Marketing & Promoting

Submitting Short Stories to Magazines

Have you ever written a short story and tried to get it published in a magazine? Chances are you have. Many authors, both traditional and indie, write short stories and try to get them published in print magazines, on e-mags, or in anthologies. I’ve been published in a couple of magazines and I’m hoping for more in the future (though with my writing schedule these days, it’s hard to make time for short stories). And there are benefits to doing so, including:

  • Short stories are a whole different beast to tame than novels, so writing and sending out short stories lets you know what works and what people look for in a good short story. Sometimes magazines will even give you feedback if they decide to reject your story, so you get an idea on how to improve it.
  • At the very least, you’ll get some exposure from having your work published in a magazine. At the very most, they’ll pay you some money for a nice dinner out.
  • For those critics who accuse indie authors of trying to skirt around hard work and just put any old book out, this is a way of saying “Hey, we can do it your way too.”

If you haven’t ever sent a short story out to magazine, this might give you some help in going about it. If you’ve already done it before, then maybe this’ll be a useful reminder. And like I said, you should try it. You never know what’ll happen if you do.

1. Find a publication. Once you’ve written a short story and edited it to the utmost perfection, it’s time to find a magazine. Publications like Writer’s Digest’s Short Story & Novel Writer’s Market contain may useful listing of magazines in all genres, as well as contests and agencies and conferences. You can also get info from friends or family members who write. Another blogger told me about a magazine she published a short story in, and I think that I might have a short story I could submit to them, I just have to make sure it’s ready before I send it out.

Also, it’s helpful sometimes to read the short stories they publish. This generally gives you some idea of what they tend to publish, so you’ll have a better idea of what might be accepted.

2. Read over the rules. Every magazine has its own set of rules about submitting to them and the terms you’ll get should you be accepted. They may want the short story sent in a particular attachment, or they may prefer the story in the body of the message. There may be restrictions on length, subject matter, or a hundred other things. And being published by them might mean signing over all rights to the story to the magazine, or only first North American publishing rights. So know what you’re getting into when you decide, “I’ll send it to this publication.”

3. Write that query letter. A query letter is a letter stating who you are, what you’re sending, and why you’re sending it. Once you’ve done your research, write up a query letter and send it along to the magazine with your short story. Here’s an example of me sending a query letter to a fictional magazine:

Dear Darkness Abounds magazine,

I am submitting my manuscript “Hands” (5,732 words) to your publication for your consideration. I decided to submit to your magazine because your website said you were into “dark, creepy fiction with an interesting twist on old stories” and I thought my short story matched your description.

I am a self-published novelist with two novels and a collection of short stories published, as well as short stories published in Mobius Magazine, The Writing Disorder, and the Winter 2011 issue of TEA, A Magazine (now The Daily Tea). I also write for two blogs, Rami Ungar the Writer and Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors. I am also a senior at The Ohio State University double majoring in English and History and expected to graduate in May 2015.

I look forward to hearing from you and would like to thank you for your time and consideration.

Hoping you are well,

Rami Ungar
[contact information, including address, phone number, and e-mail address]

Make sure to include the word count of your story (that’s an important factor in many publications), why you’re selecting the magazine, and any relevant publications. Also, don’t make your biography too long. Just keep the relevant stuff and don’t give them your life story. You can save that for your memoirs.

4. Wait. Every magazine has its own quoted turn-around time, so you might as well be patient. However, it’s not uncommon for a magazine to let work pile up and miss your short story entirely, so if you find two or three weeks have gone by and you haven’t heard anything, it might be helpful to send an email asking politely if you are still being considered for publication (I’ll write a post about that another time).

5. How to handle the reply. Assuming the magazine didn’t lose your work in the pile of submissions they get and you get a reply, the important thing is to be grateful one way or another for their reply. If you’re accepted, that’s wonderful. Talk terms with them and then decide if you want them to publish you. If you get rejected, possibly look at getting published somewhere else, and take into account any feedback you might receive on your short story as a possible way to improve the story.

What tips do you have for submitting to magazines your short stories?

Categories: General Writing, Marketing & Promoting, Publishing Basics, Short Stories, Traditional Publishing, Writing as a Business | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Are Pre-Orders Right For You?

