If you’re an Austin-area writer looking for answers to your publishing and ebook questions, there’s a whole event waiting for you on Saturday, September 8th.

“Let’s Make Ebook Gold” is the topic for Business Success Center’s fall Entrepreneurs’ Day from 9:30am to 4:00 pm on Saturday, September 8th. Expert sessions will deal with content and cover preparation, contracts and copyright, pricing, publishing and marketing your ebook. Designed for first time ebook creators as well as those who already have experience. The event begins with a networking session for attendees to share their ebooks and ideas.

TLC Graphics’ Tom Dever will present “Content and Covers” in the morning, teaching the best way to format your content for the most popular formats (Kindle, Nook, iPad) and how to bring in graphics and design to make it an award-winner. See the role your cover plays and how it can be a huge asset.

PR by the Book’s Marika Flatt will be speaking in the afternoon session on all things publicity and publishing during her “Marketing Your Assets” session. Other session leaders include: Jan Triplett of Business Success Center and Monica Emilienburg of Richards, Rodrigues & Skeith. Come to the morning or afternoon session only ($50 per session) or all day ($75). Seating limited to 25, so register quickly.

For more details, go http://entrepreneursday.eventbrite.com.

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Hi, guys! Today’s post was written by book publishing consultant Marion Gropen. Marion has been in book publishing for more than 20 years, both as a financial executive in-house, and as a financial and management consultant. For the last few years, she has been offering advice and solutions on a By-The-Question basis, as well as ebooks and tools in the Profitable Publisher series. Find out more at http://www.GropenAssoc.com.

I read this as her response to a thread on Self-Publishing@yahoogroups.com about the stigma of self-publishing and someone complaining that everyone but the author gets money. So many people wonder where their money does (or will) go when producing and promoting their books. Here are Marion’s insights on this topic.

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Authors get more from most trade books than anyone else in the pipeline. You may not be aware of the typical figures for a mid-level trade book, but here’s how it breaks down:

Let’s take a novel, in trade paperback, with a list price of $14.95, which I will call $15 out of sheer laziness.

The bookstore buys it for $$9. Out of their $6, they may keep $0.60 in profit. If they’re doing well. The rest goes to pay the store clerks, rent, utilities, and so on and on. They may also need to discount the book in order to compete, if it’s a “big book.”

The wholesaler buys the book for $6.75, and resells it at $9. Out of that $2.25, they’re keeping something like $0.02 or at most, $0.05.

The distributor is paid a commission of about $2.25, and keeps about the same 2 to 5 cents. If they’re very lucky. (NB: large publishers have their distribution in-house, and save about 20 to 40 cents per copy on the deal.)

So, the publisher’s revenue, on a $15 book is $4.50.
From this comes:
PPB — about $1.50
Marketing — about $0.25
and Royalties — about $1.13 to $1.50 per copy.
After these per-copy costs are subtracted, there’s $1.62 to $1.25 per copy.

But wait!! Also coming from that revenue are the fixed costs of producing the book (those where the total isn’t related to the number of copies printed or sold). These include editing, line editing, copyediting, proofreading, layout of the text and design of the cover, and often many more.

The total for the fixed direct expenses usually runs between $3,500 and $5,000. To cover these costs, the publisher must sell a minimum of 2160 to 4,000 copies.

Oh, but we’re still not done. None of the overhead (rent, utilities, office supplies, salaries for back office staff, etc) has been covered!

Let’s say that the company is quite small. Say that the overhead runs a TINY $100,000 per year, and that the company is producing with that overhead, and ASTRONOMICAL 20 titles per year. Each one must cover another $5,000 in overhead before there’s a dime in profit.

Now it has to sell a total of 5,250 to 8,000 copies before it makes ANY profit.

So let’s say that this book sells a nice 12,000 copies. The author (and maybe agent) are making $15,000. The publisher is making at most, $10,940.

The staff are making less. Consider: an editor at a company like this is probably making $1,750 per book.

The cover designer is probably making $1,000.

The marketing director/publicist might make $2000 per title.

The agent probably made $2250, and the author got the rest of the $15k, or $12,750.

