Welcome to the Zipper Club

Bruce Ballister

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In Defense of Hybrid Publishing

I belong to quite a few different social media groups that relate to writing and publishing. And every once in a while, a savvy new author will share information about a publishing deal they have been offered and ask the group’s feedback.

Oftentimes, these offers come from hybrid publishers. Upon hearing that, many people will start chiming in with things like, “If you have to pay your publisher, it’s a scam!” and “Publishers pay authors, not the other way around!”

I cringe every time I read those responses… But it’s clear by their vehemence that there’s little I can say that will change their minds.

To me, the question is no different than whether an entrepreneur should do their own bookkeeping and taxes rather than spend time working in their own area of genius. If you’re not doing what you’re best at, you’re not going far fast.

And just as there are bookkeepers and accountants who are crooks (sorry, guys!), it’s not all of them. Just as not all hybrid publishers are bad.

Here’s the truth of the matter as I (a hybrid publisher) see it, and how we explain things to the authors we speak with.

What is Publishing?

Essentially, “publishing” is the process of taking a manuscript and producing a book out of it. It’s that simple. No matter what path you take, that’s all that publishing is…

The process includes things like editing, designing, pricing, printing, distributing and marketing the book–every single time. No matter how the book is published.

However, there are different business models one can use to publish a book, and each has its pros and cons. So it’s important for authors to assess which model suits their needs best.

Traditional Publishing

With traditional publishing, the publisher takes on the expense (and risk) of producing the book. So they require creative control over its content, design and final format to maximize the book’s sale-ability. They also receive the lion’s share of the sales proceeds (typically 90%), even though the author is the one responsible for selling the book.

For an author who is writing their book to build a business or brand or to launch a writing career, pursuing the traditional publishing route can create significant problems. In addition to losing creative control over their book, they also have no say regarding the project timeline. It can take 18 months to 2 years for their book to be released and if, at that time, the publisher decides there’s not a sufficient market for the book anymore, they don’t ever have to actually release it.

Yet some authors still prefer this publishing path because they believe there is a certain cachet or prestige readers will place on a book when the title is published by a big name house. But, let me ask this… When was the last time you bought a book based on who published it?

For the most part, the distribution channels available to traditional publishers are the same as those available to books published by other means. So there’s no great advantage there either.

The most significant positive to pursuing this publishing route is the existing relationships large publishers already have with retailers, which can smooth the way for getting a book into stores, but it’s no guarantee.

Self-Publishing

The business model at the other extreme from traditional publishing is self-publishing. In this model, the author pays for any expenses related to the production of the book and acts as the publisher. As a result, they assume the responsibilities of a publisher, including the editing, designing, pricing, printing, distributing and marketing of the book.

The author/publisher does retain creative control and reaps all of the profit from book sales, but they are also responsible for adhering to publishing standards they may not even be aware of. And a lack of adherence to those standards can easily result in poor sales.

As soon as an author chooses to self-publish, they effectively have opened a publishing business. And for that business to be successful, they need to learn the ins and outs associated with editing, cover design, layout and formatting, production in various formats (large print, audiobook, and hardcover in addition to paperback and eBooks), pricing, sales tax, tax-exempt sales, printing, distribution, advertising, marketing and more.

They need to understand what retailers anticipate in terms of wholesale discounts, and how to maximize the reach of books so that they are accessible to consumers, retailers, schools and libraries.

Because of the sheer breadth of things to know, many self-published authors stop at simply distributing their books on Amazon in just one or two formats. However, that choice significantly reduces the sales of a book–meaning it significantly reduces the money in the author’s pocket.

In the first quarter of 2019, 68% of the revenue generated from sales of books published by my company, Emerald Lake Books, took place on Amazon. The rest came from other sources.

What would it mean to you as an author if you could increase your book sales revenue by 32% with a little extra effort? How many more readers would that mean for you? Or prospective new clients?

Unless you are writing because you want to be a publisher, having to manage all of these extra pieces well takes away from the time you could spend doing the things you want to be doing.

Hybrid Publishing

In between these two models is hybrid publishing. In this scenario, an author is essentially hiring someone with the knowledge and expertise to successfully produce a quality book, while the author retains most of the creative control and a significant share of the profit. While the author does pay for the services rendered by the publisher, they have the help, support and guidance they need, in most cases.

I started Emerald Lake Books after self-publishing five different books and encountering different issues with each one. Unfortunately, when you’re new to something, you don’t always know what you don’t know. And while there is plenty of information out there to help you figure things out, some of it is misleading and just plain wrong. And sometimes you encounter things you didn’t even think about looking into beforehand!

So when I had friends coming to me asking for help with their books, I realized that I had knowledge and experience other authors needed, and I was willing to dig in, make a study of publishing, and figure things out. That’s how Emerald Lake Books came into being.

And I’ll be honest. We’re still learning… As we’ve expanded our catalogue, we’ve encountered new situations that we’ve had to work our way through. For example, when we published our first authors outside of the U.S., we ran into questions (this time tax-related) that we didn’t even think about before we started those projects.

