routines are really important for ADHD folks anyway, so developing one for writing can be very helpful.
  4. OUTLINES
    While I am likely to get screaming from the pantsers out there, I have found that there is nothing more valuable to my writing than an outline. It means that when (not if, but when) I get distracted by a new shiny scene or character I don’t forget the plot I was working on. I can refer to it and ensure I am still hitting the beats I need to. I use the Beat Sheet to outline my books, so it’s not a play by play, but I still have a general idea of where I’m going when.
  5. Boundaries
    Since it’s so much easier for us to get distracted, set boundaries. Tell people you’re busy, shut off notifications on your phone, and drown out the world with noise-canceling headphones if you have to. If you have distractions every three seconds, you’ll never get any words down, and trying to reclaim your headspace once it’s been broken is a disaster.
  6. Be Careful With Hyperfocus
    Hyperfocus can be your friend when you want to deep dive, but make sure you don’t just give in and forget to eat/drink/use the bathroom, and if you don’t moderate it, you’ll end up with burnout faster than your brain switches topics when you’re trying to go to sleep. Use timers and remind yourself to take breaks. I like the Pomodoro Timer method, which does chunks of 15-30 minutes. But you can use whatever time works for you.

Writing With Dyslexia/Dyscalculia

Dyslexia can be a real beast, but there are ways you can get around having your words scramble like you dumped out a box of Scrabble pieces. I won’t pretend it solves the problem entirely, but you can make your work more readable for yourself while you work, and you don’t need to give up.

  1. Fonts
    While your mileage may vary, I find that certain fonts are dramatically more readable than others. I particularly like Georgia and Cambria. I find the serif fonts are easier on my dyslexia, and you want the space between the letters to be a little bigger. It will help with character recognition for you.
  2. Double Space
    Double-spacing a manuscript may offer you a little more of that extra room on the page and help you stave off the feeling of drowning in letters. It makes your life a little easier when you’re working with things. Again, at least for me.
  3. Shorter Paragraphs
    One of the biggest issues I have with my dyslexia is long paragraphs with no breaks. If there’s a paragraph that’s longer than 3-5 lines, I’m doomed. I need to use a ruler to separate it out from other paragraphs, and doing that on my Fire tablet or my computer screen is hard. As such, I tend to write shorter paragraphs because it’s how I read best.
  4. Read Aloud Software
    Many people don’t know this, but Word has a built in function to read the contents of a document to a listener. It’s hardly the most exciting audiobook you’ve ever heard, but it will allow you to review your writing if you’re having a day where your eyes cross and everything’s a mess.
  5. Have Someone Else Check Your Chapter Numbering
    While this is more true for dyscalulic folks than just dyslexic folks, I cannot parse a chapter structure, and if I get off somewhere, I’m doomed. My editor knows this, so she handles the chapter numbering for me if I make a mistake somewhere.

    It’s a huge problem for me because I just cannot manage numbers. As such, when typesetting, I rely on my typesetting software to add page numbers for me and other people to make sure the chapter numbering is correct.

Writing With Physical Disability

While there are a million physical disabilities out there, I struggle with two specific ones: Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and chronic migraines. I have a dear friend with nerve damage to one of his hands, so he can’t type. I know people who have carpal tunnel and can’t type either. There are a lot of physical disabilities out there, but there are also a huge number of accessibility options in the world.

If you cannot type for whatever reason, you can try using software like Dragon Naturally Speaking or, again, Word has a diction function. There are also apps on the phone that will let you dictate your stories, papers, and ideas. It takes some getting used to and sometimes results in irksome errors, but once you learn how to use dictation software, you can do a lot with it. Also, some software allows you to control your entire computer by voice, so you don’t need to use a mouse or keyboard much if at all.

With disorders that come with severe pain, you may need to lower your word count goals. The average suggested daily wordcount is around 1,000/day if you can manage it (that’s about two non-double-spaced pages in Word). However, if you deal with chronic pain and brain fog, maybe you can only manage a hundred. Heck, maybe you can only do a sentence on a bad day.

That is enough.

I’ve needed to take breaks for weeks because of pain flares, and sometimes that’s just reality. However, it doesn’t mean we cannot write professionally. It just means we won’t bang out a book every few months. You can learn what your body will let you do and work within that structure. It’s okay to be slow at it. It’s okay to not be prolific. You can still write. Dictate your stories to your phone if you have to, but you don’t have to suffer alone with those stories stuck in your brain.