I’m sure you guys have already gotten the KDP email announcing pre-orders for all indie authors.  If not, it’ll probably be coming in your inbox soon.  Basically, you can do a pre-order up to 90 days before your book’s release.

It’s up to you whether or not you want to do this.  But from my understanding, the pre-orders on Amazon won’t work like they do at Apple.

Apple will let all of your pre-order sales build up.  Then when the book is released, all of the pre-order sales adds to all the sales you make on your first day.  For example, let’s say you sell 20 books in pre-order, and you sell 40 books the day the book is released.  Apple will make it count your ranking as if you sold 60 books that day.  The higher ranking will give you added exposure and possibilities for getting noticed.  That’s the biggest benefit to doing pre-orders from a marketing perspective, in my opinion.

Amazon, however, doesn’t operate the same way with pre-orders.  So you might sell 20 books in pre-order.  Then the day of release, you sell 40.  For ranking purposes, it will look as if you only sold 40 books.  This makes you more vulnerable to a dip in sales.  If all your fans pre-order your books, then those sales won’t boost your ranking on the first day your book is available.  Quick note: You will still show on your dashboard that you sold 60 books.  You just won’t have this reflected on the Amazon ranking on your product page.  (I hope that makes sense.)

After studying up on what other authors are saying, this is my understanding of how the two systems (Apple and Amazon) works when dealing with pre-orders.  If I am wrong, please let me know.

Anyway, the question might be, are pre-orders worth it?  Only you can answer that question.  It might be worth it to you, or it might not.

Here are some things to factor in when looking at pre-orders.

1.  Pre-orders force you into a deadline

Deadlines are an awesome thing.  I love them because they force you to stay on track.  If you know you have to get the book done by a certain date, you’re more likely to do it.  Otherwise, it’s too easy to keep putting it off until sometime later.  To me, this is one of the most compelling reasons to do a pre-order.  I love deadlines and having things ready to go before they’re due.

The drawback, of course, is real life.  Something might pop up that throws you off track, like an illness or job loss.  To rectify this, you could have everything done and ready to go when you put something into pre-order.  But this requires a great deal of patience.

2.  Pre-orders allow you to promote more in advance since you have everything ready advance.

This can free up time working on the pre-release promotion of your book.  What type of promotion you do is up to you.  I mainly blog sample scenes, character interviews, and updates to promote my work before it’s released.  Some people prefer social networking sites to gain excitement for their book.  Some people do blog tours or look at running ads.  There is no right or wrong on this.  You should do what you’re comfortable with and enjoy.

3.  Readers might want to buy a pre-order instead of going back to your blog or social networking site or the bookstore to see if your book is out or not.

The argument can be made that new release emails notifying fans that your book is available will relieve them of the need to keep checking the sites listed above.  I’m on the fence about how effective the new release emails are.  I use MailChimp to send out information on new releases, and it seems that a little over half the recipients open them.  Less than half click on the links.  I don’t know if people are also following my blog and go through those links instead or what.  To me, it seems to be one of those “it doesn’t matter” promotional tools.  Perhaps if I didn’t regularly blog and announce new released on Facebook and Twitter, I’d see more of a benefit from it.  I don’t think it hurts to do it, and it’s not like it takes a lot of time to set up.

Others might have a better experience with new release emails.  Keep in mind that what works great for one person doesn’t always work the same for someone else.

But pre-orders are a way readers can reserve your book then totally forget about it until they get an email from the bookstore telling them the book is now ready for them to read.  If nothing else, having a book in pre-order will answer the question, “When will your next book be out?” that you might get from a reader.

4.  Pre-orders and rankings.

Given, Amazon doesn’t apply pre-order sales to the actual release date when calculating the ranking, and that could hurt your ranking (and potential sales) if you don’t sustain regular sales on day one of the book’s release.  But it’s also possible there might be an awesome rank in other channels on release day because of the pre-orders that built up.  If all your fans pre-ordered the book, you need people who are new to your work or on the fence about it to buy the book to keep your ranking up.

However, if you didn’t have pre-orders, then all of your sales start on the first day of the book’s release.  It might take time for the news of your book’s release to trickle through all the promotional avenues of your choice, and this could buy you a few days to weeks of steady sales, which could help with ranking and exposure.

