Novel Rocket

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Creating a Climate

by Marcia Lee Laycock

I live in a country where the weather is a constant focus of conversation. This summer for instance, everyone has been commenting on the heat or the last thunder storm that blew threw. Our climate lately seems out to prove that global warming is a reality. Because Canada is so vast there are several climate zones. To name a few, there’s the mountain zone which tends to be on the cooler side, the prairie zone which can be scorching, the coastal and maritime zones which are lush due to the amount of rain, and of course the Arctic zone which can reach amazing extremes.

The climate, of course, is caused by all kinds of varying factors and everyone knows it can be unpredictable. But there are certainties in each zone. The Maritimes will have more rain than the prairies and the arctic’s temperatures will dip lower than any other area of the country. The climate is dictated by their location.

A climate can be created by other things as well. A climate of fear, for instance, can be stirred up by the media. A climate of revolution can explode when governments don’t listen to their people. Such climates are dependant a great deal on the words used, over and over again, by those wanting to manipulate people and often whole countries. Just ask a political speech writer or a news anchorman. Just ask anyone who writes. The words matter.

I was at a gathering of friends lately that reinforced this in my mind and spirit. Some of those who were there use, well, I’ll call it ‘colourful’ language. Toward the end of our time together one of them turned to me and said something about the fact that they all knew I’d never use a certain curse word. I have pondered her motivations for saying that. She has known me for over 35 years. She knows there was a time in my life when I would have used that word and many others like it. So perhaps she was being sarcastic. Perhaps she was saying, “we knew you when you weren’t so holier than thou.” Or perhaps she was taunting me, trying to get me to say the word, to prove that I was, after all, just like them.

I’ve spent some time pondering that moment and my reaction to it. You see almost did say that word. I almost blurted it out, perhaps out of a need to belong, perhaps I just wanted to fit in or prove that I’m not “holier than thou.” I’m not sure. I’m still pondering. But I’m glad I stopped myself. I said no to that temptation because I know words matter and I believe that word, and others like it, create the kind of climate that is not where I want to live.

I want to live in a climate of peace, grace and love. So I try to follow Ephesians 4:29 – “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Because words matter. 


Marcia Lee Laycock writes from central Alberta Canada where she is a pastor's wife and mother of three adult daughters. She was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone. The sequel, A Tumbled Stone was short listed in The Word Awards. Marcia also has two devotional books in print and has contributed to several anthologies. Her work has been endorsed by Sigmund Brouwer, Janette Oke, Phil Callaway and Mark Buchanan.

Abundant Rain, an ebook devotional for writers can be downloaded here.

Her most recent release is the first book in a fantasy series, The Ambassadors

Sign up to receive her devotional column, The Spur

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Give Wattpad Another Try

If you spent two minutes in heaven, would it change your life?


Yes, I know, you've tried it. I've tried it. It doesn't work for serious authors. Most of us have posted our novel, or a snippet of our novel, on Wattpad, and watched in awe as a grand total of 17 people viewed our book that we sell on Amazon for $2.99. And then we realized that those 17 people were actually one person reading 17 chapters. And you posted 38.

Where are the millions of views? We are real authors, writing polished books, and 17 (really, one) people flock to our free offering while a twelve year-old girl named potterfan114 is getting 5 million views on her story about an Alpha (whatever THAT is) who falls in love with a high school cheerleader.

Wattpad may be the single most frustrating writing platform on the internet. Know why? Because it's not a writing platform. It is--say it with me--social media.

Ahhh, the collective groan at the mention of those two evil little words.

But you know the rules. They've been pounded into our heads lo these...four years. When using social media to promote your books, you. must. socialize.

And that's the big Wattpad secret. Let me ask you Facebook fans a question: if you did nothing on Facebook but drop an ad for your book and never return, how many followers would you get? How many books would you sell? 

So why would you expect better results from Wattpad?

