This will give a brief rundown of the publishing process with BOB, so you will know what to expect and what you need to do to help get your book ready for publication.
First, you should know that it takes approximately a year—sometimes a little less, sometimes a little more—from the time you accept your contract until your book is released. While we want to release your book as much as you do, it is important to both your success and ours that the book we release is as perfect and polished as it can be. So please try to be patient. If you had signed with a big New York publisher, you could wait two or three years before your book was released. That’s one advantage of going with a smaller press, but we still want to put out a quality product and make your book the best it can be. And that, unfortunately, takes time. We believe in quality versus quantity and will not sacrifice quality to rush books through the process just to get them out sooner. That isn’t fair to us, to you, or to your readers.
FIRST ROUND EDITS
Most of our books go through two rounds of edits. The first round editor is a content editor. He/she looks for major plot problems, inadequate research, incorrect facts—things that need to be corrected before the book is ready for a thorough copy editing and polishing. The first round editor will also correct glaring punctuation, grammar, and spelling errors, but that is not his/her job. A content editor’s job is to find plot problems, things that don’t make sense, things that shouldn’t or couldn’t be—in other words, things that could require some major revisions before the book is ready for a line-by-line edit. For example, if you write a historical novel set in the twelfth century, but your daily living and conveniences come from the eighteenth century, your content editor will point these out and ask you to go back to do further research to correct these problems. So don’t be disappointed if you get your first round edits and they aren’t as comprehensive as you expected. That will come with your second round editor.
So how long does it take? Currently, it is taking between four to six months for authors to receive their first round edits. So please try to be patient. We know it’s hard to wait, but all books are dealt with on a first come, first served basis, and just like we won’t bump your book out of line to work on a book that was signed later than yours, we won’t bump someone else’s book to work on yours. So please don’t ask. First come, first served is the only way to ensure everyone is treated fairly.
SECOND ROUND EDITS
Once you send back your first round edits, your book will go into the queue again for the second round editor. Once again, books are taken on a first come, first served basis. And, once again, it will take around six months for the second round editor to get them to you. So it is important that you get your first round edits back to us quickly so that your book goes into the second round queue as soon as possible.
The second round editor is very thorough. She will correct grammar, punctuation, spelling, sentence structure, sentence and story flow, plot problems missed by the first round editor, character problems, etc., and will polish the book to make it the best it can be. She takes into account the genre you are writing in as well, and if the book doesn’t follow the rules of that particular genre, she will let you know and suggest things you can do to correct this.
A WORD ABOUT EDITS
If your book was submitted by an agent, if the book we have accepted has been previously published by a reputable publisher (who edited it), or if you have published enough books with other publishers that we feel you do not need a first round editor, your book will go directly into the second round editor’s queue. Most agents edit books before submitting them, and most reputable publishers edit as well, so those books usually do not need a first round editor. And if you have published several books with other publishers, it is assumed, or at least hoped, that you have learned enough through those editors that you won’t need a first round editor. Please note, if you are put directly into the second round editor’s queue, and won’t be having a first round editor, it is going to take longer to get your edits, as the second round editor has a much longer queue. But as you only have to wait in one queue and go through one round of edits, this will not slow down your release. It just means that you have to be patient a little longer.
Also, as authors, you have the final say on edits. Except for typos, grammar, punctuation, and misspellings, and some minor necessary formatting edits, you are not required to make the changes that we suggest. We will also try to take into account your voice and give you as much leeway as we can on edits. That said, however, we cannot pass anything that looks like a typo. So if your voice requires leaving out articles or other common necessary words, please try to construct the sentence so that the omission looks like you intended for the word to be omitted, and not that you just left it out and no one caught it. Reviewers love to slam both publishers and authors for errors and typos. For example, with one of our first Canadian authors, the author used Canadian or British spellings and asked that we leave them as the story took place in Canada. Against their better judgment, the board agreed. However, after the fourth review came back complaining about all the misspellings, the author requested that we change the Canadian spellings to US spellings and upload corrected versions of the book. Which we did. However, from then on, the board has refused to allow anything but US spellings.