***

So will pre-orders help or hurt you?  I don’t know.  Sales are like a roller coaster as it is.  Things like time of year, promotions, ads, word of mouth, etc can effect your sales throughout the life of your book.  All I’ve learned from this business is that there are no guarantees.  You might write the book you believe will appeal to a wide audience.  You did your research.  You put in popular character types (ex. alpha hero), popular situations (ex. a scandal), got an attractive cover (one that is way better than your other books), and have a description with popular keywords in it.  But when you publish it, the book sinks…fast, and it never recovers.  Then you write a book you don’t think will appeal to many, and it does better than the one you thought would sell great.  I’ve had that experience several times.

What makes one book sell well and not another is a mystery.  People keep asking me for a magic bullet, and there is no magic bullet.  You write, throw it out there, and see what sticks.

Pre-orders is another promotional tool at your disposal.  You can use it or not.  If it works for you, use it.  If it doesn’t, then don’t.  Just like everything else in this business, tailor your strategy to what you enjoy and what works best.  If someone tells your what you’re doing is wrong, ignore them.  They aren’t in your shoes.

Categories: Book Promotion, Business Plan, Marketing & Promoting | Tags:

Using The Audiobook Service ACX

I think I speak for many of us when I say we’d like to have our books in audiobook form. Besides being a possible way to connect to new readers who don’t necessarily like to sit down with a paperback or e-book and another possible source of revenue, audiobooks have a prestige to them. It’s sort of magical hearing your characters come to life in your car or in your earbuds through sound and description. It’s pretty powerful.

However creating an audiobook can be difficult. In addition to a book to narrate, you need an actor to read your book aloud if you aren’t comfortable or able to do it, plus recording equipment, maybe an engineer, something to edit the book with, and then some! And that can run up in terms of costs.

As one might expect, there’s a service that tries to make the process cost-effective and easy to do. Audiobook Creation Exchange, or ACX, is a service through Audible.com, which in turn is owned by Amazon, aims to match authors and their books to producers so they can create the audiobook together. I heard about it from an acquaintance of mine who had her book turned into an audiobook and got interested in it. So after some research, I’m sharing with you how it works and if it can potentially help you gain a wider audience.

First, what exactly is ACX? Founded in 2011, ACX is kind of like a matchmaking/dating service with the goal of creating an audiobook. Anyone who owns the right to the audiobook of a novel (such as authors, editors, publishers, agents, etc) can go on and find audiobook producers (narrators, recording studios, engineers, etc) who would be interested in producing your audiobook. The video they have on their website (the link is below) claims that only 5% of authors get their books turned into audiobooks, so they’re trying to change that.

What do you do? If you decide to use ACX, you sign up for the service using your Amazon account. Then you search for your book through Amazon’s database. Create a Title Profile, which include a description of your book and what it’s about, as well as what you are looking for in a producer (gender, special talents or accents they can do, etc). You also must upload a short one or two page excerpt for producers to use.

What happens next is that producers will look for books that they may be interested in narrating (and hopefully they may decide to do yours if they come across it). Producers will audition by taking your excerpt and recording themselves narrating it, and then sending it to you. Once you have a few auditions, you can go over the auditions, as well as find out a little bit more about the producers auditioning for you. You can most likely find out acting and audiobook experience, hourly rate, and so on and so forth. If you find an audition you really like, you contact the producer and make them an offer.

What sort of offers are there? There are two sorts of offers you can make to a producer once you’ve made a decision, and knowing which one to use is very important, so consider them carefully before sending a producer an offer. These are the sorts of deals available:

  • Pay a flat out fee. This is where you pay for the production costs of the audiobook. Each producer has his or her own rates, and you pay that amount for every finished hour of audiobook there is (for example, if I have an audiobook produced of either of my novels and the finished product is eight hours long and my narrator charges one-hundred dollars per hour, I would pay $800). You pay this fee at the end of the production period when you have reviewed the final product and given it your full approval. The fees vary wildly between producers, usually somewhere between $50-$200 with the average being around $100. You can also negotiate rates with your producer on their rates. The upside of this is that you get all the royalties at the end of production of this and you can decide whether to do exclusive distribution rights (which means the audiobook can only be sold through Amazon, Audible, and iTunes and you gain 40% of the royalties) or non-exclusive rights (which means you can sell the audiobook through other distributors and receive 25% of the royalties through the companies listed above).
  • Royalty Share Deal. In this deal, you forego fees and instead agree to split the royalties of any sales with your producer. This deal is handy because you don’t need to pay any fees upfront. However you can only distribute your audiobook through Amazon, Audible, and iTunes with this option and you only get 20% of the royalties, with the producer getting the other 20%.