The key here is, we keep learning. We keep expanding our reach, introducing additional formats, and getting better all the time at what we do.

Most hybrid publishers, like ourselves, are paid in advance for services rendered, and then retain some portion of the royalties as well. In our case, we keep 50%, but we are continually sharing publicity and marketing opportunities with our authors, running ad campaigns for our books, and revising and refreshing our book listings to keep them current.

In addition, reputable hybrid publishers like us don’t accept just any manuscript. Submissions are vetted and must fit within the mission and vision of the publisher’s program. These are just two of the nine criteria that the International Book Publishers Association (IBPA) has set for all hybrid publishers adhere to. (View the full list here: https://www.ibpa-online.org/general/custom.asp?page=hybridpublisher.)

What Makes Emerald Lake Books Unique?

Emerald Lake Books adheres to all nine of those criteria, but then takes things even farther. We partner with our authors from the beginning of every project, teaching them the things they will need to know in order to succeed as an author. After all, if you succeed because of what we teach you, we all succeed!

Therefore, we base our philosophy on the old adage of “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” Since you’ll be growing your business and marketing your book for its entire lifetime, we’d rather guide you through understanding how to market things yourself, and what your priorities should be in marketing than to actually do the work for you.

As Zig Ziglar used to say, “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” That is our aim and focus in everything we do.

When we take our authors through a process that helps them articulate what publishing success would look like for them, they have what they need to then chart a course to achieve those goals.

In the past year, the books we have published have received numerous 5-star editorial reviews, awards and recognitions from independent sources, which has all been part of the plan for these authors and their books. But in addition to that, these authors have launched (or re-launched) businesses, seen their books adopted into university Marketing programs, grown their mailing lists, increased traffic on their websites (good for SEO), established their expertise, sold more of their products and services, and received both speaking invitations and consulting inquiries.

These are the things we have helped our authors achieve with the books we have published and coaching we’ve provided. We have even canonized our unique coaching process into a book called Publish with Purpose because we want to help every author create the best possible outcomes for themselves.

Beware the Vanity Publishers

Unfortunately, there is a subset of hybrid publishers who are better called “vanity publishers.” They will take any manuscript, produce whatever the author wants, and disappear after the book is published, leaving the author with a substandard product that’s improperly positioned and hard to sell. 

These are the folks that give the rest of hybrid publishers a bad reputation. They are crooks and cheats and are, in our experience, the exception, not the norm.

So, you always want to make sure that you check carefully into any publisher you use, especially a hybrid publisher. A good starting point is to find out whether they follow the IBPA standards. But you’ll also want to look for reviews, testimonials, complaints or references–anything that tells you about the experiences others have had with a particular publisher.

In our case, testimonials from our authors are readily available on our site and we’re happy to put prospective new authors in touch with our published authors if we decide that we are interested in a particular book for our catalogue.

So if you’re curious as to whether working with a hybrid publisher is right for you and you want to explore working with Emerald Lake Books, we invite you to fill out an application and tell us a bit about your book and what you want to accomplish with it.

How is a list price set for a book?

I was recently asked the question, “How do you set a list price for a book?”

Sometimes our authors want their books to sell at a certain price, mostly because they want to make the book affordable for readers. And that’s definitely an important goal to keep in mind.

But a list price isn’t something you can just pull out of thin air. There’s actually a formula you need to keep in mind to make sure you can financially justify the price that’s set. That’s why it’s typically the publisher setting the list price rather than the author. The publisher has key information about production costs that need to be factored into the final price.

Understand the Market

At Emerald Lake Books, we start by looking at the prices of other books in the genre. From a reader standpoint, if two books on the same topic or of similar interest are both of good quality with positive reviews, the price may be a determining factor in their purchasing decision. So you don’t want a list price that’s too much of an outlier compared to other books on the shelf with yours.

Different genres have different “norms” for anticipated list prices as well. If you’re setting the list price yourself, you should be able to figure out the norms based on your research of competing titles. If not, use Google or another search engine to look for something along the lines of “average list price for books” or “average list price for paperback books,” etc. based on the specific information you’re looking for.

While this will help identify a range of potential price points, eventually, we need to decide where your book falls within that range.

Often, that’s based more on the author’s platform and perceived sales potential of the book. If the author is a first-time author or has a small following, the list price may be in the lower half of the range to entice potential readers to take a chance on it. A-listers or well-known authors can anticipate more sales simply because of their name recognition, so it’s easier to justify a higher price point for their books.

Run the Numbers

Once we’ve identified a range of prices we think might work for each format of the book, the next thing to do is “run the numbers.” As with any business, we want to make a reasonable profit on a sale, and we certainly don’t want to lose money on the sale of a book.

So, we have to identify the production and delivery costs of a book and factor that into its list price. These costs differ based on format, obviously, which is why there’s such a difference in pricing between eBooks and printed books.

