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Publish Your Way! BelieversBookServices provides professional publishing services for today's independent author.

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Filtering by Tag: indie publishing

How Much Should I Stress Over My Content?

andrew mackay

Okay, look: we believe in editing. When we meet an indie author who feels like their books are under-performing, the first question we ask is, "Did you have your book edited?"

We believe in editing. It's easy to get your head around the value of a great cover -- if the cover is bad, no one will pick the book up. But editing, what does it do for your readers? Here's how I explain it: an unedited or poorly edited book will almost never get a word-of-mouth recommendation. Good editing is the most effective long-term marketing strategy I've ever met. You can only expect to convince so many people to read your book. But if your book is poorly edited, those people won't ever talk about your book to anyone else.

So, how much should you stress over your content?

The only right answer is a lot. Too much.

Now, there's a caveat that needs to go here: It is possible to get frozen up about your content. It's possible to worry that it'll never be good enough. it's possible to lose your ability to separate yourself from the need for your content to be very good. So, you have to know when to quit.

But you cannot afford to go to market with unedited or poorly edited content. You've got to spend time on making it as good as it can possibly be. How can you do it?

- Hire professionals

We believe in the power of professional editors. An editor is someone whose bread and butter is helping authors create great content. They understand the market, they understand the rules and conventions of the market. And they come alongside and help you be better than you could ever be on your own.

- Crowd Source

I feel like this method is finally starting to get the credit it's due. More and more people are talking about beta readers, or using a group of readers to gather feedback. This can be tremendously beneficial in two areas. First, readers can help you identify "that doesn't make sense," problems in your story. Secondly, they can help you catch the dumb errors you'll overlook when you're reading the same content for the seven-hundredth time. Use your friends! Wait... that sounds wrong.

- Develop great instincts

Self-editing is really hard. In fact, I think it's dangerous when publishing professionals allow authors to think they can effectively edit themselves. You'll never be able to identify ALL your own blind spots. But you can learn to identify more and more of your blind spots. You do this by reading technical books about good writing and good editing. But more importantly, you do it by reading great books and developing an ear for great writing.

How much should you stress over your content? Lots. I promise, the remaining stigma around indie-publishing would completely disappear if every indie author decided to obsess over really great content.

The Quick Start Package

andrew mackay

The world of publishing feels like it's constantly changing. We want to be the kind of company that embraces that. It's easy to find constant change intimidating. But all that scariness is also an opportunity. It's an opportunity to do what we do best—to innovate and create great solutions that serve authors where they have needs.

We've been asked, repeatedly it feels like, about solutions for authors that keep costs to a minimum. We heard you. This is our answer!

The QuickStart package is another opportunity for us to serve you. At its core, it's a package of just the most essential services to get your book available for sale.

It doesn't include some important things: editing, eBook conversion and distribution, or marketing. It also reduces some of the other services: you'll get one cover concept instead of two and we'll use great templates instead of a purely-custom approach to interior formatting.

Of course, you need editing. You need a marketing plan. What we're hearing from authors is that they want to do those things themselves, through beta readers and hard work researching. If you want to launch a book to the market at a low cost, we're here to help. Of course we remain committed to excellence. We just understand that there are multiple ways to get there.

Some things never change: at BelieversPress, you are always the publisher. We always sell books to you at the print cost, never at an inflated price based on retail. We always work to ensure rational, real-world retail prices. And we'll always give you the best information and advice we can to help you succeed.

Check out the QuickStart package here. If you're serious about indie-publishing your book, we'd love to chat. You can get in touch with us here.

Best Of: Copyright Basics

andrew mackay

One of the questions that comes up over and over again among new writers is "How do I protect my work?" We're all excited about the writing we've done, we want to get it out there to readers, but we want to be careful about protecting the work.

The most frequent question in this realm is, "How do I copyright this work?"