Here are a few facts about Wattpad:

  • There are currently 14 million users worldwide.
  • Most of those users never write, they are there to read stories and talk about them with the authors and other readers.
  • The demographics are still weighted toward teens and pre-teens, but it is shifting toward us...ahem...older teens (as is always the pattern with social media...Facebook started out as a place for college kids to hang out).
  • Many authors on Wattpad have gained tens of thousands of followers who have gone on to buy their published books.
  • There is only one social network that lives solely for the purpose of bringing readers and writers together.

Did you read that last one twice? Do it again. As authors, it simply makes no sense to spend more time on Facebook and Twitter, where 1 of 10 people are avid readers, and zero time on Wattpad, where every single member is either a reader or writer (and writers are always readers). And every single follower you gain is interested in what you are writing. My not so humble opinion? I'll take one Wattpad follower over 100 Facebook followers. Because that Wattpad follower is as close to a guaranteed fan as you'll ever get on social media.

Here's what I want you to do. Get thee to and set up your account. Use your real author name, of course (potterfan114 is already taken), and...are you ready?

Don't post any of your writing!

That's what I said. Before you post a syllable, I want you to socialize. Read poorly written chapters and comment. Encourage the younger writers. Give them advice (caution: active teen hormones at play). 

Then check out that drop down menu at the top of the screen called “Community.” Yeah, I was shocked to discover its existence, too. Start with “Clubs.” Join The CafĂ© and Improve Your Writing to start with. Peruse them and jump in on a conversation. Yes, most are silly. But be silly. You can do it. I’ve seen you at conferences.

Then I want you to look up a good friend named @KatherineArlene. She is a Wattpad ambassador. Yes, they have those! And you'll also be interested to note that she is one of us "advanced" teenagers. She is always happy to help you navigate the waters of Wattpad, as are all the ambassadors. Add her book, “How to Get Reads Votes Comments” to your library and, of course, read it. Be sure to vote (click the little star) and comment as you go.

You can also follow me! I do not have 14 million reads, but my following is slowly growing. I’m @RonEstrada (chickmagnet was taken, too).

In our next episode, I’ll get into strategies for getting the best use of Wattpad. Now, if you must post a story, published or otherwise, before September, follow this rule:

Post no more than one chapter every five days. Preferably, one chapter per week on the same day and time. Followers learn to expect your posts. And the Wattpad algorithm gives you better rankings if you spread out the posts. But more on that later.

For now, go make friends. Be fun. Be encouraging. And, by the way, you’ll find a huge harvest field where you can share your faith. And by the way again, wait until you see what some of your younger brothers and sisters in Christ are doing on Wattpad. It will be a proud moment.

See you on Wattpad.

If you spent two minutes in heaven, would it change your life?

Josh Baker has everything a guy could want. The fastest runner in his state. An amazing girlfriend. A bright future.

But on one snowy night, all that is stripped away from him. Even his life. For two minutes.

When Josh opens his eyes after his disastrous night, he begins to really see for the first time. 

But is it too late to save those he loves the most?

NOW I KNEW YOU is available free on Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and others. 

Friday, July 31, 2015

Conferences—Advancing Your #Writing Career

The best-selling author of more than twenty novels, ROBIN CAROLL writes to entertain. Her books have been recognized by the Carol Award, HOLT Medallion, Daphne du Maurier, RT Reviewer’s Choice Award, and more. She serves the writing community as the Executive/Conference Director for ACFW. Find out more about Robin at

Conferences—Advancing Your Writing Career

As a little girl, I had a dream—to be a writer. Life ensued. I went to college and graduated with a paralegal certificate, then realized I hated the legal industry. I wanted to experience life, so I went to work in the automobile industry. Stayed there, in customer service, for ten years. Let me tell you, THAT was an experience. Every now and then, I’d remember the dream and write a poem. Enter it in a contest, got a couple published. Then I got married and had my first daughter. I had such a busy life, how could I think of my dream? Until the day my little girl and I were reading, and I thought to myself, “I love reading, have always loved reading. I want to be an author, have always wanted to be an author.” I decided to do something this time. I enrolled in a Writer’s Digest fiction course. Completed it, and began work on a manuscript.