Pricing eBooks

For the most part, the pricing of eBooks has to do with the genre. But we also need to consider the delivery costs of the eBook and that’s based on its file size.

The formula to calculate the list price for eBooks is:

(Royalty rate x list price) – delivery costs = royalty

For Amazon, the delivery fee is calculated by multiplying the file size by 0.15 (Amazon charges $0.15/MB at the 70% royalty rate).

Therefore, to set the eBook price, we calculate the delivery charge and adjust the list price until you reach your desired royalty rate.

Let’s say we want to receive a royalty payment of $2.00 on an eBook that’s 9MB. We can easily calculate the delivery charge (9 * 0.15) to see that Amazon will charge $1.35 to deliver the book.

Now our formula looks like this:

(0.70*x) – 1.35 = 2.00
Add 1.35 to both sides.
0.7x = 3.35
Divide both sides by 0.7.
x = 4.79

Therefore:

(70% * 4.79) – 1.35 = 2.003

Once we’ve identified what we think the list price should be, we go back and compare it to the range of prices for competing titles and adjust as necessary. Does it fit? Does it make sense? Does this author have a large enough platform that we can justify being in the top end of the range?

Pricing Printed Books

While you don’t have delivery charges for printed books, you do have printing (and possibly shipping) costs that are incurred to produce the book. And this is where authors can get into trouble if they’re hoping to distribute their book beyond just Amazon.

If a book is sold directly to a library or retailer, their anticipated wholesale discount is 40% off the list price. However, if a book is sold to a retailer through a distributor, the distributor receives anywhere from 5–15% of the list price (on top of the retailer discount). So, books can conceivably be sold wholesale to retailers via a distributor for up to 55% off list price.

Therefore, your royalties might be calculated on only the remaining 45% of the list price. But, wait! We haven’t accounted for printing and shipping!

It is essential when setting the list price to make sure that all printing and shipping costs (commonly referred to as just “print costs” or the “price per book”) can be covered and still have something left over. I’ve seen some authors price their books in such a way that they are actually losing money if a retailer wants to sell their book. And that’s no way to stay in business long.

Amazon, like other retailers, gets 40% off the list price. The publisher’s royalty is calculated on 60% of the list price, less the printing costs.

So, the formula to calculate the list price for printed books is:

(Royalty rate x list price) – print costs = royalty

To settle on the list price then, we need to estimate our print costs (most printers have calculators where we can check that quickly).

We’ve a simple spreadsheet that shows us the royalties of a book whose total print cost is x and list price is y. All we need to do is plug in those two numbers, and we can see immediately what the royalty will be when the book is sold at both 55% and 40% off the list price.

We continue to play with the numbers until we know we’ll earn at least $2.50 (preferably $3.00) when a book is sold at a 55% discount. We focus on that specific number knowing that if we can make that work, then books sold at a 40% discount will simply produce a larger profit for us.

Setting the list price for a book is all a numbers game. Know your numbers and adjust them until comfortable.

We Book Like a Boss, and You Can Too!

Building a business often involves a few growing pains, whether you're a writer or you sell some other product or service. Demands on your time begin to outstrip the time you actually have available to give, and it becomes necessary to find solutions that help you manage your business better.

As a tech lover, I get excited each time I come across a product, service or tool that I believe can help reduce my workload. So, for awhile there, I became a real AppSumo junkie. As soon as I turned the alarm off on my phone in the morning, I'd check out what the latest AppSumo deal was.

If you're not familiar with AppSumo, it's a platform where you can buy lifetime deals to neat new products, tools and services. And I was definitely addicted.

I'm not complaining, though. (Although my business partner might grumble a bit about how much I spent during that phase of our growth…)

This was where I found many of the solutions that helped us grow our business in ways that protected my sanity and allowed us to serve our customers best.

One of my favorite early finds is Book Like a Boss. We still use this tool all the time.

Back in June 2017, I wrote this testimonial for Book Like a Boss:

I've spent decades working with software developers, and an unfortunate trait of many programmers is that they focus on their great idea rather than what the user wants or needs. BLAB is refreshingly open to user feedback. They started with a great idea that's been made even better by its user community and, in the end, we all benefit. BLAB has made it that much easier for me to coordinate my client meetings and payments in ways that work for me and my organization. BLAB has a lifelong customer in Emerald Lake Books!

Since that time, they have grown to over 12,000 users in over 100 countries. And that approach to customer service continues to this day, making it an easy solution for us to recommend to others. So, what is Book Like a Boss (or "BLAB" for short)?

It is your online personal booking assistant. It provides an all-in-one solution for entrepreneurs looking to create a booking page that sells products or services, takes appointments, and collects payments.

It allows you to skip the frustration of playing email tag, and makes scheduling meetings and selling your services effortless with an all-in-one, simple, custom booking page.

For a detailed look at what's available, check out this review video.

Emerald Lake Books' review of Book Like a Boss

As you can see, we're pretty pleased with all that Book Like a Boss can do. And their development team is continually seeking to make it better.