The US copyright office defines copyright this way:

Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (title 17, U. S. Code) to the authors of “original works of authorship,” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works. Section 106 of the 1976 Copyright Act generally gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:

• reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords

• prepare derivative works based upon the work

• distribute copies or phonorecords of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending

• perform the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works

• display the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work

• perform the work publicly (in the case of sound recordings*) by means of a digital audio transmission

The thing to note about copyright is that it protects the fixed creative expression of your idea(s), not the ideas themselves. That means that you can write a book about a dystopian future in which the bad guys breath carbon dioxide and someone else can do the same thing. That's not infringement. It becomes infringement when they begin to copy your actual expression of the idea.

Copyright is automatically in effect from the time that you create the work in its fixed expression. So, your work is automatically protected. But... there are some good reasons to register the copyright with the US Copyright Office if you have concerns about infringement. Most importantly, timely registration (within 3 months of publication or before any infringement occurs) entitles you to statutory damages in the event infringement occurs. If you haven't registered before infringement occurs, you're eligible only for actual losses / damages. In publishing, that can be somewhat harder to prove (unless you have a runaway hit on your hands).

So, if you're concerned, go ahead and register your work with the US Copyright office (http://www.copyright.gov). It's $35 and some paperwork. We'll link to some resources below, but remember that we're not lawyers -- if you have questions, you should consider talking with an intellectual property lawyer to get thorough, accurate answers.

Oh, and a quick note about "the poor man's copyright" ... you'll find all kinds of crazy ideas on the internet. One of them is that you somehow prove something in court by mailing yourself a sealed copy of your manuscript. Nope! The reality is that there's no benefit to you from mailing yourself a sealed copy of your work. Register it with the Copyright office if you're concerned.

Resources:

Why Do We Talk About Hidden Hazards So Much?

andrew mackay

At BelieversPress, we love helping authors publish. We love it so much that we work hard to bring you free resources that will help you publish better. We do most of this under the brand "The Hidden Hazards." But why Hidden Hazards?

Are we just negative people? Are we trying to motivate people with fear? 

It's not that at all. Instead, it's drawn out of countless conversations that involve five sad words.

"I wish I'd known that."

Every time I hear those words, I feel sad. It happens all the time, to authors of all types. Even tremendously business-savvy authors make mistakes that undercut their ability to succeed as they indie publish.

How do these conversations usually go? Here are three common topics:

1. I didn't know how high they'd set the retail price.

Many authors who choose to work with a publishing services company don't do enough research ahead of starting the process. Who can blame them? It feels like you can read for months and still not know everything you need to know about publishing books. So, when their book finally launches and the retail price is way beyond what the market is accustomed to paying for that genre / size / page count, they shocked. And it's awful. Because selling books is hard. Selling books that cost way too much compared to the other books on the market? That's nigh impossible.

2. I didn't know how much it would cost. 

This often dovetails with the first point. Authors talk about the check they have to write up front for services, but they don't consider how much their book will cost. Many companies sell books to authors for a discounted price based on the retail price. Now, when a legacy publisher picks up the whole bill and then sells you your book for 50-60% of the retail price, it at least makes sense: they paid for all the product development, after all. But, when you've paid to publish, and then you have to buy your book for 50-60% of the retail price, you're getting ripped off. Sadly, many authors don't know what it costs to print a book, so they go on paying far too much. 

(Let me put it into context: if you publish with BelieversPress, where the package prices are higher than some of our competitors, by the time you've bought 380 copies of your book at printer's cost, you've broken even.)

You can't successfully sell books -- let alone give them away for marketing purposes -- when you're paying too much for them.

3. I didn't know who my audience was.

This sounds innocuous but is sadly the worst of all. When an author, ministry, or a small business spends money on developing a book, gets all the way to launch, and then discovers that there's no one to buy it, it's a tragedy. It means that no one was on their side, helping them ask the right questions. You have to know your audience or you'll never reach them. We ran a classic post the other day that helps you to start down the path to understanding your audience.

What it comes down to.

We want to have fewer of those conversations. So, we continue to pour ourselves into building resources and solutions that are going to help you do well. Because it's hard to publish good books. It's harder to make money at it. And sometimes it feels impossible to do all of that without getting stung.

We want to help. We love helping you publish.

Classic Post: Who Are You Writing For?

andrew mackay

Editor's note: Jenni Burke from DC Jacobson & Associates wrote this post six years ago, and it remains among the posts I refer to most frequently when I'm trying to help authors develop their understanding of their own writing. It had perished in the switch to a new blogging platform, so here it is again: 

Who Are You Writing For?