Life interrupted again. We moved—twice. I had two more little girls. But the dream didn’t die. And ten years after I completed my fiction course, I decided to do something again. I bought craft books. Joined writing groups. And learned about writing conferences. Before then, I hadn’t a clue that there were conferences you could attend to take workshops and classes to learn and study. Places you could go and be taught by nationally recognized authors. Events where you could meet with *gasp* editors and agents, face-to-face. Boy, was I hungry for that.

I attended some small, local conferences. Learned what a pitch was. Realized I was nowhere ready to pitch to an agent, much less an editor. Honed. Studied. Absorbed. It took me having gone to four conferences before I attended the “big” ones—ACFW National and RWA National.

At my first conferences I:
  • Met my critique partners face-to-face and our relationship changed from just writing partners to dear friends for life.
  • Met my mentor in person and realized I loved her just as much as I did on email and telephone.
  • Met my agent in person for the first time.
  • Pitched to the editor who ended up contracting my first book—the one I’d pitched to her.
  • Networked with editors who I just like hanging out with because they’re fun
  • Been blessed to have taught and encouraged other writers
  • Realized how much I NEED conferences to feed my writing spirit
Now that I’m published and have many, many conferences under my belt, I still wouldn’t miss going to at least one or two a year. Why? Because now I can:
  • Connect with my writing friends. There’s something special about hugging a friend and praying with them in person.
  • Network with others in the industry.
  • Visit with my agent and various editors I’ve worked with.
  • Get up-to-date information on this ever-changing industry.
  • Feed my writing spirit.
  • Learn new insights as well as brush up on my skills to hone my craft.
Want to advance your writing career? GO TO A CONFERENCE. Yes, it takes money to go. Plan ahead. Apply for scholarships. Sale the kids. (Ok, I’m kidding about that.) But the expense is worthwhile—you’re investing in your career. And for me? It’s investing in my mental stability to be around others in this crazy industry.

As a white water rafting guide, Katie Gallagher must battle the forces of nature on a daily basis. When sabotage becomes apparent on a weekend rafting trip, Katie must determine who she can trust—and who has their own agenda.

Hunter Malone has a mission on a business adventure trip on the Gauley River, a mission that didn’t include a spunky guide who could handle the class-five rapids better than he’d ever imagined. But can she handle the truth?

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Myth of the Unearned Advance

The following blog post is shared by permission from the Steve Laube Agency blog.
A common myth permeating the industry is that a book is not profitable if the author’s advance does not earn out. I would like to attempt to dispel this myth.

First let’s define the term “Advance.” When a book contract is created between a publisher and an author, the author is usually paid an advance. This is like getting an advance against your allowance when you were a kid. It isn’t an amount that is in addition to any future earnings from the sale of the book. Instead, like that allowance, it is money paid in advance against all future royalties, and it must therefore be covered by royalty revenue (i.e. earned out) before any new royalty earnings are paid.

The advance is usually determined by a series of assumptions that the publisher makes with regard to the projected performance of each title. The publisher hopes/plans that the book will earn enough royalty revenue to cover the advance within the first year of sales.

A NY Times essay a couple years ago casually claimed “the fact that 7 out of 10 titles do not earn back their advance.” Of course they did not cite a source for that “fact.” But I have seen it quoted so often is must be true! (and it isn’t.) The implication then is that a book isn’t profitable if it doesn’t earn out its advance. The publisher overpaid and has lost money. The author is the happy camper who is counting their cash gleefully celebrating the failure of their publisher to project sales correctly.

Let me try to explain why that isn’t always true. And to do so means we have to do math together. This may be a little complicated, but realize that these calculations are critical and each publisher runs these kind of scenarios on your books. To dismiss this conversation and claim you “don’t do math” is to ignore the lifeblood of your profession.

Realize that this is a generic model. Each and every number below fluctuates from title to title. That is the weakness of the exercise, but bear with me.


Advance paid to author: $10,000
Retail price: $13.00 (paperback)
Net price: $6.50 (this is what the publisher receives when they sell the book – to dealers, big box retailers, distributors, etc. )
Copies sold: 10,000

Scenario one: Author earns 14% of net for each book sold. ($6.50 net x 14% royalty x 10,000 sold)
Thus, after selling 10,000 copies the author has earned $9,100.
Leaving $900 of the advance unearned.