When Emerald Lake Books contacted the creator of Book Like a Boss to let him know that we planned to write a review of his software, Nachum Kligman provided us with an interview for our readers.

Since our main focus was to provide our authors with a great tool to simplify their business lives, we asked Nachum if he had any advice specific to authors. Little did we realize at the time that Book Like a Boss was developed after Nachum's own book came out and he experienced firsthand the need for a simple scheduling platform that allowed people to both schedule appointments and sell products and services.

Listen in while Nachum shares his story.

Nachum Kligman, creator of Book Like a Boss

So, if you like what you see here, we encourage you to get your copy of Book Like a Boss at emeraldlakebooks.com/blab* and use the coupon code "EmeraldLake" for a significant discount.

[Note: Please note this* is an affiliate link. If you purchase Book Like a Boss, Emerald Lake Books will receive a small commission at no cost to you. Rest assured, though, that we only promote products that we use ourselves and can recommend without hesitation.]

What’s In Your Writer’s File?

Perhaps you’re familiar with Samuel L. Jackson’s punch line in his commercials for Capital One. After he tells you everything that the card is not, he tells you what it is and asks the viewers, “What’s in your wallet?”

I’m going to ask you a variation on the question, though, and it has nothing to do with your credit cards or your wallet.

I’m going to ask instead, “What’s in your writer’s file?”

“What’s a writer’s file?” you might inquire in return.

While its form may vary from one writer to another, its purpose remains the same. 

A writer’s file is a repository of thoughts and ideas too good to risk losing, but that don’t have a place to call their own yet. Sometimes, they are things that strike us funny throughout the day. Other times, they’re thoughts or emotions that we know will fly away if we don’t capture them before they flee.

My guess is that the popular book Anguished English, by Richard Lederer (otherwise known as “An Anthology of Accidental Assaults upon Our Language”), probably started out as a stack of scrap paper with scrawled notes recording such assaults discovered by Richard or sent to him by his friends and students.

These notes would have all had a home in his writer’s file, until such a day and time when he realized that his file was spilling out onto the floor and he needed to do something with them. Unable to bear the idea of parting with these precious gems of humor, he decided that an anthology was just the thing for them! And writing an anthology would then justify his continued hoarding of such dastardly assaults on the English language so that he could go on to write other books in the series.

These days, though, we have the benefit of using digital writer’s files. (My personal favorite is Evernote.) No more senseless cutting down of trees or household safety hazards from runaway scraps of paper.

Of course, some of these tidbits just tickle my funnybone and would never make their way into my writing. Things like the auto detailing shop I once saw while I was traveling with a large banner hanging outside advertising “Clear Bras!” To get the full sense of this, though, you have to understand… I saw the banner before I had any clue what the store was. So I was a bit puzzled by what these odd Midwesterners were up to.

Or another entry memorializing the day I found my cat licking a page of my erasable notebook. To get the full impact, you have to understand that the pages of this notebook are erased by wiping them with a damp cloth… So, when I saw my cat licking an open page, I had a momentary panic wondering if his rough tongue had blotted out all my client meeting notes. (Thankfully, it hadn’t!)

As a nonfiction writer, I have no idea when I might ever use those entries in my writer’s file, but they’re too precious to just let slip.

So, what’s in your writer’s file? Share your favorite entry with me. I’d love to hear it. 

Is writing a book right for you?

Way back in 2010, I started a small struggling business called “Aleweb Social Marketing.” It had started out as a consulting firm teaching small businesses how to get ahead by using social marketing. The problem was, many small businesses were still trying to figure out whether they even needed to incorporate social media into their businesses. (Can you believe it?)

But one segment of my client base was growing organically: speakers who were authors.

It took me a year and a half to clue into the fact that working with small businesses wasn’t getting me anywhere, fast! But when I finally did, the focus of my company shifted to figuring out the best ways to help authors and speakers market their books and presentations.

Knowing that I needed a unique way to reach this target market and convince them that I was the best resource for them, I decided to write a book.

Within three months, I wrote and published my first eBook, The Plan that Launched a Thousand Books, in May 2012.

It took a lot of hard work to pull together the content, get a cover designed, and figure out exactly just how to create and publish an eBook, but I did it. And I was proud of the results! (Although I’m a little embarrassed by the 1st edition of the book these days…)

My primary goal with the eBook was to use it to establish a relationship with my readers–all of whom were potential future clients for me.

I held nothing back. I gave them the best ideas and resources I had at that time, knowing that it would either:

  1. Convince them of the hard work necessary so that they’d hire me to do it instead, or
  2. Help those who couldn’t afford me to make enough progress with their marketing to send the rest of it to me once they’d raised some funds.

And it was actually quite good for that. I started receiving emails and phone calls from readers all over the world who were getting a lot out of my book, and who wanted more.

What I didn’t bank on was the fact that my methods and resources are continually changing, just as the technology and publishing industries are. And some of the recommendations I made in the book were outdated two short years later. So, I updated the book and published it as both an eBook and paperback this time.