Originally Posted Thu, 22 Oct 2009 
by Jenni Burke  

As Christian authors, perhaps the first response that sprang to mind when you read this headline was, “Jesus!”  But what I actually mean to ask you is this: 


When you sit down each day to work on your manuscript, do you have a specific reader pictured in your mind?

If not, you should.  

Identifying your “target market” or audience is much more than an obligatory paragraph for a book proposal. This valuable exercise will actually help you establish the tone, structure, and approach for most effectively delivering the content or characters for your book. Just as a love letter would feel cold and insincere if the writer didn’t truly know his beloved, or an important phone call would be in vain if the caller dialed the wrong number, a book will miss its mark if the author doesn’t write with her audience in mind.

Whether you write fiction or nonfiction and whether your goal is to independently publish or to land a royalty publisher, you need to develop a very clear answer to the question,

Who am I writing to?

Beware the common tendency to over generalize your audience. Our agency, DCJA, reviews myriad proposals and manuscripts that hold promise but come up short partly because they lack connection to a clearly defined target market.

Agents and editors cringe when we read sweeping statements like, “This book will appeal to everyone—men and women between 15-85 years old, Christian and non-Christian alike, and anyone who has ever wondered about God.”  

A good writer knows who his audience is (demographics) and what makes them tick (psychographics). Mike Hyatt, former CEO of Thomas Nelson, helps authors understand demographics as “external characteristics” and psychographics as “internal motivators” in his foundational article, Writing a Winning Book Proposal

We have found success using the following questions with our represented authors and consulting clients. You can apply them to your own situation to clarify your vision of who you’re writing to. I encourage you to pull out a notepad or start a fresh word-processing document and jot down your answers to these questions:

  • What is the demographic of your primary audience (e.g. gender, age, religious background, education, socio-economic status, occupation, geographical location, etc)? Describe the characteristics of your target reader.
  • What is the psychographic of your primary audience (e.g. what felt need will drive them to buy your book, why will they benefit from your book, what are their frustrations or desires, how can/have you written the book to tie in to their interests, etc)? Describe the motivations of your target reader.
  • What are the characteristics and motivations of your secondary and (if applicable) tertiary audiences? Hint: think of your primary audience as the “bulls-eye” of your target and the secondary and tertiary audiences as the next concentric circles.

And, especially if you want to pitch your book idea to an agent or estimate your book’s sales potential:

  • How many of your target readers exist? Do your research and give statistics if possible. Be realistic.
  • How will you reach them with your message? What are their shopping and buying behaviors? Will you find them at your conferences, on the internet, in book stores?

Once you have a clear picture of your target audiences in mind, you can tailor your message to deliver maximum impact. Keep their needs, interests, and behaviors before you as you write and plan, then periodically check in to make sure you stay on track. Ask people you respect who fit your target market “profile” to honestly review your work (not just family and friends).

A real-life example of understanding your audiences’ needs is found in a nonfiction book DCJA recently placed with a major Christian publisher, Escaping the Vampire. The book’s primary audience is teen girls who love the Twilight series. The secondary audience is teen girls who are unsure about Twilight but do read Christian books. And the tertiary audience is parents and youth ministers seeking to connect with their Twilight-obsessed teens. Envisioning these three unique yet intermingled types of reader, you can imagine the implications the author had to balance while writing this book (and the opportunities her marketing team had in promoting it)! She needed to open girls’ eyes to their true Hero, Christ, without alienating the “Twilighters” who would slam the book shut if they sensed it bashing their beloved Edward Cullen. By understanding the tensions and desires in her readers’ hearts and cultural context, she was able to present the vital truth of Christ’s love and reveal common “life-sucking” deceptions in a way each of her audience groups would receive.  

Another one of our authors even cut out a magazine picture of a person who represented his “bulls-eye” reader and placed it in a frame on his desk. Now that is a way to visualize who you are writing for!  

QUESTION: What challenges or successes have you encountered in defining a target audience for your book? We look forward to hearing your perspective.