In addition, while your contract gives you the final say on edits, it also gives us the right to refuse to release the book if suggested edits are not made. This would only happen if the second round editor felt that the suggested edits were crucial in order for the book to sell, such as if the book did not meet the requirements for the genre you classified it in and you refused to make the changes needed or to let us classify the book in another genre where it did fit, or if the research was inconsistent with the time period the book is set in, or if the facts in the book were incorrect, and you refused to make the necessary changes. We want to release your book as much as you want us to. However, we cannot release a book that doesn’t meet our standards. That is unfair to everyone, you included.
WHAT YOU CAN DO PRIOR TO RECEIVING YOUR EDITS
1) Send in an author photo/badge and an author bio so that you can be added to our websites. If you would rather not have your own photo on the web for any reason, you can create an author badge, or have us create one for you. If you don’t know what this is, it is a picture, symbol, or icon that people can associate with your name. It can be anything from a cartoon to a pretty sunset. If you need ideas, take a look at our Meet Our Authors page on our website and look at some the author badges there. Our website can be found at http://www.blackopalbooks.com and our authors blog at: http://www.somestoriestold.com.
2) Be sure to register on our website so that you can get access to the Back Office, meet the staff, and have access to the message board and special notices. Once you register on the website, let Lauri know so she can tell the tech guys to give you access to the back office.
3) Start thinking about your online presence. You will need to have an author website, a FaceBook page, and Twitter page. If you don’t have these already, you need to get started on setting them up. You should also set up an author page at Amazon Author Central, Good Reads, and the like, although you can’t set up some of these pages until your book has been released. If you don’t currently belong to authors groups, join those you can afford to join that share an interest in your genre. For example, if you write any kind of thriller or mystery, including romantic suspense, join International Thriller Writers. We are an approved publisher with them, so your membership is free (at the time of this writing). ITW has numerous promotional opportunities for its members. We are also an approved publisher with Mystery Writers of America.
4) Join the Black Opal Authors Group at Yahoo.com. You will receive an invitation to join once your signed contract is received. You should not only join this group, but participate in it as well. This is a place where authors can give and receive information, ask for help, and generally get to know the other BOB authors. This is a good group of authors with a wealth of experience, always willing to help new authors understand the publishing industry, share promoting ideas, and answer questions from new authors. We also send general information and updates to the authors via this group.
4) Learn to use Track Changes. All our edits are done using Track Changes, so now is a good time to learn how to use this MS Word feature if you do not already know how. If you do not know how to use this feature and would like a tutorial on it, contact Lauri and she will send you a tutorial that will explain how to use this feature. You will need to understand how to use Track Changes during all of our editing processes and also for the galley proof, so if you do not know how to use it, please learn now.
AFTER FINISHING YOUR FIRST ROUND EDITS
Once you have completed and sent back your first round edits, and prior to receiving your second round edits, it is time to start thinking about promotion. There is a lot that you can do during this time to help launch your book successfully.
Prepare a draft blurb and send it in. The blurb should be about 100 – 150 words and should not give away too much of the story. Remember, you aren’t writing a synopsis, but a pitch. Something to catch the reader’s interest and make him/her have to read the book. If you tell them too much, why do they need to buy the book? They know what the story is all about just by reading the blurb. I know you are thrilled with the book and you love the story, but when writing a blurb, less really is more. You want to tell them just enough to interest them and make them desperate to find out what happens.
In fiction, start with your main character and what she/he wants. To find the killer? To get back with an old love? This is what drives the external conflict and is a good place to start when writing your blurb. Don’t include more characters or plot points than absolutely necessary.
If your book is nonfiction, think about who your reader is. What do you want to tell this person? What is your message to the reader? That’s where you want to start your blurb.