What a huge difference that made! Little did I realize at the time, but eBooks would eventually account for only 29% of our sales. The paperback was where it was at! 

And my business continued to grow. I’d learned my lesson well though and I listened to what my peers and clients needed.

More and more, I heard that they wanted help not just promoting their books and creating websites, but also with publishing their books. So, I started a second company to supplement the first, and Emerald Lake Books was born.

Little did I know that in the space of twelve months, Emerald Lake Books would become my primary business, and Aleweb Social Marketing would be absorbed into it.

Yet all of this came from writing a book that served the basic needs of the type of person I wanted to work with most. (I actually went to a couple of my favorite clients and asked them what they needed!)

If I’d never written The Plan and established myself as an expert in book marketing, Emerald Lake Books wouldn’t exist. And one of the most satisfying parts of my life would be missing.

This is how I discovered the power of a strategically written book.

The Plan that Launched a Thousand Books has gone on to win numerous awards, it’s built my mailing list, garnered me speaking engagements, and justified increasing my consulting fees. It’s established my expertise in a way that is genuine and authentic, and that came from a position of service and giving. If a reader was inclined to do all the work themselves, they had enough information in the book to be able to do that. And that made me feel good!

It meant that the readers who contacted me were those I truly had something to offer. I wasn’t keeping the magic ingredient to my awesomesauce secret. Anyone could pick up the book and follow the instructions. But those who felt their time was better spent elsewhere and could afford to work with me contacted me about working together.

I wasn’t out there chasing leads. I was giving back, and feeling good about it, all while building a business that could support my family.

Two years later, I was able to bring in my best friend, Mark Gerber, as my business partner, and Emerald Lake Books has grown even more since then.

We’ve defined a unique process that combines business coaching with publishing so that we can help others do exactly the same thing that I was able to do with my book.

We’ve hired people to help us, both as coaches to help us grow and as team members to support our increased workload. While Mark and I are the only full-time permanent people in the company, we have a team of ten other hand-selected people who work with us regularly on our projects.

Our six-figure business grew from one little book idea that was strategically written, carefully crafted, impeccably designed, and properly positioned.

Just as important, I knew exactly what I wanted my readers to get out of the book and what I wanted the book to accomplish for my business. And I was clear about the overall impact I wanted the book to have.

These three factors have become crucial elements of our Publish with a Purpose framework, which we use with all of our authors as part of helping them create books that get results.

If you have been wondering whether a book is right for you or how to write a book that serves a specific purpose, I invite you to schedule a call with us.

How to Use Your Book as a Powerful Marketing Tool

Join Tara R. Alemany of Emerald Lake Books and host Robert Imbriale as they discuss how a book can be used to solve some of your worst business problems. This video was originally recorded for the 2018 Marketing Thunder conference, hosted by Marketing Motivation author Robert Imbriale, and aired on September 18, 2018.

We help positive people create effective books, using our experience to get your message across, establish your expertise and build your business!

How to Write a Good Review on Amazon

Let’s say that you just finished reading a book that you loved. Perhaps it was even one of Emerald Lake Books’ latest titles. Whatever it was, following it up with a review is a good habit to get into.

Reviews provide encouragement, feedback and constructive criticism for authors, which is something we all stand to benefit from.

But reviews also serve to help future buyers and prospective readers decide whether a title is right for them or not. Your honest review can help them decide whether to invest their time and money in a book.

So let’s take a few minutes to understand how to write a compelling review for Amazon.

Every review consists of three parts: a star rating, the review itself and a headline or title for the review.

Understanding Star Ratings

Every item on Amazon can be quickly critiqued by selecting a star rating from 1 to 5. So as you’re thinking about the book you’ve just read (or any other product you’ve just finished trying), the first step is to figure out what star rating to assign to it.

Amazon’s definition of each of the stars is:

  • 5 – I love it
  • 4 – I like it
  • 3 – It’s okay
  • 2 – I don’t like it
  • 1 – I hate it

Short and sweet, but easy to decipher.

As much as every author loves to receive five-star reviews, it’s also unrealistic to expect everyone to love the same book. A five-star review should be reserved for when the book has everything: strong writing, solid content, great editing, etc.

Ultimately, the test is this: If this is a book that you know all your friends and family should read, and that you know you’ll be reading again, then it’s five-star worthy.

Elements of a Good Review

Once you’ve chosen your star rating, you’ll be asked to write your review. This is the bulk of what you have to say about the book you’ve just read. While you can write anything you want here, you can make your review ultra-useful by including the following information:

  • Write the review as if you’re explaining to a friend why they should read the book. While the author is certainly interested in what you have to say about their book, it’s a prospective reader who’s going to base their decision about whether to read the book based on what you share.
  • Include something about the book itself so that prospective readers understand what it’s about.
  • Share something that stood out to you or resonated with you. What was it? Why did it impact you the way it did?