Dealing With Ableist Nonsense

There are a lot of memes out there and “inspirational quotes” and people saying things on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram etc. who have good intentions. There is so much out there that talks about how if you don’t write every day or don’t conform to “x, y, z” criteria, you can’t be a writer. Or you just don’t “want it enough.”

Listen, we already have enough crap as folks with disabilities. We face social stigmas, issues with doctors, marriage inequality (because if you marry, you lose your benefits a lot of the time) and with places and activities being inaccessible to us. Don’t let them try to take writing from you too.

Whether you’re dealing with well-intentioned but ignorant advice or memes that, if you really considered the content, are damaging to disabled folks, we’ve all seen it. Heck, I’ve had people give me looks when I use mobility aids because nobody believes that I, at thirty-five, need a cane. I’ve also had people be incredibly kind to me, too, but there are always the jerks.

As a disabled person and a writer, I can tell you that writing is something you can do if it’s in your heart. You might need accessibility software, need to write at a different pace, or need other accommodations, but you can still do it. Imagination is one thing that the world can’t take from us. Even as my body falls apart, and my other hobbies and passions become inaccessible to me, nothing can ever take my imagination. So that’s what I use.

Never let anyone tell you that you can’t be a writer because of your disability. If your writing is awful? You can learn. But your disability doesn’t have to be the thing keep you from writing.

I believe in you.

E. Prybylski has been in the publishing industry as an editor since 2009, starting at Divertir Publishing and eventually partnering with her close friend Richard Belanger to begin Insomnia Publishing.

Ever since childhood, E. has been an avid reader and writer of fantasy. The first chapter book she remembers reading is The Hobbit, followed swiftly by most of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series. In high school, she perfected the skill of walking while reading without slamming into anyone. Mostly.

When she isn’t reading or writing, E. is an active member of the Society for Creative Anachronism and has a B.A. in European history from SNHU. In addition to her many historical pursuits, E. is a musician of multiple instruments, a cat mom, and a loving wife to her husband, J. E. also speaks out for the disability and chronic illness communities being a sufferer of chronic migraines and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.

Marketing Your Book

Marketing Your Book

Let me start this by saying I’m not an expert. However, I have been doing a lot of research leading up to my forthcoming book at the end of this year, and the experts I have listened to, talked to, and followed have all said about the same things. I’m not going to get into details about Amazon keywords and algorithms here, however. I want to talk about marketing in general.

One of the first things I learned about marketing is the power of your brand. Which is a terrifying notion to most of us authors who would much prefer swaddling ourselves in blankets with a cup of tea, a book, and hissing at anyone who gets too close. However, the liberating thing about branding is that the only person who decides what’s included in your brand is you. You show your public only what you want them to see, so if you don’t want them to know something about you, it’s as simple as not telling them.

The way I decided what my brand included was to pull out a piece of paper and write down words I wanted associated with me in public. These are things I post about on public-facing social media, and what I talk about in blog posts, my writing group, or any other public space. My list of the things I explicitly am including in my brand is:

  • History
  • Martial arts
  • D&D
  • Video games
  • Editing
  • Bad jokes
  • Cats
  • Disability / Mental Health

Now, I might mention other things on my social media in public, but those things are what I am specifically talking about and including in my branding. When a fan thinks of me, those are the things I want them conjuring up. Other than, of course, my books and their content.

With those decisions made, I have geared my public-facing social media to include those things. I share and re-tweet memes, jokes and make comments about those things. Those public feeds are still authentically me, of course, but they’re a curated version that removes a lot of the more personal things from the public eye. You’ll note that my faith and my political views aren’t part of my brand. Which isn’t to say I don’t have either, but I am not looking to make them a large part of my brand.

So, knowing my brand, I post things related to that. My Twitter is full of writing advice, D&D comments, pictures of my favorite dice, and me talking about playthroughs on various video games. I also mention my migraines and do some advocacy about disability-related things. While I post links to my twice-weekly blogs and do talk about my novel on there, you’ll note that nowhere in that list of things does it include spamming people.