Start thinking about a cover. Black Opal gives you two options for covers. We will create a cover for you at no charge and with your input and approval. Or you can hire an outside cover artist to create the cover at your expense. If you would like us to make you a cover, you need to make notes on what you have in mind for the cover, being as specific as possible, and send those notes to our art department at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you don’t know what you want, let them know that, too.
If you decide to hire an outside artist and don’t have someone in mind, we can give you a list of several good ones. But no matter who you choose, make sure to follow some basic rules for your own protection. First of all, be sure to get a firm “finished-artwork price” before you agree to anything. And get the price in writing, if possible, such as in an email. If you speak with the artist on the phone and don’t want to insult them by asking for a written confirmation of the price, simply send them an email confirming the agreed-to price. And find out if that price is just for the front cover, or if it also includes the full cover for the print book. As your book is being released in both ebook and in paperback, you will need two covers. One cover is just the front cover of the book, and the dimensions for that are: 1800 pixels wide by 2700 pixels high, with a resolution of 300 dpi. The second cover has the back and spine added to the front cover, so the front cover is the same for both, we just add the back and spine. The print cover size is determined by page count, and it has a very specific template that we can provide once the book has been formatted for print. If your outside artist wants additional money for the full cover, or if the price for both the front cover and full cover is too high, consider having the front cover done by the outside artist and the back and spine done by us. If you need ideas for a cover, you can try going to Amazon.com and looking at covers of books in your genre. You can also go to sites like Dreamstime.com, Bigstock.com, or Shuttershock.com and look at royalty-free photos that can be used as covers. Our art department can add or remove elements from photos and combine photos elements, as well. But you don’t want your cover to be too busy, as it will be much smaller online and needs to be easily read.
If you have time, try writing some blogs, so that when the book is released, you can do a blog tour, and you won’t have to write a whole bunch of blogs at once. Keep working on your website so that it will be ready before the book is released. Make a list of groups and organizations that might be interested in the release of your book. Hometown libraries, your authors groups, your local newspaper, college, etc., are examples of contacts you should develop.
AFTER FINISHING YOUR SECOND ROUND EDITS
After you send back your second round edits, things will start moving rather quickly. You will now be given a release date, and you can really start promoting. If you want to do a blog tour, we will give you a list of bloggers who host guest authors and a letter you can change to fit your circumstances and use as the email. Your website should be up and running by now, or very close to it. And you should be developing a presence on FaceBook and Twitter. Let your authors groups and crit groups know about your release date. By this time, your cover should be in the works and as soon as you get it, post it on your website, FaceBook, and Twitter.
After the book is formatted, the print-formatted version will be sent to you and you will have a chance to go through it and make any last minute changes or corrections. When the book comes back from you, it will go to proofing. However, no proofer can get every error, and you know your book better than anyone, so watch for typos and errors and point those out if you find them.
If we are doing the front cover, or even just back and spine for the print book cover, that will be done at this point and a draft sent to you for your approval. If you are having an outside artist do the back and spine, a template will be prepared and sent to your artist. We’ll need the name of the artist so they can be given credit for the cover, and if they are doing the back and spine for the print cover, we will need their email address so they can be sent the template.
Your website should be up and running, and you should put copies of your front cover on your website, FaceBook, and Twitter. If you don’t have them, now is the time to correct this. We will provide you with any sizes of covers that you need. And you also can resize any pictures we send you if you need to. If you want a copy of our logo, you just have to let us know.
When the book is released, we will send you an ARC (advanced review copy), which is watermarked and encrypted, a copy of the list of reviewers we sent the book to, and a document called booktags. Booktags consist of a short description and some meta tags (keywords) that Black Opal has prepared for each book by an SEO optimization specialist. You need to put the meta description and the meta tags on your website to help search engines find your book. We will also send you your buy links, so be sure to put them on your website, and anywhere else you can. You will also receive a PDF copy of the book without the ARC encryption and watermark. In addition, we will send you a list of reviewers that you can send to, and a sample letter you can adapt to fit your situation and send in the email to reviewers. When you send the book out to reviewers, be sure to use only the ARC copy. This is to protect you and help keep the entire book from showing up on the web as a free read, put there by some unscrupulous reviewer. (We will talk about piracy more in a bit.)