Remember, your review is about the book and how it impacted you. It is not about you or about any technical difficulties you may have had with downloading it. So make sure that you stay on topic if you want to write a compelling review.

Give It a Compelling Headline

After you’ve written your review, summarize it by giving your review a compelling headline. Some reviewers use this as a call-to-action directed at a prospective buyer. Others use it to accentuate a key point in their review.

Whatever your preference is, use it as a means of capturing the reader’s attention so that they take the time to read what you’ve had to say about the book.

A Word of Caution

Amazon has a clearly stated policy against friends and family writing reviews for an author’s book. In their estimation, if you have a close relationship with an author, you’re unlikely to write an unbiased review.

Therefore, keep your review focused on the book itself and not on the author. Amazon does actively seek out reviews that give the impression of a close personal relationship with the author and removes them without warning.

So don’t let your review go to waste. Keep it focused on the book and its value to a prospective reader.

Want to Learn More?

Amazon has a great set of FAQs for customer reviews that answer many frequently asked questions as well as a clearly stated set of customer review guidelines.

What Should I Say in My Acknowledgments?

Some authors struggle with what to write in their Acknowledgments. Others know exactly what they want to say and how. If you find yourself in the former group and want a quick starting point for writing yours, here’s a brief summary for you.

Essentially, you want to create a list of those “without whom this book would not have come into existence.” It’s common to acknowledge friends who encouraged your research and writing, clients who inspired your specific subject, mentors and idols who set your thoughts aflight, beta readers who helped to improve the book with their feedback, and individuals specifically involved in the production of the book (namely editors, designers and publishers).

The simplest way to do that is to group people together based on the role they played in relation to the book and allow those specific individuals who played a more significant role to have a line or two of their own.

As for the tone, we like the advice of a friend over at Greenleaf:

Overall, the best way to write an acknowledgment is to make it personal, professionally casual, and descriptive (ie: don’t simply say “Thanks to my editor, Gil.” Tell us why Gil rocked.).

As for length, 1-2 pages is great. Any more and it can become too unfocused and rambling. A reader will lose interest quickly. But oftentimes what a reader is looking for in an Acknowledgment is whether they know anyone named in it, and why that person’s contribution mattered to you.

The best suggestion we can give you is to pick a few titles off your bookshelf and peruse the Acknowledgments there. See what resonates with you in terms of tone, style and length, and then endeavor to create your own version of it.

And if you’re still wondering if it’s really worth it, consider this:

Gratitude is contagious …and… No one succeeds alone.

Use your acknowledgments to give your readers a brief insight into who you are, what you value, and to remind them why they like you.

Using Author-Supplied Cover Designs

Occasionally, we are asked if we will accept a cover designed by someone else.

The short answer is, “yes!” But it requires a bit of explanation…

While our preference is to design the covers we use, as long as the covers provided meet our criteria, we’re happy to use them.

Per our publishing agreement, as the publisher, we hold all final approvals of the designs and images used. But your input and approval are significant to us.

Since the cover is a critical element of the book’s marketing efforts, we don’t begin its design until we’re sure of that direction. Therefore, we would ask that your designer coordinates with us regarding the appropriate time to start the design.

If you have a specific designer, illustrator or photographer you’d like to use, please send us relevant samples of their work or a link to their website. We will arrange a conversation to discuss concepts, direction and deadlines so we can collaborate with them on suitable ideas. Ideally, the process will include our approving submitted sketches or initial designs before moving to a final cover design.

The final size of the book (the “trim size”) is often not established until later in the publishing process. However, the design must adhere to the necessary specs for its use. Once the trim size is established, a template will be provided.

The final design must be submitted to us according to the following specifications:

  • The design will consist of the front cover only. Back cover content often changes until just before the release of the book and we require the flexibility to update the cover as needed.
  • The design must be based on the template we provide.
  • The design must be flexible enough to include a high-profile endorsement. Again, those endorsements may not be available until later in the process. We reserve the right to adjust the design to accommodate the endorsement, if necessary.
  • Acceptable applications used to create the design or image are Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. Neither Quark nor Corel Draw files are accepted. Contact us if your designer wants to use a different application so we can determine if it’s compatible with our workflow.
  • Submit all original source files, including fonts. Do not outline the fonts since all copy must be editable.
  • Provide licenses for any stock images used on the cover.
  • The ownership of the copyright is between you and the artist/designer, but the license must grant rights for us to use the design/image for the cover and in any marketing efforts. If you are using an original image or photograph, we can provide a standard license to be signed by its creator.
  • All images provided must be CMYK and have a minimum resolution of 300 dpi at the size used.
  • If the image bleeds, it must be sized to accommodate trim (indicated in the template).

Any cover presented to us must be suitable for the genre of the book and the category in which the book will be listed.

If the provided cover design is approved for use, your overall publishing fees will be adjusted as specified on the Your Estimate page later in this proposal.

What’s It Like to Become a Published Author?

Many writers dream of having their work published someday. And those dreams follow different courses to fulfillment.