Marketing one’s book is a delicate balance between making sure people know you have one (and helping them find you) and not drowning them in a constant flow of “BUY MY BOOK!” because doing that is the equivalent of being That Guy with a megaphone on the corner of a public street. Sure, people might hear you, but nobody wants to. Or the junk mail in your inbox. We are inundated with constant marketing on a daily basis. Between ads on every single website we go to, ads on television, radio, and on platforms like YouTube and also on social media, we are caught in a marketing deluge that nobody signed up for.

It’s my job to stand out from that somehow.

My approach has been organic. I’ve had this blog since 2009, and I have about 1,200 followers. Now, on average I get around 30 views a blog post. Sometimes more. Instead of trying to constantly convince people to follow my blog or screaming about it from the rooftops, I post content people are interested in and engage with. My goal here is to give people a reason to want to see what I have to say. To be interested in me.

While, yes, my numbers of social media followers and blog followers is small compared to a lot of the powerhouse marketers out there, I also haven’t had a product to sell beyond my editing, which has been word of mouth, and I’ve only started doing any kind of serious marketing in the last couple months. However, the kind of engagement I get and the interactions I have with people are organic which, to me, is of serious importance. People follow me on Twitter because I give writing advice or talk about subjects they like.

Heck, even this blog is marketing. Why? Well, you’re reading it, aren’t you? You’re interested in what I have to say on the subject and either clicked through from my social media to get here or maybe found me through WordPress itself. Either that or you’re one of my regulars, in which case, hi! (Shout out to Helen Bellamy. ❤ )

The reason I bring that up is because marketing isn’t all loud ads or screeching about buying you products. My approach is specifically in value-added marketing. I give people things in exchange for their time and the hope that my name is the one that comes to mind when they think about who they want to edit their next book or where they might buy a neat novel. That’s the contract I’ve made with all of you: you get interesting content, my name lives in your brain for a little while with a positive connotation (I hope).

While all of this certainly sounds terrifying to those who haven’t done it (I was really anxious when I started), I’ve realized that marketing can be broken down to a series of simple repeating tasks that you can schedule. It’s not an all day every day sort of thing, and that helped me manage the scope of things.

For example, I try to write my two blogs a week in advance. As I write this, I have two blogs out from where I’m writing (today is July 7th). Scheduling in advance gives me some leeway in case I end up with a migraine or terrible pain flare. Also, using Hootsuite to schedule the announcements of my blog posts and other such things on social media means I don’t need to do it all myself the day-of. Which is why my blog posts go out at 8am instead of like 6pm. These options help me keep myself organized and allow me to put things together when and where I want them.

Since I have significant ADHD, it also helps to have scheduling available because things just wander out of my head sometimes or I will end up hyperfocused on a project and suddenly it’s three days later but I know literally everything about the reproductive habits of squirrels in Asia. (That’s only a slight exaggeration–it’s not usually squirrels.) My brain is an interesting place.

When it comes to social media engagement, I hang out on a few specific hashtags on Twitter that help me reach the people I am marketing to most ( #WritingCommunity #PubTips #AmWriting ) and engage in a few Facebook groups where I talk shop with writers. I also run my Discord writing group as advertised on the front page of my blog here. While my method isn’t the fastest to getting a million subscribers/watchers/etc, it’s been a slow and steady growth over time that I’m comfortable with.

My hope is that when my book launches this December, I’ll be able to kick over into new audiences and grow faster, but the first book is usually not some huge blockbuster unless you catch lightning in a bottle. It takes time to get noticed and develop a readership. As an author, I’m in this for the long haul because I’ve been in the industry long enough as an editor that I am comfortable saying I know what to expect, so that’s what I’m working on.

E. Prybylski has been in the publishing industry as an editor since 2009, starting at Divertir Publishing and eventually partnering with her close friend Richard Belanger to begin Insomnia Publishing.

Ever since childhood, E. has been an avid reader and writer of fantasy. The first chapter book she remembers reading is The Hobbit, followed swiftly by most of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series. In high school, she perfected the skill of walking while reading without slamming into anyone. Mostly.

When she isn’t reading or writing, E. is an active member of the Society for Creative Anachronism and has a B.A. in European history from SNHU. In addition to her many historical pursuits, E. is a musician of multiple instruments, a cat mom, and a loving wife to her husband, J. E. also speaks out for the disability and chronic illness communities being a sufferer of chronic migraines and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.