It’s easy to feel gypped when you realize that you’re getting a dollar and change out of the $15. But when you realize where the rest goes, you realize that it’s not that someone is ripping off authors, it’s that our society doesn’t value the mid-list very much, and we’re ALL doing this because we care.

Many of the bestsellers look like drek to most of us here because we’re all a little off the popular paths. But if they didn’t meet their readers’ needs, they wouldn’t sell well enough to BE bestsellers. And if the quirky, “interesting” books really were interesting to most people, then THOSE would be the bestsellers.

Bookselling isn’t a “push” industry. It’s a “pull” one. We can put drek on the shelves, or even literary gold, but it won’t move to the cash register, no matter what we do, unless we convince the readers that they’re going to be getting what they’re looking for from the time and money spent. And there are literally millions of other titles out there in direct, head-to-head competition for those eyeballs.

Unmet needs are harder to find than hens’ teeth.

That’s not to say that we’re in a perfect world, or that there aren’t opportunities. But if you’re going to compete with a mainstream publisher, you need to know what they’re putting into the books you’re taking on.

You need to come up with some strategy to make your books as easy to buy as the ones on the bookshelves (and no matter how big Amazon is, it’s still not most of the sales to be made, in most market segments).

Your investment in preparing the manuscript has to be at least as good as what those mainstream publishers are able to get for their $3,500 to 5,000.

And you need to think long and hard about why your readers will want your books, and how to show them that your books deliver the benefits that they’re trying to get. But that’s for another post.

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Thank you, Marion, for sharing!

Blessings,

Tami

Our latest interview is with children’s author and public speaker, Melissa Williams. In addition to writing several books and her relentless speaking schedule, she’s also the co-founder of The READ3Zero Non-Profit Literacy Foundation (www.READ3Zero.com), working within the community to conquer childhood illiteracy 30 minutes at a time. It’s exciting for TLC Graphics to be part of both her publishing efforts and working with Read3Zero. We want to thank Melissa for trusting us with her “babies” and for being such a joy to work with.

Melissa Williams, Longtail Publishing

Your name and company name

Melissa M. Williams with LongTale Publishing

Year founded/location/number of employees

2007/Houston, TX/2 on Staff and 10 work for hire

Publishing genre

Children’s Fiction

Number of titles

4 and 6 by the end of the year

Favorite and/or most successful titles

Iggy the Iguana has successfully gotten me into so many schools since 2008, so I can’t help but respect my very first book for where it has gotten me today. Right now the Turtle Town books are so fresh and new, I’d have to say The Inner Puka is the favorite on the shelf.

Upcoming releases

The third book in the Iggy Series, Crazy Days of 5th Grade,  The Little Miss Molly picture book, and the second book in the Turtle Town Series, The Green Room.

If not publishing full-time, what’s your other job?

Writing, teaching, public speaking at schools and literacy events and running the Non-Profit Literacy Foundation, READ3Zero.

What do you like best and least about being a small or independent publisher?

BEST: The freedom and flexibility to work with the people I choose and trust. I appreciate being involved in every side of the business and being able to work on my own projects as well as others from our children at Read3Zero. My personality as a visionary is fulfilled by owning my own business.

LEAST: In the past, work, passion, and pleasure had a tendency to cross paths and take up all of my time. I’ve gotten better at delegating, but it’s still hard to let go of doing it all and turning work off. Also having founded a non-profit for reading and writing has opened many doors at LongTale Publishing, but it has required much time and dedication.

What inspired you to publish your first book?

The story was so dear to my heart and childhood, I wanted to have control over it’s outcome.

What is your favorite/most successful marketing effort?

We do every marketing effort in the business, from social media to direct marketing, but my ultimate favorite marketing tactic is being in front of my readers, teachers, and parents. The actual author/speaker is the best marketing tool in my opinion, which is why I do so many public events, presentations, and book signings all year long. All authors should strive for WORD OF MOUTH to be their ultimate tool. And I don’t mean out of your own mouth on Facebook, I’m talking about real people meeting and talking to each other and spreading the word.

How do you get through road blocks — or writer’s block?