Some attempts are met with piles of rejection letters from literary agents and publishers, while the rare gem finds its way through the slush pile and onto a bookstore shelf with the backing of a “traditional publisher.”

Other authors forego that route in favor of publishing their books on their own. Sometimes, this is because they have more time than money to invest in the process. And other times, it’s so that they can retain creative control of their work.

And then there are those authors who opt for a middle ground, where they hire the services they need performed so they can focus more on their writing than on the publishing process itself.

Become a published authorAs an author, our founding partner, Tara R. Alemany, has six titles to her credit, and each was indie published in a variety of ways. Some, she self-published. Two, she went with a so-called “vanity publisher,” and the others were anthologies she contributed to that were independently published by other people. And it was her frustrating experiences with each that led her to start Emerald Lake Books, simply to provide a better alternative to other authors than those she’d experienced herself.

With so many different avenues to go from a manuscript to a finished book, things that were once clear no longer are.

When we talk about publishing today, you’ll hear terms like “traditional publisher,” “self-publishing,” “indie publisher,” “vanity press,” “small press,” “service publisher,” and many other variations.

There’s a reason for all that murkiness…

Publishing itself has changed

The clearly defined roles and responsibilities of publishers and authors have changed.

We’ve been advocating for a few years now that it’s really all just publishing.

You’re taking a manuscript, designing it, publishing it, and distributing it so that it reaches the hands of appropriate readers.

All of the other terms used to refer to that process are describing the business model used in your publishing arrangement. Are you paying for services rendered up-front, like with a service publisher? Or are you paying for services rendered out of sales of your book, like with a traditional publisher? Alternatively, you may choose a blend of the two by working with a hybrid publisher, where you pay some fees up front and the rest from a royalty share.

Or you may not pay any fees at all by doing all the work on your own. For authors who have taken the time to learn how to create a professional product, this puts all of the money in their pockets, which is great! We see this work well for a lot of our friends who are fiction authors. Their business is the business of selling their books. So, they take it seriously, learn how to do it properly, and create some great, enjoyable material.

Unfortunately, it’s also an option that is often chosen by people who have no other publishing opportunities, but who also lack the skills to do it right. So it can be a source of lower quality material making its way to the marketplace as well.

So who is responsible for what?

A common lament of traditionally published authors is that they are responsible for the bulk of the marketing efforts. They find it frustrating to only see 10% of the royalties from book sales, while they do 90% of the work to sell it.

However, that’s a somewhat short-sighted complaint when you consider that the publisher invested the necessary money to edit, design, publish, print and distribute the book. They saw value in what was written and took a chance on it, which means you get to have your book published, but they need the author’s efforts to make back their investment.

At the same time, if the publisher has gone that far with it, why don’t they do more marketing themselves to ensure their investment works out?

Similar questions can be asked of the other publishing models. It always comes down to two things: time and money—and the best way to leverage them.

We are often asked why we charge fees up front and take a royalty share, and the answer is simple. Our business model is to be paid for services rendered. But our work doesn’t end there. Once the book is published, there are on-going things we do to support both the author and the book, and we get “paid” for that out of the results of our efforts. If we simply handed the book over to the author and had nothing more to do with either the author or the book, then receiving a royalty share wouldn’t make sense. But that’s not how we work. Instead, we build long-term relationships with our authors that are mutually beneficial. And when we’re both working to sell the book, we both should reap the reward.

That said, every author has to find the business model that “feels right” to them and that fits their current needs and circumstances.

Finding what works

How you publish your book is one thing. What you do with it afterward is another.

Marketing, promotion, social media, reviews—it seems like there’s a never-ending list of things that need to be done. This lead to a common complaint we hear from authors, “There’s no time left to write!”

The problem we see is that people aren’t certain what works and what doesn’t, so they try everything they hear about, hoping something will lead them to the Holy Grail of book sales.

And as the industry grows and changes, what worked last year may not work this year.

That’s what led us to wonder…

  • What was your publishing experience like? And how does it compare to other authors’ experiences?
  • What worked for you? And what didn’t?
  • Are you happy the results? Or would you do things differently if you were to do it again?

Rather than just wondering, though, we felt that information was valuable enough that it should be captured, recorded and shared. With enough insight into “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of the Authors’ Publishing Experience,” we might be able to help improve the industry for both authors and publishers.

As far as we know, there’s no other survey like this one around.

Sure, there are other industry surveys that cover sales figures, which formats sell best, and in which parts of the world. But we have yet to find a survey that assesses the author’s experience when publishing a book, no matter which publishing model they went with. We want to know: What worked? What didn’t? How can we improve what we, as publishers, do? Where can authors make more of an impact on the success of their book? Does the outcome improve with experience? What is the best use of your marketing budget?

An invitation for you…

All these questions and more are covered in our survey, and we are very interested to explore your opinions and ideas. It doesn’t matter how you published your book, or whether it’s your first or fiftieth book. All that matters is your willingness to share your experience with publishing your book, so we all may learn from it.