Most narrators do a combination of these methods, so you’re probably going to find someone who is willing to either of these methods. Once you’ve hashed out the details with your producer, you’ll send them the official contract, which says you’ll work together to produce the audiobook, and that Amazon can distribute it for seven years, which is how long the contract lasts.

What’s the process like? The production process takes about 3-8 weeks, depending on the length of the book and the producer’s schedule. The producer will upload the first 15 minutes of the audiobook to the ACX secure website for you to get a sample. If you don’t like it, you can stop the process there or start a dialogue with the producer to see what could be fixed. After that, the producer will upload the book chapter by chapter until the whole book is completed and the author approves the final product. Once that is done, the producer will upload the book onto Audible/Amazon/iTunes, and you as the rights holder will get a notification email.

What happens after the book is uploaded? Hopefully people will buy the audiobook. In any case, Amazon has a contract with you that allows them to distribute through them (exclusively or non-exclusively, depending on the deal you made) for 7 years. After that, you can take down the audiobook, decide to have a new version produced, or extend the contract for another year. As the rights holder, it’s all up to you.

What if I want to narrate the book myself? There’s a process for that where you can do that. Basically you produce the audiobook yourself and upload it onto ACX’s website. Makes giving an offer easier, from what I hear.

What if I decide at the last minute the whole thing’s a mess or I don’t want my book in audio form? Well, then you can cancel the contract. As the rights holder, it’s well within your rights to do so. However, if you do that you’ll have to pay a fee one way or another so that the producer can come out of this with something. Depending on what deal you took, you could pay up to 75% of the producer’s fees or $500 plus whatever costs the producer incurred for producing the book.

How do I design a cover? ACX has their own cover guidelines that are too much bother to go over here, so I’m linking the page that has the guidelines to this article. Once you have some idea of what they’re looking for, it’s up to you to create or find someone to create the cover according to these guidelines.

What’s a Bounty Payment? As I understand it, if a new buyer to Audible buys your audiobook, you get a $50 bonus from Audible. It’s a great bonus system, from what I’m told. It encourages authors to advertise about their audiobooks, so new listeners will be encouraged to get the audiobook through Amazon, Audible, and iTunes.

What countries is ACX available in? At the moment ACX is only available in the US and Great Britain, though ACX is hoping to expand to other countries soon, most likely Canada and other North American countries before becoming established elsewhere. So keep your eyes peeled if you want to do an audiobook through ACX.

How much will my audiobook cost to buy? Depends on the length of the book in terms of hours. The more hours the book is, the more they charge. To guess at the price of your book, an hour of audiobook is about 9,300 words, so do some math and then visit ACX’s website and go to the price chart on the Distribution page to figure out how much your book will probably cost.

Should I do an audiobook? Well, that depends. Personally I’d recommend only going through the process if you feel there’s a demand for your audiobook. It’d suck to go through the whole production process and, whatever sort of deal you have with your producer, only receive a couple dollars here and there, or maybe nothing at all. So before deciding to try and produce an audiobook, see if there are a lot of people who’d want to buy an audio version of your book, and how much they’d be willing to pay for it.

 

There’s a lot of potential in audiobooks, no matter how you look at it. Perhaps your book will be read by a great many in audio form, if you decide to go this route e to produce it.   Jut make sure you feel that it’s right for you, for your book, and that there is a demand for your audiobook before you do so.

Has anyone here used ACX before? What was your experience like? What tips do you have for authors considering using it?

And here’s the link to the website if you want to do more research on your own.

Categories: Amazon store, Author Platform & Branding, Book Formatting, Book Promotion, Marketing & Promoting, Publishing Trends, Writing as a Business, Writing Partnerships | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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