Let’s talk a bit about promotion. While Black Opal will do everything that we can to promote your books, there is no question that a lot of the burden will fall on you. Below are some tips that may help you with promoting your books. These are suggestions, not requirements. In addition, we have a number of handouts on promotion that we will send you at the time of your book release. All promotional suggestions are optional. Black Opal understands how tight money is for some of you and we do not require you to spend out of pocket money to promote your book. You can spend money if you want to, but it is not something that we require of you. And there is a lot you can do for free. Things like conferences and ads do cost money, so keep that in mind as you consider the options below.
Conferences. Check out fan conferences such as Bouchercon (mystery writers) and Romance Writers of America. Often, attending authors can serve on panels and sell their books in the conference bookstores. As conferences can be pricey, look for those in your area and price range. If you are an accomplished speaker/teacher, also seek out writing conferences, large and small where you can speak or hold a workshop. Do a web search or check out www.shawguides.com.
Teaching workshops. If you are knowledgeable in any subject area and can teach others a skill or provide information for other authors or readers on a particular subject, consider teaching workshops. A lot of online groups—and not just author groups—have workshops for their members. By teaching workshops in your author name, you increase your online presence and get your name out to more people who might be interested in buying your books.
Check out Google Ads. Black Opal runs Google ads when each new book is released. We also run them promoting our website and our books in general. Google ads are inexpensive and you can choose to run them either by volume or by “click.” If you want to see about running some Google Ads for your books, you can check out this link: http://www.google.com/intl/en/ads/. If you need help or want to run the ads through us, let us know, and we will help as much as we can. Google also has a great support team that will help you as well. If you have the money and want to do this, it is a good investment.
Check out placing ads on your authors/readers groups’ websites. Many author groups run ads on their websites for both members and non-members. If you belong to a group or if you visit the website of a group that has a large following, check with them to see what ads cost. A lot of sites run them for free. If you need help preparing a jpeg for an ad, we are happy to help. In addition, some author sites, like Savvy Authors, will sometimes run ads for you at no cost if you teach a class or provide a blog for their websites. So check it out.
Press kits. Our art department will prepare templates for you to take to or upload to a printer to print bookmarks and postcards advertising your book. If you would also like to have calendars or flyers made, just let Jack know and he will provide those templates for you as well. The printing charges are usually quite reasonable, but again, this is optional and totally up to you.
Reviews. Black Opal will send your book out for reviews to a number of different reviewers, in addition to the reviews on our website by our official reviewers. As mentioned above, we will also send you a list of all the reviewers that we send the book out to.
Promotion help. Our marketing team has prepared several documents for you to help with promotion. These documents will be sent to you as email attachments at the time of your release, but if you would like them sooner, request them from Lauri and she will send them to you. These documents not only give you promotion ideas, but help you understand how the process works. They are a valuable resource, so please use them.
Tell everyone. Be sure to email all your contacts, authors groups, everyone you can think of about your release. Be sure to advertise it on your website as well. We create free reads from all of our released books. These free reads consist of several of the beginning chapters of the book, ending on a good hook (hopefully) with information on where the reader can buy the full version to continue reading. These read reads are being offered on our website and other places on the web, and if you want to offer them on your websites as well, we will furnish you with a copy. Market research shows that if readers can have enough of an excerpt to really get into the book, they are more likely to buy it so they can finish it, especially since they have just invested a goodly amount of time in reading the excerpt. The free reads will be only in PDF and ePub formats. Hopefully, word of mouth from interested readers will increase traffic to your site.
Blogging. Do as many guest blogs as you can. Blogging is great publicity, it’s free, and doesn’t take a lot of time. You can also submit a blog anytime for our authors blog www.somestoriestold.com by contacting us.