I get out of the uninspiring environment that is making my mind lazy. I research, travel, watch people, work all day at my favorite Greek coffee shop, READ books in my genre, chat with my artistic friends, sit at the beach and clear my mind, talk to kids about my ideas, and actually live life and never allow myself to get bored with my life. There’s no such thing as writer’s block. It’s an excuse for not wanting to reach your maximum potential. Take care of your brain children by making the time for them.

One thing you wish you had known before you began publishing:

Quality will always outweigh a “good deal.” Sometimes saving money won’t cut it. Starting a publishing company and publishing a book is an investment, so invest in the best because you will spend more money trying to go back and redo what must be fixed anyway. And DON’T think you can do it all yourself. Be honest with yourself and your own expertise. In the words of Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”

One piece of good advice that you’ve received:

The best advice I ever got as a writer was to stop being a perfectionist while trying to be creative. You can’t expect creativity to be perfect or you will never finish the project. The project will present it’s true self after it gets thrown on paper, but it has to get out of your head first.

Please provide a piece of profound advice for a new author/publisher.

Mistakes are the best learning tools, so appreciate them for what they are … but so are the mistakes of others, so don’t repeat someone else’s mistake that could have been avoided. Time is still valuable.

Any other comments you’d like to make?

To be in the writing/publishing/marketing world is to be a psychologist. Never fall victim to a weak mind or routine. You should strive to learn, think outside the box, and ALWAYS put yourself in your audiences’ shoes.

Today we’re featuring Christian urban fiction author and musician Harry Williams of Oakland, CA. Thank you for sharing with our audience, Harry! We’re grateful for your advice and wish you much success with your plethora of upcoming projects.

Christian Urban Fiction Author Harry Williams II

What is your name and what is your company’s URL?

My name is Harry Williams. I am the founder and CEO of Soul Shaker Publishing, Music and Film Works. I have two websites. The first is http://www.soulshakerpublishing.com. The second site is http://www.revharrywilliams.com.

What is your publishing genre?

I write urban fiction. If you were to visit any inner city book store, you would find that urban fiction authors far outsell even highly regarded literary greats like Toni Morrison. Urban fiction is raw. It is real and it is here to stay.

How many titles have you published?

I have had two books published by InterVarsity Press. Straight Outta East Oakland, published in 2008 was the first novel put out by Soul Shaker Publishing.

What is your favorite or most successful title?

As a minister, I tend not to measure success in terms of book sales alone. I received letters from people serving light years in prison who told me that the book had hit its mark. I was present on the day that a gang member told a youth that my book made him think.

What is your upcoming release?

Straight Outta East Oakland, II: Trapped On The Track is going to be released in February of 2011. This is an important book.

The first time that I ever saw Oakland, California was in a movie theatre. It was the scene of the 1973 blaxploitation classic, “The Mack.” It was a film about a man who is released from Oakland from prison. He becomes a pimp, a svengali figure who enslaves women through mind control. Little did I know when I saw the film, that I would one day come to live in Oakland.

Straight Outta East Oakland II: Trapped On The Track is a work aimed at not only the pimps and sex workers but the complacent Church which has allowed the flesh trade to flourish quite literally in front of its very doors. You won’t be able to put it down.

What is your other job?

I am a baptist minister/evangelist. I am a social case manager by trade.

What do you like best/least about being a small publisher.

I love the thought of being able to have complete creative control over the project from soup to nuts. When I wrote for another publisher, someone I never met gave my book it’s name and designed the cover. I had very little input. As a small publisher, the reins are in your hands.

Secondly, the release date is in your hands. A mainstream publisher might sign your book and then let it sit somewhere for a couple of years. If you publish your own work, you can basically set the release date.

There are a few downsides. One of them is that you have to outlay the publishing costs. This is not always easy but God makes a way.

What inspired you to publish your book?

A highly regarded literary agency considered signing me and then declined. They didn’t believe that the characters in my book could know all that they knew as young men in their early twenties. Apparently, the agents had not grown up in the hood where survival dictates that people do grow up very early. I was incensed.

Not long after I got turned down, I walked into a book store where a reading was to take place. The author was a self-published urban fiction author. I saw the future.

How do you get through writer’s block?