If you’d like your voice to be heard, please visit emeraldlakebooks.com/survey to get started. The survey itself will be open until February 14, 2018, and should take approximately 20 minutes to complete, but everyone who completes it will be given the opportunity to receive a copy of the results when the survey is done.

And if you’re inclined to share the survey link with others, we’d truly appreciate it!

Facebook Author Parties/Events and Why We Do Them

Over the summer, I participated in a Facebook event unlike any I had ever been to before. It was an online Women’s Fiction Summer Party. A collection of women’s fiction authors banded together to hold a Facebook event that lasted several hours (5!). By cross-promoting the event, these authors were helping each other to increase their fanbase and mailing lists.

This same group of authors is hosting their next event, a Facebook Author Holiday Party on November 7, 2017. So, if you want to see this phenomenon in action, check it out!

The idea seemed ingenious to me and was one I wanted to learn more about, so I contacted one of the participating authors, Patricia Sands, to see if she’d be willing to fill me in on the process behind the event a bit more. After spending a lovely hour talking with her, I knew I wanted to share this information with you as well, so I asked her to write today’s guest blog post–the first ever on the Emerald Lake Books website!

So, without further ado, here’s Patricia’s feedback on how to hold a successful Author Party on Facebook for your fans.


The key ingredient to success is organization.

After being a novelist for eight years, I have learned many lessons about interactions on Facebook with readers. The bottom line is that writers and readers all benefit from opportunities to connect with each other. Make them fun!

Facebook author events are always chaotic with many conversation threads going at the same time. It is essential to refresh your page regularly to keep up with the chat. Some people actually follow along on a second device, such as an iPad, phone, or another computer. I have not mastered that technique yet!

The Setup

There are Author Assistants (AA) who offer services to manage such an event. In my opinion, this assistance and experience are crucial to the success of the party. What our AA offers us is priceless. She helps put together graphics and makes suggestions with regard to the theme.

To participate in the event, each author commits to be present at a specific time and to provide at least one giveaway as a raffle prize for the readers.

Once all the authors are on board, the AA sets up a Google document or Excel spreadsheet. Each author enters their information into the spreadsheet, including desired time slot, name, giveaways, questions they want asked, website, Rafflecopter links, etc.

Facebook Author Event promo exampleWe typically have a theme for each Facebook author event (usually seasonal, for example, Summer Party) so our AA can prepare promotional graphics for us.

Each author shares about the event through all their social media platforms. We may even send a “save the date” message out first.

Our event is also cross-promoted as a Goodreads event. However, we hold off on serious promotions until a week before the event. At that time, each author invites all their “friends” on Facebook and Goodreads.

The Event

During the event, each author has a half-hour time slot (or whatever works based on the length of the party and number of authors) to be featured to the attendees. (Scheduling consideration is given for different time zones.)

The AA introduces each author at the appropriate time, including posting an author photo and book covers as well as other basic information about:

  • the author
  • the book being promoted at the party
  • their giveaway.

Ebooks and paperbacks are the standard prizes for giveaways. However, everyone makes an effort to add more creative prizes, from something as simple as Amazon gift cards or book bags to coffee mugs and candles.

At our last party, since my book was set in France, the biggest prize I gave away was a box of macarons (cookies) from France. It was a big hit.

For each giveaway, a question is posted by the author, always accompanied by a photo of something relating to the topic. The more fun you can make it, the better.

The AA monitors everything, keeping track of participants and winners. She comes in at the appointed times to introduce the next author and keeps everything to the established timeline.

The AA also sets up a Rafflecopter raffle, which fans must enter to be eligible for the BIG prize (established by the authors) and tasks must be completed to enter (such as subscribe to newsletter, “like” certain social media pages, “follow” on pages, etc.) Often the authors will all kick in an agreed amount for the “big” prize…say ten authors will each contribute $10 to offer a $100 gift card. Or $20 each and have a few smaller gift cards as well.

The After-Party

At the end of the event, the AA sends an email to the authors with contact information for the winners and a separate document with all of the new names.

Authors also go back into the event once it’s over and “like” any new person who attended.

Our experience with these events has been positive. We try to maintain meaningful topics for our questions that allow readers to tell us something about themselves, rather than us doing the talking. Each author attempts to respond to every comment posted on their threads…although this is not always possible when there is a high attendance.

The key thing is to make it fun, sincere and interesting…with good giveaways.

Patricia Sands, authorBestselling author Patricia Sands lives in Toronto, Canada, when she isn’t somewhere else, and calls the south of France her second home. I Promise You This, Book 3 in her award-winning Love in Provence trilogy, was published May 17, 2016. Her next novel, Drawing Lessons, was released by Lake Union Publishing on October 1, 2017.

Find out more at Patricia’s Facebook Author PageAmazon Author Page or her website. There are links to her books, social media, and a monthly newsletter that has special giveaways, photography from France, and sneak peeks at her next book. She loves hearing from readers.

Patricia is represented by Pamela Harty of The Knight Agency.