Here are some things to remember about blogging:
1) write a different blog for each guest blog appearance. Bloggers hate it when you use the same blog post for their site that you used for someone else’s. This does not mean that you can’t use a similar post on the same subject. But you should reword it a bit so it is not identical to one already posted, give it a different title, and add at least some new information;
2) blogs should not be about your book. They can be about your characters, your inspiration for the book, some aspect of writing the book, etc., but if you just write an advertisement for the book, you will quickly alienate the bloggers and you will not be invited back. Think subtle. It’s not hard to make a few references to your new book in a blog, regardless of what your subject is. Making references to the book is fine, as is including your buy links, but you don’t want the blog to be just an advertisement for the book. (For example, if you are a good cook and regularly send blogs to a cooking site, it is easy to include the name of a dish or two in your book, add the recipe in the back of the book, and then mention that the recipe is included in your new release when blogging about a certain dish.) But if you send in a blog that is nothing more than an advertisement for your book, bloggers feel used. And always include an author bio, photo or badge, along with a picture of your book cover, if applicable, when sending in your guest blog;
3) be sure to ask the blogger if he/she wants you to send the blog in the body of the email or in an attachment;
4) if you can’t think of a good subject and the blogger tells you to just pick anything, you can always interview one of your characters. You can also offer advice to other writers on any aspect of writing;
5) write your blogs in the same tone as your book. For example, if your book is a comedy, the blogs you write around the time of the book release should have a humorous tone. If your book is a tragedy, you should probably try for something other than humor in the blogs you do around the time of the book release. If people read the blog and like the way you write, they will look for your books. So you will end up with disgruntled readers if you release a thriller, but all the blogs you write around the time of the release are comedies. That doesn’t mean you can’t later do funny blogs, but you do need to think about your timing when deciding what blogs to post at the time of a book release; and
6) be dependable. Once you commit to blog, write it and send it in on time. Don’t get a reputation as a flake. If you have an emergency and can’t do the blog, let the blogger know, explain the reason, and offer them an excerpt in place of the blog, so they aren’t left hanging with nothing to post on the day they had reserved for your blog.
ADDITIONAL THINGS TO CONSIDER
Copyright. If your contract calls for you to register the copyright on your book, do not register your copyright too early. Your work is actually copyrighted and protected by law the moment you create it. What registering the copyright does is to provide proof of ownership in court, should someone try to steal the work and pass it off as their own or sell it illegally without your permission. However, to get the maximum protection from a copyright registration, you need to upload a copy as close to the version that will be released as possible. If the book is changed very much during editing, some of your changes may not be protected under the copyright registration (they are still protected under copyright laws, just not under that registration). If you are worried that the book will be stolen while it is being edited and prepared for release (this has never happened at BOB, but it is, nevertheless, a valid concern), you can send a copy to yourself by registered mail and leave the package unopened once you receive it. This is what is commonly known as a “Poor Man’s Copyright,” and while it will not provide nearly the protection that a copyright registration will, if it is sent by registered mail, where the package seams are taped and stamped so the package cannot be opened without breaking a seal, you will have concrete proof that you were in possession of the document on a specific date, which, hopefully, is prior to the date that can be proven by anyone who tries to steal it. I know many authors who do this prior to sending their work to editors, agents, and even crit groups. I would say this is being overly paranoid, but I do know of cases where attempts have been made to steal work. When it is time to register the copyright, we will prepare the PDF copyright copy to upload to the Copyright Office. Copyright laws have recently changed and if the PDF copy you upload to the Copyright Office does not follow certain guidelines, you can end up having to pay an additional fee to complete the copyright registration. You can do the copyright online for $35 (or $55 if the work is not one work done by one single author and/or contains anything not done by that one single author) or we can do it for you. Either way it costs the same. Be careful that you go to the actual US Copyright Office website, which is http://www.copyright.gov/ and not one of the rip-off “services.” If you are asked to pay more than $35—for a single work, by a single author, with no photos or other works by someone else, or $55 for works by more than one author or that include works by more than one author—you are not at the official US Copyright Office. So check your URL. You will have to register for an account at the US Copyright Office, but the account is free.