When Are You Ready For An Editor?

When Are You Ready For An Editor?

I see this a lot. Authors regularly come to me with books that just aren’t ready for me to look at the way they’re hoping. That isn’t to say I can’t help, but they’re trying to put the final polish on a book that hasn’t yet been cut, so to speak. While I’ll do the job they ask of me if they’re sure that’s what they want, it isn’t usually the best option.

So, in order to answer this question to its fullest, let’s start with discussing the types of editing available as well as other services that are related to this whole mess. I’m going to do this in order of where they come in the writing process, earliest to latest, so that way you can gauge where you are and see what you might need.

Book Coaching

A book coach helps you find your way through the process of writing a book. I provide this service to clients who are looking for organization, guidance, and structure. While coaching is unique for each client, it often looks like us meeting every week or so and discussing where an author is, what challenges they faced that week, how much they’ve written so far, and tackling things that are keeping them from making the progress they want. I also typically give lessons on structure, critique scenes or chapters, and help them stay on track with regular check-ins, even if we aren’t meeting every week.

Developmental Editing

This phase helps you put together the bones of your story. Hiring a developmental editor is for a manuscript that is pretty early in the process. A developmental edit addresses structural changes to a story–things like pacing, characterization, character development, and other such broad stroke items. That isn’t to say a developmental editor will make chop suey of your manuscript. Recently I worked with a client who was struggling with structural problems between acts one and two, and I advised that they add some scenes. The issue for them was they weren’t super clear on where the exact break between the acts was supposed to be. I didn’t advise the client delete anything wholesale.

I had another who needed a lot of structural work for pacing because partway through the story they didn’t know exactly where they were going. They figured out the thread toward the end of act two, but there was a lot in the middle we had to work out. We cut out the chaff and zeroed in on the things that needed doing.

If this sounds like a big, scary process, I promise it doesn’t have to be. A good developmental editor is there to help you tell your story the best they can in your voice. We aren’t trying to tell it in ours. If a developmental editor feels like they don’t get your book or aren’t giving you feedback you need, it’s totally okay to cease work (though it’s best practices to pay people for their time) and find another editor who you mesh better with.

To go back to the analogy of gems, this is where we start examining the quality of a raw gem to see what we can help you create out of it. We see the promise; we just need to get out of the surrounding rock.

If this sounds like a big, scary process, I promise it doesn’t have to be. A good editor is there to help you tell your story the best they can in your voice.

E. Prybylski

Line Editing

Line editing is going through the manuscript line by line (hence the name) and looking at things like word choice, sentence structure, and clarity. This is the phase where we iron out how many adverbs you really need (yes, you’re allowed to use them), help you use stronger verbs, give you insight into how to use your voice to its fullest advantage. This is the kind of editing people usually think of when they think of editing. It typically costs more than developmental editing and copy editing because it is the most labor-intensive for the editor in terms of hours spent because we need to evaluate every single word of the manuscript.

As before, of course, the intent of this is not to sanitize the author’s voice. Your voice. I’ve done blogs on author voice in the past, though I can’t find any more recent than 2011, so it’s probably due for an update. However, the long and short of it is: your voice is the way you write that makes you unique from any other. It’s not about whether or not you use adverbs or semicolons or what have you. It’s bigger than a sentence or word.

In order to really change or alter an author’s voice, I would either have to rewrite the entire thing myself or make such substantial changes to every single sentence that it is unreadable. These changes are bigger than punctuation or correcting inaccurate grammar. They’re also bigger than helping an author avoid passive voice, flying POV changes, and other such things. Don’t fret.

In the gemstone analogy, this is where the gem is cut.

Copy Editing

Copy editing is the highest level of editing. At this point, the editor doesn’t care if you used too many adverbs, if you wrote the entire thing in passive voice, and so on. Well, that’s mostly true. It’ll still make our hair stand on end, and we might leave you a comment, but we aren’t going to fix it for you because we’re not being paid to.

While in some parts of the editing community, line editing and copy editing are smooshed into a single service (I often do both at the same time), if someone just pays for copy editing, that’s what they are going to receive. If you are hiring an editor for copy editing, a few things are expected: you have either self-edited to the point where you are confident your book says what you intend or you have had another editor(s) review the book already to your satisfaction.

