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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.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Who is Your Audience?

Guest post by Robin Patchen

Ive heard plenty of authors say they write for themselves and for Godan audience of two. I do that myself. Ive filled journals with thoughts and prayers, written for myself, an offering to God. But my books? I dont write them for me.

I do have an audience for them, though. And its not some generic demographic. Its not some non-existent person between the ages of 20 and 60. No, my reader is more than that.

Shes in her mid-forties, a member of Generation X, and she probably couldnt tell you what that means. And maybe it means nothing. As a little girl, she wore orange-flowered pants and pulled her milk out of a gold refrigerator. Or maybe it was olive green. She watched Sesame Street and never missed Saturday morning cartoons. She got a perm in middle school, hated it, swore shed never do it again, and then got another one in high school. She wore great big bows in her hair to go along with her shoulder pads and chunky jewelry. She shampooed with PermaSoft or Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific, and then she covered that great scent with Aqua Net to keep her big hair in place.

She joined her family to enjoy the Huxtables every Thursday night. She remembers that chick from Weird Science asking viewers not to hate her because she was beautiful, and she remembers secretly wishing being beautiful enough to be hated.

She watched the nightly reports about the hostages in Iran and the images as they returned to American soil. The shocking moment when John Hinkleys bullet came within inches of altering the course of history was wedged forever as an image in her mind, as was the wedding of the century. Prince Charles and Diana, taught her that even ordinary girls can be princesses.

She thought Guns N Roses Sweet Child of Mine a stirring melody. Or maybe she couldnt be bothered with Water Pistols & Pansies and instead preferred the more sophisticated sound of U2. Either way, she knew all at the words to Toni Basils Hey, Mickey, and if she happens to hear it, she sings along every time.

She wore jeans from Sassoon and Jordache and Gloria Vanderbilt and Calvin Klein. She owned a Members Only jacket, sported a bi-level at least once, and dated a guy with a MacGyver mullet. Business in the frontalways more party in the back.

Her parents, products of the 50s, were gloriously unaware of the world they raised their daughter in. About half of them stayed married to their first spouses, so its likely my reader was raised by a single mother and spent Wednesdays and every other weekend with her dad. Unlike her mother (she hoped), my reader did not wait until she was married to experiment with sex. In fact, she might not have waited until she was out of high school. She learned early on that so-called free love came at a great costmore than just pregnancy and disease. The emotional cost couldnt be undone with a procedure or a prescription.

Unlike Bill Clinton, she might have inhaled a time or two. She discovered alcohol young enough that it was still deliciously illegal, and the drugs and the alcohol, too, cost more than just her weekly allowance. Or maybe she was a good girl watching her friends make those choices, wishing her world were less complicated.

She was raised to believe she could have it allcareer, marriage, children. Her future was so bright, she needed Ray-Bans to look at it. She went to college, studied hard, and planned to achieve success in the form of a six-figure salary and a four-bedroom house.

Only it didnt turn out as shed planned. Not that it was badjust unexpected. She got a job and realized the workplace was nothing like Michael J. Fox made it look in The Secret of My Success. She met a guy and learned the hard way that marriage was nothing like they made it appear in The Cosby Show. And then she had children, and nothing had prepared her for that.
She rocked her babies and cried as she watched the towers fall on 9/11, wondering what kind of a world shed brought these children into. Along with the rest of the nation, she sang God Bless America and prayed and somehow went on in a world that was no longer sane.

Maybe she worked full time and raised her kids. Maybe she was blessed with a part-time job. Maybe she home schooled. No matter what, she was busier than her mother, than any woman in any generation before her. And she still is. Today, her favorite music is on the oldies station, and her kids sing along with her, because somehow, its cool again. If only big hair would come back into style, too.

Shes struggling with her teenagers while her parents have proceduresjoint replacements and heart surgeries and everything in between. Shes still married or long divorced, and either way, despite all the people in her life, sometimes shes lonely.

She remembers the choices from so many years ago, the boy with the bad haircut and the sweet talk. The partying and the fun that never really was. She thinks about those things that cost her so much and longs for the simple joy of floral-scented shampoo. She sometimes wishes she could do it differently. Yes, she lives with regrets. And then she sees the faces of the people she loves and realizes she, too, is loved. Shes not perfect, but she matters. Because it was never about perfection. It was about going for it. Trying and falling and standing up again.

The woman I write for is not a demographic or a statistic. Shes a real, living, breathing human being. 

She is my friend.

And yes, maybe, shes a lot like me.

Who are your readers?

What do you hope to say to them? How do you think your books will touch their lives?

Robin Patchen lives in Edmond, Oklahoma, with her husband and three teenagers. Her third book, Finding Amanda, released in April, and its free prequel, Chasing Amanda, released in July. When Robin isnt writing or caring for her family, she works as a freelance editor at Robins Red Pen, where she specializes in Christian fiction. Read excerpts and find out more at her website.