Book trailers. Book trailers are fairly easy to make. If you have the budget, you can also invest, as some of our authors have, in professional book trailers. These don’t sell books as much as they get your name and your book’s name out there. You can use them to advertise your book on sites like YouTube.
Book signings. Book signings are a good way of promoting your book, but you have to weigh the pros and cons. If you have a local bookstore or library that is willing to let you have a book signing, this can be a wonderful promotion tool. Some independent bookstores take a minimal percentage of your sales. But it can also be very expensive as more and more bookstores are requiring that authors provide their own books for the signing. And some who do take your book require a large percentage of the profits. If you want to do book signings, that is up to you, but we do not require you to do them.
Enter contests. There are a lot of inexpensive national contests for published authors out there, and there are even some free ones. Any awards you win will be added to your book covers and posted on our website.
Royalties. The standard payment system in the publishing industry is for authors to be paid no later than 45 to 60 days after the end of the quarter in which sales of their books are made. Quarters for the year end on March 31st, June 30th, September 30th, and December 31st. So if your book has sales in the first three months of the year, the quarter ending on March 31st, you would be paid for those sales no later than May 30th. This allows us time to get the money from our vendors so that we can pay you and also gives us time for our accountant to get the royalty reports from the vendor and do the accounting. We realize that it is hard for you to judge how well a promotion is going on this quarterly system. So if you are doing a special promotion, let us know and we will make a special effort to keep track of your sales during the promotion, if possible, and let you know how the book is doing. We can’t give you daily sales figures, but if you are doing a promotion, we can give you sales figures for some vendors if you contact us and ask.
Book piracy. If you find your book being sold or given away online by anyone other than Black Opal or one of its distributors, you are not getting royalties for those sales or free giveaways. So let us know immediately. Here I am speaking of the infamous piracy or share sites where people upload stolen copies of books. At Black Opal, we vigorously defend your copyrights and have an ongoing file with the FBI Cybercrimes Unit. All cases of piracy on our books are reported to the FBI immediately, and they take book piracy seriously. If you come across your book, or another of our author’s books, being shared illegally, let us know and we will attempt to get the webpage taken down ASAP. Setting up your book and author name on Google Alerts is a good way to be alerted if the book shows up. To do this got to http://www.google.com/alerts, set up a Google account and create an alert for your “book title by your author name.” For example, “My Murder Mystery by Mary Jane Smith.” Then if anything comes up on the web regarding your book title or author name, Google will send you an email letting you know.
Ordering copies of your book after release. Please remember that Black Opal is not a vanity publisher and you are never required to buy any books whatsoever. But if you want to buy your books, you may buy as many or as few as you wish at a discounted price. There are no minimum purchase requirements. Once your book is released, or shortly before release if prior arrangements are made, you will be able to purchase printed copies of your book at a discounted price that usually works out to be about fifty percent of the retail price, as a general rule, depending upon the page and word count of the book. To order author copies, contact Arwen at sales [at] blackopalbooks [dot] com to find out what your author’s price will be and to place an order for any books you want to buy. If you want to buy books for an event, please allow at least two weeks for the warehouse to package and ship the books and for them to reach you. You may get them faster than that, but many times weather or other situations can affect delivery time, so please be sure to place your order early and avoid having to pay for more expensive expedited shipping, or risk not getting the books on time for your event. Any ebooks that you may want for giveaways, entering contests, or for promotion, etc., will be provided free of charge to you. Just contact Arwen, tell her what type of ebook you need and what you need it for, and she will have formatting prepare one for you.
Most importantly, don’t get stressed out, try to be patient, and let us know if you have any questions, problems, or ideas.