That’s something that I never deal with. If I walked from this keyboard to the corner store, three or four ideas for books would come to me.

What is one thing you wished you’d known before you started publishing?

That one is easy! Get a publicist. There are a million books on the market that tell you how to promote your own work. Don’t buy them. Put that money toward the hiring of a good publicist. No one can buy your book if they don’t know about it. News in print is hard to come by. Get someone who knows how to get it on your team.

What is one piece of good advice that you have received?

“Contact Tami Dever at TLC Graphics. You won’t be sorry.”

What is one piece of good advice that you would give to a new author or publisher?

Contact Tami Dever at TLC Graphics. You won’t be sorry.

Do you have any final comments?

Many people believe that only basketball players, preachers, politicians or rock and roll singers should write books. I have news for you. Everyone has at least one book in them. One  of the best books that I ever read was Dishwasher by Pete Jordan. It was the true story of a man who was on the quest to work as a dishwasher in every state in the country. Sure, he was dishwasher and not a congressman. However, his story was better than most political biographies.

Your book should become a reality. If you work at it, it will happen. Like they say in the streets of Oakland, California, “get it crackin”.

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If you’d like to be considered for an interview by TLC Graphics, please send an e-mail to: Tamara@tlcgraphics.com with Book Blog Interview in the subject line. Blessings to you!

As I wrap up a short trip to Kansas City and sit at their small airport, I’m reminded of how each of us in business represent so much more than our own job or company.

The trip has been just short of two days of exploring the area with Erin, my friend and one of our designers, and helping her look for houses as her family prepares to move from the Minneapolis area. We met so many people across the KC area and each one has been incredibly warm, inviting, and friendly. The most surprising was the young girl working the McDonald’s drive-thru. Despite my unusual order (food allergies often demand that) and the fact that their computer system in the kitchen had just crashed causing near chaos, she had a radiant smile and provided welcoming customer service. I commented on what a shock this was and Erin just said, “That’s Kansas City for you”.

Similar scenarios played out each time we visited a school, store, restaurant, or viewed a home for sale. What a friendly, inviting place! Except for the airport. Perhaps it’s just what they’ve been ordered, but the security personnel will barely crack a smile, much less talk with you. This is not the case in most airports I’ve been through lately. I tried several times to have light conversations or at least to wish each one a lovely day and cheerfully thank them for doing a good job. NONE would do more than grunt. Wow.

For many, the airport is their first encounter with a wonderful city. Every person working here needs to be aware that they are part of a greater environment and can influence each visitor’s perception of the place they live and work. Not only that, but they represent the greater community of airport security and we all know that industry could use some good PR.

As authors and service providers in the publishing industry, we should each take on the responsibility of representing ourselves, our companies, and small/independent publishing in general. Each time we interact with others—whether outside of publishing or within—we have the opportunity to influence their perception of us, both individually and as a whole. I not only represent myself, but my company (TLC Graphics) my service industry (book design and publishing development) and publishing in general. On another level, I am also a representative for my family, the Christian community, Austin, Texas, and the United States.

Let’s do our best, each and every encounter, to be welcoming and genuinely proud to be right where we are — in an incredible industry teeming with vibrant, encouraging people ready to share ideas and experiences with each and every person who may be interested. Thank you!

Tami Dever

"The Mystery Shopper's Manual" before and after cover designs

What happens when you want to take your back-of-the-room-only seller to a more mainstream market? It usually needs a redesign! That’s something Cathy Stucker knew when she came to us looking for a new cover. The original had all the right elements—prominent title, readable subtitle and author name, accompanying graphic—but there was nothing unique about the cover and it lacked dynamics. It needed an upgrade to reach a more competitive market.

We gave the new cover a fresh look with retro art, typefaces, and color palette to attract female shoppers—the majority of the book’s buyers. Each element, with its relative size and placement, work together to attract and move your eye through the cover’s space and directly off the right side of the page, causing you to open it up and see what’s inside. In the words of a Barnes & Noble rep, the new cover gives the book “curb appeal.” This cover is fun, reflecting the subject matter and bringing all-important enthusiasm to its potential readers.

– Tami