Scenario two: Author earns 16% of net for each book sold ($6.50 net x 16% royalty x 10,000 sold)
Thus, after selling 10,000 copies the author has earned $10,400.
The publisher writes a royalty check to the author for $400. The amount above the original advance.

The myth says that scenario one equates a failed and unprofitable book , while scenario two is a profitable book.

But wait! Let’s do some more math.

New Assumptions. (remember these are all estimates based solely on this scenario.)

BOTH scenarios have the publisher making the same amount of revenue. ($6.50 net x 10,000 sold.) Both scenarios generated $65,000 in net revenue for the publisher.

To determine profitability we have to subtract costs.

Fixed costs

Editorial expense: $8,000 (includes all stages of the editorial process)
Design (typesetting/cover): $4,000
Printing and warehousing:  $15,000 (the approximate cost of printing 12,000 copies)
Marketing and PR: $10,000 (an average of $1 per book)
Administrative costs: $13,000 (20% of the net revenue)
Advance paid to author: $10,000
TOTAL COSTS: $60,000

Profit for the Publisher: $5,000 (or 7.7% of revenue before tax)
or the $65,000 in revenue minus the $60,000 of total costs.

Are you with me so far?

Now watch this.

Scenario one – (with the unearned advance still on the books) has a profit of $5,000 for the publisher.

Scenario two – (pays the author $400 for earnings beyond the advance) has a profit of $4,600 for the publisher.

In this comparison it is the book that didn’t earn out the advance that actually makes more money for the publisher!

Why? Because scenario one pays a lower royalty per book sold. The advance itself has NOTHING to do with it. The advance is a fixed cost that is covered by the revenue generated by the publisher.
Pause and reflect on that for a moment.

The advance is a cost of acquisition. If that cost of acquisition in the above scenario were $50,000 of course neither scenario would have been profitable because sales would not have been enough to cover all the costs. And it is likely, if there was a $50,000 advance, the publisher would have spent more on marketing and PR.

So this is not an argument for bigger advances. Instead it is an attempt to show, albeit using controlled statistics, that an unearned advance does not necessarily equate the failure of a book!

So when is a book profitable if there is a bigger advance?

Let me do one more set of numbers to illustrate:


Advance paid to author: $75,000
Retail price: $13.00 (paperback)
Net price: $6.50
Copies sold: 45,000
TOTAL REVENUE ($6.50 net x 45,000 sold.) = $292,500.

Fixed costs

Editorial expense: $8,000
Design (typesetting/cover): $4,000
Printing and warehousing:  $55,000 (the approximate cost of printing 50,000 copies)
Marketing and PR: $75,000
Administrative costs: $58,500 (20% of the net revenue)
Advance paid to author: $75,000
TOTAL COSTS: $275,500

Profit for the Publisher: $17,000 (or 5.8% of revenue before tax)

If you are an experienced person from the publishing side of the table it is obvious that this is a very generic scenario that has only an echo of reality. For example, the net revenue for a publisher is usually less than the 50% of retail that I used above. That is because distributors and specialty vendors (like the book racks you see in the airport) command a much higher discount off the retail. Thus the true picture is highly complex. And we don’t even touch on ebooks or ebook sales or royalties here. This exercise is merely to show a business model where the advance is a fixed cost. Not a cost that has to be earned out for the book to be profitable.

In the above case, a book with a $75,000 advance makes money after only 45,000 copies are sold.

So what do you think? Is the math realistic? Does it make sense? What are the implications (either to the publisher or the author)?

Steve Laube, a literary agent and president of The Steve Laube Agency, has been in the book industry for over 31 years, first as a bookstore manager where he was awarded the National Store of the Year by CBA. He then spent over a decade with Bethany House Publishers and was named the Editor of the Year in 2002. He later became an agent and has represented over 700 new books and was named Agent of the Year by ACFW. His office is in Phoenix, Arizona.