As you can see, this is also pretty far down the list in order of what happens when. Hiring someone to copy edit your book too early (if you plan on adding/changing scenes or doing a line edit) will just mean having to pay for one again later. While, yes, copy editing is less expensive than line editing, I wouldn’t skip that phase unless you really know what you’re doing. I have clients who come to me just for copy editing on their fiction, and they are extremely good at what they do. They’re experienced authors who don’t really need me to go word by word to make sure everything’s where it ought to be.

If you aren’t an experienced author who really has a good handle on all the bits and bobs of writing, I wouldn’t skip around. However, you might be able to find editors willing to work with you in your price range, so if money is an issue, shop around and see who’s available and at what price. That said, editing is one of the industries where you tend to get what you pay for. If you see someone charging a fair chunk of change, there’s likely a good reason for that.

In our gem cutting metaphor, this is the polish phase.

If you aren’t an experienced author who has a really good handle on all the bits and bobs of writing, I wouldn’t skip around. However, you might be able to find editors willing to work with you in your price range.

E. Prybylski

Proofreading

Finally, we get to proofreading. This is done when the book is formatted to make sure everything is caught and clean. If you are doing an ebook only, it may well be done in Word, but traditionally it’s done either in print or in the software the book is being formatted in. This can include things like making sure leading and kerning are correct, catching widows and orphans, and fixing up any last-minute typos. It is the very last look before something goes to print.

Proofreading is the absolute final step in review before your book is published. This is the final pass, and the last pair of eyes. Ideally it should be different from whoever did the other rounds of editing. I always advise two editors look at a project before it goes out. Even if one has done the rest of the editing process, having a fresh set of eyes to catch typos and find last-minute errors is invaluable.

When publishing novels through Insomnia, we always pass them back and forth to another editor in the company for this final run before the book is published for realsies. While this step may not be doable for all authors, I cannot overestimate the value of it.

SO!

All of that explanation out of the way, when should you hire an editor? The real answer, at the end of the day, is: It depends.

E. Prybylski

All of that explanation out of the way, when should you hire an editor? The real answer, at the end of the day, is: It depends. Where you are in the writing process tells you what kind of editing you want and who to look for. Absent you hiring a book coach to help you get your work on track, however, you should wait until you’ve finished your first draft and done at least one round of self-editing.

That means you finish it, have a celebratory glass of your favorite beverage, wait a few days, or a week or more for some folks, and then re-read what you wrote. Take notes. Outline your book again based on what you wrote (that’s a blog for another day that I’ll do) and really evaluate your novel. Then maybe send it to a beta reader or twelve. Once you’ve done that, then see where you’re at. If your story structure is solid, and you don’t think you have any pacing problems? Start looking for a line editor.

When in doubt, too, you can contact an editor to tell them where you’re at, what’s going on, and ask them what you need. Many editors perform manuscript evaluations for a reasonable fee in order to give you specific feedback about what you need, where, and why. They may pitch specific services to you, also.

I’ve had authors come to me for a line edit and I’ve told them what they really need is developmental or copy editing. It can go either way. While a manuscript evaluation may feel like an extra expense, the reality is it can save you a lot of money in the long run, and it’s worth considering if you’re feeling wibbldy about where you are in the process.

For what it’s worth, and to plug my services down here at the bottom, if you are interested in any of these types of editing, want a manuscript evaluation, or just in general are looking for help figuring out what you next step is, you can contact me through my editing website, and we can talk through what you need. If I’m not the right editor for you, I know many in multiple genres who may be able to help. I have resources to help you find what you’re looking for. That service is free. I’m here to help, not wring every penny out of you.

E. Prybylski has been in the publishing industry as an editor since 2009, starting at Divertir Publishing and eventually partnering with her close friend Richard Belanger to begin Insomnia Publishing.

Ever since childhood, E. has been an avid reader and writer of fantasy. The first chapter book she remembers reading is The Hobbit, followed swiftly by most of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series. In high school, she perfected the skill of walking while reading without slamming into anyone. Mostly.

When she isn’t reading or writing, E. is an active member of the Society for Creative Anachronism and has a B.A. in European history from SNHU. In addition to her many historical pursuits, E. is a musician of multiple instruments, a cat mom, and a loving wife to her husband, J. E. also speaks out for the disability and chronic illness communities being a sufferer of chronic migraines and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.